Written by Gugma V., Fall 2023 Youth Engagement Fellow
The Filipino-American identity carries with it a complex history vis-a-vis the United States, complicated by war, imperialism, and migration. I was intimidated by all the events I didn’t know, and there are many other Filipino-Americans who feel a similar way. This isn’t just an assumption I’m making, either. When I talked to youth at NC State University in a seminar-style workshop on Filipino-American history this past October, they were eager to learn about their history, but didn’t know where to start. The workshop I helped lead on behalf of NCAAT made history accessible for Filipino-American youth, breaking down the barriers that were stopping them from learning more about their community and identity. I met students who had similar upbringings as me, but also some who had very different experiences. Despite our differences, we were all there because we wanted to make sense of the things which make us Filipino-American.
So what makes someone Filipino-American? Even after learning our history, I still strive for a complete answer every day. Sometimes, I cook traditional Filipino dishes and let my American friends try them. I write poetry about my homeland and my family both in the United States and the Philippines. Recently, I have pushed myself to seek out Filipino-American spaces and engage more with the community. Personally, I have felt rewarded in my endeavors. My lack of knowledge still exists, but I am getting better at embracing it as part of my dual identity. I have the privilege and the challenge of learning and living two cultures and two histories.
I am extremely proud to be Filipino-American, but I know this community is founded on the hard work and resilience of my forebears. As a community, we can pay homage to their strength by dedicating the month of October to Filipino-American history and by educating the youth on the foundations their predecessors have laid. I believe learning our history is important in making us feel proud, valued, and more connected to our community.
To those who are scared to dive in, I hear you. I, too, have closed many books and research tabs. I will say that trying is more than half the battle, and if you are willing to try, you may find that learning can happen in unexpected yet rewarding ways.
About the author:
Gugma V. is the Fall 2023 Youth Engagement Fellow at NCAAT. Gugma was was born in the Philippines and is a junior at UNC Chapel Hill studying public policy and business. She is passionate about social justice, improving healthcare access, and nonprofit work for the disadvantaged. In her free time, she likes to visit cafés, write poetry, and play Pokémon games. To learn more about our youth programs, sign up for our newsletters at ncaat.org/updates.
NCAAT’s blog is a chance for NCAAT staff and community members to write about topics relating to their personal passions, interests, and the Asian American community in North Carolina. The views expressed in NCAAT’s community blog posts are not endorsed by NCAAT nor representative of NCAAT’s official stances or views.