The University of the Philippines Alumni Association of Wisconsin, Ltd. was founded by Roger Austria on February 3, 1974, when he met with twelve alumni at St. Eugene Church in Fox Point to ratify the Constitution & By-laws. Subsequently, the members of the Executive Board and its first set of officers were elected. The executive board in turn unanimously elected Roger Austria as Charter President.
The UPAA-W, launched its first project by sponsoring the first Filipino Food Booth at the Holiday Folk Fair in November 1974, the year the Philippines was the honored country. This was led by Violeta A. Singson, MD as we used their newly constructed house as headquarters in preparing and cooking foods served at the Folk Fair. Proceeds from the project were donated to the University of the Philippines to sponsor a professorial chair in the College of Liberal Arts.
The years following saw the Association devoting its efforts toward educating the community on Filipino Culture, usually in June in celebration of Philippine Independence. Through its Value Our Heritage (VOH) committee under the leadership of Asuncion Miteria Austria, PhD, the Association sponsored the first Santacruzan in Milwaukee on June 12, 1976, in which Filipino children participated in their colorful “sayas” imported from the Philippines. A month-long exhibit of art, artifacts, slides, and films, and dances was featured at the Milwaukee Public Museum. Exhibits were held showcasing Filipino Culture while native refreshments were served including the introduction of “salabat” (ginger tea) to Milwaukee.
Throughout the years, UPAA-W increased its activities in preserving our culture. For the first time in Wisconsin, formal classes for Filipino children, teaching them Philippine history, language, and culture were held by the VOH. The committee conducted workshops to provide a support system for Filipinos on such topics as Parenting in Modern America, Separation and Loss, and Changing Roles in the Family. Participants in these workshops discussed the unique problems of Filipinos characterized by cross-cultural orientations, in particular, the problems of Filipino children growing up in a rapidly changing society. A workshop on Racial Micro-Aggression was conducted in 2009 by Asuncion Miteria Austria which served as a forum for the discussion of perceived covert discrimination against people of color. UPAA-W was the first Filipino organization to sponsor a college scholarship fund for deserving high school graduates of Filipino descent and Wisconsin residents. It continues this endeavor every year by sponsoring two or more students. At the same time, scholarship funds have supported and continue to support students at the University of the Philippines who are academically deserving and financially in need of help.
The Emilio Regala Annual Memorial Golf Event, named in honor of a past president, has been held in the summer to foster camaraderie among the Filipino-American community and to raise funds for the scholarship program.
Each year since 1989 during Palm Sunday, Deanna R. Cruz coordinated the Association’s participation in St. Vincent de Paul’s Meal Program for the hungry, a community project made possible through funding by the Rotary Club of Milwaukee North Shore. In later years this project was moved to the St. John Cathedral’s Open Door Café. Additionally, UPAA-W members have been volunteering their time by helping the Open Door Café of St. John’s Cathedral in providing free meals to the disadvantaged people of Milwaukee. This project has been coordinated by Joselito Conti. Conti also led the successful fund-raising drive in which Michael C. Hey, a talented young pianist/organist performed pro bono for the benefit of the Association in 2012.
Subsequent years saw an increase in emphasis on fund-raising activities led by the efforts of Fe Quevedo Visaya, MD showing Filipino movies and the annual Laser Tag Adventure, a fun game for both children and adults, and Jose Abad Santos, MD running the successful bowling tournament in 2013.
All these projects including the numerous fund-raising events require an enormous amount of multimedia production. The artistic talent and technical expertise of our Gerry Ramos have been meeting the challenges. Jocelyn A. Ramos, on the other hand, an avowed advocate of Filipino culture and art, has exhibited difficult-to-find Filipino artifacts and the evolution of the Filipino Dress at various cultural exhibits including the Milwaukee Public Library, Milwaukee Public Museum, and at the Asian Moon Festival and at the recent VOH at the grand opening of our 40th-anniversary celebration.
This year, celebrating our 40th anniversary, the association awarded the Life Member Award to Violeta A. Singson, MD for her unselfish leadership and undying dedication to the mission of UPAA-W.
Over the past forty years, UPAA-W has experienced a gratifying record of growth, if not in numbers, certainly in the community involvement of our members.
True to the lyrics of U.P’s official song, U.P. Beloved, UPAA-W, members have not wavered in their love and loyalty to their alma mater. We are looking ahead to the next several decades with a sanguine outlook that we will even increase our commitment and enthusiasm in the service of our alma mater, our community, and our country. We have worked hard and will continue to work even harder to preserve our culture and keep our heritage alive.
“UPAA-W … 40 years of helping transform lives around us”