Dance Party to help participants get healthy, offer education about Filipino American culture
Roughly 11 years ago, Elmer De Jesus came to the United States from the Philippines.
He was born and raised in the southeast Asian country comprised of more than 7,000 islands.
“I’ve been here in the U.S. since 2005. I went through the process of becoming a citizen. This year, I am celebrating seven years as a citizen,” he said.
Coming from a Filipino background, the eastern-western combined culture is “embedded” in him, De Jesus said.
“Moving here, learning about American culture, putting that together creates a better me as a person,” he said.
Now De Jesus, 33, of Falling Waters, W.Va., hopes to share what he has always known, along with what he has learned, with other people in the area through the fledgling group CO-FAM – Cultural Organization of Filipino Americans.
“The goal of CO-FAM, our mission, is to promote and preserve and celebrate Filipino culture and heritage mainly by educating the community and our youth about traditions through social and cultural events,” he said. “It is basically a new organization that we are putting together with the goal of creating CO-FAM as a nonprofit in the community.”
Toward that end, CO-FAM is hosting its first social event, a Holiday Fitness Party, 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9. It will feature Bang Power Dance by Marie, Zumba by Natalia and Dancethology by De Jesus. Music will be provided by DJ Vince. Participants are invited to wear “ugly holiday fitness” outfits. A prize will be awarded for the ugliest.
De Jesus, who is a fitness instructor and manages public relations for CO-FAM, said the event will serve primarily to raise awareness for the group. Tickets cost $10 advance purchase and $15 at the door for adults, and $3 for ages 6 though 12. There will be a light meal provided by CO-FAM, as well as refreshments sponsored by AMADA Senior Care and Rice Agency. All proceeds will go to the group’s initiatives.
“Filipino Americans and people of other races from the Hagerstown-Washington County community, people are coming together to start this project,” he said. “We are doing this to raise funds to help us apply to become a nonprofit organization.”
While the group has been in the works behind the scenes through efforts of about a dozen individuals, this will be CO-FAM’s first public event.
“We have decided to do a dance party because Filipinos love to party. We love to dance and have a good time. Everybody does,” De Jesus said. “I, myself, being a fitness instructor, with the help of other fitness instructors around the area, we felt this would be a great way to invite the community, with a dance-fitness focus.”
The Holiday Dance Party will be open to adults and children.
“This is a family fitness event. CO-FAM will help me spread awareness, help me educate youth about Filipino American culture, our history, culture and heritage, and will help toward our future Filipino American success,” he said.
In addition to applying for 501-C3 status, the group will direct money raised toward future CO-FAM cultural events.
“Really, my vision here, the bigger picture here, is to create a festival, a Filipino American festival in the local community, to invite the community and to create awareness,” De Jesus said. “To have a festival in Hagerstown opened up to the community for them to know more about Filipino Americans. Also for families to have resources for their kids, as Americans living here in the U.S.”
The group also aspires to provide scholarships.
“We want to go big. At the same time, we are doing baby steps,” he said. “This is an exciting part, the putting together stages of a nonprofit, of involving kids and making people aware of our Filipino American heritage.”