Election Time: A Challenge to Emerging Filipino Youth Leaders

By Chrissi Fabro, FINDink Contributor

  FIND District III Eboard and National Directors 2012 - 2013

FIND District III Eboard and National Directors 2012 - 2013

Around this time of year is election time for student clubs. General body members nominate, candidates conduct social media campaigns and make their speeches, members cast their votes, and finally a new executive board is elected for the new year. But what does it mean to be a Filipino student leader in our day and age? As students, we don’t live in a vacuum. We exist in and are therefore affected by the social, economic, and political issues inside and outside of our campuses and clubs.

6 years ago, I was elected to be on FIND District III’s executive board (e-board).  I had experience being on an e-board of a club, Pilipinos of Hunter (POH), as the Public Relations Officer and the Secretary, but I never imagined being elected to be a part of the district e-board.

That year was the height of an anti-trafficking campaign led by the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns. The Florida 15 trafficked workers had just won their trafficking visas. Another case of trafficked Filipinos in New Orleans, known as the Grand Isle Shipyard trafficked workers, just hit the news after three migrant Filipino workers died in an oil rig explosion. After being a part of sharings with the workers, who were survivors of horrible and exploitative working conditions and human trafficking, I wanted to make sure the D3 community was aware and involved.

As e-board, we wanted to be different.  We regularly held short discussions on current events with calls to action. Our leadership summit intentionally highlighted the issues including, but not limited to migration, and Overseas Filipino Workers, and LGBTQI+ discrimination so that we are not just talking about identity and building leadership as campus leaders, but know about the conditions of the Filipino community and how to take action to improve those conditions.

The elections for the district e-board following our year was nothing I’ve ever seen in my years of being a part of D3. Many candidates who ran for D3 eboard were talking about social justice issues in their speeches and wanting to make changes. It was inspiring to see D3 members passionate about being positive forces in their community, especially when, historically, FIND has been infamously and incorrectly known as just a social and party space.

Fast forward. In 2014, the Black Lives Matter kicked off after the shooting of unarmed black youth, Mike Brown, by police and the heightening state violence waged against black communities. It brought to light the historical and institutionalized racism and white supremacy that had targeted and criminalized people of color, especially black people. It also brought to light the culture of impunity where police officers get away with murder. Filipino youth all over the country had participated in the Black Lives Matter protests.  Filipino youth raised questions about how to respond to racist comments their parents make and wanted to know how to show support for the black community and what solidarity looked like.

  Photo: National Alliance for Filipino Concerns

Photo: National Alliance for Filipino Concerns

In 2016, the struggle of Standing Rock against the construction Dakota Access Pipeline caught mainstream media. The First Nations people of Standing Rock’s fight to defend their ancestral lands from destruction inspired people all over the country to fight with them. Filipino youth joined the protests in solidarity with them and with the understanding that land and water are life. They drew connections to the plight of indigenous people in the Philippines, who are also subject to militarization and displacement for corporate greed, plundering their ancestral lands for resources and profit.

  Photo credit: BAYAN-USA

Photo credit: BAYAN-USA

In November  2016, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States and youth, including Filipino youth, all over the country were outraged to have a president who was blatantly sexist, racist, and anti-immigrant. They took to the streets and joined protests all over the country, exclaiming, “Not my president!” Until today, Trump continues to attack Muslims, immigrants, women, LGBTQ+, and communities of color, fueling youth to resist. We see his administration attacking education and healthcare, basic social services, through budget cuts and privatization.

 Photo Credit Joshel Melgarejo

Photo Credit Joshel Melgarejo

In the Philippines, Duterte wages war against the people, with the drug war claiming the lives of 20,000 poor people and counting; martial law and militarization continuing to terrorize Moro and indigenous people and displacing more than 400,000 people in Mindanao; and illegal arrests and extrajudicial killings of journalists, activists and community leaders who are critical of Duterte. Youth in the Philippines are holding massive walk-outs from schools and work to protest Duterte’s fascist rule, while communities organize themselves to resist the tyranny.

