Where Did You Come From?: Eskwela Natin Filipino School

By Ben Duggan
Canberra, Australia

When I was younger I knew that my Mum’s parents were a little different. I called them Oma and Opa and understood they were from another place.

As I grew up I learned a little more about this ‘Holland’ that they came from and began to understand what all the wooden shoes were about, why there were ceramic windmills on their wall and where this strange language they spoke came from. I began to enjoy eating speculass biscuits from my Oma’s special tin, playing soccer or ‘football’ with my Opa and enjoying Dutch board games with my brother. However, I never really knew much about The Netherlands.

During my time in Sacramento, California, I was blessed to have met Dolores and Perry Diaz. They moved to the U.S. from the Philippines, have a few kids who live in America and are members of their local Philippines Lions Club [Maharlika Lions Club]. The Diaz family love their new country and are passionate about helping their community, but they also love where their home country and the culture they grew up with.

The passion Dolores and Perry have for their culture led them and a group of Filipino friends to set up a cultural school to help local children understand their heritage and the culture of their parents of grandparents soon. Inspired by the Chinese and Japanese cultural schools locally in Sacramento, they set up a Board and named the school ‘Eskwela Natin: Our Filipino School’.

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Founded in 2013, all local children are encouraged to participate but it is particularly relevant for those U.S. kids in Sacramento with Filipino heritage. In a ten week program, Eskwela Natin introduces and shares Filipino traditions, language, arts, cuisine, history and geography, to students through community classes taught by local Filipinos teachers.

The cultural school has also helped to build the ties of local Filipinos in the area, relying on the volunteer efforts of first generation Filipino-Americans including local parents, grandparents and other members of Filipino organisations. Eskwela Natin helps these volunteers to pass on their first-hand knowledge, students will leave each class with ways to easily adapt etiquette, language or general information about the Filipino heritage into their everyday living.

Last year Eskwela Natin had around 50 students and is hoping to improve on their numbers this year.

I absolutely love this initiative. I wish there had been a Dutch initiative like this as I grew up to help me value my own heritage. I was not lucky enough to learn Dutch and while it may not be an economically valuable language, I believe it is important for everyone to have a connection to their family’s past.

Families can only do so much to impart their history and culture to children. Organising in small community groups like this allows the teachers in a cultural community to use their skills to help provide lessons. Learning as a group can also help give children a shared identity and respect their past while helping them in the future.

It would be great if there were more cultural initiatives in our schools in Australia. Many do a great job and there are similar cultural school initiatives however talking with Dolores and Perry gave me a number of ideas.

It would be great to have elderly residents from many different backgrounds run multicultural days in our schools and perhaps even have one day where you could sign up to go to a school with various classes and activities based around a particular country or region. This would be easy to achieve in Canberra.

I feel like my Irish heritage is well covered so I’m looking forward to chatting with some Dutch friends and my Cousins to see what they think.

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Initiatives like Eskwela Natin keep culture, history and understanding alive. I thank them and their other Filipino friends for meeting with me and providing dinner to my friends and I from the International Visitor Leadership Program. Make sure you give them a like on Facebook! Thanks to the U.S. Embassy Canberra and the State Department for their support to meet with this great organisation.

Perry and Dolores host a dinner at the landmark Tower Cafe for visitors under the International Visitor Leadership Program of the Northern California World Trade Center last April 6, 2014. Shown from left to right are: Ching Crystal Chow (Hong Kong), Dolores Diaz, Didi Carrasco, Benjamin Patrick Duggan (Australia), Anh Ngoc Dang (Vietnam), Joe Carrasco, and Perry Diaz.

Perry and Dolores host a dinner at the landmark Tower Cafe for visitors under the International Visitor Leadership Program of the Northern California World Trade Center last April 6, 2014. Shown from left to right are: Ching Crystal Chow (Hong Kong), Dolores Diaz, Didi Carrasco, Benjamin Patrick Duggan (Australia), Anh Ngoc Dang (Vietnam), Joe Carrasco, and Perry Diaz.


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