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COMMUNITY

updated on 09/07/2008
 

The Philippine Cultural Center of Virginia:

Yesterday a Dream, Now a Reality


By Balt Quinain, Jr.
BASTA PINOY NEWS

VIRGINIA BEACH CITY, Va. -- You've probably heard of the slogan: "Yes, the Filipino Can".   Better believe, it's true.

Almost thirty years ago, it was just a dream, a mere ambition. Today, the almost one million dollar building stands proudly at the heart of Virginia Beach.

Yes, we are referring to the Philippine Cultural Center of Virginia, a 14,000 square-foot edifice that has been an enormous source of pride and joy of the 45,000-strong Filipino community in the Hampton Roads area. This covers Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Hampton, Newport News and Williamsburg.
 
"This project has been made possible with Filipino blood, sweat and tears," said Dr. Manny Hipol, founder, first chairman and incumbent chairman of the Council of United Filipino Organization of Tidewater, an umbrella organization of Filipino groups that runs the cultural facility. "This center serves as a vehicle of unity among Americans of Filipino ancestry."
Photo: Dr. Hipol and Dr. Rose De Vera-Hipol.
 

Dr. Manny Hipol, Chairman of the Council of United Filipino Organzation of Tidewater, Virginia attributed the Philippine Cultural Center's success story to the unwavering support and cooperation of the Filipino community in and around Virginia Beach. He also acknowledged the center's current batch of officers who "unselfishly and tirelessly" devote their time and talent just so the center can operate.

"The sacrifice, hardwork, determination and the true labor love of our Filipino brothers and sisters to make this dream a reality is beyond measure."

"In a sense I try to provide the best service and I expect the same from businesses that I deal with, it makes you a kind of perfectionist."

With a keen business sense and foresight, Mr. Almeria diversified into property ownership and other specialized business.

Notable among them would include: as board chairman and past president of the American College of International Physicians, past president of the Hampton Roads Council of Veterans. He also used to head several Filipino organizations, physician groups and military clubs and local government boards. He also sit as board member of the Boy Scouts of America in Hampton Roads, American Red Cross, YMCA and the Association of Christians and Jews.
“...here at Virginia Beach, it is so common to see American-born Filipino children speak flawless Filipino, dance the Tinikling and sing the Lupang Hinirang" -- Dr. Manny Hipol. (Photo: Children singing the Philippine national anthem in Tagalog.)

His gameplan was to form a council composed of different Filipino organizations in Virginia Beach and neighboring localities. This council was to spearhead the cultural center concept.

"There is just no way this project would be able to take off without the active support and cooperation of every Filipino group and individual," he said.

Realizing the dream for a new cultural center into a reality was a slow, painstaking process. The Filipino community had to sponsor dozens of different of fundraising activites to raise the needed funds for the project. The land where the cultural center now stands has been very expensive and had to be acquired on a parcel-for-parcel basis.

So enormous was the funding requirement that the Council of United Filipino Organzation had to borrow money from a bank to augment whatever funding that has been raised for the project. There were 32 Filipino-American families that volunteered to guarantee the loan. It was Dr. Rose Devera-Hipol who initiated the formation of this panel of guarantors. This group eventually became the center's board of trustees.
The jewel of the Philippine Cultural Center of Virginia’s Library is an original copy of Dr. Jose P. Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere”.
1999 was the year everyone was waiting for. Groundbreaking for the construction of the close to $1 million cultural center took place on September of that year. Fast forward to six months and the facility was completed.

Since then, the cultural center has always been the venue of choice for the holding of different Filipino festivals, beauty and
Meticulously decorated lobby greet visitors into its well-appointed and hospitable ambiance.
talent searches, various Filipino cultural and performing art workshps, health and wellness screenings and other Filipino events. Being a not-for-profit entity, the cultural center also opened its doors to other non-Filipino community activities in the Hampton Roads area which at present, earns an average of $11,000 a month.

The income, Hipol says, is being used to pay the center's loan.
A feeling of grandeur and royalty of the delicately arranged Grand Ballroom permeates its surroundings.

The remaining amount is being channeled to sustain the center's overhead expenses, finance
 
Filipino cultural programs and pay the salaries of two part-time employees who do the bulk of the workload at the center. The center also boasts a volunteer force of 25 people who take turns in maintaining the facility.
"That's why here at Virginia Beach, it is so common to see American-born Filipino children speak flawless Filipino, dance the Tinikling and sing the Lupang Hinirang," Hipol said.

So huge was the impact of the cultural center project that then President Joseph Estrada gave Hipol the 2000 Presidential Golden Heart Award for Exceptional Community Service. Prior to that, Hipol also clinched one of the spots of the 1993 Twenty Most Outstanding Filipino-Americans in the United States.

Hipol also attributed the center's success story to the unwavering support and cooperation of the Filipino community in and around Virginia Beach.

He also acknowledged the center's current batch of officers who "unselfishly and tirelessly" devote their time and talent just so the center can operate. Besides Hipol who is currently chairman, the other officers include: Venus Tomaneng, vice chairman; Ruby Papa, secretary to the board; George Daria, executive president; Nita Cacanindin, executive first vice-president; Bellie Guerrero, executive second vice-president; Lita Sison, secretary to the executive board; Rosa Blanco, treasurer; Nellie Dabu, assistant treasurer and Pete Arreza, the center's building manager. The center's board of directors and board of trustees are composed of leaders of different Filipino organizations in the area. Some 15 standing committees also help the center carry out its various projects and programs. (BASTA PINOY NEWS / Balt Quinain, Jr.)
 
 
 
 
 
 
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