By Rommel Conclara, ABS-CBN News North America Bureau
SAN FRANCISCO — The year was 1967. Amidst the political and social consciousness sweeping the nation back then, Filipinos at San Francisco State University were ready for change.
Kababayans of the Pilipino American Collegiate Endeavor, or PACE, would join other organizations of color to create the Third World Liberation Front, and participate in the longest student strike in US history, pushing for reforms in the academic curriculum of the university.
The reward of the strike led to the nation’s first and only school of ethnic studies.
And on this night, PACE celebrated 50 years as an organization.
Current PACE members came together with past members to commemorate 50 years of social activism, during major events occurring in the US and in the Philippines.
“When the Rodney King incident came up it was actually a spark of activism, certainly in myself, learning what it meant for social justice.” said Maria Valentin Honrada, who served as PACE Head Coordinator from 1990-91. “So being part of that certainly was exciting and very eye-opening, but also scary at the same time.”
“I was head coordinator at the time of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,” shared Elaine Villasper-Dizon, former PACE Head Coord from 2004-05. “It was post-9/11 years, and the political situation was very much like the situation it is now — and it’s really the contributions, the sacrifices, the fight and struggle of youth and students, Filipino-Americans, like the ones that are filling this room today… that fights for what’s right, what’s just, and forges forward the kind of history and tomorrow that we really want to see.”
Like many other Filipino organizations in colleges across the country, PACE continues to be a rite of passage for many Fil-Am students in the Bay Area, through cultural productions and eventual graduation.
However, the students believe it is through their activism and education that the legacy of their organization will be preserved.
“Activism means not only the campus, but it means tying to the community as well. So they have an internship program that keeps things rolling,” said Prof. Daniel Gonzales from the SFSU Asian American Studies Dept. “You get new people in. The more experienced people train them, and they move out and start connecting with the community themselves.”
Current PACE members say that the need for activism and education is greater now, especially during the Trump and Duterte presidencies.
“Having political education so that we can learn about the different policies that Donald Trump and Duterte have… and how they’re affecting people,” said current PACE Head Coord. Samantha Mae Susa. “Because really understanding the political and social turmoil happening here and in the Philippines, will root us back to our history of resistance — and how we can work towards bettering ourselves in the future.”
While these former and past PACE members celebrate 50 years, they cannot wait to see what the organization will accomplish in the next 50.