By Marivir Montebon
New York City – The need to involve young second generation Filipino-Americans in community events and to be more politically visible and active were among the most pressing issues expressed by leaders of the Filipino community in the east coast.
During the first general assembly of community organizations, about 200 Filipino community leaders threshed out the common and priority concerns, which was initiated and facilitated by the office of the Philippine Consul General in New York.
“Younger Fil-Ams need to be exposed to Philippine culture in order to be effective and mindful leaders,” said Michael Legaspi Stiefel, an aspiring leader of the New England Filipino-American Association Inc. (NEFAI) based in Connecticut.
The First Filipino-American Community General Assembly was held on Saturday, February 7 at the Philippine Center on 5th Avenue in Manhattan.
Ambassador Mario de Leon Jr. in his inspirational speech that opened the assembly said that organizations need to “repurpose” themselves to include conversations and participation of the younger generations with that of the older ones.
The concern has long been expressed by young students and children of first generation Fil-Ams to make them culturally conscious and historically aware of the Philippines in order to be grounded and appreciative of their ethnicity.
Gina Angeles, an emerging leader in the feminist movement here for instance, opined that Filipinos in New York need to engage in activities that allow the expression of the youth of their quest for identity and culture. “It is tough for young ones who are neither fully Filipino nor fully American. There is a language barrier to deal with and understanding the cultures to begin with. But we can have the best of worlds, if given enough support,” she said.
Meanwhile, NAFFAA national board member Merit Salud expressed the need to be politically visible and to have the Filipino vote counted in local and federal elections.
“We are encouraging Filipinos to be active and visible in governance and elections. We should vote in local and federal elections. We should have a political voice,” Salud, a lawyer, said.
Filipinos rank next to the Chinese in terms of population size among Asians in the US.
Ambassador de Leon likewise encouraged community support for Filipino entrepreneurs, recognition of women leaders, as well as the lobbying of full recognition of Filipino WW II veterans as the most pressing concerns for the community. (Photo by Gloria L. Steifel)