Columbus, Ga (WRBL) — The Filipino American Association (FAA) of Columbus was established in 1989, and part of its mission statement is to “promote positive relationships among Filipinos and Filipino Americans.” According to the members, it has become way more than just that.

“It reminds me of my roots. And of course the founding members established this organization as a home away from home,” said Velvalane Campos, the current FAA Columbus President.

For several members of the FAA meeting, the members in Columbus helped them call the Chattahoochee Valley home, even after they moved from different parts of the country or different parts of the world. Janine Abano moved to the United States from the Philippines in 2016 and recently graduated from Columbus State University. She credits the FAA for helping her tough transition to the U.S.

“This association itself is like my second home away from the Philippines. Because all of my family are in the Philippines and this is my second home,” said Abano.

Darrell Guernesy, who joined the FAA in 1995 and Rebecca Stutsman, who joined the FAA in 2006, say this organization was key to them settling in Columbus and finding a new extended family.

“We were coming in from New York trying to connect with others. Our family is on the East Coast. We needed a group of people to kind of make into a family network that can help us out to assimilate to the US and to Georgia,” said Guernsey.

“I had a little one, and I had kids that really didn’t know anybody. So having them and not knowing anything about the Philippines. They actually grew up with the kids there. They became more involved with their culture,” said Stutsman.

The other big mission for the FAA is to education the Filipino culture to all of its members, especially for the younger members. One way they do that is teaching and performing traditional Filipino dances. Although it can be intimidating for some, the parents of the FAA were pleasantly surprised how their children embraced the opportunity to dance.

“I’m amazed at how interested and proud they are to learn it and share it to other people. So proud to say that we’ve been known to give good dances,” said Deana Tagana, a former FAA President and current advisor.

For the younger members of the FAA, like current Georgia Tech student Kevin Guernsey, learning how to do the traditional dances is way for him to connect with his roots. He was born and raised in Columbus, Georgia, but these dances help him understand his Filipino culture in a much deeper way.

“It’s a really big part of me being able to dance to Filipino dances such as “tinikling” “malalatik” all of that. Because it’s a part of me and part of my culture, part of my history. To be able to show off a part of me to everyone is just really exciting,” said Guernsey.

For more information about the Filipino American Association, visit their website.