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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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it


Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

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Being The Last Friend To Turn 21 Isn't ALL Bad

All your friends have turned 21, but that is okay


You may think being the last one out of your friend group to turn twenty-one is the worst thing in the world, but in all honesty, it doesn't have to be. One of the biggest perks is that everyone of your friends can go out to the bars with you on your birthday. All the people who turn twenty-one first have to wait for people to be able to go out with them, but you get to celebrate your birthday with all of your friends.

Another huge reason you should feel okay with being last to turn twenty-one is thinking about all the money you are saving. The bars are expensive. When you don't go to the bars you are saving so much money because an average bar drink is about seven dollars. This being said seven dollars multiple times a night, multiple nights a week really adds up, so you are going to have to budget your money better.

You don't have to be the one to buy alcohol for everyone else. Having a ton of people ask you to buy them alcohol must get annoying at a point, and if you're the youngest out of your friends, no one will be asking you to do liquor store runs for them because they can all go already for themselves.

The biggest reason is that you can enjoy being young. You should still continue to enjoy going to house parties and just being able to hang out with friends without having to go to the bars. Spend these months before you turn twenty-one just being able to enjoy life without feeling obligated to go out to the bars all the time. You have a great excuse when you don't want to drink on a weekday to just stay in. This being said it will be your turn to turn twenty-one soon.


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