This prestigious and fitting award was bestowed on Ely Abellera the first president of the Filipino-American Association of Greater Atlanta for developing a support organization for the Filipinos that migrated and made Atlanta their home.
Ely Abellera's acceptance speech:
This is one heck of an honor for someone, simply, for being old. Yes indeed, I get it! I am not one who throws compliments rather loosely and indiscriminately. Neither do I acknowledge compliments thrown my way that easily. Although I feel so honored I can only humbly accept this award on behalf of the broader Filipino community here in Atlanta, as all of us have worked diligently to serve our community. To be able to express this here in the open with all humility is precisely why the change of heart after the initial hesitation and feeling of embarrassment when I was first approached about this honor. My special thanks to the Kalayaan committee, especially to the chairman Ms. Meg Bhuiyan and Honorary Consul Raul Donato whom I understand initiated it. As I reflect on what has happened since I first arrived in Atlanta I am amazed at how much has changed over (dare I say) the last 52 years. Atlanta has come a long way since I rolled up in my flaming red 2-door Lemans with Eudora in her aquamarine Mercury Cougar. Along when I-75 and I-85 were still in the drawing board, a long way when the only landmark skyscraper was the regency Hyatt with its famous classy revolving blue-domed restaurant, the Polaris, a long way when there was only one Chinese restaurant in the entire metro area. It is a long way when my friend Manolo and I would have to decide whether to eat in the white cafeteria or in the cafeteria reserved for the blacks down in the basement; a long way when I would awake to a burnt cross in our front yard and eggs thrown to the front door of our very first residence. While Atlanta was warm, it was still cold to foreigners who didn't know where we stood while integration was slowly starting to take place. We relied on our friends to be our backbone, our community. By 1974, we decided to formalize our support system among the few Filipinos by forming the Filipino American Association of Greater Atlanta. Those days are gone but it is the first chapter of the yet to be written history of Filipinos here in this city we've come to love. Fast forward five decades, and those of us at the organizational meeting are now grandparents. Now, Filipinos are in the tens of thousands throughout the Atlanta area. Fil-Am is just one of dozens of organizations to help our community connected. While at times folks are confused which one is which, it probably does not matter as long as we are focused toward one direction ... together and forward. Among us are accomplished folks ... teachers, realtors, musicians, chefs, lawyers, nurses, doctors and entrepreneurs. All are contributing their individual talents and expertise in enriching Atlanta as a premier city of multiculturalism. Indeed, Atlanta has come a long way and so has the Filipino American community progressive and forward looking. Generation after generation, we have all served our community in different ways, all the while honoring and preserving our shared Filipino culture and values. I am honored to be a part of it and I appreciate how each and everyone has contributed their talents and hard work. We all have firmly planted our roots here in the South and got assimilated. We are an integral part in making Atlanta great and home for all of us. You made the difference! You all make it happen! Kayo po lahat ang dahilan! Make no mistake about it. It is not one individual, it's not one group, and it is not one organization. Lahat po tayo!
MARAMING, Maraming SALAMAT at MALIGAYANG ARAW NG ATING KALAYAAN!!****