Joyful Remembrance, Thanksgiving And Recommitment

Posted on November 19, 2017



Kalusugan Community Services (KCS), now named Kalusugan + Kalakasan Center for Health and Wellness (KKCHW) celebrated its 25th anniversary last November 10 with a gala dinner at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation. Present were Mayor of National City Ron Morrison who was given a Kalusugan award for his continued support of the organization through the years. Pastor Rick Narag of the Peace of Christ Church prayed for God’s blessing of the event. San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox and Audie De Castro, Honorary Consul of the Philippines SD County, send their congratulations and best wishes but were unable to attend. The main speakers were Dr. Cheryl Rock, PhD, RD and Professor at UCSD Family Medicine and Public Health on the subject, “Dietary Guidelines for Cancer Prevention: Current Controversies” and Dr. Jim Sallis, also a Distinguished Professor Emeritus from the same department spoke on the subject of “Physical Activity and Cancer Prevention.” Both were long term members of Kalusugan’s Board of Advisors and Co-Principal Investigators in several grants. Copies of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 were raffled off.

The emcee for the event was Dennis-Michael Broussard, Vice-President of KKCHW.

The organizational sponsor for the event was Operation Samahan and those who attended were: Dr. Dirk Zirbel CEO, Jasper Lin, Laura Lau, Joe Garbanzos Board Chair, Rita Andrews Vice-Chair and Awardee, Merly Ferrer Secretary and Awardee, Dr. Ben Camacho, Dr. Bea Bianes, and Vic Bianes Sr. Individual sponsors were Dennis Michael Broussard, Nita Barrion, and Ofelia Dirige. Donors were Gasat & Perla Belo, Dr. Ben & Didi Orejudos, AARP and Tessie Porciuncula,Philippine Nurses Assocaition. Kalusugan had several exhibit booths and also ACCESS, AARP, Operation Samahan and SD County Aging & Independence Services that represented the awardees organizations. Approximately 80 individuals attended the event coming from different FilAm community organizations and others.

The entertainers were Chaplain John Cometa from the US Navy who sang a lovely song on his ukulele. He is a local musician in demand for his soulful interpretation of folk, pop and gospel music. Melanie Jimenez sang several beautiful songs and also the national anthem of the US and Philippines. She is a regular singer at our events starting when she was still a young child and now a beautiful teen. Several dances were performed by the Samahan Performing Arts and a wonderful dance debut for Kalusugan by the Philippine Nurses Association Dance Troupe. The music was supplied by the well-known Celso Macaspac who just came back from the Philippines and he also taught line dancing with the women after the program.

It has always been a tradition at our anniversaries to celebrate, review our accomplishments and inform the community about it so they can rejoice with us and continue to work with and support us. This is also the time to select and give awards to individuals from the community that have done exemplary work for the FilAm population. We recognize these eight “UNSUNG HEROINES” and we will feature them at the next issue. We also recognized our dedicated staff, board, volunteers, donors and supporters who have helped us through the years.

We gave special recognition to individuals who passed away and contributed to the founding and success of the organization in its beginning years. This includes Dr. Riz A. Oades, Co-Founder and First President of Kalusugan who passed away in 2009; Christopher Feraro, Kalusugan Graphic Artist and Administrative Assistant and member of the Filipino American Arts and Cultural Festival (FilAmFest) who passed away this year; and Virgil Yalong, also a coordinator of FilAmfest. Luz Mercer and Emma Hartwich, sisters of Dr. Oades were present as well as Helen Arenas the mother of Chris Feraro and Friend, Joe Mazares.


The theme for this year is ”Joyful Remembrance, Thanksgiving and Recommitment.” I will review the history of Kalusugan from its founding in 1992 up to 2017; its accomplishments for the past 25 years; and what our plans are for the future so the community can continue to work with us and support us. This history were all portrayed in the exhibits that was displayed in the hallway of the Jacobs Center. I hope that a book about Kalusugan will be compiled soon.


The history of Kalusugan is divided into four periods that include: a) Founding and Early Programs from 1992-1995; b) Rapid growth from 1996-2001; c) Building of the FilAm Wellness Center from 2002-2015 including major programs implemented in the beginning and minor programs before its closing and passing away of Co-Founder Dr. Riz Oades; and d) Rebranding and Reorganization beginning 2015 to 2017 with a new name and consolidated programs.

a.  Founding and Early Programs: Kalusugan was founded in 1992 as a coalition between San Diego State University, Council of Philippine American Organizations (COPAO) and Operation Samahan. The purpose of the coalition was to conduct a health needs assessment of the FilAm community. It was successful in mobilizing the community and the major findings showed that cancer, heart disease, diabetes and mental health of youth were the main problems. However, one member of the coalition decided that continuing it will be a conflict of interest for their organization so we disbanded and went on their own. However, SDSU and COPAO continued working together. Programs during the Early years were targeted more to the youth in the upper elementary grades, middle school and high school with the help of the community. These included nutrition and physical activities (PA) and gang/suicide prevention programs.

b.  Rapid growth- Gradually, more nutrition and PA programs for adults were instituted to reduce risk for cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The organization grew tremendously in programs, staff, and funding.

c.  Building- In 2002, we built the Filipino American Wellness Center and developed a comprehensive health program until 2015 consisting of four components: Community Service and Education, Advocacy, Research and Training. This was also marked by the passing away of Dr. Oades and economic recession that led to loss of leadership and funding. Thus, we had to sell the FilAm Wellness Center and reorganize.

d.  Branding and Reorganization- Programs were further consolidated into two programs : the “ Total Wellness” program that incorporates the eight aspects of health such as physical, mental, social, intellectual, environmental, occupational, financial, and spiritual. The other major program is the “Vim & Vigor: Art & Wellness Festival” that showcases the art, culture and health resources in the API community. We had a Strategic Planning in 2014 to 2017 and the plans are being evaluated for its accomplishments this year. We are at another stage of Strategic Planning for the years 2018- 2010.

Our accomplishments for the last 25 years is an Empowered FilAm community that has developed: a) greater awareness of the importance of health; b) more knowledge on what constitutes good health and how to be healthy; c) knowledge of health programs that is being replicated by the community; d) participation of the community in the solution of their own health problems; and e) improvement of health.


We thank God for what He has done in the past 25 years because it is through Him and because of His grace and guidance that all of the above outcomes had been accomplished. Without His support we would not have gotten all the grants received from funders, the strength and guidance needed to do the work and the dedicated support of the FilAm community. At this Thanksgiving Day we give Him all the praise and glory for all He has done. TO GOD BE GLORY!


What does the future hold for us?

Obviously, we know that many health problems still exist. Cancer is still the leading cause of death in FilAms; breast cancer is the second leading cause in FilAm women and is increasing at an alarming rate among younger U.S. born FilAm women, approaching the rates of White women; heart disease and stroke are the second the third causes of death; and diabetes is the fourth cause of death.

We should continue our efforts to improve the health and wellness of the FilAm community so they will be healthy, live longer and lead productive lives. We need to work together in this effort. Most of all, we should pray that God will give us wisdom and guidance on what to do, how to do it, and the strength to undertake it. Then, let’s commit it to God and trust Him that He will do what He says. This is an urgent call to the community!