“To be together.”
That’s the English translation of the Tagalog word "kasama," the namesake of UNC’s Filipino American Association. The word captures the spirit the club aims to foster within the Filipino community and beyond.
“Our major goal is just having everyone together, feeling that sense of community and just being comfortable with one another and feeling like you have a place that you can go to and people that you can go to if you need to,” Kasama Vice President Samantha Paw said.
Originally founded in 2009, the club has grown in recent years to a membership of about 45 students, publicity chairperson Katrina Angus said. Paw attributes the spike in interest to an influx of Filipino-identifying students and increased word-of-mouth and social media activity promoting Kasama.
This year, the club has hosted several events in conjunction with other Asian American student associations at nearby universities. Recently, Kasama members traveled to Virginia for the D7 Olympics held at the College of William and Mary.
Kasama also organizes events with Asian American groups on campus. Last weekend, the club had a karaoke night with the Korean-American Student Association.
Part of Paw’s role as vice president includes organizing Kapamilya Week, which connects new Kasama members with a big brother or sister to guide them through their time in the club.
“That week, I was able to meet a lot of new people, and one of them was my big,” first-year and Kasama member Rocky Araneta said. “It's been really nice having him as a big because he's been able to help me with guidance for career paths, academically, and he's just been able to be there as an older brother figure too.”
Kasama also has a dance team, which is preparing to perform at Journey Into Asia, an annual cultural showcase hosted by the Asian American Student Association.
While designated as an organization for Filipino American students, Kasama is open to all who wish to learn more about Filipino culture. During general body meetings, members discuss aspects of Filipino culture, learn Filipino words and phrases and eat traditional Filipino foods.
“That part of my identity is important to me, so I'm really glad to have it and to be able to connect to it through Kasama,” Araneta said.
The club hosts one social and one cultural event each month. In October, the social event was held on the Friday before Halloween.
“That one we called Halo-Halloween, which is named after a Filipino dessert called halo-halo, and that has become a tradition that we do every year,” Paw said.
Kasama’s leadership team is also in the process of planning a gala to be held in April. It will be themed around Balikbayan, a program instituted by the government of the Philippines that allows Filipinos living overseas visa-free entry into the country for one year.
Through these events, the club's leadership hopes to foster a sense of community and an outlet for Filipino students to connect with their identity while at UNC. Angus said joining Kasama during her first year at UNC helped her adjust to college life.
“I was kind of lost, and everything was just new to me. And then having Kasama as a family, it felt really welcoming,” Angus said.
Araneta also emphasized the role Kasama has played in his first semester as a student at UNC.
“It does feel like one really big family and I like how close we all are together,” Araneta said.
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