Kababayan LA’s host Jannelle So joins the Gawad Kalinga Family in a Mission to promote unity among Filipinos

Jannelle So

Los Angeles, CA (March 31, 2012): Jannelle So has found true love!

Two years after her broken engagement and eight years after moving to the United States, popular Southern California host/producer, Jannelle So, has finally found true love. And according to her, it’s worth the wait and previous heartaches.

“Tito Tony (Meloto), founder of Gawad Kalinga (GK,) once told me that higher than romantic love is love for country. And I didn’t make sense to me right then; but now I understand what he meant. In fact, to push it further, I would say love for countrymen is highest,” said Jannelle, who has recently been elected to the board of directors of Gawad Kalinga-USA, the official representative of GK in North America.

“It has really been an exciting journey for me as far as GK is concerned. In fact, when I first heard about them, I was a little skeptical,” said Jannelle, who was then a freelance correspondent for TFC’s “Balitang America” when she first covered the 777 Campaign of GK. “As a news person, or just working for the media industry, if one isn’t careful, it’s so easy to become skeptical about things. There’s so much negativity around and that’s what’s highlighted in the media because apparently it’s what sells. Also, being Filipino, I am familiar with ningas cogon. After all, just count the many so-called annual events that never really had a follow up after their first year in the Fil-Am community.”

According to Jannelle, when she heard that GK surpassed the goals of the 777 Campaign, that’s when she started to pay attention. And by closely following the works of GK, she got to know the nameless heroes and advocates that contribute so much to the cause.

“I observed the 3 S’s that made me want to be a GK volunteer. First is Service. I notice that all volunteers are esteemed people in their own right. But when it comes down to it, they’re not iffy to roll up their sleeves and get the tasks done. There are no “˜bosses,’ only people that work together in service. That’s the second ““ Selfless. I observe the volunteers and advocates don’t care about positions and power and who has more money or who gives more, it’s not about us, it’s about them, the poor who need help. And connected to that is the third ““ Sincere. I can tell you, at GK, everyone is in, not for any personal agenda. Everyone is just sincerely wanting to help, thinking of self less so others can have more,” Jannelle explained.

At the weekend board of directors’ and area coordinators’ meeting in San Diego recently, Jannelle further confirmed her earlier observations. “It was a proud moment for me as we sat down to discuss plans to improve GK-USA so we can help more kababayans back home. But at the same time, such a humbling experience for me to be part of a team composed of high achievers in the Filipino-Community,” said Jannelle who is also the youngest board member of GK-USA.

Jannelle is indeed in very good company at the GK-USA Board. CEO and Chairman of the Board Tony Olaes, is a graphic designer by trade and an apparel licensing veteran.  He founded and is managing one of the biggest Filipino-owned business enterprises in San Diego, CA. Ben Dichoso is a veteran of the US Air Force, and is presently the Chief of Facilities Engineering for a federal agency under the executive branch. Josie Castro has been the chief financial officer of UCLA’s highly regarded Fielding School of Public Health since 2001. She’s also the member who nominated Jannelle to the position, when an opening came up:

“In an industry where TV shows are short-lived, Jannelle has managed to keep the longest running Filipino talk show in Southern California going,” said Castro, “She must be a hard worker to accomplish that!  What also struck me most about Jannelle is her openness about her spirituality when most media personalities would rather keep that aspect of their life private. I figured that Jannelle has what it takes to truly champion the work of GK: unceasing regard to a higher power, genuine love for others and the tenacity to get things done. So it was a slam dunk on my part to nominate her to the board of GK.”

Rick Munda is a business owner in the Los Angeles area and has been advocate, village partner and officer of Gawad Kalinga since 2003. Carol Tulud is the CEO and founder of her own private foundation and Behavioral Health Consultant, Inc.

