Spending time with a college student brings back memories of our own years in the university, and this is exactly what happened recently when PABT officers shared a dinner table with its current scholar, Jessica Bisnar.
The annual Lamar University Scholarship Dinner recently held at Montagne center is a gathering to honor both scholarship donors and recipients. This is one of the ways Lamar University gives recognition to community members and organizations that consistently support local youth education in Southeast Texas.
As we were passing through the admissions gate, a beautiful and poised young Asian female college student passed us by going the opposite direction. A PABT officer whispered from the back “Filipino iyan” (I think she is Filipino). Another officer commented, “Hindi ‘yan” (She’s not.). The young lady had already disappeared, and we all agreed that there is no way to find out for sure. We finally managed to find our way into the venue, and we were greeted by student volunteers who were there to help in the registration and ushering guests to their assigned tables. And what a surprise to find the very same girl we were talking about! That girl was Jessica, our very own organization scholar!
Jessica welcomed our group with a shy but warm smile and invited us to sit with her. Another remarked was heard, “Sabi ko sa’yo, Pinoy ‘yan, eh” (I told you so—she’s a Filipino). Everybody laughed, and we recounted the story to Jessica, and that broke the ice. Jessica Bisnar, a Filipina through and through is indeed a “dalagang Filipina” (Filipina maiden), being bashful around adults and even more so with strangers.
In the course of the dialogue that night, Jessica shared that she is currently a sophomore student in the Speech and Hearing Science program at Lamar University with the view of becoming a Speech Pathologist once she is graduated. She is the daughter of Arnold and Jessica Bisnar, both practicing Registered Nurses. When not studying her lessons, she told us that reading books and spending time with her family are favorite activities. She also serves her community by volunteering her service. Hearing this, we were glad to share with her more about PABT and its mission of promoting the virtues of Filipino culture and heritage. Jessica reluctantly shared that she only attended 2 of the PABT events. The first one was the 2018 Philippine Independence Day where PABT family member with a senior graduating student receives a $250.00 gift. The second was the 2018 Cultural Fashion Show.
As a Fil-Am youth, she is the new generation that will bring our culture and heritage forward to SETX. I encouraged her to be more involve and use her circle of influence to do the same. When we see more youth involvement in PABT, we know that cultural organizations like us are making a mark in the community. I continue to encourage her in greater participation to PABT events. She demurely nodded her assent. She is, indeed, the new generation of Fil-Am youths, and as such, carries the torch for the next generation to follow.
One of the nuances of Filipinos living in America is the unconscious switch from English to the Filipino language, seemingly forgetting that there are non-Filipino speakers around them, and we were all guilty of it the entire evening. Lo and behold—Jessica, it turns out, minimally understand the Filipino language and she only speaks honorific terminology such as tito’s and tita’s. She later admitted that it’s one of her regrets not able to speak the language. I encouraged her by saying that, “It’s not too late.” How good would it be to hear more Fil-Am youth learning and embracing Filipino language? How good would it be to witness unity of amongst Filipinos in America—supporting each other, uplifting each other, and celebrating each other’s’ win? Those are the thoughts I want to share to Jessica.
Her last comment was for me and the other PABT board members truly an eye opener. Here we are as an organization sharing knowledge and love of everything Filipino to the outside world and yet we have not even fully reached out to the members of our very own community. We realized that a lot of our young first generation Filipino-American community members do not have a rudimentary knowledge of their parents’ national language while knowing that language is one of the foundations of any culture.
This opportune meeting with this young PABT scholar was indeed memorable in so many ways but it also sparked another dream for us PABT leaders, to possibly start a Filipino language program for the Fil-Am youth of Southeast Texas. Any thoughts?