By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – The 14 achievers recognized at the 53rd anniversary of PACEC, one of the oldest organizations of Filipinos in the East Coast were the real deal in yesterday’s high-fashion gala, August 26, at the Pearl River Hilton. Spanning more than five decades of generational leadership of Filipinos in diaspora here in the US, the awardees included Aries dela Cruz, recipient of the Outstanding Leader in Public Service Award, who is the highest ranking Filipino American holding a State position in New York.
Dela Cruz is currently Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan Regional Representative, making sure that New Yorkers are engaged in democratic processes and governance. The Philippine American Communities of the East Coast (PACEC) bestowed on him the “role model of the younger generation,” as Dela Cruz graduated at the Columbia University as the first openly gay student leader invited to speak at the Muslim Students Association’s Eid dinner and for being the digital strategist of the office of the Manhattan Borough president.
Math teacher Ronie Mataquel was cited as Model FilAm Teacher of the Year. Mataquel is currently the president of UNIFFIED, an organization of Filipino teachers in various states and has been teaching Math College Focus, a remedial class system to prepare students for college, for the past five years. His students in his remedial classes have had the highest track record of passing CUNY exams, and as such, he had been recognized twice by the Block Board Awards in New York for his work.
Stevenson Van Derodar, current president of the JCI State of New York, received the ‘Outstanding Leader of the Youth in the Community’ for his active involvement in various community events. Derodar had been an awardee of the JCI USA Wayne McCall Memorial Awards and the Pan-American Concerned Citizens League, to name a few, for his community volunteer work.
Vicente Gesmundo was named ‘Producer of the Year’ by PACEC for having produced 30 shows and concerts in the tri-State area. Under his company Vynz-NY Entertainment, Gesmundo tapped in local talents, to include Bryan Magsayo and Angel Ram, and Philippine celebrities such as Martin Nievera, Lani Misalucha, and Kuh Ledesma in his shows.
The D’Rakets Band was awarded ‘Best in Entertainment’, dubbed as an alternative pop-rock band and representing the younger set of musicians. It is composed of lead vocalist Ivan Bonggon, lead guitarist Josh Concepcion, bassist Jheck Jimenez, and drummer Erwin Pajarillo. Its debut album ‘Tigas Ulo’ was produced by Lower Ground Productions.
Jude McCanne Sanchez was cited as the top FilAm Swimmer of the Year. A doctorate degree holder in Physical Therapy, Sanchez has won twice as champion in the Men’s Gold for the 50-m freestyle and 100-m backstroke in the US and in the Philippines. He is currently training to participate in the next Southeast Asian games.
A posthumous award for ‘Excellence in Journalism’ was accorded to Libertito Pelayo Sr., the publisher of the Filipino Reporter newspaper, perhaps the longest-running newspaper of Filipinos in the east coast. Popularly referred to as ‘Bert’, Pelayo Sr. founded in the Filipino Reporter in 1972. Branding itself as “fear, fearless, and factual,” the Filipino Reporter has been around for the past 43 years. After the passing on of the older Pelayo, his wife Linda and son L.P. Pelayo Jr. took over the reins and are currently managing the paper. Mrs. Pelayo received the posthumous award.
The other awardees were: Dr. Cris Ayroso Jr. – Model Fil-Am Dentist of the Year; Jess Atencio – Humanitarian Service in New York and Philippines; Judge Ned Bertulfo – Public Service; Dr. Eduardo Farcon – Notable Contribution to the Medical Profession; and Carmen Meliton – Advocacy in Health care.
PACEC is currently headed by its president Juliet Payabyab, a veteran organizer and leader in the Filipino community. In her inspirational message, Payabyab cited that PACEC had been the pioneer in organizing and managing the Philippine Independence Day parade on Madison Avenue in 1973. It also facilitated heart surgeries for ‘blue babies’ from the Philippines in the early 1990s, which she said was a major achievement in saving lives.
The gala was hosted by Gilda Lee Bautista and was attended by about 200 guests. Dancing siblings Jared and Jhailyn Falcon provided a highly energized dance entertainment. Select Filipino leaders also did a radiant fashion show of Filipiniana and Barong ensemble which was choreographed by Helen Kwong and Shiran Ybanez. Ernie and Malou Bugarin provided great music during the gala which sent Filipinos to the dance floor for their much-loved waltz, tango, or line dancing streak. (Featured photo: The 2018 Achievers. Photos by Boyet Loverita and Marivir Montebon)