July 8, 2005

One Vision, One Voice in the Filipino Community

By Romeo P. Marquez

The parallelism is not lost as Maria Lourdes Fernandez Reyes, M.D., M.P.H., waded through the paperwork of research. Bounded by a common Spanish culture and heritage, it is evident that Filipinos and Hispanics share the same ultimate goal of unifying their communities into one potent force. For the Hispanics, specifically those of Mexican descent, that singular goal seemed to have been achieved.

For the Filipino communities, across the United States, coming together under the aegis of one community organization remains elusive not so much for lack of leaders as for the dire need for one vision and a goal echoed through one unified voice of the community. San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre has recognized the problem early on and invited Dr Reyes and Filipino community leaders to a dialogue in his downtown office with a view to resolving the outstanding issue of a lack of solid representation from Filipino leaders.

Dr Reyes then presented Aguirre with a copy of a survey she had conducted with her core team of Dr. Ceferina Ruiz and Dr. Amethyst Cureg, and invited him to the town hall meeting of One Vision One Voice.

On Wednesday, June 8, 2005, “One Vision One Voice - A Filipino American Movement” was born in the San Diego City Hall with no less than 12 of the most respected pillars in the Filipino community giving it flesh and breath, and about 100 other concerned Filipinos giving it the backbone and the unmistakable Filipino face.

Aguirre was there to witness it. And so was City Councilman Tony Young in whose district live many Filipinos, whose numbers rank them third in population.

One after another, speaker after speaker, they mouthed the recurring theme of Filipino unity made more urgent by new developments in the city. The history of the Filipino community is laden with unsuccessful attempts to get elected to public office, or to be counted as a force to be reckoned with.

The significance of the event was not lost to the city, which televised the proceedings live on Channel 24 and replayed on June 12 in time with the celebration of Philippine Independence Day.

The 12 who spoke at the four-hour event were not just good speakers and experts in their field. They are a showcase of the best the Filipino community could assemble.

“Our main goal is a united Filipino community,” stressed Dr. Reyes, a past president of the American Cancer Society for California.

Superior Court Judge Lillian Lim calls it “a heritage of struggle,” a reference to the continuing saga of Filipino Americans for equal opportunity, recognition and visibility.

For many years, Judge Lim has been the only Filipino face in a grand mosaic of white, brown, black and yellow in the mainstream landscape called America. Hers’ is the lone voice in the wilderness.

Nearly two decades from the time she was appointed to the Bench in January 1986, Judge Lim can now look back and say “the numbers are still small” and that the elusive goal Filipino Americans dreamt of achieving still remains one grand vision and one strong voice.

“We are not asking more than equal opportunity,” said Judge Lim whose statements provided more motivation and focus to go on with what has now officially become the One Vision, One Voice - A Filipino American Movement.

Filipinos are tiny because of their parochial orientation. They are fragmented by their regional dialects and are often skeptical or seemingly distrustful of each other, thus making them an unwieldy, invisible force. But their numbers, especially in San Diego, could undoubtedly be a powerful bloc to influence policy, put people in elective office and alter the course of their own destiny.

About the author: Romeo Marquez writes for The Filipino Channel’s Balitang America in San Francisco, and edits the Philippine Village Voice. He can be reached at his email address at DiarioV@aol.com

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