Student Profiles: Honoring Filipino American History Month at Foster, Part 1

Filipino American Heritage Month runs during the month of October. It commemorates the first recorded presence of Filipinos in the continental United States. This began during the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade era, from 1565 to 1815 when Spanish galleons crossed the Pacific between the Philippines and Mexico. Spanish explorer Pedro de Unamuno acted as the commander and landed in now-Morro Bay, California on October 18, 1587. The members of the landing party included indigenous Filipino men who worked as sailors but two days later Native Americans attacked the group, resulting in the killing of one Filipino person. To this date, this event is remembered as the first time people of Asian descent were in modern day California and continental U.S.

With more than 4 million Filipinos living in the United State, they are the second-largest Asian American group in the nation and third-largest ethnic group in California. Filipino American Heritage Month was recognized in October by the U.S. congress in 2009. Each year, this is recognized with a special theme and 2021 is “50 Years Since the First Young Filipino People’s Far West Convention.” This is related to the more than 300 young Filipino Americans who participated in the first Young Filipino People’s Far West Convention at Seattle University in 1971 which sparked the beginning of the Filipino American Movement. For more information please visit Filipino American National Historical Society.

In this 3 part series, we asked Foster students what Filipino culture means to them and how do they relate to it. First up we have Brent Aoude and Zharen Gonzales.

A picture of Brent Aoude

Brent Aoude, Foster MBA 2023

Brent Aoude

Where did you grow up?

Fresno, CA.

What did you do before pursuing your MBA?

I worked as a civil engineer in the aviation industry, designing airport infrastructure (runways, terminals, hangars).

What’s your cultural background?

I come from a mixed background. My mother is Filipino and immigrated to the US when she was 15. My father is Lebanese and immigrated to the US when he was 18.

How do you connect to your heritage?

My favorite way to connect to my heritage is through family potlucks. My mother comes from a large family (12 kids!), so I love hearing stories about growing up in the Philippines from my aunts and uncles and bonding over massive amounts of Filipino food, with my favorites being adobo, pancit, and sinigang*.

*Adobo: meat marinated and stewed with vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, and black pepper and served with rice.

Pancit: very thin stir-fried noodles with meat and vegetables such as chicken, pork, shrimp, celery, carrots, onions, garlic and cabbage.

Sinigang: this is a sour soup (and often termed “sour soup”) and is prepared with tamarind then with meat (beef, pork, or fish) and vegetables and served with rice.

What leader, cultural figure, or historical moment would you like to recognize during this month and why?

For Fil-Am History Month, I would like to recognize the efforts of Filipino healthcare workers, who have been on the frontlines of hospitals and emergency rooms during health crises.  Since the 1960’s, the largest percentage of immigrant healthcare workers and nurses have come from the Philippines. I think it is important to recognize them for their contributions and the impact they have made on healthcare in the US.


Zharen Gonzales

A picture of Zharen Gonzales

Zharen Gonzales, Foster MBA 2023

Where did you grow up?

Mountain View, CA and Baltimore County, MD.

What did you do before pursuing your MBA?

I was a senior financial accountant for a law firm.

What’s your cultural background?

I am a first generation Filipino-American. My mother is from Cainta and my father is from Quezon City. They met each other in the ‘80s in San Francisco.

How do you connect to your heritage?

Filipino food will always have a special place in my heart. My parents are wonderful cooks and gave me a deep appreciation for Filipino cuisine. I may not have been raised in the Philippines, but Filipino food just feels like home to me!

What leader, cultural figure, or historical moment would you like to recognize during this month and why?

I would like to recognize Carlos Bulosan, Filipino writer and author of “America is in the Heart”, one of the first published accounts of the Filipino immigrant experience in the US. Upon docking in Seattle in 1930, he chronicled the struggles that many immigrants still face to this day, including those pertaining to immigrant workers’ rights and racism. His work paints a vivid picture on the realities of the ‘American Dream’ and the significance of honoring your history and roots in pursuit of a better future.

For part 2 in the series click here. For part 3 click here.

To learn more about the Foster community, please reach out to our Student Ambassadors or Admissions Team.

Aarin Murray, Foster Class of 2022, and Christine Pham, Foster Class of 2022 and VP of Diversity at Foster, co-authored this post.


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