Tony Olaes is a highly successful and talented clothing designer who started his own apparel business at 27 out of a garage. His company, ODM Enterpises, Inc. is now one of the leading manufacturers of pop culture T-shirts and other apparel, with clients like Walmart, Target and Kmart to name a few.
Olaes was a son of Filipino immigrants in the United States. He initially did not have any desire to visit the Philippines – or be Filipino at all – after an experience that led him to be ashamed of his ancestry.
“I recall the trash in the shoreline from all the “squatters” living in shanties on the side of the roads. I remember being uncomfortable with the heat, humidity, and the toilets that you have to flush with a bucket.
From what I experienced, I couldn’t see anything “beautiful” about the place. My home was the United States of America and I had no interest really in going back. I couldn’t see anything I could be proud of, so I just lived as any typical American would.”
Olaes didn’t want anything to do with being Filipino in the Unites States. He didn’t speak the language, he stayed away from Filipino events, he didn’t associate himself with anything Filipino.
All changed with a particular trip to the Philippines that opened his eyes. Upon his wife’s urging, he visited the country one more time.
Olaes described himself on that particular trip as someone coming to the Philippines as an American but returning to the United States a Filipino.
At the Fil-Am Young Leaders Summit, “Tito Tony” will share his personal journey to what it means to be a Filipino-American. His story, travels and charitable work will hopefully give you an understanding to why Fil-Ams are they way they are and why Fil-Ams do the way they do.
More importantly, it is our hope to open the discussion as to why until now, we struggle to find a single voice.
Co-Founder and President , The PULSE Group – Creative Partners, Inc.
Born in Laguna, Philippines, Dasig migrated to the US as a child, growing up solidly “American,” becoming class president, valedictorian and studying economics at one of the nation’s leading universities, Wellesley College, outside of Boston. This is a far cry from what her life would have been like in the Philippines; a realization she made during her first trip back to Manila, seeing where her mother grew up and realistically the life she should have had if they had not left the country.
Dasig’s story is shared by many – those Fil-Ams who grew up abroad – and because of often the most humbling of experiences, have solidly placed the Philippines as a cornerstone in their life. In 2011, Dasig decided to move to Manila to embark on this, at the time, elusive exploration of how to pursue her dreams in that country – dreams that were based in a desire to make all of the struggles of migrating to America worthwhile, to somehow play a role in the development of her “Motherland.”
In 2012, she and her friends founded The PULSE Group – Creative Partners, Inc., where she currently serves as president. PULSE is a creative firm based in Manila, which helps individuals, particularly those underserved, build passion-driven creative careers in the Philippines. They seek to incubate the creative economy of the Philippines as a source of inclusive, sustainable development. Dasig is also the creator and co-producer of MNL – A FilAm TV Original Production, a sitcom about Filipino-Americans searching for belonging and purpose in Manila. She also serves on the board of TIGRA Philippines, a migrant development NGO supporting Fil-Am immigrants, working toward a vision in which migration is a choice, not a necessity, for a better life.
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Panel Reactors: Read about them here.
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8-8:45 Registration, light breakfast.
10:30 am Breakout Session 1
Filipino Community and Civic Engagement
Wrap-up and moderator: Rachelle Ocampo, New York
- Gregory Cendana, Washington D.C.
- Alex De Ocampo, Los Angeles, CA
- Ed Santos, New York
- Melissa Apuya, Sacramento, CA
- Carmille Lim, Common Cause Hawaii
- Nicole Velasco, Neighborhood Commission
- Jeffrey Acido, University of Hawai‘i Student Regent
10:30 am Breakout Session 2
Philippine Arts and Culture take centerstage
Wrap-up and moderator: Louella Cabalona, Chicago
- Julien Baburka, Chicago
- Francine Maigue, San Diego, CA
- Randy Cortez, Hawaii
- Iris Gil Viacrusis, Fashion designer
- Gabriel Torno, Tekniqlingz Crew
- Jane Clement, COVO Foundation
- Rouel Velasco, Sariling Gawa
1:30 pm Breakout Session 3
Filipino talent drives tourism, business, economy
Wrap-up and moderator: Julien Baburka, Chicago
- Bea Querido, Seattle
- JR Calanoc, San Francisco, CA
- Rex Brown Jr., Daly City, CA
- Jason Ubay, Hawaii Business Magazine
- David Aquino, Blue Planet Foundation
- Desirea Aquinaldo-Helsham, One Source, Inc.
- Jeoffrey Cudiamat, Structural Hawaii, Inc.
1:30 pm Breakout Session 4
Education as the key to uniting the Filipino diaspora
Wrap-up and moderator: Gregory Cendana, Washington D.C.
- Edward N. Santos, New York
- Steven Raga, New York
- Rachelle Ocampo, New York
- Maria Andrea Jurado, Waipahu High School Senior
- Daniel Eisen, Pacific University, Oregon
- Zhoydell Magaoay, JCI- Hawaii Filipino Junior Chamber
- Patricia Espiritu Halagao, Pinoy Teach, iJeepney.com