Renewal and Retelling Narratives at UNIPRO Event
By: Amanda Andrei
At the heart of Renaissance is rebirth, resurgence, and retelling. Filipino and Filipino American community leaders emphasized this theme of renewal at UniPro’s second annual summit in New York City on June 2, encouraging over 200 young professionals and students to tell “the Pilipino story.”
And what exactly is “the Pilipino story”?
“It’s the untold story we don’t know about,” related Tony Olaes, USA Chairman for Gawad Kalinga, a community development organization in the Philippines that helps to alleviate poverty. His advice to young Filipinos trying to understand their identities is to live in the Philippines for a significant amount of time in order to absorb and understand the culture and society of their families. “We lose our greatest strength if we don’t go back to the motherland.”
Tony Meloto, the founder of Gawad Kalinga and the opening speaker of the ceremonies, spoke of the Philippines in the same vein of inspiration: “In the Renaissance, we should see the Philippines as the land of the rising Filipino, the Miracle of Asia.” Much of this can be attributed to the rich resources in the Philippines and the nation’s potential as an economic powerhouse in Southeast Asia. Meloto pulled various Philippine products out of his jacket pockets, including sunflower oil and chocolate. He noted the diversity and the diaspora of Filipinos across the globe, saying, “To be Filipino is not about color or distance, but about who loves our country.”
Gathered in the Langone Medical Center of New York University on an early Saturday morning, delegates from across the country (and several international visitors) chatted excitedly and networked with each other between speeches.
Other speakers of the opening ceremonies and main panel included Esperanza Garcia from Ecohope, Fr. Benigno P. Beltran from Mga Anak ni Inang Daigdig, Illac Diaz from MyShelter Foundation and 1 Liter of Light, Loida Nicolas Lewis from Pinoys for Good Governance, and author Ninotchka Rosca from AF3IRM.
After the morning events, participants had the opportunity to attend various workshop and panel sessions. Workshops featured one speaker, while panel sessions included four to five speakers, all in a highly interactive setting.
These small seminars focused broadly on the Renaissance as it pertained to Health and Medicine; Business and Entrepreneurship; Politics, Activism, and Civic Engagement; Education and Storytelling; and Arts and Entertainment.
Reflecting on this year’s summit, UniPro executive director Bryan Lozano found his highlight towards the end of the conference. “There was a moment before closing speaker, and there was so much energy in the room! People are so interested that even after eight hours, they’re willing to have dialogues and come up with ideas and talk to each other and find each other’s stories,” he related. “We wanted to create a space for people to be inspired—and to me, that clearly happened. That was my moment where I was inspired.”
Delegates took similar inspiration to heart, especially in helping to tell the Pilipino story. Ryann Tanap, a recent graduate of the College of William and Mary and a current Global Playground fellow, attended the summit last year.
This year, she brought several William and Mary students to learn more about their Filipino heritage and culture. Of the Pilipino story, Tanap acknowledged it as a personal journey of each individual, stating that her own story “is one that is defined by my acknowledgement and acceptance of my identity as an American and a Filipina. It is my duty to develop as a young Filipino American in order to give back to my community.”