Month: November 2016

My FASA Story | RJ Dumo

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What up tigga/ Obligatory baby pic

Before coming to UW, I was never one to think of myself in a reflective way.

Growing up in a neighborhood where everyone looked different than me, assimilating became second nature. Sometimes, I would throw away the red hot dog sandwiches my mom would pack me for lunch and happily starve myself. To be “funny”, I would squint my eyes, make ugly faces and talk in a harsh Filipino accent. I would rotate through nicknames like “Teriyaki”, “Enchilada”, “Fez”, yet gladly give those kinds of nicknames to myself too. It made me happy that I could make other people laugh so I saw nothing wrong.

High school was different for me. Everyone looked different. They all listened to different kinds of music. They ate weird foods. They dressed differently. They talked differently.

Diversity: it was something entirely new to me.

After spending nine years within a predominantly white private Catholic school, I was finally going to school with people that were colored just like me. Yet, I felt so lost. It felt like I had to start all over again. I had to relearn how to dress, how to walk, what to listen to, what to eat, how to talk. Once again, I assimilated but one thing I couldn’t find was my voice. I was so afraid of judgement fearing that I wouldn’t be able to make friends that I felt it would be better to remain quiet rather than expressing myself. Up until college, I truly didn’t have a sense of identity.

Or rather, it wasn’t until later that I realized that I’ve been rejecting it all my life.

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There’s something really mind blowing when you look at old photos of yourself from just a year ago and realize that the picture of the person that you’re looking at isn’t you.

It was the summer before coming into UW in which I felt like things really changed for me. It was a hot day sitting in my aunt’s stuffy apartment when we had a conversation. A conversation that I will always remember. From this conversation, she gave me two tips. Two ideas that I was skeptical about at first but slowly warmed up to me and took in full-heartedly.

  1. Focus on putting yourself in a self-growth mentality.
  2. Join FASA.

Alpas (v.): to break free, to break loose. For me, “alpas” means a lot to me. All my life, I’ve been weighed down by the expectation and the fear of judgement from everyone around me. Not only did I have expectations from many people but I placed self-destructive expectations for myself. If I wasn’t like everyone else, then I’m not acceptable.

The two pieces of advice that my aunt gave me were the key for me to break loose from the chains that weighed me down. Realizing how I want to move forward and what direction to take is honestly one of my proudest accomplishments in my college career.

I’m not completely free from those chains quite yet but remember this: patience, gratitude, and trust. Breaking free isn’t going to come right away but we’ll get there eventually.

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Find out more about RJ and his position here!

What’s your FASA story? #alpas

My FASA Story | Saralyn Santos

When I was two years old, my family packed up and moved from New York City back to the Philippines.

I remembered nothing of my life in America; my first memories were of humidity and heat, summer storms and floods, trips to Jollibee and meals around the wooden table in our kitchen. In my mind, despite the fact that I was born in America, and couldn’t speak a word of Tagalog, I was as Filipino as they came.

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Young me in the Philippines, circa 2001.

When we moved back to the United States, I went through a pretty extreme state of culture shock. I went from classes where everyone looked like me to classes where I was more often than not the odd one out. I went from a beaming, outgoing kid to a shy, quiet kid. I hardly ate; I barely talked; I cried a lot. My brother, three years old at the time, confided in my mother, “I think Ate’s dispressed.”

Being five years old and “dispressed”, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at the time, but I felt this acute sense of not belonging. My classmates squinted suspiciously at the sinigang and monggo I brought for lunch. And although by my birth I was just as American as the next kid in the class, the color of my skin and the shape of my eyes continued to prompt questions from other kids and well-meaning adults:

“Are you Mexican? Chinese? Japanese?”

When we traveled back to the Philippines over the following years, I started to feel a needing but particular sense of not belonging there, either. When my family joked with each other in Tagalog or Bisaya, I was only able to nod along, unable to understand what they’d said. I felt too awkward and American to truly fit in. When we went back to America, suntanned and jet-lagged, I’d lie awake wondering if things would have been different if my parents had never left the Philippines. Would I be Filipino enough if I had been born there, raised there, and stayed there? On other days, I’d wonder: would I be American enough if my family had simply stayed here, without ever returning to the Philippines?
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My family in the Philippines, all reunited for my grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary in 2011! I had hardly any idea what anyone was saying for this entire trip.

The years went by and I continued to ponder these questions, until I made it to college and encountered FASA for the first time.I actually didn’t come into UW intending to join FASA; I had had my heart set on the Husky Marching Band. After I failed the audition and got rejected from HMB, it took a coincidental stroll through the RSO Fair, a friendly face asking “Hey, are you Filipino?”, and the promise of free ice cream to bring me into my first FASA event, the 2014 New Member Social.

