Born in Cebu City, Philippines, but raised in the United States, fourth-year business administration student Dwight Ong said he grew up feeling disconnected from his Filipino culture.
After becoming inspired to read about different Filipino experiences, Ong noticed a gap in Filipino literature.
He said he realized that not many people were writing stories about today’s Filipinos, so he decided to reach out to Filipino Americans all over the United States and publish his own book, “Voices of the New Gen. Fil-Am Community.”
With 37 narratives, all told by Filipino Americans, the book covers themes such as family, immigration, racism, education, LGBTQ culture and more.
“I’ve never really had the chance to know about these stories,” Ong explained. “I lived in a community where there [weren’t] that many Filipinos and when I came here to Cal Poly [Pomona], where there’s so many Filipinos, I thought it was really interesting to find out more about these stories and that’s why I kind of reached out to all the other people in the U.S.”
Ong said he became passionate about promoting Filipino culture after becoming actively involved in Barkada, Cal Poly Pomona’s Filipino student organization.
He helps organize events such as cultural nights and Filipino American History Month celebrations, as well as publishing Anong Balita, Barkada’s monthly magazine.
Kamille Magante, a fourth-year biology student with a minor in Asian Pacific studies and sociology at Cal State Dominguez Hills and the 2018-2019 chairperson of the Southern California Pilipino American Student Alliance, said she met Ong through his involvement with Barkada.
She said she commended the impact of Ong’s book on today’s generation of Filipinos.
“A lot of books in regard to Filipino American identity are more from like the ‘90s [to] early 2000s but I haven’t seen anything too recent,” Magante said. “So, the fact that he did a compilation of people and their stories, it gives a representation of the current population of Filipino Americans and their narratives. It helps in so many ways. It’s honestly one of the first of its kind, especially in our generation.”
Magante also had the opportunity to share her Filipino American story and is featured as one of the 37 stories.
“I thought it was an amazing opportunity,” she said. “A lot of our narratives aren’t shared so this was really cool.”
Although Ong mostly assembled the book himself, he sought advice from Anthony Ocampo, associate professor of sociology, who published his own book titled “The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race” in 2016.
“When I wrote my book, I wanted to write the book I never got to read,” Ocampo said. “Dwight [Ong] was motivated by the same thing,” he said. “It’s really inspiring to meet someone that’s in his shoes, a college student who’s so fearless to just execute the project and put it out there in the world.”
Ocampo also mentioned the importance of Ong’s book in promoting literature about racial identity.
“What books about race teach you is that our present today is shaped by many historical factors, like systems of colonialism and systems of racism and those things matter,” Ocampo said.
He also said books of that nature help expand our knowledge of colonialism today.
“Even though colonialism is something we consider to be part of the past, what I try to show in my book, and what [Ong] does a good job in writing, is that the past still affects people in the present day,” Ocampo said. “If you want to figure out how to address inequality, the best way to do that is understand how groups got here in the first place. You do that by reading books about history …. This book is like a love letter to the Filipino American community.”
Ong said he hopes “Voices of the New Gen. Fil-Am Community” will have a positive impact on his community.
“I want [Filipinos] to be able to see that they’re not alone and that they have the same type of experiences as others, so they can look up to other people for guidance or assistance,” Ong said. “For those who are not Filipino, it’s just another insight for them to see the Filipino culture, see how it is and what things we experience.”
Ong said he plans on publishing more books about the Filipino American community in the future.
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