  Photo Credit: Kabataan Alliance

Photo Credit: Kabataan Alliance

History has shown that vibrant young leaders come out of the struggle for genuine changes.  Today, we are living in politically-charged times that call on youth to be critical of the world around us, but, more importantly, to be active change-makers that advance the rights and welfare of our communities in the U.S. and back home in the Philippines.  Crises in the world challenges youth to be the type of leader that commits to fighting for a world in which our people can reach their full potentials. As student leaders, we hold big responsibilities in our clubs and campuses, but we have a choice to remain neutral on these pressing issues, or go beyond the dialogue and take action.

My challenge to emerging Filipino youth leaders is to go beyond the campuses and get involved in taking action to serve your communities.  In the era of Trump and Duterte’s attacks on our people, which kind of youth leader will you be?

 

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.

Balancing Act

By Franches Garay, FINDink Contributor

I have a birthmark on the skin right between leg and foot — a dark brazen oddity that planted its roots from, as my parents liked to tell me growing up, a Moringa (kalamungay) tree my mom used to eat obsessively when she was pregnant with me. The birthmark contrasted prominently against unblemished skin, colors merely coexisting. It was something that I continuously used to try to hide as a kid, a part of myself I was, in all essence of the word, ashamed of.

I wanted to cover up the brown.

Growing up, I don’t think I ever realized – or become fully aware of – my racial identity until I moved to America. Brown skin looked odd, out of place amongst the blanket of white. The colors contrasted against each other, colors merely coexisting. Two sides of the same coin.     

My mom – barely 5’2 but had enough tenacity and heart to move mountains (figuratively but also probably literally) –  had created something akin to paradise in a small, modest three-bedroom row house in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. To her, sacrifice had become synonymous to the American Dream, trading in long hours at the hospital in exchange for the opportunity to give her kids a chance in a world beyond all she’s ever known.

The thing is, I have a heritage molded so intricately into my being, have pride for a culture so boldly and unapologetically yet I feel as though I have forgotten. As if my past had been watered down, diluted to the point that the branches littered with Moringa leaves have died out as not to overshadow the growth of a new one in all its entirety.

I’ve noticed that throughout the years, my native tongue has become nothing more than a ghost in the system, embedded in the back of my throat laying dormant. It was, in a way, easier that way – to lose a part of yourself in exchange for something else that would produce the most benefit. In nature, it’s called survival of the fittest. In this sense, it meant slowly forgetting an essential part of who I was.

I wanted to fit in but my skin was brazen in its brownness, unapologetic in the way it spoke of the stories and the histories of the Filipino culture. It spoke of Spanish colonialism, mango trees, Lapu-Lapu, and a group of people whose heart and pride for their culture transcended into waves.

The Philippines is the place that marked my birth, the land that gave birth to my identity. To all I’ve ever known. I was a seed planted in the rich culture of the Filipino soil forced to uproot to find a home in a place halfway across the world. But, I did. I grew roots in Philadelphia, in Hartford, in every place I’ve been and with every person that has changed my life.

For a while, I didn’t know I could live as both. I have yet to learn how to let the two intertwine as one entity without losing parts of one to another. I have yet to understand how to spin around the two sides of the same coin without letting one fall flat. It’s a mixture of planted roots in two opposing soils, of tongues, traditions, and cultures.

I have yet to learn how to walk the tightrope of this balancing act but I have slowly let myself outstretch my arms into the sky like branches with leaves of both Moringa and White Oak.

 

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.

Everybody Talks Everybody Talks, It Started With a Whisper

By Franches Garay, FINDink Contributor

An adaptation of my college admission essay.

For the longest time, I couldn’t speak.

It sounded foreign to my ears; words that were supposedly English weighed down by the accented lilt of the Filipino culture. Every word that came out of my mouth sounded wrong, sounded imported —  as if there was a glaring stamp placed on my head just to further set me apart from everybody else: “Made in the Philippines.”

