If there’s one thing I learned from Mufasa as he was teaching Simba about the Pride Lands, it’s that life continues in a never-ending circle.
Within the college Circle of Life, we have delicately orchestrated trees of lineage that date back to the beginning of UC Davis itself. Most sororities, fraternities, religious groups, sports teams and ethnic-interest organizations have a family line that connects students from decades ago to the students who are here now.
Large organizations often have Big Sibling, Little Sibling programs in which returning members take newbies under their wing. “Bigs” teach “Littles” what’s what within the organization, bestowing as much knowledge as possible so that when the young ones have their own “Littles,” they can continue the tradition.
I have one such Little in Mga Kapatid (MK), an on-campus organization revolving around Filipino-American social and academic interests.
When I first started at Davis and joined MK, I looked up to my Big as an example of what a model student should be like. When he graduated, I had my own Little to show the ropes to. Even after I stopped being involved in MK and eventually lost touch with him, we reconnected over the weekend as if no time had passed.
Dale, my Little, has grown into a leader within the Filipino-American community at UC Davis. This past weekend I attended the Pilipino Empowerment Conference (PEC), a retreat out in Bodega Bay that my Little led and coordinated. It was nothing short of amazing. I even found out that I have some grand-Littles and great-grand-Littles!
Now after three years, my Little was the one who was teaching me. But he didn’t teach me about where the best places to eat in the Silo were or show me his favorite spot to nap in Shields Library. Instead, he gave me invaluable and irreplaceable knowledge about my ethnic heritage that he himself learned from his time at Davis.
He taught me and the rest of the participants the inspiring history of the Filipino people and, in a sense, opened my mind to a larger circle of life that I never took the time to look at.
I mean, who knew that the original people of the Philippines had a thriving matriarchal society with their own written language before the Spaniards colonized them? Who knew that Filipinos were the first Asians to come to America, and further, as slaves? And who knew that a Filipino-American named Larry Itliong was a main player along with Cesar Chavez in organizing the United Farm Workers to strike for higher wages — even though there’s no holiday named after him?
These are some of the things I would’ve never learned about myself or my people if I never had Dale as my Little Sibling. The whole college system of “Bigs and Littles” turns out not only to benefit young freshmen, but also the upperclassmen who decide to take them in as their little brother or sister.
I can trace my MK family tree all the way back to 20 years ago, and if any of them came back to campus and contacted me, even though I don’t know most of them personally, I’d probably welcome them with open arms. I haven’t even met my grand-Littles and great-grand-Littles, but I already know I’d like them.
Simply being a member of an organization on campus doesn’t compare to having a Little and a Big. This system gives one a deeper feeling of “being a part of something larger than yourself.”
It creates a bond between you, all the students in your lineage who came before you and all the ones who will come after. It enhances the experience of being in college and connects you to people even after you’ve graduated and started a career.
To all my Bigs and Littles out there, thank you for helping to shape my college experience and for teaching me a little something-something about my Filipino heritage.
JHUNEHL has a student family tree that dates back to the 1960s. Tell her about your organization’s lineage at firstname.lastname@example.org.