Millennials Assert Themselves in Community Leadership

Originally in Manila Mail on 3/19/18 - by Rodney Jaleco

Krystle Canare, 26, of Washington, D.C., hit the ground running as soon as she was elected President of the Philippine American Foundation for Charities (PAFC) on February 25. She crafted a revised mission for the 21-year-old organization, proposed a program of activities and a budget for the rest of the year, and appointed seven executive officers to carry them out. All were approved unanimously by the board.

Along with three other newly-elected directors – all of whom are recent college graduates – they represent a rising breed of leaders in their 20’s, poised to take the organization in a new direction. The five other members of the nine-member board are in their 50’s and 70’s – the average age of officers, who led PAFC in the last 12 years.

President Canare

" This trend started two years ago when the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) elected a millennial to lead the organization, succeeding its 72-year-old National Chairman. NaFFAA’s executive director and most of the executive officers are also millennials. "

NaFFAA’s Capital Region continued the trend last year, with young people taking over the helm. Eric Macalma, 26, of Richmond, VA. leads the board. “The point is not to pass the baton, then leave them on their own,” says Marites ‘Bing’ Branigin, a baby boomer who stepped down as chair. “We, their elders, must hold the baton with them.” Branigin has been mentoring youth leaders in the past few years, getting them involved in voter education and voter registration, taking them to Capitol Hill to advocate for Filipino World War II veterans, and raising funds so they can attend conferences.

‘Aging’ leadership

Like many community organizations, PAFC’s “aging” leadership has struggled with recruiting “young blood.” But last month’s election proved to be a much-welcomed turning point. And what attracted these youth leaders is PAFC’s renewed vision and purpose.

“PAFC’s new focus offers many opportunities for community building, leadership development and a continued celebration of our rich Filipino and Filipino American culture,” Canare said. “That’s what appealed to me. With the wisdom and experience of our elders who assured us of their guidance and support, I am confident we can empower the voices of Filipino Americans, advocate on their behalf and provide resources to strengthen their capacity as leaders and stakeholders.”

Prior to her election, Canare served for two years as a PAFC board member and two years as PAFC’s Vice President of Youth Affairs. A 2014 graduate of the University of Maryland (UM), College Park, she has a Bachelor of Science degree in Neurobiology and Physiology. She served as President of UM’s Filipino Cultural Association, Former Youth Ambassador of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders, and an Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders Community Advocate for the Multicultural Involvement & Community Advocacy office at UM. Canare is currently a Project Coordinator at Georgetown University’s National Center for Cultural Competence with past professional experience with the National Council for Behavioral Health and Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration.

Aylene Mafnas, 51, who served as board member for four years and PAFC President for two, was elected chair of the board. She succeeded Elvi G. Bangit and Sonny Busa, two long-time community leaders with extensive connections. Bangit is board chair of Tanghalang Pilipino and Busa is a former diplomat and international relations professor. Both will serve as PAFC advisers.

Collaboration and Partnership

“I’m very excited to be part of a team of experienced and energetic leaders who deeply care about our community,” Mafnas said. “Our goal is to build on our successful collaborations with other organizations and continue to partner with them in those areas where we have common interests, such as youth empowerment and cultural enrichment.”

Founded in 1996 mainly as a charity organization, PAFC is shifting gears to be more proactive in community affairs. “Instead of competing for limited resources to raise funds for charity and relief assistance, we believe it’s more productive to complement the remarkable work that Feed the Hungry, Medical Mission of Mercy and other charity-oriented groups are doing,” Mafnas said. “Many problems in our community are not being addressed, like aging, mental health and youth-related issues. That’s where our creative energies are needed.”

Mafnas, who works at the U.S. Department of Agriculture as an Engineering Branch Chief, has served in various leadership capacities with the Philippine Association of Metropolitan Washington Engineers (PAMWE) and the Federal Asian Pacific American Council (FAPAC). She is also a licensed Real Estate Professional in Northern Virginia with an elite Graduate, REALTORS® Institute designation or GRI. With husband Joe, Mafnas has two children, both college grads.

Elected for a term of two years, PAFC’s new board includes Ador Carreon, Bobby M. Federigan, Gloria Maria T. Federigan, Christian Flores, Christine Oliveros, Malcolm Peck, John Gabriel Victoria, and Zeny Viloria.

Carreon has been with PAFC for more than 15 years, serving as director and board chairman. He and his wife Nanette are heavily involved with philanthropic work in the Philippines. Carreon is also active with the Masons and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Gloria Maria T. Federigan was re-elected to a third term. A regular columnist for Manila Mail, she is Board Director of the Birhen ng Antipolo, USA, Inc. Her husband, Bobby, joined the board for the first time. Also a columnist for Manila Mail, he retired in 1997 from the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., after 28 years as Managing Editor of the Labor Relations Reporter. The Federigans are looking forward to celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary soon.

Zeny Viloria, re-elected to another term, is a retired Branch Manager & Licensed Banker and a proud grandmother of five kids. She is past president of the Progressive Alliance of Filipino Americans, Inc. (PAFAI.)

Malcolm Peck served as PAFC board secretary for two years. Now retired, Peck was a senior program officer at Meridian International Center in Washington, DC. He has served both as president and secretary of PALM (Philippine Arts, Letters, and Media Council).

John Gabriel Victoria, 22, is an entrepreneur, owner of Polianna SEO (digital marketing agency specializing in search engine optimization. He attended the United States Naval Academy and is currently Vice President of Filipino Young Professionals of Washington DC, Deputy Director of the Filipino Veterans Recognition & Education Project (FilVetREP) and Deputy Director of NaFFAA’s Capital Region.

Christian Flores, 24, graduated from the University of Maryland College Park with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. He currently works in clinical research administration for the George Washington University (GWU) Biostatistics Center while pursuing a Master’s in Public Health, with a concentration in Community Oriented Primary Care. At UMD, he served as FCA’s Cultural Chair where promoted Fil Am culture through different events, workshops and dance performances. Additionally, he has served as the Internal VP of AASU, where he spearheaded the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month on campus.

Christine Oliveros, 24, works for The Arc of Prince George’s County as an Infant and Toddler Service Coordinator supporting families and their children who have medical diagnoses, disabilities and/or developmental delays. She has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Community Health and a minor in Asian Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park and served as FCA’s Community Service Chair. Born in the Philippines, she came to the U.S. when she was 13.

Appointed executive officers are Anika Aquino, Vice President of Programming; Christine Bersabal, Vice President of Marketing and Communications; Min Yun, Vice President of Community Engagement; Grace Villanueva, External Relations Officer; David Pagsibigan, Treasurer; Rochielle Canare, Secretary; and Brandon Bartolome, Webmaster.

Except for Pagsibigan and Villanueva, who have been involved with the community for two decades in various leadership roles, the five other officers are in their 20s. Aquino is currently engaged in project research at the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development; Bersabal is associated with the University of Maryland’s Multicultural Involvement & Community Advocacy; Yun is HR Assistant at GEA Process Engineering; Canare is Team Lead and Clerical Aide with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and Bartolome is a Mentor with Asian American Lead.

All of them were actively involved in their school’s Filipino Cultural Association and the Filipino Collegiate Networking Dialogue (FIND.)

Outgoing PAFC Board member Mitzi Pickard applauded the newly-elected board for its diversity, breadth of experience and commitment to community building. “I am encouraged by their openness to our guidance and support,” she said. “To use their language, we will be delighted to ‘download our knowledge’ and strengthen our collective capacity to make a difference.”

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