In the year 1997, an important milestone for the Filipinos in Bodø happened. The informal group of Filipinos in the city decided to create a formal organization. A constitution was created and was given power by the members, a set of officers was elected and was given the responsibility to lead the newly-formed organization and the minutes of the meeting was written for the very first time. It was the birth of FILIPINO COMMUNITY IN BODØ. That was the beginning of a wonderful journey.
It is important to acknowledge what happened before the formal creation of Filipino Community in Bodø in 1997. Filipinos started to arrive in the city during the 1980s. Mrs. Natividad Jensen was one of the first Filipinos in Bodø and she had become one of the pillars in the early days of Filipino community in the area. Living away from the Philippines was difficult especially in Bodø where almost everything was totally different from what we have in the Philippines – weather, culture, language, food, etc. In order to create an atmosphere of “home away from home”, the early Filipinos in the city gathered regularly. There were no rules or regulations back then because there were only a few of them. It was informally called “filippinske forening” (filipino organization) – a small group of Filipinos in the Arctic Circle happily sharing the commonalities of the Filipinos.
In the early 1990s, two Catholic nuns from the Philippines came to Bodø to do pastoral work at St. Eystein’s Catholic Church. The two nuns were another blessing for the Filipinos in the area. They were instrumental in strengthening the foundation of the increasing number of Filipinos in the city. Every Sunday, the parish hall became an important venue for Filipinos – Catholic or not. Faith bound the strong relationship of Filipinos in the early days.
On August 27 - 29, 1996, the “First National Convention” of Catholics in Norway was held in Mariaholm, Oslo. An all-Filipino contingent composed of Sr. Cleopatra Moreno, Dionicio Balagat and Charito Pettersen was sent by St. Eystein’s Catholic Church to the convention. The event motivated these three Filipinos to push through the creation of a Constitution to protect the interest of the rapidly increasing Filipinos in Bodø. That was the springboard! They conceived that the formal group would be called “Filipino Community in Bodø” for practical and logical reasons that most of the members were living in Bodø and the base of the organization was in Bodø. The organization was also open to all Filipinos living in the Salten region even though the name did not reflect the whole scope. On January 20, 1997, Sr. Cleopatra Moreno sent a letter to all Filipinos in Bodø about the intention of creating a formal Filipino organization with duly approved constitution and by-laws. The filipinos positively welcomed the idea of creating an organization with Constitution and by-laws. Four days after (January 24), Filipinos who signified for the cause recommended for the creation of an ad hoc Constitution Committee to draft the constitution. The first meeting of the committee happened on January 25, 1997 and the enthusiasm was very evident as shown by a productive day. A meeting was called to deliberate the draft constitution.
Thirteen people were present and Sr. Cleopatra Moreno chaired the meeting. A copy of the draft constitution was presented by the ad hoc Constitution Committee. A thorough public deliberation happened and at the end of the meeting, a consensus was reached and the Constitution was adopted. After three months of preparation, the Constitution of Filipino Community in Bodø was approved on March 8, 1997 at exactly 4:32 PM by 20 signatories. The first election of officers was done by a secret ballot. The first set of officers was composed of: President: Concepcion Balagat; Vice-President: Romel Aceveda; Secretary: Dionicio Balagat; Treasurer: Consurcia Sjursen; Leader of Commission on Formation: Gema Mabatid; Leader of Commission on Liturgy: Rowena Ryvold; Leader of Commission on Finance and Services: Charito Pettersen: Appointed Advisers: Sr. Cleopatra Moreno, OP, Sr. Fe Subiron, OP, Sr. Anne House, OP, Rune Eriksen and Terje Jensen.
On the 13th of March, 1997, the first meeting of FCB officers was held. In a thanksgiving mass on April 11, 1997, the newly-elected officers were sworn into office by Mgr. Torbjørn Olsen. The president, Concepcion Balagat wrote a letter to the then Bishop of Tromsø, Rev. Gehard Goebel informing him that the Filipino catholics in Bodø created a duly organized Filipino organization. At the beginning, FCB was a religious organization as the majority of the members were Roman Catholics. Several activities were conducted from then on like the excursion to Gietvågen to celebrate the Philippine Independence Day, Christmas Party, Costume Party, Rosary, Retreats, Flores de Mayo, Ski-Day and many others. The get-togethers of Filipinos in Bodø became livelier and organized under FCB. The formalization of Filipino Community in Bodø was taken positively by the Filipinos in the area with their active participation in every activity and the increase in membership year after year.
The second FCB President was elected in 1998 in the person of Romel Aceveda. From then on, the election of officers was conducted every two years. The following are the presidents over the years: 1999-2001 Eugenia Diza Jao; 2001-2003 Rowena Daliva Ryvold; 2003-2005 Perla Ramirez Melseth; 2005-2009 Maria Steffensen; 2009-2011 Charito Pettersen.
