By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
Bert and Josephine “Josie” Golla may be two of the busiest people in Seattle. When he’s not working on his clients’ finances and taxes and when she’s not managing her adult care facility, they’re helping the Filipino community in Seattle and those in the Philippines in a huge way.
They have been married for 37 years, and even to a casual observer, it is obvious that their love for giving back to their Filipino community has kept them united.
Bert and Josie have known each other since they were children, but they fell in love after college.
“I began to notice her when she started wearing perfume,” joked Bert.
The Gollas are both from the same town, Baras, in the province of Razal, which is located 25 miles east of Manila. It worked well because from a young age, they shared an interest in helping others, especially their townmates.
Bert is currently the president emeritus adviser to the Filipino Chamber of Commerce of the Pacific Northwest. He was the president for 12 years. He is also the first Filipino American to have passed the CPA examination and to have been licensed as a CPA in Washington state. He is also certified to practice in the Philippines.
Since they arrived in America in the 1970s, they have always talked about the different ways that they could help their community back in the Philippines.
For instance, what a lot of people don’t know about the Gollas is that they have actually had a scholarship program for the last 27 years called the JNB Golla Scholarship Foundation. They didn’t expose themselves as the grant donors until last year, at a reunion attended by all of the scholars.
“There are more than 60 scholars, college graduates, who are now very active in their own professions,” Bert said proudly.
The scholars wanted to know who their generous donors were. And they were able to meet the couple during the reunion in the Philippines.
In fact, the scholars from the program formed their own alumni association and are now paying it forward by helping others in need, Josie said.
When Josie started to explain how heartwarming and touching it was when they had the reunion, she got emotional and started tearing up.
“For some of them, they were the only ones to graduate. We’re able to help siblings and send them to school. …We didn’t know the impact of our contributions until we actually saw them in the end,” Josie said.
Bert also emphasized how much they value education because it’s important to be able to improve their futures.
The Gollas also are willing to provide micro-financing to help those who would like to open up their own businesses get started.
Their most memorable contribution was a donation to a church in the Philippines. Father Rico, who was the pastor there, had wanted to hold a raffle drawing to help remodel the church. However, the Gollas decided that they wanted to contribute as much as they could.
Instead of the tedious process of holding a raffle drawing, the Gollas donated 80,000 pesos, equivalent to about $1,900 USD, to help with the renovation.
“We’re just doing our part — not to say that this is our shining star moment. … I believe that we’re just doing our parts to help other people,” Bert said.
Josie has been a nurse for 37 years, and she currently manages three mainstream adult care facilities in North Seattle. Bert helps her out with building maintenance and other work. In addition, he helps small businesses and individuals through his own CPA practice. One of those businesses is his wife’s, since he manages their finances.
He also worked as the King County auditor from 1974 to 2004.
The couple frequents St. Marks Catholic Church in Shoreline and has been attending services there since 1974.
The Gollas have definitely inspired people near and far. This is just a glimpse of their contributions to the community.
“We’re just grateful and just so blessed with everything that we’re able to share in any small way we can for others,” Josie said.
“We believe in making a difference in people’s lives, that’s the key purpose in our lives,” Bert added.
Vanessa Diego, a friend of the Gollas, said, “I truly admire Mr. Bert and Mrs. Josie Golla’s humility, in sharing his experiences and achievements. I was also very impressed with the couple’s kindness, not only for sharing their personal resources, but also for dedicating their time to give back to the community. In fact, getting to know the couple and understanding the nature of their work inspired me to remember to reach out to the community and to dedicate myself to professional growth.”
“I’d say that God is so good to us that we didn’t go through much struggle. If you dedicate your life to helping other people, you’ll learn to see positivity in everything. We were always blessed,” Josie said.
The couple loves to dine out and travel during their free time. They enjoy eating at local Korean, Chinese, and Filipino restaurants. They have plans to visit China next year, and they said that they visit the Philippines almost every year. Bert also plays basketball and coordinates a local league, Life After Forty Basketball League, for those 40 and above.
They also have a 31-year-old son they are proud of, who is active in his own organizations. (end)
Nina Huang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.