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13 July 2015 – The 4th Filipino-American Youth Leadership Program (FYLPRO) drew to a close last Thursday after the delegates completed the action-filled eight-day program, which provided opportunities to engage with grassroots communities, meet high-level Philippine government officials and change makers, and learn about issues affecting the Philippines.

The ten next-generation Filipino-American leaders who participated in the program will be returning to the United States with a deeper understanding of their Filipino heritage and the issues that affect the Philippines and its people.

In his remarks, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. reminded the delegates that the insights they gained from the FYLPRO experience are invaluable in working towards positive change.

“Working towards development and sustainable change requires an understanding of the history and culture of a place and its people, as well as of the issues affecting them. Knowledge of key players and a network of like-minded individuals and organizations are also necessary. I hope that your FYLPRO experience was able to provide you with knowledge and understanding of our multi-faceted country. I hope you use this knowledge to continue to be of service to Filipinos and the Filipino-American community,” said Ambassador Cuisia.

 

Delegates took to the stage to share what they had gained from their immersion experience.

Jennifer Coliflores, a lawyer from Boston, Massachusetts, shared, “The delegates here are from all over the United States. We did not know each other when we first arrived, we all come from various backgrounds – business owners, engineers, designers, holding political office in Hawaii, the public and private sector; but what we have, what we share is our pride in being Filipino. And that is one of the core values that FYLPRO leaves: Pride. We want to be able to explain this pride to our fellow Filipino Americans back in the United States. We want to tell them what our experiences are and will continue to be as FYLPRO alumni.”

Ambassador Cuisia challenged the delegates to use what they learned in FYLPRO to continue initiating change and working towards the development of their respective communities.

“As we close this year’s FYLPRO, it is time to reflect on what you have gained from this experience. Now is the time to harvest the seeds of knowledge and understanding that you have planted, and to ask yourselves—what now? You have a wealth of resources within reach. I hope that the distinguished and esteemed personalities you met during this trip will serve as inspiration.”

Stepping up to the envoy’s challenge, the youth leaders also shared ideas for legacy projects, which they will undertake upon their return to the US.

“After seeing all this and being part of this program, I don’t want to stay in the United States,” Lakhi Mangharam Siap, of Chicago, IL, declared.

“I want to make something here. I want to make something happen here to help uplift the Filipino community but also to be able to show Filipinos in the US, especially older generations who still believe that the Philippines is going down, that it’s the exact opposite. We want to show more Filipino-Americans that you can come back to the Philippines and create opportunities.”

He added, “This program has inspired me to focus on more collaboration and cooperation with the Filipino community here and coming back to the Philippines, to encourage more Filipino Americans to bring up the level of the Philippines.”

Previous FYLPRO alumni have initiated legacy projects aimed at serving and empowering the Filipino-American community. Some of these projects include Ambension Eri Silk Enterprise, Dual Citizenship Initiative, NextDayBetter, Panalo Solutions, Teach for the Philippines, and the 2014 Fil-Am Youth Summit in Hawaii.

 

Ambassador Cuisia urged the new FYLPRO Alumni to “use the network that you have created for your advocacies. Know that you have the continued support of the Philippine Embassy and Consulates General in the US, as we advance the interests of our kababayans.”

The 2015 FYLPRO is made possible with the invaluable partnership of the Ayala Foundation, Inc. and the generous support of corporate sponsors Ayala Corporation, Chevron Holdings, Chevron Philippines, Chevron Malampaya, Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines, Philamlife, PHINMA, Philippine Airlines, and SGV and Co. END

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