FAPCNY’s 10th Anniversary at the Kalayaan Hall at the Philippine Center | Photo by Lambert Parong/Kababayan Media
Magandang gabi sa inyong lahat, and welcome to the Philippine Center.
I apologize for not being there in person to celebrate this milestone with you but nevertheless, please allow me to first congratulate the Filipino-American Press Club of New York, under the current leadership of our good friend and media colleague Don Tagala, on the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the organization.
Tonight, we thank the members of the Fil-Am Press Club for being instruments of empowerment through information. You have played, and continue to play, a critical role in helping our kababayan decide on matters concerning their very lives, their communities, and their government.
While I now play the predominant role of leading the Filipino-American Community as your Consul General, I continue to identify myself as a journalist, having spent almost 20 years as one before joining the Foreign Service.
I started as a 16-year-old cub reporter for the newspaper, Ang Pahayagang Malaya, in the 1980s, and at that young age, I have learned the hard way just how effective our power to inform is when a few years later my reporting almost cost me my life during those dangerous times in the Philippines.
The part the press plays in maintaining a healthy democracy, through a free and informed society, could therefore be fraught with danger, and this is why journalism is not only considered a profession but a vocation – and this is the reason why the freedom of the press is constitutionally guaranteed.
Ever since it sat in the gallery as the Fourth Estate of the realm in 18th Century Europe – with the Nobility, the Clergy, and the Commons as the other three classes – the press has served as the voice of the people.
“From being ‘information-bearers, your vocation has inevitably led you to become bridge builders, watchdogs, and advocates for transparency, accountability, and good governance.”
In the United States, which is known as the global beacon of democracy, the Fourth Estate is placed alongside the three separate and equal branches of government to serve as another system of checks and balances against the exploitation or abuse of power.
Regardless of the variations, the press ultimately is depicted as the bridge between the government and the people.
This echoes the sentiment of our national hero, Jose Rizal, who, in his essay, The Philippines, A Century Hence, stated that “the free press will let the Government know the heartbeat of opinion.”
As members of the media, you are in touch with public opinion and it is your job to make sure that the sentiments of the people are conveyed to the powers that be.
From being “information-bearers,” your vocation has inevitably led you to become bridge builders, watchdogs, and advocates for transparency, accountability, and good governance.
As the Fil-Am Press Club of New York, you also have the distinct privilege of capturing human interest stories of our kababayan; of sharing their compelling personal journeys, which make us proud to be Filipino, and of serving as a unifying platform for bayanihan, in times of crisis.
As you continue to wield the power of the pen (or the keyboard, for that matter), let us not forget that this power comes with the corresponding imperative for integrity, impartiality, and accuracy.
The press will only be relevant for as long as it has the trust and confidence of the public.
I wish the Fil-Am Press Club of New York more success and look forward to carrying our partnership as we continue to connect and engage our kababayan in our part of the United States.
Congratulations and Mabuhay!
Remarks of the Consul General of the Philippines in New York, Elmer G. Cato, to members of the Filipino American Press Club during their organization’s 10th Anniversary on December 2, 2021. Vice Consul Tanya Faye Ramiro delivered the consul general’s message on his behalf.