Ilongga features Filipino life to Washington D.C. students

The Maret School in Washington, D.C., made history by featuring the Philippines and its culture during their School Intensive Study Week.

Filipino American broadcast journalist and President/Founder of the Filipino American Cancer Care, Ms. Josie Moralidad Ziman, was selected as a special guest speaker on February 13, 2024.

This event marked the first time the school had highlighted the Philippines in their program. Known for its rigorous academic standards and commitment to diversity, Maret commands tuition fees for young children, ages 6-12, that can reach up to $50,000 a year, reflecting its dedication to providing a superior education and enriching experiences.

During her speech, Ms. Ziman shared her story of triumph over adversity, from her humble beginnings to her roles as the President/Founder of the Filipino American Cancer Care, White House Media Correspondent, and Member of the Foreign Press in America. She detailed the challenges she faced in her early years in the United States, where she undertook various jobs, from nanny to gardener, chef, and even a caretaker for three large dogs and a black bear, all to establish a life in America.

Throughout the week-long study, Maret students embarked on a cultural odyssey. They enjoyed the delightful flavors of halo-halo, a traditional Filipino dessert featuring shaved ice, evaporated milk, ube ice cream, and various tropical fruits.

Beyond culinary adventures, students engaged in the rich traditions of the Philippines through hands-on activities, practicing puni by weaving intricate paper stars reminiscent of coconut leaf weaving.

Under the guidance of Chef Patrice Cleary, owner of Purple Patch, they received an informative lesson on Filipino cuisine, uncovering the secrets of popular dishes. Cultural exposure continued with presentations by a Filipino student group from the University of Maryland, who performed traditional dances, bringing the essence of the Philippines to the forefront.

Students also participated in friendly competitions, playing traditional Filipino games like sungka, mahjong, and yo-yo. They took part in a Filipino language-learning bingo game known as Parehas. Emphasizing environmental conservation, students joined a discussion facilitated by, a global nonprofit organization, which underscored the significance of preserving marine biodiversity in the Philippines.

As the study week concluded, students had the chance to get creative by constructing and adorning a large cardboard jeepney, a symbol of Philippine public transportation. An assembly highlighting Philippine festivals allowed for further cultural immersion.

The week culminated in a traditional despedida party, complete with karaoke, face painting, and a feast of traditional foods and snacks.

Ms. Ziman underscored the importance of community service in her message, inspiring the students to take positive actions to improve the world. After hearing from Ms. Ziman, the students felt motivated, understanding that despite their youth, they have the power to effect change. That was their takeaway from the study week: exploring a new culture, trying new activities, and most importantly, learning to be kind and compassionate.

Photo Credits: Aaron Pray, Jan Andrada Lane, Marie Martinez Israelites, Mika Shannon, and Mary Carbone