Alfonso “Al” Avecilla
Preserving the Past to Envision a Better Future
Last March, through the efforts of Alfonso Avecilla, the FIlCom received $3,500 donation from the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) Foundation’s Quality of Life Program. MDRT is the premier association of financial services professionals of which Al is a member. The MDRT Foundation was created in 1959 to provide MDRT members with a means to give back to their communities and improve the quality of life for people in-need throughout the world.
Since 2009 when Al “discovered” the FilCom Center while on vacation in Hawaii, he was very intrigued with the mission and programs of the center. One of the projects that he agreed to chair was the Family Legacy Project, which seeks to upload archival materials collected from pioneer Filipino families who have made significant contributions to Hawaii’s modern history. This project was conceived as part of eFil (http://efilarchives.org), an on-going project of the Filipino American Historical Society of Hawaii (FAHSOH).
Al Avecilla was born at Queens Hospital in Honolulu to Alfonso G. Avecilla and Angeles Mangaser Avecilla both from La Union province in the Philippines. The senior Avecilla came to America in the late 20′s to study law at the University of Missouri- doing odd jobs to put himself through school. He also received a Masters in Law from Lincoln University in San Francisco. During those days, he could not practice law as a Filipino citizen so he moved to Hawaii where he immersed himself in entrepreneurial pursuits as well as fighting for the rights of Filipino plantation workers. He was banned from the plantations on occasion and at one point, he carried a weapon for his protection from the plantation bosses. As an entrepreneur he opened a grocery store on Mokauea Street which is now Alicia’s Market in Kalihi.
Al’s mother, Angeles, was given a scholarship by a faith-based organization to study at the University of Minnesota. While at college, she worked as a domestic servant to the Pillsbury Family to support her living expenses. Eventually she relocated to Honolulu to work as a counselor to Filipino plantation workers. She later graduated from the University of Hawaii and had a career as a social worker. Her efforts at helping the Filipino sakada is documented in the book Notable Women of Hawaii published several years ago.
At the age of eight, Al and his family went back to the Philippines where his parents founded San Jose College in Nueva Ecija. However, in 1955, young Al and his family returned to live in Hawaii. Al eventually graduated from San Jose State University in California with a major in Psychology and a minor in Sociology and was a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity. After graduation, at the height of the war in Vietnam, he made the decision to return to the Philippines to avoid the draft. While in the Philippines, he kept busy by managing the family farm and the college founded by his parents in Nueva Ecija province. He briefly attended the University of the Philippines in Diliman, where he met his wife of 40 years, Maria Editha Ramos.
In 1980 Al and his wife relocated to California with their three children–Saniata, Alfonso III and Andrea. Caleb, the youngest was born a month after their return to San Jose. Al and his wife are now blessed with three grandchildren–Kaliya and Noah Bond, and Tatum Dunning. They have resided in Almaden Valley in San Jose, California since 1983.
Al has been with Transamerica Life for 33 years as a Registered Representative and is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Roundtable for 25 years. He is also a member of the Almaden Valley Athletic Club and worships at the Presbyterian Church of Los Gatos. He and his wife have travelled extensively around the world for the last 10 years, with a trip to Croatia scheduled this August. He visits Hawaii three times annually, but is in touch with the islands digitally almost every day as he moves the Family Legacy Project forward, as we recruit more pioneer families to embrace the project.
Roland and Edith and their hard working team members even walked house to house requesting support for the Filipino Community Center. They held their first rally in Waialua, where people can submit their donations or pledges to Edith’s brother, Roland Casamina. Roland was then the President spearheading the building of the FilCom Center, along with Vice President Eddie Flores. They held their weekly Thursday night meetings, in which the Community Relations Team would submit donations and pledges that they collected from Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike. The group managed to receive a lot of monetary donations.
Roland and Edith agreed to revive what used to be the Community Relations Committee of the FilCom Center to jumpstart the capital campaign. For starters, the two co-chairs want to reach out to former volunteers and bring them back.
Roland and Edith raised two children, Elaine and Russell, who have blessed them with five wonderful grandchildren (Amber, Preston and Lexi, Royce and Reese), and one great granddaughter (Aria).
Edith is a Sales Coordinator/Customer Service for Hibu, Publisher of Yellowbook Paradise Pages. Roland just retired from his Roland’s vending and refrigeration services business last year. He is now enjoying grandparent duty, taking the younger grandchildren to and from school, as well as dropping off baby Aria at the babysitter’s house. Although retired, he still assists his son Russell with the RVR Company. Even with their very busy schedules in the community, they continue to volunteer at FilCom Center to teach ballroom dancing as the lead instructors, and practicing diligently for the Himig at Indak choir.
