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Gabi Ng Parangal 2015: AFTA’s Tribute to Excellence, Leadership and Service

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Twenty-five star students, teacher/educators and leaders dazzled and inspired the guests at the Gabi Ng Parangal of the Association of Fil-American Teachers of America, Inc. (AFTA) last November 14, 2015 at Astoria World Manor in Queens, New York. The association gave recognition to them who exemplify excellence, leadership and dedicated service in their respective places of study and work by conferring on them the PERLAS, AFTA-UG, AFTA-LEADS and DTA awards.


Dr. Raul Cajigas, AFTA president, welcomed all and told the audience, “Tonight we give recognition to the achievements and hard work of five students, nine teachers, ten school administrators and a civic leader, all outstanding individuals. These awardees underwent a rigorous selection process- two interviews for both the PERLAS AND AFTA-UG and an actual demonstration lesson for the UFTA-UG nominees. All submitted nominations for the other awards were thoroughly fact-checked to ensure fair selection. We are very pleased and proud of our awardees tonight.”

In her inspirational message, Deputy Consul General Kira Danganan Azucena congratulated AFTA on the initiative to recognize Fil-Am teachers who, by their accomplishments give honor to the Philippines and add prestige to the Filipino people. “We are also very happy to have AFTA as our partner in the Paaralan Sa Konsulado for propagating the Filipino culture, which we in the PCGNY, aim to accomplish here in the US and in other parts of the world.” Paaralan Sa Konsulado is a five-Saturday summer workshop on Philippine culture for young children held at the Philippine Center since 1999. “For the many other projects of AFTA in the Philippines, we are grateful to them as well.”

Wasn’t it the Philippine national hero Dr. Jose Rizal who said, “The youth is the hope of the Fatherland?” The five PERLAS (Phil-Am Exemplary Responsive Leadership Award for Students) awardees embody confidence, civic-mindedness and many talents that they use to help others or contribute to the good of their communities and the Filipino American community as well. Beyond their outstanding academic accomplishments, these students have big dreams for making the world a better place by pursuing careers in the arts, scientific research, sports and medicine. Dr. Rizal must be applauding these scholars; we do, too!

Competent, innovative and inspiring are some qualities the AFTA Ulirang Guro (AFTA-UG) awardees clearly possess. Varied in their fields of expertise, the nine educators bring the same dedication and passion to their daily encounter with students, endearing them to children, parents and colleagues. They are also mentors, collaborators and school committee members. They have written books or articles in professional publication, given lectures, conducted seminars and created innovative teaching strategies, all to benefit their schools. Each of the UG awardee is many persons rolled into one!

AFTA recognizes the fact that among them are teachers with effective management and leadership skills. Hence the AFTA LEADS award (Leadership in Educational Administration Distinguished Service) was given to ten Fil-American school administrators who have a proven track record of creating an exceptional environment of learning for students, teachers and staff in their schools. The ten awardees are deputy chair and directors, education directors and assistant principals in institutions in both the public and private sectors.

Carol Tanjutco, lawyer and CPA, is AFTA’s 20th Dona Teodora Alonzo awardee. She has been a moral booster, cheerleader, and supporter of the organization for many years. She helps raise AFTA’s profile by her published press releases and assisting in many projects of the association like the Paaralan Sa Konsulado. She has provided tremendous influence and invaluable contribution to the overall achievements of the association and to the uplift of education as a whole. Channeling her inner Dona Teodora Alonzo, Ms. Tanjutco shared during her acceptance speech, “My daughter has told me ‘Everybody is doing it!’ My reply to that is ‘You are not everybody. Think of a pyramid. There is always room at the top while everybody else is down there at the bottom. Would you like to be everybody?” Good counsel that parents and teachers may also give their own children or students!

Fil-Am organizations like Order of the Knights of Rizal New York City Chapter, KAPWA, Highbridge Advisory Council Head Start, MSU eVillage Eastern America, Filipino Social Club of New York, Inc., Cdo Mis. Or. Association of NY, Philippine Heritage Center, Federation of Biliran, Leyte and Samar Associations and Youth Global Success Foundations were recognized for supporting AFTA for the past years, with their presence during gatherings as well as generous donations and moral support.

Many community and organization leaders graced the event. Delivering the keynote address was Jersey City Council president Rolando Lavarro, Jr. He spoke about the many challenges a Filipino teacher meets in a foreign country. But he congratulated them for succeeding and contributing to the education of the children of America. He also thanked AFTA for shining a light on these teachers’ many accomplishments with the awards bestowed on them at the event. The councilman knows too well a Filipino teacher’s journey in America since Sevilla Belen Castillo, his mother-in-law and a founding member of AFTA, is one. In closing, he exhorted the teachers and AFTA to continue all the good they do for the future generation.

There were so many talents during the party! Elaine Ficarra, a PERLAS awardee, sang “On My Own”, from the musical Les Miserables. The ballroom dancing duo of Craig and Samantha Abaya Campos, another PERLAS awardee, performed a chacha and contemporary dance. Two pairs of guests danced the Kuratsa, a courtship dance from the Waray nation, and earned some much needed fund for the association.

AFTA ‘s Gabi Ng Parangal was a huge success, thanks to many individuals and group benefactors! GMA was the exclusive media  sponsor. Other sponsors are Helen Ubal Howard, Mercy Grace Veloso Sendras, MelitaTicoy, Freddie Malatesta, Erie Agustin Medical Group, Rena Pedaria, Luz Dara Valconcha, Raul Cajigas, Edith Plecis, Charito Horschig, Atty. Ferdinand Suba, Miliza Romero, Ramon and Pacita Ros, Lilia Juele, Tito Rad’s Grill and CDO-Misamis Oriental Association of New York.

Again, AFTA’s sincerest thanks to our many supporters! Congratulations to all awardees of Gabi Ng Parangal 2015! And Hello, Gabi Ng Parangal 2017 nominees!

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