With the end of October comes the end of Filipino American History Month, and Filipino Americans across the United States have been celebrating their history in several ways.
According to the Filipino American National History Society, the first record of Filipinos’ presence in the continental United States was in October of 1587. Since FAHM’s creation in 1992, community groups across the country have brought awareness to Filipinos’ roles in American history.
“Because like I said a while ago, some people I know kind of lost their cultural — or that connection with it (Filipino culture) because it’s been so generalized to them, like, you’re just Asian, if that makes sense,” Carolene Ulep, president of the Texas Tech Filipino Student Association, said. “So just giving that education to other people, just better the community in awareness.”
Ulep, a fifth-year industrial engineering student born in San Fernando, Philippines, and her family moved to Brownsville when she was 6 years old. The city had a large Filipino community, Ulep said, and she was involved in cultural celebrations throughout her childhood, especially during Christmas.
FSA has hosted several events at Tech throughout the month, from selling Filipino desserts at Culture Fest to teaching kappa malong malong, a traditional Filipino dance. Ulep said the turnout for these events has been good.
“Right now, our mission for this year is to bring the ‘F’ back in FSA,” Ulep said. “So the Filipino aspects, because this past few years, I kind of saw that we were turning more into a social organization instead of a cultural organization. So each social event we have, we tried to incorporate something that members can learn.”
Lara Oporto, a fourth-year journalism student from Hobbs, New Mexico, has been involved with FSA in the past, but said she would not consider herself Filipino-American because she is not yet a citizen. Since immigrating to the U.S. four years ago, Oporto said she has gone through the waves of culture shock.
However, it was difficult for Oporto to connect with Filipino-American students because they were more Americanized, she said. Oporto expected this, she said, and stayed in contact with her friends back in the Philippines who understood the culture more.
“Every Filipino will adjust for you,” Oporto said. “They're not good at speaking English, but we will try to speak English so you will feel at home. It's not here. It's not — it's different here in America. You come here in America, and no one is gonna try to speak your language.”
To Oporto, being Filipino means being resilient and accepting of inconvenience, especially in maintaining relationships, she said.
To Roselle Espe, a third-year nursing student from Houston, being Filipino is part of her identity, and she enjoys showing what it means to have Filipino pride and strength. Since leaving the Philippines with her family when she was 2, Espe has connected with her culture through food and speaking her parents’ native languages, Tagalog and Ilocano.
“My favorite theme being back home (in the Philippines) is definitely just, like, is definitely just feeling safe and at peace, especially when I'm at my grandma's beach house,” Espe said.
When Espe last visited the Philippines at age 15, her family would spend days at the beach, catching fish, crab, shrimp, and having lunch and dinner with the neighbors and other extended family, she said. Togetherness, Espe said, is at the center of Filipino culture everywhere.
Both Oporto and Espe said the 300 years of Spanish colonization, while devastating, shaped Filipino culture. The Philippines Independence Day, celebrated in June, is a marker of how far the country has come, Espe said.
“That day is something that we always remember of, like, how we got here and how we're able to be a separate country and be identified as Filipinos, you know,” Espe said.