Thank you so much for awarding me The Social Awareness and Leadership scholarship. A year ago, I wouldn’t have imagined receiving this award. Before “getting off the rock”, in other words, moving from Hawai`i to Oregon, I honestly did not know how it felt like to be proud of my identity as a Filipina from Hawai`i. Growing up, I was given the expression that the more “white mainlander” you are the more valuable you are to today’s society. In my experience, having lighter skin and a pointy nose or being “Hapa” made you more attractive than the average Filipina. I was taught that restricting yourself from using Hawaiian slang or pidgin and going to the mainland for college to be surrounded by haoles were signs that you were more intelligent than people who do speak “broken English” and stayed home after high school. I was born and raised in Hawai`i and for years I struggled with the concept of identity.

I thought distancing myself from the Filipino/Hawai`i culture and assimilating into the white/mainland culture would make me a more content person. Today, I am finally content with myself, not because I distanced myself from my culture but because I learned the importance of clinging onto it in a predominately white space. This past year, I took on leadership roles in Kultura Pilipinas, APASU, The Multi-Cultural Center, The DisOrient Asian Pacific American Film Festival and The Philippine American Association of Lane County. These communities have helped me strip away layers upon layers of self-hate with education and have filled me with love for my identity. I have learned that the struggles I had faced links back to oppression and I am slowly in the process of decolonizing my mind. I am slowly healing and I thank these groups for molding me into this proud Filipina I stand before you today. I want to help others just like how the API community has helped me.

My goal in life is to bridge the understanding gap between people through storytelling and the best way to do that is through Journalism. I will use this scholarship to help me fund my education in Journalism and Ethnic Studies. I believe that these concentrations will help me better serve the POC communities.

I want to give a special thanks to Dr. Anselmo Villanueva who has helped mentor me in branching out into the community this past year. I came to Eugene not knowing anyone. Now, I have a community that’s got my back. Remember that I got yours too. Again, thank you so much PACAlliance for awarding me this scholarship. I will be a scholarship recipient that will make you proud.