Pilipino American

UniPro Expands: Promoting Unity, Collaboration, and Visibility in San Diego

New York City-Based UniPro Expands to the West Coast

Honorary Consul Audie de Castro : “This is the best time for UniPro to be created in San Diego.”

San Diego, CA – On Friday, February 6, the Pilipino American community of San Diego welcomed the arrival of the new San Diego chapter of the New York City-based Pilipino American Unity for Progress (UniPro). Over 50 attendees gathered at the United Domestic Workers of America (UDW) Community Hall for the chapter’s official launch and town hall meeting.

The event, co-sponsored by UDW, National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), and Silayan Filipina, opened with a keynote speech from the Philippine Honorary Consul for San Diego Audie de Castro. Echoing the goals of UniPro, he urged the audience to strive for unity and to promote the Pilipino American in San Diego. He stated, “In the past couple of years, our community has worked together better than ever.  A major reason is that I have seen many of you reach out to all generations and to others with different political views.  This is the best time for UniPro to be created in San Diego. I look forward to working with all of you.”

Hon. Consul Audie de Castro opens the UniPro San Diego launch.

The town hall dialogue followed the launch and consisted of small group discussions on the importance  of communities to individuals, and what UniPro can do to serve the San Diego area. Groups discussed the questions, “What does community mean to you? What were your expectations of the Pilipino American community when you first joined? How do you perceive the Pilipino American community and what are your expectations now? Identify any needs of the community and potential solutions for those needs. Identify existing community organizations and how those organizations can work together to fulfill those needs.”

The discussion groups then reconvened and presented their responses to the entire audience. Some of the recurring themes included the needs for improved communication, greater visibility in the political sphere, and professional and personal development. Some of the possible solutions presented were the creation of a Pilipino community center, a database of Pilipino American organizations in San Diego, recurring town hall meetings, and leadership and mentorship programs in the community.

Attendees participate in small group discussions at the UniPro San Diego launch.

Founded in 2009, UniPro’s San Diego chapter is the organization’s first venture outside of New York City. “UniPro has always been interested in expanding beyond the metro-NY area. How could we work towards our vision of a unified and engaged Pilipino America without a presence in other major Pilipino American communities?” asks UniPro NY President Iris Zalun. “The answer came when we became involved in the Empowering Pilipino Youth through Collaboration (EPYC) conference, held in San Diego last August. Through EPYC, we met a group of passionate leaders whose values of collaboration, advocacy, and education aligned with ours. That team then approached us, expressing a need for UniPro in the San Diego community. Thus, UniPro San Diego was born.”

San Diego has been identified to have the second largest Pilipino American population in the nation. UniPro San Diego aims to identify and resolve the needs of the community while providing support, resources, and networks to organizations and individuals, most especially the youth. UniPro San Diego President Romyn Sabatchi adds, “It was humbling to be able to listen to the experiences and expectations of the Pilipino American community of new and seasoned members. Together we will be able to fulfill our needs with positive and effective solutions."

UniPro San Diego will host a Town Hall and Community Dialogue Follow-Up on May 15, 2015. For more information, read the story in the Filipino Press and contact sandiego@unipronow.org.

UniPro eboard

From left to right: UniPro San Diego Vice President Alicia Ricafrente, President Romyn Sabatchi, and Director of Community Relations Anthony DeGuzman (Photo Credit: Ernie Sasis)


Pilipino American Unity for Progress (UniPro) is a New York City-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that envisions a unified and engaged Pilipino America. Founded in 2009, UniPro's mission is to engage Pilipino Americans through collaboration, advocacy and education. It seeks to transform Pilipino students & young professionals into community leaders through its various programs, which incorporate professional development, history, and policy through the lens of the Pilipino experience.The organization allows Pilipino Americans the opportunity to explore their place in the community in the hope of owning their niche. Ultimately, UniPro asks Pilipino Americans to critically answer, "How do you define Progress?"