The move to America had not been a surprise to me. My mom had gone to the States before the rest of the family and for the years she was gone, she would call every night telling me tales of North Carolina’s winter night and bustling lights — how little snowflake fell from the clouds and stuck to the eyelashes of blue-eyed strangers and how little angels imprinted themselves onto the sidewalks blanketed by pure white. Growing up, I knew my mom as letters on the back of stamped postcards and as whatever pasalubong in balikbayan boxes that brought my five year old a sense of temporary glee. I remember that my little sister, barely three at the time of my mom’s departure, would cut out pictures of her and tape it to our family photos because every one looked just a little bit emptier without her.

Prior to our move, every conversation revolved around America — it was a brand new world and a brand new adventure. My parent’s called it the “family’s greatest adventure as of yet.” Consumed with naivety and innocent expectations, I agreed. And in November of 2006, I uprooted everything I ever knew and left behind the only place I’ve ever called home.

I remember that I used to - sometimes even today - pronounce words in my head again and again before even considering saying something, just to make sure that I said it right. It was a routine I memorized, a security blanket I veiled upon myself before even contemplating opening my mouth. It's hard to describe in words; a complex process that involved a lot of polishing, a lot of straightening out the foreign, ragged edges. The tongue flicks swiftly to the center of the mouth to trace every edge and every curve of each letter and the vocal cords vibrate in a smooth cadence to shape the normal rhythm of the American syllables. The routine became second nature, like a law I made myself live by. For the longest time, I spoke in a volume just above silence, a short and clipped voice of a mere whisper. The less time they heard me spoke, the less time they would be able to pick the sentences apart for any mispronunciations. Often, the fear would leave me crippled and paralyzed. I became quiet, self-conscious. The fear consumed me to the point that the words I spoke would echo back into my own ears as a crowd of faceless people laughing. For years in the confines of a classroom, I stayed silent and when I did speak - which was a rare moment - I did it quietly in fear of being laughed at. Presentations in front of the class were my worst nightmares and conversations with others were short lived.

It wasn't until recently that I realized that I let a fear so irrelevant dictate who I was. For the longest time, I made the mistake of continually fearing I would make one. For the longest time, I was unable to speak, not because I physically couldn't but because I wouldn't let myself. For the longest time, I silenced myself for the approval of others.

It took me a while until I was able to realize that my voice was just as important as anybody else's. Though still slightly tinged with a Filipino accent, my voice is a stamp I now wear with pride and honor: "Made in the Philippines” and damn proud of it.

 

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.

Ligaw Ligaw Season?

By Noel Alberto, FINDink Contributor

Growing up (and even now), my mom always asked me if I’m making “ligaw ligaw”. Growing up, I had no idea what that meant but later on, my told me, oh it means “to court a girl”. Winter is almost over, which means cuffing season is about to come to a close (November to March), but there’s never a season to #ShootYourShot2018 so ligaw ligaw (courting) season is all-year round.
There’s a lot into courtship in the Filipino culture. It can start with asking the girl for her phone number or address or with teasing. Why teasing you ask? There is teasing because the “official” courtship has not begun yet and also, it helps the male suitor who really does not know how to court a girl. After the “teasing stage”, the courtship becomes more serious if the female reciprocates with the teasing or “encourages” the suitor to continue.
In the “serious” stage, more dates involving the two, whether it be chaperoned dates or group dates. While courting, the suitor begins to bring  pasalubong  to the lady such as flowers, cards, letters, etc. This serious stage includes meeting the parents. While being courted, the woman must play  hard to get , showing no interest or flirting, and being well-mannered, which is the appropriate behavior despite having interests for the suitor. Sometimes the suitor, who would be accompanied by friends, would head over to the women’s house and serenade her in a way of asking her to be his girlfriend.
The woman can choose one of many suitors, and once they begin the “dating phase”, no public displays of affection are usually shown. After the dating phase, the marriage phase begins where the man and his parents go upstairs of the woman’s house and ask for permission from the parents for the lady’s hand.
Some of this may sound old school and traditional, but some of this is a welcome change of pace in today’s  hook-up culture.  Hook-up culture is generally associated with people who are in high school or in college. In the social media age, courting someone will not go unnoticed. This is where the finsta comes in.
A finsta is a fake instagram which someone has to share their unfiltered experiences of life, which is private and only followed by your closest friends. It’s that place for those ugly selfies, those rants about life, and in this case, where you can talk about the girl you’re courting or the boy you’re crushing on.
In this day in age, it’ll be nice to see some more  ligaw ligaw , of course this is coming from someone who is a traditionalist themself, but hey to each their own. :)

