Stepping Out of the Shadows

The Stimulant: On December 16 to 18, 2003, I was one of the Filipino Americans who went to the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila, Philippines to participate in the Second Global Filipino Networking Convention. During the closing session, Loida Nicolas-Lewis, the National Chair of NaFFAA (National Federation of Filipino American Associations), announced that the Third Global Filipino Networking Convention would be held in Cebu in 2005, tentatively scheduled for January.

Loida asked, “Who of you here are from Cebu?”

I was so excited by the announcement that I screamed “Me!” from my front-row seat, out-shouting the other participants, while I gingerly balanced my video-camcorder with two cameras belonging to Senator Ron Menor of Hawaii and Northside Community Center’s Ben Menor, taking pictures of the Global Filipino leaders on-stage.

Loida asked me to stand in front of the audience after she appointed me to find a task force in Cebu that would make the convention a reality. The attendees unanimously approved the appointment. I was in total shock!

If you’ve ever had a surreal experience before, wherein you are viewing a movie of yourself in slow motion, this was it. I, for once, was speechless. When I looked up at Loida and the other conveners on-stage, I inquired, “I’m supposed to ask permission from my boss first, right?” I heard some murmurs from the stage that I had my CEO’s go-ahead signal (who, at that time, was Ben Menor).

“What am I supposed to say again?” I must have looked dazed. I could hear someone softly dictating behind me.

I recovered from my initial shock. “I am going to spearhead or assist in finding a task force committee in Cebu that will make the Third Global Filipino Networking Convention happen in Cebu in January, 2005. This is quite sentimental to me because my father, who just passed away, was one of the Sinulog Celebration’s founders.” I was referring to the street festival that started its prominence in 1980 and which was celebrated every third Sunday in January, coinciding with the Feast of Santo Nino de Cebu.

The Lesson: I had declared an intention to make things happen. I was capable of doing the job. Stepping out of the shadows meant being able to share my purpose, passion, and pride with like-minded companions.

There were many volunteers who had never worked closely with a Filipino American community before the First Global Filipino Networking Convention was born in San Francisco on August 31, 2002 at the Moscone Center. I was one of these first-time volunteers. Rodel Rodis and Marivic Bamba were the two NaFFAA leaders who were responsible and accountable for bringing this “baby” into an uncharted territory with NaFFAA’s support. I could only imagine the hurdles that the management team had to go through since such a gathering had never been attempted before by any minority group in the United States. Whatever the critics had to say paled in comparison to the success of “bringing in the numbers.” There were approximately 4,000 attendees that Labor Day week-end.

Since the post 9-11 security measures made it difficult for many Filipinos from the Philippines to travel to the United States, the second convention was held in Manila with a government and private sector collaborative arrangement. Circumstances beyond anyone’s control pushed the convention dates to December 2003 with a narrow time schedule for promotions. NaFFAA’s founding chair, Alex Esclamado and his wife, Luli, were two of the dedicated volunteers who contributed to its success, despite the time constraints. The result: 400 attendees.

The third convention beckoned me to do “a little bit more.”

I took pointers from Brian Tracy, a motivational speaker: “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1,000 percent return in energy.”

The NaFFAA leadership, when Loida appointed me for this preliminary work, was not aware that I had been heavily involved with Cebu’s dynamic tourism industry since 1980. It took two months to complete my report. Painting a favorable picture of Cebu’s destination management capabilities was effortless work.

The Third Global Filipino Networking Convention in 2005 is happening. The calendar is waiting for us now. January or March? To be continued…

,b>The Emphasis: Intentions have a funny way of manifesting itself seamlessly into reality. Learning how to interpret the “flow” of events happening in your life makes it easy for the answers to magically reveal themselves to you.

© Lorna Dietz, March 2004. The edited version of this article was published by Manila Bulletin USA.

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