WASHINGTON, DC – Members of the Filipino-American community in the Metro DC area came together on 25 August 2016 at the Romulo Hall of the Philippine Embassy to fete Ms. Evangeline “Vangie” Paredes, who turns 100 years old this year.
Ms. Paredes is a former secretary of President Manuel Quezon and has been a prominent member of the community for the past seven decades. The celebration was also part of the Philippines’ observance of National Language Month and History Month.
“The month of August means many things to many people in many places. For Filipinos, the month of August is very significant. Filipinos celebrate Buwan ng Wika – National Language Month – under Proclamation No. 1041 of 1997 by former President Fidel V. Ramos. The national commemoration used to beLinggo ng Wika, a week-long celebration that happened every August 13 to 19, coinciding with the birthday of former President Manuel L. Quezon, known as Ama ng Wikang Pambansa, or Father of the National Language, who was born on 19 August 1878,” said the Embassy’s Chargé d’Affairés, Minister Patrick Chuasoto, in his welcome remarks.
“August has also been designated as ‘History Month,’ under Proclamation No. 339 signed by President Benigno Aquino III in 2012. August is indeed a month that witnessed many turning points in Philippine history,” Minister Chuasoto added.
Rita Cacas, founder and President of the Rita M. Cacas Foundation, Inc., which co-organized the reception and accompanying exhibit, likened the evolution of the archives about Washington, D.C. Filipino communities to gardening.
“The first garden seeds started to sprout around the late 1980s when I had the chance to interview my dad on Thanksgiving Day in 1988. The seedlings grew into an important labor of love that continues to this day,” Ms. Cacas said.
“Discovering more seeds, I met more Filipino pioneer families, collecting more stories and photos. Today, almost five generations of Filipinos live and work in the DC area. But there are still a lot of people who have no idea that there was a vibrant Filipino community living here before World War II,” she further said.
Ms. Cacas thanked Ms. Paredes “for being an important part of our history and for planting stories and seeds in our DC community garden.”
Ms. Daphne Kwok, AARP’s Multicultural Leader for the Asian American and Pacific Islander Audience, personally conveyed AARP’s birthday greetings to Ms. Paredes.
“On behalf of AARP, we are just so honored to have a tremendous role model, mentor, volunteer like yourself to have received the Andrus Award. Everyone continues to be amazed at your continued dedication to really serve the entire community,” Ms. Kwok noted.
The gathering ended with the singing of “Happy Birthday” and Ms. Paredes’ blowing her birthday candles.
“I am very proud to have been a part of the earlier days of the Embassy’s formation during the 1930s and 40s,” the noteworthy centenarian said. She then briefly recounted her activities post Philippine independence and her retirement from US Government service.
“Volunteering is so rewarding,” she concluded.
Vangie Paredes was born on 26 July in 1916, the same year that the Jones Law was passed by the US Congress. This piece of US legislation created the Philippine legislature and paved the way for independence.