In 2009, Filipino American History Month was officially recognized by Congress for the month of October. However, Montclair State University does not officially acknowledge this month, prompting Filipino-American students to resort to finding a student-led organization for festivities: the Montclair Unified Filipino American Student Association (MUFASA).
MUFASA serves as a cultural Recognized Student Organization (RSO) of Montclair’s Student Government Association (SGA), having been established to raise awareness of Filipino culture and to offer a welcoming environment for everyone, regardless of their backgrounds, to share their cultures.
MUFASA was founded by Aissa Sunga and Danielle Jose, and officially launched in the spring of 2013. It aims to provide a welcoming community for Filipino-Americans and other Montclair State students while promoting Filipino culture.
A typical general body meeting facilitates discussion amongst students about Filipino culture. Some discussions may be about Filipino identity, and whether or not members resonate with certain aspects of this identity. Outside of these meetings, MUFASA hosts fun activities for members to engage in. One example is MUFASA’s recent Game Night, where students participated in Filipino games for prizes including Filipino snacks.
The Unified Asian American Student Organization (UAASO) teamed up with MUFASA to participate in the 2023 Homecoming Student Performances as MU-AASO. This event featured a contest where MU-AASO, as the sole cultural RSOs, faced off against the fraternities and sororities of Montclair State.
Jo Villanueva, senior psychology and medical humanities major, is one of the performance chairs of MUFASA. Their role within this organization is to supervise various performances, including choreography for events. They describe the “homecoming experience” and how it can bring different people together in ways that last long after the event.
“When I first heard the news [that we were performing at homecoming], I was in shock,” Villanueva said. “I was absolutely surprised– my team and I only had six practices before the performance. My co-performance chair (Jeremy) had spent a total of 15 days to prep for the Homecoming showcase. We had worked so incredibly hard, and I have never been so proud to have created something in such little time. I claimed our prize with the biggest smile and big fat tears running down my face.”
Villanueva continued, emphasizing how they wanted to continue the tradition of making Homecoming an opportunity to forge strong relationships and construct a long-lasting community.
“It was such a fun experience last year to meet new people. I met my boyfriend because of Homecoming practices, I met my little there, I met almost all of my close friends during the practices,” Villanueva said. “Homecoming has a way of bringing people together; friends, families, alumni, etc. As performance chair, I wanted to create that feeling of unity and friendship between everyone just as the former PC’s did for me.”
Izzy Baculod, a freshman dance major, describes their experience in the Homecoming performance and how it intertwined their cultural and career interests in a way that helped them resonate with their community.
“Participating in the [Homecoming] performance was really fun,” Baculod said. “It was an opportunity that integrated my major and main interest (dance) with getting to know my Filipino community. And it was really fun seeing all the other organizations perform and show their creativity.”
Jeremy Malabuyoc, a junior illustration major, is another performance chair of MUFASA, working with Villanueva in order to produce fantastic performances such as the one that won Homecoming. Malabuyoc is ecstatic about the Homecoming experience and feels as though his work has paid off.
“I am so thankful for the Homecoming experience,” Malabuyoc said. “It was so amazing to see our skit was so well received. Me and Jo worked so hard to write and choreograph the whole thing together and to know people enjoyed means the world to me.”
This is not the first time MUFASA has shaken things up around Montclair State. Just this year during the spring semester, MUFASA came out on top in their very first intramural league basketball championship. The final score was 66-33, and was a valiant effort to put MUFASA on the map for the other intramural teams.
MUFASA also hosts an event called the Charity Ball, where proceeds are donated to an organization in need. This year, they raised 750 dollars for the Save Philippine Seas charity.
Malabuyoc is also representing MUFASA in another event titled Mr. PHL. During this event, Malabuyoc will be competing against representatives from other universities’ Filipino-American student organizations as part of a showcase of Filipino culture. This event includes a walk, where one gets to show off their personality and fashion, a talent section, where they display their capabilities and entertain the audience and a culture section, where they are asked a question and provide an answer regarding a cultural topic.
MUFASA hosts general body meetings every Wednesday at 4 p.m. in University Hall room 1060. To stay in touch with all that MUFASA does, follow @mufasa_msu on Instagram.