Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! After the state lifted capacity restrictions for large gatherings, bookings for weddings, graduations and conferences at the Philippine Community Center resumed, reinvigorating the venue as a gathering place not just for the community Filipino, but for everyone in Hawaii. The revival comes as the FilCom Center, as it is known, approaches its 20th anniversary on Saturday. Hundreds of people celebrated the grand opening of the 50,000 square foot center at the corner of Waipahu and Mokuola streets on June 11, 2002. This year, a series of events will celebrate this milestone anniversary: \u200b\u200bthe 20th Bayanihan Gala in July, "Dream Musical" at the Hawaii Theater Center in November, and "Pasko Christmas" at the FilCom Center in December. The Philippine Fiesta and Flores de Mayo were held at the center in May to launch the Jubilee. It was the first time the Philippine Fiesta was held at FilCom Center in its 30-year history, as it has traditionally been held at Kapiolani Park. Eddie Flores Jr., who started the annual party to showcase Filipino culture, wants the center to be the permanent host of the event. "It's the pride of the Filipino community," Flores said of the center. The series of celebratory events also serves as a fundraising campaign called "Aloha for Filcom", the proceeds of which will be used to support the center and its programs. Flores, founder of L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, and Roland Casamina, owner of House of Finance, were key in generating support in the early 1990s from community, corporate, government and nonprofit organizations for build the center. The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation donated $3 million for the construction, and government grants totaled $4.1 million, while Amfac/JMB donated 2 acres of land. The three-story center, the largest Filipino community center outside the Philippines, includes a ballroom and a spacious courtyard. The Spanish-style building also houses commercial rental space occupied by a mix of tenants that include health clinics and offices for doctors, lawyers and real estate agents. In 2018, the center hit a snag when it filed for bankruptcy following a dispute with a catering and event management company, Creations in Catering, which had exclusive use of the center's kitchen and handled all special events there under a seven-year contract that was to run until 2021. Center executives said the contract was intended to increase revenue for the building, but the opposite happened instead. Board chairman Edmund Aczon said the only way to regain control of the center's operations was to terminate the contract and file for bankruptcy. A federal bankruptcy judge decided in March 2018 to terminate the contract between the caterer and the center. "It stopped the bleeding at that point," Aczon said. Reservations were then picked up at the FilCom Center. And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, causing special event cancellations. "It really hit us hard," Aczon said. The situation has forced the center, which has a debt of $2.66 million, to cut staff and postpone maintenance. Aczon said assistance from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, helped the center, including its tenants, weather the pandemic storm. During the last session, the state legislature allocated $360,000 for repairs and renovations and $250,000 for various community service programs. The FilCom Center is now under contract with two catering companies, Cools in Catering by Sinublan and Bamboo Catering. Aczon said he plans to add two more catering businesses in an effort to provide options for the community when booking special events. The center aims to bring back Filipino cultural events that have been temporarily suspended due to the pandemic, as well as youth educational programs and workshops to help immigrants and business owners. The Rizal-Aloha Knights Chapter held a youth leadership conference at the FilCom Center on Saturday with approximately 40-50 attendees. Raymund Liongson, a retired professor of Filipino studies at Leeward Community College and regional commander of the Rizal Knights for Hawaii, organized the conference. He said the FilCom Center was the perfect venue for the event. "For me, the FilCom Center is the living embodiment of the bayanihan spirit (spirit of unity and cooperation) that we have," Liongson said. "It's the heart." The Filipino population is Hawaii's largest ethnic population, with more than 209,000 residents who identify as Filipino, according to data from the Census Bureau's 2020 American Community Survey. The first 15 Filipino plantation workers, also known as sakadas, arrived in Hawaii in December 1906 to work in the fields of the sugar cane plantations. Between 1906 and 1934, approximately 125,000 Filipino workers arrived. The FilCom Center recognizes their contributions to Hawaii's history and stands as a symbol of the achievements of Filipinos in the community through education, business, politics and culture. But leaders stress that the center was not built just for Filipinos. "The Filipino Community Center has truly become everything we dreamed of and more by providing social, economic, and educational services while promoting and perpetuating Filipino culture and customs in Hawaii," Aczon said.