the bataan project.

March 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

On random Wednesday or Thursday nights, my mother’s house in New Jersey booms with the sounds of familiar voices, the smells of delicious Filipino dishes, and this indescribable, but truly palpable feeling of warmth. For as long as I can remember, mom has been hosting meetings for the Bataan Association, an organization of Filipino-Americans who emigrated from the historic province of Bataan to the Tri-State area. An academic would call them a diaspora community, a group of people from one land – now in another – keeping their ties alive in their new home.

I grew up calling these people, many of my mother’s closest friends and confidants, “tita” or “tito” — tagalog for “auntie” or “uncle.” Through the years, they have cared for me, showed me unconditional support and affection, and, without even realizing it, these amazing men and women have taught me so much about what it means to be Filipino, to be American, and to be a responsible citizen of this world.

Through action, my mother, titas, and titos showed me that true citizenship is not demonstrated simply by providing and caring for your family, working hard, abiding by law, paying taxes and voting. It’s not enough to just move along through life as if it were a self-containing bubble. You’ve got to utilize your powers, talents, abilities to affect change, to help those in need, to leave this world better than when you first came.

I have never been able to separate what I do in life from this responsibility. I yearn to be part of something larger than myself. That’s what the men and women of the Bataan Association and Foundation stand for. They instilled these values, this passion for contributing, in me. I want to help because, to them, helping has never been an option. It is necessity. It is duty.

I’m so proud to be part of the Bataan Association and Foundation, and I can’t wait to help realize the potential that this charity undoubtedly has to change lives in the Philippines. I want to start preparing the Foundation for success in applying for large grants. I want to visit the Bataan scholars we send to college and share their stories with our donors. I want to meet with the regional hospital administrators to assess any major needs. I want to host a yearly medical mission for primary and dental care. I want to create a memorial scholarship in the name of our late founder to send a student from Bataan to medical school.

There is so much we can do. It’s been a slow start, but I’m ready to give more. It’s overwhelming, and I hardly have the time now, but I can’t sit by with all of these ideas, and let the opportunity to do something — anything — slip by. I’ve got to act.

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