Beginning of a New EraBy Philip Dominguez Mercurio
SAN RAMON, Calif. - I WAS supposed to be in the building by noon. Unfortunately, I wasn’t.
At that very moment, I was still outside.
My little white car approached the guard station. I sat in the car, tense as usual, for I realized that my punctuality was just fueling the unproven stereotype that Filipinos are always prone to being relatively late.
With a complex of buildings in my midst, the nice lady popped out from the guard station and directed me to the visitor’s parking lot.
Hastily, I drove in, heading for the appropriately labeled lot. As I looked around, it became clear that this complex functioned like a miniature city.
The visitor parking lot was almost filled to capacity. I parked the car at the first slot I found open, figuring I couldn’t waste any more precious time than I had to, and raced for the main entrance.
Entering the lobby, you can’t help but feel like you’ve been sent into another world. Like a cross between corporate downtown and a BART station, with fellows in suits rushing to and fro between metal verification machines.
But no time for self-illumination.
A mere five minutes had passed but it seemed like a century.
Time was now of the essence.
I went up to the front desk.
“Excuse me. My name is Philip and I have a meeting with Chevron executives.”
“So you’re Philip of Philippine News,” the receptionist said, peering down at a sheet of paper.
“Yes. That’s me,” I said.
After some proof of verification, she handed me a clip-on visitor pass and directed me to the doors to the right of me. Still a bit puzzled, like a fish thrown into a new aquarium, I had to ask again where to go, lest I end up lost and enter a place I wasn’t supposed to be in.
Again, she directed me to those same doors, the likes of which resembled those doors from the Elvin Rivendale: tall, lanky and completely intimidating.
As I looked across the lobby toward the conference room, I was imagining what may have been taking place without me. With the uneasiness of knowing that I’d be disturbing an already seated audience, I walked toward the conference room, carefully opening the tall glass door and hoped for the best.
Inside, what I had initially anticipated, didn’t come to fruition. Instead, I found my hosts sitting about casually chatting away.
Well, what do you know .... Apparently, I wasn’t late at all. Instead, I was pleasantly on time.
Why this day held so much significance was the fact that this was the convergence of three great companies: Ayala Foundation, LBC Foundation and ChevronTexaco. What brings all these forces together is the formulation of something exciting. Something wonderful. Something extraordinary.
It’s basically the dawn of a new era for Filipino America.
Today was the initiation of Filipino American Community Youth Leader Fellowship Program, a program devoted specifically for the Filipino American who wants to fully understand who they are and where they came from.
Part soul-searching, part dedicated social service, the idea is to manifest some form of cultural connectedness for one’s own heritage while still extending a helping hand.
The program’s creation was based on a belief that many Filipino Americans are too “Americanized,” where ties to their parent’s country have already been lost after so many years under the stars and stripes to the point where there existed a necessity to reacquaint them back to their homeland before it’s too late.
So with the efforts of those in the Ayala and LBC Corp., it was hoped that something incredible, something exciting could be bred so alas, someone would be able to address this ever increasing divide between the unacquainted generations and the Philippines.
“I don’t think there is an internship or a foreign exchange program that really indicates this academic indignation of being a fellow… so I think this is exciting,” said Marivic Bamba, vice president of LBC.
“We realized, a lot of programs that are out there have been helping the youth become more familiar with their roots and things like that, but we wanted to create something that was different.”
And different this program is. This is the first time corporations from opposite sides of the world locked hands in the creation of a program that will produce future leaders that the whole of the Filipino American community will look up to. Said Mylene Chan, community involvement representative of ChervonTexaco, “It’s a great idea to bring youth to the Philippines and inspire in them some philanthropic and community involvement.”
Chan’s hope is not only to make them proud of their heritage but also to transform them into advocates for the Philippines and the Filipinos in the U.S.
“We wanted to not only enhance not only their culture familiarity but also create a pool of future philanthropists so young people will start to realize the importance of giving back to both the community, both in the United States and in the Philippines,” Bamba stated.
Slated for launch in the summer of 2004, the program is catered for 15 motivated fellows to work for two months in the Philippines.
A committee with representatives from Ayala Foundation and LBC will hand select the best and the brightest from the Filipino American community and formulate them into shining leaders.
“These leaders will have some expertise, experience and knowledge and share something of themselves so the learning goes both ways,” said Bamba.
Fellows will work with a selected host organization such as an NGO (non-government organization), a government agency, or an educational institution, specifically picked to encompass the criteria that the future fellow intends to take.
To fully experience the culture of the Philippines, fellows will live with host families so the fellows may fully appreciate the culture they are in.
Not only will the future fellow be exposed to the Philippines via the hands-on approach, but learning will also come by other means.
A three-day workshop in Metro Manila on “Proud to be Filipino” will be provided by Ayala Foundation, Inc.’s Filipinas Heritage Library, so future fellows may be integrated into the culture they set foot in while a buddy system formed from some of the top echelon of students in the Philippines will provide the future fellows with companionship on their journey to Filipino enlightenment.
All in all, the hope is for the fellow to come out of their experience with a sense of self-reflection and inner humility for the greater good of the community.
“This program will help them experience the pain of our widespread poverty but also the realization that so many groups are doing their share in improving the quality of life of Filipinos,” says Vicky Garchitorena, president of the Ayala Foundation USA.
“With that they can feel hope that we will, through the efforts of the NGOs with whom they will be implementing programs, be able to lift the nation out of the situation we are now in.” – PDM
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