In 2008, I won the Chicago Community Trust Fellowship and I got the chance to go back to the Philippines. That trip changed my life. In 2010, I wanted to duplicate that life transforming experience to young Filipino Americans. I want to give them the gift of travel and give them opportunities to create sustainable projects. The idea was simple – encourage young Filipino Americans to visit the Philippines; know more about the culture; learn about the Bayanihan Foundation’s sustainable projects; and eventually they would develop their own sustainable projects. In 2015, after several tries, the NEXTGEN Travel Fellowship was finally up and running. On May 31, 2015 at the Bayanihan fundraiser, board member James Castillo announced the names of the NEXTGEN Fellows – Jane Baron, Marc Butiong and Jeselle Santiago. I was standing in the back of the room when I heard his announcement. I could not believe it. I am finally taking the NEXTGEN Fellows to the Philippines, a culmination of a long-term effort. That evening, NEXTGEN Fellow Jane Baron also shared her poem “The Color of Revolution.” She captured the essence of my own personal journey and why I’m passionate to make the NEXTGEN Travel Fellowship a reality.
Jane Baron shares her thoughts about being selected as a NEXTGEN Fellow, her upcoming trip to the Philippines and her own personal journey:
“Since immigrating to the United States, the Filipino culture is something I have always valued, but in order to feel accepted into the American culture, I forced myself to forget parts of my culture that were labeled as different. It was only recently that I started to become confident in expressing myself through my culture. By immersing myself in Filipino history and culture, I started to understand the internal oppression that I have faced and still face, and it also taught me to fully love myself. My poem, “The Color of Revolution,” represents how I have felt about being forced to forget my culture, and it also tells my hope of rediscovery in the future.
Being part of the NEXTGEN Fellowship and being surrounded by people who have similar beliefs makes me feel empowered to re-explore my culture. I believe that visiting my homeland will help me appreciate my heritage as well as remind me of my privilege. In going on this trip, I hope to rediscover how beautiful my culture is while doing sustainable projects in my homeland, make lasting relationships with the communities we visit, and continue working together to empower our community.”
Jane Baron shares her poem “The Color of Revolution”
I was 9 when they stole me away
from my mother’s garden
and chopped off my roots.
They chained my hands & feet
and squeezed my heart like clay.
My body was stripped of its
stuffed in a tiny luggage,
and checked-in for an 18-hour flight.
…A flight to the land of gold streets
…A land of endless opportunities
Any traces of ancestral blood that
dripped from my cuts were carefully
bleached to erase any clues
that would lead my mother
back to Me.
My skin was scrubbed & sanitized,
until the color faded
and blended in with their own thoughts of
They cut off my tongue,
sewed my lips shut,
so that the honey-like words
that my mother sang would
cause pain & shame.
My insides were cleansed & naturalized,
and my brain had its memories
beaten out of it.
…the rice fields with houses made of dried nipa leaves
…the rainbow of stars during the hot Christmas nights
…the streets flooded with flowers in February
…the community of brown familiar faces that nurtured my seed
All forgotten and stuffed in a caged box.
But my blue & bruised heart still attempts to fight for Freedom.
Hoping that one day…
my Skin will regain its normal color,
my Tongue will regrow
and my Soul will heal,
…more resilient than before,
…and sprout yellow roses,
…in the Color of Revolution.