HIS ADVICE: TO MAKE IT IN THE US: STAND UP FOR THE BULLIES, FORM ALLIANCES
By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA
(© 2017 Journal GlobaLinks)
CHICAGO (JGL) – Florencio “Flo” Villegas, a Filipino who arrived in his teens in the Chicago, Illinois area after World War II, who
gave a piece of advice to new comers on how to get ahead in the United States by standing up to bullies and forming alliances, has died. He was 84.
According to a Facebook post by a son of a Chicago Filipino pioneer, Rudy E. Urian, “So sad to just hear that Florencio Villegas, affectionately known to us as Uncle Flo, passed away last night.
“Daughter Rose said they are in Tennessee for a Private Service and planning a Memorial in Chicago.
“Will provide details when available. A pioneer in our Filipino community who promoted cultural awareness among our Filipino youth and devoted to his life to service and leadership to our then growing community and for those settling in and around Chicago area and suburbs! Was one of those instrumental in acquisition and purchase of our Filipino “Clubhouse,” the Dr. Jose Rizal Filipino-American Community Center at 1332 W. Irving Pk. Rd. We share out thoughts and prayers to his family. More to Come….”
“I TOOK CARE OF HIM:”
With raised arms, Filipino American Florencio “Flo” Villegas showed how he took care of a white American, who kicked him during his first day in school at Hyde Park High School in the southside of Chicago, Illinois in the late forties or early fifties when bullying as a form of discrimination was still prevalent. Aside from his boxing skills, his father also taught him to accept any job for as long as he was doing an honest job. Then a Precinct 34 Committeeman at the Bloomingdale Township of the Democratic Organization, Mr. Villegas, a native of Tarlac in the Philippines, was one of the resource speakers in one of the featured topics of the Open House of the Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights & Empowerment (AFIRE) and CIRCA-Pintig last Saturday, Oct. 20, at AFIRE’s new headquarters at 7315 North Western Avenue in Chicago’s northside. Villegas died October 1. AFIRE is now housed at HANA Center at 4300 N. California in Chicago after it was forced out of the Rizal Heritage Center. (JGL Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)
In an interview with this reporter in 2012, Mr. Villegas said that he came to the U.S. in 1947 when he was 15 years old from his native Tarlac City in Tarlac province in the Philippines.
When he spoke before the Filipino American community hosted by the Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights & Empowerment (AFIRE) and Center for Immigrant Resources & Community Arts (CIRCA-PINTIG) in 2012 at AFIRE’s new office, beside CIRCA-PINTIG office, at 7315 North Western Avenue in Chicago’s northside, Mr. Villegas said, his pioneering father told him and his brother two things to get ahead with their lives. AFIRE’s new home now is now at HANA Center at 4300 N. California, Chicago.
"First, prepare mentally and physically. And"
Second, they were told, “regardless of what you do, as long as you do an honest job, accept any job, which was what I did as my first job.”
Mr. Villegas, who was then already a senior citizen and Precinct 34 Committeeman of the Bloomingdale Township Democratic Organization in Du Page County, recalled their father telling him and his brother, “Kayong magkapatid (my sons), practice your boxing skills because in America there are full of bullies and you will be discriminated against.
“In my first day at Hyde Park High School (now Hyde Park Career Academy in the Woodlawn neighborhood on the southside of Chicago, Illinois), that exactly happened. I was just having lunch, when a white American came and started kicking me and so I took care of the problem. And so, I always have that mentality.”
Mr. Villegas was making an inspirational talk at that time at one of the programs offered by the two groups – the introduction of the maiden edition of a pamphlet, “Gabayan” (Tagalog for “to guide”), a mentoring program that makes the transition and integration of new immigrants in America.
Participants listened to the inspirational talk of Mr. Florencio “Flo” Villegas, Precinct 34 Committeeman of the Bloomingdale Democratic Organization, and other resource speakers of the Open House of the Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights & Empowerment (AFIRE) and CIRCA-Pintig in 2012 at AFIRE’s new headquarters at 7315 North Western Avenue in Chicago’s northside. Also shown at extreme right are Jerry B. Clarito and Angela “Ging “ Mascarenas, executive director and president, respectively, of AFIRE and AFIRE CIRCA-Pintig. AFIRE is now housed at HANA center at 4300 N. California in Chicago. (JGL Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)
The program, according to AFIRE staff, Al Cabagnot, in charge of Senior Community Service Employment, aims to provide a productive environment to new immigrants by focusing on job hunting, unbundling immigration and citizenship issues, making economic choices matter and finding job opportunities.
"IF YOU WANT BENEFITS, GET INVOLVED"
Mr. Villegas, representative of the suburban Philippine American Cultural Foundation, urged the Filipino community to get involved in “Gabayan,” saying that “if you want to benefit from this program, in order to get the benefits, you have to get involved. If you are not involved, you have not earned the right to have these benefits.” He also congratulated Mr. Jerry B. Clarito, executive director of AFIRE, for hosting such program.
At that time, he was also a candidate for trusteeship in Bloomingdale Township under the Democratic Party, which encouraged him to run. He filed his candidacy for one of the two full six-year terms, for the position on Dec. 17, 2012. Mr. Villegas’ pet legislation was the elimination of problems that block someone from reaching the glass ceiling.
“Gabayan” also helps immigrants become U.S. Citizens so they can vote in elections. It gathered statistics, showing Z.I.P. codes with preponderance of Filipino Americans. In 2012, there were 2,555,923 Filipinos in the U.S., 114,724 of them in Illinois based on the 2010 U.S. Census.
For her part, Angela “Ging” Mascarenes, Ph. D., AFIRE and CIRCA-Pintig Board President, said, “If you want to go fast, do it alone. If you want to go further, involve others.”
Dr. Mascarenas appealed to several dozens of community members, who were in attendance, to volunteer their time to the organizations or contribute to the fund that will keep the groups’ missions going.
She said, “We need a volunteer, an hour a week or an hour month. We will let them make big impact in the community. We need funds. We need at least $12 a month contributor for the whole year to support our programs; $25 a month donor, who will help us pay allowances or honoraria for our organizers. We already have three $25-a-month donors; we still need nine more.”
DEARTH OF INFO ON HEART DISEASE PROMPTS BCBSI TO GIVE $35K GRANT
During the event, Filipino American Clarita Santos of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois said her health insurance agency extended a $35,000 grant to AFIRE because “there are not a lot of information on heart disease for the Filipino community. She had a lot of uncles or aunts, who were suffering from heart disease but there was no information in Tagalog or in Kapampangan about the disease.”
She wants AFIRE to spread the word on how the community will avoid incurring heart disease by urging the community to attend AFIRE’s Healthy Heart, Healthy Family (HHHF) Training Workshops that address heart disease, the leading cause of death among Filipino Americans.