Monthly Archives: November 2015

October: Filipino-American Heritage Month

October: Filipino-American Heritage Month

Overall Insights

  This month is full of activities dedicated to the celebration of Filipino-American HeritageI feel blessed overall to be in a place where being Filipino is celebrated. I learned this month the Filipino-American History: when and why Filipinos reached the US (Morro Bay 1565), how they struggled in the US (World’s Fair,  Anti-miscegenation law, Stoop Labor, Alaskeros), how they fought for justice (The Manongs’ quest for Labor Justice in 1960s), and their struggles in the 21st century. It’s priceless because the way they see Philippine history here is through their Filipino-American lens. Although Bataan Death March, Philippine Independence, etc are also included, much emphasis is placed on the events that happened after they landed in Morro Bay. Overall, this month is a deeper getting-to-know phase in my relationship with the US and the Filipino-Americans.


Challenges and Choices

  Class success. This month, I received my first quiz remarks. As I mentioned in my former report, the quiz does not follow the traditional paper-and-pen test. Before submitting the work, I had difficulty stringing the thoughts together because I knew that wrong placement of information in the story would make the discussion of the term nonsensical and entirely wrong, so I first really worked on the outline of the discussion of each term. As a result of my sleepless nights, and because I did one extra credit term, I got a 139/100 mark. Yaaay! At least the three sleepless nights I sacrificed for the online quiz paid off. So far, I do not have any mistake in any of my quizzes for both classes.

Filipino-American Month. As part of the Kababayan participation in the Filipino-American Month Opening celebration of Daly City on October 10, the Filipino Student Union and I had our tabling with other clubs and organizations in the event where Filipino performances entertained the guests, Filipino food carts satisfied hungry onlookers, Filipino DJs offered free scratching, officials delivered their patriotic speeches. During the event, I talked to Mayor Ray Buenaventura who sincerely said I can vouch for his statement of support on any event we will hold for Filipino-American students at Skyline college. While enjoying the rendition of the Philippine National Anthem and the US Star Spangled Banner, I realized how lucky I am to be assigned in an area closed to many Filipinos, where ethnic diversity is appreciated and celebrated. I joined the Daly City Library Organization to support them and to also join in their future reading activities.


Legions of Boom. On October 15, mobile Filipino DJs who got famous in the 1980s in the Bay area were invited to Skyline College for a Panel Discussion with Professor Oliver Wong. The room was packed with almost 75 participants including professors from CIPHER, a learning community dedicated to Hip Hop, Kababayan and DJ crews. ABS-CBN was even there to cover the event. The discussion revolved around the reasons why they decided to collaborate in the 80’s, how they did it and where they are now. Their story as young teenagers who made name in the DJ scene becomes a compelling story for young students who share the same dream and for those who seem to be stuck in a rut, not knowing what to do in life. For me, their story reminds me of the importance of passion and of working hard for that passion. It is in fact the reason why I’m here in the US: to improve my teaching.


Open Mic. The Filipino Student Union-sponsored and organized Open Mic dabbed as “Magsalita” is the first Open Mic I attended. It’s an event where anyone can read their poem, perform a skit, sing a song, strum the guitar, or just do anything to pour out their emotions and reflections. I unfortunately failed to bring the piece I prepared. So to this Open Mic, I just became a mere spectator. I saw one performing a parody of the song “Let it Go”, another shared a poem about being “HIGH” on drugs, two ladies reading a poem about the Philippine struggle while the rest sang their favorite songs.


Preparations. As part of our preparations for November 16, each week, a group of students volunteered to laminate Filipino paintings and other artworks that will be displayed on Building Four, Multicultural Center in November. It’s one way to know them on a personal level too for me as a teaching assistant.


School Allies Lecture. I had another lecture at Westmoor High on November 04. I taught the segment, “How School Allies See me?” To make the topic interesting, I started the class with an activity where they had to create their own school. Some students shared they wanted a school that has swimming pool, restaurants, malls, etc. After sharing their schools, I discussed each school ally. What really struck me with the lecture is the silence of the students. Mr. Aleonar, the head teacher, asked me before the class what I do in the Philippines to quiet down students because he noticed that most Westmoor high school students are always not on-task. I suggested a strategy. In this lecture, we put our strategy to practice and it did work. All throughout the session, the students were focused. The strategy was, “If you hear me clap once, clap once. If you hear me clap twice, clap twice.” It’s the most basic class management strategy in the Philippines. I’m surprised that they don’t practice it here, and glad that it did work with the students.


