Yes, I’m blogging again. Live-blogging, in fact, from Conference Within a Conference, which is essentially a meeting among all the Filipino student boards from various colleges in the Midwest. This meeting is taking place at the Midwest Fil-Am Summit, the newly renamed Midwest Association of Filipino Americans (MAFA) conference. The Filipino American Student Organization of the University of Wisconsin-Madison was kind enough to ask me to speak, and this year is a special one for me.
Ten years ago, I attended my first MAFA conference.
I’ll never forget it either. I was just a freshman, and it’s quite intimidating to travel to a different school when you still aren’t totally comfortable with the people from your own school. But a few other freshmen were down to go too, so off I went on the six hour drive from Champaign to the Ohio State University.
It was pretty overwhelming but inspiring. The upperclassmen were excited to meet up with their friends from OSU and Cincinnati, and I was amazed that they had connections this far away. Remember, this is before Facebook and Twitter (or even Friendster and Myspace) let us keep up with the daily activities of our long distance friends.
Even more so, this is before MAFA existed as an umbrella group. Schools would come together for conferences, learn and party it up, then go their separate ways. I still consider MAFA Conference 2005 the turning point for that.
I didn’t really maximize my time at my first MAFA; I basically followed the upperclassmen around the whole time. But I learned several things that I would apply over my next few years. Network with other schools, get to know the speakers and not just the students, and perhaps most importantly: get your freshmen to go.
It’s amazing to see how far the Midwest has come in that time, and I’m eternally grateful to be part of that. There are schools under MAFA that I never even knew had Filipino organizations. Seeing these current students talking about dues, leadership conferences, and donation drives makes me see how organized they are now, which I hope will churn out some great leaders for us in the “real world”.
Sure, I’ll admit - ten years is a long time. You would expect some things to change, but that’s never a given. It still requires creativity and initiative to continue evolving, and I fully expect MAFA boards and MFAS conferences to do that for decades to come.