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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Fil-Am Robin Aquilizan Inspired by Filipino Heroes to Fight Racism

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Robin Aquilizan, Fil-Am Student Fighting Racism Through “Pamana ng Lahi”

Most Filipino parents in the U.S. would get excited looks and animated reactions from their kids whenever they ask them about Captain America, Superman, or Spiderman.  However, these would quickly turn to quizzed looks if they ask them about Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, or Lapu Lapu. 

Who can blame them?

These kids have probably never seen a history book with pictures of legendary figures who look like them: brown-skinned with flat noses.

This was a problem that 21-year-old Robin Aquilizan had as she was growing up.  This is also something she is determined to face head-on and change for the next generation.  She believes that Filipino heroes are too great for Fil-Am children to forget.

Robin Aquilizan, spearheading a children’s book series

Aquilizan is an Asian American study major at the San Francisco State University.  Aside from her studies, she is also putting her focus on spearheading a children’s book series that will feature Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Gabriela Silang, and Lapu Lapu.

Does she know about these Filipino heroes who lived more than a hundred years ago and thousands of miles away? She knows that Lapu Lapu is the first in the archipelago to fight Spanish invaders led by Ferdinand Magellan.

She knows that Gabriela Silang led Filipino rebels against the Spaniards. She knows that Jose Rizal advocated for reform of Spanish rule, that Andres Bonifacio sparked a revolution that signaled the end of Spain in the Philippines.

(PHOTO: Image from an upcoming children’s book project #bayaniart)

Pamana ng Lahi

These are the things she wants Fil-AM children to know, which is why Aquilizan has launched a campaign to raise $30,000 for this undertaking. “Oftentimes, the stories of people of color, they’re never told,” she told Inquirer.net. “We never really learn about ourselves in schools. And through colonialism, that erases such a big part of our history.”

Racism all too real

Aquilizan first learned about Lapu Lapu when she was in high school.  They had a Philippine heritage studies class, and it is there when she found out about the Spanish rule over the Philippines, which lasted 300 years.

She said it was life-changing for her since it allowed her to see the impact of the Spanish rule which remains to this day. Particularly, she saw its effects when it comes to racism.

Robin admits that she hated being a Filipino when she was growing up. Being Filipino back then meant “being looked down upon, being dark-skinned.”

To benefit people of all colors

This is her prime motivation for why she wants to educate Fil-Am kids. The funds she will raise will be used to pay for printing children’s books about Filipino heroes, as well as paying for the writers, artists, and other creatives involved in the project.

While this project is mainly aimed at Filipino youth, Aquilizan says this will benefit people of all color and ages. “Even though it is a children’s book, even adults can really benefit from this.”

Aquilizan hopes that through God’s help and through this project, Filipino kids will never have to go through racism as she had once gone through. They can always be proud of who they are. 

Allan Joaquin
Allan Joaquin is a writer, copywriter, and digital marketing specialist. He belongs to a family with a handful of Fil-Americans who have not forgotten about their Filipino roots. Above all else, he values doing things the "write" way.

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