Thursday, October 24, 2013

Filipino American History Month

The celebration of Filipino American History Month is a great chance to look at some of the intersections Mount Holyoke College has had with Philippine culture. As a Filipino student working at LITS, it is also a chance for me to share my roots and connections with the two places I fondly call home.

“A person who does not look back to where he came from would not be able to reach his destination.” – Dr. Jose P. Rizal, Filipino revolutionary and national hero

In the fall of 2011, the Philippine Mount Holyoke Alumnae Group in collaboration with MHC's La Liga Filipina coordinated the donation of a collection of Damiana L. Eugenio’s  (MA ’50) books on Philippine Folk Literature to the Williston Library. The collection includes around seven compilations under various themes: the riddles, the legends, the proverbs, the myths, the folktales and the epics. The series can be found in the MHC stacks by searching "Philippine folk literature" in the Mount Holyoke catalog.

Spanning several volumes, Eugenio’s award-winning work has been an invaluable resource for scholars studying the Philippines and comparative folklore. In a book review by Robert Retheword, the collection is recommended for “any individual interested in issues of Filipino world views and value systems, to any scholar investigating myths across cultures, and to anyone who enjoys the insights that a culture's narratives provide.” Before becoming known as the Mother of Philippine Folklore, Damiana Eugenio was one of the first foreign students to receive a college fellowship at Mount Holyoke to study English Folk Literature.

Foreign Student Fellowship Recipients, 1961
(From left to Right are Maria Garcia, Philippine Islands; Ming-Ming Shen, Taipei, Taiwan; Ester Hadson-Taylor, Sierra Leone; and Aliki Saranti, Athens, Greece.) 
Photo from MHC Archives and Special Collections. 

Following Eugenio have been a number of distinguished Philippine/-American alumnae including Gianna Montinola ’80, Co-Founder of Hands on Manila and Trustee of Far Eastern University in the Philippines, Sheila Marcelo '93, CEO and Founder of; Analisa Balares ‘99, CEO and Founder of Womensphere; and Ayesha Vera Yu ’97 CEO and Co-Founder of the Advancement for Rural Kids. As a Philippine alumna-to-be, I aspire to follow in the footsteps of these women who have successfully made both their country and alma mater proud. As a current student, I'm constantly impressed by the diverse success stories of Mount Holyoke students coming from all backgrounds. 

Awareness months such as these are great opportunities to start a dialogue on the significance of diversity and history. This month we also celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, LGBT History Month, and National Disability Employment Awareness Month. How are some of these events important to you? Share with us below in the comments!

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