Thursday, October 13, 2016

Kyla Villaroya: Filipino Community Stories

This is a guest post from a former student, Kyla Villaroya. I recently asked her for a testimonial, and instead she sent me her college essay, which unbeknownst to me explored her experience during a Baranov Museum film intensive on Filipino Community Stories. Her writing is as beautiful as her spirit!

For as long as I can remember I’ve always had a strong curiosity for the way things came to be. My days as an elementary student involved writing diary entries on the stories of my parents and checking out advanced books on human behavior. However, one particular experience that launched my passion for history was a summer ethnography film intensive with Kodiak Island’s Baranov Museum. The theme for that year was on the Filipino History of Kodiak Island. As we discovered that there was a lack of information of early and recent Filipino immigrants, I was even more motivated to excel in this course and learn more about my people. 
For two productive weeks, I worked on gathering documents and creating documentaries on Philippine history to be archived. I conducted interviews with Filipino community members and scholars on Kodiak Filipino history in general, while also paying
attention to the main topic of my film: the Filipino-AmericanAssociation of Kodiak Island. Digging into newspaper and photograph archives, I uncovered what was a poorly documented story in Kodiak. I then used these sources to craft a short, informative documentary. To expand my knowledge further I read books about ethnographic methods and the history of discrimination that Asian Americans have experienced in Alaska and United States.
While in the class, I shared my personal stories of immigrating to the US from the Philippines at five years old and the discrimination my family and peers felt as Asian-Americans. I gained the courage to use my own experiences to draw parallels between what we were learning about history and what immigrants experience today. My classmates were inspired by my journey that they even incorporated it into their own films! The film intensive also provided self-confidence to ask evocative and challenging questions of my interview subjects. For instance, I remember asking an interviewee on the brutal murder of a localFil-Am Association leader in the 1990s- a topic that most people shy away from, but one I thought to be an important aspect in their history.
I even changed the subject of my film. I was tasked with exploring history of the Fil-Am Association of Kodiak, but after beginning the interviews I determined that looking at
only one Filipino organization wasn't enough. Instead, I highlighted three different Filipino associations in Kodiak, producing a film that was later displayed in the “Filipino Community Stories” exhibit.
After the film intensive I became a regular volunteer at the Kodiak Baranov Museum. I spent my summer with Marie and Anjuli sorting new materials and transcribing interview footage. Through my volunteer work I discovered one interviewee in particular, one of the earliest Filipino residents in Kodiak and the well-loved janitor of my elementary years: Felix Canete. I sought to continue his story which turned into a project solely on Felix’s journey to America.
My time working one-on-one with Marie and Anjuli allowed me to use my curiosity as a way to serve my community. During these times, both Anjuli and Marie spent countless days working one-on-one to assist me. They took time off work to accompany me when I traveled to Felix’s residence for interviews. Every morning they always had new resources I
could contact, new leads to research, and readings that pertained to my topic.  Because of their dedication to me as a student and my community’s enthusiasm for the stories I was producing, I really excelled in the social studies. I am beyond grateful for instructors like them. My passion I cultivated with this experience lead me to shining in the next years of high school.

I am currently a freshman at D’youville College in Buffalo, New York on my way to becoming an Occupational Therapist. Just like how I explored and restored an aspect of the Kodiak’s community history through the Baranov Museum, I will restore the capabilities of my patients and uncover their personal stories as an Occupational Therapist.