The National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) is a private, non-profit, non-partisan tax-exempt organization established in 1997 to promote the active participation of Filipino Americans in civic and national affairs. NaFFAA is composed of 12 regions with a national office in Washington, D.C. that monitors legislation and public policy issues affecting Filipino Americans. NaFFAA partners with local affiliate organizations and national coalitions in advocating for issues of common concern.The National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) is a private, non-profit, non-partisan tax-exempt organization established in 1997 to promote the active participation of Filipino Americans in civic and national affairs. NaFFAA is composed of 12 regions with a national office in Washington, D.C. that monitors legislation and public policy issues affecting Filipino Americans. NaFFAA partners with local affiliate organizations and national coalitions in advocating for issues of common concern.
NaFFAA National Office1322 18th St NW, Washington DC 20036-1803
The State of NaFFAAJon Melegrito, National Communications Director November 11, 2010.
NaFFAA was born out of a need for the Filipino American community to take its place in the American mainstream and participate in decisions affecting its interest. There was a need to harmonize the diverse voices of our community into one clear, powerful voice that could be heard by government, business, media and the American public.
When NaFFAA was formed in the 1997 Empowerment Conference in Washington DC, the nearly 3 million Filipinos and Filipino Americans did not have a visible presence in the national capital. An office was immediately established with an executive staff running the daily operations. Since then, NaFFAA has built strategic relations with policymakers on the federal level, including the U.S. Congress and the various agencies of the executive branch. As well, NaFFAA has forged partnerships and alliances with coalition partners in the civil rights community to promote their collective interests, particularly on such issues as immigration, voting rights, discrimination and racial stereotyping in the media, and equal opportunity in education. The national office has also coordinated and guided the local work of its 12 geographic regions by institutionalizing regional conferences and other events. National empowerment conferences, now held every two years, provide opportunities for assessing the organization’s programs and structure and charting NaFFAA’s future directions. In its 13 years of existence, NaFFAA has continued to promote its empowerment agenda through advocacy, coalition building, voter education and civic participation.
• Filipino Veterans
It took more than two decades of lobbying and grassroots organizing, but Filipino World War II veterans finally won a measure of justice. The February 2009 passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act marked a historic milestone for our veterans as the U.S. government finally recognized their service and provided payments for them: $15,000 to veterans residing in the US and $9,000 to those in the Philippines. Although full equity was not achieved, the campaign for justice provides rich lessons in political and legislative engagement and grassroots mobilization.
“Equity Now!” was NaFFAA’s battle cry at its founding in 1997. To secure passage, NaFFAA worked closely with friends and allies in the U.S. Congress and the civil rights community. In 2006, NaFFAA and the Philippine Embassy made a concerted push to get the equity bill passed, taking advantage of favourable political conditions in Washington. A summit of all veterans and community support groups was convened, which led to the formation of the National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity. With financial resources and a professional lobbying team. NAFVE took the lead in coordinating a national campaign that culminated in the bill’s passage.
Through NAFVE’s steering committee (led by National Coordinator Ben de Guzman and co-chairs Lillian Galedo and Jon Melegrito), NaFFAA continues to engage the US Department of Veterans Affairs during the implementation phase of the Filipino World War II Veterans Equity Compensation Fund (FVEC), holding direct conversations with policymakers at the highest levels and bringing to them the needs and concerns of our veterans. In addition, NAFVE has released fact sheets and benefits information from the VA, making the latest documents available online in an effort to bring transparency to the process.
Moreover, as a Commissioner on President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islander, NaFFAA National Vice Chair Rozita Lee has been working with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to make Filipino WWII veterans and other civil rights-related issues, priority items for their work.
• Immigration Reform/Family Reunification
We continue to monitor the Filipino American World War II Veterans Family Reunification Bill, which will allow our veterans to petition their adult children in an expedited manner. Despite flagging hopes for movement on immigration legislation this session, advocates were encouraged to learn that this important bill was included in S. 3932, the most recent comprehensive immigration reform legislation introduced by Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ). This bill continues to be on the radar screen of the Congress and we look forward to continuing the dialogue on this important topic for our veterans, and also for the entire community.
• Our coalition efforts with the National Council on Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), with Ben de Guzman representing NaFFAA, have enabled us to be “at the table” and address issues of common concern, such as the comprehensive immigration reform bill and the DREAM Act.
