Founded in 1972, Samahang Pilipino (SP) seeks to cultivate generations of Pilipinx leaders that are involved in social and political matters, in hopes of creating bridges with other cultural and ethnic communities on and off campus.
Five main pillars make up the organization’s core values: social, political, academic, community, and cultural sphere. The embodiment of SP’s programming and advocacy are rooted in these pillars, which guide the different tasks SP covers on a daily basis and are in every aspect of what the organization accomplishes.
These five pillars can best be understood by entities functioning under SP: Samahang Pilipino Education and Retention (SPEAR), Samahang Pilipino Advancing Community Empowerment (SPACE), Samahang Pilipino Cultural Night (SPCN), and SP Board, who oversees and runs all of Samahang.
SPEAR is Samahang’s retention project, which was established because of the lack of institutional support and resources that contributed to the Pilipinx community’s low graduation rates. One resource that SPEAR supplies is peer counseling. To do so, Samahang hires counselors to provide free services that assist students in academic and holistic growth, thus helping them adapt better to UCLA. SPEAR also organizes the One Step Ahead mentorship program, where counselors pair up undergraduate mentors and mentees at UCLA to guide each other throughout the school year.
Another program under Samahang is SPACE, an outreach and access program where volunteer staff tutor and provide resources to underprivileged schools in LA, such as Van Nuys High School, Carson High School, and El Camino Community College. SPACE also collaborates with the Pilipino Transfer Student Partnership (PTSP) to coordinate transfer sites for transfer representation at UCLA.
Both SPACE and SPEAR collaborated with supervising professors to offer classes at UCLA. SPEAR developed a Samahang Teaching Through Experience Internship class — a two-unit, letter grade class where the interns learn the ins and outs of retention. At the same time, SPACE taught a four-unit, upper division course about access to higher education.
However, Samahang’s President Justin Suarez is working to make the social aspect of SP more political. “We [the Pilipinx community] are facing a disconnect of depoliticization… in campus and off campus. Our very existence is political but it’s hard to mobilize,” says Suarez. This disconnect is especially apparent because of the lack of Pilipinx representation in UCLA’s student government.
SP has lacked a representative in the governing student body, the Undergraduate Students Association Council (USAC), since 2015. The community had been actively engaged in student elections and politics, but that is no longer the case today. Not having representation has been very detrimental for the Pilipinx community because they lack the access to information about what is happening on campus, which makes them unable to tackle issues such as anti-blackness, food and housing insecurity, labor issues, and recognition of the Delano manongs. Pilipinx representation is missing right now, but they hope to gain more visibility within the next year as Kimberly Bonifacio will be the next Internal Vice President.
One of the things that will help make the Pilipinx community more visible is the introduction of a Pilipinx minor. Many are campaigning for the minor, including the Asian American Studies Department, Samahang Pilipino, and the Pilipinx Living Learning Community (LLC). The proposal of the minor expanded from Pilipinx classes to a Pilipinx concentration within the Asian American Studies major, and is now in the works to become a minor.
The Pilipinx LLC is another program that helps with visibility. The LLC was founded by Samahang board members, and is a safe space on the Hill for Pilipinx students to become acclimated to their first year of college. Suarez feels that the recreating of familiarity in an unfamiliar university is a heartwarming experience. It is a place for them to congregate and express their identities. “It’s been a huge blessing. I’ve attended since the creation of it my first year, so I don’t know what UCLA looks like without it,” says Suarez.
SP is ultimately a part of a larger Pilipinx community within UCLA called the Mabuhay Collective, which is a coalition of Pilipinx organizations across campus. There are eleven organizations, such as the Kabalikat Core (LGBTQ advocacy), Tinig Choral (Pilipinx acapella group), Pilipinos in Engineering and Science, Pilipinos for Community Health, and PTSP. The Mabuhay Collective also organizes the Pilipinx Welcome Reception at the beginning of Fall quarter where all of the Pilipinx orgs introduce themselves to incoming students.
Suarez sees SP as a growing space where people can individually challenge themselves and create goals and aspirations to best support each other as one family.
He says, “As with any family, there are nuances, but… we’re here to celebrate our losses and victories, and always be there for each other. We should all be bound by love.”
SP always welcome anyone who wants to learn more about the Pilipinx culture. If you are looking to get more involved with SP or any of their affiliated organizations, talk with any general member and join the Samahang Pilipino Facebook group.
Also, be sure to save the date for Samahang’s 42nd cultural night, which will take place on Saturday, May 4, 2019 at the historic Royce Hall. SPCN is the annual Pilipinx Cultural Night production and focuses on sharing the Pilipinx culture and history in a visible light.