Sunday, August 12, 2007

The 14th annual Pistahan/Filipino American Arts Expo at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco owes its longevity to the vision of Luz V. De Leon. Although she has now turned over the Pistahan/FAAE to an entirely new crew so she can devote her time to expanding the FAAE vision to Toronto, Canada this year, it gives me great joy to pay this paean to a dear friend.

Luz is a cultural activist par excellence! I've always admired her ability to envision what and how multicultural arts scene in San Francisco can look like with the contribution of Filipino and Filipino American arts and culture. During the early years of the Pistahan, we spent a lot of time over coffee and on the phone discussing her ideas, her efforts to mobilize key people who might come aboard the FAAE organization to make things happen. Over the years, there have been many struggles she has overcome...sometimes so difficult that you would think one who has less courage and gumption than Luz, would easily give up.

Community and cultural activism is not easy. Politics within and outside of the Fil Am communtiy is fraught with intrigue, heartache, and disappointment. And yet over the years, none of these have been severe enough to make Luz give up.

I think when one believes in the authenticity of a dream/vision, one has the capacity to trust. FAAE has been built by trust and faith in the Filipino -- the beauty of her traditions/culture/arts; trust that "if you build it, they will come." Luz has this faith and trust. No one and nothing has taken this away from her -- not the skeptics and cynics who thought that Fil Am Arts cannot possibly go mainstream, cannot possibly be successful in a very public venue like the Yerba Buena Gardens. Well, I suppose 14 years belies this.

Luz is one of the participants in my Coming Full Circle book. She has taught me a lot about the need to build community institutions that are sustainable. She always told me that Filipino Americans should learn how to negotiate the mainstream culture; develop the cultural competence to deal with funding institutions; professionalize philanthropic giving within the community. And most of all, she is still teaching me how to trust one's instincts for this kind of rare and gifted seeing for an entire community.

My dear friend, thank you for all that you continue to do. I wish you success in Toronto...and who knows which city is next to embrace your vision.

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