“I’m here to talk about my challenges that I had to overcome in the music industry being a triple minority: as a woman; being Filipino; and standing at 4 feet 11 inches.” This was the memorable introduction from MYX TV Host and Producer, and Co-Founder of mydiveo™ Roslynn Cobarrubias at the recent #TFCUTalks held at the 230-seater Beach Auditorium in the sprawling USC Long Beach Campus. It was an opening greeted by cheers and applause, followed by a brief but noticeable silence. A very brief stillness that for that moment, recognized the truths presented.
They were real. The issues raised by Cobarrubias were real. There are certain molds and expectations that the Filipino American youth are expected to fit in and conform to, oftentimes creating tension and struggle within self when dreams go against templates. That was exactly what was addressed at #TFCUTalks with the theme: Breaking The Mold that featured singer, songwriter and YouTube sensation AJ Rafael, and winner of Food Network’s “Chopped” Chef Charleen Caabay, alongside Cobarrubias.
Caabay, Cobarrubias and Rafael are Filipino American game changers who encountered struggles in their respective life journeys and overcame them by being true to themselves and by committing to a lot of hard work. They shared their incredible journeys to a very attentive and engaged audience at the talks presented by TFCU.
TFCU – The “U” Represents University
TFCU is a student outreach from TFC that seeks to reach out to college students by providing them access to role models within the Filipino American community who could provide inspiration, guidance and mentorship. The “U” stands for “University” because it is when second generation Filipino Americans go to university that they actively want to know more about their being Filipino. TFCU Project Head Troy Espera shares that “the Filipino identity in us wakes up at the university because there are so many organizations on campus that are all about PInoy pride, Filipino American pride, and we discover a lot about our history, our cultural identity. It all happens on college campuses so that is where the “U” comes from.”
Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, “U” also stands for Unity, which TFCU hopes to achieve. Pam Castillo, TFC Global Marketing Head, emphasizes that the vision of TFCU is to “connect Filipino American students to organize Filipino unity and pride on campus and beyond.” This ties in with the disposition of the young people of this generation to embrace acceptance, tolerance, and collaboration to achieve common goals.
For the CSU Long Beach #TFCUTalks, the TFCU core team partnered with the CSULB chapters of Chi Rho Omicron or XPO and Kappa Psi Epsilon, and with Your Filipino Professionals Association (YFPA). There were also representatives from various Filipino-American campus organizations like Kababayan (UC Irvine), Pilipino American Coalition (CSULB), Barkada (Cal Poly Pomona), and Troy Philippines (USC).
TFCU seeks to supplement the campus experience for the community by connecting the young people to experts in various fields who could inspire and empower by sharing life lessons. TFCU Core Team member Beverly Desuasido reveals, “Growing up, we did not have access to role models. So now, since ABS-CBN has access to celebrities, business and technology people, athletes, we want to bring them back to the students so they can empower them, inspire them.”
Espera likewise laments the absence of good examples they could identify with during their time, “When we were in school, we were really hungry for representation of ourselves; role models that talk like us, that look like us, that came from homes like our homes – we did not really have a lot of that. Now we know a lot of people who are connected because of the work that we do, and those people are equally excited to share their experiences. So it is a good time for that.”
Taking advantage of real-life and real-world connections also provides TFCU the ability to embark on a Mentoring Program that they offer to college students. The program connects student organization or individuals with groups like Your Filipino Professionals Association (YFPA). These partnerships would pair student groups with mentors or coaches at the executive or managerial level to provide advice and counseling on projects and initiatives. There would also be one-on-one mentoring on career development in various areas, and guidance in transitioning from the confines of school to the workforce.
Speakers Share Profound and Remarkable Stories
Attendees at #TFCUTalks at the Beach did have a good time listening to the energetic and impressive trio of guest speakers from various fields. On being part of Food Network’s “Chopped,” Chef Charleen confessed, “It was an amazing, amazing feeling. I’ve never felt so confident to be able to break so many stereotypes; being proud that I’m a woman, I’m a Pinay and a proud Filipino American. To be able to instill our culture and Filipino food to the judges, and to be able to allow thousands of people to see this – it’s quite an experience.”
Chef Charleen took the “Chopped” New Year’s Eve win of 2016. Her word to the young: “Know that there is an audience that will recognize the gifts that we have as Fiipino Americans. Whether you are in the arts, in the culinary industry, whether you are a businesswoman or a leader, step out of that box and own it.”
Singer and songwriter Rafael concurs with Chef Charleen in the advice of recognizing one’s gifts and overcoming challenges. He underlines the message by saying “We don’t want Hollywood to create the Asian American narrative for all of us. We got to do it ourselves.”
In the end, Cobarrubias is optimistic that the young audience would be inspired and motivated to follow their dreams and “to really use their culture as a uniqueness and a way to stand apart and be memorable.”
It was almost four hours of animated engagement and give and take between the speakers and the audience. Adobo Nation Co-Host Ginger Conejero and DJ for the masses DJ Mia helped set the tone for the event with their masterful hosting and wicked spinning skills, respectively.
It was an afternoon that resonated with the audience. Melissa shared that “I definitely thought it was special to have these speakers have that one common message to not have yourself be put in a box.” A Kappa Psi Epsilon sister, Adrienne, stated she attended “to learn how to become a leader in the Filipino American community.”
Josh of Chi Rho Omicron in Cal Poly Pomona expressed that #TFCUTalks was “really important because it celebrates the culture of Filipinos and shows the youth that your culture should not hold you back, but instead should make you better.” Another Chi Rho Omicron brother, Jordan, shared how impressed he was. “I did see how strong this community is. Takeaway is not being afraid to show who you are, and do what you want to do and what you believe in.”
TFCU Hopes to Make a Difference
While TFC is a brand already very familiar to the Filipino community, TFCU hopes to be there to make a difference for the second generation. TFCU aspires to play a very important part in inspiring and empowering the young ones to do what needs to be done in the community, while also fulfilling their dreams, without compromising who they are and what they stand for. All these while keeping that unique, second generation Filipino American flair, flavor, and energy.
Espera points out that “TFC is such a strong brand for Filipino Americans. We grew up with it. In our homes, our parents and our aunts and uncles watch it. TFCU is now something for the 2nd generation.”
Another core member Diana Vergara says “#TFCUTalks is like TED Talks. It’s informational and inspirational. We talk about innovation, technology, and different things in the industry.”
#TFCUTalks will be on the road throughout the whole year, reaching out to the young generation across the U.S. and Canada. #TFCUTalks will be going to universities, and in places where universities are not available, they will be at community centers. Watch for TFCU Talks in the following cities: San Diego, Seattle, Honolulu, Virginia Beach; and in New York and New Jersey.