Western Washington University’s Ethnic Student Center clubs are hosting Heritage Dinners, which are end of the year celebrations filled with food, performances and other forms of entertainment varying based on the club to build and celebrate their communities.
Latinx Student Union, Pacific Islander Student Association and Filipino-American Students’ Association will be the only clubs hosting the dinner this year compared to pre-COVID years when at least 10 clubs had one.
Planning for each dinner takes months and the club needs to fill out and get paperwork approved, find or prepare performances, work with catering, find a location, pick a theme and set up the venue.
The Filipino-American Student Association recently had its Heritage Dinner on May 7, the first dinner since the pandemic.
The title of the 27th dinner was “Kinabukasan Natin Ito: a New Chapter” meaning “this is our future” and the theme was a Philippine Eagle rising from flames and ashes. The club wanted to show that even after the lack of presence due to the pandemic, they can still come back even stronger and create a new chapter for their members, said fourth-year Therese Evangelista, the alliance representative for Filipino-American Students’ Association.
The club decided to find catering from outside Aramark and chose, Bry’s Filipino Cuisine, a local Filipino food truck for dinner. Rice, squash curry and pancit, a traditional Filipino noodle dish, was served.
The night also included a keynote speaker and a mixture of various dance groups and performances. The club’s own members and officers performed along with the club’s subgroup, Khemical Showdown.
Games were played before dinner and raffle baskets were given to the lucky winners at the end of the night. Proceeds from the baskets went towards typhoon relief in the Philippines.
The celebration eventually came to an end and the officer board stepped out together to give their final speeches of the night.
“The officers went on stage and we had mentions and thank you’s and [a reflection] on the significance of having [a Heritage Dinner] happen again,” Evangelista said. “How important it is for us, as a community, to stick together and to celebrate us and our presence here at Western.”
Although the Pacific Islander Student Association also has a heritage dinner, theirs will be on May 28 at the Performing Arts Center Plaza.
The club specifically chose May to host their Heritage Dinner to raise awareness about the community and confront the erasure of Pacific Islander identity, said fourth-year Dichela Ueki, co-chair of the Pacific Islander Student Association. May is also Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Catering for the Pacific Islander Student Association will come from the Filipino restaurant, That’s What I Like, where they will serve Kalua pork sliders, mac salad and other Pacific Islander dishes.
“The only thing we’re selling is the food, so anybody can come join and watch the dances,” said fourth-year Erica Antonio, events coordinator for Pacific Islander Student Association.
Raffling off prize baskets and performances will ensue as the night progresses, where the audience can watch a Siva Samoan and the main club executive board dance.
The performance of the Siva Samoan, a Samoan dance, was taught by Co-Chair Meilani Wilson and her mother taught the officer board. A hula dance was taught by public relations chair, Marie Hershberger.
“[Siva] means dance, and a big part of the Samoan Siva is that it is all about storytelling,” Antonio said. “It’s about asking others to join in with the dance, join in with the energy that we’re producing from the dance.”
The Latinx Student Union is having a Heritage Dinner on May 28 as well. However, they will be taking their own spin on the typical dinner by making it a two-part event.
The first part will be a market during the day, from 12-4 p.m., with a variety of foods and entertainment.
In addition to Western students, the Latinx Student Union invited Whatcom Community College and local high schools to attend the event.
Attendees can enjoy the food trucks like Mi Pueblito which sells Mexican food, and Antojos Mexico which sells candies and desserts that are local to Bellingham, third-year Jorge Campos Rodriguez, Latinx Student Union co-chair, said.
Outside the realm of food, there will be a guest speaker to discuss Latinx students in higher education and the importance of it. Interactive games will also be offered like Jenga and cornhole, and vendors will be present as well to sell jewelry, clothes and art, said Rodriguez.
The Latinx Student Union will have their own table to sell t-shirts and stickers at the event, one of the shirts they’ll be selling will be for the event with their logo on it, said first-year in the master's program Miguel Gonzalez Ramirez, co-chair for the Latinx Student Union.
The second part will be a dance from 8:30-10 p.m. located at the Multi-Purpose Room at Viking Union, where there is no formal dress code.
Both parts will be free admissions.
Clubs Activities Manager Jennifer Cook said these Heritage Dinners are important, as they showcase the cultures that are represented by the students on campus and allows students to experience the familiar feeling of home through music and celebration. Cook also said it gives those who aren’t familiar with that culture, an opportunity to be immersed in it.
“I think any opportunity that we're able to experience other cultures that are different than ours, as well as seeing cultures represented on campus is incredibly helpful to understanding that there's more to our worlds [and] to each other, and our intersecting identities than just being a student,” Cook said.
These opportunities that give students experience also give them a chance to become a part of a community, Cook said.
“I was part of the K-Pop dance [group] which allowed me to feel like I was part of the heritage dinner,” 2019 Heritage Dinner attendee, fourth-year Mo Lee, said. “It was fun seeing everyone perform and sing, so I hope people will have fun.”
Michelle Soi (she/her) is a reporter for The Front this quarter. She is currently a junior majoring in Communication Studies and minoring in Journalism Public Relations. During her down time she likes to go out and try new restaurants or cafes, drive around with her friends, watch anime and read mangas.
Her Instagram is @michellesoi