Teaching Insights

 Daily Speech Practice. My public speaking professor believed that public speaking should not be forced. According to her, usually public speaking does not happen in a podium but in a small room with listeners you have to convince. She noticed that most public speaking courses teach students how to speak in a podium with more than 50 listeners. The truth is, not everyone is given the privilege always to speak with that number in a special occasion, so in her class she divided us into groups of five. Every meeting all of us should deliver a speech in front of these four students. After two weeks of Daily Speech Practice, she will combine two groups to form a ten-member group. In this instance, each has to speak again and will be critiqued by each  member of the group. Then, each of us will have to deliver a speech again in front of 40 classmates twice as our final presentations. I like her approach because she gives all of us a chance to experience different situations that demand public speaking. When I come back, if ever I would be assigned to teach public speaking, I would follow this approach. It is effective for me because for two consecutive meetings now, I received negative constructive feedback from my small group that helps me better my speech.

Categories: Development, Kayla in the US, Lessons, Musings, Skills, Successes, Travel, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

September: The Relationships Month

September: The Relationships Month

 Overall Insights

As the second month kicked in, I started forging relationships at school and in the church. I also became more confident and active in meetings and in classes. Although my final schedule was overwhelming, I took it as a challenge to improve myself. I considered it as a gift too for it helped me focus on my roles as an F***. I had challenges in my second month like getting students in English 846 class to believe in me. They do not trust me that much because I am Filipino, and I could tell that from the way they shrugged their shoulders when I gave them advice on how to improve their thesis statement. No matter what, I continued helping them. Excluding their section, I have built rapport with my other classes: Filipino 110 and English 110, so that is something to be grateful for. Instead of fretting over why English 846 students could not trust me enough, I diverted my attention to continually providing them support whenever they need it and to gaining motivation from other classes who appreciate my presence and help.


Challenges and Choices

             Class success. I had my first speech in front of the Americans during my Public Speaking class. Before my speech, I doubted my oratorical skills but was excited to test if the “speech” that worked for me in Japan and during the CHED National competition would have the same sublime effect on Americans. As an orator, seeing the same positive in-awe reaction from my audience after my performance was fulfilling.  I even got a 39/40 score from my professor who wrote, “You are an excellent speaker”. It did work. I was probably the happiest student in college when I received my marks. Delivering the speech while seeing all the students hooked is another unforgettable speech experience I had. I also received my first portfolio marks in my History of Ethnic Groups class. What really inspired me was the comment, “Solid Analysis!!!” from the professor who always critiqued people’s critical thinking through their paper.

During discussions, I seldom recited in class. After a month and a half, as my usual experience, I started getting heard in class. I even remembered answering all History questions not because they were discussed but because I am familiar with them, i.e. transcendentalism, civil disobedience, etc. As the teacher kept on asking and I kept on shooting answers, all students started looking at me with the- “how did you know that?” expression on their face. Their reaction motivates me to improve more in class.


             First Teaching. I had my first teaching in Ms. Erpelo’s class on September 2. I taught “Filipino Core Values” with Venus Cayabyab, the Supplemental Teaching Instructor. Since 95% of the class does not speak Tagalog, we started the class with a Word Splash game where students needed to write on a sheet of paper the first image that popped in their head when a Tagalog word was flashed. Some of the answers could not be associated with the word so it was really a funny activity. For example, a student wrote adobo when Crab Mentality was flashed. After that activity, the lecture where I first discussed the American Mind before proceeding to the Filipino Core Values of Kapwa, Pakikisama, Pakiramdam, etc followed. Students, then, grouped themselves and provided a skit for their group’s assigned core value. The class ended with a poster making activity. Overall, it was entertaining and students liked the session. However, it seemed to me that the professor was not satisfied. I knew because she repeated the lecture two days after. In her email instruction to us, it was clear that she wanted us to lecture on the list of core values. However, we thought we could use any sources because she did not specify that it had to be from that book where “Colonial Mentality” was also expounded. After that, I admit I was disappointed with myself. Instead of basking in self-doubt, I decided to shrug it off and learned from it. Hence, every time she requested for an assistance, I asked questions to ensure that I’ll meet her expectations.