The Himig at Indak’s ballroom group has been credited for raising $30,000 for FilCom Center since their group started volunteering in February 2005. They also participated in the Philippine Consulate’s beautification committee projects since 1997, under the chairmanship of Jenny Quezon. With their enthusiasm and ability to organize their loyal following, they are able to mobilize at the drop-of-a-hat. Their active members include: Ernie and Lydia Pascua, Tess and Jess Quemado, Cielo Oda, Sonny and Cora Rulloda, Bien and Nidia Pascua, Mar and Cris Ugale, Cesar and Tessie Arucan. Since forming Himig at Indak they have also added Arceli Rebollido, Pike Velasco, Gladys Emperador, Vernon Rivera, Orlando and Edel Matias and others, to the roster of volunteers. (There may be more names we failed to mention, and you know who you are-nevertheless, we thank you for your participation and support.)
Roland is a past president of San Nicolas Goodwill Foundation (SNGF) and now serves as an Adviser, and Edith was a past president of Oahu Filipino Community Council (OFCC) for two terms. She and Roland are now concentrating on all of the activities of SNGF, as well as the FilCom Center, and without hesitation, will offer their services whenever it is needed.
This very popular and charismatic couple agrees to emcee at many important Filipino events and family weddings, birthdays, anniversaries at a moment’s notice if they are available, because they totally enjoy volunteering. They deserve to be recognized as the Volunteers of the Month for the Filipino Community Center newsletter. Congratulations and best wishes to our honorees, Edith Casamina Pascua and Roland Aguilar Pascua!
Tess has been a volunteer for the FilCom Center before the facility’s ground breaking more than 15 years ago. During those early years, she was part of a group called “Community Relations Team”, a group headed by Roland and Edith Pascua. This group was tasked with collecting pledges and donations for “building the dream”-a Filipino Community Center to be located on a two-acre site in what used to be sugar lands in Waipahu. The group went from house to house, door to door asking kababayans, as well as other ethnic groups for their donations, focusing on communities with large Filipino populations like Waialua, Wahiawa and Waipahu.
After the FilCom Center was built, there were no community activities at the center. When Toy Arre was appointed as President, the former leaders of the “Community Relations Team” decided to create community-based activities at the center. The core group that included Tess and her husband Jess, also included Roland and Edith Pascua and Ernie and Lydia Pascua.
The group started modestly in February 2005, where 15 students enrolled in ballroom dancing. As the appointed Treasurer, Tess collected the monthly dues from members. Filipino folk dances were added to the repertoire with the recruitment of Ray Rausa as the folk dancing instructor. It was at this time that the group was christened “Himig at Indak Pilipino”. As Treasurer, Tess made sure that all proceeds and fees generated by the group was transmitted to the FilCom coffers and she estimates that since 2005 up to 2012, the group would have raised $30,000 for the non-profit.
Prior to working for FilCom Center as Administrative Assistant in 2004, Tess worked at Kuakini Medical Center for 25 years. On December 31, 2012 Tess finally retired a second time from her eight-year stint at FilCom Center.
Tess and husband Jess are blessed with three grown children. In her spare time she enjoys cooking, gardening, crochet and knitting. Her immediate goal is to go on a cruise and visit different cities. Tess leaves behind a great void at FilCom which its staff is still trying to recover from.
Workforce Development Through Computer Skills Training
The FilCom Center has been offering computer training since the completion of its Economic Development Administration (EDA)-funded Tech Room seven years ago. The training session went into hiatus when the hard-wired desk top computers started slowing down. Earlier this year, the FilCom Center replaced the outdated computers with laptops and converted internet access into WIFI thus enabling the resumption of the computer classes anywhere in the facility. The first volunteer to help restart the computer enrichment classes was Conrad Abuel.
Recently retired as a Case Manager for the City & County of Honolulu’s Oahu Work Links Program and as an Accountant for the Department of Budget, Conrad offered to teach Computer Basics, a four session course that helped computer newbies to use a laptop. Held at the 3rd floor conference room of the FilCom office the course is limited to nine students per course. Conrad’s classes are held on Wednesdays, from 10 to 12 noon. Most of his students are recently arrived immigrants who are seeking employment but need computer skills to navigate today’s technological requirements. Others are retired seniors who want to use email or surf the internet or socialize via Facebook.
