The Bible says “the last shall be first and the first shall be last.” Nothing could be truer for the Coalition of Filipino American Chambers of Commerce as it was the last group to meet at the Philippine Consulate before lockdown in Feb. 2020, and the first to meet in-person on May 8, as Covid cases ease, to welcome Consul General Edgar B. Badajos, and introduce COFACC.

Besides members of COFACC and the Consular staff, Eric Elnar – Trade Commissioner at the Philippine Consulate General, Los Angeles – and Tourism Attaché Richmond Jimenez were also in attendance.

Founded in 2018 by a group of 15 entrepreneurs representing five Filipino American Chambers of Commerce in Southern California, COFACC’s primary mission is to provide support and resources; share best practices to the individual member chambers, and serve as their collaborative voice.

“Our vision,” says President Gerry Palon, “is to be the leader and catalyst facilitating growth, prosperity, collaboration and engagement among business organizations serving the Filipino American communities.”

The Founding Board is composed of the following: Gerry Palon, President; Ellen Samson, VP International Trade; Jeffrey Bautista, VP Marketing & Branding; Lois Klavir, VP Membership Relations; Neil Estrada, VP Public Relations; Janice Jimenez, VP Finance; Merwynn Montenegro, VP Membership Recruitment; Angelo Varsobia, VP Compliance; Cynthia Tan, VP Programs; and Atty. Abraham Lim, VP Legal Counsel.  

Today, COFACC has grown to 22 organizations:  nine Filipino American Chambers of Commerce (FACC) in Southern California; four FACC in Texas State; FACC in Arizona, Oregon, Georgia, and Jacksonville; and five community partners including Search to Involve Pilipino Americans, Asian Journal, FACC Foundation, Asian Business Association of Orange County, and Filipino Young Leaders Program.

“We have projects lined up for 2021 during this global pandemic,” stated Gerry: “fundraising drive to purchase vaccines for donation to the Philippines; host two regular virtual mega mixers in July and October; and ‘Uwi Na Tayo Program’ (‘Let’s Go Home’) – a virtual retirement summit postponed to Feb. 2022, involving Philippines and U.S. convention delegates and trade exhibitors.”

ConGen Badajos said he had met with PHL Ambassador to the U.S., Jose Manuel Romualdez, to urge the U.S. government to allow the release and export of American-manufactured vaccines to the Philippines as “Filipinos back home are dying due to the shortage of vaccines,” he added.

The Consul General also likes COFACC’s project, the “Uwi Na Tayo Program” and pledged his support to COFACC.

Filipino American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Pasadena

One of the newest members of COFACC is the Filipino American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Pasadena. Its president is Ishka Villacisneros.

Humbled and truly grateful for the opportunity to serve as president, Ishka stated: “It has been my lifelong goal to help facilitate the professional accomplishments of our Filipino community. FACCGP’s goal is to celebrate our Filipino heritage as upstanding contributors to the business world while injecting our new, unique American-multicultural, entrepreneurial spirit into our various fields of profession. In doing so, we share, inform and educate countless others about our wonderful lineage and strengthen the businesses associated with the Chamber.”

According to Ishka, they are more than ready and very much eager to seek and support businesses of all backgrounds, regardless of cultural origin.

“It is, in fact, a great deal that the Filipino American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Pasadena is made up of entrepreneurs from several generations. And we are working towards one common goal – to develop ‘Our Community.’ Though 2020 has brought a significant challenge in all our businesses, however, in some sectors, these also brought unprecedented opportunities not foreseen prior to the pandemic. This scenario is true in the E-commerce industry that saw significant growth during this crisis period. For this new year, foundational leadership will be of significant importance. With our restructured training programs and new operating systems in place, the technological tools and processes we have acquired, we understand that expectations from our members will also be higher than ever. The challenge is for us to continue to remain relevant and useful to our members as we navigate through these difficult times. As president of this Chamber,” continued Ishka, “I promise to uphold, protect and share our mission. Together with our board, ambassadors and members, we can grow our association and help one another reach and even exceed our dreams!”

Filipino American Chamber of Commerce Tri-County

(L.A., Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties)

Mic Diaz, a marketing and fundraising professional, is another new Chamber member, an Ambassador of FACC Tri-County. She’s also a member of FACC Hollywood and FACC Greater L.A.

She recently joined the Board of Directors of FilAm Arts, a local nonprofit organization in Southern California that brings people and communities together through the power of Filipino-American arts and culture.

“I recently launched Mic Diaz Presents,” she announced, “a production company that strives to promote Filipino-American performing arts and its practitioners, as well as business owners, community partners and individuals; and to uplift our Filipino-American community through entertaining, educational and engaging programs.”

On June 11, 8 pm, Mic Diaz Presents Jam Sessions Live at the Noypitz Bar and Grill, in Little Tokyo, L.A. It’s a fundraiser, according to Mic, in collaboration with the FACC Hollywood in support of the artist community. To be featured are FilAm Pop R&B artist Garth Garcia, San Diego rapper Marlon D, LA-based band Xella, and singer/songwriter Juls King.

“There’ll be free ice cream and macaroons,” said Mic, “so come on down!”

“We’re so happy Mic has joined our chamber,” said Carmela Giliberto, president of FACC Tri-County. “Mic is an award-winning photographer, visual storyteller and entrepreneur. Her passions also include acrylic and watercolor painting. Her accomplishments include winning Seattle Visitor’s Guide/Seattle through the Lens photo contest, curating the Watercolor Retrospective Show at Berkeley City College, and showing her work at various exhibitions in the San Francisco Bay Area.”

In answer to someone’s question about her “challenges and lessons learned along the way… and whether it has been easy or smooth in retrospect,” Mic answered: “It has definitely not been a smooth road. Finding the right, appropriate and ample resources have always been challenging. I have also been a victim of cyberbullying recently, and I have been struggling with the residual effects of bullying. Finding allies and the right people to collaborate with whose goals are aligned to what we do and what we stand for is key.”

This is what matters most to the CEO and President of Formula M Creatives, Inc.

“Uplifting our community through performing and visual arts matters most to me. Oftentimes, the arts are overlooked in underrepresented communities, and in the same token there is a lack of representation of minorities in both performing and visual arts. The arts, whether we know of it consciously or not, are what keep us alive. After a long day of work and dealing with the challenges of our daily lives, we listen to music, watch movies, sing, dance, and find ways to unleash our creativity. We bond over watching our favorite shows and our favorite music with our family and friends. The arts connect us to our friends, family and other people and they help us sustain our lives.