By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly
The Filipino Community of Seattle (FCS) has broken ground on its latest $30 million expansion project. The organization last celebrated the renovation of its main building in May 2008.
More than 200 supporters of the Filipino Community Village (FCV) attended a Sept. 18 groundbreaking ceremony. The five-story, mixed-use complex—adjacent to the Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill neighborhoods—is sponsored by a partnership between FCS and HumanGood Affordable Housing, a nonprofit developer, owner, and operator of affordable housing communities in Washington and California.
Aleksa Manila and Arnaldo Inocentes served as the ceremony’s emcees.
Among the FCV’s many features include an Innovation Learning Center (4,900 square feet) for youth on the first floor, a multi-purpose community space, and a parking garage. The FCS currently runs a lunch program for seniors and a youth development program that serves over 2,500 youth a year.
The Innovation Learning Center will offer a program specializing in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.
The FCV’s exterior will feature a yellow-sun plaza consisting of eight rays representing the Philippines’ first eight provinces to revolt against Spanish rule during the Philippine Revolution. They convey part of the Philippine national flag when viewed from above. The plaza connects the FCV to the existing Filipino Community Center.
“We embarked on this 10 years ago,” said FCS President Edwin Obras.
He said about campaign co-chairs Alma Kern and Velma Veloria, “If it wasn’t for these two women, I don’t think we’d be here today. They’ve been the driving force.”
“We’ve had so many barriers, but we’ve persevered and I think this is what the spirit of the Filipino Community Center is all about.”
Kern said about the FCV once it’s built, “When you see it, just remember all of the struggles, the persistence, the perseverance, the courage that our pioneers had to stay here, to come here and thrive in this great state of ours.”
With tears of joy, co-chair Veloria addressed the audience next and said, “It’s an emotional moment for me.”
She then thanked many FCV supporters in city, county, and state government.
“These relationships that I have built over the years, that the Filipino community has built over the years have really made it happen.”
The main funders for the FCV are the City of Seattle ($8 million), state of Washington, King County ($5 million), Umpqua Bank, and Hudson Housing Capital.
“We need to raise $1.6 million for the Innovation Learning Center so you’ll continue to hear about our fundraising efforts,” said Veloria. One FCS goal is to raise that amount by the end of next year.
King County Councilmember Larry Gossett followed State Sen. Rebecca Saldana and praised the efforts of several in the Filipino American community.
“You wouldn’t have gotten the money if it weren’t for the fact that you have community leaders that have been out there advocating for you and, more importantly, when they have gotten government money, they made sure the money got out to the people for whom it was meant to serve,” he said.
After giving credit to Veloria for teaching her how to dance the Macarena, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said, “I want to thank all the people from our Office of Housing, from the Department of Neighborhoods, from all the people in the city who worked to make your dream and your vision real because you are what will make our city a great city continue into the next generation.”
Alex Rolluda, principal-in-charge at Seattle-based Rolluda Architects, acknowledged the contributions from many individuals, including lead architect Bob Hale.
“This is being true to our culture, taking care of our elders with 95 senior-housing units. And I wish my dad would have seen this and maybe even lived here,” he said.
Later at the reception, Obras spoke about and encouraged communities to be more proactive on behalf of their children, seniors, and parents. He said, “Be responsive and understand what they need and be able to ask for it and advocate for it.”
The project is expected to be finished in November 2021.
For more information, visit filcommsea.org/fc-village.
James Tabafunda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.