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19/03/2012: Young Fil-Ams Captivated by Power-Packed Panels

Ambassador Jose Cuisia (center) and Mrs. Vicky Cuisia (to the Ambassador’s immediate left) pose with the emcee, speakers and moderators of the Filipino American youth forum, dubbed “Merienda with Ambassador Cuisia.”  Shown in the photo are (l-r) Margaret Lacson-Ecarma, Wilma Consul, Naomi Estaris, Cristino Arroyo, Mrs. Vicky Cuisia, Amb. Cuisia, Angeline Hartmann, Fred Tayco, Christina Lagdameo, Marlan Maralit, and Francis Tanglao-Aguas.

19 March 2011, Washington DC. Young Filipino American students and professionals in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area were enthralled by a power-packed line up of speakers and moderators in a forum dubbed “Merienda with Ambassador Cuisia,” which was held at the beautifully adorned Jack Morton Auditorium of George Washington University yesterday.  The activity was staged in partnership with District 6 of the Filipino Intercollegiate Networking Dialogue (FIND), ably headed by Chris Cordero of George Washington University.

In his keynote address, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. challenged the next generation of Filipino Americans to use their imagination, creativity, and talent to come up with pursuits that they are passionate about and engage more actively in their respective communities and contribute to the further development of the Philippines and the strengthening of relations between the Philippines and the United States.

Panel discussions on “Filipino heritage, roots and identity” and “community building, political advocacy and entrepreneurship” were skillfully steered by moderators Angeline Hartmann, Emmy award-winning producer and correspondent of “America’s Most Wanted,” and Marlan Maralit, labor organizer who, among his many accomplishments as a community advocate, helped bring FIND to the national level.  Serving as the emcee was Margaret Lacson-Ecarma, who connected with the audience with her charm and personality.

Distinguished members of the academe, Professor Francis Tanglao-Aguas of the College of William & Mary and Professor Cristino Arroyo of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, narrated their experiences as Filipino Americans in a field with a dearth of minorities.  Wilma Consul of NPR observed, among other things, that locality plays a part in how fast immigrants assimilate to American culture, having lived in both the East and West Coasts of the U.S.

Angeline Hartmann, farthest right, moderates the discussion in the first panel composed of (l-r) Amb. Jose Cuisia, Francis Tanglao-Aguas, Cristino Arroyo, and Wilma Consul.

In the second panel, Christina Lagdameo, Deputy Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, advised the young generation not to be intimidated by obstacles in advocating causes and rallied Filipino Americans to get involved in the political process and make their voices heard.  Fred Tayco, Congressman Brian Bilbray’s Communications Director, stressed the importance of repeating key messages and galvanizing the support of different actors to help their various campaigns.  Naomi Estaris, Chief Operating Officer of the Travel Outlet, recounted her career from being a tax accountant in a Fortune 500 company to being the Chief Operating Officer of Operation Smile and, now, as a successful entrepreneur.

Christina Lagdameo, second from left, delivers her remarks in the second panel, which included (l-r) Amb. Jose Cuisia, Fred Tayco, Naomi Estaris, and Marlan Maralit.

Congressman Steve Austria of Ohio, only the third person of Filipino lineage to serve in the U.S. Congress after Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia and former Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, joined the forum by video and described his personal journey to public service.  He urged the youth’s involvement in community activities at all levels and described the Filipino American community as a “sleeping giant” that has a great opportunity if it can come together.

Thryza Navarrete of the Philippine Embassy provided a unique account of the Philippines by highlighting numbers of significance – 7,107 (number of Philippine islands), 1521 (year the Philippines was discovered by Magellan), 7.6% (GDP growth in 2010), 94 million (estimated population), etc.

Ambassador Cuisia took advantage of the occasion to urge interested parties, who haven’t done so, to apply to the Filipino American Youth Leadership Program.  The travel to Manila and participation in the 7th Ambassadors, Consuls General, and Tourism Directors Tour of the 10 chosen participants will be funded by the Ayala Foundation, the corporate social responsibility arm of the Ayala Corporation, one of the oldest and largest business groups in the Philippines.

The event was followed by merienda featuring Philippine culinary delights, where the young Filipino Americans were able to interact with speakers, moderators, and Embassy representatives.

Engagement with the younger generation is an advocacy of Ambassador and Mrs. Cuisia, who have made it a point to meet with young Filipino Americans in their travels throughout the U.S.  END