By Lydia V. Solis
West Covina, CA – “It’s the warmest welcome I've received,” announced L.A.’s Consul General Adelio Angelito S. Cruz on July 25, at the City Hall courtyard here.
Effectively planned by Atty. Abraham Limand former West Covina Mayor, Council member James Toma, the Filipino AmericanChamber of Commerce Tri-County (Los Angeles, Riverside and San BernardinoCounties) coordinated the tribute for Congen Cruz. Lim is an FACC Tri-County board member and also the legal counsel; president is Merwynn Montenegro.
The visit of Congen Cruz to West Covina coincided with the commemoration of the 17th anniversary of ManilaWay, a street on Azusa Ave., north of Amar Rd., which connects the east and west malls populated by predominantly Filipino-American businesses.
In 1998, the Filipino American Chamber ofCommerce San Gabriel Valley founded by financial adviser Linda S. Cruz in the mid-90s, petitioned the city to name a street Manila Way. On July 11, 2000, the City Council approved a resolution naming Manila Way and the traffic sign was put up three months later. It made Santos very happy although she was actually pushing then to have the Amar/Azusa corridor designated as Little Manila. She’s optimistic though thatLittle Manila will still happen.
Prior to the evening reception, Congen Cruz was invited to meet with City officials and the community at Seafood CitySupermarket for photo ops in front of the store where the bust of Dr. Jose P.Rizal is displayed. The original plan was to have the photo ops at the ManilaWay site, but safety concerns dictated that another site be chosen. The commemorative bust of the Philippine national hero and martyr was installed onJune 6, 1998, in commemoration of the ‘First Centennial of the Declaration ofPhilippine Independence on June 12, 1898, in Kawit, Cavite.’ The patriotic gesture was made possible through the combined efforts and resources of thePhilippine Centennial Commission, the Philippine Consulate General, LosAngeles, and Seafood City Supermarket, in cooperation with the FilAm Chamber ofCommerce San Gabriel Valley, the FilAm West Covina community, Chow King and RedRibbon.
City officials, including Assembly member Blanca Rubio (48th District) and her sister Susan Rubio, Baldwin Park Mayor Pro Tem, and a few friends kept Congen Cruz company during the tour of the northeast mall, visiting various businesses.He was seen being measured for a barong at Nostalgia, the Barong TagalogShoppe and having refreshments, according to Atty. Lim, at the Victory EliteAuto Connect and the Philippine National Bank hosted by Rick Ramos on behalf ofFACC Tri County Chamber treasurer Ricky Villacisneros, L.A.’s PNB RemittanceManager.
Consul General Adel Cruz couldn’t have asked for a warmer reception at the City Hall courtyard where more than 100people were waiting for him. After an invocation by Chamber secretary Ed Cansino, president Merwynn Montenegro introduced Councilman Toma who in turn introducedMayor Pro Tem Spence. The latter acknowledged the presence of Council members Lloyd Johnson and Tony Wu, as well as the other dignitaries present: WC City Manager Chris Freeland and Assistant City Manager/Community Services Director Nikole Resciani; WC Commissioner Phil Kaufman, Los Angeles City Colleges District TrusteeMike Eng, Monica Farias, President/CEO, Greater West Covina Business Association; and long-missed community advocate, Marissa Castro Salvati, Public Affairs Region Manager, SouthernCalifornia Edison. Also in attendance were former PH DOT acting director Manny Ilagan and his wife Meg; former Walnut Mayor Tony Cartagena, and a big delegation from the West Covina Masonic Lodge, among many others.
Former PH DOT Director Annie Cuevas-Lim introduced Congen Cruz, who expressed deep appreciation to the City of WestCovina, its officials and the community. After the city’s presentation of a certificate to officially welcome Congen Cruz, another presentation, on a lighter side, was done by Raoul Pascual, member of FACC Tri-County. It was a caricature which drew a comment from the Consul General, “I look younger! You can be sure that this is the first thing people will see when they enter the consulate.”
Closing remarks were delivered by FACCTC board member Abe Pagtama and the program closed with a cultural presentation directed by yet another Chamber board member, Jo Solomonson. The Vessel of Mary Liturgical and Cultural DanceGroup, founded in 2010, consists of parishioners from Holy Name of Mary Parish in San Dimas and San Lorenzo Ruiz in Walnut, and former students from St.Joseph School in Pomona. “Its purpose,” said Solomonson, “is to support and provide parish and civic organizations at their events and encourage young people to use their talents positively. VOM has performed at Religious EdCongress at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, several Sinulog events at many churches, Simbang Gabi and many others,” she said.
While watching performers dance Cariñosa, Binislakan (Pangasinan) and Subli (Batangas) guests savored the appetizing spread, prepared by FACCTC board members Wilma Orendain of Epicure Catering & FoodDistribution and her sister Myrna Ramos.