Seeds for the organization were planted in 1957 when Simplicio “Jan” Maramba and a small group of Filipinos got together as an informal social group. The Filipinos continued to operate as an informal group until 1964 when the Samahang Pilipino ng Pittsburgh (SPNP) was formally organized and Dr. Ramon Gonzalez elected as the Association’s first president. In the late 1990’s, the members sought to redefine the Association to reflect the more charitable and less social nature that the organization had slowly been evolving to. There was also a need to recognize the increasingly larger participation from the second and third generation of Filipino-American children, American spouses, and friends. Thus in the summer of 2000, the FAAP was incorporated as a charitable organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Under the last SPNP President, Andres Ticzon, assets were donated to the FAAP and the SPNP ceased to exist by the end of the year, Cynthia Calejesan became the first president of the new organization.
The SPNP has had many projects during its over thirty years of existence. The FAAP continued and expanded many of these projects. Its involvement with the Pittsburgh Folk Festival has been unbroken. In May 1989, the Filipino group was the featured performance group of the Festival where it had an extensive cultural display. In the late seventies-early eighties, a group of members took on the initiative to raise funds for an SPNP building. The Samahan eventually abandoned the project because of waning support. Most of the funds raised for the project were, however, used to create an endowment fund for the association’s scholarships and awards. The Simplicio Maramba Scholarship Award was established to honor the most outstanding Filipino American senior high school student who is active in the Association. The Association actively participates in the Federal Executive Board’s yearly Asian American Heritage celebration.
Since 1993, the Samahan has sponsored a biennial golf outing aimed at raising money for charitable purposes. In 1991, the Samahan published the SPNP cookbook as a fund-raising activity. “Cooking with the Filipinos of Pittsburgh, PA” enjoyed much success with proceeds going to the SPNP and the Young Filipinos of Pittsburgh. Serving also as an ambassador of goodwill from Pittsburgh, the cookbook elicited orders from all over the USA and Canada for its first and second (1999) editions. Under the FAAP, a revised and enlarged third edition of the cookbook was published in 2003.
An offshoot of the Association is the Young Filipino Americans of Pittsburgh (YFAP). The YFAP is comprised of the children of FAAP members. Its president is a member of the FAAP’s Board of Directors. In the last few years, the YFAP has had numerous fund- raising projects, most notable of which is the Benefit Concert where the YFAP showcases its Dance Troupe and talented members. Since 1994, the YFAP has been responsible for the operations of the Dance Troupe and has represented the Association in many performances. During the centennial celebration of Philippine independence, the dance group performed at the Smithsonian Institution Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C.
With the advent of the new century, the FAAP laid the groundwork to establish a Philippine room as part of the University of Pittsburgh’s Nationality Rooms Program. The Philippine Nationality Room (PNR) is the Association’s most ambitious project. The FAAP hopes that the Philippine room will serve as a permanent memorial to all the Filipinos who have left their mark on the Pittsburgh community and the American society in general.
By Jaime Abola