‘There’s more to Filipino background than just food’

Melissa Medina

Melissa Medina

By Maricar CP Hampton

The desire to learn more about her culture and ethnic background drove health care educator Rachelle Ocampo to apply for the Filipino American Youth Leadership Program (FYLPro).

“I felt like there is more to the Filipino background than just food,” said Ocampo, the president of the Pilipino American Unity for Progress or UniPro, an organization for young professionals based in New York.

For Washington D.C.’s Melissa Medina, the opportunity to travel to the Philippines was “enticing.” But as Liaison and Legislative Assistant to Rep. Edward Royce of House Foreign Affairs Committee, she would like to mix business and politics with pleasure.

“I aim to learn more about my heritage, the Philippine culture, and possibly come up with ideas on how to strengthen the U.S.-Philippine relationship either through business ideas or other means,” said the U.S.-born Medina, a graduate of University of California, Berkeley.

Ocampo and Medina are among this year’s 10 exceptional young Filipino Americans, an annual search conducted by the Philippine Embassy. They join this batch of future leaders namely: Julien A. Baburka of Bloomingdale, Illinois; Robin Nichol Barawid of Memphis, Tennessee; Rex C. Brown, Jr. of Daly City, California; Randy J. Cortez of Honolulu, Hawaii; Anthony D. Guevara of Houston, Texas; Maria Bea Querido of Seattle, Washington State; Dennis G. Rodriguez, Jr. of Tamuning, Guam and Edward N. Santos of New York.

“I was so happy (when I learned I was chosen) I actually screamed in my office,” Ocampo told The FilAm Metro D.C.

Medina said she was “very thankful and fortunate” for being selected to be a participant in the program.

The 10 recipients will take part in an immersive program from July 7 to 11 which would give them the opportunity to dialogue with top officials and policymakers, leaders of industry, legislators, media, artists and cultural experts, entrepreneurs and innovators in different fields.

“Last year’s delegates found the intensive program informative and inspiring,” said Ambassador Jose Cuisia. “The experience served to reinforce their commitment to and passion for community and nation building.”

He also said the first batch have gone on to undertake, among other pathways, political advocacy, cultural and tourism promotion, social entrepreneurship, education innovations, Filipino-American heritage projects, voter awareness and education, and have even launched political campaigns of their own.

“I personally admire the program’s goals to help promote further progress in the Philippines and to further engage the multi-faceted Filipino American community,” Ocampo said.

Born and raised in Long Island, New York, Ocampo is now making up for lost time by being active in the FilAm community.

“The moment I started being involved with Filipino community I couldn’t stop. I felt there was so much work to do, so much awareness that Filipinos need to know about,” she said.

Medina said she would like meet with top political and industry leaders while also getting to know her fellow FilAms in the FYLpro program.

“I see this program as a catalyst that opens new doors and perspectives on how to get involved as a FilAm,” she said. “It is important to know your roots to understand where you came from.”

Rachelle Ocampo Photo by Rolan Gutierrez

Rachelle Ocampo Photo by Rolan Gutierrez

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