Filipino, non-Filipino graduates honored in P-Grad ceremony

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The Filipino American Student Association, looking to recognize graduates who are either themselves Filipino or simply have an interest in the Filipino culture, held its annual P-Grad graduation ceremony May 28 in the Grand Salon of the University Student Union.

Originally conceived in 1998 as a graduation ceremony exclusively for Filipino American students, the F.A.S.A.-sponsored ceremony now welcomes any student who has helped or shown interest in the Filipino community.

CSUN alumnus Moonie Lantion acted as master of ceremonies for the event, with Corky Pasquil, entrepreneur and creator of MyBarong.com, a commercial website featuring Filipino clothing and fashion, delivering the keynote speech.

In an effort to recruit students for the event, F.A.S.A. members sent out letters to every Filipino graduating senior at CSUN. Additionally, event organizers decided to open up this year’s event to non-Filipino students, including Chinwe Okezie, who is Nigerian.

Okezie has been a member of F.A.S.A. for four years, and was encouraged to participate in the ceremony by fellow members of the organization.

“I was a little hesitant (to participate) at first, because I’m not Filipino,” Okezie said. “But (F.A.S.A. members) encouraged me because I am part of the club, and am entitled to participate.”

Okezie also said it would be weird if she had not participated in the event, because she has been involved in F.A.S.A. for so long.

According to Adrienne Reyes, member of F.A.S.A. and a participant in the ceremony, Okezie also brought parts of her own culture to the event.

“(Chinwe Okezie) decided to walk during the (ceremony) wearing (elements of the) Nigerian flag to represent her own culture,” said Reyes.

Eight other graduates besides Okezie and Reyes — Jonelle Carbajal, Richard Dauz, Agnes Galvez, Conrad Garcia, Mike Lupid, Donald Pascual, Marcell Reyes and Darlenne Urbano — will participate in the recognition ceremony that couples graduation with a celebration of the Filipino culture.

Professor Allan Aquino, who participated in the first P-Grad ceremony at CSUN in 1998, said F.A.S.A. members from community colleges and trade schools are also allowed to participate in the P-Grad event along with CSUN graduates. Additionally, F.A.S.A. members have invited professors Glenn Omatsu, Enrique De La Cruz, and Aquino from the Asian American Studies Department.

Unlike a regular commencement ceremony that only allows a student to go to the stage to collect his or her diploma, the P-Grad event will give each of the graduates a few minutes to express their gratitude to friends, family and professors.

“The P-Grad (ceremony) is a very intimate experience for students and their families,” Aquino said.

P-Grad gives students an opportunity to discuss their own personal experiences and backgrounds, he said.

“The P-Grad ceremony gives Filipino American students an opportunity to honor academic achievements and celebrate cultural pride,” Reyes said. One way in which this could be accomplished, P-Grad organizers said, would be when participants sing both the national anthem of the Philippines and the United States during the event.