Our Dream Boat
Photo Credit: Alan Descatamento
Symbol of Hope and Pride
The F.O.B. Project is an educational program that brings cultural pride and empowerment to the Filipino community through the building and sailing of a custom-made indigenous Filipino canoe. It will be a journey in reclaiming our roots and converting a traditionally derogatory insult towards immigrants, F.O.B. or “fresh off the boat,” into a symbol of pride and hope for the Filipino community.
What is the F.O.B. Project?
The F.O.B. Project aims to mobilize and revive the Filipino community by tapping into their cultural strengths, artistic and visual talents, and contributions around an ambitious and creative project of the building and sailing of an indigenous Filipino canoe.
Traditionally, schools have not served as sources of cultural knowledge, pride and empowerment for Filipino youth. Filipinos are an “invisible majority.” School curriculum generally lack representation of Filipino history, culture and content causing disconnect between student’s home and school culture. No current professional development programs exist in Hawaii that specifically assist teachers in knowing the cultural backgrounds of their Filipino students and developing culturally-relevant strategies to support their instruction.
The F.O.B. Project invites schools to be part of the solution. It targets Farrington High School, a school with a rich history of innovation, yet fraught with social, cultural and economic challenges. With its focus on teacher professional development of STEM and culture-based coursework, youth job training skills, and mentorship through the pride of constructing and sailing a Filipino boat, the F.O.B. Project impacts the social, cultural and academic lives of 1000 students. This is roughly 40% of the entire Farrington High School student population and 100% of the Filipino gangs on campus.
By creating partnerships among public education, community organizations and higher education, this project addresses three areas of need in the Filipino community: ethnic identity and pride, community empowerment and educational equity.
Why build a boat?
Change will only occur with big ideas and ambitious dreams. In order to reverse the negative trends in the Filipino community, we must think outside the box, propose creative solutions, and take action. Moved by Hokulea’s sail to Tahiti in 1976 which fostered Hawaiian renaissance and pride, Filipinos too, need to build and sail their own boat in order to navigate their own sense of community cultural revival and to inspire hope and change. Like Native Hawaiians who historically faced cultural and language denigration, Filipinos have been adversely affected by centuries of colonialism and discrimination. Filipinos need a symbol that helps us rediscover our Filipino roots, fosters community empowerment and pride, and ultimately inspires us to contribute to the betterment of society.
Historically speaking, the seafaring ancestry of all Pacific Islanders can be traced back to the Philippines. Thousands of years ago in Southeast Asia, innovations in traditional sailing technology were developed during the great diaspora of Austronesian peoples, whose voyages resulted in settlements as far east as Rapa Nui and as far west as Madagascar. While a connection to sailing and the sea is part of Filipinos’ ancient heritage, in the modern era Filipino immigrants have been losing touch with this important aspect of their cultural identity.
Though this project relies on reviving traditional knowledge, the seeds of hope and future potential lie with our youth. Yet, many Filipino youth in Hawaii are not proud to be Filipino. A stronger sense of cultural identity builds a foundation of self-worth that spreads into all facets of their lives. With troubling statistics showing Filipinos at risk in education, we need educational programs that are exciting, affirming, supporting, enriching, which promote family, school and community partnerships.
Building an indigenous boat will not only be a symbol of Filipino pride, but it creates multiple opportunities for teachers to tie culture into STEM education. According to multicultural scholar, Geneva Gay (2010), author of “Culturally Responsive Teaching: Research, Theory and Practice,” research has shown when academic knowledge and skills are framed within a cultural context of the students, learning is more meaningful, students maintain higher interest levels and show improved academic achievement. Additionally, numerous studies have provided evidence of the value of teaching from a STEM perspective. These studies indicate that project-based real-world problem solving in mathematics and science classrooms increases student motivation, engagement, and critical thinking skills. The powerful combination of culture and STEM education ultimately leads to increased academic achievement.
Furthermore, research has shown the importance of creating meaningful hands-on social activities for at-risk youth in schools. Fostering bridges between schooling and neighborhoods are crucial in reducing behavioral problems. Involvement in positive activities within and outside of school is believed to foster supportive social bonds, a sense of belonging and positive self-esteem.