• NaFFAA supported a joint effort by NAFVE, the Filipino American National Historical Society (FAHNS) and KAYA: Filipino Americans for Progress to work with both houses of the U.S. Congress to reaffirm October as Filipino American History Month. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid passed Senate Resolution 669, which officially recognizes this month as Filipino American History Month. Working with the community, the Congressional U.S. Philippine Friendship Caucus Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA) issued a floor statement reminding his fellow Congressmembers that the House Resolution 780 officially recognizes Filipino American History Month in October.
• In 2009, NaFFAA re-joined the Greenlining Coalition, an alliance of over 50 mainstream organizations committed to community development. One program, co-sponsored by Mabuhay Alliance and NaFFAA Region 8 led by Joe Pecho, is foreclosure prevention training, which provided information on how to avail of Community Reinvestment Act funds.
• APA Media Coalition: National Vice Chair represents NaFFAA in this coalition that monitors the national media’s commitment to diversity. As part of our media education work, we respond with strong statements denouncing discrimination and racial stereotyping, such as ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” episode and boxing celebrity Mayweather’s racist comments against boxing champion Manny Pacquiao.
• U.S. Census
Through the active participation of its regions and in coalition with other APA organizations, NaFFAA mobilized community organizations to encourage Filipinos and Filipino Americans to be counted. Among those leading the effort include former Southern Region Chair Joy Bruce in Florida, former Southern California Region Chair JoAnn Fields in San Diego, Region I Chair Roger Alama in New York, and National Vice Chair Rozita Lee in Nevada.
• Voter Education and Get-Out-the-Vote
At a national summit in Las Vegas in 2006, NaFFAA resolved to make voter education, voter registration and get-out-the-vote top priorities in our community life. NaFFAA affiliates in several NaFFAA regions have since adopted FilVote programs to educate voters on issues critical to the community, evaluate candidates’ position on the issues, and subsequently increase the number of registered voters and the rate of voters going to the polls. This non-partisan voter project was originally headed by Gloria T. Caoile and Perry Diaz. It is currently led by NaFFAA leaders Merit Salud of New York (Region 1) and Emraida Kiram of Wisconsin (Region 3).
• NaFFAA continues to work with other organizations to help extend assistance to distressed Filipino nationals in the U.S. and to disaster and calamity victims in the U.S. and the Philippines.
• NaFFAA advocated for the more practical implementation of the Philippines’ dual citizenship act and, through its successful class action suit in the Philippines Supreme Court, ensured overseas absentee voting rights for dual citizens.
Flames of ConsciousnessFROM THE NAFFAA.ORG EVOLUTIONARY FILES, 2006:
The National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) is recognized by Washington policy-makers, private industry and national advocacy groups as the Voice of Filipinos and Filipino Americans throughout the United States. It is a non-partisan, non-profit national affiliation of more than five hundred Filipino-American institutions and umbrella organizations. Its twelve regions cover the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the Marianas.History of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations.
NaFFAA was born out of a meeting between West Coast and East Coast Fil-Am leaders in New York in 1997. The then Philippine News Publisher Alex A. Esclamado, TLC Beatrice CEO & President Loida Nicolas Lewis, nationally-acclaimed Guitarist Michael Dadap, and San Francisco State College Board President Rodel Rodis were talking over dinner about how to unite the 3,000 Filipino American organizations all over the country. The four decided it was time to convene a national conference and forge a common agenda for empowerment and Mr. Esclamado volunteered to lead the effort. On August 1997, over 1,000 delegates representing various Filipino American organizations across the United States held the first National Filipino American Empowerment Conference in Washington, D.C.
Spurred by the conference theme “Panahon Na!”, Filipino American community and youth leaders, seniors, veterans, civil rights activists, and Filipino American elected and appointed officials, addressed four major issues: immigration, affirmative action, welfare reform, and equity for Filipino World War II Veterans. To dramatize the urgency particularly of the last issue, delegates marched to the White House on the first day of the conference, led by hundreds of uniformed Filipino veterans, to demand “equity now.” For the first time, the veterans issue became a national campaign for justice.
At the 2nd empowerment conference held at the Marriott Wardman Hotel in Washington, D.C. on October 16-18, 1998, delegates unanimously ratified NaFFAA’s Constitution & By Laws, formalizing in effect NaFFAA’s organizational structure. Elected to lead the federation for a 4-year term were Alex A. Esclamado, National Chair; Gloria T. Caoile, National Vice Chair; Klaus Buntua, Treasurer; Rodney Salinas, National Youth Director. Greg Macabenta was appointed Public Relations Officer while Jon Melegrito was re-appointed National Executive Director. NaFFAA’s national board, which includes representatives from ten regions, was also formed as the organization’s highest decision-making body.
