In early 2000 shortly after the inception of a building for the PACCM (Philippine American Cultural Center of Michigan), then PACCM president, Dr. Efren Platon, conceived a unique program for the youth of the Filipino community.
The program called for the recognition of graduates for their accomplishments. In that year, the first recognition-of-graduates event was held. And since then it has become an annual event.
On June 30, 2017, a committee chaired by this writer and co-chaired by Billie Belen with Tony Kho, Josie Palu-ay, Flor Penner and Gerry Tablada as members, hosted a colorful dinner affair to honor 30 high school, college, MA and PhD graduates.
With over 150 guests, it was the most attended recognition event with the graduates, their parents and members of their families trooping to the PACCM building.
The celebration was also graced by past PACCM presidents, who included Dr. Ernie Mac, Dr. Bobby Barretto and Dr. Efren Platon and most of the PACCM board members.
The evening started with a nice dinner followed by a processional. PACCM President Becky Tungol delivered the opening remarks, followed by the introduction of the keynote speaker by PACCM Treasurer Jeff Vedua.
The keynote speaker, Maricel Fuentes Squire, is a senior account director of a global experiential marketing firm, a graduate of University of Michigan with a degree in anthropology. She motivated the graduates with her inspiring message about her struggles and successes.
The honored high school graduates are Alfred Vedua Lava, son of Alfred and Jocelyn; Red Encabo, son of Rodel and Edna Encabo; Catherine Javier, daughter of Emmanuel and Felicitas Javier; Matthew Vedua, son of Jerome and Julie Vedua; Keisha Damani, daughter of Hermant and Rosita Damani; Jeshmar Duculan, son of Marjune and Lulu Duculan; Reyanna Fermin, daughter of Dr. Rey and Minerva Fermin; Laren Sollestre, daughter of Rea Sollestre; Alyanna Melicor, daughter of Adrian and Yasmin Sollestre; Curtis Bartz, son of Thomas and Marian Bartz; Giselle Tablada, daughter of Gerry and Roselle Tablada; Dylan Cruz, son of Jay and Meggie Cruz; Leilani McMichael, daughter of Rebecca Campos; Sarah Morgan, daughter of Fenory Elento, Patricia Provido, daughter of Ignacio and Melieta Provido, A.J. Espinoza, son of Michael and Maria (Ibarreta) Espinoza; Felicia Franklin, daughter of Dr. William and Marites Franklin: Isabelle Villahermosa, daughter of Lyle and Rochelle Villahermosa; Jenna Dabao, daughter of Jerome and Jonah Ann Dabao; Hunter Sollestre, son of Roy and Bebe Sollestre; and Matthew Ongcapin, son of Atty. Fred and Mara Oncapin.
The honored college graduates were Melissa Javier, daughter of Emmanuel and Felicitas Javier; Tiffany Vedua, daughter of Jerome and Julie Vedua; Megan Carillo, daughter of Ely and Jobeth Carillo; Kristin Bartz, daughter of Thomas and Marian Bartz; Joseph Estrada, M.A, son of June and Guada Estrada; Joseph Provido, son of Ignacio and Melieta Provido; Waynedeflor Miller, son Dewayne and Florylyn Miller; Shane Bole, son of Richard and Sofy Bole; and Maria Roma, PhD, wife of Ryan Roma and daughter of Elpidio and Hortencia Celzo.
The graduates received special stoles with Philippine flag pattern which their parents put around their neck. Certificates of recognition were also awarded to them by PACCM President Tungol. They were congratulated by past PACCM presidents, Additionally, each graduate was given gift tokens.