Education, cooperation key for Filipino community board members

"We have gone a long way, but we still have to see more people of Filipino ancestry being on executive boards, corporate boards."

In Hawai'i, Filipinos comprise 15 percent of the population. Raymund Liongson and Rochelle Almanzor-McArthur, the two newest members of the FilCom Center Board, bring a background in education and a similar focus on empowering the growing number of Filipinos who call the islands home.

Liongson, an educator since 1976, joined the board in order to participate in helping the Filipino community advance socially, economically, and politically.

"We used to talk a lot about empowerment," Liongson says. "We have gone a long way, but we still have to see more people of Filipino ancestry being on executive boards, corporate boards."

Currently a professor in Filipino Studies at Leeward Community College, Liongson explains that his greater concern is in helping middle class Filipinos to attain economic and professional mobility through education.

"It's hard to think of mobility without education," Liongon says, acknowledging attention needed toward both the Filipino youth and senior citizens. "I think this is the time for Filipino Americans to once again come together and join hands. The FilCom Center to me is a symbol of what can happen when Filipinos come together."

Almanzor-McArthur, a professor at the Pacific Asian Management Institute and the Center for International Business Education and Research at the University of Hawai'i, says she hopes that her 25 years in management and research will assist the board in expanding its educational opportunities for the community.

"I hope we can provide as much access and opportunity for young Filipinos, especially in the state," she says.

International efforts

During a scheduled vacation this summer, FilCom president Geminiano Arre, Jr. accompanied shipments of medical supplies that were to be distributed in areas devastated by typhoon Nina in the Philippines.

Honolulu-based non-profit group Aloha Medical Mission, who collected 20 boxes of medicine and other medical supplies in an organized drive, needed a way to send the goods to the victims and survivors.

In a joint effort, both the FilCom Center and Hawaiian Airlines, who flew the cargo free of charge, answered the call to transport 1,400 pounds of boxes to Manila.

"[Hawaiian Airlines'] offer was a sincere effort that made a difference," Arre said. "It recognized the deep roots shared by Hawai'i and by the Philippines, and we are honored to receive their assistance."

From Manilla, the relief goods were delivered by Our Lady of Peace Foundation to Romblon, IloIlo and throughout the Visayas and Mindanao within weeks.

Arre says that the FilCom Center is dedicated to helping Filipinos in Hawai'i, the Philippines and throughout the world as well.

The FilCom Center in Waipahu is the largest cultural and community facility of its kind outside of the Philippines.

Liongson says the board's most pressing obstacle is currently its debt. The center opened in 2002 with the help of $9 million in public and private donations and a $4 million construction loan.

For more information, visit filcom.org.

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