Connecting with San Diego Filipino-Americans

Posted on July 16, 2010

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Dr. Connie Mariano - the "White House Doctor"

Dr. Connie Mariano - the "White House Doctor"

This past week, my wife, my parents and I took a pleasant 2-hour drive down to San Diego, where we attended a special celebration¬†organized by Philippine American Business Improvement and Development (Phil Am BID). Under the impeccable leadership of Edna Consing Concepcion and Marilyn Calangi Mesina, Phil Am BID is doing commendable work in the San Diego area, bringing together Fil-Ams and local leaders. The organization’s foremost goal is the creation of a socio-cultural and commercial complex for the Filipino-American community called Plaza Pilipinas.

For this particular event, Phil Am BID pulled out all of the stops to honor the talents and achievements of a host of Filipino-Americans. Awardees included political leaders, entrepreneurs, doctors and other outstanding professionals who have given back to their communities. It was absolutely inspiring to hear each recipient’s impressive bio as well as their lively acceptance speeches.

The keynote speaker for the evening was Dr. Connie Mariano, who served as the personal physician to three US Presidents (George H.W.¬†Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) and recently wrote the book White House Doctor. It turns out that Dr. Mariano’s family hails from Santa Rita, Pampanga, the same hometown as my mom. In fact, my mom knew Dr. Mariano’s family and confessed that she had a crush on the accomplished doctor’s two uncles. No matter how much I think I know my parents, they always surprise me with something new.

Stephen Dypiangco, Elaine Sunga, Filipino-American, San Diego, PHIL AM BID

Stephen Dypiangco and Elaine Sunga, DDS with their Phil Am BID Rising Star Awards

The reason why I was invited to attend this wonderful celebration was because Phil Am BID selected me as one of their Rising Star awardees. When I heard from Tita Edna that Phil Am BID was interested in giving me an award, there was no mention of this being a “Rising Star” award. I simply knew that the White House Doctor was also being honored at the same event. This made me extremely nervous. What business did I have receiving an award alongside such a prominent figure? My career is just starting out, and I haven’t even begun to achieve my grandest goals. But when I eventually learned that I’d be receiving a Rising Star award, this helped take the pressure off a bit. They were taking into account my potential, not just my resume.

Aided by some crucial feedback from my mom, I put together a short 1-minute acceptance speech, which I’d like to share here. I think it really encapsulates the past couple of years of my life and hopefully where I’m headed.

Stephen Dypiangco‘s Phil Am BID Acceptance Speech:

First of all, I’d like to thank Phil Am BID, in particular Tita Edna, for this rising star award. This recognition came as a complete surprise, and I’m deeply honored to simply be here among such distinguished members of our Filipino-American community.

As a second-generation Filipino-American born in the US, it’s only been in the past couple of years that I’ve begun to take a serious interest in my family history and Filipino heritage. Until I hit my late 20’s, I just wasn’t ready.

Marilyn Mesina, Lucila Dypiangco, Edna Concepcion

Marilyn Mesina, Lucila Dypiangco, Edna Concepcion

But one day after a talk with an older cousin, I suddenly understood how little I knew about our family. Something changed within me, and from that moment on I wanted to learn and do more.

Now as I connect with more and more Fil-Ams, I continue to find nothing but support and encouragement, often from people with stories and feelings very similar to mine.

It gives me great pride knowing that even though I may not have always been ready to be active in the Filipino-American community, the Filipino-American community was always ready to welcome me.

Thank you very much.