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This year’s Filipinx-American History Month theme celebrates the 50th anniversary of the First Young Filipinx People’s Far West Convention, "a meeting that took place at Seattle University in 1971 and brought over 300 young Filipino-American participants from the West Coast of the US. The convention is hailed as the beginning of the Filipino-American Movement . . .

The Filipino Farwest Conventions were an organizing space for community and youth activists that helped bring issues like Filipino Farmworkers rights and anti-martial law to the forefront of the Filipino American Movement. The FWC also served as the impetus for annual student-led conferences now held across the country. Many scholar-activists consider the FWCs to be the impetus of Filipino American Studies."

This year we’ve featured a few individuals and organizations who we feel are making waves through different channels for the Fil-Am community, whether it's through dance, food, or academia.

Read on to learn more about these amazing folks/orgs—what inspires them, what it means to them to be a Filipinx-American, and how they advocate for their communities.

*FANHS (Filipino American National Historical Society)




ANTHONY OCAMPO



Anthony Ocampo, Ph.D., is a scholar and writer who focuses on race, immigration, and LGBTQ issues. He is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Cal Poly Pomona and a Ford Foundation Fellow. He is the author of The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race, recently featured on NPR Morning Edition. Dr. Ocampo is currently working on his second book, To Be Brown and Gay in LA, which chronicles the lives of gay men of color from immigrant families.

A native Los Angelino, Dr. Ocampo is a graduate of Stanford University (BA 2003, MA 2004) and UCLA (MA 2006, PhD 2011).

1. What inspired you to study and write about race, immigration, and LGBTQ issues, especially within the Fil-Am community?

Full disclosure, it started because I wasn’t doing well when I first got to college. I was always a good student but when I arrived at the super white and wealthy environment at Stanford, I totally lost my sense of confidence. I happened to meet faculty of color who taught me that my experiences as a Filipino American son of immigrants mattered, and I found that the more I wrote about my Filipino experiences, and a little later in life, about queer experiences, the more I felt like I had something the world needed to hear. Honestly, I just write the shit I should’ve been able to read.

2. What have been some of the challenges of teaching and writing about these issues?

Academia is so backwards in so many ways. Often, certain topics of study aren’t considered legitimate until cis white men consider it legitimate. It’s total bullshit. As a young writer, I didn’t know how shortsighted academia was. I thought the lack of interest in my work on Filipinos meant there was something lacking in me as a scholar. Now I know that is total bullshit. Often times, people of color feel it’s their privilege to be in college. No way. It’s the opposite. The academy is lucky to have *us*. The academy needs us more than we need them. People of color, women, queer people, disabled people, etc,: We are the ones with intellectual and creative insight and fire that transforms the world.

3. What have been your successes?

I wrote a book, and I’m about to publish another one next year. And people—my people—actually read it. Filipinos of every age group, every region, every generation have written me to say what an impact the book has had on them, and the way they see the world. My proudest accomplishment is that I wrote a book for us, and resisted the temptation to write for white audiences.

4. How have your courses and books impacted the Fil-Am community?

Unfortunately, I don’t get the chance to teach Filipino American Studies at my university. I was originally hired to teach statistics if you can believe. I really wish I could teach Filipino American Studies all the time—history, literature, sociology, education. I wish universities offered Filipino American Studies as a major because there is so much you can do within that field of study.

As for my books, the best thing in the world is when high school kids or college students or even parents write me to tell me how much the book meant to them. To see their stories, their experiences in print. What is both rewarding and sad to hear is that for many of them, my book is often the first time they’re reading a book centering Filipinos. I hope it’s not the last. If anything, I hope my book is a stepping stone for Filipinos and others to dive into the rich body of literature produced by our people, despite the odds being against us.

5. What does it mean to you to be Filipinx-American?

Hmm. Literally, I guess it means I have roots stemming from the Philippines. In so many ways, I think being Filipino means embodying so much contradictions. We have a history of colonialism *and* resistance. We have endured so much trauma but pride ourselves on our happiness. We are hard to categorize racially. In some respects, the contradictions of being Filipino remind me of the contradictions we embody as human beings. We are hella complicated, and being complicated is what makes people beautiful.