The FCB Constitution had been amended 3 times in the last 15 years – 2001, 2004 and 2010 excluding the 2013 amendment. In the first constitution, FCB was directly under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Tromsø. The bishop was given high power with regards to Constitutional revision. It was in the Constitutional Amendment of 2001 that this provision was removed. Though FCB declared its autonomy from the Bishop of Tromsø, FCB still continued cooperating with St. Eystein’s Catholic Church. In fact, the elected FCB President is automatically a member of the parish committee of St. Eystein. During the Constitutional Amendment of 2004, the General Assembly decided to remove the provision that in order to be a member, one must be a Catholic. The General Assembly acknowledged that not all Filipinos in Bodø were Catholics and the provision that one must be a Catholic in order to be a member was found to be discriminatory. The parish priest at that time, Msgr. Torbjørn Olsen, was informed by this decision from the General Assembly. This made the organization more open in accepting members regardless of their religious background. In 2010, the General Assembly decided to revise the existing Constitution by removing the position of the “Vice-President” from the rooster of officers.
Besides from the Filipino-oriented activities, FCB also gave due importance to the integration of the members to the Norwegian society. FCB had participated in some activities of Bodø Kommune and the International Center in Bodø. FCB members were invited in several occasions by the Bodø Kommune to present Philippine traditional dances. FCB had also showcased filipino culture in Glasshuset during the International Week. Nordland fylkeskommune provided moral and financial support in some cultural-related activities of the organization. To show our gratitude to the Norwegian people, it has been a tradition of FCB to join the 17th of May Parade. FCB will continue to do these social integration activities for the holistic development of its members in the Norwegian society.
Two thousand eleven was indeed a challenging year for FCB. In the annual General Assembly of 2011, bonafide members voted Rowena Steingrimsen to be the Chairwoman of FCB. However, a series of unexpected and unfortunate events happened thereafter. Ms. Steingrimsen decided to revise the Constitution on her own (revision cannot be made since it was stipulated in the Constitution that amendments can only be made only 2 years after the last amendment – last amendment was in 2010), reshuffled the officers that were voted into office by the General Assembly and deliberately changed the name of the organization from Filipino Community in Bodø to Filipino Union in Bodø without proper consultation from the members of the organization. A protest letter dated March 6, 2011 signed by the majority of the active members was sent to the President. In a meeting she called as “get-together” but turned out to be “a meeting for the approval of her constitution” on March 12, 2011, she did not attend and discuss the protest filed by the majority of the members. Instead, she continued lambasting the constitution that put her to office to justify her plan in making FCB an organization that she wanted to be. Thus, majority of FCB members walked out from the proceeding as a protest to her self-serving agenda. On March 26, 2011, majority of the members met and unanimously decided to remove Rowena Steingrimsen and the rest of the officers from their respective offices for betrayal of public trust and palpable violation of the FCB Constitution. FCB members were receptive to change and members were in agreement that these changes should reflect the interest of the majority and not by one person. On that day also, a new set of officers was elected headed by Rowena Ryvold.
The events in 2011 were translated into positive vibes by every loyal member of FCB to further enjoy the best of this organization. All members are helping hand in hand in making the organization a family away from home and an organization that is bound with love, respect and honesty. In 2011, the Constitution of FCB was translated to Norwegian and the organization was registered in Brønnøysundregistrene. FCB got a new banner and there was a significant increase in the number of members. At present, FCB has 198 loyal members (adults and children).
The celebration of Philippine Independence Day is an important event of FCB. Before FCB was formally founded in 1997, Filipinos in Bodø joined the celebration of other Filipinos in the northern area such as in Sulitjelma, Fauske, Mo I Rana and Narvik. In early 2000, Filipinos in the north decided that the celebration of the Independence Day be hosted by different filipino organization every year. Since then, Philippine Independence Day had been held in Lofoten, Harstad, Sortland, Myre, Tromsø and Finnsnes. FCB had successfully hosted the event in 2006 and 2012 and both events were held in Mørkvedhallen. The 2012 celebration was in concurrence with the 15th Founding Anniversary of FCB.
Just recently after almost 6 months of delibration and discussion, FCB has a revised and amended Constitution. This was the fourth time the FCB Constitution was revised since its inception.
FCB will forever be true to its ideals. We have been a strong, happy and productive organization in the last 15 years and we will continue to nurture this organization in the years to come. We are standing strong because we stand on the grounds of genuine friendship, unconditional service and unquestionable honesty.
FCB is not just an organization. This is our home in the Arctic circle. This is your home.