Local Fil-Ams Honor International Hero
Efren Penaflorida made a recent stop in Southern California to add to the honor that came when cable network CNN named him Hero of the Year for 2009.
The latest round of plaudits came in Cerritos, a city on the southern edge of Los Angeles County. That's where Mayor Joseph Cho joined Tony Lima, who serves as mayor of nearby Artesia in greeting Penaflorida, a 29-year-old who founded the Dynamic Teen Company, a non-profit that provides various services to poor youths in the Philippines. Also joining the celebration were Rotary Club of Cerritos-Artesia President, Felix B. Lopez and ABC Unified School District board members Mark Pulido and Armin Reyes.
The gathering took place at Jeepney Asian Grill, a local Filipino restaurant.
Penaflorida's group focuses on community service. With the help of a couple pushcarts carrying books and food, the organization has recreated classroom settings in places where education is scarce, such as slums and trash dumps.
Penaflorida said he was very happy to be around his fellow Filipinos in Cerritos.
"I'm glad and overwhelmed with the acceptance and recognition," he said.
Lopez kicked off the rounds of praise by comparing Penflorida's success with that of a recent triumph for Filipinos, earning a deafening roar of cheers.
"If we have Manny Pacquiao making history in boxing, then Efren Penaflorida is making history in public service!" Lopez said.
Before the presentation of awards, the attendees were treated to a video presentation explaining the nature of Penaflorida's work and the future of Dynamic Teen Company.
"We have four pushcarts: Kari, Toni, Trio, and Nick," Penaflorida said. "We bring literacy. We bring books. We bring food every week."
Penaflorida said it took some time for his parents to warm up to the kind of career he was pursuing.
"When I first volunteered, they were skeptical," he said. "They just wanted me to work. Later on, when they realized I'm doing something good, they became volunteers as well."
School board member Pulido, who has spent time with Penaflorida in the Philippines, said considers Penaflorida a tremendous inspiration to Filipinos worldwide.
"As an educator here in our local school district, he inspires me," Pulido said. "He motivates me to commit myself to helping the neediest in our community. Efren is a very humble, very focused young man who shuns the accolades that have been bestowed upon him and emphasizes that it is a volunteer effort among the thousands of young teenagers that comprise the Dynamic Teen Company, in the Philippines, who deserve the credit."
Chairing the event was Lydia Soriano, a member of the Rotary Club of Cerritos-Artesia. According to Soriano, having Penaflorida in Cerritos was a privilege.
"It was a short program, but it was very organized," Soriano said. "The guests are all awesome. I'm thanking all of them. He is the CNN hero of the year 2009. We feel that giving us a chance to honor him is really good."
According to Danny Moran, owner of Jeepney Asian Grill, the restaurant will pledge $1, after the purchase of a select meal, towards Penaflorida and his efforts.
• CNN Honor for Filipino Shows Power of Pushcart
Terence Calacsan is a writer for Asian Journal.
Photo from Asian Journal.
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