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(© 2019 Journal GlobaLinks)


CHICAGO (JGL) – The mother of Veronica Garrick told her that when she was young growing up in Manila, Philippines, she was very conservative with

scarce resources that when she used tabo (a small bucket with a ladle) to pour water on her body while bathing, whatever used water she collected inside a bigger basin she was stepping on, she would use it to drain the toilet. Veronica said her mother also used tabo, "a foreign concept to many of us" referring to her "peers and I," as a cup to brush her teeth.

Veronica was one of the 14 young students aged 16 to 24 Filipino Americans enrolled in various courses/programs in law, nursing, biology, international business, general education and high school who joined the Midwest Youth Leaders in Diaspora (YouLEAD) Immersion Program from Jan. 3 to 9, 2019 trip to the Philippines. Some parents of Veronica's "peers" are also Australian, Dutch and Greek.







VERONICA GARRICK told Filipino community members last Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, she and 13 other Filipino Americans talked to each other in Tagalog shortly before landing in Manila, Philippines so they could carry basic Tagalog conversation using such words as “ano?,” “opo and “hindi po” during her testimonial at the Kalayaan Hall of the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago, Illinois. She  was a participant of Midwest Youth Leadership in Diaspora (YouLEAD) Immersion Program from Jan. 3 to 9, 2019 trip to the Philippines. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)

Eighteen-year-old Veronica, who was born and raised in Livonia, Michigan, “the whitest city in America,” and had hardly associated with other Filipinos or Filipino Americans, said, “Small utilities like these are something that people in the Philippines cannot afford, but they do not see it that way. I thought to myself, how is it that they have little to nothing, but have achieved happiness that I still have yet to attain.”

In her testimonial at the First Talakayan (discussion) at the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago, Illinois last Feb. 15, 2019, Veronica confirmed her mother's experience when she and her companions traveled to Cavite for two days to help build houses for a village, which she initially thought “was bound to be exhausting, yet fulfilling of course.



JOHN GRAEME PHILLIPS told the Filipino community in the Kalayaan Hall in the Philippine Consulate General in downtown Chicago, Illinois last Feb. 15, 2019 that in his brief stay in the Philippines under the Midwest Youth Leaders in Diaspora (YouLEAD) Immersion Program from Jan. 3 to 9, 2019 trip to the Philippines, “I learned not only the Filipino culture but also about myself. Meeting a Filipino is always fun. This program changed the course of my life in a very positive direction." (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)

Oh, how surprised were we when we discovered that this experience was more than passing buckets of concrete.”

Village was a settlement of Gawad Kalinga, which builds villages and their mission is to end poverty for five million families in 2024.

She said this village consisted of over 30 families in brightly colored houses, with “children with the biggest hearts and the most radiant smiles.”

A first-time visitor to her parent and maternal grandparents' homeland, Veronica learned that the “Philippines is suffering: poverty, hunger, and a lack of material items that us Americans take for granted every single day.




It’s the idea of faith that kept them going every single day, and people like us that bring them hope.

“That day and a half, we played with all of the children, and I experienced for the first time, what it was like to experience unconditional love.”



NINA MONDERO's trip to the Philippines from Jan. 3 to 9, 2019 with the Midwest Youth Leaders in Diaspora (YouLEAD) Immersion Program was her second time in only two years. But she said she enjoyed every moment of it. In her first trip she was on vacation accompanied by her Dad, Dennis Mondero, an active Filipino community leader, when they sampled tourist spots in Manila and in Palawan. This time Nina said she enjoyed her interaction with the children at Gawad Kalinga in Cavite. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)

Veronica said she only knew very few -- “20 words on our first day. My Tagalog was nowhere near fluent, but no one there cared. These small children expressed their love to me through smiles, hugs, piggyback rides, and the two words I knew; mahal kita (I love you). Mahal kita, the expression of love, the words that they used to willingly.

How is it that they could love me, a stranger? Because I was there, my language and the fact that I am American meant nothing to them.



