Leaders of different organizations gathered with candidates running for the next general elections in November together with other community members and supporters at a Filipino American Coalition (FAC) event to discuss and push for political, social and economic empowerment of Filipinos in the Bay Area.
Keynote speakers Philippine Consul General to San Francisco Henry BensurtoJr and six-term Mayor of Milpitas Jose Esteves who is gunning for a seventh term were invited to elucidate on how Filipinos can help empower one another amidst the challenges they face in the plush residence of Mr. and Mrs. Rene and Mila Medina.
FAC President Francis Espiritu welcomed the participants who came from different cities and counties in the Bay Area and represented Filipino organizations from different age groups with a short speech on the vision and goals of FAC.
“We at FAC envision more opportunity for Filipino Americans to have a stronger voice and representation in the government and political platform. Our goal is to unite and prevent conflicts among Filipino American community members and to ensure that we have representation in the economic, social, educational and political empowerment,” Espiritu shared.
Espiritu recalled that veteran newsman Alex Esclamado originally envisioned fifty years ago the unification and empowerment of the Filipino community and noted that Filipinos we are still trying to do it up to now.
Nevertheless, Espiritu emphasized that “if we do not start in uniting the Filipino community, our children and great grandchildren will have nobody to look up to.
“Former Milpitas City Mayor Henry Manayan cited three reasons we are not getting the right recognition. Filipinos do not participate, do not donate and do not vote. The last reason the easiest part to do so we must encourage Filipinos to register and to actually vote. Do these for the future of the next generations,” Espiritu exhorted.
Bensurto was delighted to see Filipinos from different political persuasions and beliefs come together for the simple reason of being a Filipino which is “something that brought all of us here together.”
“We have something like four million Filipino Americans now on record more than 50% no longer belongs to the first generation. It is more dominated now by the millennial and Z generations and will be the dominant group in the Filipino American community with many implications in so many ways,” Bensurto revealed. “That is why we launched the Spark, Connect and Empower movement whose core message is to spark love, and passion among Filipino Americans with special emphasis on the millenials whom we have to reach out to because there is no automatic connection and link to their heritage.”
Bensurto stressed that Filipino values and culture that the older generation knows and lives every day should be transmitted to the new generation of Filipino Americans by the elders themselves because no one else will do it for them.
“If this important heritage called Filipino is not passed on to the next generations, it will not continue to live and multiply and will die a natural death like the Latin language. We don’t want it to just be a mere part of ancient history to be talked about only in textbook,” Bensurto warned. “That will have tremendous catastrophic implications in the entire community in the U.S. as the lack of identity translates to unempowerment with no voice, no thread nor fabric that links all of you together to identify yourself for the young to be able to anchor their values and identity. So we have to take action now to inspire and spark that passion for our heritage and culture. You have to recognize that in your blood flows the Filipino DNA.
Bensurto also claims that it is very important for the young kids to discover their Filipino identity, to gain confidence and project themselves in the society early to avoid any form of identity crisis and early to avoid any form of identity crisis and to be able to speak out on behalf of the Filipinos.
“What binds and puts us all together here, regardless of our partisan and political beliefs, is our concept of culture and heritage. And this includes the entire over 10 million Filipino diaspora all over the world and connects them to the more than 100 million Filipinos back home. The number of Filipinos is the strength of the Filipino nation. This strength in numbers should be translated into a voice in the global arena, in the particular unique society that will carry us to the future,” Bensurtoundercored..
For his part, Esteves batted for Filipinos to be proud because of their race because if “we don’t appreciate our own selves, we don’t have any self-respect and those who are ashamed of being Filipinos and do not help nor support any Filipino traits, values, or any undertaking should feel embarrassed.”
“It is important that we should be proud to be Filipinos because we are comparable to any race or to any community. The statement should be Filipino first before our selves even if there are instances when we have conflicts on what goes first: our individual needs or the welfare of the Filipinos,” Esteves urged. “If no one pushes for the Filipino, what will happen to our children? Do you want our children to be inferior, to just look up to other communities and not see anyone of us to realize that there are other fellow Filipinos who can be make it like others? We can discover that if others can, we can do it too.”
Esteves also counsel all always be mindful that they carry the Filipino name in whatever they do but encouraged all to excel just the same because the Filipino name is elevated whenever that happens. He also cautioned, though, that If one does the bad or wrong things, he also bring down the Filipino name with him.
“In trying to achieve things, words with actions are necessary. We have to ask ourselves what resources I am committing in terms of time, money and everything else. We have the duty to contribute to our community. It is not an option but rather an obligation to commit and share our resources for the betterment of the Filipino community. And you can only do that if your start getting involved, more informed to make better decisions and wholeheartedly support our being Filipinos,” Esteves prodded.
And because Filipinos have the numbers, Esteves push for the use of the strength in numbers to further the causes of Filipinos.
“We may have the number but we never count. We have the count but are never counted. So we should fight, use our strength in numbers, strive harder, lend our support and with love for ourselves and for everyone’s welfare especially for the next generations,” Esteves insists. “We have to set the examples. Vote and tell your friends to vote because those voted to office tend to serve people who are voting more than those who do not. Let us not put ourselves or community at a disadvantage by not voting.”
Atty. RodelRodis, in introducing himself, batted for the renaming of the Gellert Park to Bulos Park in honor of noted and e=minent community leader Alice Bulos.
The guests who were each asked to also introduce themselves include San Mateo Supervisor David Canepa, Daly City Mayor Juslyn Manalo, election candidates Cristina Osmeña, Christina Laskowski, Daly City Vice Mayor Ray Buenaventura, Roderick Magbual, Garry Barbadillo, Patricia Finau Lopez and leaders of different Filipino organizations in the Bay Area, among others.
Philippine Consul General to San Francisco Henry BensurtoJr..
Participants listen to speakers on how to empower Filipinos..
Six-term Milpitas City Mayor Jose Esteves
Filipino American Coalition (FAC) Officers led by President Francis Espiritu (fourth from left) with Supervisor David Canepa (center) and event host Mr. Rene Medina (fourth from right).
Souvenir shot of election candidates FAC officers and guests.