The National Chair serves as the Chief Executive Officer of NaFFAA and the Chair of the Board of Governors. The National Chair is responsible for implementing the goals and programs of NaFFAA aimed at unifying Filipino American Associations in the United States and at empowering Filipinos and Filipino Americans in all aspects of American Society.
Under the dedicated and able leadership of the individuals that have served as National Chairs over the years, NaFFAA has made significant progress in promoting the welfare and well-being of all Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in the United States. They’ve reached out to other local and national organizations to create coalition building opportunities and strengthen the Filipino American presence in this country.
NaFFAA’s National Chairs Through the Years
- 1997 – 2002 – Alex Exclamado – San Francisco, CA
- 2002 – 2006 – Loida Nicolas Lewis – New York City, NY
- 2006 – 2008 – Alma Q. Kern – Seattle, WA
- 2008 – 2010 – Greg Macabenta – San Francisco, CA
- 2010 – 2014 – Eduardo Navarra – Bloomfield Hills, MI
Who They Are
Alex Exclamado (National Chair 1997-2002)
Alex Esclamado, along with fellow Filipino American community leaders, founded NaFFAA in 1997 to shed light on abuse against Filipinos in the work place, address immigration concerns, and fight for Filipino American empowerment.
A lawyer and veteran journalist, Alex first came to the United States in 1959 as chief correspondent for the U.S. edition of the now defunct Manila Chronicle.
In 1961, seeing the growing influx of Filipino immigrants to the United States, Alex established Philippine News to keep the community informed about Filipino issues in their native land and in their new country. As its publisher and editor-in-chief, he led the newspaper to become a platform for advocacy on behalf of Filipino-Americans and their family members in the Philippines.
In the 1970s, the newspaper used its platform to advance the fight against Philippine Martial Law imposed under the regime of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos.
Alex was also at the forefront of the national campaign for Filipino World War II veterans to be granted U.S. citizenship, and he helped lobby Congress to repeal the 1946 Rescission Act, which did not recognize Filipino veterans who fought side by side with American soldiers during the war and denied them the same rights, privileges, and benefits granted their fellow U.S. servicemen.
In an acknowledgment of his fearless voice and enormous dedication to his community, Alex became the first and only Filipino ever awarded the congressional Ellis Island Medal of Honor, in 1986. Three years later, Philippine President Corazon Aquino conferred upon him the Philippine Legion of Honor Award.
Expanding his service to other immigrant communities, Alex was also a founding member of (the) New America Media (NAM), a coalition of more than 3,000 ethnic media in the United States. He saw that by working together, ethnic media could gain credibility and visibility as a collective force in American journalism.
Alex retired from his work at Philippine News in the late 1990s, and sold the paper’s ownership to the family of Philippine Ambassador Edgardo Espiritu.
Loida Nicolas Lewis (National Chair 2002-2006)
Loida Nicolas Lewis, a philanthropist and a leader within the Filipino-American community, is one of the founders of NaFFAA. She helped establish the Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund (AALDEF), and is a co-founder of the US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG), which was organized after Benigno Simeon Aquino III was elected President of the Philippines in May 2010.
Loida was Chair and CEO of TLC Beatrice International, a $2 billion multinational food company with operations all across Europe, after the death of her husband, Wall Street financier Reginald F. Lewis, and won over a skeptical business community by moving quickly to sell assets including the corporate jet, paying down debt, downsizing the New York corporate staff by 50 percent and increasing earnings. After successfully running the company from 1994-2000, she sold TLC Beatrice and its related businesses in 2000.
Loida chairs the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation, which has donated millions of dollars to Harvard Law School, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland’s African-American History and Culture, and Virginia State University.
Loida supports Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Asian Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Asian Pacific American Film, Asian American Arts Alliance, Asian American Federation of New York, Asian American Foundation, Diversity Theater and Ma-Yi Theater.
She participated in the 2008 and 2012 campaigns of President Obama by being a major contributor and an active volunteer. She participated in voter registration, phone banks, and get-out-the-vote drives in Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, California, Indiana, and New York. Loida also represented President Obama in a debate opposite a representative of Gov. Mitt Romney hosted by The Filipino Channel (TFC), which aired in November 2012 to over a million Filipinos in the US.
Loida frequently appears in charity and fund-raising events, making financial donations, and providing moral support to poverty alleviation projects in the Philippines. She is also a motivational speaker and lecturer on wealth generation, entrepreneurship, career planning, and immigration laws.
Alma Q. Kern (National Chair 2006-2008)
As the National Chair, Alma Q. Kern was committed to promoting Filipino American contributions in the field of government, medical care, business, and community affairs, and improving the welfare of Filipino-Americans and Filipinos in the United States. She organized community forums on issues such as voter registration, youth education, veterans’ equity, human trafficking, domestic violence, and immigration.
