By: Bob Boyer
Being from “up North” (Green Bay area), I had not previously attended a Hall of Fame Gala. This year, however, I was honored to be one of the two “Friend of the Filipino” Awardees (the other, Jerry Joyce, is a Chicago Mayoral candidate). I even became the owner of a formal barong (Thanks Joe and Rose) so I could attended.
The event was amazing. I recommend the coverage in the October and November “VIA Times.” In the meantime, I can offer this Awardee’s kaleidoscopic perspective, starting with my thank-you email to Veronica Leighton, my “VIA Times” editor and publisher, who nominated me. I was responding to her collective “thank-you” to the Awardees. “Veronica, ‘Getting to know you’ sums it up perfectly. And that’s what I love about Filipinos. I felt at home from the first day of my first trip to the Philippines in 1993, and that never diminished in my subsequent four visits. It’s been a few year since my last visit in 2010, but Saturday night at the Gala, I felt like I was indeed back home. Everyone was warm, welcoming, embracing. That’s something the rest of the world can learn from Filpinos. Special mention for the wonderful Igorot dancers who performed so dramatically in indigenous attire. My wife and I had a delightful chat with several of them during the reception before dinner. I am grateful and humbled by the Award, and to share that honor with the other Awardees. I went to bed smiling, and I woke up the next morning still smiling.”
As I said above, my note was in in part a response to Veronica Leighton’s post- Gala thank you to the Awardees: “Our new Consul General in Chicago has mentioned that this is the first time she has seen this kind of super-production recognition of Filipinos anywhere in the world (she gets assigned to several international posts). I always consider these “getting to know you” times the most precious moments of my life . . . getting to know you, working with you, and feeling so proud of you.”
Organizing such an event is a huge undertaking, and the Awardees have their own assignments. The main one was providing a “one to two minute video” to be shown as we were presented with our Awards. I was at a loss, but I discovered that there were talented professionals for such a task, in my case Communications and Media Staff at St. Norbert College, where I am an emeritus faculty member.
Susan Allen was my guide. She introduced me to the Account Coordinator, Laura Lear. After quizzing me on what was needed, Laura carved out a way to get me there. That “way” was the college’s Media team of Mike Counter and John Devroy. At their direction, I provided photographs of me in the Philippines as well as a brief narrative of what I had done there and with what tangible results. At first I felt like I was back in graduate school prepping for finals. Finals in this case, however, turned out to be a delightful two-hour taped interview with Mike (interviewer) and John (camera), subsequently distilled by them into a one minute and twenty-six second tape. It made me look so good that I began looking forward to viewing it with the audience (a packed Grand Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare). Susan Allen also noted my award in the SNC Online Newsletter, with a copy of the video attached.
My wife Barb, who had made many friends in the Philippines, attended the Gala with me, as did our nephew Chris Fontaine, also a visitor to the Philippines. My other guest was Father Jim Baraniak, a Norbertine priest, our former pastor at the St. Norbert College Parish, and a good friend. We stayed with him at the Norbertine House of Studies in Chicago. As we took our leave, Father Jim looked at me and said, “Congratulations, Bob. Be sure to tell people.” I take that as an exhortation.
Contact Bob Boyer at Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org or <anamericaninmanila.com>.