The Philippine Student Association (PSA) is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, an impressive feat for any student organization! PSA helps to create a space for Filipino students at Illinois and educate the campus community about Filipino culture. We sat down with four members of the officer board—Brittany, Anthony, Erika, and Carmel—to find out more about their roles in this well-established cultural organization and what it means to them.
Why did you join PSA?
Brittany: I grew up in an area that didn’t have any other Filipino people around, so I really wanted to get involved in college. Even before I came here I was already looking for a group.
Anthony: It was kind of the opposite for me. In high school, I was actually pretty immersed. I was in a club with about 40 to 50 other Filipino students. Every year you hear the seniors going to different colleges, different universities, and joining their Filipino organizations. I really wanted to continue the trend of immersing myself in Filipino culture.
Erika: I moved here to Champaign-Urbana from the Philippines. There is a fairly decent-size Filipino-American community here, but I never really had the opportunity to learn more about my culture besides what my parents taught me in our household.
What’s the most important aspect of PSA?
Anthony: When I first came here, I just knew a couple of new people and then my roommate, who was my friend from high school. Joining PSA, it was really enriching to meet people who have similar backgrounds and similar understandings. It was nice to meet people who are there for me and who made me … they gave me something to do outside of my classes, and made U of I not just feel like a school, but a place for me to be.
Brittany: It’s like a family, honestly. We always say that. We do have a program where you have families: You have an “older brother” and “older sister,” and you’ll have “younger brothers and sisters.” Coming in freshman year it gives you a group of people to get to know and be friends with right away, which is really helpful. It’s nice because you’re learning about your own culture with them.
How does PSA impact the Illinois community?
Erika: We are celebrating our 100th year anniversary this year, so we’re definitely part of a catalyst of creating the Asian American community here. In addition to APAC [Asian Pacific American Coalition], we were also one of the groups to help build the Asian American Cultural Center, push for the creation of the Asian American Studies department, and other things like that. We also are affiliated with the University YMCA to help them showcase global engagement, which is a pillar of their mission statement.
Carmel: Everything that we do is to give back to the Philippines. It’s nice to show the community that we’re still keeping in touch with our roots, especially the Filipinos living around Champaign Urbana. They always look at us to see what we’re up to. The stuff that we’re doing, like our annual events, our culture nights, and everything … they always help and support us.
What’s one thing you would tell other people about PSA that they might not know?
Anthony: We have a diverse group of students—we’re not just Filipinos. There are also other Asian Americans and then other non-Filipino, non-Asian American students.
Erika: I owe a lot of my personal growth throughout college to PSA. I found what I want to do for the rest of my life because of this organization. I’m on the pre-med track, and with that I want to go into primary care and help build culturally sensitive programs that could increase quality healthcare services for those who are underserved, especially minorities.
What’s your favorite memory within PSA?
Carmel: The big event that is most memorable for me is getting my older siblings through our AKA program. AKA stands for Ate Kuya Ading. “Ate” means older sister, “Kuya” means older brother, and “Ading” means your younger sibling. So freshman year, I got my Ate and Kuya. And then sophomore year, I had the chance to get my own Ading. So that was a very memorable moment for me.
Brittany: We compete in this cultural dance competition every February, and prior to coming to college, I had never done any kind of cultural dancing. I’d only seen it in videos here and there. I’d never been part of such a big performance like that. The feeling of going on that stage with thousands of people watching you and being judged on your dance … it’s intense. You’re just there to represent that culture as best you can. Even though it was hard, you’re making memories with all these people, which is really nice.
Anthony: My favorite memory was really the conference we host every year—the Filipino Americans Coming Together conference, or FACT. We have about 1,100 to 1,200 students come down each year to celebrate. We have all different kinds of workshops, and there’s a big variety show. It’s just a lot of getting to know each other. I think that it was my favorite memory because it really showed the scope of how big this community is—not only within U of I, but throughout the entire Midwest as well.
With over 1,800 registered student organizations (RSOs) at Illinois, the possibilities are endless. To learn more about the Philippine Student Association and how you can get involved, check out their website and socials below.