“For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” Luke 12:34
It’s been said that any American, or any non-Filipino for that matter, can easily understand or educate himself about the Filipino people (and in turn, be loved and trusted by the latter) if he learns and accepts what ingredients that make up his DNA as a Filipino. In my almost almost 40 years in America, I have concocted the Five F’s that make the Filipino-American a “true” Filipino: Family, Friends, Fiesta, Food and Faith. The first four are very tangible that are quite evident in all Filipino gatherings, from baptismal parties to funeral services. Culturally, families and friends always gather and food is always in the center table served in a fiesta-like environment as part of their tradition and religion generally speaking, as Catholics. About 85% of Filipinos are Christians and the vast majority of them are Catholics. The last one, Faith (religion) is neither as visible nor palatable as the others, and is the topic of today’s column.
With that as a background, it’s not surprising that the over 30,000 Filipino-Americans, in Orange County’s 34 cities, have banded together to practice their “Filipinoness” to be able to practice their culture and their Catholic faith. With a close-knit community and word-of-mouth marketing, these first generation families have successfully grown to a sizable group of 6 county-wide chapters with 27 geographical areas that eventually became what is now known as the Federation of Filipino Rosary Groups of Orange County (FFRG-OC) that was established as a non-profit religious organization twenty years ago. The 52 families that make up one area commit to host the statue Blessed Virgin Mary at least one week a year and the family promises to pray the rosary before her daily. At the end of that 7 day period , the host family prepares a simple dinner (sometimes elaborate one to celebrate an event in the host family) for all the area member-participants to enjoy that weekly prayer and ritual of transferring the Blessed Virgin Mary statue to another family.
A flashback of FFRG-OC history: In 1991, the initial group of devotees of the Blessed Virgin Mary numbers just a couple dozen families and became the first Orange County Chapter of the Federation of Filipino Rosary Groups-Los Angeles, under the directorship of Irene Alzate, who continues to be an active leader of the Federation to this date. In 1993, in just three short years, the chapter grew to about 19 areas, and the leaders have successfully convinced the “mother” federation in LA that Orange County can also become a viable, independent federation. This resulted into having its own legal corporate non-profit entity as F.F.R.G.-Orange County in April 1993. As the influx of Filipino immigrant and Catholic families into Orange County experienced dramatic growth, this social and religious group that honors the Blessed Virgin Mary in its center stage continued to grow in the last few decades that now consists over 1,300 families across Orange County. After Irene Alzate, FFRG has been guided by its unselfish volunteers and indefatigable presidents coming from different cities of Orange County, to wit: Art Diaz, Mel Gallardo, Joe Arevalo, Jorge Fuentes, Zita Sevilla, Elizer Ruiz, and Lino Aldana.
This year, FFRG celebrates its two decades of existence with a county wide celebration and yes, another “fiesta-atmosphere” aka weekend dinner-dance on Saturday, August 24, 2013 at the Crown Plaza Hotel and Resort in Garden Grove, California, just south of the “happiest place on earth”, known as Disneyland! The event is filled with some speeches or testimonials and especial presentations like the “cotillion” where the participant FFRG members have invested many precious hours just practicing their dance numbers for the audience to enjoy and remember. Furthermore, to raise funds to support some of their religious programs like their Annual Retreat, Rosary Rally or the Fiesta ni Maria and the Simbang Gabi during Christmas time, there will also be a silent auction of valuable donated items that any one can bid during the event. As this is the only major event of the Federation this year, the officers expect about 700 guests will join this 20th Anniversary celebration.
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A COMMENTARY AS A MEMBER OF FFRG: As a resident of Orange County for over 30 years myself, I have witnessed the metamorphosis of this religious group led by first generation Filipino Americans who are “gracefully” aging (like wine?) and have started new careers as “APOstolic” workers as they have become grandparents themselves. As a member in our own OC NorthWest area of FFRG, and active volunteer in my own parish Peace and Justice Ministry as well as the Diocesan Prison Detention Ministry, I personally commend the efforts, the energy and time of all the FFRG leaders and volunteers. These volunteers have unselfishly given their time and talents that contributed greatly to the enhancement of the spiritual life-quadrant of thousands of Filipino families. Due to the active affiliation of the different FFRG areas in their respective parishes, the presence of Filipino American Catholics has been felt and acknowledged by no less than the Orange County Bishop Tod Brown, especially when the federation has successfully raised funds of over $10,000 that was donated to the OC Diocese in conjunction with the historic purchase of the Crystal Cathedral that is now named as the future Christ Cathedral in the City of Garden Grove. The presence and significance of Fil-Am Catholics will continue to be recognized throughout the diocese because of the active participation of FFRG members in their local parishes in the practice of their faith.
However, FFRG’s continued life as a religious group is now faced with a perennial challenge how to involve or inspire the second or third generation of Filipinos Americans to be more involved and committed to participate actively. The vast majority of FFRG members are now in their 60’s or even older and in 20 years or so, the 1300 plus families who are committed doing the weekly Rosary Prayer groups will most likely decrease dramatically, and eventually the Federation may become distinct like the dinosaur, unless some miracles may happen soon. Sharing ideas with some FFRG leaders, I have learned that there are various factors why this predicament is happening and unfortunately there is no one practical solution to this problem to make the young Filipino Americans more involved.
As a parent myself to two American born children (and now with two very young granddaughters) I understand that the world of the second or third generation is now much different than our world as first degree immigrants. Their priorities and values (somewhat) are no longer the same. That being said, FFRG leadership must ask their children how FFRG can also contribute to their family life or spiritual life, if there is any, through formal or informal survey and from there, a more meaningful and relevant program can be created to match what they desire (if any). I still have great hope and faith that there will always be a residual, like the fine sand left in the river bed, that remains in the life of our children, values that were internalized in their formative lives since they were born and cradled in our own homes until they flew from the parental nests. The question, however, is: Can the first generation parents leave something to their children that they do not have in the first place? Only God and the person concerned would know the real answer!
Lastly, I must say that FFRG-OC is trying its best to accomplish its mission and objectives in the 4th quadrant of a good life according to the America’s guru, Steven R. Covey, in his best selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “to live a full and balanced life, we must consciously touch until it becomes a habit all the necessary QUADRANTS of a good life: PHYSICAL (to live), MENTAL (to learn) SOCIAL (to love) and SPIRITUAL (to leave a legacy).
With that, MABUHAY “ FFRG-ORANGE COUNTY!
P.S. For any other information that a reader wants to know about FFRG, he or she can contact Irene Alzate at 714 251 7638 or Lino Aldana at 949 877 3788.
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