Consul Gen exhorts Berkeley Fil-Ams: ‘Don’t be a closet Filipino’


By Jun Nucum

The Philippine American Alliance (PAA) of University of California in Berkeley held it’s general assembly with no less than Philippine Consul-General to San Francisco Henry Bensurto Jr. as its main speaker to pave the way into building a strong cooperative relationship between the Philippine Consulate and the Filipino-American millenials and also to provide an opportunity for the consulate to reach out to the leaders of the future.

“I am very happy and grateful that we were able to engage in a direct way and reach out to the second, third generations of Filipino-Americans, the so-called millenials because this is the generation of Fil-Ams that are particularly interested to make sure that we are able to get this generation understand, realize and connect with their heritage as Filipinos,” Bensurto exclaimed.

“There is a sense of urgency in terms of reaching out to this generation because if we do not reach out, there is a possibility that we may lose them. So we have to be very active in terms of reaching out. University of California Berkeley is one of the finest universities in the whole country and so the Fil-Am students here are future leaders. It is very much ripe to reach out and engage with them.”

Bensurto expressed that they want to spark that Filipino spirit in terms of the university students and hopefully by sparking that spirit then Filipino students will no longer be embarrassed but rather appreciate the uniqueness of their Filipino character.

“Through that realization, we were hoping that they would be more empowered and be connected to larger community,” Bensurto anticipates. “I saw the enthusiasm of the university students, the interest and curiosity. I think that is a very good indication in terms of the students’ search of their identity in terms of widening and enriching their personality and character through the realization of certain concepts being related to them being Filipinos.

Assembly organizer Trisha Bantigue added that the gathering was one of the big first steps into having Filipino American millenials in UC Berkeley connect with the Consulate to know more about their heritage and also engaging the Consul-General with our students to know how the Consulate and the students can help each other.

“My aim in having this is fostering a stronger PAA UC Berkeley relationship foundation that aligns with the Consulate’s goals into sparking, connecting, and empowering the Filipino millenials throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. We succeeded on that and we are still continuously working for it. Seeing all the students that came out tonight when they did not need to because they were interested and passionate about the Filipino heritage is encouraging and gratifying. They also want to know what the Consul-General has to say, just as the Consul-General also wants to hear from the students.”

Still, Bantigue maintains that they still have a lot of work to do in making sure that the Filipino heritage is not lost among generations here in the US.

“We want to make sure that in the years to come, Filipino millenials now 20 or 30 years later will still identify as Filipinos and pass on our heritage to our children and grandchildren to keep this the Filipino diaspora alive here in the US. The best way to find out and conquer your identity and heritage search is to be able to connect with other Filipinos that are feeling the same way and through collective action as a group and community then something can be done then change can be enacted,” Bantigue stresses.

Bensurto also took the opportunity to tell the university second third and fourth generation Filipino-Americans that they should be proud of our heritage as Filipinos.

“Do not be a closet Filipino.There is nothing embarrassing on how you look, think and deal with people as a Filipino. Use that knowledge and realization of a Filipino as an upside, as a positive thing, something that will help you to be more positive in your engagements to your community, family and to your country. And we feel that it is only true that in realization of that Filipino character and spirit that one gets to be empowered as a individual and collectively as a community. That is also one way for them to give back to the country where their parents come from,” exhorts Bensurto.

Among those discussed by the assembly with the Consulate officials are the steps to become a dual citizen and its benefits.

Deputy ConGen Jaime Ramon Ascalon explained one is a dual citizen by birth if one was born after 1973 and still had a least one parent who is a Filipino citizen. If that is the case, one needs only to report the birth to the Philippine Consulate and can readily apply for a Philippine passport.

“The benefits of being a dual citizen include voting during Philippine elections through overseas voting, no limits in ownership of properties including business, being allowed to stay in the Philippines for more than a year, and that holders of Philippine passports are allowed to visit some Asean countries visa-free unlike for US. passport holder,” Ascalon enumerated.