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How FACT’s Social Chairs Shape The Filipino American Experience At VCU

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

Filipino Americans Coming Together, also known as FACT, is a student-led organization that celebrates and promotes cultural unity. It’s a community that welcomes everyone, regardless of background, inviting them to join in the celebration of Filipino heritage.

With over 400 members, FACT’s leadership structure consists of an executive board, or e-board, featuring a president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. Parallel to the e-board is the council, a group of dedicated chairs each focusing on a specific aspect. Each position within FACT plays a crucial role in fostering a sense of unity and celebration. 

I remember stepping into FACT my second semester of freshman year, eager yet hesitant. I’ve always wanted to learn more about my Filipino American heritage and meet people who shared that piece of my identity. But honestly, I was too afraid to do so by myself. So, I convinced my best friend, Sarah Lee, to join me.

Sarah was my safety net. She was the one who got me out of my shell, encouraging me to meet new people and try new things. Without her, I never would’ve experienced the opportunities to connect with my culture and make new friends. Now, as juniors, I’ve watched Sarah blossom into an amazing leader within FACT. She’s taken on the role of one of FACT’s social chairs! 

“Being social chair has been such a roller coaster,” Lee said. “There were many hardships along the way, but it was so worth it in the end. In a way it was a blessing in disguise.” 

Social chair is a council position shared by two members who are responsible for organizing events that not only engage members but also enhance awareness and appreciation of Filipino culture. The two major events that are run by the Social Chairs are talent night and pageant. Additionally, they coordinate smaller events throughout the school year.

Recently, the social chairs pulled off the pageant, a competition featuring 12 contestants: six guys and six girls. They all competed for the titles of Mr. and Ms. FACT, which symbolizes becoming the face of FACT. Pageant consists of several rounds where FACT alumni serve as judges, bringing their experience and insight to the table as they assess the contestants.

Sarah and Syton Nontong, the dynamic duo of the Social Chair, have been planning since last summer for the pageant. From the very beginning, they shared a vision of going big — they wanted this year’s event to be a strong emphasis on celebrating Filipino culture. To bring this to life, they had each contestant represent a different province from the Philippines, showcasing Filipino values and ideas into the event. They also curated a playlist with tracks from Filipino artists for the dance segments and brought in Aloe Garden, a band formed by FACT members.  

Being Social Chair wasn’t easy for Sarah and Syton. In the early stages, they faced quite a bit of backlash for their ideas. Some people thought they couldn’t pull it off, thinking they had too high expectations. Sarah dealt with her share of rude comments. It got to the point where she felt like quitting because no one deserves to be treated that way. 

Sarah and Syton really put in the work for the pageant, clocking in between 10 and 20 hours weekly. They arranged everything from dance rehearsals to photoshoots and all the rehearsal times. And even created a Canva presentation with over 100 slides for the event, along with staying in constant touch with the venue coordinators. Also, they spent lots of time editing videos, sprucing up promo pics, and crafting the script for the emcees. Not only did Sarah and Syton guide the contestants through each segment of the competition, but they managed to keep up with their studies and other extracurriculars.

Although it was difficult and time-consuming for the both of them, it was a rewarding experience. They were able to further develop their skills, make new friends, watch each individual grow, and see how amazing their event turned out.

“I am grateful for FACT for giving me all these amazing opportunities. These are moments that have defined my college life and that I will remember forever. It makes me sad that my time in FACT is coming to an end, but that just shows that these memories I have made are that special. I hope that FACT continues to hold its value in friendship and love. I know if FACT has made such an impact on me, it has on others,” Lee said.

Jessica Holgado is a junior at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she studies public relations and professional writing and editing. This semester, she's taking on a new challenge as a first-time writer with HerCampus. Outside of academics, Holgado has a passion for traveling, working out, and taking photographs. She enjoys writing about pop culture, travel, and food.