Below is a spotlight on an event one of our member orgs, USC Troy Philippines, attended. Heidi Carreon, USC Troy Philippines Co-APASA Representative, writes about the Friendship Games event.
Before I begin about Friendship Games, you should probably check out what the President of USC Troy Philippines has to say about it:
Saturday mornings are usually when college students try to catch up on sleep, but Troy Phi managed to get to the Cal State Fullerton by 7 a.m. We might have looked odd as makeshift ninjas clad in different shades of black and strips of red and gold cloth, but we were in good company. As we made our way to the center of CSUF, we walked past a group of people dressed like mimes, another dressed like Starbucks baristas and another dressed in tie-die shirts singing, "Happy Birthday."
And so we entered the 30th Annual Friendship Games.
Friendship Games is a day-long competition of picnic games hosted by CSUF's Filipino organization, PASA Kaibigan. It is the largest gathering of Filipino students run by Filipino students in the country, and this year 37 collegiate Filipino organizations hailing from California, Nevada, Arizona and even Oregon attended.
People who played picnic games before (*cough* APASA Tournament of Champions *cough*) would be surprised at the rules and regulations for the different heats, but competition is part of the culture. Some schools begin training in the summer so they can win the honor of taking home an 8 foot tall trophy.
But beyond actual competition, Friendship Games has a creed called "SPUF," which stands for "Spirit, Pride, Unity and Friendship." As one of the CSUF coordinators told me, it's the idea of having spirit and pride in one's school and in one's identity (Filipino or otherwise) and to share that spirit with other organizations. In doing so, lines of communication (unity and friendship, if you will) open between different schools.
This is also where the weird costumes come into play, and since SPUF-ing can be tricky to explain….just watch the video below haha:
Considering that two years ago Troy Phi didn't know the rules for the games, we did remarkably well. We placed in three heats: Alpine Ski (3rd Place), Conveyor Belt (2nd Place) and Thread the Needle (a very debated 2nd Place). For that we have to thank our coordinators Joel Gutierrez (External Vice President) and Joseph Lacson (Social Chair) as well as Anthony Militante (President) for months of planning practices, costumes and chants.
I interviewed people from other schools for an article, and it was obvious from the first person I interviewed that Friendship Games is extremely special to collegiate Fil-Ams. I mean, some schools spend thousands of dollars to make the trip to Fullerton.
Even though Filipinos compose the second-largest immigrant population in the U.S., most communities are concentrated in the West Coast. Many of Troy Phi's members came from cities where there were few Filipinos, and so seeing hundreds of people who have shared heritage and similar experiences was a new--and welcome--experience.
But the most touching part of Friendship Games was seeing other people find old friends, classmates and family members. Troy Phi has strong connections with students from other Southern California schools via our umbrella organization SCPASA (it's like APASA for SoCal Filipino groups), and it was great to see some people we haven't seen in a while. But I also saw people look for their friends from UC Santa Barbara, from schools like San Francisco State. Throughout the day I saw friends reconnect with a scream of joy and hugs because Friendship Games allowed them to be in the same space.
The importance of Friendship Games was underlined by the fact that October is Filipino American Heritage Month and it occurred the day before Larry Itilong Day was observed in California for the first time.
"Just the visibility and awareness of the unification of collegiate Filipinos is really important to show that we are actively bridging together and communicating with each other for the purpose of uniting ourselves," Zach Chaco, SCPASA chair and former Troy Phi president told me for my article, "We may not be doing it for specific [social] issues, but just the fact those bridges of communication are open is a great step ahead."
But Friendship Games, even though it's the largest gathering of Filipino organizations, welcomes non-Filipinos to participate with their schools. Outside the many motifs of the Philippines flag and the hundreds of Fil-Am students, Friendship Games isn't in-your-face Filipino, so that people who are not of Filipino descent are not only welcomed but also encouraged to feel like they're with family.
Any person in APASA knows what I mean when I say that an org feels like a family, and it seemed especially true for Troy Phi at Friendship Games. As we cheered, competed and hung out with one another, we bonded over the experience of representing ourselves and our school to other groups.
We have an old saying in Troy Phi, "for the love," that's actually shortened from "for the love of Troy Phi."
The saying reiterates that everything we do in Troy Phi, we do to help one another grow, discover themselves, and celebrate not only Filipino culture but also other cultures. And we do it because we are a family of friends whom we can call in an emergency or when we want to just grab lunch. Friendship Games made us closer, and thus made us stronger as an organization.
So thank you once again to our awesome Eboard, particularly Joel, Joseph and Anthony. Thank you to Hallie Jose for choreographing our performance for the opening ceremony. Thank you to the many members who came out to Friendship Games and kept fighting on through the heat and exhaustion to SPUF. Without all of you, Troy Phi wouldn't have had such a successful Friendship Games in recent history.
And thank you APASA, for allowing me to share one of the most important events in the Filipino American collegiate community and the highlight of Troy Phi's fall semester.
For the love,
USC Troy Philippines Co-APASA Representative