The Foundation for Filipino Artists, Inc. (FFAI), a non-profit organization registered in 1989, may have its primary mission to heighten awareness in New York City and immediate vicinities of the extraordinary talent of Filipino-Americans in the Performing Arts, but as Aida Andrade Bartolome, its founder and artistic director, would have it, bringing that awareness to the Filipino audience in the Metro DC region is also a pursued commitment. Bartolome, along with the producer and director, was instrumental in bringing to the Kennedy Center in 2014 the first Filipino Opera, “Noli Me Tangere.”
FFAI is the only art organization in the Queens Borough which focuses primarily in the performing arts and promotion of Filipino culture. Among other projects, FFAI is currently engaged in presenting to various audiences the Filipino Rondalla, the Children’s Dance Group, and the Children’s Bell Choir. Bartolome is presently raising funds for the building and maintenance of the Filipino-American Multi-Cultural Center in Queens, estimated to cost $5 million.
Bartolome was born to Bartolome Bartolome and FelisaAndrade Bartolome of Dasmarinas, Cavite.
Q. The Foundation for Filipino Artists, Inc. will be celebrating its 29thyear, as its founder and artistic director what are your long-term goals?
Actually, we started presenting Filipino artists in 1984 with Fides Cayugan-Asencio and Sonya Valencia at the Weill Carnegie Hall [New York City]. Yes, FFAI was originally organized in 1989.
Q. The Foundation is credited with bringing the first two major Filipino Operas to the Filipino-American audience in some of the major cities in the United States, what other opera productions are being planned?
You may say that the first Filipino Opera, “Noli Me Tangere,” was presented by FFAI in the East Coast with the help of the Filipino-American community, American corporations, opera lovers, Lewis Foundation, and Loida Lewis. The second opera, “Spolarium,” was staged in 2015. Hopefully, FFAI is looking forward to tour these operas one of these days.
Q. How near are we, Filipino-Americans, in seeing in Broadway theaters Filipino-produced-and-directed musicals, including operas?
Maybe sooner than we expect; there are lots of Filipino artists now in the field of performing arts.
Q. The Foundation’s primary goal is to “promote Filipino artistry and creativity,” how do you and the Foundation plan to include the Filipino-American community in the Washington, DC-Maryland-Virginia areas to achieve this objective?
That is one of the four goals of FFAI. We want to have a conference of all cultural and community organizations to be able to be on one page and a meeting of the mind.
Q. How is the Foundation funded?
The Foundation is funded by the State of New York, New York City, Rockefeller Foundation, Citibank, Chase Bank, private foundations, and supports from the community.
Q. Your professional career for a number of years was in the field of commercial banking here in the US and in the Philippines, what has been driving you to channel your energies and talents to community service?
Maybe during my childhood years in Cavite City where my family lived, I was influenced by my neighbors who were opera singers, pianists, violinists, guitar players, art painters, and members of the “Musikong Bumbong” (band members playing on instruments made from shells and bamboos). I have college degrees: Bachelor of Arts, major in Psychology and minor in Political Science; and Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service. I worked temporarily at the Department of Foreign Affairs in the Philippines and then transferred to the Philippine National Bank. I took a course in Advanced Banking at the American Institute of Banking in New York City. As a member of the Far Eastern University Women’s Club, I organized the First Literary-Musical Convocation where the then Vice President Diosdado Macapagal was the main speaker and the writer Lydia Arquilla as the literary speaker. Divina Gracia, violinist, and singers Boy Ordonez and Carina Afable were the featured guests.
Q. What projects have you pursued the completion of which affected you emotionally?
The projects I did always affected my emotions, especially when I heard comments [after a performance] criticizing the performers. I miss two of the projects I have done, the After School Program and the Home Work Assistance Program (in which the children tell stories about their Moms and Dads).
Q. Before registering the Foundation, did you take any special course on how to run a non-profit organization?
After retiring, I took Arts Administration at the La Guardia Community College, concentrating on Performing Arts, with certificate.
Q. Who are your mentors and/or models in effectively running an organization?
My mentors were my mother and my sister Lourdes and New York State Senator John Sabini.
Q. Are you holding membership in other civic, professional, or social organizations in New York City and elsewhere in the US?
I was a member of the Community Board [in New York City] for six years. I am a chartered member of the Filipino-American General Assembly Community Directory for the State Borough of Queens where I was the recipient of the Most Distinct Citizen Award during the incumbency of President Marshall.