UniPro Summit

General Antonio M. Taguba on vision, fear and failure


Our fourth annual UniPro Summit took place this past Saturday, May 31st. Ryan Letada, Chief Builder of NextDayBetter and the moderator of our Typhoon Response Panel at Summit, had the opportunity to speak to retired Major General Antonio M. Taguba, our Closing Keynote Speaker. I saw Ryan's original social media post about the encounter and knew I had to share his story here.

By Ryan Letada, guest contributor

I absolutely admire Major General Antonio M. Taguba, US Army Retired. You can probably notice how nervous I was in this conversation. I don't usually write confessionals but I thought this was worth it.

At the Pilipino American Unity for Progress (UniPro) Summit, I pulled General Taguba aside and asked him a question:

"You commanded army battalions - thousands of men and women. Your leadership decisions are matters of life and death. I think it takes strong commitment to VISION to lead in such circumstance. Do you ever get scared of your vision?"

He was incredibly vulnerable in his response. Without hesitation, he talked about being scared. He talked about the six (6) people that died under his leadership. He talked about the importance of failing and accepting our own humanity. He started to talk about persistence and clarity in vision... but our conversation was interrupted by the throngs of people waiting to speak to him. Too bad.

Major General Taguba is an elder. I've been told that many adults don't graduate to "elderhood" - a concept not simply linked to age. Elderhood is about reaching a stage in life when you have absorbed and applied wisdom, and learned that your role is to "give it forward" as gifts. 

My vision for my life or NextDayBetter scares me a lot. I'm not perfect. In fact, this weekend I made mistakes and failed. General Taguba's words was a reminder to accept our human imperfections, and aspire to learn and grow so that we may eventually reach - if we're lucky enough - the stage of elderhood.


Ryan Letada is CEO and Chief Builder of NextDayBetter - a culture platform that builds and activates diaspora communities to create a better future. He is also a foodie, Fulbright Fellow, and social innovation junkie.




Photo credit: Lambert Parong

Rise with UniPro Summit 2013

UniPro Summit 2013 is in just over a month, and we have a few exciting announcements! 1. Our speaker list is up! This year, our distinguished speakers include: Ayesha Vera Yu - CEO & Co-Founder, Advancement for Rural Kids Bernadette Ellorin - Chairperson, BAYAN-USA Hector Logrono - Founder & President, PAGASA Social Foundation, Inc. Isis Arias - Brand Marketer, Strategist, Event Maven Jason Tengco - Advisor on Public Engagement for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Krizia Medenilla - Co-Founder of RedefinedMag; Marketing and Communications of Bayani Tour Matthew Bukirin - Senior Transportation and Budget Analyst at the NYC Mayor's Office of Management and Budget Rina Atienza - Senior Account Manager (Social), Isobar; Writer/Blogger for 30ishme at Perfectly Social Rolando Lavarro - Councilman-At-Large, Jersey City, NJ Rose Rosales - Philippine Nurses Association of NJ Theresa Dizon-De Vega - Deputy Consul General & Manager, Philippine Center-NY Venessa Manzano - Founder & School Director, The Filipino School of NY & NJ Our very special keynote speaker will be Jessica Cox, an international motivational speaker whose many accomplishments include being a licensed pilot and black belt in Taekwondo - all without arms.

More speakers and itinerary will be announced soon!

2. Early Bird Registration ends Tuesday, April 30th! Buy your discounted ticket now for $20 Student Admission / $25 General Admission. Beginning Wednesday, May 1st, buy your ticket for $30 Student Admission / $35 General Admission.

3. Support the development of our community of young Filipino leaders by contributing to Summit! Our fundraising project is up on PhilAmTHropy. Earn awesome rewards!

RISE with us on June 1st!

