The Gift of Barong: A Journey from Within
Comprehensive Unit

Grade Level

Secondary - Community College

Published

2013 (44 pages)

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 SPICE GIFTBARONGCVR 01

The Gift of Barong: A Journey from Within is a documentary about Dan Moreno and Jon Villar, two Filipino-American surfers who, growing up, were disassociated from their Filipino heritage. As adults, however, each has a personal experience that inspires them to question who they are, where their families come from, and why their families immigrated to the United States of America.

As a result, they decide to travel to the Philippines to try to connect with their country of descent. By conversing with local residents, interacting with the physical environment, and engaging in cultural traditions, Dan and Jon start to understand the Philippines' historical and contemporary triumphs and struggles. They likewise begin to explore what it means to them to be Filipino-American.

This unit uses Dan and Jon’s story as a platform to encourage conversations about identity, heritage, and immigration. Who is an “immigrant”? Why do people immigrate? What prevented Dan and Jon from learning about the Philippines or Filipino culture when they were growing up? Students examine these questions and more as they investigate the legacies and experiences of immigrants and their families in the U.S. 

Students are first asked to interview family members or individuals who can speak about their family immigration story. The students subsequently conduct in-depth research on the country of origin of his or her interviewee. Their findings are then connected with the film’s major themes. Next, students engage in activities that challenge them to analyze the role that memories, clothes, and even the physical environment plays in how identity is perceived by oneself and by others.

Besides these core activities, there are also several smaller ones that connect film quotes with contemporary issues like stereotyping and bilingual education in schools. As such, The Gift of Barong: A Journey from Within is not a documentary simply about finding one’s roots, but also about understanding and celebrating diverse cultures, traditions, and perspectives—a skill that is becoming increasingly necessary in our increasingly globalized world.

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