Last April 28-29, I went to an overnight teambuilding activity for the Alliance of Filipino-Chinese Students (AFiCS) at Angeli’s Place in Tagaytay. This activity was attended by students from Chinese-Filipino organizations from five schools, namely Ateneo de Manila University’s Celadon, the University of the Philippines’ Chinese Students Association, the University of Santo Tomas’ Community of Achievers, De LaSalle University’s Englicom, and the University of Asia and the Pacific’s Fu. Obviously, majority of the attendees were Chinese-Filipino, although there were some non-Chinese-Filipino who participated.
Being a senior representative of Ateneo Celadon to AFiCS since last year, I already knew most of the other representatives from the other schools. Due to this, I was able to move around, and in a way, invade their personal space (haha) to observe them better.
Having participants from different schools and having a lot of new participants this year though, not everyone knew each other. Because of this, there was a noticeable divide among the participants.
At the beginning of the first day, when we were made to board two vans, people from the same school, especially those who were first time attendees, sat with each other. They were generally quiet, and only talked with their schoolmates. The senior representatives who already knew people from other schools were generally more talkative, but they would just speak with those they already know.
When participants were not with their college schoolmates, they usually hang around their high school friends. Because a lot of the participants came from prominent Chinese schools, it wasn’t unusual that most of them knew each other even from high school.
* In an unknown situation, people tend to look for something familiar. In this case, since a lot of the new participants are new to the whole experience of being in AFiCS, they tend to veer closer to what is familiar to them, their schoolmates, and also their former high school friends. This way, they form a group which they are comfortable with, so at least, even though they are in an unfamiliar situation, they will have friends who will ease their anxieties.
To further develop this observation, I also noticed that the groups these new participants formed had developed into cliques. Though in the activities, the participants were randomly divided into groups, after the program when everyone was free to do anything they wanted, these cliques were prevalent. It can be noticed that for example, Lasalle students stayed with fellow Lasallites while Ateneo students tend to stay with fellow Ateneans as both groups played card games, mahjong, etc. separately.
I noticed however that some people act as a “bridge” in order that two unfamiliar groups would meet each other. For example, when there are two groups, an Ateneo group and a Lasalle group, and a Lasallite and an Atenean were both from the same high school, they would act as a “bridge” so that the Ateneo group and the Lasalle group would converge into a bigger Ateneo-Lasalle group. A “bridge” would form between two bigger groups, and the cycle continues, until all the participants were part of the group which encompasses the entirety of the participants.
* Though at first we stick with people we are familiar with, we soon find out that it would be a waste to not venture out and meet new people. Though sometimes we are not extroverted enough to just approach strangers and befriend them, we make use of “bridges” so at least there would be a gradual transition from being strangers to being friends.
As a final note, I would like to talk about the non-Chinese-Filipino students who were present in the teambuilding activity. Not to be racist, but the name of the organization itself (Alliance of Filipino-Chinese Students) suggests that most, if not all, of its members should be Chinese-Filipino. Therefore, it might come as a surprise that there are quite a number of participants who are not Chinese-Filipino at all.
It might come as a bigger surprise that though some of participants are not Chinese-Filipino, this wasn’t noticed as much when it came to the bonding activities the whole group had. Race was not much of a factor as everyone played cards, board games and mahjong, even drank alcoholic beverages, told stories, and did all of the activities together.
* We come from different backgrounds, different cultures, different schools, and different ways of life. But we are all people regardless of all these differences. We therefore should respect these differences and acknowledge that these differences add color to our lives. In an alliance of Chinese-Filipino students, a group of non-Chinese-Filipinos are always a welcome addition, and this was evident in the teambuilding activity I had just attended.
On the way back to Manila, my seatmate in the van told me, “You know, this is why I like AFiCS. If you noticed, at the start, a lot of the people stuck with their schoolmates. But now we know each other regardless of schools. We are just one big AFiCS.”