"My UniPro Summit Reflection" by Cat Taylo

For UniPro 2016 Summit: Reach, UniPro sponsored students to travel to Seattle to learn and experience everything that UniPro Summit has to offer. Below is Cat Taylo's reflection. She is a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and President of the Midwest Association of Filipino Americans (MAFA). 

Over 500 members.
Across 10+ States.
Within 3 chapters.
All united for progress.

I do not even know where to start. Coming from the Midwest, I have had the privilege to attend 3 conferences: Unseen Unheard, Filipino Americans Coming Together, and Midwest Filipino American Summit*. These three conferences as well as the people who coordinated them have not only become some of my biggest role models but my best friends. It was these experiences that have contributed to my growth both as a leader within my community and as a first generation Filipino American. 

Despite my involvement, my time at the UniPro 2016 Summit: Reach has been an experience nothing short of amazing. The workshops were eye opening and taught me more about the identities that I want to empower. If there was one thing I noticed it was the difference in the focus between the Midwest and the West Coast. In the Midwest, we place a heavy emphasis on the cultural aspects of the Philippines: cultural dance, food, religious practices, languages etc. In the West Coast, I noticed that there is a bigger focus on the issues here in America and how they play a role in our Filipinx community today and in the future. It’s not that the Midwest doesn’t also address this issue (because believe me, we definitely do) it’s just that I have never encountered a more motivated group of people who were so ready to create the change they wanted to see.

Each workshop, equipped delegates with knowledge, history and perspectives for us to reach within and outside of our community. With this knowledge, we were able to discuss what we can do with the newfound information, how we can apply what we learned into practice and come together to form a tentative plan of action. At the end of this conference, we listened to a keynote speaker who not only emphasized the importance of our work but also called us to remember why we are here: because of the hardships our family and our people did to ensure that we had a life better than they ever will. 

It was incredible to see so many delegates from across the nation. Most of us were students and have been running on 2 hours of sleep but 24 hours of worry about our last or next midterm. We’ve all been losing our minds trying to get the timeline of our events just right for our members or the timing of our cultural dances just perfect. In spite of all the tasks and commitments we have we all still came together to learn about something bigger than ourselves. The fact that our priorities were to come together to make a difference for a community rather than serve needs that directly benefited us is truly inspiring. 

Overall, I was humbled to be able to see the West Coast perspective through a Midwest lens. I was privileged to be able to go to Seattle and engage in dialogue that was impossible in the past. And I am so blessed to be welcomed by the UniPro community with open arms. I cannot even begin to tell you all how eye opening this experience was and I know that what I have learned will definitely be put towards my leadership in the Midwest community. There’s so much work to be done to create a united Pilipino America, but boy are we well on our way. 

*Unseen Unheard is a conference coordinated by Asian Pacific American Coalition at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

Filipino Americans Coming Together (FACT) is a conference coordinated by the Philippine Student Association at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

Midwest Filipino American Summit (MFAS) is a traveling conference that is hosted at a different school affiliated with the Midwest Association of Filipino Americans.