Month: December 2016

My FASA Story | Zean Sumabat

Throughout my young and not-so-storied life, no part of it involved any anecdote of me completely breaking out of my comfort zone. Sure, there were those times that I’d move from school to school, country to country, state to state, and I’d have to make new friends, but anyone can do that. I stayed the usual talky-but-nervous person in the corner who made people come to him first. I’d let opportunities slip and pass before college because part of me thought that there’s always going to be some more of that in the future, but most of me was just too scared to go there and take a stand. That was my life before college.

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Mini Zean Don

Fast-forward to the first three weeks of college life, and my best buddy Christian Buensuceso (Buensu) sees a banner at a table in Red Square that reads “Filipino American Student Association at UW” at Red Square, and that very day, we signed ourselves up and became a part of the club we call home today. I realized that the old me, the submissive take-no-risks me, wasn’t going anywhere, and that I would be destined to not help people out in the future with the way that I was in high school; we all know that expression: “You can’t help anyone until you help yourself.” At a new place, with the risk of being ostracized for being too odd, too talkative, or just being too intimidating (weird, right?), I threw myself out there and talked to the other members. I didn’t really care what their ages were or if they were upper/underclassmen.

I just talked, talked, and talked. I tried tactics to help myself be better at introducing myself to new people as well, and God forbid if anyone just shut me out. It never happened, though; everyone I met at FASA helped me practice and hone my conversational skills, even if they never realized what a closeted extrovert I am. Everyone at FASA helped me break through that social shell, that chain that held me back from unlocking my fullest potential.

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“The Family of Freshmen FASA Friends Forever” – Cath Ed-ucation

The reason why perhaps the social aspect is the most important pillar (to me) for FASA is because being social allows you to create those connections. With those connections, you build and the friendships FASA cultivates among its members, our members’ limits are boundless. Skills like reaching out to new people and learning how to interact and stay in close contact with people will get people where they want to go. Connections is what drives us to stay with a group; without a doubt, I am willing to say that everyone stays in the organizations they join because they have people there they can trust, that they can call their friends. That leads to all the other growth opportunities that FASA bestows its members with.

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My mentor, Josh Boss, and me swaggin’

As a short example, I had never been informed much of the struggles of our brethren in the Philippines. I knew some historical aspects, such as the Spanish/American base in Subic Bay being built in the late-1800s and of the Marcos dictatorship, but never of concurrent events that coincided with our own. However, Buensu, a few new friends, and I were all talking and discussing an event and whether or not we were interested in helping out the officers with it, and all of a sudden, we ended up volunteering at the first-ever Civil Rights Symposium held at the Samuel Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center, and it would be a severe understatement to say that I came out of the experience informed. I would compare it to an awakening, almost, to a whole new side of me that suddenly had an investment to those who lived in my ancestral land. The news of the Kidapawan massacre nailed it in for me (that was a topic of discussion for one of the workshops of the Symposium) and I decided that I need to do more to raise awareness and at the very least stand in solidarity for those who still suffer from any kind of injustices.

I share this snippet of my story to inspire others to break out of their social shell first and foremost. In reality, this is one example out of many where I was influenced to go to events because I had friends going to them and persuading me to attend. Sometimes, we are unsure of what the social pillar of FASA means. Even I get it mixed up, sometimes; that’s the beauty of it, though. It is what you make it to be. It can be about supporting the social change in life and it can tie in with the Political/Cultural pillars, such as Black Lives Matter or other social equality movements, or it can tie in with the Academics aspect and help you find a study buddy/group.

The point is, I broke out of my own expectations and the expectations of others, and you can too. I can say with full certainty that if you do the same, the world will be at your fingertips.

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Find out more about Zean and his position here!

What’s your FASA Story? #alpas

My FASA Story | Sunshine Camille Arcilla

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-12-04-46-pm (I rocked that bowl cut-white dress-tsinelas combo pretty good. Taken in front of the house I grew up in. Bamboo fence > White picket fence)

When I was twelve, I left my barrio (village) and everyone in it, including my dad, to start a new life in America. I’ve heard stories and seen balikbayans come back with so much more than they left with, so I should have been excited to leave. However, it didn’t sound as good as chasing dragonflies on an open field using a makeshift net made out of a stick and a plastic bag, nor was it comparable to the thrill of catching mangoes while my cousins dropped them from the tree, and it especially wasn’t worth leaving my dad behind.

But because I was only twelve, and I didn’t have a choice, here I am. Don’t get me wrong though; I am happy, and I recognize how privileged I am to be here, but there have been countless times when I wish I could go back home.