7. How will you continue to advocate for the Fil-Am community and culture, especially in response to recent anti-BIPOC and anti-Asian violence?

I want to be upfront. I’m a writer and professor. And I’m from a Filipino family and community. But the people doing the real work are the activists and organizers. The ones who aren’t in the spotlight all the time. Plus, it’s the artists and advocates in the community. I do my best to advocate for us through my writing, but those folks are the ones who deserve the most props for counteracting anti-BIPOC and anti-Asian violence. They’re the ones who remind me that I need to do better.



 

MALAYA DANCE GROUP


Anna Lisa De Guzman, Executive Director of Malaya

1. What is Malaya?

Malaya Filipino American Dance Arts is a Los Angeles based ensemble of performing artists, dancers, and musicians. In Tagalog, malaya means "free" and Malaya represents the freedom to choose our identity as Filipino Americans, embracing our ancestral and present culture. Malaya is dedicated to the enrichment and artistic practice of traditional folk dance in a new and inspiring way for future generations.

2. What inspired you to do Malaya?

My children Liana(14) and Rhys(11) continue to be my inspiration in life. After taking a couple of years off from dance to raise my daughter I suddenly had the "itch" to perform again and I had many ideas and aspirations for what could be an amazing company. I wanted to create a space for my children to learn and experience what I was so fortunate to have in Kultura. In 2012 we founded Malaya Filipino American Dance Arts, a new and innovative Los Angeles Philippine dance company. An organization whose mission is to inspire future community leaders.

The city of Los Angeles inspires me as well. Growing up in LA amongst the mountains, beaches, diverse communities, and prolific art I was inspired to really dig deep into my own creativity and see how my life as an Angeleno could lend to leading a successful company. Los Angeles is the hub for the art and entertainment industry and I am proud to say that Malaya is woven into the very fabric of LA's art scene.

3. What have been some of the challenges of Malaya?

Running a company is very demanding, and this was very true for Malaya, especially in our early years. It was "all hands on deck" for all of the leaders. We were all directing, performing, creating costumes and props, and doing administrative work. Currently, Malaya now has a robust and diverse Board of Directors that fully supports the needs of the company allowing the artistic staff to concentrate on teaching and producing.

Malaya's current challenges are a direct result of the global pandemic. In 2019 we were in full swing in preparing for our first theater production that was to be presented in the fall of 2020. A show dedicated to the art form of Pangalay. Unfortunately due to the effects of Covid-19 production was halted. In 2020 we pivoted to online learning via Zoom which proved to be quite difficult for dance and music classes due to sound and movement delay. This really pushed the teachers to be creative in developing lessons that kept our students engaged. Recruitment is another obstacle that we face. We are competing with so many other extracurricular activities and more modern interests such as hip hop, that we are continually working on keeping our programs filled with unique experiences.

4. What have been your successes?

In 2019 Peter, Reggie and I traveled to the Philippines to do more research. Peter was able to immerse himself with the T'Boli community and we all traveled to Baguio to study traditional Kalinga music and dance from culture bearer Professor Benny Sokkong.

Malaya celebrated its 9th anniversary this past June and that in itself is a great success. Since founding the company in 2012 we now have a dedicated Senior and Trainee company of young adults, a Junior company filled with inquisitive and energetic 5-12-year-olds, and a Music company, the sole youth-only Kulintang ensemble in Southern California.

Last year we were approached by BuzzFeed to create a feature for their Asian Pop channel with hopes to enlighten those that may have never seen traditional Filipino folk dances. We self-produced a video highlighting various Philippine Folk Dances and as of recent, the video has garnered over 181K views.

During the height of the pandemic, Malaya produced a 3 part virtual web series called "We World Wide: Kawpa" focusing on Philippine Dance, music and youth activities. We were able to bridge 16 organizations, artists, educators, and professionals to present a free virtual workshop. Our collaborators were from all over California from San Francisco to San Diego and our audiences reached all across the US and globally to Canada, Europe, Australia, and the Middle East.

For Philippine Independence Day and to commemorate Malaya's 9th anniversary we shared a video titled "We are MALAYA", a reflection on how our company dealt with the effects of the pandemic and social injustices.