Conrad received his B.S. in Commerce degree, majoring in Accounting from Lyceum of the Philippines University, Manila. After spending his early schooling at Rafael Palma Elementary School, he attended Araullo High School, Manila, Philippines. He is married to Linda Abuel and the couple has three grown children.
After completing a session of Computer Basics, Conrad convinced his wife Linda, to volunteer as well. Linda now teaches the EXCEL courses on Saturdays, from 2 to 4 p.m. Currently the Chief Accountant at the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Mental Health Center, Linda brings years of experience in using spreadsheet software.
Linda attended Centro Escolar University since her elementary and high school days. She received her accounting degree from the University of Santo Tomas in 1967 and that same year was licensed as a Certified Public Accountant in the Philippines. Prior to immigrating to Hawaii in 1980, she was a Partner at L.C. Diaz & Company, CPAs, based in Manila, Philippines. Upon arrival in Hawaii, she was hired as an Audit Supervisor with DeLoitte & Touche, eventually becoming the Chief Accountant for Child & Family Service for 15 years.
In the early 1990s, Linda was recruited to volunteer for a fledgling non-profit whose fund development campaign theme was “Building the Dream”. This non-profit had the audacity to dream of building a community center that would “promote and perpetuate Filipino culture and customs in the State of Hawaii.” Linda headed the Budget Committee and was responsible for ensuring that the non-profit was at par with accounting standards and was transparent and accountable in the collection of all donations. When the FilCom Center was finally built, Linda served on its Board of Directors before moving on to other pursuits, and now is back as one of FIlCom’s treasured volunteers.
Conrad and Linda are also active in the Bulacan Circle of Hawaii, where Conrad now serves as one of its Board of Directors.
Nurturing the Traditional Garden Greens Growing at Filcom.
During the past few months, healthy green, red, and yellow vegetables had sprouted at FilCom. The last few weeks, the plants had matured and needed harvesting and will soon be replaced with other vegetables. Soon malunggay, saluyot, ampalaya, talbos ng kamote, okra, and tomatoes-the basics for pinakbet! - will be ready for harvest and FilCom will be offering tips on how to prepare the traditional staples of the Filipino diet, now recognized as superfoods, super rich in nutrients.
The FilCom Garden has evolved into a project to promote a healthy diet and lifestyle for the community and encourage the benefits of returning to traditional diet. Initially, the garden was conceived to demonstrate the benefits of sustainable landscaping with less use of pesticides and minimize reliance on commercial seedlings.
Spearheading the effort is Rene Ramiro, co-owner of Cools in Catering, who is experienced in both culinary and agricultural pursuits. Rene headed the effort to deploy sustainable landscaping practices at the Aloha Stadium, where he also works as a groundskeeper. He has been in charge of daily food operations at the Paradise Cove Luau, and in the Philippines. Prior to moving to Hawaii, he worked in cotton and tobacco at the Cotton Research and Development Institute located in Batac, Ilocos Norte, and founded a catering service aimed at providing employment in rural areas.
An agriculture graduate of Mariano Marcos State University, he was selected as one of the Ten Outstanding Volunteer Youth Leaders in the Philippines (1987) by the Department of Agriculture.
Rene’s efforts are also focused on growing enough seedlings to replace the plant cover around the parking lot. “We need something hardy and easy to maintain”, he explains, since the current green cover has been infected by pests.
“I am hoping to see katuday and squash, pole beans, maybe upo or spring squash so that when the Filipino summer school for kids starts next year, the students can learn to sing Bahay Kubo and see the actual vegetables in the song,” says FilCom President Rose Churma. And maybe learn how to cook pinacbet.
Visit the garden on the southern side of FilCom, near the staircase leading to the grounds of the Leeward YMCA, during your next visit. And if you come on a Sunday, you may just see Rene tending to the garden! See you at the FilCom!
Manny Lanuevo is currently the Deputy Director of Honolulu’s Department of Environmental Services, and has served in this capacity since 2009 when then Mayor Mufi Hannemman appointed him to this post. Prior to this position, he was the Facilities Engineer of Hawaii’s Airports Division of the Department of Transportation (DOT). Before immigrating to Hawaii in 1988, he was affiliated with MERALCO as a supervising engineer. He is a licensed professional electrical engineer in both the State of Hawaii and the Philippines. His certifications include LEED AP form the U.S. Green Building Council, EPA 608 from the US Environmental Protection Agency and CLEP from the Association of Energy Engineers. He received his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the Mapua Institute of Technology, Manila, Philippines in 1971.
