NEW YORK – Growing up in America, many of these young Filipino-Americans knew their family came from a far-away land called the Philippines. For many of them, it’s 7,107 islands about 8,000 miles away and that’s about it.
But thanks to Philippine Ambassador to the US, Jose Cuisia Jr.’s advocacy to reach-out to the Fil-Am youth, a program called Filipino American Youth Leadership Program (FYL-Pro) is reconnecting a few outstanding young Fil-Ams with their Filipino roots.
Now on its third year, FYL-Pro is an immersive program where delegates get to visit the Philippines – all expenses paid – to meet the Philippine leaders from government and various sectors.
“We hope that by immersing them, they will reconnect with their country in their own personal way,” said Mario De Leon, NY Philippine Consul General, “and number two, they can use their knowledge, their skills, their education to give back.”
For Adette Contreras, after a life changing trip to the Philippines, she now vows to give back by painting a positive image of the Philippines through arts and tourism.
“I feel like I can recalibrate it even just a little bit and start with a core group of influencers that can then spread it out and start getting people excited to go to the Philippines,” said Contreras, a delegate for FLY-Pro.
For Fulbright Scholar to the Philippines Attorney Chris Laping, his new mission now is to help OFW’s who are victims of labor and human trafficking.
“My application is to do public interest work, legal work with the Filipino community in Southern California, to help labor trafficking victims in the Filipino community,” said Laping.
For Next Day Better Chief builder and founder, Ryan Letada, FYL-Pro’s Immersion PH is the first step towards understanding his roots.
“The biggest take away about immersing yourself is beginning a conversation with Filipino in the Philippines to understand what the problems are, what are important to them,” said Letada, “in turn, begin to understand what are your skills and talents that you could give to collaborate with Filipinos on the ground. The biggest thing is that the Philippines could actually solve their own problems.”
Letada says Filipino-Americans like their outstanding group are just there to help to amplify some possible solutions and help the Philippines get there faster.