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History

FACING THE CHALLENGES IN
THE NEW MILLENNIUM

 By:   Reynaldo T. Arquero

          The Santa Maria de Pila Association of Northern California (SMPANC) is duly recognized and incorporated  under the laws of the state of California. Granted with Employer Identification Number  (EIN) by the Department of theTreasury, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), it will operate as a non-profit organization. Governed by an executive  board composed of elected and appointed officers and members of the board of directors,  its  administration office is located  at  304 Ryegate Court,   San Jose, California   95133.  Among its  primary objectives as stated in the newly-drafted Constitution and By-laws are:  to  establish  a  hometown association  that  shall embody  its  ideals;  to build a strong and close   family  ties;  to promote  social,  economic, moral , cultural  and spiritual welfare among themselves; and to strengthen their social relations with other people.

           The idea of forming this hometown association was spearheaded by Mr. Rudy  Blanco,  a  civic-minded person  and  a  long-time  California   resident,   who  has  considered  Santa Maria  as  his  second  hometown. Although he was born in Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, his wife is a native-born Santamarian, the former Gloria Ginez Velasco.  Tracing back Mr. Blanco's ancestral family history like most of the prominent and politically inclined descendants of early inhabitants in Santa Maria today, a number of his great uncles and great aunts along with their immediate families,  being adventurous and hard-working  Ilocanos, had moved to this place from Narvacan during the later part of the nineteenth century in search for vast plain and fertile farmlands suitable for rice, corn, tobacco and other  typical agricultural plantations. Fortunately, their search had rewarded them with abundance during the harvest season. Later on, most of them had permanently settled in Barangay San Alejandro  -- where pioneer residents used to  call  it  "Canarvacanan" apparently because the place is dominated by former Narvacanians. This is one of the reasons why he had developed a greater vigor his bond of kinship with his relatives in Santa Maria and  Northern California up to the present time.

Group Picture
Group Picture taken at the First Meeting of  the Association
at Orion Recreational Park  Moffett Field, California

          To be exact, the association was formally organized in October 27, 1985 through a general meeting and pot luck*  at  the Orion Recreational Park  (located within  the premises of  Moffett  Military  Base) in Mountain View. This ideal outdoor venue was arranged through the invitation of  Diosdado G. Ordanza, a US Navy serviceman, then stationed at this popular military base in Northern California.  Despite the hectic pace of contacting known native Santamarians in the bay area, the  attendance was quite promising.  A number of Santamaria pioneers and their families, one of them is Abdon Blanco, who immigrated to California as early as before World War II, also came with  enthusiasm and unexpectedly met one of his contemporaries in the primary grades, Felisa Nasog Claridad. Both Abdon and Felisa happily reminisced golden memories of their youthful prowess in  local athletics -- in track and field and softball. So, as old friendships were rekindled, unforgettable memories and the good old days revived by everyone, it became evident that as the day wore on, the  need for more similar meetings and social gatherings in the future became stronger.   "Gapu  ta  manmano  daytoy  a gundaway nga intayo panagsasarak bukelentayon babaen iti panangbutostayo dagiti opisyales",  the majority exclaimed in  vernacular.  It was decided right then and there to form the association and elected the officers and board of directors. Reynaldo T.  Arquero, who just immigrated to California a little more than a year ago at that time, was the elected president.

            In fairness to Santamarians who have lived longer than many of the new immigrants today,  there had been several attempts in the past to form the association to provide themselves with an outlet for socialization. According to reliable sources, there had been a couple of social gatherings that took  place in the city of San Francisco and its vicinity but the attendance did not meet everybody's expectation.  This was due to lack of contact and plain determination, since most of these pioneer  townmates lived and worked in the farm while few others find their way to survive every single working day for menial jobs in the big city.  This kind of situation they have had many years ago did not pursue  their plans and objectives for more frequent meetings.  Years later, their association just closed its door for future social gatherings.

           In the weeks and months that followed its formation, the officers, board of directors and active  members, first, directed their efforts and energy towards laying out the foundation for the realization of its objectives. The First Officers' Meeting was held on November 23, 1985 at the Newark residence  of Vice-President Rudy G. Callo to draft the Constitution and By-Laws. Five weeks later, it was ratified. Then the  "ball starts to roll" -- regular meetings were convened, fund-raising campaign and  social activities were mapped out and certain organizational details threshed out. Two consecutive Reno trips,** under  the  initiative of  Alejandro  and Teodora Bautista,  were advertised to  interested members and their close acquaintances and friends as part of the initial fund-raising activities during the first quarter of 1986.  In the early part of spring on the same year (April 1986), another  general meeting was held at the Orion Recreational Park to celebrate their town fiesta.  Apparently, it was a very simple gathering yet everyone demonstrated the joy of sharing.  Every family had its own  share of home-cooked delicacies and a variety of cold drinks and desserts, fresh garden salads and  "all-you-can-eat" barbeques and grilled seafoods which delighted the table and instantly created a festive atmosphere.

