Student Organization Name: Filipino Students Association
Category of Group: Cultural
Founded: 1980 (unofficially); 2004 (officially)
Your Name: Kate F.
Your Hometown: Stamford, Connecticut
Your Year: Class of 2010
Your Position: Co-President (also: Co-Vice President [2008-2009], Secretary [2007-2008], and Regular Member [2006-2007])
It all started with two warm smiles and one bowl of dried mangoes in September 2006. Being the type of person with multiple interests, I was genuinely torn among several of the student organizations who had tables at the Student Activities Commission (SAC) Fair (now known simply as the Student Activities Fair). The Filipino Students Association was among the few that left a lasting impression by the time I stepped out of the recreation center because of those smiles–and, of course, those oh-so-delicious dried mangoes.
Joining the Filipino Students Association was already in my mind even before I stepped foot at Hopkins, since I was craving interaction with people my age who went through the same cultural experiences. I’m not saying that I wasn’t aware of my Filipino heritage when I started college; I definitely was! My Filipino immigrant parents had made sure of that; still, I didn’t meet many people my age of Filipino descent in southwestern Connecticut, where I was born and raised.
Nonetheless, I was hesitant to approach the FSA table at the SAC Fair. I thought that its members might look down on me: I was fluent only in English, I couldn’t name more than five Filipino celebrities on the spot if I was lucky, I couldn’t cook Filipino food (although I could eat it with gusto), and I couldn’t dance one Filipino folk dance. I couldn’t even dance hip-hop, which many Filipino-Americans in the U.S. dance well; I was a classical ballet dancer. When I started talking to two friendly upperclassmen who had a bowl of dried mangoes at the FSA table and encouraged me to sign up for the FSA mailing list, however, I had a feeling that my fears were unnecessary. I was correct.
Fast forward to the present, in which I’m now a second-semester senior at Hopkins. After that fateful event known as the SAC Fair, I became a very active member of FSA as a freshman, then a secretary as a sophomore, then a co-vice president as a junior, and now a co-president as a senior. I’ve also improved my understanding of Tagalog, I’ve become more aware of Filipino pop culture and current affairs, I’ve learned how to cook some Filipino dishes, and I’ve learned how to dance four Filipino folk dances (and choreographed routines in them).
1. Why did you choose to become involved with this student organization? As previously mentioned, I joined FSA to interact with other people my age of Filipino descent; I also wanted to learn Filipino folk dances (especially the tinikling, in which two six-foot-long bamboo poles are clapped together and people jump in and out of them) and perhaps other aspects of Filipino culture of which I wasn’t aware before college.
2. What are the organization’s membership requirements? To be considered an official active member, we require that one attends at least two general body meetings a year. Our regular events include about one general body a month, about one social event a month, and numerous practices for events such as Culture Show in the fall and Filipino Cultural Night in the spring. Most of our active members participate in more regular events than just attending the general body meetings.
3. What special events has this organization hosted? Starting my freshman year (the 2006-2007 school year), the then-president and one of the other officers coordinated a “Filipino Cultural Night” event in which Filipino food was served and traditional Filipino songs and dances were performed. It’s become an annual event ever since, and we’ve been working on expanding the event ever year. During its first year, it was held in the fall, but now we hold it in the spring. FSA also regularly auditions for and performs in the Culture Show hosted by the Office of Multicultural Affairs. In the Fall 2009 semester, we also collaborated with TASA (the Taiwanese American Students Association) in organizing a fundraising banquet to raise funds for typhoon victims in the Philippines and Taiwan.
4. What makes your organization awesome? FSA is a very warm and welcoming group of people! The upperclassmen of FSA when I was a freshman made us feel very much at home, and all of us–upperclassmen and freshmen alike–bonded a lot that year. We’ve worked on doing the same thing the following years for every new batch of freshmen (and new upperclassmen members as well). You don’t even need to have a drop of Filipino blood to join FSA; we’ve had a number of non-Filipino members in the organization over the past few years. Really, all you need to do to join is show an interest in some aspect of Filipino culture and come to our events! We’ll welcome you with open arms.
5. What are some neat things about your organization (e.g., history, traditions, quirks, or prominent members)? Members come from all over the world! There are Filipino-Americans hailing from different parts of the United States, Filipinos who grew up in Manila and attended international schools there, Filipinos who grew up in parts of the Philippines that are very different from Manila, Filipinos who grew up in various countries abroad, non-Filipinos who grew up in the Philippines, and non-Filipinos who hail from different parts of the United States and other countries as well. People’s interests are varied as well–and not just in academics. We have a former wrestler, a former gymnast, a former professional body builder, a few dancers, a few a cappella singers, many people who could play at least one instrument…and more. Even though all of us have an interest in Filipino culture and many of us grew up in Filipino households, we’re still a diverse group in terms of what we enjoy doing.