UC Santa Barbara’s Filipinx-interest organization, Kapatirang Pilipino, won this year’s 36th annual Friendship Games on Oct. 17, bringing home the gold against 19 other Filipinx American student organizations across California, Nevada and Arizona. 

Photo Courtesy of Alizandra Mompar

The Friendship Games are the largest student-run Filipinx American event in the nation, run and held by Cal State University (CSU) Fullerton’s Filipinx-American Student Association. The school that demonstrates the most Spirit, Pride, Unity and Friendship (SPUF) is awarded an eight-foot-tall trophy. 

“SPUF is the big component because you get to see how other schools show off their school’s pride, and I think it shows a lot about the Filipino culture,” said Alizandra Mompar, second-year communication and bio-psychology double major and one of Kapatirang Pilipino’s (KP) co-social chair. “‘How does your school show off the Filipino pride?’ I think it’s really important because there’s a lot of creativity going around, and there’s a lot of freedom.”

Although usually held in-person at CSU Fullerton’s intramural fields, the competitions took place in a virtual format this year through posting tasks each day for competitors to complete on their Instagram page throughout the week of Oct. 10. Members of KP could send their submissions for each challenge to the organization’s Instagram account and were posted using the hashtag #FG36UCSB. 

Mompar didn’t expect a lot of participation in the games this year due to the online format, but was pleased by the amount of submissions that came in for each task, which included sending in pictures of members dressing as their organization’s theme, videos of physical activities and photos of their club family lines. 

“I know a lot of people are discouraged with participating when it comes to being online,” Mompar explained. “Starting off, it was really [challenging] to get everyone involved, but once we got the ball rolling, everyone was participating.”

“It kinda reminds me of our phrase, ‘isang bagsak,’” she said. “It’s like: one falls, we all fall. If one goes up, we all go up. I think that’s really what I saw with the participation, the victory this year.”

Second-year economics and accounting major and KP co-social chair Hjork Ocamp said the “spontaneous and fast-paced nature” of the games, especially the surprise tasks, encouraged participation through how quickly each member was responding to the challenges. He said winning felt surreal, but he wasn’t surprised because of the supportive community in KP.

“I think going back in-person [for classes] also sparked some excitement and willingness to take over and try to bring the trophy home,” he added. “After the pandemic, people were just missing all of the things that college has to offer, and what KP has to offer.”

Established in 1978, KP is UCSB’s largest Asian-Pacific Islander organization, dedicated to creating a space for the Filipinx community on campus by providing opportunities through social interaction that facilitates “political empowerment, Filipino/Filipina-American cultural and ethnic awareness and promotion of academic excellence at UCSB and its surrounding communities.”

Ocampo said joining KP was one of the best decisions he has ever made and feels like if he hadn’t, he wouldn’t be the person he is today. He said he felt welcomed with open arms and wants to continue to foster that kind of environment for other members.

“I think given this environment of Filipinx-Americans, I was very eager to showcase our culture and spirit. For me, it’s about finding that space that I never really had,” Ocampo said.

As KP’s social chairs, Mompar and Ocampo are dedicated to creating events for people to get to know each other and dedicate some time to becoming familiar with Filipino culture. 

“KP is a very tight knit community, and we try to embody that by creating these social events for people to get to know each other,” Mompar said. “I feel like it’s so much better when people are interacting with one another.”

“The victory [of Friendship Games] just screams ‘family,’” Mompar added. “It shows people are really coming out to show how much they like KP.”

Upon coming to college, Mompar met a lot of people who didn’t have a lot of cultural background and told her they felt they were straying away from it. She said she believed KP is about sharing a safe space for these communities and helping people reconnect with their culture.

“To me, it’s a place that’s just like home.”