67 Filipino community organizations in US Northeast set stage for stronger community at 2nd General Assembly

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NEW YORK - Over 100 delegates of 67 community organizations in the US Northeast took the first step in building a stronger community at the 2nd Annual Filipino-American Community General Assembly held last  February 13  at  the  Philippine  Center  New York.

Guided by the theme "Building relationships for a stronger community," the delegates shared information about their groups that will be published in a Directory of Community Organizations, and exchanged ideas on how they could strengthen cooperation with each other.

In his keynote address, Consul General Mario de Leon Jr. exhorted the delegates to work together as a way to raise the profile of Filipinos and the Filipino culture, to increase the community's political and economic clout in the mainstream US society, and to multiply the effect of their various initiatives particularly their charitable causes.

The Consul General also briefed the assembly of the Consulate General's notable achievements in 2015, and outlined its work program for 2016.  He invited the organizations to take an active part in some of the Consulate General's work plan priorities, such as the conduct of the 2016 Philippine national elections, the celebration of the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the United States, the 2016 Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organizations Overseas, and the retooling of the Philippine Independence Day reception to make it a truly community celebration.

After his keynote address, Consul General de Leon gave the floor to Mrs. Nina Fernandez, mother of missing Seton Hall University Filipino student John Paul Fernandez, who called upon the community to assist in efforts to find her son. Consul General de Leon challenged the community to come together in the spirit of bayanihan to help a kababayan in need.

Noted motivational speaker, life coach, author and edu-trainer Ferlie Almonte facilitated a fun and energy-filled break-out session where the delegates introduced their organizations and discussed ways to make the Filipino-American community stronger and relevant. The outputs of the break-out session affirmed the importance of inter-organizational cooperation to elevate the political clout of the community in the US mainstream, identified charitable activities through which organizations can effectively collaborate, and proposed the Community Organizations Directory and common Facebook page as some of the tools to facilitate partnerships.

During a special segment to discuss the work ahead to conduct the overseas voting in the Philippine national elections by way of the automated election system (AES), Consul Kerwin Tate conveyed the Consulate General's search for volunteers to serve in the various Special Boards of Election Inspectors (SBEIs) and to help in the voter education campaign. He also shared initial information on the availability of the voters IDs to those who registered in 2015.

The Assembly was also an occasion for the delegates to be informed of the projects of the Office of the Tourism Representative in New York and the services of the Consulate General's newest office, the Pag-IBIG Fund, through presentations of Tourism Officer Zen Pallugna and Pag-IBIG Fund Desk Information Officer Michael Azucena. The activity's sponsors, namely GMA-7 International, Philippine National Bank and Philippine Airlines, represented by Ms. Grace Labaguis, Head of Operations, Raquel Rabang and Mr. Erwin del Rosario, respectively, also updated the delegates of their services and products.

A highlight of the event was the raffle draw of a round-trip air ticket to Manila from Philippine Airlines.  Mr. Joe Battad of the Philippine American Association of Connecticut, Inc. was the lucky winner.

The Filipino-American Community General Assembly is a flagship project of the Consulate General designed to engage the various community organizations to take active part in its activities and initiatives, and for the organizations to meet and network with each other. The first Assembly was held in 2015, in which 65 community organizations were represented.

The main outputs for this year's Assembly are the publication of a Directory of Filipino-American community associations and organizations in all of the 10 states under the jurisdiction of the Consulate General, and the putting up of a common Facebook page of the Assembly participants.  These outputs are aimed to facilitate information sharing and collaboration between the organizations and with the Consulate General. – Olive Osias-Magpile, Cultural Officer, PCGNY.