An Opportunity for Filipinos: My Experience at PYC 2020

Every year, BRIDGE at UC Davis hosts the Pilipinx Youth Conference. It’s a 3-day, 2-night program that encourages Filipinxs to continue their education, enlighten them on social activism, and elevate their understanding of their culture and history. Participants get to stay overnight at the Aggie Inn, and only costs 20 dollars which is how you know that it’s not a scam (shout out to all the students who have gotten offers to attend a trashy one hour, bazillion dollar college meeting). 

I got to know about this opportunity by following Ms. Stephanie, Pinole Valley High School’s EAOP organizer, on Instagram (@eaop_pvhs). Every day, she posts amazing opportunities for students to take advantage of, such as internships or fun student trips. She decided to repost the Pilipinx Youth Conference Poster. It caught my attention, I decided to apply, and I got in. 

I have to say, Davis is such a cozy town. The vibes felt really peaceful, and there were so many bikers. I went to the Aggie Inn (whose eggs are actually kind of good) to drop off my luggage, right as the drop off time hit, which I’m glad for since EVERYBODY started flooding in. We headed to the SRRC in groups, waited for time to begin, and PYC: Igniting the Movement, initiated!

The night was spent on introducing what the program is all about, who our mentors were, and what other students were in our Pamilya. Dinner was served, and we returned to the inn to get some rest.

On Saturday morning, we regrouped to listen to a speech given to the Keynote Speaker, Wayne Jopanda, who is currently the associate director at The Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies with a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies. He talked about his upbringing, how he burnt himself out, and engaged us in our fears. Jopanda emphasized the importance of community. Afterward, we split into workshops.

Throughout the conference, there were a series of workshops, organized into blocks: Cultural and Community, Creative Expression, and Life After High School. One workshop I chose covered how unfair the Philippine government is being towards the Lumad, the indigenous people of the Philippines, and how our tax dollars support their forced evacuation. I attended another workshop which covered Filipino social activist journalists and how President Duterte is aggressive against the press.

Keep in mind, there were a bunch of other workshops available- ranging from playing pre-Colonial Filipino instruments, learning how to become more involved in the Fil-Am community, and navigating the LGBTQIA+ identity as a Pilipinx. There’s something for everyone.

There were two other blocks that everyone participated together in. For Piesta!, we went outside to play some surprisingly entertaining games, getting our adrenaline pumping and hearts racing playing Sharks and Minnows. We then cheered each other on, seeing how many of us keep keep jumping over the rope that rose increasingly higher and higher–and the game got switched to Limbo.

The Political Theater block was a stark contrast to the amount of fun we were having. There were a series of plays performed by UC Davis students, showcasing issues that first-generation Fil-Ams face to unfair the Philippines was treated by the United States. I surprisingly teared up to one of the plays that highlighted how much pressure Filipino parents put on their children.

There are plenty of people that went to the conference, and with all the different activities, it’s pretty impossible to find one person and stick to them the entire time. While the point of the conference is to meet new people, it can be overwhelming to not have an anchor to anyone. That’s why everyone is assigned a Pamilya (Family).

Your Pamilya consists of two mentors and 5 other students in the program. These Pamilya times were one of the highlights of the conference. My Pamilya, called Pamcit as a play on the words Pamilya and pancit (an extremely popular Filipino dish) discussed the workshops we attended, played fun group activities, and created a roll call chant that completely outshone everyone else’s.

My Pamilya was called Pamcit, a combination of the words Pamilya and Pancit (this extremely popular Pilipinx dish). Our Pamilya times were one of the best things about the conference. We would regroup to discuss what we learned, and bonded through a few small games that we played, and had the best roll call chant compared to the other Pamilyas.

Saturday held one of the most memorable moments of the conference, Open Mic Night. Participants had the option of performing in front of the rest of us. Talent could be felt all the way to the Philippines! We went crazy after every act, which was anything from ukulele playing (of course!) to slam poetry. There was even a melodica player in there somewhere!

A little later, a couple of guests came, SavageMan and Rudy Kalma. Both are Fil-Am, native Bay Area songwriters and performers. Needless to say, the night keep going on strong, everyone waving their hands and swinging to the beat. The levels of loudness were absolutely insane, to the point where we received a few noise complaints.

Sunday rolled around, a day full of closure. I popped into a workshop about Pinayism and navigating the path after high school as a Filipina woman, but then after that was a dull sense of sadness. Everyone had their last Pamilya time, participated in an emotional activity none of us were ready for, ate our final meal together, took our last photos together, and closed off with a video complication of our time here at PYC.

It was an experience that threw a punch bigger than I expected, being a call for Pilipinxs to delve deeper into their history, culture, issues that society ignores, and further their education. I’m definitely going to try to get in again, and you should too. This year’s conference may have passed by, but there’s always more in the years to come. In case you don’t want to miss the opportunity next year, follow @ucdbridge for updates