CHICAGO – Many baseball fans attended the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Reception 2017 held last May 16 at the James R. Thompson Center Concourse Level in the heart of downtown Chicago, Illinois.
The fans’ main purpose was to see in person one of the honorees – Filipino American Addison W. Russell, the short stop of the World Series champion Chicago Cubs, who was to receive the Sportsman of the Year Award.
But they were disappointed when reception host Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced that due to “an emergency,” Mr. Russell would not be able to make it.
So the offering from the Filipino community came in the form of Tinikling, a popular Filipino folk dance derived from the walking/running bird, tikling, buff-banded rail (Gallirallus philippensis), that populates rice fields but had to avoid the snare or trap laid down by farmers to entangle and catch it. Somehow, it made up for Russell’s absence.
The tinikling was performed by Fil-Am boys and girls – namely, Gabi Delson, Jenna Bacerra, Marcus Delson, Enza Lorezca, Evan Lorezca, Emry Lorezca, Pascual Teoli and Nina Teoli, all of the Philippine American Cultural Foundation headed by Ruben Salazar.
Russell was supposed to receive the award as a half-Filipino, half-Black American Baseball Player of the World Series champion Chicago Cubs from Secretary of State White, who did not announce how and when he will hand the award over to Mr. Russell.
There was no response to a private message sent by this reporter to Russell’s mom, Milany Deocampo Russell. Milany traces her roots to Ma-Ayon, Capiz, a fourth-class town in Western Visayas, Philippines.
Aside from Russell, the other Asian honored was Chinese-American Reporter Joanie Lum of Fox 32 News Chicago who received the Judge Laura Cha-Yu Liu Trailblazer Award.
Judge Liu was the first Chinese American judge to serve in the state of Illinois, the first Chinese American elected to public office in Chicago and the first Asian-American to serve on the Illinois Appellate Court. She died at the age 49 last April after a five-year battle with breast cancer.
Another honoree, Bernarda “Bernie” Wong, founder of Chinese American Service League (CASL), was given the Humanitarian Service Award. CASL has provided educational programs and services to the community for almost 40 years.
Also honored was Martino Tangkar, 2015-2017 Chairperson/Indonesian Community, who received the Excellence in Leadership Award.
Fourteen members of the Asian Pacific American communities were also recipients of community service awards. The Filipino Community Award was given to Jerry B. Clarito who retired as founding executive director of the Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment. He also served as the national legislative director of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA).
The ceremony opened with a Chinese dragon dance performed by students of St. Therese Chinese Catholic School, welcome remarks by Filipino American Carmen Estacio, Asian-American Liaison to the Secretary of State, and Bala R. Ghimire, reception 2017 chairperson of the Nepalese Community, who introduced Ravi Baichwal, ABC 7 Chicago news anchor, as master of ceremony.
Presentation of colors by Phoenix Military Academy followed with Pledge of Allegiance by Ravi Baichwal, who became a U.S. citizen last year, and introduction of dignitaries by Yesoe Yoon.
In his remark, Secretary White hailed the Asian Pacific Americans for making “a difference in their communities.”
He said, “This year, the Nepalese community shares its customs and culture with us.
Today, we honor a leader in engineering, a seasoned reporter, a humanitarian and a star baseball player, as well as community leaders. We salute all our honorees for the hard work, leadership and standard of excellence they demonstrated in their communities.”
Mr. White also said, “Our keynote speaker, Smita Shah, is president and CEO of SPAAN Tech, Inc., one of the fastest growing tech companies according to the Inc. Magazine.
“Chicago Cubs Infielder Addison Russell is being honored for his athletic accomplishments as a member of the Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series champions.
“It is a privilege to welcome and celebrate the legacies of all of our award recipients today. I look forward to the continued success of Illinois’ outstanding Asian Pacific American community. Thank you for joining in the commemoration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and best wishes for a bright tomorrow.”
Carmen Estacio introduced the 2017 Asian-American Advisory Council, while Jin Lee of the 2016 Reception Chairperson/Korean Community announced the Appreciation Award. Paul H. Luu of the 2018 Reception Chairperson/Vietnamese Community delivered the closing remarks.