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Me at my very first FASA general meeting!

Even then, I still didn’t feel like I belonged right away. I was an ice-cream sundae of shyness and awkwardness, with a heaping scoop of social anxiety on top. But despite all of that, FASA welcomed me in anyway. Every time I wandered through the door, a friendly face would greet me by name and ask me how I was doing. Slowly, I made friends, and was delighted to discover that we shared so many commonalities. It was amazing to talk to other people who had shared the same experiences I had had. Little by little, I finally started to get the feeling that I belonged.

At the end of freshman year, I became FASA’s historian. The year that followed was honestly one of the most life-changing experiences I’ve ever had. Suddenly, I was a leader, someone who not only belonged to a group but constantly worked to make that group even better. Although I had a new position, deep down I was still the same old socially awkward me — at the beginning of the year, I lurked at the edges of meetings with my camera, taking candid shot after candid shot. I challenged myself to do better, and bit by bit, I broke free of the introverted, quiet shell I had been developing since the age of five. I did things I had never even dreamed of doing before. I researched Filipino American history and presented it every other week to fifty or more people. I joined Sayaw and performed in front of hundreds of people.

I became proud to be Filipino American in a way that I’d never been before.

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Presenting a historian corner at a general meeting! I pioneered these presentations during my year as historian.

The story doesn’t end here. I still worry about what to do or say whenever I talk to someone, I’m still someone who hovers around the edges of a group at first, I’m still someone who wonders from time to time, “Am I Filipino enough?”.

But that’s the beauty in alpas, I think — it’s a verb, not a noun. You don’t just break free once and then never again. Little by little, bit by bit, you continue to break free of the way you used to be, spread your wings, and soar ever higher.

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Find out more about Saralyn and her position here!

What’s your FASA story? #alpas

My FASA Story | Leanna Tri

“If it doesn’t really affect me, I don’t really care.”

I wish I can remember who it was that told me that because those ten words have had a huge effect on me.

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Growing up, I don’t remember a time in my life where I liked to share important details about myself…where I voiced my opinion regarding the things that mattered. I was never the kid in class to volunteer to speak up or have the loud voice in a large group conversation. I didn’t think that being completely open and vulnerable with people or sharing my thoughts were all that important. I was just the type of person that went through the motions. I was just the type of person in high school that had a small group of close friends, focused on school, and participated in just a few extra-curricular activities here and there. I did what I had to do and that was really it.

In one of my last few English classes during my senior year of high school, my teacher asked us all to come up with a six-word memoir that described us. This made me really reflect on my high school experience.

Nothing really stuck out to me though and that’s when it hit me: Don’t want to be another face.

Coming into the University of Washington, I knew I wanted to have a different experience than I did in high school. But UW was just so hugeeeeee, I didn’t even know where to start. I just I knew I wanted to meet new people, make new friends, and know more about the things going on around me.

I wanted to care. I wanted to be more than just another face.

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Alpas (v): to break free, to break loose

When we were choosing the theme for this year, this stood out to me. It’s a verb. It’s dynamic. I feel like it’s so cliché, but I can honestly say that being a member of FASA last year has changed me: how I see myself and how I see and understand the things that happen around me.

The people I met through FASA made UW feel so much smaller; in a good way, of course. I had a struggle going to the meetings  because they were so late, and I commuted to school, but I remember last year I kept coming back because of the people (: I remember that one officer that called me out because we had a class together (hint: it was the academics chair last year ;)); and that one time someone in the FASA Frosh Squad chat on Facebook approached me at a meeting and said “Hey, you’re in the chat but I don’t think I know you. I’m ____”.

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The events and corners and conversations that were always going on in FASA meetings made me want to be more aware of issues and things going on and educate myself (mostly because I didn’t want to be the only one not knowing what the conversation was about, but it worked!)

My experience has made me more open, more woke, more conscious. I feel more comfortable participating in larger conversations and just talking to people in general. I feel more aware and more of the important things going on and more willing to educate myself even if they don’t affect me personally. I feel more conscious of my actions and the importance of the things I have to share.

Now here I am, one of the officer for one of the oldest, largest cultural rso’s on campus. Haha whatttt?! I broke free from my comfort zone and broke loose from just going through the motions. Although that’s true, there’s still a long way for me to go. So, I hope that y’all will continue to alpas with me <3

 

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Find out more about Leanna and her position here!

What’s your FASA story? #alpas