The Kapwa (The Shared Self) Workshop
Community Impact Report
University of South Carolina - Upstate
The Kapwa (The Shared Self): Ako, Ikaw, Tayo (I, You, We) Workshop is a globally-themed group activity-based workshop that aims to educate the community about the Filipino indigenous culture, its adaptation (through the colonial period) and its manifestation in the present lives of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans. These topics are discussed in conjunction with other indigenous cultures to promote global awareness and connectedness. The workshop, developed by Nina Magpili-Smith and Polinpapilinho Katina with the help of volunteer facilitators, aims to heal and empower the Filipino, Filipino-American and global community by connecting the participants to the Filipino and other indigenous roots such as African and Native American.
The Kapwa Workshop, held on November 3, 2018, in Norfolk, Virginia was funded by The Pollination Project and organized by Intangibles in partnership with the Filipino American Student Association (FASA). This project provided an extraordinary journey for all individuals involved such as the organizers, facilitators, researchers, other volunteers and participants. The event accomplished more than what was anticipated. Although the organizers initially aimed to serve the youth in its first attempt to implement this project, the project ended up serving various community members from different backgrounds and age groups as it quickly garnered the support of the community. During the workshop, 10 volunteer facilitators/organizers and 38 participants (out of the 44 who signed up) attended the event. In addition, two individuals also provided their services voluntarily during the workshop preparations although they were unable to attend the workshop itself. Several participants commented that the workshop appealed to all ages. One participant and community leader wrote, “Hope you're out celebrating tonight! Congratulations and Well Done! Just wanted to say thank you again for putting the event together today. It was really well thought out and executed, and great for the kids...and the non-kids. Looking forward to next year!” In addition, another participant wrote, “. . . And ya it was great. . . It preaches to all ages.” As a result, the project successfully attained the target of 50 people. More importantly, the workshop sessions became more meaningful as intergenerational and intercultural conversations transpired.
The following are some of the highlights. In the beginning, during the first general assembly session, the participants were a little shy because many of them didn’t know each other. As the day progressed, they warmed up to each other, the facilitators and the organizers. One participant shared, “It was honestly kinda rough in the beginning but it got better after lunch. . . Like, in the beginning I think it would’ve been better if we all grouped up and got to know each other. Then later on separate us and bring us closer together.“ In spite of this, they enthusiastically listened to presentations and engaged in activities such as writing their name in baybayin, a Filipino indigenous alphabet, meeting their own randomly assigned barkada, a circle of friends, and watching a video showing the practice of bayanihan, a sense of shared community that lends support to its members. Even though their initial experience was understandable, it was not alarming since the workshop was designed to encourage them to get to know one another as the day progressed.
After the first general assembly, the participants were split into four groups that rotated among four breakout rooms, each with assigned facilitators. One of the first breakout sessions, facilitated by Nina Magpili-Smith, was the dignity session. After she gave her presentation, the participants engaged in a modified step-in circle activity where they entered an imaginary circle if they could relate to a statement connected to colonial mentality and experiences of discrimination in the Philippines and the U.S. During the activity, the old and the young shared their own experiences of struggles and thoughts on how to overcome them. Hearing the stories of each person was a revelation to both sides. Participants who are not of Filipino descent viewed the session as very eye-opening. One participant said “There is one session I would like to focus on in particular and mention; that being the “Dignity” session. Towards the end of the session, the members of our group stood in a circle, and were asked questions regarding how others truly felt about being Filipino. As I was listening to others experiences about being Filipino, and others sharing stories; I felt more connected within our group. The environment was very open, relaxed, and ensuring. As I mentioned previously, I am not of Filipino descent, and as friends around me shared their struggles, and strengths, not once did I feel that I didn’t belong, or it wasn’t my place to be in. Hearing others stories and opinions gave me another lens to view the world in, and helped me gain more knowledge about Filipino culture, and how much society can improve to make the world comfortable for everyone.” At the end of the session, a palpable sense of understanding and connection among the participants emerged. Throughout the workshop, the organizers and facilitators definitely strived to ensure a positive and welcoming atmosphere. Another participant noticed it as well. “It was a really fun experience and the environment was felt very open and not stressful. I am glad I had an opportunity to experience such a great culture!” Moreover, one of the participants added, “Despite not being of Filipino heritage, I felt such a warm and inviting atmosphere around me throughout the day. The staff at the event were so kind, and welcoming, as well as others who attended the event.”
