Hawaii Fil-Ams raise $200K for community center
HONOLULU –– More than $200,000 were raised for the benefit of the Filipino Community Center in Waipahu, the largest center of its kind outside the Philippines, during the 12th annual Bayanihan Gala Dinner and Silent Auction on October 25 at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel.
Rosemarie V. Mendoza, gala chair, announced the tally on November 10, highlighting the success of the fundraising event She also reported that more than 500 people attended the gala.
The event honored three outstanding members of the Filipino community with a Lifetime Achievement Award: retired Hawaii Supreme Court Justice and educator Simeon R. Acoba, Jr., retired Hawaii Supreme Court Justice Mario R. Ramil and philanthropist and community servant Maria A. F. Etrata.
“It was fitting to celebrate our honorees’ achievements during October as the Filipino-American History Month, and also remembering to celebrate over a century of Filipino-American presence in Hawaii,” Mendoza said.
“Our honorees are wonderful examples of how Filipinos have contributed to our state and to our country, and I want to thank our dignitaries, sponsors and all who attended to help us recognize their achievements.”
Special guests were Mayor Kirk W. Caldwell who introduced Etrata, Gov. John D. Waihee III who introduced Ramil, and Gov. Benjamin J. Cayetano who introduced Acoba.
In his acceptance speech, Ramil acknowledged his fellow awardee Etrata’s philanthropy via Renato and Maria A.F. Etrata Foundation, which has supported numerous community events promoting Filipino culture, and Acoba’s continued support for the educational system in his new role as a regent for University of Hawaii.
“I have always encouraged my staff to participate and volunteer in community events,” Ramil said. “There’s a wealth of knowledge and experience outside the office setting that is worth learning.”
Ramil was appointed by Gov. Waihee in 1987 to his cabinet as the director of Labor and Industrial Relations, and in 1993 was sworn in as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
Etrata, during her speech recalled her younger days in the Philippines when she had to walk to go to school in a rural community where she grew up. “It was hard and my family was poor, but I’ve always held on to my dream of a better life and I never let go of that dream, which led me to the United States,” Etrata said.
Etrata now owns and manages Home & Community Services of Hawaii, Inc., Preferred Home & Community Based Services, Inc., and The Primary Care Providers of Hawaii, successful agencies that offer health care services to the community.
Keeping legacy alive
During Acoba’s speech, he thanked the FilCom Center for its efforts in “keeping the Filipino cultural legacy alive.”
“Occasions like this allow us to reflect on our history and remember the courage of the sakadas and the accomplishments of their children,” Acoba said. “We celebrate the industriousness of immigrants, their contributions to modern society, and the pride of those who endured tribulations but left us a legacy of virtues to aspire to.”
Acoba served as a Supreme Court Justice until his mandatory retirement in 2014, and last year received the Dwight D. Opperman Award for Judicial Excellence from the American Judicature Society, which Gov. Cayetano described as the top award for Justices across the United States.
The gala featured live entertainment from local Filipino artists, including Noly Paa, Kristian Lei and Charles Degala, traditional Filipino folk dances by the Tekniqlingz Crew and Maria Clara by Evelyn Cabradilla and Troy Mendoza, and reception music by Banda Kawayan and Coro Filipino’s “Harana.”
Banduria band Pintig Himig by Marie Jocelyn Marfil and Fred Abejon performed live during the awardees’ video presentations as Mistress of Ceremonies Sonia Lugmao Aranza read each biography.
Mendoza acknowledged Kumu Kaleo Trinidad who performed a special Hawaiian oli, Julian Maeva for a fireknife dance, Aureanna Tseu for an elegant hula performance, and event Co-Chairs AJ Halagao, Jr. and Sherry Menor-McNamara.
The Silent Auction also contributed to the monies raised, featuring donations of gift certificates, goods and services for travel, hotels, restaurants and more.
“A portion of the proceeds will go to community programs for the elderly and youth in not only the Filipino community, but also the community at large,” said Edmund Aczon, chairman of FilCom Center’s board of directors.
The FilCom Center offers programs such as the Filipino for Kids Summer Program; social services and economic development courses, which offers U.S. citizenship classes, immigration outreach events, NCLEX nursing review sessions, computer enrichment and workforce training seminars.
FilCom Center offers year-long events that promote Filipino culture and community empowerment such as the Flores De Mayo, FilCom Sundays and Pasko sa FilCom, which is scheduled on Dec. 7 at the center.
For more information and photos from the Bayanihan Gala, visit bayanihangala.com.
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