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Major Gen. Taguba, others share success tips and stories in Power ng Pinoy segment

SANTA CLARA – Global Filipino Network (GFN) and its partners videotaped Wednesday night a panel of prominent Filipino-Americans that included Retired US Army Major General Antonio Taguba, Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves and IdeaSpace Foundation Founder and President Earl Martin Valencia to talk about how they broke through personal, language, cultural and other barriers to achieve success at Ding Ding TV (the first Chinese TV studio on the Internet). Other speakers in the panel included Senior Director of Finance at Cisco Systems Eric Refuerzo, Sterling HSA President and CEO Cora Tellez, and Wells Fargo VP for Enterprise Social Media Immanuel Masinsin.

Breaking through the glass ceiling is this month’s episode for GFN’s Inspiring Achievers Speaker series. Segments of this episode will be edited to be shown in the regular season of Power ng Pinoy, Crossings TV Comcast Channel 238 and GMA Pinoy TV (check local listings).

Keynote speaker Major Taguba went to the heart of the matter and said the discussion “is never ending.” That “Filipinos have broken the glass ceiling several times in the community and state levels but not at the national level, especially in politics.”

But, Taguba said, “We can do it in the future. If we can’t prepare the future for our children, we can prepare our children for the future. Leadership with planning and vision can break (open) the silent majority.”

Former US President Richard Nixon used the term in 1969. But many Filipino-Americans use it today to describe a number of fellow Fil-Ams who do not express their opinion publicly. They not only do not participate in the electoral process but are also seen as not participating and, therefore, not giving back to the community. The silent majority’s non-participation is perceived to diminish the voice of the electorate and deprive the community of services and resources that could have been provided with more and, therefore, stronger voice.

Taguba called the US “our county which is most gratuitous, politically divided with hatred and bigotry still existing in an environment that is multi-ethnic, multi-everything and everything up for discussion.”

He said, add to this potent mix, “the Millennials (coined by Eric Greenberg and Karl Weber in their book, Generation, We, referring to the up to 30-year olds born between 1978 and 2000, who number up to 95 million and emerging as a powerful social and political force.)”

Taguba asked if the community is up to the challenge of reining in these diverse factors. He said, “It can be done by doing a better job of mentoring commitment.” He explained that this can be done “by setting the tone for communication, organized strategy to discuss enduring success.” He cited that the Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and Latino communities have struggled for the same thing.


Panelist and Cisco Systems Senior Finance Director Eric Refuerzo said that “being invisible is part of breaking the glass ceiling.” His advice was: “Be your best and be authentic. And put in everything you have.”

Panelist and Sterling President and CEO Cora Tellez remembered a time when she “learned English watching I Love Lucy.” She advised that foremost was “the ability to communicate clearly so you can say what you want.” She also observed that some American values are not compatible with Filipino values, like the need to be assertive in corporate life but having been raised to be humble. But in her book, the values that do work are “hard work, honesty and good communication.”

The language barrier for Panelist and Wells Fargo Enterprise Social Media VP Immanuel Masinsin was when he had to first process an English word to Tagalog before complying with an instruction at a playground in kindergarten. He was marked and sent off to ESL class. The Puerto Rico-born was also one of only two Filipino faces in his yearbook in Florida. But “When I speak of success, I always bring up I’m Filipino and I’m not embarrassed.”

Panelist and five-time Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves wrestled with a tough decision to leave an established life in the Philippines and start all over again in the US “and work for 26 years.” He also said that “to break the glass ceiling, you have to do more than the others. You can’t afford to be like the others.”

For Panelist and IdeaSpace Foundation Founder and President Earl Martin Valencia, “there is no glass ceiling.” He explained, “In the US everything is based on a curve. Everyone is measured against others. I realized I was different. This made me compete at a high level. Then, I think of the glass ceiling as being not there.” He likened it to a mind-set when a perceived ceiling can sometime limit, not motivate. He also said that “in the US, stability is not a value but risk-taking is.”

So what’s holding back Filipino-Americans from success?

Refuerzo said it’s “mentality that limits.” Tellez said, “sometimes, we don’t dream big enough.” Taguba cited his experience in the US Army: “Two million strong with only four per cent Asians. Certainly the 78 per cent White dominated. As an officer, my job was to train soldiers. My career would end if I was not able to do this. Another officer told me, ‘Winning is an attitude. If you think of not winning, you have an attitude.’ I can’t have them fail. It was my core competence. I always say, mentoring is the best investment for human development.”

Esteves warned against “being compliant with your house, car and job. You must do things beyond personal security and career. Not just for the family but also the community. That’s why my passion is community service.” For Valencia, it was “Telling your success story and having the courage to pursue that story.”

 “We had a great turn-out for this event,”  commented Arnold Pedrigal, Founder of Global Fiipino Network and Executive Producer of Power ng Pinoy.  “This is a clear indication that we have to continue to provide the community an  avenue by which successful Filipinos will be able to share their insights to inspire others to pursue their dreams.”, Pedrigal added.

WestBay Pilipino Multi-Service Executive Director and Journalist and Co-host Vivian Zalvidea Araullo summarized the 12 tips from the distinguished panelists to break through the glass ceiling: 1) share success by mentoring, 2) leverage Filipino vision, 3) have a vision, 4) create your own story, 5) assert and have a voice, 6) network, 7) pursue excellence, 8) Be different and take risks, 9) follow your passion, 10) Have competence and confidence, 11) Be self-assured, 12) Be accountable.

Araullo’s co-host was Power ng Pinoy TV Host Anthony Rivero. Jack Dumaup directed for TV production. This GFN event was presented by AARP and in partnership with WestBay, DingDing TV, and Manila Mail newspaper.

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