In March, Jim Tabayoyon, 75, of Yakima was named President of the Yakima Valley Filipino-American Community, a group with deep roots in the agricultural industry here.
Tabayoyon, a retired construction worker, was born in Yakima, grew up in Wapato, and returned to Yakima after serving in the military during the Vietnam War.
He was unanimously installed by the community board, replacing longtime president Rey Pascua.
The community has a prominent presence in the Yakima Valley. Built by Filipino pioneers, Filipino Hall at 211 W. Second St. in Wapato was the first Filipino community hall built in the West.
An attempt is being made to list the hall and some homes on South Street in Wapato – including one where Tabayyoon grew up – on the National Register of Historic Places.
As President, Tabayyoon now oversees the community, which includes the hall and its weekly lunchtime program, annual dinners, and other special events.
In a Q&A with the Yakima Herald-Republic, he shared his views on the fellowship and what it means to serve.
How did you become interested in the position?
It got to a point where everyone was just encouraging me. Everybody said: “I stand behind you and support you” and that’s how it happened. I grew up with a lot of these people. It’s not like I’m just going to step in – I’ve known a lot of these people for ages.
How is it serve as president?
It’s really new to me. I never really wanted to be the frontman, but it keeps me going and I’ve been able to reconnect with old friends, friends I had as a kid.
Has serving in the position changed your view of the community?
The majority of our members are currently seniors. I’m 75 today, but not the oldest – far from it. Our people, we just love to get together and talk. Sometimes we keep telling the same stories over and over, but we talk about our childhood and how things have changed, not just in our lives, but how things have changed in the community.
What would you like people in general know something about the community?
We are always there to help whoever needs help. And we just like bringing people together, and nationality means nothing to us. We just like to get together, have a good time and the door is open to everyone. As the current president of the church, I believe in an open door. Anyone who wants to talk can come and talk. I don’t believe in putting people down just because they don’t agree with you.
how important is it keep the community going?
The hall was built by our parents in 1952. And they built it as a meeting place. I guess during that time they partied almost every week and it was a huge gathering. I remember that as a kid. Going down the hall and throwing big parties for the queen’s coronation and all that. It was a big deal.
As President, what to do you hope to reach?
All I really want to do is keep the (Filipino) hall alive. I don’t want the hall to go down the drain. Our fathers worked very hard for it and it’s a kind of legacy that I’d like to continue. Perhaps one day our children and grandchildren will stand up and do their part.