The BISAYA Filipino Social Club of AZ
by Gary McPherrsen
The BISAYA Filipino Social Club of AZ. was started in April 2012. Other Filipino groups were asked to speak at the very first event and give information about their organizations. Unity of different Filipino Groups was one of the goals.
The vision was to have a social group so that Filipino’s could have a place to go to meet new Filipino friends, speak their own language and dialects, eat familiar and comfort foods from the Philippines, sing karaoke and take pictures to show their family and friends back home. We wanted to take some of the loneliness away that newcomers to Arizona just here from the Philippines were having.
Originally the group was just for people from the Visayas Region of the Philippines, but after only one week, membership was opened to all. All are welcome!
A core group was selected to be the BISAYA Board of Directors (BOD). The Club is administered entirely by this volunteer BOD. Decisions on events are entirely made by a simple majority of the BOD.
The first event (A house party) was in July of 2012. A picnic soon followed and each event grew rapidly in numbers. The first Christmas Party was at someone’s home and around 250 were in attendance. We quickly decided that future events would need to be at places other than a home. Currently, membership is over 1600 members making the BISAYA Group the largest Filipino Group in Arizona.
There is no charge to join the BISAYA Filipino Social Club and no dues. Originally there was no charge to go to events, but the Club grew so quickly that a small fee was needed to offset the larger venues that needed to be rented. The fee would generally be something like $10 or $15 plus a potluck dish to share.
Each year the Club has a Halloween Party that sports a costume contest that for children as well as adults. The night boosts plenty of food, Halloween decorations, a DJ playing dance music, door prizes, a silent auction and photo booths. Filipinos meeting new friends and rekindling old friendships is the order of the night. This years Halloween Party will be on Oct 28, 2017. Tickets are available.
A Big Christmas Party follows in early December. Usually there is a best dressed of the night contest for the ladies. One year there was a Parol (an ornamental, star-shaped Christmas lantern) decorating contest. Another year, a Christmas card contest was held for the kids. Of course, Santa Claus is always there for the kids and pictures. The evening continues with door prizes, a DJ and dancing, lots of Filipino and American food, photo opportunities, lavish Christmas decorations and more.
In 2017, there will be a large Unity at Christmas Party with the BISAYA Filipino Social Club of AZ combined with the Filipino American Support Group of AZ (FAST), which is another large Filipino Club. The party will be on December 9th.
One year the BISAYA Filipino Social Club of AZ had a giant Valentines Day party. One member of the Board of Directors let us use a vacant warehouse in Mesa. A couple hours of decorating and it was a beautiful Valentines Party, complete with food, games, DJ and dancing, meeting new and old friends and picture taking.
The BISAYA Filipino Social Club of AZ has volunteered at St Mary’s Food Bank, the 3000 Club (Market on the Move) and the Church at South Mountain. The Club helped with food preparation and/or distribution of food boxes to the needy in the Phoenix area. Upcoming volunteer opportunities include food distribution at the Santa Nino Catholic Community.
When the BISAYA Filipino Social Club of AZ volunteers, it is helping more than the community, it is a chance to socialize with others, while handing out food and vegetables. Many a friendship has been formed at these volunteer events.
More than once, Filipinos in the Phoenix area have met a person at one of the BISAYA events that turned out to be their “cousin” from back home. The person looked familiar and when they talked a little bit, it turned out they were relatives from their childhood.
When a new Filipino contacts the BISAYA Filipino Social Club of AZ and wants to join, we find out where they are from in the Philippines and where they are living in the Phoenix area. We then post the information on the Facebook page and it is exciting watching how many people respond that they are from the same area in the Philippines or they now live in a certain community. We try to match them up.
For the past couple of years the BISAYA Filipino Social Club of AZ has chartered buses and taken the club members to Las Vegas on a turn around Trip. On the bus ride there are games, snacks, singing and sometimes guitar playing and meeting new people. Once in Vegas, people separate and some visit relatives, some gamble or shop and some see the sights. Some go to Seafood City and then go to Red Ribbon Bakery, or Chowking or their favorite; Jollibee.