Forty years of history. Forty years of activism. Forty years of family. This year, Samahang Pilipino, a student organization representing the Filipino student voice at UCLA, will celebrate its 40th anniversary and commemorate its many accomplishments throughout the years.
Samahang Pilipino was founded in 1972. According to Mallory Valenzuela, a third year double major in sociology and Asian American Studies and the president of Samahang, it was a radical statement to even identify as Pilipino American forty years ago, let alone to gather together under that identity. There were not many Pilipino students back then, so Samahang Pilipino was started as a way to form a connection between students and allow them to have a space that was uniquely Pilipino. Over the years, Samahang Pilipino has not only served as a social space, but as an organization that has campaigned for many causes, such as veterans’ benefits for Pilipino veterans who served in World War II and affirmative action.
In the years since its founding, Samahang Pilipino has grown to include many different components, such as SPACE (Samahang Pilipino Advancing Community Empowerment), which goes out to sites such as Belmont High School and El Camino College in order to work with undeserved high school and community college students; and SPEAR (Samahang Pilipino Education and Retention), which serves students at UCLA to help them maintain their academic status and graduate.
Samahang also hosts an annual culture night: Samahang Pilipino Culture Night. SPCN is an opportunity for the Filipino American community on campus to come together and have a critical engagement with what it means to be Pilipino or Pilipino American, says Steven Panotes, a fourth year biochemistry major and an assistant coordinator for the event. This year, the theme for SPCN focuses on Samahang Pilipino’s campaign for financial literacy. Samahang Pilipino hopes to help students better understand the different policies that affect their college tuition, as well as the resources that are available for them.
Samahang Pilipino has also hosted P-Grad, a graduation event that focuses specifically on Filipino students, since 1993. According to Kevin Salinas, a fourth-year political science major and cultural coordinator for SPCN, P-Grad is meant to celebrate the notion that accomplishing graduation is not just an individual effort, but a community one.
On April 21st, Samahang Pilipino will celebrate its 40th anniversary at a fundraising benefit titled “One Family.” This event, which will be held at Covel Commons, is hosted by the Pilipino Alumni Association of UCLA and will feature performances as well as the presentation of scholarship awards.
When asked about how they felt about the 40th anniversary of Samahang, various members said that being part of the organization and seeing how much history it carries is a humbling experience. Samahang Pilipino has become a “family” for Salinas and other members, a space where they are able to explore their identity and shape it.
“I think a big thing I’m noticing is that over these past 40 years, Samahang has meant a lot of things to a lot of different people,” says Salinas. “But one thing that has stuck out to me the most is that Samahang has created a family on this campus, a family that lasts beyond however many years you’re at UCLA.”