The 11-member Board also has five passionate Filipino physicians in its roster: Dr. Zita Yorro is a family practitioner from Illinois and board-certified in Internal Medicine. Zita, together with her husband Oni, also a physician, built the very first GK village in the Ilocos region. Dr. Dido Feliciano is a retired plastic surgeon from St. Louis and an alumnus of UPPGH.  Dido continues the GK service his late wife, Dr. Nong Feliciano of UST, started. Dr. Jun Raffinan, a retired internist and wife Maria, also a physician, are medical mission veterans. Dr. Charlie Capati is a retired radiologist and together with Myrna, also a physician, built three GK villages.  The same is true for Dr. Primo Andres, a cardiologist and internist.  With wife Sylvia, the couple spear-headed the building of three villages in addition to numerous medical missions.

“I have seen Jannelle in our GK villages and in a few slums; it is obvious that she genuinely loves our people. We all know she can “glam up” for a show, but what makes her special is that she can also be in sweats with no make up on and not be self-conscious. She is a pro at what she does in the media world and has a work ethic that is second to none,” said Olaes. “With her talent and experience, she will bring so much to the table in creating awareness for Gawad Kalinga so more people can have the opportunity to be a part of building a nation. She has the brains, the beauty, and the heart to match.  I can’t tell you how excited we all are to have her on board! “

Only 3 years after she moved to California, Jannelle has managed to make a name for herself as the host/producer of “Kababayan LA,” now the longest-running Filipino daily talk show outside of the Philippines. Over the years, Jannelle’s hard work was recognized by different prestigious Filipino organizations such as Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA) and Filipino-American Library. Just last year, the show received an Honorable Mention at the Los Angeles Press Club’s Annual Southern California Excellence in Journalism Awards. She has also been named to the list of 100 Most Influential Filipinas in the U.S., by Filipina Women’s Network.

“Accolades and recognitions are encouraging. But I don’t work for awards. I work to get the work done. After all, we really have no one in this world whom we are answerable to or whom we need to impress. The only recognition we need is from our Maker, that we are living according to His word; and that we are pursuing His purpose for our life. That’s the most valuable award,” commented Jannelle.

She added that work is what she intends to do as a GK-USA board member, also noting that the other more experienced members are very good examples and inspiration. The whole team is currently hard at work, planning and organizing their annual Hope Ball, to be held in New Jersey this year. This will be followed by the Philippine Independence Day Parade on Madison Ave., in New York. This is perhaps the biggest and most well-attended Philippine Independence Day in the U.S.

“I don’t doubt that,” said Jannelle, who recently met the Filipino-American community in New York. “They’re very warm and friendly. They also seem cohesive, cooperating with each other and very protective of each other.” She got a warm welcome despite the New York cold recently as she flew to attend the Filipino Night on Broadways’ “Godspell” where Fil-Ams Anna Maria Perez de Tagle and George Salazar shine each night. In addition to her covering the event, Jannelle was also asked to host/moderate the QnA with the two Filipino prides after the performance.

“I had fond memories, as I always do when I visit New York. I can’t wait to be back first week of June for the GK-USA events,” Jannelle shared. “But for now, there’s a lot of work to be done. I do what they tell me to do. But because I’m the youngest and newest board member, I only offer my suggestions when asked. Sometimes I feel I’m not worthy.”

Despite her hesitations and doubts, however, the GK-USA board had offered many positive things about Jannelle’s participation and eagerness.

“Jannelle definitely adds a new dimension to the work of GK-USA.  Her involvement in the media, connection to the younger generation, and fresh ideas on how to reach people who have not yet heard of GK will definitely help grow the movement here in the US, I think it is by God’s design that she joins us now,” quipped Glenda Terrado, GK-USA lead for programs and business affairs.

“I’m definitely excited! I really want to make this work. I’m treating this like a relationship. You know, there will be ups and downs but if you’re committed, you’re in 100%,” she said. “We’ve all had our share of heartaches and heartbreaks. But we always have two choices ““ do I sulk and wallow in self-pity? Or do I use my brokenness to build?”

And build she did, as she volunteered to help GK and GK-USA in their efforts to eradicate poverty in the Philippines by building communities through providing shelters, livelihood, values formation, and other major components needed to educate and re-educate kababayans on how rich the Philippines is because of its people and what the nation can become if everyone practiced the true essence of giving care or Gawad Kalinga.  For more information and how you can help: www.gk-usa.org.

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