Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Operation Samahan: Ideal NGO and Model OS

San Diego is the second largest city of California. Known as a Navy town, one third of the U.S. Naval Pacific Fleet is home ported in San Diego Bay. Additionally, the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, home of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, is located there.

Inevitably, it is also home to Filipino-American Navy officers, enlisted men and their families.  Add the Filipino doctors, nurses, accountants and other immigrants; the Filipino American community has become the largest ethnic Asian group in San Diego County.

No wonder that 40 years ago, the community saw the need to form a platform for coordination, cooperation, and connection.  They organized a non-governmental organization (NGO) whose members are linked to work together volunteering their services to benefit “those who have less in life”.  They called it OPERATION SAMAHAN!
 In this digital/electronic age, we call the platform that gets parts of a whole to work, function, and operate together, as Operating System or OS.  Embedded in the electronic/computer and mobile devices, the most noted operating systems are Microsoft’s Windows OS, Apple’s Mac or IOS, and the Linux-based Android OS of Google.

As a non-governmental organization (NGO), the group’s equivalent OS is OPERATION SAMAHAN, which literally means operating and working together as a group or what I call operating system in English.  

OS was originally established in 1973 because “of the growing concern of a group of medical practitioners and community leaders to meet the health and social problems of Filipino-American senior citizens.  It opened its first clinic in February 16, 1973 – staffed with volunteer Filipino doctors, registered nurses, clinic aides and paraprofessionals.

I am proud to say that I personally know some of the founders and major players of the organization in its early years – building the foundation for becoming what it is today, an ideal NGO worthy of emulation.

Dr. Cesar D. Candari, for example, is one of the founding doctors of OS. In fact, the Asian Journal of San Diego featured in a series the autobiography of the former OS Chairman of the Board. He is immortalized for his achievements in the U.S. but also for his role in fighting for freedom in the Philippines.  He and I were chosen and featured by the Fil-Am Magazine as two of the Twenty Outstanding Filipinos Abroad (TOFA) in the 1980s.  

An early Board Member of OS, successful real estate professional Mauro “Jake” Jacob is also a good friend who was noted to be one of the more courageous freedom fighters during the darkest days of Marcos’ Martial Law.

Dr. Candari, Jake Jacob, and I were officers of the Movement for a Free Philippines (MFP) led by the late Philippine Senator and Foreign Affairs Secretary Raul S. Manglapus. MFP was known as the 20th Century Propaganda Movement that exposed the atrocities of the Marcos dictatorship and fought for the restoration of freedom and democracy in the Philippines.

Another OS personality worth mentioning for purposes of the organization’s history is Romeo G. Cruz.  He was one of the first Executive Directors of OS.  I met him through my older sister Perla Maynigo Torres, who was a registered nurse in San Diego.  Romy and I were Godfathers to Manang Perla’s son Dean in his wedding with Christina Arizpuro.

Of course, my utmost pride goes to my late sister, Perla Maynigo Torres.  A Founding nurse of OS in 1973, she dedicated a major part of her life to the organization like no other.  Committed to the proposition that “our greatest gift is giving back to our community”, OS was a lucky beneficiary of my sister’s talents, time, and dedication.  Perla was in the Board and the organization’s Treasurer until she died of lung cancer.
Operation Samahan Women's Medical Center 
 She helped raise funds supporting the Operation Samahan Women’s Medical Center.  In recognition, a wing of the Center was named after her.

Mary Euleen Maynigo Torres who has a Masters Degree in Social Work, is a hospice medical social worker for Elizabeth Hospice.  The only daughter of Perla Maynigo Torres, she had been working with her Mom in her activities with Operation Samahan for years.  

So I was not surprised that when it was time to replace her Mom on the Board and as Treasurer she, on her own merits, was elected to serve as both.  I could not be prouder of my niece and baptismal Goddaughter.

Currently, Health care is at the forefront and NGOs are facing challenges both in the United States and in the Philippines. Operation Samahan, which is an NGO that provides affordable health care to minorities, stands out as a model and ideal for its historical achievements during the last 40 years.  It also serves as an inspiration for volunteerism, community involvement, and charity giving.  

In its battle for a healthy community, serving not only Filipinos, Latinos, and other ethnic groups in San Diego, OS inspired and produced unsung heroes be they volunteers, activists, sponsors, and donors to a cause unequaled and admired nationwide and worldwide.

The only known Filipino-founded and managed health clinic with multi-locations in California, it is sensing a demand to offer more.  But the changing environment presents certain challenges for expansion in the immediate future and in many more years to come.

I understand that a plan exists to construct a new building to offer more efficient and effective healthcare services to the community that OS currently serves.  This means more rooms for patients, for volunteers and more importantly, more room for “heroes” who would join the cause.

If time and other limitations prevent readers from volunteering their services, I am sure that the current OS Management led by CEO Joel San Juan and Treasurer Mary Euleen Maynigo Torres would appreciate cash donations to the Samahan Clinic.

Operation Samahan is one ideal NGO that the Filipino-American community and San Diego residents should be proud of. It is most deserving and in need of support if it were to fulfill and continue its mission not only for the present but hopingly also for the next 40 years.

I encourage everyone to contribute to its expansion.  BE A HERO!

Get in touch with:

Kirin A. Macapugay, MSW, CFRE
Director of Marketing and Business Development for Operation Samahan
619.477.4451 x. 610  M: 619.917.8412  E:  w:

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