YouLEAD PARTICIPANTS are shown during their courtesy call on former Presidential Spokesman and now Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Strategic Communications and Research Ernesto C. Abella (third from right, seated) at the Carlos P. Garcia Conference Room of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Pasay City, Philippines. Undersecretary Abella was joined by Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Maria Lumen B. Isleta (to Abella's left), and officers from the DFA Office of American Affairs. (DFA photo)

This program and those children were necessary for me to realize that just because I was born in the United States, does not make me any less Filipino.

This program made me proud to be Filipino, proud to have that blood pulsing through my veins, and I hope that every breath I take will be in honor of those who came before me and fought for this beautiful country. This program gave me an identity. I am Filipino American and I am proud."



A YouLEAD PARTICIPANT poses a question during the briefing conducted by the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs which was organized by the Foreign Service Institute in Pasay City, Philippines. (DFA photo)

16-year-old, Chicago, Illinois-born Nina Mondero is not a first-time visitor in the Philippines. But for her second trip back to the birthplace of her parents in two years, Nina said she considers as highlights her trip to Cavite and nearby Tagaytay, Taal Volcano and nature as "amazing sceneries."

“We went to the village of Gawad Kalinga. We stayed in close families. It was amazing to stay with them and observe the way they live. We talked with kids altho I cannot speak Tagalog as well as them. They just embraced and welcomed us. Happiness that they have. Little material things that they have. It was amazing for me to see that. I want to go back as soon as I can,” Nina said.



JOSEPH G. LARIOSA of philamessenger.com introduces Daphne Constantinides of Ohio last Friday, Feb. 15, 2019 during a video interview asking her about her less than two-week visit to the Philippines as a participant to the Midwest Youth Leaders in Diaspora (YouLEAD) Immersion Program from Jan. 3 to 9, 2019 trip to the Philippines. The interview was held in the Kalayaan Hall in the Philippine Consulate in downtown Chicago, Illinois. (JGL Photo by JASON DE LA ROSA)

For his part, John Graeme Philipps, son of Greek and Filipina parents, said, “From a horrible situation, they transformed them into colorful, party buses. These places where people gather and meet rather than go out to war and fight and kill each other, that really, that’s not really Filipino values and identity. I learned not only the Filipino culture but also about my self. Meeting a Filipino is always fun. I don’t look to most as a Filipino but I have been more involved in the Filipino community right along with the Asian community. This program changed the course of my life in a very positive direction. I want to thank Consul General Gina Jamoralin, (Consulate Cultural Officer) Anna Liza Alcantara” for this opportunity.




For, Daphne Constantinides of Ohio, the immersion trip was somewhat like a journey to the unknown. She said, “I just did not know what to expect. It is a very long flight there. I was about to give up half way thru. But I’m very glad I went because I knew a lot of things Mom told me but I haven’t gotten to experience them. After the program was done, I went to the province in Iligan (City). And I got to meet a lot of families. It was a very nice experience.”



COMMUNITY LEADERS who received certificates of appreciation wave their certificates of appreciation given to them on behalf of the organizations they are representing for making the 2018 Paskuhan Planning Committee and the Simbang Gabi and the 2019 Midwest YouLead Immersion Program last Friday, Feb. 15, 2019 at the Philippine Consulate General in downtown Chicago, Illinois. Photo shows from left to right front row Frank Alvarez, Sol Anderson, Josephine M. Diaz, Suzette Ancheta, Consul General Gina A. Jamoralin, Edward Brotonel and Jan Paul Ferrer. Back row from left are Alyssa Solomon, Everett Icao, Ruben Salazar, Mariano Santos and Willy Buhay. (Photo courtesy of Mr. Arnel Santiago)

For Daphne, the highlight of her trip was the one taken to the village in Gawad Kalinga. "They treated us like family. They would give us whatever they had. And the experience was very welcoming. Getting to stay with the kids in those houses. I will encourage others to join the program. I definitely do, especially the Filipino Americans. They know the American side. But I think they should know the Filipino side because everybody is part of it and should know about their culture and this is an opportunity to know about them.”



