November 11, 2021
In October, ReCollect/ReConnect Co-PI’s Ricky Punzalan and Deirdre de la Cruz were invited to speak as a part of Philippine Cultural Center of Michigan’s ’s Filipino American History Month series, and I was lucky enough to tag along.
The exterior of the PACCM building was unassuming, fitting in among the surrounding suburban sprawl. Upon entering, however, we were immediately greeted by a group of titas and invited to make ourselves at home. We ate classic Filipino dishes and drank coffee before the ceremonies and presentation began. I marveled at the elegant dresses many women wore, though plenty of us were dressed more casually. Unsurprisingly, the best dressed person of the afternoon was our very own Miss Philippines USA Detroit representative. I’ve learned that Filipino American celebrations often begin with the singing of both the American and Filipino national anthems, include feasts of food, and feature beauty queens. The PACCM event was certainly no exception!
Before our presentation, we asked for a show of hands for who was aware of the Philippine collections at UM and who had interacted with them. Of the 65 or so in attendance, ten people had heard of the collections and five had interacted with them. Ricky and Deirdre took half of the presentation each, going over the history of the collections, connections between UM and the Philippines, and a brief survey of the collections. There was a lengthy question and answer session after the presentation, as well as a survey asking for the audience members’ thoughts. We were curious if they would be interested in interacting with the collections and how. We also asked what part of the collection they were most interested in seeing.
Overwhelmingly, audience members wanted to visit the collections in person or have access digitally. Most of the audience was interested in seeing museum objects, archival and published materials, and photographs. We were also asked to develop educational materials or presentations for children. PACCM is home to Paaralang Pilipino, a Filipino language school for kids ages six and older. I talked to several community members who requested Reconnect-Recollect visit their classes and use the collections to teach about Filipino American history. As a member of the team, it was exciting to hear so many people were interested in our work, as well as the ideas they had for collaborating in the future.