“Pahalagahan Ang Ating Lumipas”
The Value Our Heritage Committee (VOH) was established soon after the University of the Philippines Alumni Association of Wisconsin (UPAA-W) was founded in February, 1974, with a mission “to preserve our culture and keep our heritage alive.” In subsequent years, the Association devoted its efforts toward educating the community on Filipino culture through The Value Our Heritage Committee.
In June 1976, in cooperation with the Filipino American Association of Wisconsin and the Filipino American Medical Association, we sponsored month-long exhibits at the Milwaukee Public Museum and the Milwaukee Public Library in celebration of Philippine Independence. We showcased Philippine culture, including a “Pistahan” exhibit in the Wells street window of the museum and Filipino Dances at the Milwaukee Public Library. We also sponsored the first Santa Cruzan on June 12, 1976 held at MacArthur Plaza, during which we served native refreshments, including the introduction of “salabat”(ginger tea) to the Milwaukee community.
Years later, in celebration of Philippine Independence, we exhibited the works of famous artists, Ben Alcantara and Rodriguez from New York. We have also hosted the original and pre-eminent “a capella group” and the Madrigal Singers.
For the first time in Wisconsin, formal classes for Filipino children were held, teaching them Philippine history, language, and culture, all aimed at developing positive Filipino identity and an appreciation for and pride in their Filipino ancestry. The committee also conducted workshops and seminars on topics such as “Parenting in Modern America, “Changing roles in the Family,” “Separation and Loss,” and “Racial Micro-aggressions” in which the unique problems of Filipinos were discussed. These educational presentations were intended to help ease the adjustment that Filipinos commonly faced in their new country.
In keeping with the spirit and history of VOH, we ushered in the 40th Anniversary Celebration of UPAA-W with historical and cultural exhibits on June 19th at the Philippine Center, Zablocki Park.
The exhibits consisted of various Philippine handicrafts: images of our struggle to regain our independence from colonizers; books by our national hero, Jose Rizal, such as Noli Me Tangere, a daring satirical book exposing the arrogance and despotism of the Spanish clergy, and El Filibusterismo, his second novel and sequel to Noli Me Tangere; and the history of the founding of UPAA-W, and the Value Our Heritage Committee.
The exhibits are from the collections of the Ramos, Castillo, Austria, and Singson families. Most of the exhibits, including difficult-to-find handicrafts, such as the backpack made from boar hides, and the gowns and “ternos” (formal clothes worn by the well-to-do women in fashion shows and in upscale parties), are from Jocelyn Ramos collection, while the matching shoes made with sequins and pearls are from Dr. Siony Austria’s collection.
The food exhibit included pansit guisado, prepared by Antonina Mendoza and Florina Ortiguera. The rellenong alimango was prepared by Dr. Volette Singson. The fruit display of Dr. Nena Castillo consisted of typical fruits found in our country: pina, painstakingly and beautifully carved; saging, the small and sweet latundans; manga which was cut into a blossoming flower; papaya, langka, kasuy, and sampalok were also displayed, as well as Leche Flan, a favorite Pilipino dessert.
Children’s artwork was also exhibited and admired for their artistry.
The Honorable Michael Nietzke, Mayor of Greenfield and the Honorable Mark Borkowski, County Supervisor, Milwaukee, were our special guests.
The program ended with beautiful renditions of songs by the children’s choir, Munting Tinig, which captured the hearts of the audience.
Refreshments, including pansit guisado, lumpiang shanghai, puto at kutsinta, rellenong alimango and salabat, were served to the attendees following the program.
As Jocelyn Ramos said,. . .“the Value Our Heritage program, if continued, will ensure that all things done in the past, big or small, will never be forgotten and will be appreciated by our next generation. There are always stories to be retold and retold. They will die if we allow them to. It is therefore our responsibility to keep the Value our Heritage project as long as we can. That will give a meaning to our current existence, for the next generations to appreciate and understand and to learn from.” Yes, as Roger Austria quoted our poet laureate, Francisco Balagtas, “Ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan.”
Value Our Heritage Committee, 2014
Asuncion Miteria Austria, PhD, Chair
Magdalena E. Castillo, MD