Filipino community nominated for award

Posted: Friday, September 17, 2010

JUNEAU (AP) -- The Filipino Community, Inc. (FCI) of Juneau has been nominated for an award honoring exemplary Filipino-American communities. The Gawad Geny Lopez Jr. Bayaning Samahan Sa Amerika 2010 Award is presented annually by ABS-CBN, the largest media organization in the Philippines.

The nomination of the FCI, Alaska's oldest Filipino organization, was submitted by state Rep. Cathy Munoz.

Earlier this month, Carmelita Palma arrived in Juneau to review the nomination and speak with local representatives and the members of the community. Palma, who lives in the Philippines, is a volunteer independent of ABS-CBN.

While the award is an important acknowledgment of a community, Palma said the FCI has made its accomplishments to enrich the region, not to get a medal.

"They have not been doing all these things to be recognized, but because they wanted to help," she said. "They wanted to share the culture of the Philippines, and its heritage, to the community that they're in."

Criteria for the award focuses on things like preserving traditional culture, supporting the local community, and also transcending parochialism.

Filipinos have been an integral part of the community since the early days of Juneau. In recent years, the FCI has been involved in a long list of community projects in the region. In 2003, a public park in downtown Juneau named "Manila Square" was established to recognize the contributions Filipinos have made toward the growth and development of the city.

They helped support the establishment of the Office of Citizenship Assistance in Juneau, aiding residents to become citizens without having to travel thousands of miles.

Annual funds are granted by the FCI to Filipino students who excel in academics and athletics. They have also held fundraisers to aid typhoon victims in the Philippines.

October was named Filipino History Month in Alaska thanks to efforts made by the organization.

They also established the dance troupe Alitaptap Philippine Folkloric Group, with participants from ages 6 to 60, celebrating the rich variety of Filipino dances. The group has performed in Juneau, Anchorage and Fairbanks.

Juneauite Rafael Castanos, who helped organize the nomination, said he discovered the ABS-CBN award "accidentally."

"Do you think it's by chance?" Palma asked. "I think it's destiny."

FCI President Jenny Gomez Strickler said that one of her goals is helping to preserve her culture, especially for Filipino-Americans who are born and raised in the U.S.

"We grew up here," she said. "I have never been to the Philippines. I'm third generation American."

Palma said that immersion in cultural education is important, especially for the current generations.

"When I talked to the children, they say that after they have experienced the culture, and they know the history of the Filipinos in their places, they felt that there was this emptiness that was filled, because now they are able to appreciate and understand who they really are," Palma said.

Forty-four Filipino organizations across the U.S. were nominated for the Gawad Geny Lopez Jr. Bayaning Samahan Sa Amerika 2010 Award. Ten finalists -- including the FCI of Juneau - have been selected, and five will be picked to be honored with the award in October at a ceremony in California.

One of the awardees will be chosen to represent the U.S., and will be sent to the Philippines for a grand award along with representatives from other nations.

Palma said that regardless of the results of the awarding, the FCI deserves commendation for its commitment to enhancing the city of Juneau.

"They really have to be congratulated, because I say they are already winners," she said.

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