5. How has Malaya impacted the Fil-Am community?

Malaya prides itself in its dedication to the practice of Philippine arts with integrity to research-based tradition. We have a responsibility to our cultural bearers and indigenous people to pass on what they have entrusted to us and we do so with the utmost respect. We are a link to Philippine arts for our Fil-Am community. We have also carved out a niche for contemporary influenced Philippine dance. Peter, our artistic director has choreographed several contemporary pieces that stem from traditional dance and his work in this genre is a window into the stories of the Filipino-American experience. Malaya has also been a resource for Filipino college clubs such as UCLA, USC, and Cal State Channel Islands. Part of Malaya's programming also includes regular public dance and music workshops.

6. What does it mean to you to be Filipinx-American?

I take immense pride in being Filipino-American. It means that I am standing on the broad and strong shoulders of the generations before me that came to this country to work and fight for our freedoms and rights here in America. It also means that I have the responsibility to continue their work and I have confidence that they have paved a clear path for me. Filipino-Americans innately carry with them the traits their parents and grandparents have instilled in them, respect, hard work, and resiliency and this has empowered me. I created a personal mission statement that helps guide my role in our community and also contributes to my identity: I am a Filipino-American artist, leader and cultural ambassador who is dedicated to honoring the Filipino culture through dance and music. I offer a unique and transformative educational experience for people of all backgrounds by providing dance workshops, leadership training, and community programs.

7. How will you continue to advocate for the Fil-Am community and culture, especially in response to recent anti-BIPOC and anti-Asian violence?

Malaya will continue to use its platform to support positive change and to stand up for justice and equity. Our current climate of unrest has been a calling to support our BIPOC, AAPI, and LGBTQ communities. The diverse makeup of our company members is a reflection of our strong belief in equity and inclusivity. Our company leaders work not only on keeping an open dialogue with our very own members in regards to current events surrounding racial injustice but we also align ourselves with organizations that are fighting for change. As Fil-Am artists in the diaspora, we are committed to being active contributors in the fight against racial and systemic injustice. We believe that as community leaders we have a responsibility to remain engaged with other communities of color to identify the needs of those affected.







MELISSA MIRANDA



Melissa Miranda is a Filipina-American community leader and organizer. She thinks of herself as a healer. Many people refer to her as a chef, but she finds that label limiting to who she strives to be. What she does feels so much more grounded in community and caretaking than what the idea of a “chef” has traditionally communicated.

In her daily life, she owns and cooks at Musang in Seattle’s historic Beacon Hill neighborhood, a space to connect over food and storytelling.

1. What is Musang?

We are a community-driven restaurant in Seattle, Washington focusing on the education of Filipinx cuisine. We are rooted in Beacon Hill, where we are proud to serve a seasonal beverage program including personal and intimate Filipinx dishes inspired by our childhood memories.

2. What inspired you to do Musang?

My biggest inspiration has been my family. Musang is actually named after my dad. It was from him, along with my mom and their families, that I learned how beautiful and creative our food is. After attending culinary school in Italy, and working in New York, I returned to Seattle to see that so many of the Filipino businesses that I grew up going to had disappeared. I started Musang as a pop up and then grew it into a restaurant to restore some of our Filipino-American culture to the city that raised me.

3. What have been some of the challenges of owning and running a Filipino restaurant?

Our biggest challenge has of course been the pandemic. We opened in January 2020, right before everything shut down. There have been so many challenges, but we've learned that as long as we show up for the community, the community will show up for us in return.

4. What have been your successes?

Related to my previous answer, I think the community we've fostered around Musang has been our greatest success. Even beyond lockdown, we've been able to operate two days per week as a Community Kitchen -- no questions asked, free meals for people in need throughout our city. We've been able to represent a variety of Filipinx experiences through our food. Many of our team see themselves as storytellers rather than chefs. All of this to say, we are also changing what it means to be successful as a restaurant. It's about how we relate to the larger community, rather than individual victories or profits.