PINOY NEWSMAGAZINE publisher-editor Anong Santos (left) and Ruben Salazar of the Philippine American Cultural Foundation surprise outgoing Philippine Cultural Officer Anna Liza “Liezel” Alcantara with a serenade of a nostalgic song, “Good Luck, Good Health, God Bless You” as she ends her tour of duty and goes back to her home office in the Philippines last Friday, Feb. 15, 2019 at the Kalayaan Hall of the Philippine Consulate General in downtown, Chicago, Illinois. Liezel will be replaced by Mr. Noli Dulay, who left his old post in Saudi Arabia. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)

Aside from Veronica Garrick, Nina Mondero, John Graeme Philipps and Daphne Constantinides, the others who participated in the immersion program who showed up at the Consulate were Christopher Garrick, Alyssa Solomon and Everett Icao. 

Those who did not make it to the Philippine Consulate but made the trip were Cheenie Ayala, Anthony Javier, Dean Diaz, Alyssa Podwoiski of Michigan, Vanessa Adriatico of Minnesota and Miles Foltynpwicz of Missouri.

In the Philippines, they also paid a courtesy call on Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Strategic Communications and Research Ernesto C. Abella, who told them of the country's rich cultural heritage that will awaken them the pride of being part of the Filipino global community.

They also went to the Carlos P. Romulo Library, where DFA-Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Principal Assistant Sandra Guiang briefed them on the Department's work to assist Filipinos abroad.

Besides the testimonials of those in the immersion program, the event was also an appreciation ceremony for those who took part in the 2018 Paskuhan Planning Committee in what was billed as First Talakayan Series, 2019 held at the Kalayaan Hall of the Consulate General.



DEPUTY CONSUL GENERAL Romulo Victor M. Israel, Jr. (extreme left) introduces Mr. Noly C. Dulay (center), new Cultural Officer, and Mr. Ryan Gener as the new Consul in the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago, Illinois last Friday, Feb. 15, 2019. Mr. Dulay replaces outgoing Cultural Officer Anna Liza “Liezl” Alcantara who is returning to home office in Manila, Philippines. (JGL Photo by JOSEPH G. LARIOSA)

Consul General Gina A. Jamoralin, in her welcome remarks, thanked the Filipino community and had expressed her appreciation for the support and active involvement of the community that led to the success of the two milestones in the history of the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago: the 2018 “Paskuhan sa Chicago and Simbang Gabi” on December 15, 2018 and the 2019 Midwest Youth Leaders in Diaspora (YouLEAD) Immersion Program on January 3 to 9,  2019.

Ms. Jamoralin also said, “Since the establishment of the Philippine Consulate in 1948 in Chicago, it has always been the mission of the Consulate to foster unity, camaraderie and community leadership among its Filipino diaspora in the Midwest.



CONSUL GENERAL GINA A. JAMORALIN (third from left) joins a photo op during the First Talakayan (Conversation) 2019 at the Philippine Consulate in Chicago, Illinois last Friday, Feb. 15, 2019 with Consular staff and Filipino community leaders. Others in photo from left are Cultural Officer Anna Lisa “Liezel” Alcantara, journalist Joseph G. Lariosa, Nina Mondero, Dennis Mondero, Administrative Officer Atty. Alvar Rosales and Miss Josephine Mascarenas Diaz. (JGL Photo)

I would like to assure you that the Philippine Consulate will continue to pursue another year of greater engagement with the younger generation of Filipino-Americans and the fast-growing Filipino community in the Midwest.”

The first part of the program was a video presentation on the recent Midwest YouLead Immersion Program from January 3 to 2019 consisting of 14 (fourteen) delegates sent by the Philippine Consulate to the Philippines to reconnect with their Filipino identity.

Two participants, namely John Graeme Philipps and Veronica Garrick, gave testimonials and shared their experiences and what they learned about the Immersion Program.

It was followed by a video presentation about the Paskuhan event celebrated last December 15, 2018 in Seafood City by more than 250 individuals in attendance. Certificates of Appreciation were also given away to the community organizations with a photo opportunity with the Consul General. Chaired by the Philippine Consulate, the “2019 Paskuhan sa Chicago’s” planning committee was composed of about twenty (20) Filipino community organizations whose objective is to bring together community leaders and members to celebrate Christmas with fun and entertainment the Filipino way. (Contact reporter: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


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