Kristina Joyas

Introducing LEGACY: an Organization Forging a New Generation of Youth Leaders


It is often said the world is made up of two types of people: leaders and followers. Determined to be the former, I've involved myself in community organizing throughout my undergraduate career, particularly within the Pilipino community. Like many youth leaders new to the game, I encountered frustrating issues like a loss of motivation from fellow team members, minimal interest or knowledge of cultural history, disorganized planning, and lack of collaboration. The worst part? These problems persisted because of the quick turnaround time for student leaders. Once a team learned from their mistakes, the incoming team would end up committing the same mistakes only months later. Then, student leaders would graduate, take on greater community leadership roles, and pass along those practices to form a cycle of inefficiency. There was no solution, that's just the way it was. Until now. LEGACY – Leadership, Education, Guidance, and Critical thinking for the Youth – is a new organization tackling these issues at their core. LEGACY aims to build a collective of action-driven people to raise new standards for community leaders through mentorship and development programs.

The organization is the brainchild of Kristina Joyas, who in October 2013 tapped Marc Densing, Christine Sicwaten, and myself to form a founding team. Joyas's experience includes the National Organizing Committee for AF3IRM, as well as serving as UniPro's own founding Vice President and former Director of Staff Development. The rest of us are currently rooted in the college sphere. Densing serves as the National Chairperson for F.I.N.D. Inc. Sicwaten (also a UniPro staff member) is on the Executive Board of F.I.N.D. District Three and was the former president of Stony Brook's PUSO. Lastly, I'm currently serving as president of NYU's International Filipino Association. We combined our forces, identified red flags, and shared our passion for leadership to build the foundation of LEGACY, officially launching this year.

In the wake of LEGACY's launch, we'd like to announce upcoming initiatives including:

  • "Leave Your Legacy" Series – This lecture series invites prominent and seasoned senior community organizers to impart their invaluable knowledge and experiences, TED talks-style.
  • Project LEAD (Leadership Education and Development) – This is a summer-intensive project for rising leaders. It features weekly workshops which fostering necessary hard skills to encourage success among members of a group or organization.
  • LEGACY Fellowship – This fellowship invites a small cohort of aspiring leaders to participate in an individualized 10-month-long mentorship, building a foundation of Pilipino cultural education and continual leadership development.
  • National youth conferences – LEGACY will be facilitating leadership workshops at major youth leader conferences. Earlier this month, we attended the Southern California Pilipino American Student Association (SCPASA) Summit 2014, and will be heading to the East Coast Asian American Students Union Conference (ECAASU), Kapihan at Cornell University, and other upcoming events for the year across the nation.

Now more than ever, LEGACY is needed to create a collective of leaders up for the challenge of matching the Fil-Am community's growing scope and expanding needs. LEGACY's big picture envisions national coalition and goals to build a model to be used in other communities outside Pilipinos. For now, however, we are calling you to action. If you know someone itching to be a leader, someone already doing community work, or someone who has the potential and just might not know it yet – point them in LEGACY's direction.

Learn more at Plus, find us on twitter: @CreateOurLEGACY

UniPro's The Vagina Monologues: Breaking the Maria Clara Image, Indeed

Moans, writhes, orgasms … it wasn't your typical UniPro event. On March 9, UniPro hosted The Vagina Monologues: Breaking the Maria Clara Image at Cap21 Studios. Based on interviews with real women, The Vagina Monologues is a play by Eve Ensler featuring hilarious, heartbreaking and uncomfortable confessions from different women about their, well, vaginas, relating to their personal stories of femininity and sexuality.

UniPro’s The Vagina Monologues production starred an all-Pilipina cast, with a special Pilipina twist added to parts of the script. In one monologue, for example, a “lola” ashamedly discussed her “down there.” Then at the end of the play, the cast stood side by side onstage, taking turns to share disturbing facts about victims of sexual violence:

"One in three women on the planet will be beaten or raped in her lifetime. That’s more than one billion women living on the planet today."

"The NDHS revealed that one in five women aged 15-49 has experienced physical violence since age 15."

"One in ten Filipino women aged 15-49 has experienced sexual violence."

Following the play was a panel of representatives from various women’s rights organizations. These distinguished women included Ivy O. Suriyopas, Director of the Anti-Trafficking Initiative at AALDEF; Kristina K. Joyas, a member of AF3IRM (and UniPro’s Director of Staff Development); and Zarah K. Viñola, Vice-Chairperson for FiRE. They discussed ways their organizations are tackling issues that affect Pilipinas, as well as their own definitions of the term “feminist.”

Confronting topics ranging from rape and sexual violence to self-image and self-discovery, the night was emotional and thought-provoking. It was a seamless event and production, organized by Kirklyn Escondo, our Community Building Director, and directed by Precious Sipin and Leslie Espinosa. Music also added to the drama of the play, with Andre Ignacio Dimapilis on the didgeridoo and Andy Jean-Gilles on the djembe drums. Lastly, Stella Ma also spoke on behalf of the NYC Chapter of the National Pacific American Women’s Forum, informing the audience of the recent publication of their Health Resource Guide.

It’s rare seeing Pilipinas onstage, portraying characters with real depth to whom we can actually relate. It’s a stark difference from the roles Asian Americans are usually degraded to: the token Asian friend, unnamed nerd or exotic lover. Let’s not forget the title of our production, which references Maria Clara, the iconic character from Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere. This tragic heroine is known for her sweetness and obedience; she is a symbol (or perhaps a caricature) of the ideal Pilipina. Well, with all the talk of vaginas that Saturday night, the strong and talented women of UniPro’s production of The Vagina Monologues couldn't be any farther from Maria Clara.