A Response to "I Hate Filipino Culture"


The article about Pilipino culture took storm when it was first released. The title alone was enough of a reason to burn with rage. The author, who goes by the pen name Jaywalker, definitely roused more than a few tempers making it one of his most popular blog posts. Jaywalker went on to name several aspects that he hates about the so-called “masa culture” of the Philippines such as “religious zealotry,” “inter-cultural ignorance,” and the entertainment industry, among others. He criticized Pilipinos for the tendency to leave fate up to God and for the incessant novelty songs and shows that the Pilipino entertainment industry churns out; he went on and on. Jaywalker hit home when he targeted the common thread in all of his complaints—ignorance. Jaywalker describes “masa culture” as:

“[a] culture that is rife with Crab mentality, dragging down anyone who wishes to rise up into their own pit of communal stagnation; a culture that is so practical that it lacks awareness and interest on matters that do not immediately concern their day-to-day living. A culture that puts so much emphasis on idolatry that independent thinking becomes muffled.”

His words sear into Pilipino pride. His explication makes me angry, as it would anyone with Pilipino ancestry. As a Fil-Am, my heart smolders with mixed emotions, because as much as I don’t agree with Jaywalker’s tone, I can’t completely dismiss his opinions. I understand his discontent when he talks about the double standard about God, his frustration when he describes the frightening way that one’s emotions dominate decision-making, and his exasperation when he ends his article with an almost desperate plea. With a great amount of reluctance, I almost want to agree. Every now and then, I secretly roll my eyes in irritation when someone changes the channel to a Pilipino game show. I purse my lips when I hear about dominance of religion in everyday thinking.

As much as I identify with Jaywalker’s ideas (not with his harsh words nor his pretentious tone), I really cannot comment on them. I’m a Pilipina, but I’m also an American. I gave up my right to judge a culture once I was immersed from birth in a particular culture that is deeply American despite its Pilipino influences. I can identify as Pilipino all I want, but at the end of the day, my experiences and viewpoints are different from someone raised in the Philippines.

Each country needs to develop in its own way, by its own standards, or else it will never be able to stand up on its own. Fil-Ams can help as much as we’d like to develop the Philippines, but we have to make sure that we don’t overstep our boundaries. In the United States, religion and state cannot mix, but who are we to say that they can’t in another country? The separation of church and state seems obvious to Americans, but for a country whose culture is dripping in religion, it’s difficult to separate those two entities. I believe the role of Fil-Ams in the further development of the Philippines is to provide opportunities for Pilipinos to realize their potential, to give them the chance to see how successful just one individual can be, in order to better their life and better their country.

According to the Census Bureau, Fil-Ams are currently the second largest Asian minority in the United States, second only to Chinese Americans. Yet the influence of our culture and heritage are not as well known as say, Korean or Vietnamese Americans, each with smaller populations here in the US. One example of this lesser known presence is the lack of Filipino restaurants. If we were to see the rise of the Fil-Am food industry, it would assist in the development of the Fil-Am community. It will create more discussion about Pilipino issues as well as the country itself.

Our status as one of the largest Asian communities is a bit tempered by the fact that we don't have much representation in the public sphere. More representation can bring more attention to issues concerning the Philippines. If our congressmen see that a great number of their constituents are interested in a certain matter, then more consideration will be given to that matter over another. Of course, the political system involves much more complicated steps than just reaching out to your congressmen, but taking action is much better than staying stagnant. If we stay stagnant, then Pilipinos, Fil-Ams, and all those part of the diaspora are just feeding into the image that Jaywalker so bitterly describes.

Photo Credit: fanportal.org

Watch Your Language! Common Microaggressions Against Asian Americans


“Where do you come from?!” a little girl confusedly asked me one day in the middle of class. “I come from Virginia, just like you.”

“But why do you look like you come from China?”

“My parents grew up in Asia, but I was born here in America. People like that are called Asian Americans.”

“That’s weird!”

As she pranced away, I thought about how this tiny preschooler had been alive no more than four years and already had the conception that only white people were from America. Granted, Charlottesville is largely a white city in Virginia, but there were still a good handful of Asian American, African American, and other ethnicities of children at the school as well.

