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HISTORY OF SEVEN LAKES INTERNATIONAL (cont.)


Cunanan wrote for various newspapers in Noth America and later published and edited his own newspaper, the Philippine Chronicle and Dahong Pilipino, The Filipino-Canadian Business Directory in British Columbia. He was secretary-general of the United Council of Filipino Associations in Canada (UCFAC), the national organization of Filipino-Canadians.

In December, 1991, Cunanan received the LINKAPIL (Lingkod sa Kapawa Pilipino) Award at the Malacanang Palace from President Corazon C. Aquino for Journalism and Community Service. In 1996, he was profiled in the book Profiles in Excellence: Filipino Achievers in the USA & CanadaLeonardo B. Cunanan authored by Prof. Isabelo Crisostomo and published in Maryland, USA. The book featured more than 100  successful Filipinos in North America who had overcome the odds and become major contributors to the American and Canadian societies. In 1997, the Government of Canada gave recognition to this San Pableno by appointing him member of the federal Immigration and Refugee Board, a quasi-judicial tribunal. He still holds this position.

Although the two expatriate San Pablenos ventured in different careers, they discovered in their middle age that they had something in common. They were both active in civic work and were also both involved in supporting projects for the poor in San Pablo City. They were aware of the existing organizations of San Pablenos in major cities of the United States and Canada that support specific projects in the city. They felt that while these associations were doing good works, much more could be done if all these groups could have a common goal and work jointly to support major projects that would benefit a greater number of people.

It was at that point that the two men came up with the idea of forming a coordinating body that would unite all groups of San Pablenos for a common goal. They agreed that Vancouver should host the first conference sometime in 1997 or 1998. Cunanan formally advocated the calling of an international conference in an article entitled "International Conference of San Pablo Associations?" which was circulated to Seven Lakes Associations in the United States and Canada. It took four more years before  the first convention could be held but Cunanan did not fail to promote the idea in his meetings with fellow San Pablenos outside of Vancouver.  When he spoke at Induction Dinner of the San Pablonians of Washington in Seattle in March 1997, he brought up the federation idea and the officers of the association led by Rommel Dealino and Manny Reyes expressed their support for the project.  When he inducted the officers of Seven Lakes Association of Northern California in San Francisco in January 1998, the same proposal was met with great interest by its presiden Sammy Cosico and the officers and members of the Bay Area group.  Cunanan continued phoning some leaders of other Seven Lakes associations to solicit their support. 

Under the leadership of Sonia Suarez de Guzman, president of the Seven Lakes (San Pablo) Association in British Columbia, the local group decided to host the founding convention of leaders of San Pablo associations in Vancouver, Canada on August 8-15, 1999.  Some 80 delegates attended the weeklong gathering held at a specially constructed meeting hall in the premises of Randy and Marina Saul's residence in Vancouver.  Aside from social activities and field trips, the delegates made reports of the activities of their respective associations and exchanged ideas on how to better serve their home city.

The delegates arrived at a consensus that the needs of San Pablo City, especially the poor and the needy in the depressed areas, could be better served if they work together to achieve a common goal. In the end, the delegates decided to form a federation called Seven Lakes (San Pablo City) International and elected an interim board of directors. Dr. Mario Borja, a retired medical practitioner and civic leader in San Francisco was unanimously elected president and Carlito Bartolome, former president of the Seven Lakes Association of Northern California as secretary. Directors from participating organizations in Vancouver, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles and Winnipeg assisted them. The next convention of the federation was set for the year 2000 with the San Francisco group as host.

The Second International Convention, attended by some 120 delegates, was held in San Francisco attended by some 120 delegates, was held in San Francisco on July 30 - August 5, 2000 with the Seven Lakes Association of Northern California, under the leadership of its president, Alice Guia-Enriquez playing as host. highlights of the convention included a golf tournament, sightseeing tour of the Bay Area, picnic, socials, business meetings and a formal dinner-dance. At the closing ceremony, all heads of Seven Lakes associations received plaques of recognition donated by Atty. Ken Javaluyas, Jr. president of the Laguna Chapter of Integrated Bar of the Philippines. (IBP).

The delegates formally ratified the existence of the federation and elected the officers for the next two years. The officers elected were: Alice Guia-Enriquez (San Francisco), president; Aurora Ticzon-Elifano (Toronto), vice-president; Carlito E. Bartolome (San Francisco), secretary; Cynthia Deriquito-borja (San Francisco), treasurer; Lito Mendoza Diaz (New Jersey), auditor and Manny Reyes (Seattle), public relations officer. The members of the board of directors were: Dr. Elizer V. Aquino (Chicago), Eva Janolino (Las Vegas), Tanya Azores-Gunter (Los Angeles), Renato David E. Reyes (San Diego), Sonia Suarez-de Guzman (Vancouver) and Pete Mendoza (Winnipeg). The advisers were: Dr. Mario Borja and Leonardo Cunanan. Atty. Dominador Laset, Jr. a barrister and solicitor in San Jose California was designated to head a committee that would prepare the constitution and by-laws and incorporation papers.

The participants decided to hold the Third International Convention in San Pablo City on February 18 - 24, 2002. Delegates from San Pablo City headed by Monsignor Jerry Bitoon and Atty. Ken Javaluyas, Jr. accepted the responsibility of hosting te next convention. Subsequently, a chapter of Seven Lakes International called Samahang Pitong Lawa was organized in the city to coordinate with the federation on future projects and harness community support in hosting the Third International Convention billed as "The Greatest Homecoming Event."

Expected to return home for the third convention are balikbayans from New Jersey, New York, Chicago, Seattle, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas in the United States. From Canada, the delegates will arrive from Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. Former San Pablo residents now residing or working in Europe and southeast Asia have also been invited to attend. If they do and decide to organize new Seven Lakes Associations in the cities where they now reside, Seven Lakes International would really be "international" in scope and its services multiplied. What a way for overseas San Pablenos to share their blessings with their less-fortunate kababayans and be an active partner in the development of their beloved city.

 

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