Filipino community elects FIL-AM board

Filipino residents of Cordova choose board of directors for Filipino American association

Cordova’s Filipino population is getting formally organized with help from the Kodiak Filipino American Association.

FIL-AM President Mary Guilas-Hawver and past president Benito Achas were in Cordova the last weekend of September at the request of Cordova Mayor Clay Koplin and Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, who said they wanted to help local Filipinos become a united community.

Filipinos are an integral part of Cordova and contribute to the local economy in a variety of ways — from cannery workers to shop clerks, housekeepers, business owners and creative entrepreneurs.

“Louise Stutes and I met with the Filipino community,” Koplin said, “And sponsored, along with the Reluctant Fisherman Inn – who provided rooms, the president and past president of the Kodiak Fil-AM to come to Cordova.”

Together with Guilas-Hawver and Achas, the group met at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in gatherings that included a potluck and a slide show, and the election of a full board.

The Cordova FIL-AM executive board consists of Bootslyn Roemhildt, president; Rhey Velasco, first vice president; Aileen Allison, second vice president; Carol Roemhildt, secretary; Abby Gasmen, assistant secretary; Jesse Espejo, treasurer; Beng Arcalas, assistant treasurer; Allen Roemhildt, auditor; Anne Malazo, assistant auditor; Bobby Quemado and Flor Espejo, sergeants-at-arms; and Reyna Newirth and Victoria Peterson, public relations officers.

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“This has moved really fast! We’re so excited to do this,” Bootslyn Roemhildt said. “It feels good to have folks with experience speak out for us and it was so good to have Mayor Koplin and Representative Stutes present. They’ve been highly instrumental in starting this association.”

Bootslyn said her family came to Cordova years ago for the salmon.

Then they stayed.

“My parents arrived in Cordova to work in the canneries,” she said, “They fell in love with the town and the people, and the lifestyle – and they have never left. For most of the Filipino families in Cordova, it’s the same.”

Unity is the key to success, she said.

“I’ve noticed just in the last two days,” Bootslyn said, “That we’re starting to come together as a unified group and that’s something that we need to work on, is unifying. For so long, everyone has been doing what they can on their own. The Filipino community needs to know how meaningful their voice is. I think this will go a long way to show our value as community members in Cordova. We can do a lot of good for the Filipino community and for the community as a whole.”

Stutes said she is excited about the opportunity for the Cordova Filipino American community to formally organize.

“This is an untapped resource,” Stutes said. “The Filipino American communities are well-respected and highly regarded. They’re very participatory in Kodiak, and we hope it will be the same in Cordova. When the community of Cordova comes together, it is a loud voice. The Filipino American community can be a huge part of that. This association is a boon for everyone who is a resident of Cordova.”

Bootslyn said she believes by officially creating a local FIL-AM association, it will allow members to feel and be a contributing part of the town – socially, civically, educationally and to be good stewards.

“We want to do our part in all areas that make a difference in our town,” she said. “It is important to our life in Cordova.”

Bootslyn said they want to give back to Cordova in many ways and have wanted to, for a long time.

“It is a dream, I believe, of our older generation – to have a strong, ongoing organization,” she said. “Pete and Ludy Villa, Filipino-American residents of Cordova, were the backbone of this community. Ludy has passed on, but she was instrumental in keeping the Filipino community together in her generation.”

At a date to be announced, Cordova’s FIL-AM association will invite the community to celebrate the installation of their officers on the newly formed board. Plans are in the works for a Facebook page and a website.  For more information email [email protected]

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Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson
Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson is a staff writer and photographer for The Cordova Times. She has been writing in one form or another for 30-plus years and has had a longstanding relationship with The Cordova Times starting in 1989. She's been an Alaskan since 1976 and first moved to Cordova in 1978. She's lived in various West Texas towns; in Denver, Colorado; in McGrath, Cordova, Galena, Kodiak, Wasilla, Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska and in Bangalore, India. She has two children and three grandchildren. She can be reached at [email protected] or follow her on Instagram @alaskatoindia.