Fil-Ams Benefit
DUAL CITIZENS. New dual citizens take their oath during the ‘Consulate on Wheels’ outreach activity conducted by personnel of the Chicago-based Philippine Consulate last Sept. 12 at the Philippine American Community Center of Michigan (PACCM) in Southfield. Philippine Consul General Generoso DG Calonge (right) witnesses the oath-taking rites. (Photo by Richard Talaban)

The Philippine American Community Center of Michigan (PACCM) has thrived for 15 years now. In that length of time, one can imagine growth in PACCM membership has increased commensurate to its building’s number of years in existence. But it is not so.

I’m estimating the demographic count of Filipinos in Michigan at 25,000 or a little bit more. We don’t know the exact count because we have not met nor have known other Filipinos who have taken residency in Michigan in the last 10 years.

These people may have quietly settled in the state without our knowledge or they may not know the many fellow Filipinos in the areas where they live.

PACCM, up to this time, is not aware of the migration of these people to Michigan. Most likely, they, too, are unaware of the count of the entire Filipino population in Michigan.

In this article, I hope to inspire more Filipinos to become members of PACCM and to help promote its well-being and safeguard its future so it will continue to exist for future generations. But first, I’d like to relate my experiences in connection with the many initiatives that have been undertaken to encourage our community members to strengthen their bond with PACCM.

When I became president of FILAMCCO (Filipino American Community Council) in 2004, I was invited by the Red Cross to speak about Filipinos in Michigan with focus on demographics and history. Being in my initial year as president, I knew some facts but not a whole lot to be fully confident in delivering my speech, but I felt obligated to know at least   relevant information lest I would embarrass myself in front of the audience. Equipped with some knowledge gained from the minimum research I had done and from talking with some of the seasoned leaders of the community, I was able to deliver a reasonable report to my audience.

Because our PACCM building was fairly new at that time, I felt comfortable speaking about what PACCM was doing for our community. The audience got interested in the history of the organization, and I capitalized on that to promote our community center, mentioning the years of struggles we endured to realize our dream of having our own building.

A few years later, I got on the board of the American Citizens for Justice (ACJ), became president the Council of Asian Pacific Americans(CAPA),  served on the advisory board of APIA Vote-MI, collaborated with the organizers of International Women’s Day celebration and a few other ethnic endeavors. With my involvement in these groups, I came to realize how much other leaders of our community and I can do to make PACCM build a strong, revitalized relationship with our ethnic neighbors.

I also recognized the gratitude we owed to people before us for initially paving the way for these relationships.  Now more than ever, many of us, including the younger and recently groomed leaders, have emerged to forge partnerships and joint ventures with other Asian organizations, participating in programs and activities that, to some degree, carry the name, support or sponsorship of PACCM

In the last 10 years, PACCM has become the venue of choice for the most organizational events, meetings, social gatherings, forums, celebrations and other forms of gatherings by groups within and outside our community.

Seldom is a weekend without the building being booked for some events, and it has become even more apparent that groups need to book their events well in advance to guarantee their use of the place.  PACCM has become a happy place to be as evidenced by the hundreds of people who come to the place

With the many ongoing activities at PACCM — such as organizational meetings and parties, Paaralang Pilipino, Valentine’s Ball and Golf Outing fundraisers, Recognition for Graduates Dinner, Halloween Party for kids, Health and Wellness Expo, Consulate on Wheels programs and many other activities — comes the nagging question many people continue to ask: Why don’t most of these very same people who continue to benefit from the use of the facility and services the center offers make no effort to become members of PACCM?

Hypothetically, if there are 25,000 Filipinos in Michigan and everyone becomes a member and if the annual fee is $25 per member, can you imagine an amount of $625,000 that would be generated to support the maintenance of the building for at least 10 years? The assumption is that $65,000 would be enough to fund the building’s  needs?  If so, we could scrap all other fundraisers.

The reality is that, though it can be done, it may not be the most realistic and feasible undertaking every Filipino would subscribe to. But introspect closely and you may tend to agree, even with just one service PACCM renders to the community, say, the Consulate on Wheels which is held every September.

Literally, for this service, hundreds of Filipinos come to PACCM from as far as Kalamazoo and nearby states to have their passports and dual citizenship applications processed, not to mention other documents they want authenticated. Consular staff from Chicago and community volunteers spend all day one Saturday in September to serve the needs of these people.

When I chaired the committee in charge of this particular undertaking some years ago, I appealed to some people to consider becoming members of PACCM as a way of supporting the center with their membership fees. Some promised to fill up the forms and send them back later. I did follow-up by emailing and calling them but largely, my appeal landed on deaf ear with a few making all sorts of excuses for their inability to consider membership.

Ponder on these thoughts and act on them if you share the same sentiment.

PACCM’s fervent hope is to enlist more members so it can continue to offer more services. The membership committee is always looking for ways and means to grow the organization’s membership and convince people to join. An annual contribution of $25 with your payment of membership fees is not much to ask. The financial contributions most members have given and continue to give over the years are the true hallmarks of generosity, and PACCM will always be grateful for your unselfish gesture.