How A Weekend Exploring My Filipino Identity Changed My Life

How A Weekend Exploring My Filipino Identity Changed My Life

It felt like a breath of fresh air.

I was lucky enough to travel to the beautiful city of San Francisco a little bit ago for a leadership summit with NaFFAA, which is the National Federation of Filipino American Associations. This non-profit organization promotes the welfare and well-being of the four million Filipinos and Filipino Americans in the United States.

In 2016, NaFFAA created an ambassadors program, EPYC, which is an acronym for "Empowering Pilipino Youth through Collaboration", where they find young professionals from regions around the states to come together to strengthen their personal and leadership development.

In the summer of 2017, I was grateful enough to be chosen as an ambassador for my region.

Fast forward a few months later, I am hopping on a plane with my best friend Sariah to the Golden City to go put faces to names who I've been working with for several months.

Not really knowing what to expect, I came in with a positive mindset, but I was also extremely nervous. Will these people like me? Am I prepared for these workshops and discussions? Do I even belong here? I soon arrive at the Airbnb that all the ambassadors were staying at, and I was welcomed with happy smiles and open arms.

Immediately, I felt a sense of relief as everyone was super sweet and kind. Sariah and I were one of the first ones, so we got to watch almost everyone come through the door. The anticipation and the excitement of who would show up next really made me feel like I was in a Filipino Big Brother.

As the last person came in, I could already feel a sense of comfort by the way everyone was getting along so easily. I was thinking to myself, "I wish it was always this easy". We spent the night hanging out, but went to bed early for the long days ahead.

The next morning, we hopped in our vans, and traveled to the city of Sunnyvale to visit.. wait for it.. GOOGLE. Yep. Didn't think I would ever visit their headquarters, but we were all so lucky to be able to meet amazing Filipino-American professionals working for this multibillion dollar company. We sat at a roundtable with them, got to hear their stories, and learned about being a Filipino-American in the workplace.

To be able to visit and tour the buildings, which by the way are STUNNING, eat the most delicious food (homemade ice cream?? um ALL FOR IT!), and most importantly, learn from people who have been through obstacles to get to where they are now was incredible to say the least.

We later visited the headquarters of ABS-CBN, which is a Filipino media and entertainment group. We got to tour there as well, and also had insightful conversations in a discussion group with some of the top level employees, who were nothing but passionate about their jobs and what they do.

The next day and a half was spent doing workshops, going to receptions, and just spending quality time with each other. We delved into so many concepts, such as self-identity, racism, and coalition building. I was in AWE of what my fellow ambassadors brought to the table when discussing these topics and issues. I was also in awe of listening to the board of directors speaking so passionately about the growth of the organization.

But I gotta say, the most amazing time for me was being able to get to know these people behind the scenes, away from all the workshops and planned activities. Like the lit van rides, and the playlist we had blasting throughout the weekend. The jam sessions late at night, listening to throwback r&b hits. The bath talks. Yep. Those were definitely a thing. And being able to talk about absolutely anything and everything throughout the few days.

I suddenly felt like I was with my cousins, just enjoying the presence of such great people.

So why did this change my life?

This experience changed my life because of the memories I made, the lessons I have learned, and the people I have met. These people I've gotten to know in just less than three days suddenly became my family. I was able to learn more about myself, and how much I just wanted to make an impact in my community. I am still on such a high from that weekend, and am waiting for the time I can see them all again. This trip was a breath of fresh air.

Some advice? Be a part of something that you're really passionate about, and do things that are out of your comfort zone. I promise you, you will learn so many different things about life, your community, and your dreams.

And to my fellow EPYC ambassadors and NaFFAA family: ENDLESS thank yous. You guys have taught me so much in so little time, and I will carry that with me always. Stay EPYC!! Brb. Crying.

Cover Image Credit: Leilani Encarnacion

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11 Things I Want My Parents To Know When I Come Home From College

An open letter to Mom and Dad, from a college student that isn’t a kid anymore.

Aight, listen.

Put on your reading glasses and blow that wisp of graying hair off your face (yes, Mom, I see it, you’re not fooling anybody), because I’ve got some things to say.

I just completed three months worth of college. C-O-L-L-E-G-E. For roughly 90 days I fed myself, I somewhat successfully did my own laundry, I made my own life-or-death decisions when it came to college parties, and I even managed to fit in schoolwork — most of the time.

The point is, I might not have become a fully fledged, mature adult, but three months of newfound independence is like finding out that Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny aren’t real all at the same time — you do a lot of growing up, fast.

So, almost-adult to adult, here are 11 things that I want you to know when I come home for the holidays:

1. First and foremost, I get it.

I’m not in college anymore, there are going to be rules again, you pay all my bills — right. I understand. Please, no long speeches. No constant reminding. I’ve been making predictions and inferences since 2nd grade, so believe me, I’m pretty sure I’ve got the gist of what’s going on in this story.