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.

 

Where is home?

By Czaerra Ucol, FINDink Contributor

Adapted from a finsta post after I arrived back in the U.S. after a vacation in the Philippines. I went this past winter break, but before that, the last time I went was in 2006 for my 8th birthday.

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where is home?

is home Chicago? i often tell people at school that the taste of deep dish pizza is very personal to me. whether you consider it real pizza or not, it has deep connotations with my childhood for me. this windy city - where barely any of my friends live anymore - now feels empty. those that i would take the bus home with after school are now thousands of miles away. my bedroom that i painstakingly painted my favorite shade of bright yellow when i was a child, with my father, is now merely a guest room. my childhood home was often the first stop for some family members that first immigrated to the US, but now at night i no longer hear loud conversations in Ilocano from the dining room. i walk the streets of my neighborhood late at night and no longer have anywhere to visit, no one’s house to stop by. certain sidewalk cracks remind me of a former partner, or perhaps a quintessential part of my adolescence. but that is all they are to me - memories of a past life. i am an adult ghost in my childhood fantasies.

is home the Philippines? they say distance makes the heart grow fonder, but after 12 years, its hard for these faces to not be reduced to merely a yearly notification of a “happy birthday” facebook message. it’s hard being close when you have an entire ocean between you. i remember my grandparents’ home in Bacarra - my brother, my 7 cousins, and i would all sleep together in one room, staying up all night and exchanging stories about America and the Philippines. the night before my 8th birthday was so exciting. now we are all older, our family has grown - 3 more cousins have been born since then - but we are all just as similar as before. i’ve never had a family reunion before, and yet this past winter, i visited a town where literally everyone had the same middle name as me. this inexplicable connection drew us together, and it was almost like i had never left. my mom often speaks about how we all inherited our great-grandfather’s wisdom, and i see that now. we visited his grave. i hope we are making him proud.

a week after i left the Philippines this past January, my grandparents’ home in Bacarra - empty and abandoned - was bulldozed. we visited it before we left - it had been looted. there were scattered photographs of my mother’s childhood tossed carelessly on the floor. we scavenged everything we could. i wonder what remains in the rubble now - or what it will look like the next time i see it. hopefully, it will not be another 12 years.

is home New York City? my biggest fear of moving to this city and going to such an esteemed school did not seem very scary to me when i was an ambitious 18-year-old - i was ready to take on a new challenge. but now, i am 19 (soon to be 20, about a week from writing this). college humbles everyone - at least, i hope it does. i often speak about how as someone raised in a large city, i am used to my life now. and while i am used to taking the subway or uncomfortably ignoring people selling me their mixtape, i was unprepared for the loneliness of the concrete jungle. however, i have forged a new family - one comprised of my friends, my partner, my filipino club members, my roommate - everyone that i’ve met along the way and has stayed has been nothing but supportive of me.

while i am grateful, i can’t help but continue looking for home. my dorm has housed many, many people before me. but this is not the place my mother offered to make me arroz caldo when i was sick, nor is it the place where i encountered an old notebook filled with old love poems written by my grandmother when she still had her eyesight.

i have almost been on this planet, existing, feeling, living for what i hope to be 1/5th of my life. perhaps the search will become easier along the way. maybe one day, i’ll be the diasporic individual able to reconcile the birthplace of my parents with the city i was nurtured and cared for in and the city where i’ve come into my own.

but for now, i will share these slightly ramble-y thoughts with you all.

