One Woman, 12 Women, and our Dependable Men

Community Opinion & Analysis Apr 8, 2011 at 3:17 pm

On the Making of the CASJ Leaders’ Gala

Mila Astorga-Garcia

We are still excited about the successful turnout of CASJ’s first Leaders’ Gala, held last Saturday, April 2 at Rembrandt Banquet Hall.

It is quite a challenging task to embark on such a big project with just two months preparation. Our vision was to have a formal ball, attended by about 250 dinner guests, who would listen to our speaker specially chosen for the occasion, the celebration of our 6th year of existence as an organization.

We had as our inspiration the annual Claro M. Recto Lecture Dinner of the 1960s in the Philippines, where people dressed up in finest barong and native Filipina dress, and after dinner, enjoyed listening to the featured speaker for the year: a distinguished nationalistic leader. The lectures were always an event to look forward to, and indeed they turned out to be real learning and inspiring experiences, coming from greatest leaders in the likes of the late senators and statesmen Jose W. Diokno and Lorenzo Tanada and economist Alejandro Lichauco.

What inspired CASJ to do a similar lecture series, was the interest of Filipino youth in knowing what true leadership means. In our conversations with some of them in the course of our research, we learned how much our young people wanted to know and learn from leaders they could consider as role models – leaders from whom they could learn what it takes to be successful in whatever fields they wanted to pursue in Canadian society.

And so the CASJ Leaders’ Speakers Series was conceived early this year, and it was planned to be launched at a Leaders’ Gala which would incorporate the uniquely Filipino cultural and social way of celebrating a big event: a formal dinner dance.

But how was CASJ to do this? Having devoted all its time to meetings, conferences, training seminars, community action, research and advocacy through all the years since its creation, and having its modest celebrations held at library basement halls, how could we ever hold a grand event and have people take interest in it?

There were other challenges: We did not have funds, so we were going to start from scratch. We did not have much time to prepare; we only had two months, based on our chosen speaker’s schedule, and the venue availability.

Still and all, our vision came through beautifully, thanks to one admirable woman, the Honourable Flor Marcelino, our guest speaker who spoke from the heart and inspired our guests, especially the youth, on what true leadership is. She emphasized that leadership matters when it is in the service of the people who don’t have a voice and who are marginalized.

Ever supportive of CASJ’s projects, she graciously accepted to be the first speaker of our Leaders’ Speaker Series, volunteering to pay for her travel and hotel expenses. She arrived in Toronto from Winnipeg that Saturday morning of the event, and flew back Sunday.

Women organizers of the CASJ Leaders’ Gala, with guest speaker Minister Flor Marcelino (6th from right). From left, Mila Astorga-Garcia, Cathy Carpio, Veronica Javier, Paulina Corpuz, Evelyn Pagkalinawan, Marcelino, Luz del Rosario, Helen Reyes, Lilac Cana, Mithi Esguerra and Marlene Mogado. Not in photo: Rose Tijam and Ethel Tungohan. See pages 12, 18, 21, 26. PHOTO: Jonathan Canchela

Also behind the success of the overall event were 12 women who worked tirelessly with a number of dependable men from CASJ’s Excutive Committee, Board and pool of volunteers, to comprise what is now called the Leaders’ Gala Organizing Committee.

I want to devote the rest of my column space to thank those women – all beautiful inside and out – with whom I had the honour to work toward the success of the event, for two months. These women are leaders in their own right, women of diverse ages and backgrounds, busy with their own respective community organizations, yet ready to assist CASJ’s big project for a good cause. The only common thing we had was our past and present involvement with CASJ, some as members of the Board, some as participants in CASJ’s activities at one time or another, and some as long-time volunteers.

It was amazing how we jelled right away, sharing our skills, expertise and resources, always with fun, laughter, good vibes and goodwill, whether through our e-mail network conversations, in our meetings at a university classroom, or over lunch or dinner in some restaurant. There were no prima donnas here. Each one treated each other with courtesy, compassion and respect. We chose the committees we wanted to work in – program, promotions, raffle prizes, ticket monitoring, venue liaison and event floor management. Everybody sold tickets, never mind if they were doing it for the first time. Their commitment was easy to notice: some women were emailing even from their sick beds to forward ideas to the group or update on tasks.