2. I may or may not have transformed into a creature of the night.

Yeah, no, I’d probably go ahead and define myself as nocturnal. In college, everything starts at night, like parties, house meetings, the will to do homework — it’s completely different. So if you find me doing the dishes at 3:00 a.m., it’s not because I was feeling generous, it’s because Netflix got boring and I had nothing better to do.

3. Curfew or nah? Nah.

Now that we got the whole nocturnal thing out of the way, let’s get something straight. I can’t tell you how many times I stayed up with friends until the wee hours of the morning, how many times parties kept me out of the dorm for the entire night, or how many times I went on late night runs to get food. I know that the house is not a hotel, but you have to understand that the night is primetime to hang out with friends or take that random McDonald’s run. So please, loosen the reigns a little. I’ll be quiet, I promise — I’ve got three months of tiptoeing around a sleeping roommate under my belt.

4. I love you, but I love sleep more.

You guys are great, but my b(a)ed and I need some alone time. Keep the door closed.

5. I’m ok! That was just me screaming in relief at the feeling of not having to wear shower sandals anymore.

6. Be a bro and spot me? I’m poor.

I know, I know, I said I wasn’t going to be that college kid. But it’s the holiday season, and I know you guys have missed me, soooo how’s 20 bucks sound?

7. A gift card to Starbucks would make for a great Christmas present.

Put yourself in my shoes. I’m a slightly impoverished neo-adult with a mild-to-moderate coffee addiction, and I sleep all day. Plus, Starbucks has those new red cups — I’m telling you, coffee tastes great with a hint of controversy.

8. Chores, shopping for groceries, driving people around — I got this.

Let me take some extra responsibility. After three months on my own, I want to show you that I can handle it, that I can pass for being a competent adult. So don’t let me slack off and mill about, challenge me to help the family out as an adult instead of a dependent kid. I’ll make you proud, I promise.

9. If I want to go to that concert or party, I’m going to go.

Let’s be real here. In college, if I wanted to go skydiving or bar hopping or sleep over in a girl’s dorm room, I could I have done it, no questions asked, and you guys would have been none the wiser. So if I want to do something fun, I’m truly open to your thoughts and opinions, because your advice is what guides me every time I go out. But I’m not a dumb teenager anymore, so trust me and let me do my own thing, ok?

10. You guys are awesome, but so are the friends I haven’t seen in a long time.

Yes, I know, it always seems like I care way too much about hanging out with friends. But three months is a lot to catch up on, and I’ve missed them like crazy.

11. But no matter what, I’ve missed you so much, and I’m glad to be home.

Even if I’m stubborn, too argumentative, or seem eager to go back to college, you have to realize how good it feels to be home again. There have been so many times in the past three months that I’ve felt unbearably weak and vulnerable and wanted nothing more to call you guys and ask you for your amazing advice, but didn’t do it because I wanted you to think that I was ok. You are my greatest teachers, and I can never thank you enough for all you do for me. I love you.

Cover Image Credit: _elemenoh_ / Flickr

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To My Best Friend And Roommate, I Am So Proud Of The Woman You Are Today

Through the years, I've watched you grow up with me, and I couldn't be prouder of everything you have accomplished.


Sophomore year of high school seems like just yesterday, and so long ago all in the same breath. That was the year we met, and where our whirlwind of a friendship started. I can't believe we were just 15 years old, sitting in classes together, and not realizing the journey we'd be put on, and where it would bring us today.

I have seen you grow through the years. From the bad breakups, especially the one that brought us together in the first place, to you accomplishing things like getting into so many amazing colleges, and graduating damn near the top of our class in high school. I have seen you through the highs and lows of high school. I've also been blessed to see you grow through our college years. I wasn't kidding when I told you I cried when I got the text from you saying you decided to go to UF. Words can not express how happy I have been to be your roommate these past 3 years and to see you blossom into the woman you are today.

You are doing so many amazing things with your life. You are graduating this year, and starting on your Master's. You are accomplishing your dreams and you are just stepping foot into the career you've hoped for. You have found happiness in the life you are living and when I say I'm one of your biggest fans, I mean it because your happiness brings me happiness. You are my best friend and I rejoice in your accomplishments, and when you feel low, I do too. I never thought that I could have a connection with a friend as deep as I do with you. You are not only my roommate, but you are also my best friend, one of my closest confidants, my late night Glee binge partner, the person that I have come to have so many inside jokes with, and so much more beyond that.

So as I come to realize that this may very well be the last few months we live together, I will cherish these times. I will cherish all of the nonstop giggle fits we have on the couch, the endless rants we have about how boys can be so stupid sometimes, all of the late night trips for food because for some reason our bodies always crave the same junk food. I will cherish everything because I know that while we are growing up, we are also growing into ourselves. I have seen you grow into an amazingly beautiful, wonderful, self-confident, headstrong woman, and I could not be more proud of you. I have learned so much through the years by being your friend, and I can only hope that it's in God's will that we continue to stay friends.

I love you to the moon and back Jas.


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