All leaders in the Filipino American community in Michigan deserve recognition for their services, but if there’s some kind of voting to choose who among the leaders should be the first to be installed in a Fil-Am Leaders Hall of Fame, Dr. Ernestina “Ernie” delos Santos-Mac would easily get the highest number of votes.
Ernie would certainly deserve the honor as the level of her dedication and commitment to community service is unparalleled. But there is something about Ernie that is really impressive: She retired in 1996, but she later opted to go back to work at Beaumont Health System where is a pediatrician so she has funds for her charitable activities.
And many are the beneficiaries of her charitable undertakings. These include the Philippine American Community Center of Michigan (PACCM), Paaralang Pilipino, Filamcco Foundation, an orphanage in the Philippines, Beaumont Foundation and some 20 Filipino-American organizations. She has also been rendering volunteer service as trustee of some agencies, including the Michigan Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission (MAPAAC) and World Medical Relief.
Ernie is always ready to contribute to fund-raising drives, including the current one for the typhoon Yolanda victims to which she donated $2,000 from her pocket. She is the incumbent president of the Filamcco Foundation, the charity arm of FILAMCCO, which is spearheading the fund drive in Michigan for the Yolanda victims.
Other beneficiaries of her generous heart are ordinary people who are sick, bereaved or simply hungry.
Ernie’s brand of community service is truly remarkable. She has been working consistently to promote and maintain the Paaralang Pilipino, which teaches the Filipino language and culture to Filipino-American children so that, she says, they would know their roots.
For the past 20 years or so, she has been a major supporter of the school. She firmly believes that it is important to preserve the “cultural treasures” Filipino-Americans can truly call their own.
One of her pet projects is the anti-cancer awareness drive which she launched years ago after she survived the much feared disease. Having experienced the agony of being a cancer victim, she had made a commitment to conduct a campaign for cancer awareness, prevention and early detection.
Ernie, a widow and a mother of three, had been the chairperson of PACCM for six years. Her successor at PACCM is Becky Tungol, another dedicated community leader.
As a patron of PACCM, Ernie regularly donates substantial funds to the center. Whenever the center is short of funds, she is the guy to go to.
As a patron of the arts, she was co-executive producer of “Music and Motion” and “Opening Doors,” theatrical productions staged in 1996 and 1999, respectively.
And her community service goes beyond Michigan. She has established a scholarship fund in Ligao, Albay, Philippines, where she grew up. Her family supports the education of indigent children with her scholarship fund.
She has joined several medical missions in the Philippines for many years now. She extended financial assistance to Our Lady of Fatima Center for Human Development in the Philippines by sponsoring one meal for the beneficiaries every month for one year.
Her new project benefits the Agtas in the Iliyan Elementary School in Iriga, Camarines Sur, Philippines. Last September, she donated 277 PE T-shirts for the school kids. In January last year, she distributed packages and toys to the Agtas.
School children in Uganda are likewise the beneficiaries of her kind heart. Through Fr. Francis Mayinja, she gave “a small amount of money” to help the kids in that African country.
Here in Michigan, whenever she has extra time, she volunteers at the S.A.Y Clinic in Highland Park. When she gets a chance to talk to poor school children there, she tells them where “I came from and I was just like them when I was young, hoping to inspire them to study hard so they can end their cycle of poverty.”
Her charitable, civic and humanitarian activities have not gone unnoticed. She has received many awards, but she seldom talks about these accolades because she is too humble to even mention them in conversations. She does her civic and charitable activities without publicity or thought of material reward or personal glorification.
Her many awards include the Woman of Substance Award (given by Albay, Philippines), Humanitarian Award from the Auxiliary to the Philippine Medical Association of Michigan, Diversity Champion (Birmingham Race Relations), Corp Magazine Diversity Award, Volunteer Award (City of Troy), Lucita Ocampo Community Service Award and International Women Who’s Who Among Detroit Women Professionals Award.
Her most recent award is the prestigious FWN (Filipino Women Network) Global 100 Award. She was selected as one of “The 100 Most Influential Filipino Women in the World” (founders and pioneers category). She received the award during FWN’s 10th Annual Leadership Summit held on Oct. 24-26, 2013 in San Francisco, California. Among the prominent recipients of the same awards were Atty. Loida Nicolas Lewis, Gloria Agcaoile and Delle Sering-Fojas.
Yes, Ernie has gone a long way from being an innocent girl in the farming town of Ligao, Albay, where she and other children enjoyed strolling in the meadows and catching tilapia in the rice field.
Here in Michigan, many Filipinos consider Ernie as a true and caring friend who is always ready to lend a helping hand or cheer you up during a dull day by making pep chat or handing to you a gift.
And that’s why she is well loved in the community.