Alma’s commitment to help others can be traced to her family and education. “My parents taught me the value of family togetherness and helping each other and other people,” she recalled. “Our house was always open to everyone” with problems.
Alma graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Social Work from the University of the Philippines. She has a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Pittsburgh. She worked as a technical consultant in population planning and women’s health services for USAID and Catholic Relief Services in Indonesia, from 1979 to 1988. She moved to the U.S. in 1974.
Alma is busy as a successful business owner, but has always found time for civic and church volunteer work. She owned Jade King, a Filipino food distribution company serving Washington, Oregon and Alaska retailers. She’s also publisher and co-owner of the Filipino American Herald, circulated in these states.
She has served on the board of the Pacific Asian Empowerment Program, providing senior and immigrant services to Filipino, Hmong, Laotian, and Pacific Islander communities. With State Representative Velma Veloria and Kevin Johnson of the Washington State Department of Community, Trade, and Economic Development, she once organized three state-led trade missions to the Philippines, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Korea.
Alma also served as a Washington State commissioner on Asian and Pacific American Affairs. She provided advice to the governor on Asian American concerns, such as quality of and access to education, human services for immigrants, veterans and health issues. She’s one of the founders of the Stewardship Committee of St. James Cathedral, “which raises the awareness of parishioners to live their lives as true disciples of Christ.”
Gregorio Macabenta (National Chair 2008-2010)
Gregorio “Greg” Macabenta was elected National Chair at the 8th National Empowerment Conference at a time NaFFAA was experiencing serious problems not uncommon for an organization learning to be the voice for Filipinos and Filipino Americans in the United States. The Regional Chairs had doubts about their region’s role in the growth of the organization. NaFFAA had no funds, sponsorship and member dues were nil, and the national office’s rent and salaries were unpaid. NaFFAA’s detractors and loyal supporters believed it had one foot in the grave.
To address the issues, Greg led a Strategic Planning Conference in Washington DC in November 2008 that was attended by nearly 70 Filipino American leaders, and set a new direction for NaFFAA. The conference redefined NaFFAA as a coalition of autonomous organizations and advocacy groups. Under his leadership, NaFFAA paved the way for national and regional Filipino-American organizations to become NaFFAA members by recognizing that the organization’s existing By-Laws discouraged their entry and by establishing alliances with other Filipino-American organizations and advocacy groups.
Greg led NaFFAA and shifted the burden of activism and advocacy to the Regions while encouraging the National officers to motivate, integrate, coordinate, and assist the Regional officers. Specific causes and issues were assigned to regional champions. Fund sharing with Regional organizations was changed from 50/50 to 80/20, with the regions keeping the bulk of the funds they raised, to motivate the regions. Working with General Counsel Reuben Seguritan, he negotiated reductions in NaFFAA’s debts. With Loida’s $5,000 Challenge Grant and the cooperation of the Region leaders, he helped raise funds to pay debts and back wages. With personal funds, he visited all regions to meet with local NaFFAA leaders, resolve conflicts, and attend NaFFAA events. As a result, NaFFAA’s visibility was kept high in national media and on the internet and the White House kept NaFFAA in the loop.
In the Philippines, Greg worked in broadcast production, copy, creative direction, account management, public relations, and general management prior to becoming president and chief executive officer of Advertising & Marketing Associates, one of the top five advertising agencies in the Philippines during its heyday. He was also president of the Philippine 4As and chairman of Ad Congress before immigrating to the United States in the late 80s to set up his own agency, Minority Media Services, now considered one of the pioneers in ethnic marketing in the country.
Eduardo Navarra (National Chair 2010-2014)
Eduardo “Ed” Navarra was first elected National Chair in the National Empowerment Conference held in San Francisco, California in 2010.
Appointed chairman of NaFFAA Region 3 by National Chair Loida Nicolas Lewis in 2003, Ed was later reelected four times as regional chair. He played a key role in the holding of four successful regional NaFFAA conferences and one national conference in the Midwest.
In recognition of his outstanding community service, Ed was awarded the Presidential Banaag Award for Community Service by Philippine President Gloria Arroyo in 2006.
He was an active member of Ford Motor Company’s Diversity Advisory Board for five years. A systems engineer for over 30 years at Ford Motor, Ed attended Feati University in Manila where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He also attended the University of Michigan and Wayne State University where he obtained his master’s degree in computer and electronics systems engineering.
As a community leader, Ed started as editor of a community newspaper and promoter of shows featuring Philippine-based performers to raise funds for local organizations in Michigan.
A former president of Filipino American Community Council (FILAMCCO), he is a founding member of the Council of Asian Pacific Americans (CAPA), a Detroit-based organization of Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Asian-Indians, Filipinos, and other Asian Pacific islanders.
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“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.