Going through college in the United States can be hard for many Filipino American students, because I know for sure it’s been a hell of a ride for me. Whether you’ve just immigrated here, or are a 1st or 2nd generation student, you can face some level of adversity aiming for a diploma or getting your dream job - so having someone you can relate, affirm, and collaborate with becomes something as a necessity for success. Being back in school for my 4th year at my university, it’s a scary thought I’m going out into a world with the odds pitted against me. But with all honesty if I wasn’t exposed to the visibility of Fil-Ams in sectors besides nursing and the medical field, I wouldn’t feel as secure on taking the world on as I do now.
As I said, finding people you can relate to and affirm your own goals with is super important. I’m so thankful I was able to attend the Empowering Pilipino Youth through Collaboration (or EPYC for short) Conference during early August that gave a space for young Fil-Am student and community leaders from across the nation to just be able to relate to each other (Shouts out to UniPro for the honor of sponsorship). When you’re a child of immigrants in any case, you become the stakeholder for your family to accomplish success in this land of “limitless opportunity”. Yet once you learn about the societal barricades of people who look like you through either experience or (limited to some areas) from the education system, it looks like an uphill battle.
I’m from Northern California, so being here you’re constantly in a culture of tech start-ups, the word “hella”, the hyphy movement, and some of the first Filipino communities because of agriculture back in the 20s. Going to EPYC and talking seeing how it is to be Filipin@ in other regions of the United States really got me thankful for my community, but also seeing how ambitious Fil-Am students of today can be. Only 60 years ago were Filipinos discriminated against and even hung for the color of their skin and the language their tongues spoke. Today we’re able to have safe spaces where we can show the world what we’re capable of.
Going back to all the amazing people I met at the conference, it’s the thought knowing that “we’re all in this together” that refreshed my own aspirations. One of the Keynote Speakers, Jason Tengco, was memorable to me because he accomplished a lot with just having a similar background as mine being in their collegiate Fil-Am organization. Talking to new friends at FIND makes me feel comfortable knowing I can hit someone up when I plan to go to the East Coast for graduate school.
I also had the pleasure of being the student delegate from Northern California, and ultimately becoming “homies” to other delegates from different regions are the United States was a “whoah” moment. One thing for sure I take Jollibee being down my street for granted, and having at least 15-20 other filipino places to eat at within a 5 mile radius from my house.
But now, I’m sitting here on my campus in the east Bay Area in California, back in my own community leading my organization. Do you know the feeling when you’re told some juicy gossip and want to spread the word? (I don’t condone gossiping) - Well it’s like that, when you become empowered, you want to share that with the community around you. It becomes an avalanche effect coming from the smallest level, and soon your whole community can become visible. Your horizons expand once you become more aware that other people like you have done the things you’ve always wanted.
The experiences we hold mold us into people of character, and those we meet help define the details that create the most visible people. Like the chorus of a once popular song once said; “We’re all in this together.” And what we hold together is our own intersecting journey steps to becoming visible as Fil-Ams and showing the world we are more than the stereotypes that define us!
Note about the author: Arvin is a 4th year student at CSUEB. He is also currently President for the Pilipinx-American Student Association at CSUEB, and a committee head for the Northern California Pilipinx-American Student Alliance.