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Philippine Center stays committed to service after more than 20 years

Posted at 6:33 PM, May 12, 2023

After more than 20 years, a community of Filipino-Americans in Wisconsin remains committed to its mission of service to others while keeping cultural traditions alive.

Zablocki Park in Greenfield is the home of the Philippine Cultural and Civic Center Foundation.

"Since we all succeeded here in the U.S. and our way of life has improved, we wanted to give back to the community," said executive director of the center Gerry Ramos.

The current center was built on the foundation of unity or as they call it in the Philippines the practice of "Bayanihan."

When the center moved into Zablocki Park the building was underutilized. Volunteers got to work.

"They help demolish. They started doing drywall then they started painting and doing everything that they can," Ramos recalled.

Teaching Filipino dances is just one of the many ways the center preserves traditions. Leaders also organize activities including music and cooking lessons.

Renee Mondano said the center helped her family feel right at home when they moved to Wisconsin from the United Kingdom. She signed her kids up for singing and dance lessons years ago.

"Here in America, you can get lost," Mondano said. "It is so important for me to be able to pass on the rich history and the rich culture that we grew up with in the Philippines. I want them to acknowledge the importance of being Filipino and to be proud."

The center's free medical clinic is a major part of its mission to help others.

Every second and fourth Saturday of the month, a team of volunteer health care workers and medical students serve people who are uninsured or underinsured.

"We have seen about 4,000 patients total, that's in 23 years, who have come to the clinic more than 30,000 times to the tune of about $4 million in services," said the clinic's director Dr. Violeta Singson.

The clinic is open to everyone. Volunteers said that some patients will drive in from Illinois.

"It's very important for me because I would really like to help out, and I would like to show my children. Hopefully, they follow what I do," Dr. Jose Toledo said.

Mickey Miller started coming to the clinic as a patient when his previous providers struggled to resolve a health condition.

"They're really nice and I've been knowing them for a while since I've been coming here," Miller said.

Late last year, the Milwaukee County Board recognized the Philippine Center for its service.

The center's outreach includes a community health fair, a children's literacy program, and giving away backpacks full of supplies.

After more than two decades, leaders are now leaning on the next generation to keep the spirit of their work alive.

"Our tendency is to treat everyone as a big family. Meaning you have to take care of their health. Make sure they're fine. Make sure they're fed," said Jojo Agoncillo Ramos. "You have to provide a loving atmosphere."


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