Schedule.  To ensure that I am fulfilling my role as an F***, I laid out my schedule and forwarded it to my supervisor. I had a first taste of what my schedule will be like for the rest of the school year. I only have a 30-minute lunch break every MWF. Instead of complaining, I decided to pack a lunch that’s easy to gobble or munch in between periods. As a voracious eater, doing that was really hard. Soon enough, I began to adapt. I honestly do not feel overwhelmed by my schedule anymore. My days usually begin at 8:30 am when my bus arrives for school and ends at 5:30 in the afternoon. There were days that I could go home at 3:30 because no outputs were needed to be checked. In the midst of the overwhelming schedule what saved me was mama’s advice before coming here: mindset is what makes everything different. Thus, instead of focusing on the heavy workload, I saw it as a saving grace because it kept me busy that I never even had that “homesickness” phase. Am I even normal for not having gone through that?


            Tutorial at the TLC. I started my tutorial at the Tutorial Learning Center (TLC) in September. I come there every MWF, 2:30 to 3:30 pm. I do not only cater to students from the Kababayan English and Filipino classes but also to other Skyline College students. Whenever there are no appointments, I would also welcome students who wanted to be tutored in Reading and Writing. Because of my schedule there, I met other staff and students who are not from the Kababayan Learning Community: David, the head of the Learning center; Chanel, the Reading and Writing Graduate Tutor; Christina, the head for Workshops whom I also work with for my upcoming workshops at Skyline; Akiyo, the ESOL Tutor I always sat with during my tutoring schedule; Akayi and Christian, student assistants; Wong, Math Graduate Tutor; and Michael, the Supplemental Instruction Head. My initial challenge during my schedule was taking in students because I had to master their Tutorial Platform called Accudemia where I accept bookings from students, comment on the session and rate students. Now, I handle the Accudemia with ease.


Tagalog Tutorial. Before beginning the tutorial at the Tutorial Learning Center (TLC), the Filipino professor, Dr. B and Dean Mary Guiterrez with my Supervisor Ms. Erpelo had a schedule disagreement. The Filipino professor wanted to hold the Tagalog tutorial in the classroom right after the class while the two heads preferred it to be in the TLC so they could track the hours I am spending for tutoring. They had exchanged caustic yet professional emails. While they were insisting on their reasons, I talked to them separately and suggested that for 30 minutes I will stay in the classroom to cater students who have work, and spend the remaining hour (2:30-3:30) at the TLC for other Kababayan students. They found it the best compromise, so they all agreed. It was the first time here that I solved an issue that even heads had difficulty resolving.

For my Tagalog tutorial, I prepared Beginning Level Sessions for the students. We started with Basic expressions and commonly used words. The method and presentation of lessons from my French classes back home helped me create the sessions. Andrew, a Filipino-American student, commented that “it helped a lot” especially that the Filipino class here does not focus on teaching Tagalog alone but on Filipino cultures, traditions, history and current events.


            FSU Meetings. FSU meetings are held every Thursday 4:00 to 5:30. The Leadership prepares Teambuilding activities and Ms. Grace Burns, the mentor, conducts lectures on Filipino cultures. In the first meeting, she talked about Babayin and the Baranggay system which most members know nothing of, and poetry on our second assembly.


Kababayan Open House. Every year, the Kababayan Learning Community conducts an Open House where everyone from Skyline college is invited. The Open House was held last September 24 at 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm. The Faculty and staff introduced themselves in front of 30 attendees, then, everyone had a Tinikling competition and skit presentation. While having the activities, I realized how blessed I am to be in a very open learning community and to be surrounded by classmates I began to be friends with: Jessy, Jason, Christian, Ally, Sam, Marie, Gabe, Cid, Kevin, Kailee, Allys. I always laughed hard whenever I am with them.


            Westmoor High School. When Mr. Bo Aleonar asked me if I would be willing to assist in the Kapatiran program at Westmoor, I immediately said yes. The Kapatiran program aims to develop students’ Filipino identity, to prepare them for college success and to enhance their critical thinking skills.  I knew that I would expand my experience more and learn more if I accept the offer. Although it was not stipulated in the contract, I took the responsibility because it would help me grow as a person. I work there more as a teacher than as an assistant every Tuesday from 3:15 to 4:25 pm. True enough, I enjoyed my sessions there. High School students were very participative and they talked much in Tagalog. Whenever I was there, I would often remember my San Pedro High School students who are as noisy yet participative and inquisitive as them.


