The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

31st FACT attracts Filipino students from across Midwest

Photo courtesy of Philippine Student Association
(Left to right) Filipino Americans Coming Together coordinators Jamie Bernal, Matthew Panopio and Philippine Student Association president Alyssa Daniels during the FACT 2023 conference welcome ceremony on Dec. 1.

The Filipino Americans Coming Together conference hosted by the Philippine Student Association attracted hundreds of Filipino college students across the Midwest on Dec. 1 and 2 to engage in a variety of workshops and panel discussions.

The 31st annual conference launched Saturday with an opening session, which invited keynote speaker Raymund Narag to the stage. His research on the criminal justice system of the Philippines has helped bring awareness and change in various Filipino correctional institutions.

This year’s theme, “Kaalaman: Knowledge is Power,” motivated much of Narag’s speech. He spoke of his experience being wrongly incarcerated and using what he learned in prison to create change after he was released.

Narag emphasized to the audience of young delegates the importance of taking back their knowledge to their homeland and sharing it with their people.

“No one will help a Filipino but another Filipino,” Narag said in his speech.

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The following workshops varied in topic from Filipino music and martial arts to intersectionality and community. 

David Chih, founding director of the Asian American Cultural Center, has facilitated many workshops since becoming involved with FACT 26 years ago. This year, he facilitated “Food & Culture, Family & Love,” a workshop that explored the connection between cultural foods and familial love.

“It focuses on food as an integral part of cultures,” Chih said. “It’s a discussion that resonates well with Asian American students, but really with any student who has a family they care about, especially with family with immigrants who have cultures that maybe differ from mainstream American culture.”

Sharing his own personal experiences with food, he encouraged delegates at the workshop to do so as well. The audience participated in conversations about different foods and how food brought each individual closer to their family and friends at college.

Some attendees shed tears watching animated short films such as Pixar Animation Studios’ “Bao” (2018) and Anamon Studio’s “Let’s Eat” (2021).

“I hope that students took away a message that they can empower themselves to learn more about their families’ cultures by asking questions of their family members and trying to learn hands-on how to replicate some of (their) favorite recipes,” Chih said.

The Midwest Association of Filipino Americans facilitated “Barangay: Finding Community with Each Other,” a workshop centered on the Filipino identity of delegates and how identity connects them to a larger community.

“MAFA exists to promote unity and cooperation amongst Filipinx and Filipinx Americans around the Midwest by promoting Filipinx culture and Asian American awareness, coordinating meetings and events, and supporting the objectives of the MAFA Member Organizations,” reads MAFA’s website.

The MAFA board of directors led attendees through an icebreaker and Jeopardy game that tested them on their knowledge of Filipino pop culture, history, geography, people and more. 

Teams scrambled to guess what Filipino artist had the most number-one single hits on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs and how many tons of rice the Philippines produces a year.

Afterwards, the delegates were led into a discussion about what community means to them in the context of their Filipino heritage. MAFA provided starter questions for them to begin thinking of their own experiences within their communities.

For delegate Owen Moe, senior at the University of Cincinnati, the workshops were an engaging experience.

“I think it’s been going great, my workshops have been very fun, as well as engaging,” Moe said. “I feel like I’m coming out of these workshops a bit more wiser … questioning my identity and following that up with philanthropy is setting myself up for a better future.”

In organizing these kinds of educational opportunities, the FACT organizers said they hoped to provide a space for Filipino American students to learn from the empowering forces within their community.

“To empower and spread awareness about those who are Filipino Americans pursuing so many different career paths and have so many different experiences, we have to have people out there like us that provide the space for them to speak,” said Jamie Bernal, FACT coordinator in PSA.

Through asking questions and being curious, Bernal said the event can also provide inspiration for the goals of many Filipino American students.

“I think that providing a space like FACT allows students to see, ‘Wow, my goals are possible because look at all these people who are in my community who share similar identities to me doing so many cool things,’” Bernal said.


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