During the Respect for Elders session, the participants learned about intergenerational gap and conflict. There was engagement from participants of all ages, especially during the role-playing activity. One of the young participants shared, “It was enjoyable. I personally like the respect (for) elders workshop because we all can relate to it. .” Another participant wrote, “The. . respecting elders (session). . . really shined a light on the generation difference and made us align with why elders are the way they are. The activity was relevant to the other because they are at the age where discipline is not logical to them. The questions raised afterwards during open discussion really connected to me. . .” One of the adult participants who is also a community leader posted in social media (Facebook) with accompanying pictures that highlighted the value of intergenerational learning, “Getting schooled by our future. We've come a long way since 1971.” During the environmentalism session, many participants learned about the sacred relationship of the indigenous peoples with the environment and their important role in preserving the environment today. They also showcased their creativity and love for nature by using recyclable materials to make a miniature nipa hut (bahay kubo), a traditional Filipino house that persists in nature. One participant wrote, “The next was the crafts activity. . .the hands on part was really fun. . “ The workshop also highlighted environment-friendly practices by using booklets and banners that were made of recyclable materials as well as plates, forks, spoons and cups (during lunch) that were biodegradable. During the spirituality session, many learned about Filipino spiritual and folk beliefs. The participants engaged in a charades activity in which they acted out various Filipino indigenous Gods and Goddesses. One participant wrote, “The last activity was the gods and superstitions activity. That made so much sense and very clear. I never knew why Filipinos were so superstitious and why they talk to the forest before walking in.”
During the second general assembly at lunchtime, Nina gave a presentation related to hospitality and festivity. After the presentation, the audience was able to interact more with one another, especially since they were encouraged to extend their hospitality to others. One participant claimed, “The workshop was not only educational, it gave me the opportunity to meet and get to know the staff, and also befriend others outside from the Filipino Club at Tallwood high school.” The participants gathered around food during lunch that was sponsored by Felynn Oriental Restaurant and Ihaw Ihaw Filipino Cuisine. One of the participants wrote, “The lunch was good and the time span of it was extensive but great because everyone gets to let their guard down and get to know each other on a personal level.” One will also notice clothespins (containing social media info) that were distributed during the first general assembly clipped on the clothes of some participants. One participant shared, “I did love the pin idea. . . The pins were so great. That played a really big part in mingling because some people are shy to talk but interested enough to get to know someone.” During the closing general assembly, the participants were, among others, encouraged to continue learning about their culture as well as other cultures as an avenue to get to know themselves, make the most out of all worlds (Filipino, American and many others), connect with others and use their knowledge of the past to forge a bright future for them and their community. To highlight these lessons, one of the volunteer facilitators shared how she had used her knowledge to positively navigate her own life and community. Furthermore, one participant shared that her favorite topic from the workshop is the babaylans, who are indigenous Filipino spiritual healers. This feedback fits one of the themes of the workshop that is to heal the community. After the workshop ended, the camaraderie that evolved among the participants, facilitators and organizers inspired them to dance together spontaneously. It was definitely an uplifting experience.
Several participants claimed that the workshop helped them connect to their roots deeply. One participant shared, “. .honestly the workshop opened my eyes a little bit. I’m embracing my culture a lot more. Which is good because before I didn’t care.” The same participant further talked about the gap this workshop was designed to fill, in the first place, “. . .Then we switched to I think the history of the culture. Felt like a history class, which is good because we need the facts. Schools and our elders don’t talk about the aged history.” Another participant said, “I really enjoyed the workshop! I don’t think I’d really change anything that was taught since it all helped me better understand my roots.” One of the participants also mentioned that his new knowledge from the workshop will help him with his passion for writing stories about Filipino-inspired heroic characters.
