The Congress of Visayan Organizations
By Jun Colmenares
The Congress of Visayan Organizations or COVO, is the umbrella of Visayan organizations in the State of Hawaii. It was founded in 1985 and has about 15 member organizations from Oahu, Kauai, Maui, Lanai and the Big Island representing the Visayas and Mindanao. Its goals are to unite all Visayan organizations in Hawaii, preserve and promote Visayan language and culture, and assist in the socio-economic uplift of Filipinos, particularly those of Visayan ancestry.
COVO has been one of the most active Filipino organizations in the state and has partnered with other organizations, including the Filipino Community Center, the Philippine Consulate General, the UH Center for Philippine Studies, among others, in various projects, including humanitarian assistance to the Philippines. Its annual events include the Santo Niño fiesta in January, its anniversary celebration in February, the Filipino Fiesta and Parade in May, the annual statewide convention in August, and Pasko in December. In addition, special projects include the annual scholarship program, sister-city and sister-state/province projects, the Lapu-Lapu Awards, the Visayan Hour radio program, the Visayan centennial celebration, the Florentino Das book project, disaster fundraising drives and others. Because of its active involvement in the community and its important projects and activities, COVO received the Philippine Presidential (Banaag) Award for outstanding Filipino organizations overseas in 2010.
COVO is holding its 25th Annual Statewide Convention and 6th Lapu-Lapu Awards Gala on August 12, 2012 at the Philippine Consulate General and Ala Moana Hotel Ballroom The theme for this year’s convention is “COVO: Working With the Community.” Convention speakers are Dr. Danelo Cañete, cardiologist, and Rose Churma, FilCom president. Guest speaker at the Lapu-Lapu Awards is Dr. Patricio Abinales, professor at UH-Manoa. This year’s Lapu-Lapu Awards will be given to outstanding Visayans from the Big Island.
Balaan Catalina Society
The Balaan (Holy) Catalina Society is the oldest Visayan organization in the State of Hawaii. It was founded in 1930 by Visayan sakadas, most of whom were from Carcar, a town in Cebu whose patroness is St. Catherine (Santa Catalina) of Alexandria. It is also the first Filipino organization in Hawaii to have its own fully-paid club house and chapel. Its initial membership was primarily Carcaranons, but today, the members are a mix of individuals from the Visayas and Mindanao, either born in the Philippines or descended from Filipino settlers in Hawaii. It celebrates its foundation anniversary every July and the feast of Santa Catalina in November.
While it started as a semi-religious and mutual aid organization, the Balaan Catalina Society has expanded its role and has become more involved in civic, cultural, community and humanitarian activities. On its own, or as a COVO member, it has been involved in projects such as Weed & Seed, participated in the annual Filipino Fiesta and Parade as Sinulog dancers, supported the FilCom Center in various capacities, distributed computers and hospital beds and equipment to Cebu and other areas, and participated in medical missions and other disaster relief efforts in the Philippines. It is one, if not the most active and staunchest supporters of COVO.
This year it is celebrating its 82nd anniversary on August 4, 2012 with a dinner-program at the Empress Restaurant. Its longevity is a testament to the loyalty of its membership and the dedication and hard work of its leadership. Its current president is Vicky Sato.