USA: ‘Outstanding’ awards provides a legacy of unbelievable gall

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By Dionesio C. Grava
First posted in

It used to be that an award was a universal badge of merit with a place of honor symbolizing supremacy in a given field. It used to be the milestone to indicate that a river is forged or that the firmament is breached and the hand extended to claim the nadir of excellence. The word ‘outstanding’ used to mean a conspicuous beacon on a hill admired by the rest of us mere mortals.

Not in Los Angeles it seems. The supposedly 100 Outstanding Filipino Americans in the USA (OFAUSA) were presented with finality Saturday evening and the initial feedback is that the names are not from the cream of the estimated four million or so Filipinos/Filipinas in this nation of achievers?

The field of outstanding Filipino Americans is rich and abundant for the picking. And so the question is asked whether or not California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye or former acting California Lt. Governor Mona F. Pasquil are in the list? How about former Senator John Ensign and Representatives Robert C. Scott and Steve Austria of the US Congress; Governor Benjamin Cayetano of Hawaii and Florence Ebersole Smith, recipient of the Medal of Freedom and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon. Lt. General Edward Soriano and Major Generals Eldon Regua, John R. D’Araujo Jr. and Antonio Taguba had long broken the glass ceiling in the US Armed Forces with their star ranks. How about them?

The list goes on: Jess Española, Nelson Bohol, Francis Barrios, Ruben Aquino and Gini Cruz are among the best in animations. So do in TV and film are celebrities Dean Devlin, Lou Diamond Philips, Vanessa Hudgens, Denise Dador and David Maquiling. Also in the entertainment field are Charmain Clamor, Becca Godinez, Florante, Apl. de. Ap, Bernardo Bernardo, Joe Bataan, Jun Polistico and dozen others. Miss US International 2009 is Aileen Yap and Jennifer Rosales is golf champ, Natalie Coughlin is 11-time Olympic medalist, Ana “The Hurricane” Julaton is world female super bantamweight champ and there are other FilAm sports greats like Tim Tebow, Nonito Donaire, Brian Villoria, Benny Agbayani and Clay Rapada.

Monique Lhuillier, Oliver Tolentino, David Tupaz and Lou Razon are among the best in haute couture; Papo de Asis, Nelson Castillo and Mat Relox excels in paint artistry; Rex Navarette and Jo Koy in comedy; Alfredfo Alcala and the late Corky Trinidad in comic book arts. We have  superb authors like Cecilia Manguerra Brainard,Paulino Lim, Jr. and Ruben Nepales. How about dance artists Cheryl Burke and choreographer Cris Judd, historians Fred and Dorothy Cordova and Eloisa Borah; the many city mayors and state senators/representatives, judges and other public and community leaders in our midst like Linda Nietes and Joel Jacinto?

Unfortunately none of the above men and women achievers of Filipino ancestry are known to be in the so-called 100 Outstanding Filipino Americans in the USA where the main qualification is said to be the capability to raise at least $1100 each in order to obtain an award. A very few of them are said to have been included free to serve as crowd drawers, so to speak. As a matter of fact as of this writing, more than four months after the so-called ‘Distinguised Honorees’ of OFAUSA were initially presented in a hotel event, organizers still have not bared the names of awardees despite requests. Are they wary that the said awardees would be scrutinized and may be found wanting?

As earlier mentioned in the online edition of PinoyWatchdog the OFAUSA project director, Darna Umayam, claimed that the sponsoring organizations — the Philippine Press Photographers-USA (PPP-USA) and Philippine Children’s Charities, Inc.(PCCI) — had zero funds from the start thus raising eyebrows of how she managed to personally interview, as she insisted she did in amazingly short time, the nominees considering that they are supposed to be from different parts of the USA. She and her organization would have needed immense resources doing so in accordance with the nature of the undertaking.

She had not answered categorically questions of whether or not there was a committee of jurors and this writer is not aware of any public announcement or press releases about the supposed national search for nominees.

According to senior columnist Joel Bander PPP-USA has no legal status to raise funds while PCCI, the other half of the organizing team, is not even owned by any of the organizers but its non-profit status is being used in the project without the authority of its owner.

Such are among the infirmities of this undertaking that ABS-CBN Foundation International’s Bantay Bata, the original beneficiary, was prompted not to accept the offered donation. Top Foundation officials Robbie Fabian, Tina Palma and Gina Lopez also aborted an earlier decision to grace the event. Of course it would not be difficult to find other organizations hungry for funds. Money speaks.

Old wisdom teaches that would-be achievers need to have strong hearts in order to contain the courage and perseverance needed to achieve pre-eminence in chosen fields. Apparently in the case of the OFAUSA, money is the overriding factor. Call it chutzpah, Yiddish for unbelievable gall, sticking it in the eyes of those who will come after us. Our young will be inheriting rotten examples from our generation. Very depressing indeed considering that many of us thought we’ve rid ourselves of these corrupting influences when we left the Philippines.

OFAUSA organizers had brazen it out for an unwholesome motive and in the process corrupted the concept of awards giving. They could have called it Distinguished Philanthropists or any other title more apt to their fundraising scheme but no, they have to name it the 100 Outstanding Filipino Americans of USA to entice more of the award obsessed. Unless the community would react with collective indignation against this practice, any granting of symbols of excellence — at least as far as the LA area is concerned — is henceforth tarnished and the plaques best serve to cover holes in the wall.

PinoyWatchDog’s Expose’

  1. ABS-CBN signals a return to honesty, integrity and respectability in fund-raisings
  2. Darna Umayam bares some Fil-Am Awards rules
  3. Documents show Umayam took money from 2009 Independence Day earnings 
  4. Darna Umayam, do not invoke the name of God to make you look good and PinoyWatchDog bad
  5. The show will go on – Darna Umayam
  7. UST cannot certify Darna Umayam graduated Cum Laude
  8. ABS-CBN Foundation International President Robbie Fabian Says $7500 is All Umayam Required to Pay
  9. USA: ABS CBN Says Goodbye to Umayam’s 100 Outstanding Fil-Ams Awards
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