A meeting with Mona Pasquil Rogers

It was inspiring when the Filipino American Council of Ventura County (FACVC) met with Mona Pasquil Rogers last Oct. 23, 2019 at the California State University – Channel Islands (CSUCI) in Camarillo, California. In the lunch hour meeting, the interchange among the FACVC association leaders were able to toot their accomplishments with Mona to show how the Filipino Community contributes to the US mainstream through their activities and projects. On her part, Mona related snippets of her service with the Federal and State of California showing how she, being in “positions of influence,” could help “open opportunities for Filipinos and other persons of color” so “we could prove our mettle in the service of US society” – and be proud as Filipino Americans.

Joseph and Carmen Tano, president and first lady of the Pangasinan Association of Ventura County, presented their solar projects in partnership with the City of Oxnard. “This was inspired,” said Carmen “when one time, we were driving, and we saw a woman waiting with her baby in a stroller at a bus stop. It was so dark, and we thought that it was not right at all for her standing there with her baby in the dark. We then ask the City how we can help through solar lighting of such dark spots.” The city management then directed them to channels that would help them realize their solarization project. Since then, the organization has facilitated the raising of funds to light up around five dark corners in Oxnard. It takes six to eight months for the association to raise funds to the completion of a project. Popularity beauty pageants are the biggest draw in these fundraisers. They are still in search of those dark spots, and their search has extended to the neighboring cities of Ventura and Camarillo, also of Ventura County.

For his part, Elpidio Bucao of the International Cultural Association of the chairperson of the PhilCenter of Ventura County recounted that “after nine years of relentless fundraising through sponsorship of Santa Cruzan, anniversaries, weddings, and the like, the Filipino Americans of the County now have a Philippine Center they could be proud of.” Bucao said that their organization was involved with the Gawad Kalinga and had a community built in the Philippines. “So, we concluded that if we could build a community in the Islands, why can’t we build or have a Center here.” The PhilCenter is continuing to raise funds through donations and investments for envisioned renovations for the building.”

Toto Legaspi, standing for President Edgar Boral, of the Visayan Association of Ventura County, reported that they continue with their annual Fishing Derby. “Raised funds,” he said, “are used for food shares with the homeless and scholarship programs.” The same sentiments were shared by La Union Vice-President Winston Raquedan, representing Estelita Monis, in terms of why they raise funds.

Sonia Armedilla and Charleen Morla, president and vice-president respectively of the Filipino Community of Ventura County, Inc. (FCVCI), emphatically reported that they are entering the 27th year of holding the Salute to the Graduates program to honor Filipino Americans who have finished their high school. “This program has not only saluted the graduates but has evolved deep friendships among the parents and the graduates, even marriages among the graduates,” said Armedilla, who herself is a product of the program. The FCVCI also collects at least a thousand coats for distribution to the homeless during the December cold season. They also have a feeding the veteran program to include mainstream Americans.

With regards, the veterans, Carmen Tano, who also owns a nursing facility, said that there should be more ways to monitor veterans in terms of their compliance with their medical needs. She laments the fact that “veterans should have better well-being, but, often, they choose not to take their medicines, spend their benefits early in the month, and to be needy for the rest of the month until their next benefits come.”

 Alvin Manzanilla of the Zambales Association of Ventura County espoused on their focus on service to providers. They help in coordination with them and the churches with regards to “troubled individuals who may be suffering from drug and other abusive situations. We help them find care, to be counseled, find jobs, and release back to serve the community.” 

 Grace Tuazon, Executive Director of the FACVC, was proud to present the officers of the Council to Rogers, emphasizing that each organization plays a role in making the community proud in this part of the US. She also pointed out that a book is being projected to be published to glean on the history of the FilAms in the county with a heavy emphasis on the personality profiles in the county. In an earlier note, she said that the book entitled Ventura County Filipino American Dynamixers, “is in line with my long-time dream of having the history of Filipino Americans in Ventura County be written. We Filipino Americans in Ventura do have a mark, a history to tell in the county. And who makes history but the people themselves. Though specific events and dates may not be mentioned in this book, those featured here as Dynamixers help depict how the community of Filipino Americans evolved as dynamic contributors to the American society with the spheres of Ventura County in California.”

Rogers, beaming and impressed with what she heard, said that she is very impressed with the apparent cohesiveness of the FilAms in the county, kidded that the spirit should be transported to other communities in the US where there are even warring organizations. 

On her part, apart from other snippets, she vividly recalled how, when she was working with former President Bill Clinton and was in a banquet, a member of the serving staff nudged her and said after asking her if she was Filipina, “We are very proud of you. Buti ka pa, you are among the cream with the President. We are always just behind the curtain.”

That statement lives with Rogers every day, and for that, she always strives to project her work to emphasize that she is a Filipina in a position of influence. One time, she paved the way for a Filipina nurse to sit in the state nursing commission. When California Lt. Governor John Garamendi teased her about it, she said, “Hello! Don’t you know that most nurses in US hospitals are Filipinos? And no one speaks on their behalf.” Rogers was then chief of staff of Garamendi.

Currently, Rogers serves as Senior Advisor for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.  In that capacity, she works with senior team members to build an efficient operation and incorporate succession planning.  Additionally, she works to create pathways for priority programs that may be challenged by processes, resources, or other external factors. Rogers is a veteran political advisor and strategist, having directed presidential, gubernatorial, and local campaigns across the nation.  Her work includes serving as political director for twice-elected California Governor Gray Davis.

Naming more of her accomplishments, Rogers emphasized that she roots her journey from her parents and manongs and manangs mentoring on Filipino values as weaved into the mainstream American mix. “We should never forget where we came from and be proud of our heritage.”

The lunch meeting was sponsored by the FilAm Student Association of the CSUCI led by Toni Galang. #nordis.net

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