N.A.F.F.A.A.-MICHIGAN OFFICERS, DIRECTORS. Gross Point Woods City Council Member Kevin Ketels (left) swears in the officers and board directors of the Michigan chapter of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA-Michigan) during the organization’s dinner-dance event held on Oct. 9, 2015 at the American Polish Cultural Center in Troy. (Photo by Percy Antonio)

[box type=”default” size=”large”] Reiterates call for Pinoys to get involved in political process [/box]

J. T. Mallonga, national chairman of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), has cited the contributions of Filipino Americans to American society since World War II.

In a speech he delivered at NaFFAA-Michigan’s dinner gala held last Oct. 9 at the American Polish Center in Troy, Mallonga said that in recognition of the  contributions of Filipino Americans to US society, the White House celebrated for the first time Filipino American History Month last Oct. 2.

The celebration, Mallonga said, was made more significant by a message issued by President Barack Obama who said that “generations of Filipino Americans have lent their unique voices to the vibrant diversity of origins, cultures and communities that make America what it is today.”

(The full text of Obama’s message is on Page 7.)

Mallonga recalled that 75 years ago in defense of the American way of life, some 250,000 Filipinos fought side by side with American soldiers against the Japanese Imperial Army in the Philippines.

He noted, though, that up to the present, the services of many of the Filipino soldiers under the command of General Douglas McArthur have not been properly recognized by the American government.

On the labor front, the NAFFAA chairman cited the role of Filipino American labor leader Larry Itliong in the efforts to improve farm workers’ welfare in California several decades ago.

Mallonga recalled that Itliong launched a labor movement involving 1,500 Filipino farm workers who staged strikes in protest of low wages and poor working conditions. Itliong later joined forces with popular Mexican American labor leader Cesar Chavez in holding widespread strikes in California farms that resulted in improved welfare for the workers, the NaFFAA chair said.

He said that NaFFAA was founded in 1991 to advocate for the improvement of the lot of Filipino Americans as well as the recognition of the services of the Filipino soldiers in World War II.

He noted, however, that NaFFAA, despite its consistent efforts at advocacy, has barely succeeded in its bid for compensation for the services of the Filipino war veterans because “we are not politically connected.”

He reiterated his call for the almost four million Filipino Americans to get involved in the political process, stressing that NaFFAA’s lobbying efforts have failed because “we don’t have a Filipino vote.”

Mallonga said that every time NaFFAA approaches a congressman or senator to seek support for proposed legislation benefiting the Filipino veterans, NaFFAA leaders are asked, “How many votes can you deliver?”

He lauded NaFFAA-Michigan for partnering with APIA Vote-Michigan in the campaign for registration of more Asian voters and for Asians to cast their ballots come election time.

NaFFAA National Vice Chairperson Emraida Kiram also delivered a speech and echoed Mallonga’s call for Filipino Americans to get involved in the political process, saying “if we don’t give the money (contributions to campaign kitty of politicians), we give the votes.”

Kiram represented NaFFAA at the White House celebration of Filipino-American History Month.

Newly inducted NaFFAA-Michigan Chairperson Fe San Agustin pledged to launch a campaign for the Fil Vote movement “so we have strength in the political arena.” She also said that “transparency and commitment will take NaFFAA-Michigan to greater heights of achievements.”

The well attended event was made more memorable with an entertainment program that featured the terpsichorean skills of former Bayanihan dancer Dan Carrasco and Becky Tungol who performed a folk dance.

The other entertainers were singers Aiza Milton, Meaghan Penning and Fely Villegas.

In a joint message, NaFFAA-MI Vice Chairperson Loida Layno-Moses and Executive Director Maria Amy Risvold expressed “our sincere appreciation to the sponsors, donors, guests and friends for your support of our efforts to achieve the goals of NaFFAA.”

The event was capped by community dancing. Music was provided by Carter Sights and Sound.