I am not really familiar with my heritage. I grew up learning American ways instead of my own Filipino traditions. If it were not for my grandparents and cousins who lived with me from time to time, I would not have learned the basics of Ilocano (my native language). For years, I neglected my heritage. It was not until I attended a four-day Filipino Youth Camp located in Hawaii called Sariling Gawa. Throughout the four days at camp, I gained a better understanding about my culture, myself, and how to stay in touch with my roots while living in today’s generation.
I attended Sariling Gawa when I was fifteen. It was really hard for me to adjust to the camp because I was the only delegate who came from California, while everyone else came from all over Hawaii. In my cabin, lots of the girls including myself were fluent in English but only understood either Tagalog or Ilocano. I was then able to be comfortable around them because they related to me, and I to them. One memorable activity that we had was the “Sariling Gawa Olympics”, where all barangays, or teams, had to compete against each other by completing a series of games and tasks that were related to Filipino culture. We had to figure out how to pack food and clothing into a balikbayan box (a box used to pack goods) in under three minutes, make a human lumpia (a Filipino egg-roll), and complete a water-relay race that involved Binasuan, a traditional Filipino dance.
When we had group discussions, lots of the group leaders spoke about how they want to pursue in their dreams and go far in life. They expressed their positive attributes and how they applied it to what they want to be. As a person who is patient, caring, and supportive, I began to think about working in a hospital as a nurse. Receiving a college degree in nursing will show that I will be a certified nurse full of optimism, dedication and a good person at heart. I wish to volunteer and help people of all ages, in retirement homes, schools, and in hospitals. If it weren’t for the group leaders at Sariling Gawa, I would not have thought about my future as much as I am now.
When I came home from camp, everything changed. I decided to participate in more chores such as doing the laundry, cleaning, and taking care of my brother when my parents were not at home. I encouraged my parents to speak to me in Ilocano rather than English because I wanted to improve my vocabulary and pronunciation in Ilocano. Most importantly, I never gave up the opportunity to learn how to cook a Filipino dish, because I realized that when I grow up, I will be the one cooking for myself, not my parents.
I left Sariling Gawa with a book. It contained SG’s history, camp activities, songs, and even a guide to college. What really got my attention was the last page. It said people should realize that they should be proud of who they are. I learned that I must stay in touch with my people – who they are and where they have come from – because they will help me get to where I need to be. What I will never forget is, the deeper the roots, the taller the tree.
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