The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will now recognize October as Filipino Heritage and History Month, following a resolution passed by the district’s Board of Education this week.
Sponsored by Filipina American Frances Suavillo, who is the student member on the board, the resolution declares “Filipino Heritage and History Month starting October of the 2020-2021 school year and onward.”
The resolution, which was introduced in December 2019, was co-sponsored by all seven board members and passed unanimously during the board meeting on Tuesday, January 14.
“As a proud Filipina, I wanted to share our beautiful culture, a culture so rich with history and heritage, with everyone else. I noticed that my country never got the recognition I believe it truly deserves,” Suavillo, a senior at Carson Senior High School, told the Asian Journal in an email.
She added, “We’re only known for our boxing reign with Manny Pacquiao and the Miss Universe 2015 mishap but never for all that we offer. My hope is that with this resolution, the history and heritage of my people will be appreciated in the same way I appreciate it.”
Filipino American History Month has been celebrated nationally since 1992 as October marks the arrival of the first Filipinos who landed in Morro Bay, California on October 18, 1587.
The resolution also directs the superintendent to explore a dual language instruction in Tagalog and other major Filipino dialects to address the language needs of Filipino-speaking students and provide opportunities for students to “explore the historical and cultural aspects of the Filipino American community and of the Philippines.”
Schools in the district currently offer dual language instruction in English and Spanish, Korean, Mandarin, Arabic, Armenian or French, according to the LAUSD, which is considered the second-largest public school district in the nation.
Filipino students comprise 2.1% of the school district’s nearly 700,000 student population based on 2019-2020 enrollment data.
The observance Filipino Heritage and History this October will be up to each school in the district to implement, such as offering books by Filipino and Filipino American authors or having cultural displays, Suavillo suggested.
“Some schools with a large population of Filipino students, like my own school, Carson High School, even choose to have performances from their Filipino club,” she said.
Suavillo was sworn in as the student board member last September 2019, becoming the fifth representative since student participation on the board was revived in 2014.
Born in Tondo, Manila, the Pinay student moved to Southern California at the age of 9 and learned English while attending elementary school in the district. Because of this, helping the English Learner program is one of Suavillo’s priorities.
Under her role, Suavillo attends meetings and serves as the bridge between the board and the student population and can propose resolutions. She encouraged fellow Fil-Am students in the school district to engage with her leadership role.
“I love speaking to my fellow students about things that they feel passionate about,” Suavillo said.