So pleased were our dependable men organizers with the way we women worked as a collective whole, that they practically supported all our wild ideas, as they attended to their own tasks.

Allow me then to thank the following, on behalf of CASJ:

Evelyn Pagkalinawan (PIDC officer) for taking the difficult task of ticket coordination and tracking, as well as the table arrangements;

Cathy Carpio (President, Filipino Migrant Workers Movement), for the production of the tickets, program and certificate of appreciation that came out like pieces of art work;

Lilac Cana (professional diva and CASJ Board Member) for taking responsibillity with the program, co-emceeing, and performing with her oustanding brand of professionalism;

Marlene Mogado, (Trustee, Markham Catholic School Board and CASJ Vice Chair) for suggesting and taking on the responsibility for seeking raffle donors and conducting the raffle draw;

Luz del Rosario (former trustee, Peel-Dufferin Catholic School Board, and officer of Culture Philippines of Ontario) for participating in the early planning of the event, program and helping with the raffle, and promoting the event with her west-end groups;

Joyce Corpuz (President, PATAC), for the valuable suggestions emailed to us from her hospital bed, and in taking charge of the technical aspects of our slides how and helping registration at the ticket table;

Veronica Javier (Masteral student at York University, and Singles for Christ leader) for taking on the promotion tasks so well on Facebook and other networks, for accepting the task of co-emcee, and playing a key role in the FYTIC research preparations; Mithi Esguerra (Ryerson University Social Work student and CASJ Board Member, and Migrante Youth leader)for all the hard work in updating our website and producing the powerpoint photo slideshow, despite being sick, performing with Lilac and Belinda, and playing a key role in the FYTIC research;

Ethel Tungohan (PhD student who also teaches at the University of Toronto, and member Kolektibo Kritikal) for promoting the event with her friends and colleagues, and for bringing in a van-load of guests;

Helen Reyes (CASJ Board Member) for her big help at the ticket table, and for donating big prizes for the raffle;

Rose Tijam (VP. PPCO and officer of UP Alumni Association) for announcing the event at UPAA and other networks, and for assisting at the ticket table and the raffle draw.

As for our dependable, CASJ ExeCom and Board volunteers, thank you Hermie Garcia (CASJ President, Publisher and Editor of the Philippine Reporter) and Ricky Esguerra (CASJ VP for Education) for being the faithful mainstays who did a lot of work in the Organizing Committee, aside from supporting all the ideas coming from the 12 women. From ticket sales, to inviting people, to promotions, to updating and producing the very impressive CASJ brochure, to handling collections and banking, to making memorable speeches… thank you; and thanks for seeking out sponsors, Hermie and Jojo Taduran (PPCO), that our funds raised have surpassed our expenses.

With our good ticket sales, and the generous response of our sponsors and donors, we have a good margin with which to start our youth projects.

Thanks as well to Jonathan Canchela (CASJ Board member) for being one of the volunteer photographers, Bert de Lara (Philippine Heritage Band, and CASJ Board member) for picking up the native snacks and bringing a tableful of PHB guests; Popoy Cana (CASJ Board) for inviting friends and family. And thanks Ben Corpuz (CASJ Chair) for picking up the ordered banner and doing the accounting and banking.

To our professional graphic designers who volunteered to design the Leaders’ Gala flyer, ticket, and programme, a big thanks to Divine Montesclaros and Lawrence Garcia.

To our other volunteer photographers, Norman Garcia and Dindo Orbeso, thank you. To Leslie Gesell for helping out in the research of archived CASJ photos, many thanks.

I may have missed on some names and other tasks you had done, still accept our thanks for them.

Most of all, thank you all for your sincere commitment to our cause, for the camaraderie, the good vibes, the friendship.