Manny is very active in various community groups. At the present time, he is the president of the Hawaii Society of Professional Engineers and one of their projects is the MATH COUNT, a national program that allows Hawaii students compete with other states in Washington DC. This year’s MATH COUNT will be held at the FilCom Center-with the island wide competition scheduled for February 9 and the statewide competition to be held on March 9. For three fiscal years, he also served as chairman of the Hawaii Council of Engineering Societies, the umbrella organization unifying all the various engineering groups.
Manny is also a member of the Filipino Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii (FCCH) and was a delegate to two of the chamber’s trade missions-in 2009 and 2012. In both missions, he served as a resource person and speaker on solid waste management-a topic of interest to a host of municipalities and chartered cities in the Philippines, who sought his advice in solving their garbage problems.
In 1999, he was elected president of the Filipino American League of Engineers and Architects (FALEA). At that time, The FilCom Center board approached Manny to organize a FilCom Construction Committee. The group was formed in 2000, with Manny as Chair. Among the engineers and architects he recruited to serve were Oscar Paez, Roger Urbi, Sid Baquilar, Sylvester Ulep, and Art Lucio. He also recruited engineers like Elvie Pineda (now the out-going President of FALEA) to help in the construction management of FilCom.
The Construction Committee that Manny formed was tasked to review the construction bid documents prepared by the design professional hired by FilCom. They also conducted the procurement process to select the General Contractor and Construction Manager for the project. Since 2000, the group has provided technical advice, reviewed proposed tenant improvements, has helped install the Rizal statue and the veteran’s monument at the FilCom grounds. For the last 12 years Manny can always be depended on to provide assistance.
When the FilCom Board appointed Jeoffrey Cudiamat (incoming President of the FALEA) as the new chair of the Facilities Committee-the new name of the Construction Committee-Manny and the original members continued to provide advice on the current issues surrounding the facility, which they still do until now.
Iris Gil is an artist whose discerning eye and talent creates wearable works of art for women. For example, he designed the gown worn by Miss Hawaii Filipina when she won the crown last July in Hilo. More recently, one of the winners at the recently concluded Maria Clara Ball last September 1, wore one of his black and purple creations. His gowns are so versatile since it can be worn as a contemporary sleeveless gown, or with the butterfly sleeves of the terno, or with the bell sleeves and panuelo of the Maria Clara gown-three outfits for the price of one.
Last August 24, Iris spent some time at the FIlCom Center to install the indigenous fabric exhibit at the Tech Room. One part of the room contains the weaving of the north while the other has displays of the fabrics common to the south. Some of the items on display came from his extensive collection of fabrics and costumes from the Philippines.
Iris was born in Olongapo City, Philippines, but traces his Visayan origin to his paternal grandfather, who was born and raised in Palompon, Leyte. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and minor in Fine Arts at Mission College, California. He also received an Associate Degree in Fashion Design at Los Angeles Trade Tech College.
In 2001 he moved to Paris, France and attended Ecole Chambre Syndical dela Coutre, a premier fashion school in Paris. While in Paris, he worked as a Design Assistant at Haute Couture House and at Malhia Kent Fabric Design House that designs apparels for Dior, Chanel, Valentino, among others. He also did theatrical costuming for stage plays.
In 2004 he moved back to the U.S. and worked in Interior Design in Dallas, Texas for one year after which, he moved to Hawaii in 2005 and settled in Hawaiian Paradise Park where he opened his own business, Iris Gil Design, a dress shop specializing in Filipiniana and Hawaiian attire. Iris had been designing dresses for over 15 years and in interior design for over six years using fabrics from India, Japan and Philippines. His love for Filipino fashion and culture led to Habi at Baro exhibit, which he set up by himself at Wailoa Center in Hilo for the whole month of May in 2010. The exhibit created interest and excitement in the community such that he was requested to set up a similar exhibit at the Lyman Museum for a month, UH-Hilo in October to December 2011, UH-Manoa in September to December 2012 and at Hale Halawae in Kona during the “Paskong Pinoy” celebration. He also conducted a workshop called “Pinay Dressing-Wearing Culture in Everyday Apparel” for the Filipino Association of University Women at their annual event.
Moreover, Iris has been the costume designer of historical costumes for the Royal Court of the Merrie Monarch festival for the last five years and unselfishly shared his talents with the Hilo Orchid Society by designing the floral displays for its annual Orchid Show, which is the oldest and the largest orchid show in the State.
