"I heard about the FBANC scholarship for the Pinay Powerhouse 2 conference a couple of weeks before the event—the same weekend that I was supposed to use for my Legal Analysis Reading and Writing final. However, I already knew that PP2 was going to be amazing. After I applied, I received a call from Mari Bandoma, FBANC’s Executive Board Member and Treasurer. I tried my best to stay calm when she told me that FBANC was going to cover my registration for the event! I frantically started looking for flights and contacted FALS (Filipino American Law Society) at Santa Clara University to try and find my way down. Everything was set but unfortunately had to be canceled last minute. I knew I needed to make it, so I reached back out to Mari to see if there was a FB page or email I could contact to meet up with whoever else would be driving down.
I’m glad I did because I was able to meet and bond with some Filipinas that I would later have the pleasure to call my friends, but they were leaving a little earlier than I could. Still in the midst of finding my way down, I received another email from Mari saying that not only is FBANC covering my registration, but they are also providing an $80 stipend for my travel expenses! I couldn’t believe it and I booked my rental ASAP. This was my first drive to L.A. by myself, but I was determined. Even if it just meant I could be in the same room as these women, then that alone was worth the drive.
At the Friday evening mixer, I was already overwhelmed. I’m usually the first to go after the food, but here I was just stuck in awe. From the “Pinay Power” decorations set before an L.A. skyline sunset view, to seeing so many Filipina attorneys taking over the top floor of the Omni and of course, the unlimited Filipino food. My appetite shifted, however, into taking all of it in and taking pictures so I could show my family later! Because I’m the first in my family to attend law school, this was such a new experience for me. I was so grateful to see these powerhouse Filipina women in one place. However, the first night also gave me insight into how adversity can still exist after law school. I always thought that when I became an attorney that people would just…know and the discriminatory assumptions would just stop. It was comforting to understand that even these women—these powerful women—still face adversity. I wasn’t alone.
The Saturday part of the conference had so much in store for us also! I was able to learn that not only am I among other Filipina lawyers, but Judges too! I tried not to be too obvious at how amazed I was at each panel. I wouldn’t put my pen down because each of their stories, although similar, were so unique and had their own individual pieces of wisdom. I don’t have enough room to write down everything I learned and all my takeaways from the conference, but I do know that attending this conference honestly changed my life. Not only did I get to interact with some amazing attorneys, business women, mothers and even other students, but I learned so much about myself also.
I’m so thankful that I attended as a 1L because I now know that there’s a group of strong Filipina women who’ve paved the way and are here for support and encouragement. These women have already done so much more than simply crack the glass ceiling. They’ve all given us the shards as proof that it is possible to become whoever we want however we want to do it. Aside from the many business cards and phone numbers that I’ve been so grateful to walk away with, my favorite souvenir is the image of our representation in law. From watching everyone dance on Friday night and then turn around and show up at 8 A.M. in their suits and pumps, painted an image very loud and clear to me, “We are not your stereotype.” They were their own lawyers. They were their own image and we have the power to embody that image however we desire.
'We don’t only have a seat at this table. But we are here. This is OUR table,' was one of my favorite quotes said by Hildegarde Aguinaldo, a powerhouse attorney who also dedicates her life to serving on different committees. Shame on those who’ve mistaken us as the translator or court reporter but a huge thank you for empowering us to continue to prove you wrong. I’m not going to wait to pass the bar to be proud of who I am. Hearing how beautiful struggles have built the pillars for many of these powerhouse Filipinas has made me proud to be a law student. I get to say from visible proof that my struggle will eventually contribute to my success. I am blessed that I have a Filipina family, I have sisters, ate’s, aunties, and overall amazing role models who have accomplished so much and continue to overcome adversity on the daily.
I am so blessed and grateful to have had this opportunity from FBANC. If it wasn’t for their support and the support of Mari Bandoma, FBANC President Lorna Garcia and FBANC Advisory Board Members and Past Presidents Vanessa Candelaria, Christine Start, Billy Chan and Mark Punzalan, I wouldn’t have been able to have this experience. I greatly hope that FBANC continues to sponsor fellow students in the future. Thank you so much FBANC for this opportunity and I can’t wait to see you all again very soon."
– Joanna Padua