Florfina “Boodgie” Santiago Arce


2007-2008 President, UPAA-SD

My parents’ dream was to have all their six children graduate from the University of the Philippines. I happened to be child number five, born during the Japanese occupation. My father, Domingo Pena Santiago, and my mother, Filipina Francisco, chose Olongapo, a small fishing village, to settle in and raise their family. The US Naval base turned this small town into a bustling city that is now known as Olongapo City where the former base has now become Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority. 

Both my parents worked in the US Naval base at Subic and it is that bay they both chose to be the final resting place for their ashes when they passed away. They gave me the name Florfina which at first my dad claimed came from a book he read. Funny how later I found out it was a tobacco brand. The nickname Boodgie was derived from “Butsi” because of my fat cheeks as a chubby child. All my siblings’ names came from books perused by my wide reader father. My brothers are named Dante, Disraeli and my sisters Divinia, Diane and Sylvia, all graduates of UP Diliman.

I grew up and studied in the public schools of Olongapo. It meant following the footsteps of all four brothers and sisters ahead of me and I was always being compared to their accomplishments, who were valedictorians and honor students. I was only 15 when I graduated from Jackson High Schooland enrolled at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. It meant being away from home and a whole new experience in my young formative life.

I thought I was pushed into the university where the cream of the crop gathered and at first I felt lost. Homesick and frustrated, I was often sickly and was sent home to grow up before going back and finally finish my degree in Business Administration in 1965. It was in UP that I learned how to fend for myself living in a dorm, to follow or break the rules, to be humbled or fight back in a sorority, to win or lose through sports and competitions. I saw myself being groomed to become a leader and skilled in whatever I chose to do.

At first I thought I was in UP to fulfill my parents dream but it turned out that their dream for me was something I will forever be grateful for. It was also in UP that I was taught how to make good friends that will last a lifetime. It was the boy next door that caught my eyes as a young girl and married Juan Arce III in 1967. We have three children, John , Florianne and Jennyn, all married and have blessed me with nine grandchildren going on ten. 

Because my husband’s career was the US Navy, I chose to stay home and raised my children before going back to the work force in 1976. I worked for different banks like Bank of America and San Diego Trust and Savings Bank until 1983. My family and I chose San Diego to be our home away from home. I had these yearning to do something I dreamt of since I was a child. I dabbled in drawing and designing and it was then I decided to quit my job at the bank and go back to school. I studied at SouthwesternUniversity and finished my course in Fashion Design and Fashion Show Production. I have never been happier in my life than I was in my new chosen field. I opened my first store called Boodgie’s Designs in 1984. I had three different stores throughout my career as a fashion designer. I am semi-retired from my business and have chosen to serve our community through volunteer work.

I now look back at our alma mater as the great university that made us what we are today. UP gave me the skills and confidence I needed to make it in the real world. I would humbly mention the different organizations that elected me as their leader. I was President of Olongapo Association, USA, followed by being the first woman president of the Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce, then the Philippine Tourism Advisory Council. I am also the charter president of the San Diego Majestic Lions Club.

I am the current president of the UP Alumni Association of San Diego County. Born to lead I was not, but taught by UP to make a difference wherever I may be and whatever I do, I always followed my dream and my destiny. The trophies, medals, plaques and honors I now have are mementos of my achievements. 

I have been granted the following awards from all the organizations I have served. I have a distinguished citizen award from Mayor Gordon for my role in the Mt Pinatubo disaster in 1992. I have two distinguished awards from the office of Congressman Bob Filner, a key to the city of National City from Mayor George Waters for my humanitarian involvement in the city. 

I have also received a recognition award from Kalusugan Community Services, a citation from MCPS as Lady of Elegance International, trophies as Best Dressed Woman of San Diego, Handog award as Business Woman of the Year, Dr. Jose Rizal Award from Philippine-American Humanitarian Foundation, several medals and plaques from the different Lions clubs for all my medical missions to the Philippines, and a medal from Gov. Alice Tana from the District Lions club as Zone Chair last in 2006.

As a wife, mother and grandmother I will look back at my life with so much gratitude to my alma mater. But foremost, I owe my success to my parents who raised me to be a leader and a true humanitarian by setting a fine example in their own lives. 

This is my story and hope that it will be an inspiration to many. During my term as president, I hope to help make the University of the Philippines Alumni Association of San Diego County be best organization by leading them this year to accomplish the great projects and contributions to our beloved country, the Philippines, and our community here in San Diego.