New Frontiers

Meet Rexy, SLE’s Director of Special Projects.

Although most people didn’t learn this in high school American History, the stories of my home country – the Philippines – and my adopted one – the US – have been tied together intimately since the start of the 20th century.


It’s been a complicated relationship, to say the least.

The Filipino experience has evolved to be one that’s fundamentally global and in constant conflict with itself: one that’s defined as much by a legacy of imbalance, dependence, and domination as it is by the wealth, infrastructure, and belief systems left over in imperialism’s wake – so crucial and deeply ingrained in our everyday now that it’s easy to forget they came from distant waters.  

We were America’s first colonial experiment, and today we continue to be the second largest immigrant population in the United States.  English is one of our official languages, and our education system gears us better for leading a new life in the States than for taking an active role in a self-sustaining local economy.  As history gives birth to aspiration, we find ourselves citizens of a nation where, in the words of the Filipino Reporter:

“The Filipino dream, to put it succinctly, is to leave the Philippines.”

Of course, in many universities, you wouldn’t know any of this from looking at their course listings.  At Brown, we in the Filipino community have had to craft our own independent class to make up for what the curriculum lacked.  In this kind of setting, not only are our stories invisible to the rest of campus; the cultural narratives that underpin our reality are hidden from us as well.  And when too many of us have already been living our lives under the assumption that our heritage isn’t worth close exploration, this neglect does nothing but nail a crooked message further in.

When a freshman named Chelsea decided to take it upon herself to share Tagalog through Brown Student Language Exchange, it was as much assurance – empowerment – as it was opportunity.  Seen through our angle, the change that SLE brings is as much self-discovery as it is the crossing of new frontiers.  It means the power to reclaim, through critical reflection, our identities and our voices and – yes – the language that we often feel compelled to abandon.  It’s only through this process – and through dialogue with curious minds outside our community – that real progress from marginalization and invisibility can be charted.

That’s why I’m here.

tumblr_inline_mvgxvlzeZs1s7s0qtRexy was born in the Philippines, moved to Cleveland in 2003, and spent the summer of 2012 in Rio de Janeiro: three places that continue to shape his understanding of life, possibility, and “the creation of a world in which it is easier to love.”  He is currently a senior at Brown University, where he works with SLE, the Social Innovation Initiative, and  the Kaya CollaborativeRead more about Rexy.