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A Practical Approach

In my personal journey to create a life of financial security and professional success, I followed a practical and lucrative path that my parents, who immigrated from the Philippines in the 1970s, strongly encouraged and expected. I went to medical school and became a psychiatrist. I pursued and accepted many different professional opportunities. I worked hard, earned good money, and raised two beautiful daughters. Yet, while doing all of this, I failed to consciously recognize and celebrate other key values of my immigrant parents and the cultural traditions of the Philippines.

I did not fully realize until recently how dedicated my parents were to treating other people as equals and fostering a community of compassion, mutual respect, and reciprocity. They did not encourage me explicitly to pursue a career based upon these “old world” cultural traditions. However, I now see how their unconscious transmission of these values has shaped my life choices, including the creation of Club HOPE.

In 1997, in Parma, Ohio, construction began on the Philippine-American Cultural and Civic Center, which sits on five-and-a-half acres of land near the corner of West Ridgewood Drive and Broadview Road. With this construction project, a long-standing dream and wish of many in the Filipino community in northeast Ohio finally became a reality. Many of my immediate family, extended family, and close family friends had been raising money for the Center for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I wondered if this Center would ever be constructed. At the time of its opening, I was 25 years old and finishing my first year of residency training at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland.

Fast forward 24 years. In May 2021, we held a college graduation party for my oldest daughter at the Cultural and Civic Center, and in June, we celebrated a Catholic Mass there for my parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary. My dad, who turned 77 last year, has overseen all of the landscaping for the Center over the last fifteen years and is one of the primary groundskeepers: he makes sure that the grass is cut, the weeds are pulled, and the flowers are planted, watered, and pruned in a way that maximizes the blossoming of color. My dad’s sister, who recently turned 81, is in charge of rentals at the facility. In fact, many dedicated members of the nonprofit organization known as the Philippine-American Society of Ohio (PASO) have kept the Center going for almost 25 years through their generous support, ensuring a gathering place not only for the Filipino community in Cleveland but for other groups and organizations as well.

I often think of the years, dollars, and sweat equity that have gone into the creation and upkeep of the Center. In many ways, this example of community and teamwork underlies my own wishes and dreams for Club HOPE. I dream of a physical space that is tranquil and surrounded by nature, a space that is safe and conveniently located, and a space that has enough room for a variety of activities and meetings. Most importantly, the space has to be welcoming--whomever steps into the place has to feel like they belong, as though they have arrived at home. Like the Filipino Cultural Center, Club HOPE must be more than a place. It must be a space that supports compassionate and healing human relationships.

"When a family was moving, the other townsfolk would volunteer by literally picking up and carrying the house (and its contents) to a new location. Filipinos no longer carry one another’s houses from one street to the next, but the bayanihan spirit remains."

Bayanihan Spirit: Belonging

There are deeply embedded core concepts and values that form the basis of Filipino culture. I remember learning about the concept of bayanihan (pronounced buy-uh-nee-hun) as a teenager. My parents taught me that the bayanihan spirit means “belonging to the same neighborhood or village, and working together for the good of everyone.” In the native Tagalog language of the Philippines (a.k.a., Filipino language), the word bayan means nation, town, or community. Bayanihan then means “being in a town (or nation)” and makes up a fundamental aspect of being Filipino: working together as a community to achieve common goals.

In pre-colonial days, Filipinos made houses from lightweight materials like bamboo, nipa grass, leaves, and wood. Houses were not cemented to the ground and the floor of the house was typically raised six feet above ground to protect against mud, floods, snakes, and other pests. When a family was moving, the other townsfolk would volunteer by literally picking up and carrying the house (and its contents) to a new location. Filipinos no longer carry one another’s houses from one street to the next, but the bayanihan spirit remains and has been enlarged to include local (and even international) civic efforts that help individuals, families, groups, and communities carry the financial and emotional weight of difficulty circumstances such as poverty, trauma, and chronic illness. For example, Filipinos in northeast Ohio have worked together for many decades to arrange annual medical missions to the Philippines, to raise money for hurricane and disaster relief, and to support educational endowments and scholarship programs for “the people back home.”

Club HOPE Unlimited is a 501c3 organization. Donations may be tax-exempt. Consult your tax professional.

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