Even participants who are not of Filipino descent commented that the workshop connected them to their own roots, too. One of the participants wrote, “Not being born in the States, I was able to relate on a couple aspects, and found it interesting that even though I may not be Filipino, I can still relate on topics. Personally, I found it interesting that I got to connect myself to my group, and make sense of what I learned.” One more participant said that he felt that even though he is not of Filipino descent, the workshop connected him to his own roots as well by learning about the Filipino and several other indigenous cultures. In addition, they also felt more connection to the Filipino culture and the global world. A participant wrote, “The KAPWA workshop . . . was definitely an experience to mark for the books. I learned many interesting aspects regarding the Filipino heritage. . .I learned a lot about the Filipino culture, history, language, values, and beliefs; and also learned what it meant to others to be Filipino. Furthermore, the workshop helped how we can explore the roots of Filipino culture, and help spread this beautiful culture to others . . and (I) felt more connected to the world. . .”
Overall, the participants had a great time and expressed gratefulness for being able to attend the workshop. One participant said, “The workshop was actually really important to me and it has made an impression on me. Thank you for creating this workshop! I hope there will be more in the future.” Another participant said, “Maraming Salamat po sa inyong Lahat (Thank you to all of you.) for the workshop - I had a lot of fun and learned so much from it.” One more participant said, “Of course, we appreciate all your hard work and the opportunity to participate in the workshop.’” Another participant added, “Thank you so much!! Thank you for providing this opportunity, I had such a great time!!” One of the participants also said, “Thank you! I completely loved the workshop. There isn’t really anything I would suggest everything flowed great.” In addition, one participant also complimented the booklet provided, “I do really appreciate the book. A lot of facts and very underappreciated. I know a lot went into making that book.” Others expressed their interest to participate in another event like this. One participant said, “Thank you for hosting the event and the experience. I would be interested to participate if there is another event like this.” Another participant conveyed, “If there is any way I can get a little more involved with what you’re doing, I would love to in my short amount of time. Anything to help because I believe in what is happening.” One more participant remarked, “The experience was such a success, and is something I’d definitely attend again, and I highly encourage others to join, being Filipino or not. . .I would like to thank all the staff members in making this opportunity possible, and allowing me to connect with others, and to feel connected to our world.”
Community leaders also shared their positive remarks about the workshop along with interest for possible future collaborations. One community leader said, “Great job to you Nina and your crew! After you decompress, I would love to sit down with you and plan the next one. . . Need to bring it to VB (Virginia Beach).“ Another community leader suggested the possibility to teach the curriculum to public high school teachers in Virginia Beach. One more stated, “That was an informative workshop. I am sure the participants found it educational. You have done a good job. . . If there is anything I can do in reference to your research or relevant to your work and my area of studies, please let me know.” One of them posted on Facebook, “Thanks Nina for your vision & determination to get this project done! Kudos to volunteers & all involved!” The same community leader also posted, “Great event! Wonderful learning experience! Blessed to this program for our community & wonderful volunteers who organized the event!” Another community leader messaged, “Great job today! I’m proud of all of you.”
The organizers also acknowledged and appreciated the constructive feedback they had received from the participants. For example, one participant asked for more hands-on activities. Another participant recommended, “. . .I think next time you should push us even further out of our comfort zone by dancing, because I would love to learn more about dance and the arts.” One more participant requested a longer closing/wrap-up session.
