The following was sent to Marily Mondejar and the FWN Board and is shared with the author's permission.
I know we didn't have much time to talk during the FWN Summit, but I just want to tell you how much I was completely transformed by all the events that weekend. From the shuttle rides, to the workshops, to the meals and ultimately the Gala, I felt a strong bond with Filipinas around the world like never before.
I found myself reflecting constantly about my mother (originally from Cebu) and all that she sacrificed for me. She passed away when I was 15 and seemed to have sent me a new Mom … a mom of my adulthood—Mama/Auntie Vangie, who has opened me up to an even larger network of strong, proud, intelligent Filipinas. I am so proud to be recognized by this organization as one of these strong & influential Filipinas. What an honor!
By how professional and well-organized (and detailed) the summit was and how elegant the Gala was, I became convinced that it is truly the communities we represent and the communities we serve who can recognize our accomplishments in a way that is most meaningful to us. We may not always get the recognition, the accolades, or the respect we deserve from the institutions we work for.
Long ago, I made the decision never to sacrifice my health or compromise my identity for any institution. This had resulted from having devoted 7.5 years of my life to a Catholic high school, having an enormous influence on hundreds of students' lives, only to have my heart broken by the institution several times by racism, neglect, and scandal.
For my 7.5 years of service (though I did receive Teacher of the Year award around my 5th year), I was never given a formal farewell from the faculty/administration in ways that other faculty would be honored/recognized during a school assembly or graduation ceremony. I felt exploited. Not by the students, but by the institution.
It wasn't that I only wanted to serve on condition that I receive an award. I think this goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: most certainly my love for students and the energy I put in the classroom instruction was not driven by the possibility of receiving awards. Truly the most enriching reward was my students' laughter and tears and seeing my students come back years after they've graduated to tell me about their lives.
That was 2006. Since then, I have been careful not to expect an institution to honor my work in the way that I believe I deserve. In a sense, an institution can never truly know exactly what sort of blood, sweat, tears, anguish and love is required of women of color on a daily basis.
Though I am extremely grateful that I am in a much better place now (at Napa Valley College), in a much better/healthier division, (the Arts and Humanities Division) surrounded by people within that division who have a far, greater respect and appreciation for the work I do than ever in the past, this wonderful recognition is still unmatched when compared to the recognition I felt at the FWN Gala and the beautiful exchanges I had with the women during the FWN summit—an event organized by Filipinas who understand the blood, sweat, tears, anguish and love of expended by Filipinas in the public and private sector.
Lastly, I thank you for this concept of the FWN GlobalAward 100 being a "working" award. This was made so clear throughout the weekend and particularly during the speeches at the Gala (as I reflect particularly on the speech of Cora Tellez).
Instead of FWN being some insular, secret society, it is an organization that wants to continuously recognize the accomplishments of Filipinas worldwide and reach out to and become models for young Filipinas to ensure their success and well-being. It wants to expand its circle to include more and more accomplished Filipinas with each year that passes, reminding its members of their responsibility to continuously reach out and femtor others.
The organization, while recognizing 100 awardees each year, still remains conscious of the fact that there are many Filipinas out there (who may not be official awardees) who are nonetheless doing great transformative work that deserves to be recognized; thus, this becomes the impetus for us to grow, femtor, and turn our awards into "working" awards.
Marily, I thank you so much for founding FWN ten years ago, and thank you to the organizing committee and board for all they have done. I look forward to becoming a member and attending the next FWN Summit and seeing Susie Quesada in action as the new president. I think this organization becomes a fabulous model for other communities of color and other marginalized communities whose work tends not to be publicly recognized.
My sincerest thanks.
Janet C. Mendoza Stickmon is the Founder of Broken Shackle Developmental Training and the
Professor of Humanities, Napa Valley College in Napa, California. She can be reached at jstickmon [at] gmail [dot] com.