2018: A Year of Persistence and Many Firsts
By Marivir R. Montebon
The year 2018 began with feistiness and ended in gratitude and hope. Looking back, the year of the dog in the Chinese calendar, went through as a clearly dangerous one, but it was nevertheless met with grit and solidarity among journalists.
The first engagement that the FAPCNY had gone into in January 2018 was on giving out our official stand on the controversial case against Manila-based Rappler and the revocation of its license to operate, uneasy signs of press freedom being threatened. On January 16, 2018, we released our first statement of solidarity (thumbs up to Noel Pangilinan who heads the committee on public statements) for beleaguered media colleagues headed by international journalist and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.
A few weeks later, journalist Leilani Albano of Digital Village in Los Angeles reached out to the press club where yours truly gave a15-minute interview on the same issue.
In the deep of winter of 2018, the FAPCNY stood firm on the profession of truth and in solidarity with beleaguered colleague Maria Ressa early on.
As the political front had begun to heat up, the FAPCNY had worked in place its website fapcny.org and the privilege and press cards of its members. The privilege card meant an expansion of good will and support of FilAm entrepreneurs to the members of the press.
Conversations over Coffee
Stirring up community conversation was one of the deep and upbeat things we did best. Chaired by Cristina DC Pastor, the FAPCNY Kapihan had done enlightening media forums on human rights, freedom of information, and the like, tapping local luminaries and engaging local leaders.
On January 22, our opening salvo for the Kapihan was on the human rights situation in the Philippines with speakers Fr. Albert Alejo and Phelim Kine of the Human Rights Watch. Titled How to Defend Human Rights in the Philippines, the conversation revolved on human rights protection in the wake of Pres. Duterte’s drug war.
A sequel forum was created on April 13 titled Implications of the Philippines’ Withdrawal from the ICC with international lawyer Ruben Carranza, Esq. as main speaker.
On May 17, we had the Kapihan on Freedom of Information Act with Atty. Licelle Cobrador as speaker and one professional development session on ‘how to lead your organization’ on June 22 with former FAPCNY president Ricky Rillera.
In responding to the pressing issues of immigration, especially deportations, the FAPCNY organized an immigration Kapihan on August 22 with Atty. Cristina Godinez and Bergenfield council president and lawyer Arvin Amatorio as speakers. It was so far the longest forum this year because of the immensity and complexity of US immigration concerns among Filipinos. That forum sent everyone thinking deeply, and it could not have ended that night.
For 2019, immigration forums are in the offing.
Deep Ties with the Community
Members of the press club have always been immersed in community activities of various Fil-Am organizations and the Philippine Consulate. This is to eagerly highlight Philippine culture and arts in the Big Apple. Two new big things happened in 2018, at least that’s closest to the FAPCNY.
It was heartwarming to have been treated specially by DOT Attache Susan del Mundo in a FAPCNY-DOT get together on April 26 at the Kalayaan Hall. That exquisite party themed to be ‘by the beach’ had established the needed camaraderie and ease. As we journeyed throughout the year, major events like the Filipino-American restaurant week (which got extended for one more week due to popular demand), had never been so much fun.
The Explore Islands Philippines Exhibition on May 9 at the Vanderbilt Hall of the Grand Central Station, another first, was given enthusiastic support by individual members. A brainchild of Edwin Josue and Jerry Sibal, it showcased the different islands of the Philippines with all their natural magnificence.
Patikim: Our 7th Anniversary Party and the Winning Essays
On November 16, it was the press club’s turn to be glitzy. In celebration of our 7th anniversary, we organized a cocktail party called Patikim (or taste) to celebrate our presence in the community and to steadfastly remember to uphold and protect press freedom.
Two major breakthroughs were celebrated in that party. One, we had nine Fil-Am caterers and restauranteurs supplying our sumptuous array of food and drinks for free! I could not believe it myself, how generous they have all been. We only asked for one dish as a promotional platform, and they ended up donating at least two.
The second breakthrough was the official launching and awarding of winning essays of the first Fil-Am History Month Essay Writing Contest. A campaign hatched in August, ran in September and October, and awarded in November brought out the Ninja in all of us at the Board. But we made it.
The most heartwarming realization is – yes, there are great potential writers in our midst. Despite the short notice, we garnered 12 highly reflective entries, 5 of which made it to the top.
Our screening panel was the entire Board, who were all amazed by the eloquence of the participating millennials. Momar Visaya did the official tallying, saving many of us who were pained at our lack of mathematical prowess.
In 2019, we may reinforce ourselves official tabulator, because for sure, the entries would increase as we will campaign for entries at a much earlier time.
A New Consul General
We welcomed a new Consul General in 2018 in the person of Amb. Claro Cristobal. ConGen Claro is refreshing new leader for the Filipinos in the East Coast. He is a deep, reflective conversationalist who also has a disarming sense of humor.
In the midst of the growing political and social tension in the community, ConGen Claro remains congenial and fair, giving everyone their side of the story.
At the 2018 Philippine Independence Day Parade on June 5, which saw the human rights rallyists as the biggest contingent, the good Consul General calmly remarked: if we all could march together like this, then this is democracy at its best.
2018 will end in two hours. The FAPCNY has continued to cover events in the community that reflected the best and worst in us, Filipinos in America. Hopefully our reportage, based on best effort truthiness and ethics, would be our contribution to the community building through an enlightened, informed decision-making of individuals.
When Maria Ressa won the Person of the Year by Time and another by the Committee for the Protection of Journalists late this year, I personally looked back and said to myself, persistence is key to protecting the truth. Solidarity makes us strong in the face of trolls and fakery.
Thank you, 2018, and looking forward to a 2019 of truth, compassion, and good health of mind, body, and spirit to us all.