Youths find role models in family, Bonifacio and Oprah

Precious Marie Sipin

Barry Jacinto

Bryan Lozano

By Cristina DC Pastor

In high school, Precious Marie Sipin was “ashamed” to be a Filipino.

At the time, she found herself in the company of the “wrong type” of people — FilAms who were unmotivated, backstabbers, and drug users.

“When I was in high school, I felt very judged and criticized by Filipinos whom I just met,” she said. “It is like we are competing with each other in terms of looks, status, and education, when we really should be supporting each other, especially being Filipino Americans.”

“I was ashamed to be called Filipino,” recalled Precious, a senior student of acting at Fordham.

Now 21 and pursuing an interest in theater and performing, women’s rights, education and yoga, she has kept her distance from shallow friendships. Precious is a member of the startup organization Pilipino American Unity for Progress or UniPro, which is trying to carve out a future without being bound by the limitations that hindered their elders from moving forward with their dreams. She’s now with like-minded people who are passionate about being a part of the larger FilAm community “without the drama, ego or pride getting in the way.”

“Now I am very proud to call myself Filipino,” she said.

Precious is one of several thousand Filipino youths in the New York Tri State. Many are in school and trying to stay out of trouble, others are working, some are serving in the military, and doing volunteer work. Everyone interviewed for this report declared themselves proudly Filipino.

Steven Raga

“I am proud, especially when I realize all the sacrifices the past generations put into having us where we are now,” said Harvard’s Steven Raga.

Health educator Rachelle Ocampo was short and sweet. “We are a beautiful people.”

The family, a revered institution in Philippine society, was a favorite role model among the youngsters. Cheyenne Abaquin, a student of Clarkstown High in Rockland, and Rachelle said they admire their mothers. Emmanuel Palatulan, a graduate of Hunter College, looks up to his older brother and wants to emulate his positive qualities.

“My brother has been very good to me,” said Emmanuel. “He is trustworthy, understanding and supportive, a good man with a good heart. One day, I hope to be like him.”

Stony Brook University alumnus Bryan Lozano, RJ Sembrano, a soccer-playing student at Ramapo College, and Steven look to the revolutionary hero Andres Bonifacio for leadership and inspiration. Bonifacio led a rebellion against the Spanish colonial rule by getting Filipinos to rip up their ‘cedula’ in protest of burdensome taxation.

“I’m proud of our resilience and our spirit as a people,” said Bryan, one of the founders of UniPro. But sometimes, he added, “We pre-determine and exacerbate our cultural flaws rather than redefine our narrative as individuals and as a community.” Bryan is involved with community organizing, spoken word poetry, social entrepreneurship, and basketball.

Rachelle Ocampo

Steven, also of UniPro, feels the community could achieve its fullest potential if it wasn’t so “divided.” He finds distasteful some older Filipinos who insist on being right by pulling rank and seniority.

“I like to give respect where respect is due, not just because you’ve lived through more sunrises than me,” said Steven.

Emmanuel said he is sometimes dismayed at the “lack of patriotism” among some FilAms.

Barry Jacinto of Queensborough Community College said he is trying to lose weight, and picked Oprah Winfrey as his icon. He admired the Talk Show Queen for her persistence and for never losing hope in her struggle to downsize.

Emmanuel Palatulan

Danica Torres, who goes to school at Robert Wagner Junior High in Long Island City, said she loves to sing and adores young actress-singer Vanessa Hudgens.

Precious and office manager Irene Olegario of Connecticut said the community needs to lessen its indulgence in ‘chismis’ or gossip.

“I get away from it,” said Irene. “If there’s anything we can work on, it’s that we tend to pull each other down.”

Rachelle, Cheyenne and RJ would like corruption to go away — and with it the notorious Filipino Time where events are usually delayed by hours or people are unremorseful about being late.

American-born Garrett Surie of Ramapo said he loves his family, but wished they would go easy on him and his piano lessons.

Garrett Surie

“My family makes me feel like I need to learn how to play the piano,” said Garrett with exasperation in his laughter. “I am doing that. But I also want to learn about my heritage.”

Cristina DC Pastor is the founding editor of The FilAm.

One Comment

  1. Bella P. Burgos wrote:

    I know Precious. She was a member of the Filipino Choir of the Holy Child Jesus Church in Richmond Hill, Queens which I used to direct. I remember her reluctance to sing Filipino songs which I found really exasperating because she had a powerful soprano voice that can be very useful for special choral arrangements. It’s good to know of her change of heart about her Filipino-nes!

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