They like to eat. Nearly every gathering they hold involves food or a potluck. However, members of the Filipino American Association of the Inland Empire converge for much more important reasons than feasting.
The club formed in 1987 because local Filipinos were far from their homeland and wanted to sustain their culture through social and traditional activities, and provide support for new Filipino families moving here. The association also served to educate Filipino children born in the United States as well as community members about their heritage.
Members of the greeting committee welcome new families to the area with a gathering and a potluck. The club helps newly transplanted Filipino families make the transition to living in the United States, said John Operana Sr., vice president of FAAIE.
This year, the group is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Twenty-eight people attended the first meeting on June 12, 1987. Today, membership exceeds 200 families from all over the Inland Empire, said Jun Mascardo, FAAIE president.
In those 10 years, FAAIE has made its mark on Spokane. It holds several community events each year, including an Easter potluck and egg hunt, a Phillipine Independence Day celebration and a formal Valentine’s Day party. Its annual Pista Sa Nayon picnic features a potluck, luau, games and numerous events for families.
Group members also participate in the Fourth of July festivities at Riverfront Park, operating an ethnic food booth and performing traditional dances.
The association’s Silangan dancers promote cultural awareness to younger generations. They perform folk dances with a Spanish influence, creating a “ballroom dancing” style. The Silangan dancers have performed at various locations, most recently at Gonzaga University dancing for “Filipino students that had grown up here who had no idea about our arts and culture,” said Francesca Fabile, a dancer and FAAIE member.
And with the holiday season gearing up, so are the voices of the organization’s Christmas carolers. Caroling serves as FAAIE’s major fund-raiser. Members traverse area neighborhoods, singing both Filipino medleys and traditional Christmas carols.
Speaking of the holidays, the group is putting the final touches on its annual Christmas party, set for 4-10 p.m. Dec. 20 at the German-American Society, 23 W. Third, downtown. Admission is free.
The FAAIE needs help from community members to expand and forge ahead with new ideas. It has been holding meetings and dance practices at the Cathedral Plaza but would love to have its own building. FAAIE would like to team up with other ethnic groups in the community to foster cultural learning, said Mascardo. The building would not only serve as an ethnic hub but offer individuals the opportunity to learn different languages, he said.
“Our members are professionals, diversified - with experience in individual areas. Once we have a building, things should fall into place,” said Mascardo.
The group has a collection of donated Phillipine artifacts and would like to set up an exhibition, but it could use help organizing it.
Donations to FAAIE’s building fund may be made at Farmers and Merchants Bank. For more information on membership, or to request a cultural demonstration, call Mascardo at 534-6468.
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