Fil-Am Association of SCV hosted its annual Black Tie Gala at the Hyatt Regency in Valencia on Saturday, bringing the Filipino and Filipino-American community in Santa Clarita back together again for the first time since the pandemic.
Everyone dressed in their best threads for the glamor-themed event, which aimed to raise funds for the advancement of Filipino culture and community in the Santa Clarita Valley and abroad.
Nic Montebon Jr., president of Fil-Am SCV, said that, after two years apart it was nice to see everyone back together again.
“I mean we’re very excited to be back after two years of inaction. Everybody, we’re back in full swing, we’re here for a good cause,” said Montebon Jr. “We did what we could do to make this event happen and we’re just happy to be here.”
Montebon Jr. said the funds raised at the event will go toward local nonprofits and charities such as Bridge to Home and Single Mothers Outreach, and funds are also going toward Filipino culinary classes, Tagalog classes, a cultural festival, and to pave the way for students in the Philippines and Filipino-Americans in the SCV to go to college.
“It’s definitely one of the best, the best feelings ever, to be able to help someone and actually change the course of their lives,” said Montebon Jr. “Now what we’ve done is provide them hope [and] the avenue to make their dreams come true to better themselves.”
One of these students is Jazley Andrada, who graduated from Valencia High School at 17 years old. Andrada said she plans to use the scholarship to go to a University of California school and from there, to medical school.
“I knew I’ve always wanted to go to college, but winning the scholarship award has helped me to push myself to [go]. I really want to go to college,” said Andrada.
Mayor Laurene Weste, who cut the ribbon for the ceremony, said she was there to recognize Fil-Am for its hard work in bettering the community, and she was very proud to be standing with them.
“This is a group of people that are just amazing with their commitments to family and to helping others,” said Weste. “They’re just really special. I’ve come to their events pretty much every year. Very proud, very proud to be here with them.”
Also in attendance was Maria Gamble, consul for the Republic of the Philippines in charge of cultural diplomacy and community relations. Gamble said these events have an important role when regarding issues, and triumphs, of the Filipino community. Gamble said when the community is able to come together, in any fashion, to talk about issues and accomplishments, these conversations can be conveyed when discussing international relations with officials from the U.S. government.
“We know that their sentiments are heard, because, of course, they are also an integral part of the greater American society,” said Gamble. “We want the rest of America to know, that they know, that they belong here as well. So that’s something important that needs to be conveyed and I think repeated all the time — they’re not strangers.”
Montebon Jr. echoed this sentiment, saying that shared culture is integral to not just the Filipino community, but to the SCV as a whole.
“Just for our fellow Filipino Americans, it’s a feeling of home. It’s something that you can turn to, to be able to have a sense of our culture, at the same time while we make Santa Clarita our home,” said Montebon Jr. “Our outreach is not limited to Filipinos because we exist to be able to help someone, whether it be Filipino or non-Filipino. It’s very gratifying for us and that’s the reason why we continue to do what we do.”