MAINITNON INCORPORATED: OUR EVOLUTION
By Nora Mosende Douglas
(with updates by JR Gatpolintan)
“Hinangkupay, Hagikhikay, Balitaay”, in Surigaonon language literally means warm renewal of ties, joyful laughter, and sharing of news of each other. These things always transpire each time MI holds its annual meeting. The themes of our reunions encapsulate the essence of the deep bond among the Mainitnons in North America that is derived from a common sociocultural heritage. Each time we meet, we Mainitnons, who originally hailed from our cherished town of Mainit, Surigao del Norte, reminisce, revel, and look forward to what lies ahead while savoring our present company, and nostalgically recall the bittersweet memories of growing up in Mainit.
So, what and who comprise Mainitnon Incorporated? What do we tell our our young and even grown children reared in our bicultural settings or our friends who are not from Mainit? How did MI come about? Basically, we declare to them that we are a group of Mainitnons who carry within us the sense of belonging and the rich nurturing we receive from our families and the Philippine culture imbued with religious and moral compass that have taken us to these distant shores. We are the proud immigrants who try to blend the best of both worlds of moral values, wholesome practices, aspirations, skills, and attitudes of participating and contributing to the betterment of the societies we are immersed in. Just as importantly, we are the grateful children of Mainit who continue to connect with Mainit in ways to help uplift the townspeople in their human and community development.
Individuals and families from Mainit have come to the United States and Canada since the 1960s. Through the years, those who came earlier, connected with those who came later, informally through family gatherings, special occasions, celebrations, and the like. The informal network of sharing of who was, where, and when they first came, was alive. Telepono, suyat pa sa una (Telephone, hand-written letters were the ways of communication at first). Waya pay FB, Twitter, Skype, IM, social media (There was no FB, Twitter, Skype, IM, social media yet). The diaspora took the Mainitnons to different parts of the United States, Canada and later to Europe, New Zealand, Middle East, etc.
The Formative Years
In 2005, a group of Mainitnons from northern and southern California, Nevada, some from the Philippines, Canada, and also some migrant friends from neighboring towns of Mainit, got together in Elk Grove, California and had its first reunion. The gathering was dubbed, Pijanga America 1st Grand Reunion. Mainitnons often fondly call ourselves, “pijangas” especially when meeting in groups. It refers to the abundant native life-giving fish, pijanga, in Lake Mainit (thus, “schools of pijangas” or “panon nan mga pijanga”). It was a meeting borne out of love and the longing to bond together and Elk Grove, CA was a logical first convergent point. Excited telephone conversations finally morphed into this pioneering endeavor. Captain Denis Perez, his wife Deborah “Diday” Velarde-Perez were the prime movers of this first salvo. Aprilyn Belbar-Taylor, who is based in Nashville, TN was also instrumental in inviting Mainitnons to this initial meeting. Susan Relliquette of Calgary, Canada has the distinction of being the first Mainitnon-Canadian attendee. The traditions of songs, dances, games, picnics, and food galore during reunions interplayed with the camaraderie of the attendees.
Las Vegas, Nevada was the site of the 2007 reunion. The Solivens-Mondanos, Kollman-Resullars, Dodong Jun Villapane, JR Gatpolintan, Pagapong-Cabertes, Ambray-Gos, Llameras, Dumadag-Fulgados, Sutiangso-Opalias, Belbar-Taylors, Crispo Salino and many others reunited once again to celebrate our shared experiences.
Then on to San Diego, California in 2008. Reverend Isaias and Mila Paniamogan were the main hosts for this third reunion. Mainitnons from Canada, New York, Seattle, and North and SoCal, once again socialized and set goals for the group in the years ahead. Mainitnon sa Amerika was formed during this reunion. Work committees were organized to register the group with the State of California as a mutual benefit organization.
Dallas, Texas was chosen to be the site of the next reunion in 2009. So, we drove, hopped on planes and ventured to the hospitable welcome of the Reyeses, Mondano-Ackers, Mondano-Elsisuras, Recabos, Charlotte Bacabis and other Mainitnons who reside in the state of Texas. A good time was had by all, including a tour of historic Dallas, a “Western-inspired” dance event, and a picnic in the park.
Seattle, Washington was the locale for the group’s 2010 reunion. The Nalams, Mangalindans, Nieres, and Quitlongs banded together to host the event. Among the highlights of the reunion was the birthday fete for the matriarch of the Nalams, Nanay Kensing.
The Birth of MI and DEAR
As history had it, in 2011, during its reunion dubbed, Mainitnon Lakers at the LA Reunion, the group transitioned to a new identity as Mainitnon Incorporated as agreed upon by the majority of the attendees of more than one hundred. It was hosted by the Villapanes, Llameras, Banzons, Mosende-Douglases, Mozar-Garaniels, and the Dumadag-Fulgados. The group incorporated itself as a mutual benefit organization with a new registration in the State of California. Erlinda Olam-Augustine (then living in Juneau, Alaska) was its first elected president. A tour of the LA scenes, a funfilled picnic in the park, cultural dances, and gala dance entertained the merrymakers. Serious matters also were planned for outreach in Mainit, such as developing the Mabini School Library. The organization also assisted financially in the construction and development of the archival offices of the Mainit Catholic Parish through a generous gift from the Tracy Filipino American Catholic group.