5. How has Musang impacted the Fil-Am community in Seattle?

I think that there's a sense of pride and a place for folks to feel like they have space to connect. There's representation, so people can see who we are. Our community can show up as thriving and vibrant. It's a multigenerational way of connecting with the history of our community in Seattle over a shared experience of food.

6. How do you think being on Bon Appetit impacts the Fil-Am community and culture?

I think it's given us a platform not just for Fil-Ams to see their food and culture on the screen, but Filipinos all over the world. So much of who we are hasn't been shared with the world, so Bon Appetit has created a visibility around our culture that has been absent for so many years.

7. What does it mean to you to be Filipinx-American?

It was always such a hard thing to understand as a child, but I'm grateful to both my parents that they instilled in me what it means to be Filipino. It's about family, it's about food, it's about hospitality—and sharing that with people.

8. How will you continue to advocate for the Fil-Am community and culture, especially in response to recent anti-BIPOC and anti-Asian violence?

Making sure that we continue to build safe spaces so people feel welcome. Using our different platforms to advocate for our people. Centering community in what we do.





SARI-SARI


(L-R) Mal Tayag, Gabriella Mozo, Marielle Sales

1. What is Sari-Sari?

Sari-Sari is a Filipina-owned creative studio based in NYC and LA that celebrates Filipino culture and builds community through experiential events and content.

2. What inspired you to create Sari-Sari?

We started Sari-Sari in 2018 from the need of wanting to bring together a creative community that is inclusive and welcoming. It started out as a popup closet sale with friends, but because of the name “Sari-Sari” (which are family-run convenience stores in the Philippines) and the digital content we were creating, it naturally attracted a global community of Filipinos and BIPOC creatives.

3. What have been some of the challenges of Sari-Sari?

So many. On the business side, the main challenge has been figuring out what we want to focus on. We have done everything from having an online store, experimenting in food, creating our own products and content, and producing experiential events, but sometimes we get mistaken as a store that only sells products. Pitching ideas to corporate companies has also been tough as the Filipino market is still very niche especially in NYC so it’s been a struggle getting more funding / representation for our community. Personally, it's been a challenge being a collective based in 3 different cities, but somehow we make it work.

4. What have been your successes?

Despite all of our challenges, our community is what keeps us moving forward. Through Sari-Sari, we never imagined meeting so many new friends (who feel like long-lost cousins) and feel so lucky. Without the generous support from the community, we wouldn’t be here.

5. How has Sari-Sari impacted the Fil-Am community?

Sari-Sari has created a unique creative space in the Fil-Am community to explore their heritage and find a sense of community or Kapwa. No matter where you are in your journey, we want people to feel like they are heard and not alone. As a collective, we try to advocate for our communities to the best of our abilities by collaborating with the talented folks we have met through the platform.

6. What does it mean to you to be Filipinx-American?

To be Filipino-American means embracing both cultures. As a Fil-Am, it's up to us to continue learning about our history so we can pass down traditions to the next generation.

7. How will you continue to advocate for the Fil-Am community and culture, especially in response to recent anti-BIPOC and anti-Asian violence?

We will continue to listen, uplift, and share stories from Fil-Am and BIPOC communities. This is a problem that is not going away in our lifetime and is something that we all have to work on every day to progress in a better direction. We need to stand in solidarity with other BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled and marginalized communities. We have to remember that we are not all equally impacted and remember that we need to be equitable. Remember to have empathy, remember that everyone is in pain and that there is space to have compassion for all. To pull sentiments from Audre Lorde, none of us are free until we are all free.





VIRGIL APOSTOL

Virgil Mayor Apostol descends from maternal and paternal bloodlines of healers and midwives, and has dedicated himself to the research, development, and promotion of his ancestral traditions. He is the founder of Kaïlūkuän Combat & Healing Arts, author of Way of the Ancient Healer: Sacred Teachings from the Philippine Ancestral Traditions (North Atlantic Books, 2010), and co-author of Healing Hands of Hilot (1997). He is currently finishing up a book on the escrima styles of Northern Luzon.

