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International Women's Day 2022: Maiella Hollander

Maiella Hollander is the Administrative and Budget Coordinator for the Center of International Programs at the University of Dayton. She previously served at the Women’s Center of the University of Dayton and at the Multi-ethnic Education and Engagement Center (MEC). She immigrated to the United States from the Philippines in 2016.

Tell us a little bit about your childhood and background. Reflect upon some intercultural experiences that influenced or helped to shape you over the years.

I had a carefree childhood. Our house was a very happy one. I remember playing outside, decorating, digging up flowers and running around in the open air. We always had to ask permission from our parents to play outside. Filipino culture is one that deeply respects elders and this made us quite sheltered. Elders and parents made many of the decisions for us.

In the Philippines there is a real mixture of cultures and influences: Chinese, Spanish and Latin and US culture. We were Catholic and my brothers and l went to Catholic schools and universities. We prayed novenas and rosaries as a show of faith. We threw parties or fiestas, and celebrated days of different saints such as San Juan, where we would throw buckets of water on people. Christmas lasted from September through Three Kings Day in January. Our childhood also revolved around delicious food both on regular days and particular foods on the holidays.

Our Catholicism was deeply influenced by Spain as we were colonized by them, but we would also listen to Latin music such as cha cha cha, merengue and even salsa. Chinese immigrants are abundant in the Philippines so we would also celebrate the Lunar New Year, practice Tai Chi and think about feng shui. US Influences also played a big role in culture, television, music and consumer goods. The Philippines is really a mix of influences that are local, from the US, Spain, Latin America, China and even other countries in Asia.

 However, traveling to the US and settling here was a game-changer. I had made quick visits in the past to Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia, but none of these experiences were the same as living in a completely different culture. I learned a great deal about many different immigrant cultures in the United States and how US culture differs from what we experienced in the Philippines. Moving to Ohio has been a gratifying and meaningful experience all around.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you? Has your identity as a woman helped to shape your life, work and connections with global learning?

International Women’s Day is immensely important. Women accomplish and contribute so much to the world, but we may often not take the time to give them credit for these contributions. I feel that women often do not seek out the limelight and are quietly fabulous. and this is why we need occasions such as International Women’s Day to celebrate women and bring awareness to what they do every day and how they make life better for those around them.

In Filipino culture, women are considered ilaw ng tahanan, a phrase in the Tagalog language, that loosely translates to “light of the home.” What it means is that women are the backbone of family and the home. Women manage the household, take care of the children, but beyond housework, in the Philippines, women are often expected to work and help manage finances. It is not uncommon for men to surrender their salaries to their wives to be managed in a central joint account between them. Women have equal decision making powers as the men when it comes to financial matters and either one can make minor financial decisions without consulting the other. It is common to have joint accounts between spouses.

Why is this important? Because women both have power and are under great pressure to take on leadership in families and in the home without always being recognized. They are powerful, but they are also sometimes forced to juggle too much. This can take a toll on their well-being and it is challenging to maintain your sanity with so many responsibilities on your shoulders.

Women don’t expect to be celebrated or praised, but I think they deserve the recognition. International Women’s Day is an opportunity for reflection and change to how these systems work.

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