While substitute teaching at different schools in the city, I regularly hear little white children spurt out all sorts of misguided questions and comments including: “Are you adopted?” and “Maybe you’re supposed to be in China or Japan where you belong.” Even more curious was a conversation I had with a half white and half Chinese American boy who told me he was born in the United States but was actually from China because his family went on a trip there for two weeks when he was a baby.

So what’s going on here? It is possible that these children’s parents are brazen racists indoctrinating their offspring with white supremacist dogma? Most likely not. I would argue that it has to do with microaggressions, defined by psychologist Derald Wing Sue as:

“... everyday insults, indignities and demeaning messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned people who are unaware of the hidden messages being sent to them."

The following are a few common microagressions heard on a regular basis along with alternative ways to avoid them.

1)   Where do you come from?

Message:  You couldn’t have lived in America your entire life and/or be an American citizen because of the way you look. Only white people are from America.

Alternatives: What is your ethnicity/ethnic background? What do you identify as?

The classic question possibly every non-white American loves to complain about. People who ask this are usually trying to get to know you a little better and don’t realize how it can be insulting. Any question asking about ethnic identity rather than country of origin is much more appropriate because it can be chosen to an extent by the individual, thus putting the power of identity in their hands instead of the asker’s.

2)   Calling yourself a “Twinkie” (yellow on the outside, white on the inside)

Message: The American culture that you grew up with, all the things you love to watch, eat, and experience are not rightfully yours to claim as someone with Asian ancestry. The culture that made you who you are really belongs to “whiteness.”

Alternatives: Asian American, Pilipino American, multicultural, etc.

As a teenager I used to call myself a “Twinkie” all the time. Looking back, I realized that I associated being Asian with strange and foreign, and claiming “whiteness” made me more relatable to my friends. Even at the beginning of college I chose not to join the Fil-Am student organization for fear of being branded as an Asian girl who only hangs out with Asians. Calling myself a “Twinkie” was just a funny way to say that I was ashamed of my background and was ultimately disempowering.

3)   Emphasizing that someone is Asian even though their ethnicity is completely irrelevant to what you're talking about

Message: White is normal and anyone who is different needs to identified as such.

Alternatives: Don’t do it. Be more aware of your descriptions of people.

I don’ t know how many times I’ve heard people say something like, “So I was talking to this Asian guy and he told me that a new burger place opened up nearby,” and then think to myself, “What does him being Asian have to do with anything?” If the person you were talking about were white, you’d most likely just refer to them as “that guy” since white people are often perceived to not have ethnicity. Pointing out someone’s ethnicity for no reason only further reinforces marginalized groups as not normal.

4)   Just Asian without the American

Message: Asian Americans are considered perpetual foreigners who haven’t earned their American labels even as United States citizens.

Alternatives: Asian American, Pilipino American, etc.

I admit it may sound awkward tacking on “American” all the time, but it’s just something that takes getting used to. In fact, the term “African-American” only became popularized after Jesse Jackson held a news conference urging its usage in 1988. Today it would feel awkward calling someone simply “African” if they were a native-born citizen. The name Asian American acts as a unifying statement that demonstrates pride in Asian cultural heritage and American citizenship at the same time.

Is using these types of language outwardly racist? No. Do I think they reflect current race relations in America and have a role in imprinting certain prejudiced beliefs even on young children? Yes. These microagressions are one reason that Asian Americans are still not perceived as truly belonging despite being part of the United States since the 1850s. As a consequence, the Asian American community lacks presence in politics and popular media, and its level of cultural understanding barely goes beyond Kung Fu and geisha stereotypes. DeAngelis writes that psychological research on microaggressions suggest they may also “erode people’s mental health, job performance and the quality of social experience.”

If you happen to let these phrases slip from time to time, no one blames you. It’s just what we’ve all become used to hearing and saying. But next time, think about what your words really mean and use them in a way that embraces all backgrounds and the people in front of them.

Photo Credit: Buzzfeed-21 Racial Microagressions You Hear On A Daily Basis