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  August 26, 2002

'Silent Ethnic Community' to Find Voice
at Conference on Filipino Americans
By Allison Thompson

Although they are one of the largest Asian American communities in the country and have been in the United States since the 17th century, Filipino Americans are one of the country's least studied ethnic minority groups.

During a three-day conference beginning Friday, September 20, the University of Connecticut will bring together academics and community activists to discuss the culture, history and politics of Filipino Americans, often termed the silent ethnic community.

"Since coming to this country more than 400 years ago, Filipino Americans have made countless contributions to society. That, coupled with the fact that the Filipino American community is one of the fastest growing in the country, makes this a fitting time to have a conference focusing on this evolving and dynamic community," says Angela Rola, director of the Asian American Cultural Center, which is co-sponsoring the conference with the Asian American Studies Institute.

The Philippines were an American commonwealth until the 1940s, and that former colonial relationship continues to color the current relationship between the two nations, says Rola.

According to data from the 2000 U.S. Census, there are now nearly 2 million Filipino Americans in this country, making them one of the largest Asian American groups, second only to Chinese Americans. Nearly 8,000 Filipinos live in Connecticut.

The symposium, "(Re)presenting Filipino Americans," will feature more than a dozen panel discussions on topics including colonialism and nationalism, Filipinos and the U.S. government, the younger generation's reflections on identity, and Filipinos and the media.

The conference will also feature lectures by prominent Filipinos including Irene Natividad, the first Asian American ever to head a national political organization; Emil Guillermo, an author and journalist whose column appears in the San Francisco Chronicle; and Nikki Coseteng, a former two-term member of the Senate of the Philippines, who is known for vigilance against graft and corruption and for advocating for women's rights and environmental protection.

"Young Filipino Americans are trying to express what it's like to be Filipino in America," says Jeffrey Alton, a UConn undergraduate and member of the conference planning committee. "Many of the people who are coming to speak at the conference are living legends to my generation and can help us as we try to determine our identity."

Other conference highlights include a Filipino cuisine presentation; art exhibits at the William Benton Museum of Art and Homer Babbidge Library; an authors' coffeehouse featuring the works of Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Linda Ty-Casper and Ricco Siasoco; and a poetry slam hosted by New York poet Regie Cabico.

Major conference sponsors from the community include the Federation of Filipino Associations in Connecticut; New England Filipino Americans Inc.; and the Connecticut Association of Philippine Physicians.

The conference is open to the public. For more information, go to To register to attend, call 860.486.1052.

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