All About NaFFAA

Posted on 27th August 2007 by lorna in



Click here to go to the ARCHIVED main page of NaFFAAUASA.org. As of 2013, the new official website of NaFFAA is http://naffaa-national.org/.

NaFFAA is a non-profit and non-partisan coalition of community organizations and advocacy groups representing some 4 million people of Filipino descent in America, promoting the interests and well-being of the United States, and concerned over the welfare of the Philippines. – Greg B. Macabenta, NaFFAA National Chair

Telltale Signs/ THE NOT SO IMPOSSIBLE DREAM OF ALEX ESCLAMADO

Rodel E. Rodis

November 19, 2007

Rodel Rodis and Alex Esclamado in a recent photo - photo provided by Rodel Rodis ALEX ESCLAMADO was looking forward to blissful retirement and to writing his memoirs when I invited him to travel with me to New York in April of 1997. I had been invited to speak at the regional conference of the Filipino Intercollegiate Networking for Dialogue (FIND) to be held at the State University of New York in Long Island when I unexpectedly received a round-trip ticket from the Filipino student group after I had already purchased my plane fare.

So, with an extra round-trip plane ticket in hand, I asked Alex if he would like to join me. By then, Alex had lotS of free time then as he had just sold Philippine News to his good friend, Ed Espiritu. For the first time probably since 1961 when he and his wife, Luly, started publishing the weekly newspaper from the garage of their home in San Francisco, Alex did not have a weekly editorial to write, a newspaper to edit.

Alex said yes and off we flew to New York. On the flight, we recalled how, after People Power ousted the Marcos Dictatorship, we had set about to unite the Filipino American community which had been bitterly divided between the proponents and opponents of martial rule. It was Alex’s “impossible dream” (his favorite song) to have a united, empowered community. In1987, Alex traveled the country inviting Filipino community leaders to meet in Anaheim, California in August of 1987 to form an organization that would work to empower the community.

About 1500 delegates from around the US heeded his call and gsthered to form the National Filipino American Council (NFAC). We all agreed that martial law was a thing of the past and that we should now look forward to being Americans and to fighting for our place at the table. It was exactly the political frame of mind that Alex had hoped for.

But perhaps Alex was too successful. When the time came to electing a chair who would guide the organization forward, an influential group of Filipino Republicans threatened to walk out of the convention if Alex was elected chair because they believed he was too partisan a Democrat to lead a bipartisan organization. In the interest of forging unity, Alex gave way to a Republican from San Francisco, Dennis Normandy, a corporate executive who did not share Alex’s vision of chartered chapters in Filipino communities throughout the US. His “spokes in a wheel” model envisioned a more modest growth.

On the flight to New York, I told Alex that NFAC had not become the vehicle for community empowerment that we had envisioned and that it was time to form another organization that would be true to his vision at Anaheim. I told him that with what remained of the NFAC, a decision was made in Salinas in January of 1997 to call for a summit of Filipino community organizations to meet in August in Washington DC. I was going to the FIND conference (1,000 students attended) to invite the members to join us in DC.

When we arrived in New York, Alex and I were met by a FIND member who took us to his home in Brooklyn where he put us up for the night. It was not a hotel but Alex did not mind. I remember thinking that Alex would have been a very rich man, flying first class and sleeping at the Plaza, if he had sold his newspaper in 1977 when the Dictator Ferdinand Marcos offered to purchase it for $10 million to silence the paper that had become the leading anti-Marcos newspaper in the US, if not in the world.

But though Alex needed the money as he had borrowed heavily to keep his newspaper afloat in the face of iron-fisted pressure on advertisers applied by the Marcos government, he rejected the tempting offer, declaring that his principles were not for sale.

When we woke up the following morning in Brooklyn, we learned that we did not have to be in Long Island for the FIND conference until that evening so we had a day to spare. I called up my friend, Michael Dadap, a classical guitarist and conductor of the Children’s Orchestra Society of New York, and asked him to join us. Within minutes, as he lived nearby, Michael was there with his car to take us around New York.

While driving to Manhattan, we decided to call up Loida Nicolas Lewis, the Chief Executive Officer of the TLC Beatrice conglomerate. By happenstance, when we called her, she was in town and she invited us for lunch at a restaurant across from her downtown office.

Over lunch, we shared with Loida our plans to organize a national federation of Filipino American associations, although we had not decided on the name yet. In concept, we wanted the organization to have a national presence in Washington DC to lobby for the community’s interests on matters like the Filipino WW II veterans issue, on immigration and institutionalized discrimination. In short, we wanted to build an NAACP for the Filipino community.

Rodel and Edna Rodis with Alex and Luly Esclamado - photo provided by Rodel Rodis
Loida was excited about this project and gave it her full enthusiastic support. With Loida’s backing, Alex was energized once again. In 1966, he had organized the Filipino American Political Association (FAPA) but although it had 29 chapters at one point, it was only based in California and it folded when martial law was declared in 1972, with members divided between those supporting and opposing Marcos. Before Alex’s dream for the NFAC could take off, he was taken off the driver’s seat because of division over American political parties.

Alex would give it one more try, the third time’s the charm, they say. With Loida’s backing, Alex traveled the length and breath of the country, once more into the breach, contacting leaders from every city and every state, inviting one and all to come to Washington DC to organize the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA).

Some 1200 delegates, including about 200 students from FIND, formed the NaFFAA and elected Alex as the national chair, a post he held until 2002, when he was then succeeded by Loida Nicolas Lewis. Loida was in turn succeeded in 2006 by Alma Kern from Seattle.

NaFFAA now has working chapters in virtually every major city in the US where there is a significant Filipino presence and has a national office in Washington DC advocating for the WW II veterans and other community issues. For the first time in our history in the US, the Filipino community has an NAACP and it is NaFFAA. [For more information about NaFFAA, please log on to http://NaFFAA.org.]

Send comments to [email protected]

3rd Global Cebu 2005 - The intense expression on Alex Esclamado’s face is something the NaFFAA leadership is used to; here, Loida Nicolas Lewis and Lorna Lardizabal Dietz listen intently

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  1. Thank you for all your efforts on the Rescission Act. My sister inquired to the Us Embassy in the Philippines regarding the coverage of this Act and she was told that only Living WW11 Veterans can collect the benefits. I was just wondering if their widows who are still living will be able to collect some sort of benefits as well? Please clarify. Thank You.

    Comment by amy nicolas — February 19, 2009 @ 2:14 am

  2. Mabuhay and keep up the good works!

    Choppy of Porkchop Duo

    Comment by Choppy VargasC — June 18, 2009 @ 3:48 pm

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