Original Publication: UniPro Now Summit 2013 Volume III
Published: June 2013 // Amended: May 2016
I’ll start off with this: I am a Filipino New Yorker, born in Manila and raised in Queens.
I’ve worked in television, financial staffing, online advertising and now city government. I have seen angles of the world through many different lenses. Through each view, I’ve always tried finding the Filipino spin, internally cheering every time the Filipino community had a “win”. There are success stories and many model representatives, but we as a community have a serious disconnect.
I come from the school of connectivity. Working at the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA), we’re tasked with integrating the newest New Yorkers, even if they’re “TNT” or tago nang tago (always hiding). I’ll take it a step further and say that no matter how long you’ve lived in the five boroughs, you’re still a “new New Yorker” if you’re disconnected and apathetic to your local government. Leaders in the city are making decisions about your daily lives without your presence at the table.
I’ve been at MOIA for over three years and have yet to hear my colleagues take a Filipino organization seriously (find me at the UniPro Summit and I’ll share the range of reasons). It frustrates me to no end that my own group isn’t viewed as credible in the city office that I’ve been part of for years. This needs to change, fast.
It’s been tough getting through to the seasoned Filipino groups and the larger community since there is a prevailing distrust, skepticism and misunderstanding of government. I’ll admit, I didn’t understand civic responsibility until I joined MOIA. It’s for that very reason our office exists. We’re here to demystify government and help connect New Yorkers and resources to help the communities grow. We’ve supported emerging leaders from the West African, Mexican and Bangladeshi communities. Why is the existing and prevalent Filipino community completely absent?
UniPro brings young professionals together through this summit, but we – as Filipinos and as part of the future – need to raise the bar as a group. Being in the same room is not enough. Listening to stories is not enough. Introductions are not enough. We need to understand what each of us, individually, represents. Every group has its respective goals, but as representatives of the Filipino community, we need to set the bar high, be accountable to each other and build credibility with outside entities. We need to build strength from within, because that strength, accountability and credibility is what the rest of the world will see. The more of it they see, the more elevated our community becomes.
We are a strong group of movers and shakers. We are thinkers. We are doers. We’re overdue to be recognized in the mainstream. If we come together, we’ll get there. It’s time to rise.