Not all families look alike. Some families consist of one parent and one child. Some families consist of multiple siblings. Families come in all forms, shapes and sizes. Who says families have to be blood-related?
UC Irvine offers many different outlets for students to find a family away from home. Students on the UCI campus come from all over. Some students live 20 to 30 minutes away while others come from out of state and even out of the country.
UCI’s plethora of organizations and clubs all have different variations that foster a sense of family.
For me, Kababayan has done exactly that.
Kababayan, one of the Pilipin@/Pilipin@-American organizations founded under the Cross-Cultural Center has five pillars: academics, community, cultural, social and political. Kababayan encompasses all five, which caters to their general members and provides them with multiple outlets to express their identity.
Kababayan has not only allowed me to meet unique individuals, but it has introduced me to individuals that I can call my family. Applying for Kababayan board this past year has been one unexpected but amazing experience. Being a part of Kababayan board, I work with 14 other individuals, spending hours on end to prepare for general meetings, programming and community events. Oftentimes we work into the wee hours of the morning and those are the moments that I cherish most –– that’s when we have the opportunity to spend the most time with each other, learning about their quirks and embracing their different personalities.
With 10 weeks left of my term as Community Advocacy Coordinator, I would love to continue to strengthen these bonds and create many more memories with every single one of them. I know that with my family at home, we come across disagreements, but that doesn’t deteriorate our love and support for one another any less. It goes the same for these 14 other individuals because we have so many different personalities and different work ethics, and they can sometimes clash since though we all have the same goal, the steps to get there are interpreted and executed differently. Our board has been criticized on many different accounts, but what leadership position isn’t? Some say that we aren’t close enough, but who are they to define that? No one other than ourselves and that’s all that matters.
There is no particular definition for what a family should be and what one should look like. The definition varies from person to person because not every individual has gone through the same experiences. But to me, family is when you can be completely vulnerable with another person or persons and you won’t feel judged.
Through the past two quarters, we have learned to use our differences in skill as an asset to the group and it shows. I have been very fortunate to have been surrounded by such passionate and committed individuals to help run such a large organization. If it weren’t for this opportunity, I wouldn’t have had the chance to be surrounded by this awe-inspiring group I call my family away from home.
Beyond my own experiences, there are other outlets that Kababayan offers that cultivate a sense of family amongst different individuals. Kasama families, also known as KFams, is a unique program headed by the Internal Vice President. Kasama is a Tagalog word that translates to “together.”
Essentially, the KFams “are another extension of the Kababayan family. It was an idea made years prior to make members feel welcome,” said Kababayan’s Internal Vice President, James Manahan.
Each KFam consists of one ate and one kuya. The ate and kuya are the older sisters and brothers, respectively, and they have 20 adings, a Tagalog word that translates to younger siblings. Each year there is a theme chosen, and this year it’s Super Smash Bros. Each family is given a character and families go above and beyond to represent their KFam by purchasing matching apparel, whether it be a shirt or a sweater. General members tend to look forward to their new KFams each year because the dynamics of the group changes.
“There are always people that feel left out and KFams make them included into a family and even though families change every year the relationships within each KFam stay the same,” Manahan said.
The program is like no other because not every general member in Kaba is a UCI student. Kaba offers many individuals from the community or neighboring schools to participate and become a general member. Kababayan works to include everyone who is genuinely interested and what many people think is that just because it’s a Pilipin@ organization, you have to be Pilipin@. But that is the total opposite. There are a handful of general members and several board members both current and past that do not identify as Pilipin@-American.
There is a saying that “you don’t choose your family, they are God’s gift to you as you are to them.” Some individuals may not believe in God, but families are special and you can’t put a price on the love and support that ones’ family gives to one another. I have found that love and support through this very organization.
I don’t consider Kababayan a second family, but rather an extension of the family that I already have.