It was as representative a cross-section of the Filipino community as I had ever seen at a protest rally. There were WW II veterans (some in wheelchairs), young school kids, college students, professionals, clerical employees, Republicans, Democrats, even press representatives from both ABS-CBN’s The Filipino Channel (TFC) and GMA’s Pinoy TV. Among the powerhouse attendees were Greg Macabenta of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), Dennis Normandy of the Filipino American Political Action Committee (FAPAC), Marily Mondejar of the Filipino Women’s Network (FWN), Boots Chavez of the Philippine American Press Club (PAPC), and Baylan Megino of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS).
They were all there gathered in front of San Francisco’s City Hall on June 30, 2009, in magnificent solidarity with each other, to protest the exclusion of Filipino non-profits from the $9-M NOFA city fund for disadvantaged families and to specifically urge the City’s Board of Supervisors to include the West Bay Pilipino Multi-Service Center (West Bay) in their July 1 Board meeting to reconsider the funding for non-profits.
Five Filipino South of Market (SOMA) community non-profits led by West Bay had collaborated to submit a $317,000 proposal for funding under this $9-M Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) fund from the City’s Department of Children, Youth and their Families (DCYF) budget for non-profit partners. When NOFA directors announced their recommendation of 23 non-profit community agencies, Rudy Asercion, Executive Director of West Bay, was shocked to learn that not one Filipino community agency was included in the NOFA list. Did “NOFA” mean “NO Filipinos Allowed”?
Rudy and leaders of the other Filipino non-profits issued a call for support from the Filipino community and the community responded with strategy meetings, online petitions, emails and phone calls directed to the Supervisors and to the Mayor.
In response to the public barrage of emails and phone calls, David Carrington Miree, Deputy Director of the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services (MONS), disputed the allegation that the Filipino community was not covered by the $9-M NOFA fund. Miree pointed to two agencies - of the 23 recommended for funding- which had included West Bay as a subcontractor. One of them, South of Market Child Care, Inc. (SMCC), had earmarked $60,000 of its funds to West Bay. After it received the funding recommendation, however, the SMCC director informed Rudy that because SMCC did not get the full funding it wanted, he would not disburse any funds to West Bay. The other agency, Asian Pacific Islander Family Resource Network, (APIFRN), designated $30,000 to serve Filipino families through West Bay, its subcontractor. But this small fund was further reduced to $17,000.
The Mayor’s deputy wanted the Filipino community to be satisfied with receiving just $17,000 out of $9-M? Don’t we pay taxes too?
That’s why the Filipino community solidarity rally was called for the day before the crucial Board vote. It was an unprecedented display of unity by all the various segments of the Filipino community. But would this be enough to convince South of Market District Supervisor Chris Daly to fund West Bay after he single-handedly caused West Bay to lose $487,000 in approved city funds in 2005?
Remember the old tale about the crabs who were working furiously to get out of the basket they were dumped into? Aren’t you worried, Supervisor Daly, that those crabs may get out of the basket? “Nah,” Boss Daly would likely snarl, “those are Filipino crabs! As soon as one of them is about to get out, the others will pull him down. It’s their nature.”
Sure enough, while the solidarity rally was about to take place outside City Hall, Roy Recio, a clerk in the SF Sheriff’s Department who reportedly got his job through Daly, was busy hacking away in his computer (at 2:47 p.m. while still at work) asking all the members of the Board of Supervisors, as “a San Francisco resident”, to ignore West Bay by claiming that “they do not represent the entire Filipino commu nity” and that “West bay has been ineffective in handling the growing and ever-changing needs of the community.” Especially after his patron Daly cut off its funds and caused the lay-off of 30 West Bay Filipino employees in 2005.
In his email to the Supervisors, Recio charged that “It is strikingly offensive and totally misleading for Mr. Rodis and Mr. Asercion to falsely claim that no Filipino service agency is being recognized for doing solid work in the community when there are many agencies meeting standard grant criteria, routinely meeting outcome goals and providing impactful and dignified services to the community at large.”
If Recio had bothered to read anything I wrote or what Rudy said, he would realize that all we charged was no Filipino non-profit was included among the 23 agencies approved for NOFA grant funds. Of course there are numerous Filipino agencies doing solid work in the community, but are any of them getting funded by NOFA?
Baylan Megino immediately responded to Recio’s email attack by telling th e recipients of Recio’s email that “this isn't about West Bay. It is about our community's ability to help its own with the resources we rightfully should have directly available to us.”
Recio responded to Baylan’s email by spending the first paragraph of his pithy reply bragging about his many personal accomplishments. “So, this is what I was doing in the last twelve years in the Filipino community mostly as a volunteer,” Recio wrote. “Where were you? I don't intend to sound craps, but until you approach me as an equal than (sic) we probably don't have much to talk about.”
Whether Recio’s email had anything to do with it is uncertain but the Supervisors did not reallocate NOFA funds to West Bay at their July 1 Board meeting. Perhaps Recio can add this “accomplishment” to his growing list.
NaFFAA national chair Greg Macabenta sent out a notice to all NaFFAA members and chapters throughout the US: "I urge all Filipino Americans to raise their voices so that those who cannot see us CAN HEAR, and let us be present at every important forum so those who do n ot hear us CAN SEE. And I urge every qualified Filipino American to VOTE so that those who can neither see US nor hear us can FEEL OUR POWER."