CONGRATULATIONS are in order for Florencio Cuevas “Polly” Lat who recently assumed his post as Kiwanis International president.
Lat, a retired banker, is only the second Filipino to be elected to such prestigious post since Kiwanis International was founded 103 years ago.
For administrative year 2018-19, Lat will be at the helm of an international service organization focused on “Serving the Children of the World” which is present in more than 80 nations and geographic areas.
Kiwanis is also known for providing leadership and service opportunities for youth through its Service Leadership Programs, notably the Key Club (for high school students) and Circle K (for collegiate students).
There are seven regions in Kiwanis: Africa; Asia-Pacific; Canada and Caribbean; Europe; Latin America; Middle East; and United States and Pacific Canada. The United States and Pacific Canada Region incorporates the 50 states of the United States as well as British Columbia and the Yukon Territory of Canada.
Kiwanis International has fifty-three administrative areas called districts. District boards typically consist of a governor, governor-elect, immediate-past governor, secretary, treasurer, and several lieutenant governors.
The Philippines has two districts -- Philippine Luzon District (to which Polly Lat belongs) and Philippine South District.
The road to the Kiwanis International presidency has been a struggle, literally and figuratively for Lat who hails from the Kiwanis Club of InterCity Homes, based on Muntinlupa City.
He was elected district governor of the Philippine Luzon District in 2010 and district governor in 2011.
In 2013, at the ASPAC convention of Kiwanis International held in Hiroshima City, he was elected as International Trustee for 2013-16.
At the 2016 International Convention held in Toronto, Canada, Lat was the only Asian (among 4 candidates) who vied for the position of international vice president.
Following an impassioned speech exhorting Kiwanians to go “From Good to Great”, Lat got the majority nod of the delegates.
It was during this period that Lat faced the greatest test of his life. Shortly before he filed his candidacy for international vice president, Lat’s daughter was diagnosed with lymphoma. He prayed hard for his daughter and offered himself to bear the pain.
His daughter was subsequently cleared of her ailment. But Lat was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.
The Big C only momentarily stopped Lat. Soon, Lat felt well enough to travel around the world and around the Philippines, delivering countless speeches proclaiming his vision of Kiwanis Growth in Service and his dreams of going from “Good to Great”.
One can sense, listening to Lat, a deep faith and belief in God “who drives the purpose in our lives that not even sickness can stop the fulfillment of His plans”.
Polly Lat is married to the former Susan M. Mercado. Susan, a registered nurse, is currently assistant treasurer of Daniel Mercado General Hospital, Inc.
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