Kapatiran Seminar classes helps OFWs, young immigrants feel connected to the homeland

DALY CITY, CA — Fil-Am educator Alvin Gubatina has spent the past few months meeting with these students of Westmoor High School in Daly City — teaching them about Filipino history and culture through a class called the Kapatiran Seminar.

While this after school class offers course credit, Gubatina makes sure the students get a unique learning experience.

“It’s not me teaching them,” he says. “It’s me giving them the opportunity to find this knowledge on their own, then we debrief and we unpack these things like why my mom has hella towels, and why is the balikbayan box always in the garage and never sent home… and we watch videos like Anthony Bourdain when he went to the Philippines and dissected what it means to be an OFW.”

And the students say they have enjoyed the class.

“It’s actually getting me to be more open-minded and open up to more cultures,” says Aldrich Isai.

“I honestly thought this class would actually exist,” said Camille Pangilinan “You’re not really expected to learn about Filipino culture because you’re going to learn more about American history, because you’re in America.”

For Westmoor teacher Clarita Lico-Calimbas the class has helped the Filipino student population, since its implementation four years ago.

40 percent of the students at Westmoor are Filipino, and the majority of them are recent immigrants from the Philippines.

“They get to be closer to each other because there used to be a dividing line between Filipinos who were born here and those who just came,” she said. “We try to bridge that conflict between the groups and it’s been helping.”

Six miles south of Westmoor, the Kapatiran Seminar is also offered at South San Francisco High School — which also has a high concentration of Filipino students.

“I was born here so I just grew up ‘America, America;’ that’s all I ever heard of and I think it’s really important because there’s a whole other side of me I didn’t know about,” said student Johann Tamayo.

“Specifically my mom because learning her OFW story opened my mind how meaningful it is to come here, just so your family can have a better life,” said Cielita Capistrano.

And for the South City Fil-Am teachers — they are proud to see their students learn of their heritage at an earlier age.

“They’ll learn about baybayin or the katipunans or the ways in which Filipinos have learned to survive in America. And they connect it to other people’s histories but they also acknowledge that this is who they are,” said Aristel de la Cruz.

Students who participate in the Kapatiran seminar, don’t just benefit while they’re in high school. They also earn college credit.

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