Emory University hosted the first Georgia Filipino Student Association (FSA) Leadership Summit in the Emory Student Center on Feb. 26. FSA student leaders from five universities across Georgia — Emory, the University of Georgia, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Kennesaw State University (Ga.) and Mercer University (Ga.) — gathered to celebrate their community, Emory FSA President Danielle Mangabat (23C) said.

According to Mangabat, the overarching theme of the summit was Bayanihan, a Filipino custom derived from the word “bayan,” meaning nation, town or community. The term means “being in a bayan,” referring to the spirit of communal unity and cooperation to achieve a goal.

During the summit, students sat at tables with students from each of the five universities and participated in team building activities to build the best bayan.

Mangabat noted that she wanted to have the summit so that FSA leaders from different campuses can “really create a legacy together” and make sure “that the club stays running as a cultural hub and safe space for our Filipino American students.”

Leaders across the universities shared stories of what FSA means to each of them, Mangabat wrote. They also participated in workshops, such as Georgia Tech’s “Bulaklakan Dance Workshop,” and educational sessions facilitated by Filipino associations, including the Malaya Movement and the Filipino American National Historical Society of Georgia.

Co-president of the Filipino American National Historical Society of Georgia Alexandra Thomas, who spoke at the event, said in her speech that Filipino Americans have a long, untold history of building community.

“And so in their role at their FSAs, how are they building community?” she asked. “How are they building on the shoulders of our ancestors to continue to build and collaborate with each other?”

Mac Guintu (25C), one of the three emcees of the day, said the summit turned out “pretty well,” especially considering that “it is the first time Emory FSA is holding an event this big.”

Tiffany Garnace, who graduated from the University of Georgia in 2018 and participated in  their FSA, helped with logistics at the event. She said that she loved that each of the five schools were represented.

“It’s kind of like a testament to a population booming and just to be in these spaces for young Americans who may not have a space prior to going in, or just trying to reclaim their identities,” Garnace added.

Emory University hosted the first Georgia Filipino Student Association Leadership Summit in the Emory Student Center on Feb. 26. (Gabriella Lewis/Managing Editor)

Kennesaw State University FSA President Sophia Lonzanida added that everyone contributed to the event. She said that Mangabat was one of the main people to work on the event and she allowed students from the other schools to come to Emory and talk with her connections.

“We really just wanted to bring everyone together, show them we can all be close together in different schools,” Lonzanida said.

Mangabat received over $4,000 from Asian Americans Advancing Justice — AAJC, a nonprofit civil rights organization, to fund the event.

After former president Kino Maravillas (19C) graduated in spring 2019, Mangabat revamped Emory FSA in fall 2021. She independently recruited four new members in spring 2022. A year later, Emory FSA has grown into an association with 11 executive members and an average of 37 students at each event, according to Mangabat.

Mangabat was inspired to  reinvigorate FSA because she wanted to find community after the pandemic.

“I refounded the club in the fall of 2021, when I got back to campus, because I was really in need of seeking community after a really difficult pandemic,” Mangabat said. “And also, I really lacked the experience of connecting with other Filipino students during my freshman year, and I really wanted to create that community.

FSA founders at other schools observed a similar pattern of rapid growth.

Mercer FSA President and Founder Moriah Cabadin said that her association has hosted multiple successful events such as food and book stands.

“It’s our very first year on Mercer’s campus and I like to say that we’ve been doing pretty well so far,” Cabadin said.

Georgia Institute of Technology FSA President and Founder

emphasized the importance of community and family at the beginning stage of her association.

“When we were both freshmen, we actually only knew like five Filipinos total on campus,” Siopongco said. “So, I knew being an out-of-state student, it was really crazy to me to know that we didn’t really have a Filipino community or something to call home at Tech. So when I started [Georgia Tech] FSA, I really wanted to just establish and emphasize the idea of family.”

Mangabat expressed her amazement at the turnout of the summit and her commitment to further advancing Filipino cultural values.

“When I started Emory FSA in 2021, standing outside alone of Eagle Hall with a small trifold and Filipino snacks, I never imagined that I would have grown a tight-knit family Emory FSA and hosted a statewide FSA Summit,” Mangabat wrote. “As I continue to be an activist and conduct public service work after graduation, I vow to continue to make a safe and inclusive environment for fellow Filipinos, to advocate for our community on a local and national level and to spread education about important Filipino history and social justice issues.”

Update (3/3/23 at 6:48 p.m.): A previous version of this article stated that Danielle Mangabat (23C) received funding from Asian Americans Advancing Justice. In fact, the group’s name is Asian Americans Advancing Justice — AAJC.

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Sandy Ge (she/her) (23Ox, 25B) is from Shanghai, China, majoring in finance and quantitative sciences with an interest in a marketing role in the entertainment industry. Outside of the Wheel, Sandy is an Emory Student Admission Ambassador and also a part of Emory Impact Investment Group, eTV and Dooley's Player.