RSVP on Facebook

Buy your ticket on Eventbrite

#Rise / @UniProNow

Iris and Gecile Co-Chairs, UniPro Summit 2013

Planning Summit 2013


Note from the editor: This text was originally delivered as a speech to the UniPro staff at April's staff meeting as written and performed by UniPro Vice President, Iris Zalun. For more information about UniPro's third annual Summit, or to purchase early bird admission (offer valid until 4/30), visit the event's Facebook event page. Scarily enough, Summit 2013 is quickly approaching. Even though it’s stressful, even though I’m losing sleep over it, even though Gecile and I spend hours and hours every week in meetings talking about logistics, speakers, the itinerary … I still love this shit.

But I didn’t always. Last year, as most of you already know, I was the Summit speaker chair. Which means I was in direct contact with almost 39 community figures and had to make sure they would actually show up on June 2nd. THAT is stressful. The emails, the meetings, the late hours … I asked myself, “Why? Why am I even doing this?” I wasn’t getting paid for what was essentially a second full time job. No one was. How was planning a small conference for a bunch of Filipino kids going to help me at all?

But I realized during last year’s Summit, it wasn’t about just helping myself. Last year, through all that hard work, through my bugging speakers for their bios, photos, magazine responses, and for their commitment to come to Summit at all, through the hard work of our co-chairs Rachelle and Judy, and our entire staff … we contributed to something bigger than ourselves, to the “Renaissance” of our people. It was a day to celebrate the successes of individuals from our community, from Tony Meloto, founder of Gawad Kalinga, which builds sustainable communities in slum areas, to Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and undocumented immigrant, fighting for immigration reform, to Ayesha Vera Yu, who worked as an investment banker then used her business knowledge to found Advancement for Rural Kids, investing in poor, malnourished children in rural areas of the Philippines to help them climb out of poverty. It was a day to celebrate these individuals and to recognize the progress of the community due to their work, but also to acknowledge that more needs to be done. It was a day to inspire the eager delegates like us, the passionate leaders like us, the ambitious young lawmakers, nurses, and writers like us, who will take up the struggles of our community and the unfinished work of Tony Meloto, Jose Vargas, and Ayesha Yu, to make positive and tangible change.

Being in UniPro, to be sure, is damn hard work. Once in a while, all I want to do is just go home, not talk to anyone, and watch The Walking Dead in my bed. But I can’t b/c more often than not, I’m Google hanging out with at least three of you. Do I really care about watching Rick kill zombies? I mean, a little bit, but mostly no, because at the end of the day, I care about our development as leaders for the ultimate purpose of helping our community.

Filipino historian Renato Constantino said, and I’ve quoted him before, “Leadership is the opportunity to learn.” One reason why we are in UniPro is because in order to solve issues, we have to learn about the issues. Did you know that one in ten Filipina women aged 15-49 has experienced sexual violence? That the voter turnout rate among Fil Ams in ‘04 and ‘08 was at less than 10%? That the Philippines still adheres to laws set in place during the Spanish era? This, and so much more, is the kind of information our peers need to know, and which I learned because of UniPro.

Learn from our own events and from the amazing work of other community organizations. BAYAN-USA and its many chapters confront problems such as the trafficking of Filipino migrants. PAGASA provides programming for our senior citizens. FALDEF, AF3IRM, FACE, Kalusugan Coalition, Leviathan Lab … they all have worthy causes and it is our job as UniPro to provide a platform for them to reach the community.

The “community.” We always talk about the “community.” Who are the faceless and nameless members of the “community” that we are working so hard for? They are our peers - the youth who are curious about the issues, or who feel passionate about certain campaigns but may not have the knowledge or tools to take action. They are the disenfranchised and the underrepresented. They are the undocumented immigrants, hiding and afraid, whose families brought them here to pursue a dream, but whose “illegal” status is preventing them from following their own dreams. They are the migrant workers, vulnerable and eager for jobs, who are tricked into being trafficked. They are the hungry children who drop out of school to sell dried flowers in the streets, already broken by a system that has failed them. We cannot pass up this opportunity to help those whom opportunity has passed over. UniPro is that opportunity. Rise and grab it.