NaFFAA convened its Third National Convention at the New York City Hilton & Towers on October 15-17, 1999. Hosted by the Eastern Region and chaired by Loida Nicolas Lewis, the convention’s theme “Filipino Americans Leading the Way to the Millennium” affirmed NaFFAA’s vision of establishing a solid and powerful presence of Filipino Americans in the United States. Its keynote speaker is no other than First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. NaFFAA National Chairman Alex A. Esclamado summed up the First Lady’s appearance on a historical note. “Hillary Rodham Clinton becomes the first White House resident to honour the Filipino American community with her appearance as Keynote Speaker at a public function in the entire 412 years of presence of the Filipino in America. As a community, we have finally earned a seat at the table of power. The recognition given us by the First Lady should propel NaFFAA to greater heights in its struggle for national unification and empowerment of Filipino Americans in all facets of American society.”
NaFFAA moved its agenda of empowerment forward when it held the Fourth National Convention at the Bally’s Hotel in Las Vegas on September 28 – October 1, 2000. Hosted by the Southern California/ Las Vegas Region and chaired by Rozita Lee, the convention’s theme “Making Our Power Count” affirms NaFFAA’s vision of establishing a solid and powerful presence of Filipino Americans in the United States. After the Las Vegas conference, Jose Montano, Jr. became the Executive Director. The Las Vegas event was followed by the Fifth National Empowerment Congress in San Jose, California from August 28-September 1 which was chaired by Ben Menor and had as its theme “Forging a National Consciousness as a Filipino Community in America”. During that “Y2K2 Conference”, Loida Nicolas Lewis was elected to lead the Federation as the National Chair, with Greg Macabenta as National Vice Chair, and Liz de Guzman as National Youth Chair. A revised Bylaws was adopted and the regions were reorganized. The 6th Empowerment Conference in Chicago led to a further refinement in the bylaws as well as an amendment to the constitution to further define membership and youth participation in NaFFAA. Hosted by Ed Navarra, Midwest region chair and organized by the Chicago community led by Thelma Fuentes, Jerry Clarito and Yoly Tubalinal, the September 10-12 conference lived up to its theme of “Bridging the Fil-Am Community”.
Aware that the Fil-Am community is only a part of the Filipino diaspora, NaFFAA also convened a series of networking conventions to bring the global community together. The 1st Global Filipino Networking Convention was held in San Francisco immediately after the “Y2K2 Conference” in 2002 and was mostly attended by Fil-Ams. The 2nd global convention in Manila in December 2003 started to bring in delegates from other countries. The 3rd global convention was held in Cebu in January 2005 and was truly a global conference in terms of attendance. Issues of importance to Filipino immigrants and OFWs were discussed.
NaFFAA has grown into what it is today – an organization that is recognized by Washington policy-makers, private industry and national advocacy groups as the Voice of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans throughout the United States. It is a non-partisan, non-profit national affiliation of more than five hundred Filipino-American institutions and umbrella organizations. Its twelve regions cover the continental United States, Hawaii, Guam and the Marianas. Its mission is to promote the welfare and well-being of all Filipinos and Filipino Americans throughout the United States by fostering unity and empowerment.
National Office and Leaders: NaFFAA’s national office is in Washington, D.C. Its main function is to monitor legislation and public policy issues affecting Filipino Americans and works in coalition with other national groups around common issues and concerns. In addition, the national office serves as a communications link between affiliate members as well as an information source on federal and legislative initiatives and policies relevant to Filipino-Americans. NaFFAA is governed through a Board with national, regional, and youth representations. The National Chair is Loida Nicolas Lewis and the founding National Chair is Alex Esclamado. The National Vice Chair is Greg Macabenta, the National Youth Chair is Dexter Ligot-Gordon, and the Chief Operating Officer and Chief of Staff is Armando “Doy” Heredia.
NaFFAA moves its agenda of unity through its National Empowerment Conferences every even year (the 7th one will be in Hawaii in September 2006) and through its Regional Conferences every odd year (regional conferences will be held in 2005). NaFFAA will continue to convene the Global Filipino Networking Convention (the 4th global convention will also be held in Hawaii in September 2006).