By Roy Mabasa
Fifteen Filipino-Americans from various sectors and places in the United States were honored as The Outstanding Filipinos in America (TOFA) 2017 for their respective contributions in raising the profile of the Fil-Am community.
Consul General Ma. Theresa Dizon-De Vega of the Philippine Consulate in New York extolled the awardees for their “trailblazing achievements and advocacies” during a ceremony held at the historic Carnegie Hall, over the weekend.
The TOFA award recognizes the contributions of the Fil-Ams and their role in elevating the presence of Filipinos in America in various fields such as arts and culture, community service and advocacy, women empowerment, business and entrepreneurship, health care, sports, fashion, research and technology senior and youth advocacy, media, entertainment and public service and politics.
The 2017 TOFA awardees were Bing Cardenas Branigin (Community Service and Advocacy); Sylvia Buhain (Women Empowerment); Francis Sison (Senior Advocacy); Amable Yalong (Business and entrepreneurship); WCBS-TV correspondent Hazel Sanchez (Media and Publishing); photographer Filbert Kung (Arts and Culture); Jessica Cox (Courage of Conviction Awardee); Miss Saigon star Jon-Jon Briones (Entertainment); Rocky Gathercole (Fashion and Style); Dr. Noel Fajardo (Healthcare); Assemblyman Rob Bonta (Public Service and Politics)Christina Laskowski (Research and Technology); Christina Julaton (Sports) Jayson Tangco (Youth) and White House Executive Chef Cristeta Pasia Comerford (Heritage Awardee).
Talk show host Boy Abunda hosted the event which also featured performances by Fe delos Reyes, Sheryn Regis and other Filipino and Filipino-American performers.
The event coincided with the commemoration of the Filipino-American History Month.
Engineer Gil Quinones, president and chief executive officer of the New York Power Authority represented New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in the ceremony.
Cuomo, in a letter read for him by Quinones, expressed his recognition of the thriving community of Filipino-Americans and their many contributions to the diversity and achievements of their respective communities.
De Vega, for her part, further enjoined all those present to set higher goals and definite timetables to ensure that more Filipino-Americans are represented in different fields and policy making platforms.
The Consul General and Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations Teodoro Locsin handed out the awards to the honorees from throughout the United States.
Founded in 2010, the TOFA Awards was initially established in search for exemplary Fil-Ams in the New York Metropolitan area.