            Monstress. Last September 27, I watched the Monstress play at the American Cultural Center in San Francisco with my Pilipino Cultural Night classmates to observe and pick strategies for our upcoming PCN in May. Most of us lauded the minimalist and sublime approach of the I-hotel and openly shared our strong dislike for the overly decorated stage and forced accent and acting of the Monstress play. Watching the play, I realized that usually the one with an uncomplicated yet thoughtfully crafted plot that has minimal props and scene changes creates more impact than overly drawn plot with elaborate decorated stage that depicts several location changes. We even discussed it in class and agreed that a play could be as simple as someone walking down the street and encounters different people, animals, things, yet can portray the theme more and leave a sublime effect. In fact, I agreed that the more minimalist yet meaningful the play is, the stronger is its impact.


            Mentors’ Training. On September 29, we had our first Mentors’ meeting and training. Through the training, I met new friends like Cathleen, Dave, Leo, Nassja who already transferred to universities but still part of the Kapatiran program.  During the meeting, we had to work in groups of three to answer a puzzle. After answering ours which was “Sitting With It”, we guessed other groups’ words as well before processing the words as a community at the conference room. The activity taught us to help one another in resolving issues. I learned new words during the event such as: Conscious Riser, Boundary Setter, Sitting With It, etc which are all “roles less travelled by” as Bo pointed, which also explained the roles we need to take as mentors. As a mentor, I must encourage my mentee to solve issues on her own, become more of a listener, and a guide for her college success. It was pointed out that being a mentor does not mean being an expert in the mentee’s subjects. I should lead the mentee to school resources like the Tutorial Learning Center whenever if ever she raises help for her subjects.


            Travel. Outside of Skyline, I feel blessed to meet Kaye from church who brought me to Six Flags on September 5, where I rode a Medusa Roller Coaster (the longest and worst), tried Tazmanian Devil and Sky Riser for the first time. I only did it because Kaye wanted to try them. What I enjoyed the most was the Dolphin Show. In fact, I waited for and watched again their 30-minute performance. On September 20, my relatives took me to Hearst Castle at San Simeon, a four-hour drive from Fremont, CA. The castle houses relics from different countries. Mr. Hearst put it up on a hill in the 1850s because he wanted to recapture his travels with his mom in Europe when he was a boy. Today, the Hearst Castle, as per request by Mr. Hearst on his deathbed, became a state park of California.


Teaching Insights

           Stories. I admit that I have the best History professor. He has a different approach on Teaching History which I would like to share to professors of Ateneo de Davao University when I come back. Stressing that history does not define the “now” and that history should be used to critically reflect on the present, he requires portfolio that includes current events and a story of ourselves that tie with the theme or period discussed. His quizzes are different, too. Instead of just listing dates or identifying close-ended questions, he gives terms that we need to expound through a story, making the association easier. Honestly, I can re-discuss what he lectured because of his strategy. The story (quiz) should start with a historical context, followed by the challenge faced, the choices the people made to address the choice then, the significance of the term to the theme. Usually, the term is the choice in the story. It is difficult but it strengthens connection among pieces of information that allows a deeper understanding of history. I cannot wait to share his strategies to History professors back home.




Categories: Development, Kayla in the US, Lessons, Musings, Successes, Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

August: The Month of Identity Formation


August: The Month of Identity Formation

 Overall Insights

The first month experiences in a new environment usually constitute an existential rebirth. They reveal a person’s highest strengths and lowest weaknesses, and his strongest aspirations and weakest longings. Through introspection, they allow one to see himself in a different lens thus, solidifying his sense of self. Through the past and present environments, the person’s sense of identity becomes fuller. This is so true with my experiences in the new world. Before leaving the Philippines, I doubted my capacity to adapt and be independent, and highly distrusted my proficiency and intelligence. However, when I arrived in the US, these were all tested and proven faintly wrong. In addition, I had goals that I set  which were not all fulfilled this month that partially reflected my priorities.  On top of these, I taught I knew Philippines much but I realized that there are always sides of this country that I know nothing about. Overall, the month of August was not just a settling phase, it was a time of coming to terms with my identity and priorities.

Challenges and Choices

            Orientation at the University of Pennsylvania. Understanding that I am carrying the country’s reputation, I volunteered as the program director of the orientation’s cultural night while I was still three weeks away from my departure. In the Philippines, this task always comes easy to me so I had positive expectations even before the orientation. However, it was not the case. Almost everyone wanted to insist on their points and their own program lineup, and even suggested late revisions that resulted to late sleepless nights for me. Frankly, because of the responsibilities, I was not able to tour around Philadelphia. I even got to the point of just letting one F*** from Kenya handle the task. Although I was at the verge of my emotions, I rationalized what I was going through and started asking why I could not seem to piece loose ends. Then, it dawned on me that giving up is not something that would make me, my family or my country proud. It was just my perfectionism gutting me out. So, the next morning, instead of freaking out over details, I tried really hard to be more flexible and to appreciate spontaneity. When the program hit, everybody grooved, feasted, laughed and celebrated. And everyone thanked the core team for that fun night.

