When women called the shots, first thing they did was junk Pilipino Time

The UniPro Executive Board led by (from left) President Rachelle Ocampo, Vice President Iris Zalun, Treasurer Jonelyn Planillo  and Secretary Meriden Villanueva

The UniPro Executive Board led by (from left) President Rachelle Ocampo, Vice President Iris Zalun, Treasurer Jonelyn Planillo and Secretary Meriden Villanueva

By Maricar CP Hampton & Cristina DC Pastor

“Having an all-women team has definitely changed the face of UniPro,” said Rachelle Ocampo, current president of the nonprofit Pilipino American Unity for Progress. “We look especially cute in pictures.”

Ocampo was kidding, of course, but she was also setting the tone for what the current leadership of UniPro is all about: all women but not all business and not all flippant either. Just the right mix of getting things done and going for a little bit of fun along the way.

“I see us as paving the road for future young women leaders,” said Ocampo, a health educator at Queens Hospital Center who was recently chosen one of 10 exceptional young Filipino Americans under the Filipino American Youth Leadership Program of the Philippine Embassy.

Born and raised in Long Island, Ocampo is one of UniPro’s founding members. A 501c3 community development organization, the group is focused on improving efficiencies among students and young professionals’ networks in the New York Tri-State through dialogue and networking.

“The founders’ vision was promoting cohesion within the Filipino community,” she explained in an interview with Fil-Am Who’s Who. “The founders felt that there was a disconnect among the organizations and felt there needed to be an outlet for student leaders post-college to use as bridge to the rest of the Filipino community.”

Empowerment was a word she used.

“We hope to empower others to take that chance to lead in an environment that is not as welcoming as it was before.” She may have meant organizations that did not endure, had no focused agenda, or were not led by mostly women, but UniPro is setting an example. Only three years old, the organization looks toward sustainable organizing where many youth organizations had collapsed when their leaders left college to join the work force or raise families.

With women calling the shots, UniPro has seen some novelty decisions in terms of agenda and execution. One is the preponderance of activities related to gender and culture; another is the attention to detail and punctuality.

Explained Ocampo: “The only negative in having an all-women team would be a need to consciously emphasize balanced programming for the community. Luckily, this also helps us keep in line with UniPro’s mission and vision.”

UniPro Legal Counsel Randy Gonzales made the suggestion to give equal opportunity to other issues that are happening in the community, which resulted in two public forums on inter-generational differences and immigrant rights & resources.

Ocampo was not making excuses for the other changes that came about when women assumed UniPro’s leadership.

“As women, we are all naturally meticulous with detail and the need to have everything on point,” she said.

As for starting meetings on time, she said: “We now lead the staff into meetings on time by creating an example with ourselves. We realize that we never have enough time to discuss important issues in our community if we are always 30-45 minutes late.”

Ocampo’s ‘cohorts’ are equally talented, outspoken women with easy-going but effective managerial skills.

The ladies on the cover of Fil-Am Who's Who. Photo by Rolan Gutierrez

The ladies on the cover of Fil-Am Who’s Who. Photo by Rolan Gutierrez

Her vice president is Iris Zalun, a graduate of Fordham University and a stalwart at the university’s Philippine American Club. She joined UniPro on her senior year.

“Iris keeps me sane,” said Ocampo. “She has a huge responsibility in making sure I do not put too much on my plate and helps me delegate. She is my personal Wonder Woman.”

As co-chair of the June 1 UniPro Summit, Zalun was in charge of finding a venue – the Hotel Pennsylvania — that fit the group’s budget, coordinating all guest speakers, inviting delegates “and making sure that we raise enough money.”

“She is also the sweetest and most down-to-earth girl I know,” Ocampo added.

The secretary and director of communications, Meriden Villanueva, is a graduate of Seton Hall University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcasting and Visual Media. She is on top of the group’s social media presence via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more recently, the Live Stream channel. She is also responsible for taking the minutes during meetings.

“Meriden, my secretary, is basically the Pilipino version of Oprah,” said Ocampo. “I don’t know where she finds the time to do a thousand things in one day.”

Treasurer Jonelyn Planillo keeps UniPro on track, not just financially, but also makes sure it is consistent with its by-laws and constitution. A licensed Certified Public Accountant, she is one of the founders of UniPro.

“Being one of the founders, she has definitely helped us all understand the importance of maintaining documentation and making sure that if we are co-sponsoring an event or supporting an organization it is to create a more unified community,” said Ocampo.

Planillo’s involvement with the Filipino community was through Ramapo College’s Filipino American Student Association, and later through the Filipino Intercollegiate Networking Dialogue, Inc.

“These three ladies are probably among the most passionate, hardworking, and modest leaders I have ever worked with,” said Ocampo, a graduate of St. John’s University. “We are not only talking about change, but plan to be part of making it happen.”

This article was originally published in Fil-Am Who’s Who, a new magazine about Filipinos community events around the New York Tri-State.

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One Comment

  1. rachelle wrote:

    thank you the filam for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity <3

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