“From one came many”
June 20, 2018 – International Examiner
“From one came many: Filipino student organization celebrates 100 years of activism and empowerment”
When Sunshine Arcilla joined the UW Filipino American Students Association (FASA) her freshman year, she didn’t anticipate that she and her randomly-assigned roommate, Marijo Manaois, would even get along – let alone think the club that they decided to check out together on a whim would become such a huge part of both of their lives.
Four years later, Arcilla and Manaois joined members of the UW community in front of the Husky Union Building to celebrate the installation of a new plaque that commemorates 100 years of the Filipino student organization FASA’s presence on campus. Arcilla and Manaois have been involved in FASA for four years. Manaois is president of the club and Arcilla serves as centennial coordinator and president.
Arcilla stood in front of the crowd, beaming as she described the extensive work that went into planning the centennial celebration running throughout the 2017-2018 year, and how she hopes the legacy of FASA will continue far into the future.
The centennial began with a kickoff event last September and events continued throughout the school year. The Centennial Gala on April 28 was its crown jewel, with 400 alumni, students and community members attending and raising $25,000 for an endowment scholarship that will help the next generation of Filipinx students on campus.
Longtime FASA advisor Lolie Farinas also spoke, providing context and history to the work the students have accomplished.
“This endowment scholarship will support students in infamy, leaving a permanent footprint on campus,” Farinas said. “We’ve made our mark for 100 years and will continue to do so.”
The centennial gala “brought everyone together, celebrated our history, and created something permanent for the future,” Arcilla said.
FASA aims to celebrate the collective experience of Filipinos at UW by serving as a platform to honor their past, spread appreciation of Filipino history, and to establish new bonds to create an intergenerational and diverse network of people.
FASA’s history at UW is one of change, perseverance, and sustained, collective effort by its members to make a place for themselves in a university that wasn’t always welcoming to them.
The original Filipino Club at UW was established in October 1917 by pensionados, Filipinos who migrated to the United States to obtain a Western education. Through the Pensionado Act of 1903, Filipinos studied across the United States, but the UW enrolled the largest number.
Since then, the Filipino Club went through several different iterations. The Filipino Student Association (FSA) of the ‘60s through ‘90s was fueled by the Civil Rights Era, with its members at the forefront of campus activism, making demands that the university be held accountable to upholding diversity and inclusion.
FSA eventually became a legacy group and fought for the formation of the Educational Opportunity Program, Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity, and the Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center.
In 1995, FSA rebranded and renamed itself FASA, adding the word “American” to the name to symbolize that Filipinos are part of American culture.
FASA’s mission is to create pride among its members and surrounding community through educational, political, cultural and social advancement.
Beyond the events and mission statements, FASA helps students create a family on campus that celebrates who they are.
Manaois is from a small town near Tacoma with no Filipino Americans. The only other Filipino Americans she knew were friends or family. “Joining FASA made me proud to be Filipino,” she said. “Only once I got here did I see how incredible the history leadership was. I no longer felt ashamed, and that happened through FASA.”
After joining the club as a freshman, Manaois served as the academics chair as a sophomore, vice president as a junior, and became president during her final year at the UW.
When Manaois talks about her time at FASA, she doesn’t highlight the hundreds of hours she spent planning events, bringing back the mentoring program Project Family, or all the work she put in this past year as president. She talks about the family and friendships that FASA has provided her.
In her sophomore year, Manaois suffered from a bad car accident. It was a moment that made her wonder who would be there for her – but many members of FASA showed up to visit and provide their support. “I’ve never felt so loved, and from then on I knew I was going to be involved,” Manaois said.
Arcilla described her own moment when the FASA community deeply supported her. When her father suddenly became sick, a Go Fund Me she set up to raise money for the trip home was completely funded within just a few days, primarily through members of FASA.
“People that I had never met gave me money, and I’ve never felt such pride in an organization before,” Arcilla said. “I really felt a sense of family in that moment.”
Donna Denina, a FASA alumnus, said this sense of family never leaves you, even after you’ve graduated from the university.
“It gives you life long friendships,” Denina said. “You forge such deep bonds with people. There were just so many incredible connections made during that time that I will always carry with me.”
FASA alumnus Daniele Meñez was the first Filipina (and first Pacific Islander) to serve as president of the UW student body, the Associated Students of the UW (ASUW), during 2016 and 2017 academic year. She joined FASA as a freshman.
“Coming into it I had no idea how much it would shape my college career and me as a person,” Meñez said.
Her first college leadership experience was as political chair of the organization, and she said working on a huge team with such a large and complex organization gave her skills in activism and political advocacy that she later used in her roles as UW Pacific Islander student commissioner and ASUW president.
“When I was a freshman I really didn’t know anything about leadership or what my Filipino identity was, and FASA filled in all those gaps for me,” she said.
To its members, the centennial means much more than simply 100 years of FASA on campus.
“I don’t even have the words,” Arcilla said. “It has been such an honor to be part of an organization that has this much legacy and impacted so many people’s lives. I am proud to be Filipino on campus. As students we often take for granted what we have – courses, physical space – that we didn’t always have. It’s incredible to be able to pay tribute to the people who came before us.”
“I would equate it to gaining superpowers,” Manaois said. “There’s an enormous sense of responsibility, serendipity, and a huge sense of empowerment. Our community, our pride, our initiative has allowed us to celebrate, and our mark will permanently be on this campus. As a girl who grew up ashamed, there is so much to be gained by embracing that.