By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – Much of the time during the whole day affair of the 4th General Assembly of the Filipino community in the East Coast was given to queries on social security benefits and Pag-Ibig Funds. Put together by Consul General Tess Dizon de Vega and her dynamic consular team, an expanding and vibrant Filipino community here articulated their community needs in this huge gathering at the Kalayaan Hall of the Philippine Center, on a winter Saturday of February 3, 2018.
While there was entertainment provided for by Broadway celebrity Lea Salonga who sang her signature song from “Once On This Island” and brother and sister dance sport team Jaryd and Jhailyn Farcon, Filipinos here voiced out pressing concerns on their retirement and housing benefits in the Philippines.
The GA, a flagship program of the Philippine Consulate General of New York since 2015, brought in key officials of the Philippine Trade and Investment Center, the Department of Tourism, the Pag-Ibig Fund, the Social Security System, and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration. In her welcome address, De Vega vaguely mentioned that she may be given a new assignment within the year and thanked the community for being part of her memorable journey in New York.
The assembly was the first chance for newly appointed Philippine Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez to interact with Filipinos in New York and was immediately liked by majority of the attendees, many of whom came from New Hampshire and Connecticut. The personable diplomat is a nephew of former First Lady Imelda Marcos and a long-time media practitioner.
“In whatever you do, you are the Philippines’ own ambassadors,” he told about 200 participants to the GA which covered the states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maine, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. Romualdez was candid and straight-forward in expressing government position on public concerns in a luncheon press conference with members of the press in New York and New Jersey, together with Consul General Tess Dizon de Vega. See related story.