We asked our Summer 2016 Fellows to write down their thoughts, questions, and ideas over the course of their stay in the Philippines. This is one of their reflections.
I am writing this piece 4 months after the Fellowship because it took me a long time to fully unpack my experience this summer through Kaya Collaborative. I truly believe the experience has been a turning point and something I really needed as I am nearing the end of my undergrad experience as now a senior.
“I moved from the Philippines when I was eight years old back in 2004”. I can count hundreds of times when I mention this information about myself. For quite a while I used my background as a disclaimer that elevated my successes and soften my failures, as if being a Filipino immigrant was a handicap. I enjoyed being praised for losing my accent, for getting good grades, for getting into college. My immigration story became a broken record. I had distanced myself from it so much that when I thought it could no longer serve its purpose, I stopped mentioning it.
Yet, I never stopped yearning for the Philippines.
The way the sun pierces your soul. The sounds that can only be heard at 6am in the morning in which the darkness heightened your hearing so you can tell which footsteps of a diligent vendor selling food is making its stop at your house. The way your parents set up a mosquito net as their substitute for the nighttime dangers. The sense of community amongst the houses so close to each other and the people so close to each other that they share their food and blessings. I dream about these memories. I dream and dream and dream about the Philippines that I was used to.
I heard about Kaya Collaborative from another 1.5 generation friend to whom I can easily have a conversation about our intersecting identities. She told me I would find people like she and I who can talk and talk for hours about our intersecting identities. I was skeptical at first because of all the Filipino and Filipino Americans I have ever met, there was no way that I can meet other people who understand the push and pull of the Philippines and the internal struggle of both wanting to chase the American Dream and wanting to dismantle it. My purpose of participating in the Kaya Co fellowship was due to the curiosity and the desperation I found myself having towards this newly found platform that can possibly answer all of my questions.
In my Philippines study abroad program in 2014, I learned about colonial mentality and the effects of American colonialism to the Philippines. The experience made me critical of a lot of things, and made me angry because I didn’t know what to do with these new lens I was equipped with. would think of solutions to the problems in the Philippines and fall into self-destruction because I became critical as to whether or not I know better. It wasn’t until Kaya Collaborative, however, that I was able to channel this passion into a call to action. I saw the Philippines, for the first time, as a place full of hope, rather than a place full of suffering.
I was an intern for Edukasyon.ph which created an online platform that will make the transition from high school to post-secondary education easier and more accessible. Like the work that Edukasyon.ph was doing, I was in awe in all of the locally-led organizations working in many different sectors gearing towards the betterment of the Philippines. I got to see for myself that there are other Filipinos from the diaspora who went to our homeland to make a difference. I found role models who share the same stories of reclaiming their culture and identity, whether or not they are part of the diaspora. I, too, wish to be like them. I, too, wish to make a difference. Once I realized this, I felt as if the answers I was looking for were right before my eyes.
I believe all of my experiences before has truly led me to my experience this summer. It was the missing piece that I’ve been looking for, in my journey of transformative resilience.