CARSON, California—Filipino American elders and youth explored the challenges of Filipino American youth during a symposium on “Defining the Filipino Identity” held August 24 at the 7th Annual Philippine Heritage Institute International Congress in the Carson Community Center.
The conference highlighted the important role and involvement of youth, civic engagement, politics, the significance of the city’s Rizal monument and growing up Fil-Am.
The Jose P. Rizal’s Monument Movement (JPRMM) along with the Philippine Consulate General Los Angeles, the City of Carson and the Knights of Rizal organized the event.
Among the concerns tackled by panelists were issues such as drugs, gangs, teenage pregnancy and lack of mentorship.
Fil-Am youth speakers pointed out that one barrier they faced while growing up was the lack of guidance from parents and mentors to direct them to leadership roles and routes for higher education.
A panelist admitted turning to gangs to get help, fit in and get attention while the parent was working a lot.
Solutions discussed were positive self-image, self-empowerment and visible relationship structures like peer-to-peer friendships or mentorships.
“Be involved in community work,” said Paz Villanueva, mother, grandmother and leader of the Bayani Campaign, a coalition that aims to improve the community, youth solidarity, the family and school.
“And be true to who you are as a Fil-Am. Excellence comes from hard work,” said Clarence Monteclaro.
Speakers shared information on assimilation while the audience responded by sharing their own experiences.
The US has the largest Filipino overseas population. A 2008 national survey of Filipino Americans from K-12 grade by National Federation of Filipino American Associations Washington, DC, showed that there were slightly over half-a-million school-age (five to 19 years old) Filipino students. Not all are in the public school system. Many are enrolled in private schools.
“The more I learned about our Filipino history and culture, the more I realized that my purpose in life is to help uplift the future generations who will come after us,” said Eric Tandoc.
“And we don’t need letters or titles after our names to be able to make important contributions to our community,” added Tandoc.
The conference included flag and national anthem etiquette by Gil Mislang. Mayor Jim Dear of Carson was observed paying close attention to the presentation.
“I was listening closely to the etiquette and I would like to add that I grew up in a generation that was against war,” Dear explained.
“The people are our boss and not the military. The military is supposed to prevent war,” added Dear.
The conference encouraged Fil-Am youth to vote, know their local politicians and consider working in and running for public office.
Of an estimated 95,000 residents of the City of Carson, 20 percent are Filipino Americans.
Panelists acknowledged what can be improved for next year’s youth symposium to better connect with the youth.
“The youth, ages 18 and under, have priorities that reflect their lifestyle and daily habits,” said Clarence Monteclaro. “Attending conferences or community engagement projects are rarely at the top of the list.”
“To understand this problem, we must realize what interests and priorities are held highest amongst our youth and include such priorities,” added Monteclaro.