Consulate officials visited the city at the behest of and worked in conjunction with the Filipino American Association of Kodiak to help residents with legal documents such as passport renewals, dual citizenship paperwork, affidavits, power of attorney issues and other legalities.
The visits have taken place on Kodiak since 2008. They also take place in Fairbanks, Juneau and Anchorage to help Filipino residents of those cities with their legal needs.
“Originally, you had to go to San Francisco to do much of the legal work but that got too expensive,” said Mary Guilas-Hawver, president of the association. “This is wonderful. This is their outreach. We just host them,” she said of the consulate officials’ visit.
On Friday and Saturday, the Kodiak Teen Center at 410 Cedar Street was turned into an informal legal office as association volunteers helped Kodiak’s Filipino residents wade through the barrage of legal documents. Overseeing much of it was Reginald Bernabe, consul for the Philippine Consulate General. He’s been to Kodiak three times now overseeing outreach programs for the consulate and was in Anchorage last month at a similar event.
“We do outreach as much as we can in our 10-state jurisdiction. It’s one way we can reach our constituents,” Bernabe said. The Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco covers Northern California, Northern Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Alaska.
According to the 2010 Census, the estimated number of Filipinos in the United States is 2,555,314. In Alaska, the Filipino population is 25,424.
On Saturday, the association and consulate officials hosted a public reception with borough and city officials and candidates running for election in the August primary. A group of Kodiak Filipino residents also were sworn in as U.S. citizens during the evening.
While the program provides a much-needed legal necessity of Kodiak residents who still have strong ties to the Philippines, the program also offers a bit of social interaction and time to play catchup with news and current event talk of life in the Philippines.
“The benefit for the community is people don’t have to spend so much month to get their needs met,” Guilas-Hawver said, “and we get to connect with the Philippine government.”