Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Jaime Ramon T. Ascalon, Jr. (right) and UNIFFIED President Malou Cadacio (left) award Ms. Sophia Lee (center) a certificate of appreciation from the Embassy
WASHINGTON D.C. – In celebration of Buwan ng Wika or National Language Month of the Philippines, the Sentro Rizal of the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. and the United Federation of Fil-Am Educators (UNIFFIED) Maryland Chapter virtually hosted the week-long summer class program “Silid Aralan sa Embahada,” from 08 to 12 August 2022. The program’s in-person culminating activity was held at the Embassy’s Chancery Annex on 13 August 2022 with some students tuning in via Zoom.
This year’s theme “Kapit-Kamay Sa Hamon ng Bagong Henerasyon, Kulturang Pinoy ating Mahalin” was inspired by the declaration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) of the year 2022 as the Year of the ASEAN Youth. In connection with this theme, the sessions for this program focused on equipping the students with knowledge and training as next generation leaders, as well as to instill both ASEAN and Filipino values and identity.
A total of 42 Filipino-American students ages 4-18 years old successfully completed the modules of this program that consists of the following topics: 1) Philippine History/Geography and National Symbols; 2) Values Education; 3) Folk Songs & Pinoy Pop Music; 3) Filipino Cuisine; 4) Filipino Games & Festivals; 5) Arnis; 6) National Language & Literature: Folktales, Plays and Poems; 7) National Costumes; and 8) Folk Dances. During the online lessons, renowned Filipinos and Filipino Americans graciously shared their time and talents with the students, such as Former National Youth Commissioner and OPM Artist Ice Seguerra, Rivermaya, Chef Paolo Dungca of Pogiboy DC, multi-awarded Fil-Am stage actress Regina Aquino, and Fil-Am Broadway actor Vince Ermita.
“The Embassy is very happy that many students all over the United States are interested in learning more about the Philippines, its colorful history, diverse culture, and rich tradition… You are the future of the Philippines and are all junior Filipino Ambassadors.” Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Jaime Ramon T. Ascalon, Jr. said as he welcomed the students, parents, and teachers during the culminating activity.
As part of the program, volunteers from the Migrant Heritage Commission showcased Fil-Am culture with an Arnis demonstration and a medley of cultural dance suites including Pangalay, Ragragsakan Basket weaver, La Jota de Moncadeña, Cariñosa, and Tinikling. Youth level participant Kyleen Neis and her brother Kyle Neis also performed Filipino musical numbers with a ukulele and a saxophone respectively.
Ms. Rose Aquino-Valeriano (right) and her granddaughter Mal Aquino-Smith (left) during the live book reading session of “Holding On” written by Filipino-American Sophia Lee and illustrated by Filipino-American Isabel Roxas.
The culminating activity was also graced by Ms. Sophia Lee and Ms. Isabel Roxas, the creators of the book Holding On. In her inspirational message for students, Ms. Lee shared her experience in writing her book and how Filipino culture influenced her works. It was made more special with a special book reading led by Ms. Rose Aquino-Valeriano and her granddaughter and Kids’ level participant, Mal Aquino-Smith.
The book is about Sophia’s childhood and summers in the Philippines with her grandmother. It is the first Filipino picture book to be published by Simon & Schuster in the U.S. which will be launched on 30 August 2022. More information about this book may be found through www.sophialeewrites.com.
Volunteers from Migrant Heritage Commission performing La Jota de Moncadeña
Kids’ level participant Jackson Briones and his mother Elizabeth Briones shared their Silid Aralan experience as the program came to an end. “Although Jackson was the one enrolled in the classes, we both learned so much about the culture and heritage of the Philippines… John (husband) and I are so proud of Jackson for wanting to learn more about where his father grew up and the traditions of the Philippines. ” shared Mrs. Briones.
The culminating program of this year’s Silid Aralan sa Embahada would not be complete without refreshments for the participants courtesy of the famous Filipino fast food chain, Jollibee.Silid Aralan sa Embahada is an annual project of the Embassy in partnership with the UNIFFIED Maryland Chapter that teaches Philippine history, culture, and traditions to the Filipino American youth in the United States. This was made possible with the help of other Filipino Community Organizations such as the Filipino Class of Baltimore, Filipino American Cancer Care, Migrant Heritage Commission, and Pinakatay Arnis.