Fil-Am youth honored at 2017 Gawad Geny Lopez Jr. Bayaning Pilipino Awards
by Rommel Conclara, ABS-CBN News
DALY CITY, CA — The brand new office of The Filipino Channel in Daly City played host to the 2017 North America Gawad Geny Lopez Jr. Bayaning Pilipino Awards.
Two of the three individual youth finalists represented Canada, while the others came from the US.
31-year-old Brendan Flores of Jacksonville, Florida recently became the youngest national chairman for the National Federation of Filipino American Associations, or NAFFAA.
“My goal is really to bridge the generational gap,” Flores said. “When you think about the 4 million Filipino-Americans, think about the impact we can make if we all come together and unite, and really have a voice in the United States.”
Flores is the regional banking district manager and Vice President at Wells Fargo in Florida, while also having positions in other organizations and programs.
Flores plans to lead NAFFAA by encouraging more Filipino representation in government.
“We really are focused on three things: national advocacy, civic engagement, and leadership development,” he said. “So specifically right now with 2017 and 2018 elections, it’s really ensuring that Filipinos have a voice — by getting out there and voting and making sure we have people running for office.”
20-year-old Michael Bautista of Edmonton, Canada has combined his love for education with his dedication to volunteerism in a program called science fundamentals at the University of Alberta.
“We have over 3,000 kids that attend every year, and I manage a group of over 300 volunteers, and we have science experiments of course,” said Bautista, Science Fundamentals Co-Fund Dir. “We have tours to different laboratories. We have speakers from various university professors, just to encourage kids to really pursue science, and to really love learning.”
Bautista credits his Filipino culture to passion for advocacy and charitable acts.
“My parents have always encouraged me to be very selfless and very giving to other people, regardless of the limitations that I face. I just want to help people for the sake of helping people.”
17-year-old Loizza Aquino of Winnipeg, Canada created “Peace of Mind 204,” after four youth suicides were reported in a span of one month in 2015.
One of those deaths was her best friend.
Aquino’s youth-led non-profit organization aims to crush the stigma of mental health illness, by providing a welcoming space where people can be helped or educated on the issue.
“I do it for my best friend and his name is Miguel. He meant the world to me. He was like a second brother,” said Aquino. “So that’s my main motivation, but our other motivation is the support we’ve gotten. The government actually helps us and gave us money. So they’ve given us $11,000 so far, to hold our events. They’ve also helped us in getting connections and building programs within the province.”
Aquino says that suicide is not just an act that affects one person — it also damages the people around you.
“One life that is saved saves a hundred people from pain and that’s something I’ve been on that side, and I’ve been the person that’s hurting, and just knowing that we prevented that for so many people makes me feel amazing… and it’s something I wouldn’t trade the world for sure.”
Winners will be flown to the Philippines to attend the award ceremony during the country’s independence day — June 12th.