Loida Nicolas Lewis speaks before the Asia Society in New York City | Photo Asia Society
NEW YORK – Loida Nicolas Lewis, a community leader and philanthropist, recently launched a Filipino American National Finance Council (FANFC). The group comprises a cross-section of professionals that include several CEOs, corporate and community leaders, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, educators, and members of media to support federal and congressional candidates who will stand up for the Filipino American community as founding members.
Lewis noted in a statement: “Filipinos are the fastest-growing Asian American and Pacific Island (AAPI) group in America today. However, we are underrepresented in US politics. It’s time we changed this.”
She lamented that of the 4 million Filipinos in America, only 2 million are registered voters. Citing US Census Bureau 2016 data, she said that only 50% of those eligible voters went to the polls. “We hope that this Election 2020 will be different — that every eligible FilAm will go out and vote, because we can be the margin of victory for the candidates we choose to support,” Lewis said.
The FANFC started with 20 members who donated or raised $10,000 led by founding co-chairs Lewis, Rocio C. Nuyda, a former senior executive of a global finance firm, and Gloria T. Caoile, a former Commissioner to the White House Initiative on AAPIs under the Clinton administration. They raised $250,000 for the Biden-Harris Victory Fund. Over 200 Filipino Americans contributed an additional $25,000 for Biden-Harris, a grassroots movement led by national co-chairs Mark Pulido, a retired Mayor of Cerritos City, CA, and Melissa Ramoso, councilmember of Artesia City, CA. Lewis is also their national spokesperson.
While the immediate goal of FANFC is to raise funds from 2020 to 2024 elections for federal and congressional candidates who recognize the contributions of the FilAm community, their vision is to eventually increase the participation of Filipinos in America’s political scene.
Although Filipinos comprise the second-largest Asian American population, there are only 2 Filipino Americans — Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia and Rep. TJ Cox of California in US Congress. There are 4 Indian Americans, 3 Chinese/Taiwanese Americans, 1 Japanese American, 1 Vietnamese American, and 1 Korean American.
Time for Filipino Americans to take a seat at the table
“We need to make sure we have FilAm leaders at the table where policies are made, who understand the issues that affect our communities,” said Gloria T. Caoile, who served as executive director of the Asia Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA). It is the first national organization of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) workers and allies advancing worker, immigrant, and civil rights.
FANFC is actively engaged in supporting the Biden-Harris campaign and invited Dr. Jill Biden to a virtual meeting on October 2 when the community leaders launched the FANFC. In her remarks, Dr. Biden echoed her husband’s sentiments recognizing Filipino Americans as essential to nation-building.
“In one of our darkest times, this community is answering a call to service. You are reminding us that the heart of this nation still beats with kindness and courage. And you deserve a President who will work just as hard, care just as much, and fight by your side. Joe will be that President. Because he knows that our diversity is our strength. He understands that the story of America is one that we must tell together,” Dr. Biden said.
At the start of Filipino American History Month, former Vice President Joe Biden issued a statement honoring the “immense contributions that Filipino Americans make to our society. Whether fighting proudly in our armed services or fighting to advance social justice across the United States.” “Filipino Americans have enriched and strengthened every aspect of our country,” Biden said. “America has depended on the countless Filipino American essential frontline workers and caregivers. They have helped carry communities during the pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 205,000 people in the US and thrown the economy into turmoil.”
He emphasized the US is a nation that has always been renewed by immigration and fortified by our diversity. “As President, I will build on that proud American legacy, including by celebrating the history of the Filipino American community and expanding access to a future of opportunity for all,” said the former vice president.
A new level of bayanihan
“The Filipino American National Finance Council is a whole new level of bayanihan,” said Lewis. “We are putting our money where our mouth is.” She said they want to help rebuild the America “we love, where people are kind and compassionate to each other, where justice and truth are upheld, and dreams are allowed to flourish.”
Lewis noted that “we need to contribute and participate more in American politics if we want to have a say. She encouraged Filipino Americans, saying: “So let’s do our part, whether by early voting or going to the polls on Election Day — let’s get out the FilAm vote. Together, we can make America, America great again. We are the margin of victory!” — With Ricky Rillera