As an avid researcher of both the combat and healing traditions of his Iluko and Pangasinan ancestry. Apostol has written several articles, spoken at various universities, and has conducted workshops and healing sessions in Canada, Mexico, Europe, and across the US. He has obtained a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a Bachelor in Metaphysical Science. He is also a certified Holistic Health Practitioner and has received the honorable title “Open Eye Master” from the founder of the School of Pyramids’ International Circle of Masters.

1. What is Kailukuan?

Kaïlūkuän Combat & Healing Arts (KCHA) was founded with the objective of preserving and propagating the combat and healing traditions from Northern Luzon, particularly of the Kailukuan (Iluko) region. This includes our indigenous sciences, spiritual practices, and hands-on application. It is a physical school location and retail shop in Walnut, CA (East LA County). We hold daily classes in the Kailukuan system of combat and healing, as well as specialty immersive workshops with experts and guest teachers.

2. What inspired you to do Kailukuan?

Shortly after a formal introduction to Janelle Corpuz Hethcoat (Founder and CEO of Jupiter Soundscape) by a mutual friend, Lyn Pacificar of Herbalaria, Janelle had a prophetic dream of me telling her that I had to move something 330 feet and that she was to help me. She then shared with me the vision of opening a school dedicated to my life teachings, with me as the founder and co-owner. Because we both hold a deep pride in our Iluko ethnolinguistic group, not to mention our common interest in the healing arts, it made perfect sense to team up and manifest 330 Feet, LLC (dba Kailukuan) into reality.

3. What have been some of the challenges of Kailukuan?

The concept of KCHA is not a new one. What I mean by this is that the combat and healing arts were like two sides of a coin under one system, illustrating how a holistic view existed. As a matter of fact, I have met several elders who possessed knowledge of how to destroy using the combat arts and procreate through healing. However, with the influx of Western thought, compartmentalization and specialization is becoming more prevalent, thus a disconnect between the two. It has been somewhat of a challenge for people to understand the importance of this connection.

4. What have been your successes?

We were able to lease a 1,040 square-foot space in Walnut, CA and build it into a beautiful studio location that opened its doors on May 1st earlier this year. The number of student memberships are gradually increasing with folks attending classes inhouse and even virtually from as far as Oakland and the East Coast. We are blessed that a handful of them happen to be martial artists in the medical and allied health fields or in complementary and alternative medicine, and they also have a wealth of knowledge to contribute.

5. How has Kailukuan impacted the Fil-Am community?

Whether born here in the States or back in the Philippines, many are longing to learn about their cultural roots and ethnolinguistic heritage. With my background in the arts that extend from an earlier period in life, Kaïlūkuän, as a school, has become a platform where these teachings from various elders, as well as from years of research and clinical practice, can continue to evolve and be passed down.

Not only do we offer classes in the arts of Didya Mudgara Warrior Club Calisthenics (a median between the combat and healing arts), Didya ‘Kabarwanan (Northern Luzon escrima), and Ablon manual medicine (known as “Hilot” in other regions), the latter is also offered as a service, thus giving an opportunity to those who have musculoskeletal issues to receive a hands-on approach to health and wellness through our very own method of healing.

6. What does it mean to you to be Filipinx-American?

First of all, I see myself as a human being expressing myself as an Iluko who represents the greater Austronesian group of ethnicities. I say “Filipino” only when absolutely necessary or when quoting someone in my writings. This is my personal choice, due to what I see as the colonial mentality associated with it. Nevertheless, with this status, I find myself having the best of two worlds, intermingling with both migrants and those locally born. Although there are varying degrees of disconnect from our culture, it is with the latter whom I see with greater struggles wanting to connect for identity’s sake.

7. How will you continue to advocate for the Fil-Am community and culture, especially in response to recent anti-BIPOC and anti-Asian violence?

This is where it is important to uplift our culture and traditions. We have to work on ourselves before tackling such issues. I say this because once we establish this within ourselves with a sense of pride, we can then share and help those who come from other ethnic backgrounds. This is not to say that we are bowing down and catering to them, but that we are showing them the dignity and respect that we have toward ourselves and extended to others. On the other hand, it is equally important to know how to protect ourselves. I am one of many out there who offer classes in our traditional combat arts. My approach, however, is very different in that the healing aspects are closely intermeshed in the teachings.