“What are we doing to help our FYLPRO alumni in their endeavor to uplift the socioeconomic status of Filipinos around the world” asked by the incoming President of the Filipino Young Leaders Program (FYLPRO).

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Louella Cabalona

Meet Louella Cabalona; many know her as the lead singer and the founder of the Filipino folk fusion band SamaSama Project that is based here in Chicago. She is also a newscaster on Chicago Philippine Reports Television and a writer for Via Times News Magazine about local happenings, celebrity features, Filipino culture, food, and travel. Louella, alongside her husband Baron, has a passion for the arts, cultural identity and for fellow Filipinos. One of their many unique ways of giving back is through holding workshops and providing opportunities for kids and teens to learn how to sing in Tagalog, Waray, and other Philippine languages. Those are just but a short snippet of the long list of accomplishments Louella has achieved throughout the years. Her latest upcoming endeavor starts on the 1st of January as she takes on the Presidential post of FYLPRO.

Delving deep into FYLPRO

The passion to serve comes second nature to Louella and it’s no question she would be actively involved with an organization whose purpose is to immerse Filipino Americans to the motherland in order to open their eyes to the socio-economic condition of the Philippines. What initially started as just an immersion program spearheaded by Ambassador Jose Cuisia, FYLPRO soon turned into a non-profit organization filled with high-performing, next-generation leaders whose shared purpose is to uplift the Philippines and the Filipino people through their advocacies and expertise in their respective industries. Safe to say, that this prestigious organization does hold a heavy responsibility as they carefully select each 10 to 15 candidates that would participate in the program from a pool of, by history, at most nearly 400 applicants. 

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FYLPRO Batch 1 Recognition

What makes FYLPRO so special you say? Well, not only is it highly selective, but Filipino Americans get to be flown out to visit the Philippines and get connected with different leaders in the aspect of business, politics, and the arts throughout the entire program. They get to network with prominent individuals in the Philippine scene and lobby their ideas for progress to them. At the same time, they can obtain firsthand opinions from these figures regarding their legacy projects of which they are encouraged to work on and implement after the completion of the program.

The immersion itself is enough to entice people whose purpose is geared towards community building in the Philippines and sure enough a young Louella then applied. Having been part of the first batch of participants of the immersion back in 2012, she has been with FYLPRO for 8 years and is one of the founding members of the organization. Throughout her time, she found like-minded individuals with a common goal of strengthening the Filipino community within their respective states. Louella shares that the program has been life changing as it allowed her to form lifelong friendships which is very germane when it comes to building a stronger Filipino American community. As a result of this experience, she felt compelled to give back in whatever way that she can to make the program truly sustainable.

Philippine Independence Day Parade 2015 with Ambassador Jose Cuisia, Vicky Cuisia, Loida Nicolas and ConGen Mario Lopez

Setbacks and Challenges

With the ongoing pandemic crisis, FYLPRO as an organization had to put on hold their annual immersion program. Despite the tough landscape brought about by COVID-19, Louella shares that FYLPRO was still able to make the most out of this year. When asked what are the current and most recent projects done by the organization, Louella eagerly shared three impactful ones which are the Tayo Help Desk created by the COVID Task Force committee to respond to the community’s need, a series of Filipino Films screening and panel discussions that took place last October during the Filipino American History Month, and the organization’s strategic planning in preparation for 2021 wherein active members and key partners came together to define 16 strategic goals that will be the focus of the organization with the aim to be more sustainable and relevant in the years to come. “After hitting all the basic operations of a working organization, we now want to look forward to offering more value to the community apart from our core immersion program” she says. 

It is worth noting though, that the success of some of the events and projects FYLPRO held this year is not without some visible challenges. Louella shared that it has always been a challenge to work with one another due to the different time zones and locations of members of the organizations. Even with the current circumstances brought by COVID, the fact that many of them haven’t met in person has been difficult to gauge working dynamics. Still, despite all the challenges, they were able to effectively and successfully manage working virtually with some tweaks. According to Louella “little changes make way for big improvements!”. Excited to work with the incoming set of Executive Committee and Board of Directors, she feels that there will be a slight change in dynamic but is hopeful that there will be more initiatives and more participation, given the direction set by their strategic planning. 

FYLPRO Strategic Planning

Moving Forward

When asked if there’s anything she would like to change within the organization itself once she transitions to the position of being FYLPRO’s President, Louella imparted on a commitment instead; sharing “We try to improve collectively as an organization and learn from the leadership and programs done during the previous year. Each year we build and improve on our programs. While serving, I hope to kick start some changes that I feel will help FYLPRO become more sustainable”. To Louella, the organization finds a way to challenge her and take her out of her comfort zone acknowledging that, having gone through with the program herself and meeting the likes of notable Filipino American trailblazers Angela Cabellon and Steven Raga among her batch and many more fellow alumni throughout the years, it has inspired her to step up to the plate “Taking on the position is a huge undertaking especially with the amount of responsibilities it holds when it comes to elevating and taking the organization forward and to a new level” she says.

Presenting at the San Diego FLY in 2013

So, the big question now is what kind of leader is she? Well, to put it quite simply, she is a progressive and collaborative one. “Always welcome to fresh  ideas! [I am] Not here to compete; I want us to collectively progress. In fact, I encourage the younger generation to take over and carry on the torch keeping in mind that we continue to build upon the progress that FYLPRO has made during the previous years” she says. 

As a form of self-measurement for success, Louella feels that if she is able to spark interest within the Filipino American community to take part in FYLPRO all while being able to reignite and fuel the interest and participation from existing and new members, only then could she confidently say she has succeeded as President. Now, we just have to wait and see.

For interested partners/sponsors and any FYLPRO-related inquiries you may contact Louella at louella.cabalona@fylpro.org.

Dec 30, 2020

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