Tuesday, August 14, 2012


After 32 years, the Philippine Association of Metropolitan Washington Engineers (PAMWE) has a woman at the helm with a vision of steering one of Metro DC’s most active Fil-Am organizations to new directions.

Hilda Leuterio Gigioli is the first PAMWE president with an Information Technology (IT) background so it’s small wonder that she wants to take the group global. “I have tremendous respect for the past officers who contributed to maintaining this organization,” she said in a written interview for the Manila Mail.

“My vision for this organization is to embrace technology,” she explained, expressing the wish that more Filipino IT engineers would join and become active partners in growing PAMWE.

And she hastened to add, “I would like to see more women engineers in our organization”. There have been only three female presidents of PAMWE.

PAMWE was born in 1980 as essentially a gentlemen’s club for Filipino immigrant engineers who’ve settled in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia.

Pepito Solis, one of its founding members, recounted how Carlos Alvano invited a group of engineers to their house where they decided to form the organization and wrote its guiding principles.

PAMWE, the merry band declared, would be a group that establishes “bonds of unity and friendship”, laid down a job referral system, help its members prepare for State Professional licensing examinations, formed as PAMWE Foundation to raise funds for scholarships, and promote the professional advancement of its members.

Solis, a native of Lemery, Batangas, epitomized the early immigrant engineers in the Metro DC region. “I immigrated to the US in 1965 when the cost of gas at 25 cents per gallon was considered high, apartment rent was $125 a month and wages at $1.25 per hour,” he reminisced.

An electrical engineering graduate from Feati University, he “networked” with other Filipino engineers in the area to land jobs with consulting, architect and engineering companies and federal agencies like the Voice of America and Federal Aviation Administration where he retired after 26 years of government service.

Although he wishes PAMWE will continue doing what it’s done for over 3 decades, Solis realizes that the future of their organization lie in infusing new blood and fresh directions. “This is happening now by the active participation of younger engineers especially the presidency of daughters of a former PAMWE member,” he declared.

He was apparently referring to Gigioli and sister Hedy Leuterio Thomas, who was the group’s president until 2010 and currently sits as its chairperson.

“My father, Mariano Leuterio, was one of the early officers of PAMWE (he served as vice president). This organization was very dear to his heart so that when he passed away in 2007, my sister and I vowed to continue his legacy,” she explained.

 “We need to do away with the notion that engineering is a man’s field,” Gigioli averred.

Incidentally, PAMWE is also proving to be a cradle of future leaders – her immediate predecessor, Aylene Mafnas left because she had to take over leadership of the Philippine American Foundation for Charities (PAFC), a broader-based Fil-Am organization that does critical work for indigents in the mother country.

Gigioli herself, a computer science and engineering graduate from the Catholic University of America with a Masters in systems engineering from Boston University, has the distinction of being one of only two Filipinos and PAMWE members (the other was her father) to serve as President of the prestigious District of Columbia Council of Engineering and Architectural Societies.

Gigioli has already carved a path to where she wants to take PAMWE. That includes increasing the number of their scholars, expanding membership especially for those in IT field, heightening awareness of PAMWE especially among female engineers and aligning the group’s thrusts with other Filipino organizations in the Metro DC region.

She wants to increase grants to scholarship foundations by soliciting universities for the partial or total waiving of tuition fees and sponsorships from private businesses. She also intends to mount a Young Membership Campaign that will go to universities and provide awareness about PAMWE to graduating seniors; as well as leading PAMWE to celebrate National Engineers’ week by focusing on the advancement of women in engineering.

To increase the group’s visibility, she plans to send members to various school awareness programs in science and math, and volunteer as judges in science competitions.

She has also set her sights farther down the road with plans to expand the group’s scholarship program to include technical training in the Philippines and opening membership to engineering students.

“Ten years from now PAMWE will embrace the globalization of technology,” she declared, like helping Filipino engineers and engineering firms participate in the global economy.

While that may sound like overly lofty goals, PAMWE already has rich history of achievement that Solis outlined for the Manila Mail. They include technical support to the Philippine Embassy ranging from surveys and designs for the renovation of the Chancery to putting up Christmas lights at the Embassy.

The PAMWE has also established an engineering scholarship program at the University of Maryland along with 10 perpetual engineering scholarships in various Philippine universities. Solis revealed they have financed the construction of a classroom building in Legaspi, Albay as well as 11 similar classrooms sponsored by PAMWE members in their individual capacity as volunteers of Feed the Hungry Inc.

The group has also organized seminars on business opportunities in the Philippines at the Smithsonian and George Washington University.

As part of their calendar of activities, PAMWE is holding a benefit ball on Aug. 25 at the Fairview Park Marriott in Falls Church, Va.

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