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September 11, 2004

San Francisco, California   - The newly-designated Consul General of the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco, Ms. Maria Rowena Mendoza Sanchez, who formally reported to the Consulate on August 6, 2004, conducted a dialogue with some Filipinos in the San Francisco Bay Area on September 4, 2004, at Carmen’s-by-the-Bay, located at the picturesque Pier 40 on Townsend and Embarcadero streets in San Francisco.

The dialogue touched on the following: (1) the role of the San Francisco Consulate and the entire Philippine Foreign Service in pushing through a “Tabang Pilipinas” initiative starting with the ongoing drive to mobilize Filipino support to assist the victims of the massive flooding in Central Luzon and Metro Manila; (2) the need and advisability for a formal, dignified, relevant welcome by the Filipino-American community for her designation as San Francisco Consul General; and (3) the possibility of instituting an international forum in San Francisco to be attended by experts on various issues impacting the Philippines in this age of terrorism and economic hardships for the Filipino people with resource persons coming from the Philippines and other parts of the world.

In her introductory remarks, the Consul General informed the group that it would be her policy to undertake periodic consultations with the various sectors of the Filipino community in her jurisdiction to feel their pulse.

When requested by UP Alumni Association of Berkeley President Jose Aliling IV for her priorities, the Consul General replied that the Consulate is mandated to protect, maintain, and enhance Philippine diplomatic, political, and economic interests in California and provide all other traditional services inherent in the office.

But the Consul General has some innovations.  These are projects that are in the pipeline, such as the following: (1) a planned three-day workshop on how to improve the process of sending disaster relief assistance and donated funds to various organizations in the Philippines and how to make the government a more effective facilitator and the recipient organizations more accountable; (2) a concerted campaign in California to include the study of Philippine-American history in the curricula of the school system to develop greater awareness of the Filipino-Americans in their history; (3) renovating the Consular Office so that there is more space for art exhibitions and gatherings, and; (4) increasing the presence of Philippine art in the San Francisco Asian Museum.

In addition, the group suggested instituting a 1-800 number, which will make information easily accessible to Filipinos and other clients of the Consulate.  Jose Caedo of the Filipino-American Democratic Empowerment Council of San Francisco suggested the holding of a townhall meeting that should bring information and services to the people as an outreach function of the Consulate Staff, especially to the Filipino seniors who find it difficult to visit the Consulate. A San Francisco Consulate website, similar to the one the Consul General did in Chicago but with a Message Board, was discussed. The issue of undocumented Filipinos was brought up. It was suggested that Identification Cards be issued similar to those given to undocumented Mexicans so they can have access to the State and the City’s health and medical services. The Consul General assured the group that this matter is already in the pipeline.  Towards this end, Mr. Caedo offered assistance in sponsoring a possible legislation that might be presented to the City of San Francisco or to the Legislature of California. He opined that the agreement between the US and Mexico could become a guide in this regard.

The Consul General also assured the group that the Consulate would take the lead in celebrating Rizal Day, to honor the Philippines’ foremost martyr.

Accompanied by Consul J. Eduardo Malaya, the group that met with the Consul General included two icons in the Filipino American Community in Northern California: 85-year old Brigida Abuyen, President of the International Alliance, and Jose G. Caedo III, President of the Filipino-American Democratic Empowerment Council of San Francisco and a popular Filipino staff member in the City and County of San Francisco.

Others who attended the dialogue were: Dr. Joaquin Gonzalez III, Program Director of Professional Studies of Golden Gate University and the University of San Francisco and a former San Francisco Immigrant Rights Commissioner; former UP College of Business Administration Professor Jose Aliling IV who is concurrently President of the UP Alumni Association of Berkeley; Morgan Benedicto, former Vice-President of the Filipino-American Council of San Francisco; Nerissa M. Fernandez, former editor-in-chief of The Manila Bulletin USA and now a managing partner at International Media Exchange (IMEX) in Burlingame; newspaper and radio executives Addie and Hanthur Angeles of The Fil-Am Press; budding artists and social historians, Lian Ladia and Pio Candelaria, who are documenting the life and culture of Filipinos in Northern California in addition to coming out with a documentary on the descendants of the “Manila Men” in Louisiana, and this writer.

Doctor Gonzalez offered the facilities of the Golden Gate University in downtown San Francisco, as well as the University of San Francisco to the Consul General and the group if the planned international forum on the state of Philippine society or the formal welcome for the Consul General would be held.

A core group studying the details of a formal welcome to Consul General Sanchez has been organized with Mrs. Brigida Abuyen as Chair and Ms. Lian Ladia as Vice-Chair. The two represent the senior and junior generations in San Francisco.  Assisting them are veteran Filipino organizers in the Bay Area. Mrs. Abuyen and Ms. Ladia will be contacting their counterparts in the Consulate concerning this event.

The dialogue was initiated by former UP Political Science Professor Cesar Torres, the Acting Chair of Pamana ng Lahing Pilipino Foundation-United Way.






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