Student Profiles: Honoring Filipino American History Month at Foster, Part 3

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. In part 1, we had featured Brent Aoude and Zharen Gonzales and while part 2 profiled Jay Patacsil and Dominic Francesco Racelis. To wrap up the series we spoke to Jillian Santos and Eli Sponseller.


Jillian Santos

A picture of Jillian Santos, Foster MBA 2023

Jillian Santos, Foster MBA 2023

Where did you grow up?

San Jose, CA.

What did you do before pursuing your MBA?

Human resources for a fuel cell company.

What’s your cultural background?


How do you connect to your heritage?

Working my way through my mom’s recipes recently which were handed down from her father.

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

Maria Ressa! She’s a fierce and fearless  journalist who just co-received the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for her reporting critiquing the president of the Philippines and his ruthless anti-drug campaign.


Eli Sponseller

A picture of Eli Sponseller, Foster MBA 2022

Eli Sponseller, Foster MBA 2022

 Where did you grow up?

North Pole, Alaska.

 What did you do before pursuing your MBA?

I’m currently an active duty Coast Guard officer and prior to coming to Foster worked as a Construction Project Manager at the USCG Academy in New London, CT.

What’s your cultural background?

My mother is originally from the province of Batangas, Philippines and moved to the United States in her late 20’s. My father was born and raised in southern Michigan.

How do you connect to your heritage?

Although it would be easier if I were a native Tagalog speaker (or speaker of one of the other several languages of the Philippines), my family and the community where I grew up provided for tons of opportunities to connect to my heritage. Growing up, the primary way I connected was through events put on by our local Filipino-American Society – I was very lucky to be able to learn about and participate in traditional celebrations through holidays, picnics, or volunteer opportunities as part of the Fil-Am community.

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

This year is the 50th anniversary of the first Young Filipino People’s Far West Convention, which was an annual conference held in various cities (the first being Seattle) along the west coast that provided a space for young Filipino Americans to get together and raise awareness towards specific issues such as the rights of Filipino farmworkers. Larry Itliong was a trailblazer in this effort and fought for the rights of farmworkers in California alongside Cesar Chavez in the 1960’s.

I’d also like to recognize Filipino nurses in the United States who continue to provide care in the midst of COVID-19. Filipino nurses are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, accounting for over 20% of the total number of nurses that have succumbed to the disease while only making up around 4% of registered nurses in the U.S.

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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