That seminal group included then Deputy Consul General Hellen Barber, Philippine Tourism Authority Director Annie Cuevas and her deputy, Manny Ilagan; Cecille Ramos of Historic Filipinotown Neighborhood Council; social worker and Remy’s on Temple owner Jocelyn Geaga-Rosenthal, and financial consultant Sonny Gancayco, among others.
That network became the core group that propelled the formation and chartering of the Historic Filipinotown Rotary Club. Because of the nature of their jobs, Barber, Cuevas and Ilagan did not become charter members of the HiFi Rotary Club, but their initial participation and encouragement became the seeds for organizing the first all-Filipino HiFi Rotary Club.
“The Rotary (idea) was not even there,” says Ching. “I didn’t realize that there was already that network; we had Hellen Barber, and she was very involved to see that we could do something like a project by UNICEF, which is called A School in a Box because one of the biggest issues was illiteracy of children growing up in the barrios that had no schools,” Ching relates. “The other thing that came up was drinking water: water wells; these communities were getting their water from rivers and open wells, which could be dangerous because they could be contaminated,” he said. “That was the starting point.”
During the last quarter of 2006, with the help of (another) Rotary Club official, David Maxwell, the core group decided to meet every week and worked on how it could get matching grants to cover the Philippine projects. “Everyone became impassioned with the projects,” recalls Ching. “We decided we were going to charter; we drafted the articles of incorporation and by-laws.”
On February 12, 2007 the charter was approved by Rotary International, and the charter members decided to call themselves Historic Filipinotown Rotary Club. Ching was automatically named Charter President, and Sonny Gancayco was President-elect. Rotary Clubs put emphasis on its members’ total and selfless involvement. “That area is very important,” says Ching. “Every member has to be actively involved; they have to love the project that they want to do and have the support of the other members,” Ching emphasized.
HiFi Rotary Club is immersed in its literacy program in the Philippines, and it is currently sending used books donated by a former Pasadena librarian to Rosario, Batangas. The members were so enthused by the project that they chipped in to have the books as soon as possible. The club also has recently sent relief goods — used clothes, canned goods, and useable second-hand items — to the typhoon victims in Aklan and Iloilo through the Rotary clubs in those affected provinces. “The really amazing thing is that people — old friends — come out and put money up front,” says Ching.
Rotary clubs are unique in at least one aspect. No one applies to be a member. “He has to be invited to become a member; and most of the time, for me, personally, I invite only the people I know is passionate about serving the community,” Ching said. “The main, key ingredient of the Rotary Clubs is you have to decide to help others. Once you have that starting point, and you are serious about it and you have consistency on that, then you become a Rotarian; and that’s how you get the best candidates.”
Ching added that inter-relationships are very important in a Rotary club because a lot of people are needed to push a project to completion. It is a very difficult path to navigate because of the complexities of relating to other members. “This is the reason why we invite potential members to attend our weekly meetings to get a feeling of the other members,” Ching said. “You have to have the right feeling for it; to to do more and help others,” Ching said. “That’s what we call the Rotary moment.”
HiFi Rotary Club meets every Thursday.