Settling in. After the orientation, I had one week to get acclimated to my new home, Glencourt Way, Pacifica before meeting up with Ms. Erpelo and the other Skyline College professors. At first, the distance from my home to the malls and other important establishments seemed far because back in Davao everything was just a tricycle or jeepney away, plus my helper was always there to do errands for me. Apart from that, I have to do the laundry, wash the dishes, cook my food, buy groceries all by myself. Realizing that these chores would be taking a huge amount of my time off my working night hours, I freaked out. Now, they become a habit so, I do not exert much effort in accomplishing them anymore. However, I still find doing the laundry challenging. Imagine treading a half-kilometer uphill and downhill path while pushing a cartload of used clothing. At first too, I could not get off eating unhealthy expensive microwavable food items from my system because of its convenience. Over the course of time, I had made the conscious effort of stopping that behavior and succeeded. Moreover, contrary to what I expected, I am not annoyed by the long waiting bus pick-up times because bus drivers almost always arrive on the dot.  In addition, I did not find any difficulty in settling in and adapting to the climate and crazy bipolar weather in Pacifica. In fact, the acclimating phase ended fast for me. This also led to a new discovery about myself: that I am highly adaptable. I even feel that I am still in Davao because of the strong Filipino presence in this area of California. Setting routines, goals and budget even before coming to the US had helped me a lot in adjusting to my new environment. I believe that is one of the surest ways of getting rid of homesickness because it provides me a sense of meaning and purpose. I already even anticipated some of the hurdles that I might encounter from the orientation, to settling in, and to starting my tasks as an F***. And honestly, I already prepared my reactions to them even before I set foot in the US. The excel file that contained my monthly goals as an F***, my travel plans around the US, and a detailed financial daily, weekly, monthly sheet contributed much in the quick adjustment.


            Christian life. Spontaneity is not part of a control freak’s vocabulary. Being a control freak, I never really mulled over the positive effects of spontaneity. It was only in Philadelphia that I started letting go of control and too much organization because of that experience as a program director. I realized that sometimes the unplanned events lead us to the happiest moments. Seeing its positive results, I began applying spontaneity to my life. For example, on one Sunday, after the mass, I decided on a whim to use my clipper card for the first time and ride a 122 bus. I dropped off at Serramonte Plaza then walked a few meters when my hunger suddenly panged. So, I proceeded to the only Max’s restaurant in the area. There I saw two old couple waiting for their turn. We exchanged conversations and numbers which eventually ended up with an invitation to their church service. Excited to meet new people, I said yes. That yes  provided me a new big foster family who do not force me to leave my religion but only offer me an avenue to study my faith. Up to now, they pick me up at home every Saturday for bible study and every Sunday for service. That unplanned move led me to them.


            International students’ BBQ. I must say that my first month was not only about knowing myself more and adjusting to the new environment but it was a month of creating and building connections as well. I am a part of the Filipino Student Union. However, I believe that I need to also know other diverse communities in the school outside of the Kababayan. Thus, I joined the International Students’ Club. The first meeting was held in San Mateo Central Park on August 28 with new international students. Talking with students from China, Japan, South Korea, India and Ukraine was the best part of that meet-up.

Teaching Insights

              Tattoo culture. I was one of those who frown upon tattooing. However, after learning that tattoos carry a symbolic cultural appreciation in the Kababayan Learning Community, I no longer do. Some even use the Alibata writing system for their tattoo to honor their Filipino heritage. In fact, one student visited the last Pintado in the Philippines just to get a tattoo. That is how important it is to them. Although I will never have a tattoo, I appreciate its cultural significance now.

              Learning communities. The Learning Communities approach is so far the best takeaway from my experience as an F***. At Skyline College, English subjects are clustered into learning communities like Kababayan, ASTEP, CIPHER, Puente and Social Justice. Each community works on a theme that is relevant to students’ life. For example, the Kababayan Learning Community incorporates articles that express Filipino history and core values in its English writing classes. For CIPHER, it is the readings reflecting the Hiphop culture that are included. Through this approach, the English classes do not become isolated subjects but integrative ones.



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