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Everything Everywhere All at ABASD

ASSOCIATIONS: 30th Annual Gala Draws API Leaders from Across State

It was “Everything Everywhere All at ABASD” on May 19 at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, complete with hundreds of plastic googly eyes, toy raccoons on hats and disproportionately long hot dog fingers.

More than 400 people, some dressed like characters from the multiple-2022 Oscar-winning movie, “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” attended the event in support of the Asian Business Association of San Diego and the Asian American Pacific Islander community.

The event’s theme – Everything Everywhere All at ASASD – comes from the genre-defying film.

Jason Paguio
President and CEO

The event was ABASD’s 30th gala, its first soiree since 2019, and it drew some top leaders in California, including State Treasurer Fiona Ma, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and, of course, Jason Paguio, the president and CEO of ABASD and the Asian Business Association Foundation.

“Supporting small businesses is what we’re about,” said Paguio, who was appointed one year ago by Gov. Gavin Newsom to be a commissioner with the California Commission on Asian Pacific Islander American Affairs.

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“Thanks to Jason’s leadership, the organization has not just survived, it has thrived,” said ABASD gala emcee Lee Ann Kim, a former television anchor and a first-generation Korean American, who was dressed like actress Stephanie Hsu (playing the character Joy Wang in her “Goddess Jobu” transformation) and who kept the event upbeat and moving along.

Lee Ann Kim
Gala Emcee

Gloria introduced himself as “the first person of Asian heritage to serve as mayor of the great city of San Diego,” and then corrected himself by saying he wanted to be more specific, describing himself as “a third-generation Native American, Filipino, Puerto Rican and Dutch descent.”

“In short, I am everything everywhere all at once.”

The mayor recounted a story about how he would watch his Philippines-born grandfather, who came to San Diego via the military, mow the family’s lawn in Clairemont in the summer – wearing a three-piece polyester suit.

“At the time I thought it was just weird, and it was,” Gloria said. “I didn’t understand as a child, but what I came to understand as an adult is that is what my grandfather had to do to feel worthy of respect in San Diego in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. That was what was necessary. What he was doing was protecting himself and providing for his family. And in just two generations, you go from someone scarred by racism, of mowing that lawn in the heat, to his grandson being able to become the mayor of this great city.”

Todd Gloria
San Diego

Gloria said “that speaks to what our community can do, what ABA is doing and what we do collectively. There are thousands of people like my grandfather, men and women who are toiling and doing the hard work of opening the door of opportunity a little bit larger for the rest of us to walk through it.”

Gloria also said that the city and ABASD partnered to provide more than 1,500 grants to local Asian-owned businesses to make sure they could keep their doors open, keep employees on the payroll “and continue to build the generational wealth that changes lives every single day.”

The ABASD honored several businesses, including Tea Bazaar as Small Business of the Year, Kingfisher restaurant as Industry of the Year, Ma as Small Business Champion of the Year and gave the Excellence in Equity Award to T-Mobile.

The ABASD Foundation awarded several students with scholarships, including the Stephen Lew Scholarship, named for the real estate investment firm president who passed away in 2021 at age 43.

Chris Cate
Former City Councilman
San Diego District 6

Former San Diego District 6 City Councilman Chris Cate, who served for two terms and now runs a consulting business, was presented with the Community Legacy Award.

Kim thanked Cate for his “long-lasting legacy, elevating the AAPI community, including helping to put the Convoy district on the map, literally, getting the area designated as the Convoy Pan Asian Cultural District.”

Kim also noted that Cate was instrumental in securing support and funding for the new CONVOY gateway sign – which was later unveiled at the gala – and that Cate “fought to get funding for the most vulnerable minority small businesses during the pandemic.”

Cate called the crowd gathered “family,” said that it wasn’t lost on him that ABASD was instrumental in making District 6 “an API empowerment district” and encouraged everyone to continue to support current councilman Kent Lee in his seat, and “be there to support the next generation coming after us… making sure that that district stays an API seat.”

Dan Hom
President and CEO
Focuscom, Inc.

Former ABASD advisory board president Dan Hom, president and CEO of Focuscom, Inc., was also honored.

Hom, given a jacket by Paguio that said “Chair Emeritus,” spoke to the crowd and laughed as he opined that “being called ‘chair emeritus’ basically means, ‘You’re the old guy now.’”

Hom said that before one of the AAPI community’s “patriarchs,” Tom Fat, the ABASD’s founder – and also an Army veteran, attorney, civic leader and restaurateur (China Camp and Fat City Steakhouse) – died in 2007 of cancer, Hom said Fat told him, “Dan, just take care of the community. Take care of the San Diego Asian community. Do whatever you can.”

“The one thing I want to leave with you all is give back to your community,” Hom said. “Please give back, and you’ll enjoy it.”

The gala also was the place to be for the reveal of the colorful, uniquely vertical “CONVOY” neighborhood gateway sign going up in the Convoy district, along with its designer, Bennett Peji, president of the Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce and former chairman at SDABA.

Bennett Peji
Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce

“It’s more than just a place marker,” Kim said. “It’s a sign of representation shining a bright light on AAPI diaspora, symbolizing what it means to be seen and what it means to be heard.”

Peji, a lifelong District 6 resident who graduated from Madison High School, said the sign will be “a great visual statement to say that we are proud to be here. It’ll inspire more visual expressions along Convoy that will make Convoy attractive and more exciting for people to see and visit.”

Peji also said, “I can’t tell you how absolutely honored I am as a designer to do work on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a legacy project that will live for generations.”

Paguio said having the gala thematically named after the movie “is a perfect analogy for our organization and our community’s experiences and the growing support network and influence our organization has had in the last four years since this new team has taken over.”

Click To More About The Honorees:

ABASD Bestows ‘Excellence in Equity’ Award: T-Mobile Extending Services into the AAPI Community

ABASD Small Business of the Year: Good Times Brewing for Tea Bazaar

ABASD Industry of the Year Winner: Kingfisher Keeps Customers Hooked

ABASD’s Small Business Champion: California State Treasurer Fiona Ma Honored at Gala

ABASD Best Board Chair of the Multiverse: Banking on First Citizen’s Jeni Burgess


[Photo credits: Joseph Paguio Photography]

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