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here's a short, cute little video documenting my trip to the philippines

 

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.

Introversion In An Extroverted Culture

By Katlin Esguerra, FINDink Contributor

Throughout my life I’ve always felt like an oddball at family parties or gatherings. It seemed as if relatives would always try to have a conversation pertaining to a career or my daily life, try to push me into singing karaoke, or even just forcing me to be under a spotlight that I was never comfortable under. They usually mean well, but I was always more comfortable standing afar and just scoping out the activities going on throughout the evening from a safe distance. It’s not that I hate these types of gatherings, but my energy levels never matched with anyone else in the room.

We come from a culture in which a lot people are friendly and hospitable towards each other, a culture in which those traits coincide with forms of energy that thrives on a daily basis from social interaction. We also come from a culture that thrives on the emphasis of respecting your family and showing kindness to others, which portrays a balance between high levels of socialization, and speaking when being spoken to. From what I’ve encountered, we like to create connections with others without seeming too outspoken or radical, especially towards someone of a higher title than yours, or older relatives. From what I’ve learned on my own, there’s an extent to the sociability that’s portrayed in the Philippines, and it may be tied toward the values of family and overall respect. Socializing in the community is highly encouraged in Filipino culture, but there’s also the need to be mindful of what a person may say or do.

This is the attitude I’ve grown with, which ties in with an introversion I’ve inherited. I’ve learned to keep quiet or else I might offend someone with my outspokenness or an individualistic mindset that most aunties and uncles may disapprove of. I’ve grown so comfortable with this subtle attitude that it’s manifested into introverted traits. I always remind myself there will be a time when I step away from my isolated bubble and become more outspoken in front of relatives, whether they like what I say or not. After all, it is a time to catch up with one another, interact, and learn from each other. Maybe it will help me become more comfortable at family parties, and maybe it will help me become closer with my family. Although I’m still somewhat in my comfort zone at these social events, I’ve learned to push myself out of it the best way that I could, and at my own pace.

I may find myself drained after interacting with relatives on topics or activities I find unbearable, but I’m used to how these parties and gatherings function, and it actually becomes easier to enjoy throughout the time that the function occurs. I find more enjoyment through observation. It’s interesting watching your cousin snatch an amazing score of 95 on the Magic Sing mic, hearing the laughter of parents in the kitchen making the corniest of jokes, and immersing yourself in the overall jubilant atmosphere that goes on for hours. As stated earlier, I’ve grown in a culture emphasized on family, and those are the parts of Filipino culture that I value the most, which can be found at events like these.

If there are Filipino people out there whom I share similar traits and situations with, may we unite in our own individual love affairs with solitude, may we uphold our cultural values in ways that each of us choose to do so, and may we continue easing our way through the overbearing parts of the overall joyful family gatherings that never cease to exist.  

 

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.

 

I'm Filipino, But...

im_filipino_but-01.jpg

By Claudia Uy, FINDink Contributor

I’m Filipino, but I don’t eat dogs.

Dogs are my favorite animal, and I wanted one since I was a kid.

I’m Filipino, but I’m not late to everything.

Ok, I’m actually working on this one.

I’m Filipino, but I’m not lazy.

Most of the Filipinos I know, including myself, work very hard for their goals. Filipinos are the hardest working people I know.

I’m Filipino, but I’m not pursuing STEM.

I’m actually a graphic design major, but I do find STEM subjects fascinating.

I’m Filipino, but my ethnicity should not determine my career.

You should be able to pursue your own passion because at the end of the day, you are in charge of your own happiness. Pursue whatever makes you happy.

I’m Filipino, but I’m not submissive.

I am an independent woman who is capable of making her own decisions.

I’m Filipino, but the color of my skin does not determine my level of physical attractiveness.

Dark skin or not, your skin is beautiful and makes you unique.

I’m Filipino and proud to be one.

And you can be too.

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.