Tuesday, May 13, 2008

ONE a Filipino Celebration: Fil-Ams’ coming out party

This coming Memorial Day Weekend, May 24, 2008, the busiest highway in the United States will be the Filipino-American Highway (CA 54-CA 125). Thousands of Fil-Ams and Filipinos are joining a huge motorcade to launch the Gawad Kalinga ONE celebration at Kimball Park, National City, Metro San Diego, starting at 10 a.m.

ONE a Filipino Celebration seeks to honor and celebrate the Filipino dream for solidarity and pride in our culture. Now is a good time to do so, and San Diego is the ideal site to celebrate the best in the Filipino.

Afterall, Fil-Ams comprise the largest Asian/Pacific Islander population in San Diego County with a population of over 145,000 as of 2005. San Diego City alone has 75,000 Fil-Ams. Fil-Ams have been present in San Diego since 1903 when a handful of Filipino students attended State Normal Street, now known as San Diego Sate University. Fil-Ams since then have been an integral part of the socio-economic and political life of San Diego.

Fil-Ams in San Diego have an estimated median household income of $56,264, a per capita income of $17,835 and a disposable income of $1.97 billion as of 2006. Over half of Fil-Am occupations are white collar with 32% in management or professional positions and another 29% in sales and office work. Another 18% are in the services sector (Sources: Asian Pacific Legal Center 2005, U.S. Census 2000, Filipino American Development Initiatives 2006, www.gk777sd.com).

Nationally, about four million Filipinos live in the United States and have a median annual income of $65,700 second only to East Indians (U.S. Dept. of State Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs 2007, U.S. Census Bureau 2004). In the U.S. Census Bureau of 2002, Fil-Americans owned over 125,000 businesses, employed close to 132,000 people, and generated nearly $14.4 billion in revenue. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) estimated that at least 65% of the remittances to the Philippines in the year 2000 came from the United States.

Clearly, Fil-Ams are significant economic group in the United States and the Philippines.

Victoria P. Garchitorena (2007), President of Ayala Foundation Inc. noted that this “culture of migration” of Filipinos not only has influenced development in the Philippines; two sets of phenomena have also emerged. The first is the development of an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) middle class with “aspirations, ambitions, and ideas” for a better future for their children that includes education and demands for better services and governance. The second is that overseas Filipinos are major contributors of “time, talent, treasures”.

The reasons for this philanthropic spirit include a desire to give back and help the mother country, the Filipino culture of compassion to the poor, underprivileged relatives and town mates, a wish to maintain ties with the homeland, and a concrete expression of their faith and values of sharing and caring.

Garchitorena and the Institute for Migration and Development Issues’ (IMDI 2006) Jeremiah Opiniano note that about 3,000 Filipino associations exist in the United States alone. Many of these associations are conduits for donations and assistance to the Philippines. These associations vary in type such as hometown associations, professional groups, alumni associations, community organizations, faith-based groups, student associations, cultural associations, national associations, and dedicated and public charities. Recipients of their aid include churches and other faith-based institutions, universities and colleges, hospitals, NGOs and foundations, government, direct to individuals, and special projects and initiatives.

This diasporan philanthropy is no clearer in the work of Gawad Kalinga supporters and volunteers in the United States. Of the 1,700 Gawad Kalinga communities established in the Philippines since 2003, 311 were sponsored by Fil-Americans and their friends and relatives. Two successful San Diego businessmen alone, Tony Olaes of ODMart and Robert Sanchez of GlobalTel Media, have committed to funding 20 GK villages and at least 4,000 GK homes respectively. Both are incidentally, the key movers and organizers behind this ONE celebration.

Thus, there are reasons to celebrate. The Philippines is an emerging economy, despite the corruption and inefficiencies that plague the bureaucracy. We are developing as a nation because of our culture of resilience, of daring and risk-taking, of hard work, competence, and ethical work discipline. Our OFWs are the best reflection of this. As one business professor told me, Filipinos are the best in work that entails nurturing.

We are also tops in the compassion business. Gawad Kalinga, an ambitious Philippine community development cum nation building movement, seeking to build 700,000 homes in 7,000 communities, in seven years, is reshaping the field of community development. The global implications and replicability of GK’s nation-building model on the emergence and development of other forms of social movements and civil society–state governance are compelling. The late Jesuit historian and visionary, Horacio dela Costa (2002) once wrote that for the Philippine nation to develop to the best of its abilities and potential, the Filipino people must do three things, namely: (a) build and strengthen communities; (b) link the communities with common goals-ideally national goals; and, (c) recapture the bureaucracy. Culture trumps all and Gawad Kalinga’s model may be one cultural model for nation building.

In recognition of the success of the Filipino and the potentials yet to unfold, the Fil-Am community and Gawad Kalinga/ANCOP USA are sponsoring ONE a Filipino Celebration. As a coming out party of the Fil-Am community, ONE seeks to show what solidarity in the community can achieve. Activities include:

  • The culmination of the Highway/Caravan of Hope 65-city speaking tour of Gawad Kalinga International Partnerships Coordinator Dylan Wilk and GK1MB USA Coordinator, Nathan Mari along with their spouses. See http://www.ancopusa.org/highwayofhope/;
  • The FILIPINO SOLIDARITY CARAVAN on America's only Fil-Am Highway (http://www.gk777sd.com/caravan.html);
  • ONE Celebration, from 10:00 a.m. -6:00 p.m., Kimball Park, National City
    11:00 am. Hosted by Danny Javier of Apo Hiking Society, the celebration will feature GK officers led by founder Tony Meloto and numerous surprise guest performers. The celebration ends with a Vigil Mass, and;
  • GK Builders Summit (May 25-26, 2008 at the Marriot Del Mar Hotel). This is a two-day workshop on engaging potential and active GK One Million Volunteers or GK1MB. See http://www.ancopusa.org/gksummit/schedule.htm for the schedule and workshop details.

Be part of history unfolding. Join in creating a vision of the Philippines that is fueled by hope and made real by the compassion, love, care, and generosity of Filipinos. Make your business the Philippines. The Ateneo Graduate School of Business did when their 40th anniversary theme was “Our country is our Business.”

As Tony Meloto said, “Truly I am blessed that God made me a Filipino.”