Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bayanihan's First Birthday

TODAY MARKS THE FIRST anniversary of the Bayanihan Filipino Community Center in Woodside, Queens near the 69th Street station of the 7 train. A project of the Philippine Forum (a community service organization founded ten years ago whose office had moved around different locations in New York City before settling down in Manilatown), BFCC is located around the corner of Krystal's Cafe where my wife buys our pan de sal, and its present location certainly helps bring in a lot of traffic. According to executive directors Robert Roy and Julia Camagong, the center is the new home of Filipinos in New York City, offering activities from weekend line-dancing classes to computer classes, as well as a banquet room available to rent for parties and group functions. The center is also the hub of activity for a number of other Filipino organizations and projects, including the domestic workers support group known as Kabalikat, the Filipino-American youth alliance Sandiwa, and another project known as YEHEY (Young Educators for the Health and Empowerment of the Youth) , which is sponsored by the Ford Foundation and meets here every Friday to conduct health education for the Filipino youth.

"Bayanihan Center will bring in a lot more foot traffic than our previous locations, simply because now we are in the heart of the community, when before we were in the periphery," Roy stated in last year's opening. Roy and Camagong have since turned the nonprofit organization to a full fledged protector of the rights and welfare of the Filipino immigrant community, beginning with the case of escaped Filipina domestic worker Elma Manliguez in Queens, who had been locked up and enslaved for two years by her employers, to the successful fight for the repatriation fees of alleged suicide victim Fely Garcia of the Bronx, to the campaign for justice of the Sentosa 27 nurses who were victimized by illegal recruiters based in Manila. Truly, the Philippine Forum offices have seen the stories of pain and suffering of Filipino immigrant workers through the years, among others. Since its opening, the center had been host to speakers like Edith Burgos, the mother of missing agriculturalist Jonas Burgos (believed to be abducted and tortured by the Philippine military because of his activism organizing peasants and farmers to fight for their rights) and leaders of the Pinay feminist group Gabriela. Bayanihan is a Tagalog word that means the spirit of working together for the common good of the community.

Above is the entrance to the community center, below are sights in the 69th Street-Roosevelt Avenue area: standby Hispanic day laborers (exploited and paid way below the minimum wage, they can use a community center of their own) waiting for their luck to be picked up by contractors or movers, and Johnny Air Cargo and Krystal's Cafe (BFCC is a short walk straight ahead on the sidewalk past the traffic cones).

Bayanihan Filipino Community Center, 40-21 69th Street, Woodside, Queens, New York 11373, phone unavailable, email philforum96@yahoo.com for space rentals.


  1. Hi Ramon,

    My name is Clair MacDougall. I am a student at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism and am currently covering the Filipino community in NYC. I recently stumbled across your blog when searching for the Bayanihan Filipino Community Centre.

    At the moment I am wandering around Woodside, making contacts and gathering sources. I noticed that you are a writer - is there much of a literary scene within the Filipino community in NYC?

    Any info would be greatly appreciated.


    1. Claire,

      There are many active Filipino writers in the New York City area. I have not been active since I joined the Federal government.
      You may Google them to find out more. Here are a few that come to mind and their affiliations:

      Eric Gamalinda-Columbia
      Gina Apostol-Fieldston School
      Luis Francia Jr.-Sarah Lawrence
      Jessica Hagedorn-LIU
      Lara Stapleton-BMCC
      Eileen Tabios
      Nerissa Balce-SUNY Stony Brook
      Fidelito Cortes
      Neferti Xina Tadiar-Barnard College (scholarly, non-literary)
      Sheila Coronel-Columbia (scholarly, non-literary)
      Bino Realuyo
      Patrick Rosal-Rutgers Camden

      Also try the Asian American Writers' Workshop for other leads.

      Good luck,