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Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law

October Spotlight: Filipino American History Month

Although Filipino-Americans are the second largest Asian American group in the United States, they are often overlooked in discussions about the Asian American community. October was recognized by Congress as Filipino-American History Month in 2009 in an effort to raise awareness.

Kyra Catanghal, a current second-year student, recalls growing up Filipino-American. "When I was in school, I was one of three Filipino students. We didn't learn much about Asian history, and what we learned was the equivalent of one paragraph that lumped all Asian people together as if we were all the same." It wasn't until college that Kyra began learning more about her Filipino culture. This research awakened a passion in her to understand more about herself and what she contributes to society.

"We live in a society where a lot of people bought into the idea of the 'model minority' and believe that Asian Americans are excelling and that as long as we work hard and keep our heads down, we will be accepted. The past year and a half has exposed this as a myth with the rise of anti-Asian sentiment."

Kyra is very proud to be Filipino-American. "I take this hyphenated identity very seriously and believe that I embody the values of both of my cultures. I am Filipino, which means that I believe strongly in community, loyalty, and taking care of others. I am American, which means I strive for more and to be better every day."

The law has great potential for Filipino-Americans. Kyra particularly sees how wills and trusts could have many implications for her community. "Filipinos have a lot of property and family members debating who gets what. Many don't have wills because it can be daunting to find a lawyer, especially one who doesn't understand the culture and why you may have certain desires for your property. Having more representation in this field would be good for Filipino-Americans because it speaks to the values of taking care of family for generations."

While she hopes to see more Filipino-American speakers at the law school (she has a particular hope to see Rob Banta, California's first Filipino-American Attorney General), Kyra has found the Filipino-American community at Caruso Law to be small but tight-knit. "For so long, I didn't feel like I belonged anywhere, but seeing and being around Filipino-Americans makes me feel like I deserve to be here, like I am just as capable of going through this rigorous education and being a great lawyer. Fellow students like Joe Castro and Bernadette Tuano have demonstrated community to me and made me feel less alone. I hope to do that for future students and lawyers."