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[My sister and I went back home for the first time after 8 years in 2015. Here’s us at our childhood beach.]

Home. For the first 7 years of my life here, I lost the meaning of “home” until I joined FASA.

Physically– my family moved from one house to another almost every year, and there was event a point in time when I was only allowed one suitcase worth of belongings, because as my mom would say, “we have to be ready just in case.”

Culturally– I began to assimilate myself during my middle and high school years. I purposely altered my persona as to rid myself of everything that made me the “F.O.B” girl. I was a clay, completely moldable by the cruel hands of my bullies, insecurities, and desperation to belong.

“Am I really heading towards what I’ve been running away from for so long–my Filipino identity? How do you even begin to find your way back to the person you were? Is that even possible?” Hesitant about joining FASA, I asked myself these questions.

Little by little I learned about colonial mentality and it kept me coming back. It put my whole life into a new perspective. Suddenly all of the jokes about being the darker sister hurt more; every peso I paid for every Tagalog word I spoke in our “English Speaking Zone” at school was worth more; and every brush stroke for that perfect nose contour came with more regret than satisfaction.

I realized that turning away from my culture was like turning away from the people I left behind, and I simply could not allow myself to do that any further. And so I got more involved and I started to heal.

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(Last year when I had the chance to serve as Cultural Chair and Director of Filipino Night)

Alpas to me has been this constant process of decolonization so that I can find my “home” again. FASA continues to give me the tools and community I need to break free and break loose from the self-inflicted limits that I’ve been taught to internalize. Alpas is a reminder of my journey to self-empowerment and falling back in love with my culture. This theme can be applied to all of us in so many ways, but I personally hope that it can serve the same purpose to my fellow 1st/1.5 generation folks.

In a sea of people from different walks of life, it’s easy for us to lose our identity but thanks to FASA, I will always have a reminder of who I was and who I can become.  

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Find out more about Sunshine and her position here!

What’s your FASA story? #alpas

 

 

My FASA Story | Shawntel Bali

I grew up in the small state of Hawai’i, on the small island of Kauai, in a small town called Kapa’a. The word “small” basically sums up my universe as a little girl. The world I knew consisted of palm trees and sunshine. People’s skin color ranged from tan, very tan, and brown. I was happy here. Really, really happy.

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[I don’t have any of my childhood photos right now, so Baby Moana will do]

After kindergarten, there were 5 words that shattered this small universe of mine:

“We’re moving to the mainland.”15327625_1342282505790345_1305578384_n

[Say what?]

To be honest, I had absolutely no idea what this meant. But all my little 6 year old self could do was pack my things, say goodbye to my island home, and say hello to this “mainland”- which was apparently synonymous with a place called Federal Way, Washington.

At that moment in time, this is what I knew:

  • It rained a lot here.
  • Skin color has faded far beyond familiar shades of tan and brown.
  • I speak differently around these people.

But at 6 years old, what I didn’t know was why. Why did my parents bring us here? Why did I suddenly feel so out of place?

For awhile, my questions remained unanswered and I naturally adapted to this new world. However, there were things my friends did, and standards others were held up to, that were just not reflected in my own life. I acted differently at school and at home, just to be accepted. I felt bounded by these unknown restrictions, and would often blame it on my “parents’ strict rules” or “family’s irrationality” in effort to make sense of this big, fat why.

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[I spy awkward middle school me – Lakota Middle School]

Then one day, in the midst of my teenage angst fury, my sister tells me this:

“It’s just our culture. That’s why.”

I was outraged. How is this a cultural thing? How does being Filipino have anything to do with this?

Fast forward to now, I realize that being Filipino American has everything to do with this.

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[FILIPIN-YAAAS – Filipino Night 2016]

If I were to tell you why I’m Cultural Chair, or a member of FASA at all, it would all trace back to the first Filipino Night I attended at 14 years old. It was a show directed by my own sister.

That night, something just clicked. I remember being in complete awe, feeling connected with the people in the room somehow, and leaving the show wanting to know more. It was the first moment I truly connected with my identity as a Filipina American and woman of color.

This was my “alpas” moment that has since flourished into a never-ending journey of searching, discovering, and reclaiming my Filipino American identity. I’m in this constant, glorious cycle of defining and re-defining what culture means to me.

I owe it to FASA for helping me respect and understand, my family, my friends, my history, myself, and my purpose in this enormous universe; a universe where I am happy- really, truly happy -in finding out why.

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[My everything.]

Find out more about Shawntel and her position here!

What’s your FASA Story? #alpas