WASHINGTON DC — With more than a thousand attendees, the 12th annual Migrant Heritage People’s Ball is one of the biggest of its kind in the East Coast.
The event was hosted by Balitang America’s very own news anchor, Gel Santos Relos.
The People’s Ball celebrates the 71st anniversary of Philippine-US relations, as well Philippine independence.
“This is one unity that we’re trying to achieve here, not only among the Filipino Americans, but also among all the immigrants here in the US,” said Gel. “Because after all, the US is a country built on immigrants.”
The People’s Ball also recognizes outstanding Filipino migrants in the US for their leadership, courage and volunteerism.
“Lahat tayo ay bayani na may kanya-kanyang role… kinikilala natin yung kanilang ginawa sa kanilang komunidad, halimbawa yung mga guro na biktima ng human and labor trafficking,” said Arnedo Valera from the Migrant Heritage Commission. “Na nagdemand ng justice, nag articulate ng kanilang rights at they achieved justice.”
Among them is Filipino teacher, Maria Filipina Factor-Ecleo – one of the victims of modern day slavery, who fought for their rights with the help of the Migrant Heritage Commission.
She received the most outstanding award for human rights.
“[This] inspires me to continue genuine service and advocacy in helping the less fortunate people, and also giving pride,” she said.
“Yung justice talaga nandiyaan, and with the presence of Migrant Heritage Commission, mas naaensure natin na talagang napapangalaagaan ang karapatan ng bawat migrant workers dito sa America,” said Romelita de Vera-Panga, who received the most outstanding migrant award for community service.
Philippine Embassy’s charge d’affaires Patrick Chuasoto received the “Kaakibat Award,” as a special partner to the Migrant Heritage Commission.
He is the highest ranking diplomat of the Philippines government in the US, until a new Philippine ambassador to the US is named.
“We may speak different languages, exercise different customs, and practice different faiths, but the fact remains that we are all Filipinos,” Chuasoto said. “One thing that we see with the commission, is that they’re able to bring together all of the migrants… you know, and provide some service to them.”
An 8-year-old Filipina’s heroism was acknowledged at the People’s Ball. Jenna Charlize Viloria received the “Everyday Hero Award” from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services Department in 2016.
Then a 7-year-old first grader, Jenna saved her father’s life by calling 9-1-1 emergency service, after her father Giovanni went into a diabetic shock at home.
“I feel really proud and I feel happy… I want to inspire [kids] to know their mom and dad’s number and their address,” she said.
Boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard was also given a lifetime achievement award, as International People’s ambassador of boxing.
The six time champion has a passion for funding research and awareness programs for diabetes and obesity, as well as other causes that benefit children.