A valuable part of the workshop that contributed greatly to its success is the team of volunteer facilitators, many of whom were also volunteer organizers. They underwent two training sessions, one in-person on August 26, 2018 and another online depending on individual availabilities. Despite their busy schedules from studying and/or working full time, they contributed many ideas to improve the workshop, specifically with regard to finalizing the workshop curriculum, developing fun group activities and making creative powerpoint presentations. They also shared their positive feedback for the workshop. For example, one of the facilitators posted in Facebook, “Felt good this past weekend to help teach all these younglings about Filipino culture #kapwaworkshop . . . Special thanks to Nina Magpili-Smith for making this all possible.” Another facilitator also posted on Facebook, “As years went by, I became more and more interested in learning about where I come from. I’ve learned that the Filipino culture is so complex, and there is just so much to learn. From doing the Fifth grade Filipino club to joining FASA, I’ve learned to grasp the opportunities that allow me to dive more into my culture. Being a Filipino-American, I know that I have a unique heritage to be proud of but yet, I know only a smidge. I’m blessed to be working with such strong and intellectual individuals on this project!. . . We all know that the Philippines has had many influences from other cultures, but what about our indigenous roots? We go through the pre-colonial times and how those times have impacted our present lives.” One more facilitator wrote, “The Kapwa content was comprehensive and produced in an approachable, informative and participatory manner. She created an appealing environment that allowed participants to learn the realities of Colonization and Imperialism without alienating. She developed a curriculum that challenged participants to continue the work of self-discovery and self-education of their ethnic identity and heritage; her work also intended participants to take the information and apply it to works of good citizenry. I look forward to learning about her future projects and collaborating with Nina in the future!” The same facilitator also expressed that becoming a facilitator for the workshop provided a healing experience for her as she understood herself better through discovering her ancestral past. Another facilitator admired both the simplicity and depth (spanning from past to the present) of the curriculum that made it easier to connect the workshop to their own lives and experiences today. One more facilitator said, “I also want to thank you Ate Nina for inviting me to be a part of this event. I really had a lot of fun and learned a lot. If you do need any help in the future, let me know.”
The quantitative results from our research support the qualitative findings above. Using a one-group pre- and post-test experimental design, we found that the workshop statistically significantly increased (𝛂 = 0.05, large effect sizes) ethnic identity, global identity, and three of the five facets of cultural psychological capital (agency, efficacy and optimism). The workshop also statistically significantly decreased (𝛂 = 0.05, medium to large effect sizes) three selected facets of colonial mentality (colonial debt, cultural shame and internalized inferiority). These statistically significant results were detected after adjusting for the false discovery rate. The results only applied to the participants, not the facilitators. This may be due to the small sample size of the facilitators. Overall, the results show evidence of the positive impact of the workshop in the healing and empowerment of the participants. The acquired experience, as well as data, can be used for further research and community empowerment.
In addition to the positive feedback received and the favorable outcome attained by the workshop, it opened many great opportunities and possibilities. It further awakened the interest and civic aspirations of many members of the community. For instance, a student from Tallwood high school will host her own workshop on April 6, 2019 based on the design and content of the Kapwa workshop, FANHS’ Fil-Am History Content Academy and her own research as part of her senior project at the Global Studies and World Languages Academy. Her project involves exploring Filipino historical and social issues as they relate to the youth and social media. Her plan of action consists of developing a workshop that would bring awareness of the issues to the students of Virginia Beach high schools and beyond in a fun and engaging way. Nina Magpili-Smith and four other Kapwa facilitators volunteered to help during her event. In addition, two other students have asked Nina Magpili-Smith for recommendation letters so they can engage in community service. Lastly, as mentioned previously, community leaders have also expressed their interest to collaborate in future projects.
This workshop definitely established networks and spurred motivations that would make further community action highly attainable. The recognition and acknowledgment for the people involved in this project took their work and mission to the next level that will let them serve the community even better. After the workshop’s success, the important job to advocate for and give voice to vulnerable individuals from all backgrounds has not ended. With the support of the grant from The Pollination Project, the workshop not only gave the community a place to share their voices and be heard, but also sparked experiences that showed how much this endeavor needs to be pursued. It also revealed the community’s collective resilience and strength and heightened their belief that great things can be achieved and challenges can be conquered together. Since all the individuals involved were volunteers who intend to help the community, this event can be considered a bayanihan practice in the modern era. Many participants, facilitators and community members who made this event successful continue to serve as inspirations to the community by contributing to society in their own ways and seeking ways to meaningfully work together. The workshop definitely served as a platform to shine and ignite their passion to make the community better for everyone.