Since then, MI alternately meets biennially for a fundraising Dance Event And Reunion (DEAR) with its regional focus, and a grand reunion in the following year. DEAR events had been held in Vancouver, Canada (2012), hosted by the Luarezes, Villamon-Paniamogans, Behagans, Mosters among others. In Nashville, TN (2014), the Belbar-Taylors were the primary hosts; The Montaner-Scharporns were the gracious hosts for DEAR in Twin Lake, Michigan (2016). This latter meeting was graced by one of the Mainitnon pioneers, the late Dr. Rowan Labrador of Logan Ohio.
In 2013, MI had its 7th Grand Reunion in Dublin, North California. The Gatpolintans, Solivens, Resullars, Kollmans, Stellings, Doongs, Perezes, Banzons, and others were among the hospitable hosts who not only showed us the sights of the City by the Bay, San Francisco, but also wowed us with the Black and White Dinner Dance event. Another picnic in the park capped the reunion. Glenda Mosende of Toronto, Canada was the next elected president.
Then on to Canada, the Pijangas went in 2015. The Mainitnon Canadians gathered us in full force in Toronto, Canada. In our red maple colors, we toured the city and ate sumptuous meals at the homes of our gracious hosts and at the Toronto Chinatown. Our gracious hosts were the Villanuevas, Salinos, Jessups, Mosendes, Nieuwlands, Sy-Pintolos, Lesly Mojar, Victoria Mozar-Azzaraga. We had a grand time touring the city, dancing, and fellowshipping. The trip to Niagara Falls was one of the highlights of the event. At the picnic, the Reyeses of Newfoundland provided us with abundant delicious fresh seafood from their place. The officers reported the successful outreach programs and partnerships in Mainit for different projects. School equipment, supplies, and books were shared in several schools across the municipalities; nutritional support, slipper-giving, TESDA trainees sponsorship were among these projects. Ruby Sue Mordeno-Mangalindan of Bothell, Washington was elected as MI’s 3rd president.
In 2017, Seattle earned the honor of being the first city to become a repeat reunion host. The Mangalindans, Nalams, Quitlongs, adopted-Mainitnon, Elizabeth “Betchay” Rice and others spoiled us to bits in beautiful Seattle, Washington. We thoroughly enjoyed the foodfest at the Mangalindans in Bothell and the party thrown by the Nalams in Auburn as we again reminisced and shared our Mainitnon stories as well as new experiences in the newfound land. The memories of the tours and picture-taking galore at Pike Place Market, downtown Seattle will be forever etched in our minds. JR Gatpolintan of San Francisco, CA was elected its 4th president.
The celebration took a grander significance when the MI Board of Directors announced 2 recent major achievements of the organization. Firstly, in October 2015, Manintnon, Incorporated (MI) and Tambayayong Mainit, Incorporated (TMI) jointly signed a Memorandum of Agreement formalizing the nascent partnership between the two organizations. MI, which is based in Northern America is more poised to raise funds and TMI which has strong local presence in Mainit, would be the main implementer of common identified projects. Defining the complementary and symbiotic roles of the two groups was win-win proposition. This means a more efficient way of accomplishing development work. Secondly, in 2017, MI was granted federal tax exempt status. It is now recognized as 501c(3) organization. All donations to MI for its development work would be tax deductible making it more attractive to potential donors.
In 2018, the DEAR event was in Rosemont, Illinois. The Mordenos, Monterolas, and others were the gracious hosts. The highlight was the 90th birthday celebration of the one of the inspirations of MI, retired educator, Rosario “Lola Chayong” Arpilleda Mordeno.
MI Looking Ahead
MI continues to evolve as a dynamic organization. Among the projects undertaken and we continue to implement are providing beginning reading teaching materials (Unang Hakbang Pagbasa program) for elementary schools in Mainit; the eLibrary project which provides essential digital resources and training to beneficiary schools’ students and teachers, support for dental-medical missions, outreach to senior citizens, support for tree-growing and other environmental activities, etc. Partnerships have been forged with civic groups such as the Tambayayong Mainit Incorporated, among others.
In God’s time, we will have more reunions to come. And every time we meet, we rhapsodize our reminiscences and dreams for Mainit and our own renewals of ties. We are a people of hope and aspirations. We love life and we know how to have fun while tending to serious matters of HUMming, ‘HELP UPLIFT MAINIT”, and affirming our love for our fellow Mainitnons not only among ourselves and our families, but also those in Mainit who provide the lifelines of our dreams and continuities. In the meantime, wherever we are in the United States, Canada, Europe, or anywhere in the world, we endeavor to bloom where God has planted us and our families.