Young FilAms imagine their future, and write about it

First prize winner Paolo Parina

First prize winner Paolo Parina

By Cecile Caguingin-Ochoa

I was in an essay-writing contest but I did not write.

When long-time officer of the Filipino American Press Club of Los Angeles (est. 1978), Inc. Evelyn Portugal threw in a suggestion to hold a writing contest among our children or grandchildren, everyone got excited.

“This is the time for our own to shine!” A moniker for the contest was first coined: “Apos Got Talent!, ” only to be scratched as we decided this contest shouldn’t be about us. Why not cater to the more than 200,000 high school students of Filipino ancestry both in public and private schools in Los Angeles County. It’s time to bring out the budding writers and their ideas from our general community.

In unison with board members, I became part of the club’s Essay Project Committee led by Evelyn and club prexy Dr. Ludy A. Ongkeko. Finding interest among cash prize donors was not a challenge at all! A few long-time leaders came forth including philanthropist Abelardo Estacion, L.A. attorney Joe Sayas, writers Florante and Rose Ibanez, Carol Kimbrough and Rotarian John Mina.

It became more of a challenge to find 11th graders, “of Filipino ancestry” interested to join an “On-the-Spot” Writing Competition as we combed through a list of schools both private and public sending invitations. Through a website we set up, interested school mentors and teachers fielded in inquiries about having their students participate. A couple of students showed interest after reading about the contest from the community papers.

The day of the impromptu competition came with young aspirants logging their laptops and papers (for those who decided to handwrite their essays). Since they were below 18, parents and guardians showed up with the students. The impromptu topic given to write about was: “The Person I Would Like to Become in Ten Years.”

Six judges read the essays and in two weeks came up with a list of winners. Paolo Parina, a Southern California junior from Monterey High School in Burbank, took the $750 top prize for synthesizing the many qualities of a man he would like to become – “an individual with his morals set, not bending the rules, but abiding by it. I want to be a man of character.”

The 17-year-old sees the big Pacific Ocean as a chasm between his land of birth and his newfound America, oftentimes a predicament for many migrants: “We are outcasts, neither belonging to America or the Philippines. We have been ‘Americanized;” and he lamented: “Some even persecute those that are ‘fresh off the boat’. However, in 10 years I want to have been part of the solution.”

Parina echoes the same refrain of the great Filipino American writer Carlos Bulosan in his famous novel “America Is in the Heart.” Quoting former United Nations General Secretary Carlos Romulo: “Bulosan wrote the novel with “bitterness in his heart and blood yet with the purpose of contributing “something toward the final fulfillment of America.”

That the first prize winner is an immigrant from the old country was evident as he cited Jose Rizal as one of his heroes, “a paragon of Filipino capabilities,” whose courage he would like to emulate. “In ten years’ time I want to be a man of courage, making the difficult and correct choices rather than the easy and deceitful ones,” wrote Parina.

Second placer Rogelio de Guzman

Second placer Rogelio de Guzman

The contest awarded nearly $2,000 to six students, including Parina; second-place finisher and $500 winner Rogelio de Guzman, Crescenta Valley High School in La Crescenta, both of whom handwrote their essays, and third-place awardee Tamara Avila of Heritage Christian Schools in Northridge who earned $350 for keyboarding hers.
Third placer Tamara Avila

Third placer Tamara Avila

Top three honorable mentions won $100 apiece. They are: Angelina-Louise Alejar from Holy Family High School in Glendale; Nicolas Cordero, Santa Monica Catholic High School, Playa Del Rey and Alan Ariel Carlos, Torrance High School in Torrance.

Second placer De Guzman wrote about his role model father, and how he would like to emulate that man’s humble pursuit of success instead of the ways of glitzy star athletes like Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant or Filipino boxing sensation Manny Pacquiao.

“If living a simple life surrounded by those who care about you provides more happiness than a life based on wealth and luxury, then I believe that the simple life represented by my father is the life worth striving for.”

Third place winner Avila captured in her essay the accomplishments of people in history from the New Testament like the “Apostle Paul” to the contemporary times of the 1900s Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, among others “who refused to be corrupted by the world.”

“In ten years, I would like to become a person who is accomplished without corruption, self-confident amidst persecution, and independent from the controlling shade of society,” wrote Avila who aspires to have a career in immunology and make a significant impact in finding cures for diseases in this this country. Citing Anthony, Parks, Abraham Lincoln among others, Avila wrote: “Admirable is a person who is willing to step out of the comfort of conformity and be great.” Avila, who like most of the essayists came with her parents, is an “Advanced Placement Student” (AP) in Calculus and other sciences.

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One Comment

  1. This is quite interesting. I dont know how to reach the young writers. I can publish their works, winner or not, free of any cost, except buy the books and be listed continuously at under “tatay jobo elizes”
    This free publishing offer is for all who writes, published or unpublished, new writers or profssional writers,
    on any subject under the sun. I also have http;// Many thanks for this accomodation.
    God luck.

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