Over the years, I have discovered and explored my passion for Pilipinx and Pilipinx American advocacy and activism. Why is this important to me you ask? Growing up, my parents wanted me to assimilate to American culture and only taught me to speak the English language. They thought I would be confused with trying to learn both Pilipinx and American culture because in school I would only be exposed to American culture. It was already known I would just learn about mostly U.S. history in the classroom than the depths and details about any other culture’s history. Questions of how would she understand the Pilipinx culture if there is no one around her to relate to would be a stir but certainly not up for discussion with me. As I got older, my curiosity for my culture sparked as I went to extended family parties and I couldn’t speak Cebuano, name the dishes at the table, understand why Pilipinx were proud people but didn’t know the reason. I seek now to learn and understand for the sake of my children and generations after me. I don’t blame my parents for holding back my exposure to Pilipinx culture but I rather reimagine an environment where resources for the underrepresented were more accessible. I realize in the larger spectrum we have to decolonize a system that was not set up for us. I want to be happy knowing who I am and where I come from, my full identity.
This past year, I have been an ambassador representing the Northern California region in a national non-profit Pilipinx organization. The program is called EPYC: Empowering Pilipino Youth through Collaboration and I am here to do just that. I wanted to engaged with other like minded young individuals to contribute to a network of others who share a care for their culture.
I have been blessed with this opportunity to hear and interchange with youth across the nation because it broadens all of our perspectives as we listen to each others’ experiences.
In late January, the EPYC ambassadors embarked on a four day retreat in Seattle. Even though I was apprehensive for meeting each other for the first time, everyone was so accepting and willing to engage in our workshops and activities that my nerves and anxiety disappeared right away and we became a close knit family almost instantly. I appreciated such an inviting space, something I can only hope for other community spaces and environments. We were able to visit Microsoft and learned one of their company ideals is to embody a “growth mindset” where you commit to continuing to achieve lifelong learning versus staying in a fixed mentality. I really took to heart their thoughts about wny Pilipinx leadership is unique. They described how Pilipinx tend to cluster and follow community building. This is called Bayanihan spirit, where we feel each others’ warmth which keeps us together in unity towards a goal. I reflected back in my intentions to discover more about my roots and had a lightbulb moment. That yearn for me to navigate my identity would be fulfilled if I sustain my involvement in community work and through diving into this knowledge rich weekend, I cannot be grateful enough for this program investing proactive attitudes within all of us.
All in all, EPYC has reaffirmed me that connecting with others is imperative to amplifying our voices. One major takeaway I have gotten from this experience is to create change with others in mind and embrace why community is so vibrant. Cultural preservation is so essential and anyone can be a leader in bringing awareness to this just by sharing their personal journey. I will continue to lead with empathy and with the support in knowing there is community behind me.