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Largest Federation of Filipino American Organizations Holds 13th Biennial Empowerment Conference in Los Angeles

NaFFAA’s National Empowerment Conference (NEC) three-day summit featured programs highlighting NaFFAA’s pillars of leadership development, civic engagement, and advocacy

Carson, CA(August 31, 2019)  – Over 500 delegates from all over the United States participated at NaFFAA’s 13th National Empowerment Conference at the Carson Community Center in California last August 15-17, 2019. 

The National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) gathered a multigenerational coalition of Filipino advocates and leaders from across the nation for a conference emphasizing community empowerment and engagement. This year’s conference theme “Make It Count: Transforming Mindsets for 2020 and Beyond,” shined a light on NaFFAA’s concerted efforts to mobilize the over 4 million Filipinos in the United States ahead of the 2020 Census and Presidential and Congressional elections. 

Empowered Filipino American leaders in government, business, education, the arts, and community advocacy took part in plenaries and workshops that covered timely topics in immigration, education reform, diabetes prevention, and intergenerational dialogues.

This NEC was hosted by NaFFAA’s Region 9 (Greater Los Angeles area), under the leadership of Region 9 Chairperson Noel Omega. Noel, his wife Mary Ann Omega and their team led the days’ activities which included a ceremonial wreath laying at the Jose Rizal Statue on the lawn of the Carson Community Center. 

The NEC kicked off on Thursday with the Leadership Institute of NaFFAA’s premier youth development  program, Empowering Pilipino Youth through Collaboration (EPYC). The institute provided youth leaders the opportunity to discuss issues of leadership and accountability, and ended with an interview and performance from popular Filipino recording artist Iñigo Pascual, sponsored by ABS-CBN/TFCU. 

This was followed by a lunch panel on Filipino Americans in entertainment featuring moderator Meriden Villanueva, of FilAm Creative, and panelists Jandiz Estrada Cardoso (Senior Director) and Grace Moss (Director), both from NBC Entertainment’s Talent Development & Inclusion team. 

The day ended with a special benefit screening of independent film Yellow Rose, presented by the Foundation. Directed by Filipina American Director Diane Paragas, and starring Broadway icons Eva Noblezada and Lea Salonga, Yellow Rose is a timely reflection on immigration policy in America, and the concept of home, family, and identity. Prior to the screening,, celebrated rapper and member of the Black Eyed Peas, was honored with NaFFAA’s highest honor, the Trailblazer Award, for his work in community advocacy and excellence in the musical field. 

Friday’s program was devoted to civic engagement, with panels and workshops devoted to elected leaders, engagement, and the 2020 Census. The day opened with the Norman Y. Mineta Leadership Institute (NYMLI), sponsored by Asian Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote). The NYMLI provided participants with training on the foundations of non-partisan electoral campaigns, civic leadership skills, and strategies to effectively engage with AAPI communities. 

A Panel featuring appointed Filipino American officials was moderated by Los Angeles Board of Public Works Commissioner Jessica Caloza. Panelists included Faith Bautista, board member of the US Treasury’s CDFI Fund Community Advisory Board; Hon. Mark Pulido, Commissioner for the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission; Joselyn Geaga-Rosenthal, Commissioner for the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety; and Susana Reyes, Commissioner for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. 

The day also featured a “Meet the Funders: Fundraising 101,” workshop moderated by non-profit leader Yey Coronel. Panelists included Jenny Delwood (Liberty Hill Foundation), Stephanie Lomibao (Bank of America Foundation), and Vera de Vera (Weingart Foundation).

In the afternoon, Civic Leadership USA sponsored a panel featuring Filipino American elected officials, such as California State Assemblymember Rob Bonta; Cerritos, California Councilmember Mark Pulido; Sierra Madre, California Councilmember Rachelle Arizmendi; and Brunswick, Ohio, Mayor Ron Falconi. 

The day ended with a community reception in which the Alex Esclamado Award was given to organizations who honored the spirit of the late NaFFAA cofounder through outstanding community service. Awardees included Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project (FilVetREP), the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS), the Pilipino American Cultural Foundation (PACF) of Chicago, and the Seafood City Supermarket Group.

The conference’s closing day was dedicated to advocacy in the Filipino American community. The program featured workshops highlighting education advocacy, achieving whole health, diabetes awareness, and action planning for immigration. AARP sponsored a plenary session on AAPI advocacy featuring Denny Chan, an AARP AAPI Hero Awardee. NaFFAA National Chief of Staff April Siruno encouraged attendees to sign on to NaFFAA’s petition urging the Trump administration to rescind its decision to terminate the Filipino American World War II Veterans Parole Act.

Saturday evening was also the culmination of the entire conference, complete with a reception and gala featuring prominent elected officials, rousing entertainment, and impassioned remarks from NaFFAA leaders. The pre-gala reception featured remarks from California Congresswoman Judy Chu, Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC). “I hope that we can work together today, and for the next few years…to make sure Filipino Americans are represented at all levels of government,” said Congresswoman Chu. California State Assemblymember Steven Bradford (D-35) and Brunswick, Ohio Mayor Ron Falconi were also in attendance. 

At the Gala that followed, attendees were treated to rousing performances from outstanding vocalists Christine Love and Joshua Guerrero, and remarks from newly re-elected NaFFAA President and Chairman Brendan Flores. “I stand here ready to lead, to serve, and to inspire,” shared Chairman Flores. “And I hope that you all stand here ready to join me in this mission: to achieve our long term goal of increased Filipino American increased representation, influence, and empowerment.” Through a spirited and boisterous fundraising appeal to the attendees, NaFFAA leadership, led by Chairman Flores and newly appointed Executive Director, Carissa Villacorta, were able to raise a pledged amount of over $35,000 from the enthusiastic crowd.

NaFFAA’s 13th National Empowerment Conference was sponsored and supported by The City of Carson, CA, APIA Vote, ABS-CBN, AARP, the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation, Comcast/NBCUniversal, Verizon, AT&T, VistaLand, Civic Leadership USA, Teach for America, PrintHub USA, and SiguePay.  Community partners include Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS), Filipino American Service Group, Inc. (FASGI), Filipino Young Leaders Program (FYLPro), Mabuhay Foundation, Filipino International Aid, San Diego Asian Americans for Equality, US Census 2020, Bulosan Center, The Filipino Food Movement, Kalusugan Kalakasan, Northern California Pilipinx American Student Alliance (NCPASA), Pilipino Workers Center, Silk Road Productions, Carlos Bulosan Book Club, Fil-Am Vote, LEAD Filipino, National Filipino American Lawyers Association (NFALA), Revolution Financial Management, Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA), Filipino American Lawyers of San Diego, Federation of Philippine American Chambers of Commerce, Luib Health Center, Positively Filipino, Southern California Pilipinx American Student Alliance (SCPASA), SWC Pagkakaisa, and the Philippine American Press Club. 

For more information on the workshops, plenaries, and speakers, visit

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About NaFFAA

The National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization. Established in 1997, NaFFAA has beenpromoting the welfare and well-being of the 4 million Filipinos and Filipino Americans throughout the United States. NaFFAA’s vision is to serve as the voice of all Filipinos and Filipino Americans by uniting, engaging, and empowering diverse individuals and community organizations through leadership development, civic engagement, and national advocacy.