FANHS-tastic Experience

The Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) held its biennial conference in New York City this year, under the theme, “A Pin(<3)y State of Mind: Building With Our Roots“. It was my honor to have attended the conference as both a performer and an attendee.

Raised Pinay (Mini) Encore
I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I am part of this wonderful group of strong-minded, incredible wom*n who hold each other up and give each other space with the upmost respect and love. I still cannot believe that they have accepted me, as I am, as their “little sister”, and encouraged me to look into myself–to heal, to love, to believe.

I was happy to join my Sisters again for an encore of our performance. (Technically, just a couple of segments, but equally as powerful!) I was especially honored and blessed to watch one of my Sisters perform a piece from her own creative project, The Journey of a Brown Girl. Every movement, every word, and every emotion reverberated throughout the room; we all felt powerful and in sync with the space we held for everyone in the audience.

All the other performances were terrific, as well. From another Sister’s incredible singing (tears of Joy!!), to Kinding Sindaw, to comedic skits of being an American-raised Filipino, to an interpretive piece about Mungan from Philippine folklore, it felt like the conference was off to a good start. (That sounds like an understatement, but that is because you had to be there to experience how uplifting it was to watch everyone showcase their talent and passion in the arts!)

A Young Fil-Am Musing Over #FilipinoExcellence
As someone who is used to observing and admiring other people (who have achieved a certain level of success in their lives) from afar, meeting and interacting with said people was sublime and surreal…

How can I describe this feeling? Fellow Kababayan RV Mendoza probably says it best in this video. (Mabu-heeyyyyy!!)

The FANHS experience, for the young Fil-Am, helped to break out of that “internal prejudice” of one’s community–the eternal tsismis, the self-consciousness of being judged by others, the subtle jealousy and envy over one another’s lifestyles, and other things that often negatively stereotype Filipinos, especially amongst ourselves.

I have to admit that I shared the same sentiments, in which I did not feel comfortable in my own community because of these things. I have tried to separate myself from other Fil-Ams because I did not want to participate in tsismis or blindly proclaim “Pinoy Pride”. I was also quite envious of other Filipinas, for the most superficial reasons. I had always considered myself the “oddball Filipino” that preferred to watch TV and movies, listen to alternative rock music, and dress like a tomboy (the American type, not the Filipino type). Even as I matured into adulthood, I had carried this attitude and mentality toward Filipinos with me… until college.

Side-Step Into A Young Fil-Am’s Decolonization Process
I double-majored in Sociology and Creative Writing. Most people considered this an interesting combination, but wondered what I was going to do with these studies. This combination was unintentional; I was led by sheer interest in the subjects during my first two years in college. It was not until I took classes under the Asian American Studies Program that my academic (and artistic) path became clear…

One particular class, Filipino American Literature, taught by Luis Francia, opened my eyes and my mind to a world that was both familiar and foreign to me. Through reading works by Filipino/Filipino American writers and learning the history of the Philippines (in relation to the United States), I began to understand why we are the way we are. My decolonization process began with America Is In The Heart. I learned about the experiences of young Filipino men that we came to regard as manongs and what they suffered and endured. I learned how my mother became one of many Filipino professionals that came to America for better opportunity. I learned about what it was like for my parents to live under martial law. I learned why my father was so fascinated by and knowledgable of Old Hollywood movies. Because I had the fortune of taking a class that reflected my Fil-Am experience, learning under a Fil-Am professor who was also a published writer (what I aspire to be), I was able to learn how to appreciate being a Fil-Am.

I attended this conference, ready to decolonize even further, in new ways and with an open mind. Of course, I was nervous and excited at the same time! I met Kevin Nadal, PhD (or “the Beyoncé of the academic realm“), Anthony Ocampo, PhD (I will forever question my “racial fluidity” because of The Latinos of Asia!), and other Fil-Am academics. I learned why #BlackLivesMatter to Filipino Americans, seeing as how the African American community has paved the way for us, in social justice and civil rights work; it is our duty to stand in solidarity with them because this will also liberate us from our own cycle of oppression. (Early regards on #BLM.) And my Ate Justine did an incredible job in showing the importance of health education while maintaining our Catholic teachings. (Yaaasssss, Ate!!)

Even though this conference was a one-day thing for me, I had a slice of #FilipinoExcellence that will forever motivate me to go forth with my future work. This is as best as I can do to explain how much this experience influenced me, as an academic, as a writer, and as a young Fil-Am! Meeting and talking to other attendees made me feel like I belonged to a powerful group that strives to add meaning to “Pin@y Pride” by being, seeking, and doing excellence in our own ways. I felt as if what I have done and what I am currently doing, up to this point,  are valid and acceptable. As a young Fil-Am who is actively embracing her roots and decolonizing her attitude and mentality, I am the future of #FilipinoExcellence–along with others of my generation!

Maraming salamat po to the organizers, attendees, performers, guest speakers, and other kababayans for making my first FANHS experience a memorable one! Hopefully I may go all-out in the next one, in Chicago! (Hopefully, by then, I will be published so that I can also be in an authors panel and make someone else too shy to talk to me! (~Joke lang!!))

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