by Miko Santos/Asianjournal.com
NEW YORK — More than 200 guests, local dignitaries and FilAm community leaders braved strong winds and an impending snow storm to warmly welcome the Bayanihan Filipino Community Center last Sunday (February 10) at the heart of the FilAm commercial district in Woodside, Queens. The center is a stone’s throw away from the well-known Filipino landmark restaurant Krystal’s Cafe.
Council Member Eric N. Goia (D), District 26 (Queens), graced the opening with Helen Marshall, President of the Borough of Queens sending a representative to praise the center as an energetic and forward-thinking organization.
“I commend the opening of this center in the heart of our growing Filipino American community, and for reaching out to neighbors from all walks of life in Woodside,” states the Marshall’s letter read by Tito Luna, Director of Youth Services and Advisor for Hispanic Affairs.
The center is a project of the Philippine Forum, a community organization headed by Co-Executive Directors Robert Roy and Julia Camagong. The Philippine Forum has gone through various office addresses in its 10-year existence before settling at Woodside, Queens where a large concentration of FilAms reside.
“We expect the Bayanihan Center [to] bring in a lot more foot traffic than our previous locations simply because we are now in the heart of the Filipino community,” said Roy.
“It belongs to the community. [A]ll are welcome to walk through its doors,” added Camagong.
The Filipino word bayanihan comes from the root word bayan, which means nation or people. The spirit of bayanihan refers to the community practice of working together for the common good.
Roy and Camagong named the new center with the mission of having it fulfill this greater purpose.
“The Bayanihan Center will live up to its name,” said Camagong.
Board director and Hermano Mayor for Sunday’s opening Dr. Ben Ileto encouraged the FilAm community to use the center’s facilities.
“We encourage the Filipino community to avail of the many skill-enhancing programs and social activities the center offers. We are here, we are part of your family,” said Ileto.
The Bayanihan Center will offer standard Philippine forum activities such as weekend line-dancing classes, computer classes, immigration and legal consultation, as well as offering a spacious banquet room open for rentals for parties and other group activities.
The center will also be the hub for activities for a number of other Filipino organizations and projects, including the domestic support group known as Kabalikat, the FilAm youth alliance SANDIWA, Ford foundation funded YEHEY (Young Educators for the Health and Empowerment of the Youth), Samahan Sports Program, The Filipino Worker’s Center, The Carlos Bulosan Heritage Center, and the Philippine Studies Program.
The Bayanihan Community Center sponsors are Dr. Ben Ileto, Cora Mahinay, Dr. Orly Apiado, Baby Bleza, Dr. Expedito Castillo, Rafael dela Cruz, Tito de Vera, Dr. Francia de Vera, Ramon Mappala, Jorge Ortoll, Joe Ramos, Att. Merit Salud, Sunny Sampayan, Ruben Velasco, Atty. Felix Vinluan, and Lynn Eclipse.