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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

TXST FSA embraces diversity at competition

Photo Courtesy of Mark Regalado
JP De Vera and Rica Cunningham perform leading roles in Texas State FSA’s culture dance, Friday, March 8, 2024, at GoodPhil.

Editor’s note: The University Star gave incorrect photo courtesy in the print edition of this story published on Tuesday; March 19, 2024. The correct name is reflected in the online version of this story.

Texas State’s Filipino Student Association (FSA) competed in a series of cultural and athletic competitions at GoodPhil, this year’s largest Filipino competition in Texas.

FSA isn’t exclusive to Filipino students, and competitors of various backgrounds were encouraged to attend GoodPhil on March 8-11 in order to represent the culture.

GoodPhil brings a variety of sports, modern dances and cultural performances from schools across the state to celebrate Filipino culture. The competition had well over 10,000 students and numerous FSA members making their way to University of Texas at Arlington for a weekend of pride and representation.

Texas State’s FSA actively prepared for GoodPhil for the last two months to ensure its athletic and dance performances at the four-day competition brought both their school and culture pride.

Ella Pham, an exercise and sports science freshman, recounts almost daily practices and rehearsals, claiming the time and effort are necessary to represent her culture at an event of this caliber.

“I feel like a lot of cultures are lost sometimes in America and I think [Filipino] would be one of them,” Pham said. “[GoodPhil] kind of helps keep it alive.” 

FSA is always open to teaching Filipino culture to anyone, Filipino or not. Julia Vandagriff, an accounting senior and treasurer of FSA who isn’t Filipino, always encourages non-Filipino students to join the association as she did three years ago.

“I think it’s important to celebrate [other people’s] culture. It’s important to be culturally aware and learn as much as you can,” Vandagriff said. “I think everyone deserves a chance.”

Inclusion and diversity are key to FSA. Everyone in FSA is encouraged to be passionate about the culture and an active member in the organization and at GoodPhil. According to Farrah Balbuena, electrical engineering senior and external president of FSA, being accepting isn’t just important to the association but to Filipino culture everywhere.

“We’re welcoming and the point of Filipino culture really is to bring a sense of togetherness, a sense of home,” Balbeuna said. “That’s really important in my culture.”

At an event like this, FSA thinks the focus on celebrating culture can be lost in the spirit of competition. For Balbuena, there’s pressure to represent what’s truly important well. She wants to maintain the reputation Texas State has built up through focusing on culture whilst also being valid competitors. This is why the culture dance takes priority for them.

“Having the culture dance is really important in the sense of us being Filipinos and us remembering the reason of why we are doing all of this hard work,” Balbeuna said. “It’s definitely the most important thing.”

The competitors’ goal is to make those back home proud of their performance. Vandagriff said there’s a balance between the importance of winning for Texas State and proudly representing the Filipino culture, and that they aren’t mutually exclusive.

“Representing [culture] goes along with winning,” Vandagriff said. “Texas State is known as the underdog, so we really hope that we represent this year.”

FSA will find out results at a later date.

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