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North Texas Filipino group works to build community center

Pilipino American Community Endeavor was founded by a group of young DFW residents hoping to establish a central location to share their Filipino culture.

DALLAS — While North Texas is a melting pot of cultures, for Filipino residents, it can be hard to find a place to celebrate their culture.

"When we came here, it was shocking," said Abby Casallo. 

She and her husband, Conrado Casallo, moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area more than a year ago. 

"Where is the Filipino town? Where is the Filipino food? Where is the Filipino store?" they asked.

They ended up meeting fellow Filipino DFW neighbors, Alavia Khawaja, Mark Sampelo and Stephanie Bautista. Together, they created a 501(c)(3) nonprofit called Pilipino American Community Endeavor, known as PACE for short. Their priority is to create a Filipino community center in North Texas.

"There's over 80,000 of us here," said Mark Sampelo, Co-founder of PACE. "If everyone gave $27 into our nest egg for a community center, we would have our $2.2 million that we would need to purchase the land for our own Filipino town."

Sampelo was born and raised in the DFW area. While he loves his home, he said he feels like a piece of his heritage is missing.

In just more than a year since the group formed, renderings have already been drawn out. The goal now is to raise money to not only build the community center, but also sustain it for years to come. PACE wants the building done and operational in the next five to 10 years.

On Oct. 1, PACE is hosting the Lone Star Palengke 2023 from noon to 6 p.m. at Red Tail Pavilion in Plano. Last year was their first year holding the event, and it drew in 7,000 people. They are expecting nearly 10,000 attendees this year.

Beyond a fundraiser, Sampelo said, "One of the main purposes we put the market together was just to imagine what it would be like to have a community center or even to have the Filipino town."

"We want to unite the Filipino community and show how diverse and special each region is," said Alavia Khawaja, Marketing Chair of PACE. "If you don't think about where you came from, how can you move forward about maintaining who you are?"

This group of Filipino Americans share the love and pride of their ancestors, and want to continue that for generations to come. 

"We don't want our culture and our language and our traditions and even our food to be lost," Stephanie Bautisa, programming chair, said. 

Lone Star Palengke is free to attend. PACE wants people of all cultures to attend and enjoy the beauty of Filipino culture.

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