One Tagalog Speech, One Inspiring Journey: How Two Filipino-American Students Embraced Their Heritage at a California Junior High Promotion Ceremony

Maria Ysabella Baetiong California Junior High Promotion Ceremony
Discover the inspiring story of two Filipino-American student leaders at Granger Jr. High School, who embraced their cultural heritage in moving promotion speeches. Read about Ysabella’s courageous choice to speak in Tagalog and Zen’s insightful journey as an Asian American. Screencaps of Zen (left) and Ysabella (right) delivering their speeches.

At Granger Jr. High School in National City, California, a unique twist in the 9th Grade Promotion speeches showcased the power of embracing cultural heritage. Filipino-American students Maria Ysabella Baetiong and Mischa Julizen “Zen” Esguerra took center stage, one speaking Tagalog, and the other sharing her enriching journey as an Asian.

Maria Ysabella Baetiong, who served as the Asian International Association (AIA) Social Activities Director at the school, boldly greeted the audience in Tagalog during her welcome speech.

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“Magandang hapon po. Ako ay si Ysabella mula sa bansang Pilipinas,” said Ysabella, translating to “Good afternoon. I am Ysabella from the country of the Philippines.” Born in Quezon City, she migrated to the United States when she was just seven years old. Her choice to speak Tagalog was made possible through the assistance of her Filipino-American teacher, Dulce Bautista, from Kawit, Cavite, who translated her speech from English to Filipino.

WATCH Ysabella deliver her Welcome Remarks in Tagalog here:

On the other hand, Mischa Julizen “Zen” Esguerra, the school’s Associate Student Body President, used her speech to reflect on her experiences as an Asian American. She acknowledged her Filipino subject teacher and AIA Advisor, Dulce Bautista, for encouraging her to step into leadership roles and proudly share her Asian heritage with the Granger community.

“Thank you, Ms. Bautista, for opening me up out of my shell and encouraging me to share my Asian heritage with Granger,” said Zen, who was born in Cavinti, Laguna in the Philippines and migrated to the United States when she was just two years old.

WATCH an excerpt of Zen’s speech here:

Their speeches were not just a celebration of their personal achievements, but also a tribute to the cultural diversity within Granger Jr. High School. As the young leaders embraced their Filipino heritage in different yet equally powerful ways, they set a commendable example for their peers, showing that heritage is a strength that should be celebrated.

By sharing their unique journeys, Ysabella and Zen exemplified the importance of cultural inclusivity in schools and demonstrated how embracing one’s heritage can foster a sense of unity and understanding in diverse societies.

SHARE THIS STORY to help other overseas Filipino youths showcase how they embrace their heritage even outside the Philippines!

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Angie is a self-confessed reformed news critic who vows she has finally found infinite value in delivering the good news. She teaches students of all ages how to make the important interesting for audiences across media platforms.