‘It truly takes a village to raise a child’

Venessa with students of The Filipino School

By Venessa Manzano

It was something my younger, American-born sister said that got me thinking. She said, “No offense, but why should I think about helping the Philippines if I feel like I have no connection to it?” I never forgot that statement.

Working closely with the Filipino American community in New York and New Jersey the past six years, I have met so many college students and young professionals asking about Filipino language classes. Many would say their parents never spoke or taught them Tagalog for fear they would not be able to speak English fluently or have problems fitting into American culture.

But as we’ve learned, and now know, learning a foreign language at an early age is highly recommended. It is known to build confidence in children, provide greater opportunities for college and careers, increase standardized test scores, maintain cultural connections, and provide a bigger view of the world.

Recommended Reading: It’s never too late to learn; you might try searching online for foreign language classes.

Being at that age where my friends and peers are settling down and having families of their own, I began to think of our children and what we can do in terms of educating them about our heritage. This brought back memories of my childhood, back when I was a student at Iskwelahang Pilipino, the oldest Filipino cultural school in the U.S. that recently celebrated its 35th anniversary. I learned many things there — the folk dancing, history lessons, cooking classes, songs, rondalla music, arts & crafts.

Oops. Second boy from left did not mean to send wrong message with his inverted flag.

One of the school’s youngest students.

Realizing that there are so many Chinese, Korean, and French cultural schools for children, why aren’t there similar schools for us? If there are any, how come they are not reaching out to the many families who are looking for these types of programs?

Just toying with the idea of having something like that here in the Tri-State area, I began talking to friends and colleagues. The support, excitement and need were there, and within a few years, The Filipino School of New York & New Jersey was born.

Established in 2008, The Filipino School promotes the teaching of language and arts, and the understanding of Philippine culture, values and tradition to students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12. There are classes in Tagalog language, folk dance, storytelling and folklore, arts and crafts, cooking, and song and music. Our motto is: Our Heritage. Our Legacy.

Our programs are available throughout the year. There will be a set schedule which parents and anyone else interested in the classes can refer to. Existing programs and workshops other organizations offer are usually sporadic, where parents and their children miss out on the opportunity because of lack of awareness or not having enough time to plan ahead in their busy schedules.

Our curriculum follows both the New York State Education Department’s Learning Standards for the Arts, and the State of New Jersey’s Core Curriculum Content Standards for Language Arts Literacy.

The students are divided into age groups to ensure that the teaching styles for each lesson are age-appropriate.

We currently have a small class this summer operating at Pan American Concerned Citizens Action League’s Neighborhood Center in downtown Jersey City. A class in New York is soon to open. Most of the students are in 3rd grade and have a basic knowledge of Tagalog. Their parents enrolled them in the program so that they will be able to learn more about the language and culture, meet other children, and also because sometimes they don’t have the time, or that children learn better from others who are not family members.

The parents participate in class, helping the students with their vocabulary and writing, arts and crafts activity, and provide moral support. Some are able to learn something new that they never learned while growing up in the Philippines. It’s great to hear from the parents that the children are eager to come to class. And to hear the children repeat the words they learned in class is music to my ears.

The summer weekend session will be wrapping up on July 23. We are currently planning for the fall and are adding dance classes as well.

Word is slowly getting out that The Filipino School is here. Parents of young children are excited and look forward to when they are of age so they can go to school. Even non-parents, young professionals, are very supportive and are offering ways to help. We recently had a happy hour fundraiser in New York where we raised over $400. Some even want to volunteer their time as instructors. We’ve also had many other Filipino community organizations wanting to collaborate on projects.

It’s just great to see how when it comes to educating children about our culture, everyone comes together and offers to help. Which is how all things should be in the Filipino community where it truly takes a village to raise a child.

Venessa Manzano is the school director The Filipino School. She can be reached at info@filschool-nynj.org.

One Comment

  1. […] the promotion of Filipino American unity. The Contributions to Excellence Award was presented to Venessa Manzano, MPH for creating the Filipino School of New York and New Jersey; the Outstanding Artists awards […]

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