With his strong desire to promote Philippine culture and tradition to the Filipinos in Hawaii and to the general public, Iris is very bussy working in obtaining funds and collaborating with various organizations for future Philippine culture exhibits/presentations at the FilCom Center, Bishop Museum, East West Center at UH-Manoa and the public schools.
Beatrice “Bea” Ramos-Razon is the driving force behind the free RN NCLEX Review Class Program held at the FilCom since 2001. For more than a dozen years, Bea and her colleagues at Nursing Advocates and Mentors, Inc. have been helping nurses, many of whom trained in the Philippines, prepare to pass registered nurse exams needed to practice their profession in Hawaii.
Bea’s heart, smarts, and solid experience back her passion to help her fellow nurses. She holds RN licenses in Hawaii and Washington and is the first nurse from both states to be inducted in the Academy of Fellows of the National Association of Directors of Nursing administration for Long term Care. Bea also was selected as 2004 Nurse Administrator of the Year by this national association.
Bea grew up in Angeles City, Pampanga. She received a full scholarship for the University of the Philippines’ School of Nursing. After graduating in 1973, she came to Hawaii and worked at St. Francis Medical Center and Pali Momi before relocating to Washington State. While heading nursing teams at Sequim, Tacoma, Seattle, and Bremerton health and long-term care centers, she also founded and headed the Filipino Nurses Association of Puget Sound.
Bea returned to Hawaii in 1998. She served as director of Nursing at local long-term facilities, including Avalon, Hale O Aloha, and the Convalescent Center of Hawaii and resumed her advocacy work for Filipino nurses and nurses’ aides. She is the executive director of the Filipino Certified Nurses’ Aide Association of Hawaii. She led the Hawaii Association of Directors of Nursing Administration Long Term Care and is the organizing president of Nursing Advocates and Mentors, sponsor of Filcom’s RN NCLEX Review Class Program. She is certified director of Nursing Administration, and a quality assurance reviewer, approved RN evaluator, and Nurse Aide Training Program instructor for the State Department of Human Services.
Bea currently teaches at the Kapiolani Community College Nursing Department.For her service to the community, especially to immigrant nurses, Bea has been recognized by State and City officials, Filipino groups in Hawaii, and the University of the Philippines Alumni Association.
On summer weekends, the courtyard of the FilCom Center fills with the sounds of children dancing the tinikling, listening to Filipino folktales, and learning their abakada (abc). They’re attending Filcom’s Filipino for Kids Summer Enrichment Program, founded and organized by Imelda Fines Gasmen, or Ime. Watching her at work, “Ime” can readily stand for Inspiring, Multi-talented, and Energetic.
Ime is an instructor of Filipino and Philippine Literature at the Department of Indo-Pacific Languages and Literature of the University of Hawaii at Manoa; she is also a certified translator. She hails from Ilocos Sur and graduated valedictorian from Narvacan National Central High School. She is a graduate of the B.S. Development Communication program of the University of the Philippines Lost Banos and M.A. Communications program at UH Manoa.
Her students attest that she makes learning enjoyable; so enjoyable that among others, her former students return many times over and volunteer to help run Filipino Summer for Kids program and other activities. The summer program requires a lot of preparation but Ime enjoys it tremendously and finds that she is also growing more in her knowledge of Philippine culture and life. Her many talents and experiences have enabled her to craft attractive ways of imparting and packaging knowledge. According to Ime, it has been heartwarming to work with young children every summer. Children exude an innocence and purity that are different from her college students. It has been an ultimate reward to have children from past Filipino for Kids session come back as adult volunteers of the current session.
Given her background in development communication, Ime values community outreach and has what it takes to engage others at the grassroots level. When her two daughters were younger, she initiated a Reading in-the-Park program to promote literacy. She collaborated with a Lanai-based educator/librarian on a colorful Filipino Word Book designed for young ESL students. She also authored Tagalog for Kids Flash Cards for language learners.
Ime plays the guitar and was among the founding members of Banda Kawayan. She also introduced the popular parol-making activity at Pasko! events. She is a back-to-back winner of FilCom Pasko! Parol-making contests. Ime loves sports. She plays pingpong and attends the annual Great Aloha Run. She says that her favorite hobby is photography. Being a lady who has deep faith in God, Ime also draws much strength from the scriptures.
While volunteers credit Ime’s enjoyable ways as key to the success of the Filipino for Kids summer enrichment program. Ime credits the volunteers as a big part of its sustained success. She envisions that the portable program be replicated by other Filipino communities across the islands, the US, and the world.