          Due to limited funds and resources, it was only two and a half years later, May 21, 1988, that  the association was able to hold a simple reunion and dance party at the Northside Filipino Community Center,  #488 North 6th Street in San Jose. However, this event was never followed by any other  similar gatherings because the next few meetings being called by the president were attended only by a handful. Evidently, there was not enough key persons to discuss and handle issues and plans of the  association. So eventually, the association just laid down in despair and  "closed its eyes for a deep and sound sleep" for six long years (1989-1995).

           As the new wave of Santa Maria immigrants arrived in search for greener pasturelands in California, many of them chose to settle close to Silicon Valley*** to seek employment opportunity in the electronics industry.  As the valley grows and develops  -- clearing more farmlands, nurseries  and orchards to give way for high-tech manufacturing plants, state-of-the-art engineering research and development headquarters and highly modernized business establishments and recreational facilities  --  more and more Santamarians live in Santa Clara County.  Majority of them belong to the younger generation   -- sharing the same hopes, promises and struggles in the valley.  This group of young  achievers and career-oriented individuals also share the same childhood memories with intense nostalgic feelings of   "animus revertendi" or coming back to their roots -- where most of them are now  looking forward to spend their twilight  years in tranquility in Santa Maria -- a place where their hearts truly belong.

            To further strengthen and inspire their good camaraderie, they unanimously agreed to revive  the dormant association to bring back its shining color and identity.   Without any procrastination, on November 9, 1996, a general meeting and a pot luck were simultaneously held at Lake Cunningham  Park in San Jose. It was then an awakening call to all former members. New set of officers and board of directors were elected and appointed, mostly from the younger generation  -- a new crop of  aggressive and principled leaders.  Reynaldo T.  Arquero was again elected and will remain the president until the year 2000. 

            The most significant event of the association is the First Dinner-Dance and Induction Ball which  was held in  May 3, 1997 at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Milpitas (a growing city adjacent to  San Jose),   attended  by about two hundred and  fifty Santamarians,  their  close  friends  and  acquaintances. Two   special guests  were: Reverend Father Bienvenido M. Salosagcol, a former  parish priest of  Santa Maria (1970-1977),  who gave the  invocation and Mr. Dean E. Fangonilo, the president of  the U.S.  Ilocano National Association (Northern California chapter), who was the inducting  officer. Generally,  it was a successful and enjoyable occasion and the  association was able to generate  revolving  funds  to  sustain its  future activities. The  following  year,  on  April 11, 1998,  another dinner-dance  to  celebrate their town fiesta was successfully organized by its key officers and board of directors. It was held at the Park Plaza Hotel in Burlingame, close to San Francisco International Airport.

          The association is planning to create an official newsletter to provide its members with a regular  flow of information emanating from both the SMPANC headquarter and their hometown in the Philippines.  It will carry news stories, calendar of events, quarterly financial report, lively tidbits and  significant articles. Through this newsletter, it can effectively fill the need for a vital communication link among its members who live in scattered communities in the northern part of the state.  This plan is  currently being initiated by Danilo C. Cabanayan, one of the supportive members of the board of directors.        

           Slowly and inexorably, the revived association is gradually showing encouraging signs of  self-confidence, winning attitude and maturity  -- special thanks to the able stewardship of its new crop of officers and  board of directors and the unflinching support and cooperation of  its growing members.

          Significantly, the Santa Maria de Pila Association of Northern California came into being on the  threshold of the nineties and towards the new millennium.   As a thriving association of young and energetic men and women, however small it may be, this association in this decade has a vital role to  play in reshaping the Filipino community to which it belongs.  In order to achieve this, it must be constantly on the alert for opportunities to make its programs and objectives relevant and responsive to  present needs. The present trend of Filipino ethnic groups is to expand their role beyond their initial goal of socialization and to be more actively and consistently involved in the solution of complex  problems and timely issues Filipino immigrants inevitably face in the United States. This is one big challenge that the SMPANC, whether it likes it or not is confronted with, as it faces the new millennium. 

  *     theAmerican version of  picnic
**    charter bus to the casinos in Downtown Reno, Nevada
***   the high-tech research, development and manufacturing center of the United States
       located mainly within the golden triangle (intersections of  3 freeways - 101, 680 and 880)
       covering some areas of San Jose, Fremont, Milpitas, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara.

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