Simon Tam at TAMU-CC: A Reflection

by Cher Sintos 

On April 19, 2023, I attended a Distinguished Speaker event with author, musician, and activist Simon Tam. This event was offered under the Islander Cultural Alliance in the University Anchor Ballroom. His story is an unyielding battle as an Asian American to obtain freedom of expression and encourage discussions of our colorful identities. Calling himself an “Asian troublemaker,” he redefined filial piety, which is rooted in strict authoritarian and respectful obedience towards elders in the community. He fought against the Supreme Court to address systemic and institutional challenges by people of color, empowering Asian Americans and Native Americans to do the same. 

Simon Tam reminds me of my first few years post immigration. I felt that I did not belong. I had a thick Filipino accent, not accustomed to American food, and mannerisms. I had the mindset of “I have to fit in to be American.” Unlike Tam’s parents who did not mind his eccentric character, my parents pushed me to be American and to excel above my peers. They reminded me of their struggles to be in a new land for better opportunities for me and my brother. Like Tam, I was encouraged by my peers to master English to assimilate into mainstream culture. I did not accept my unique culture among a Hispanic and white majority in South Texas. I avoided the soy sauce and vinegar-laden Filipino foods, and consumed what my peers ate—tacos, lonches, burgers, horchata, and chamoy—all to blend in. I enjoyed these foods and grew a liking towards Mexican cuisine.

Tam pointed out that there is a lack of Asian representation during his time, which resonated with me. As a 12-year-old, I rarely saw Filipino classmates, teachers, and doctors in America. I felt that it would be harder for me to achieve a career in STEM because I saw no one that looked like me in STEM at the time. With this insecurity, I worked hard in middle school to show that I, a minority, can succeed academically. Numbers, I feel, gave me power. I felt empowered whenever I obtained good grades because to me, this meant that I would succeed in the hardest endeavors.

As I grew older, I saw more representation in the media and I learned to embrace my culture with open arms. I brought sinigang, daing, and tapsilog. These foods have pungent odors and I brought them regardless. As expected, I had some head turns and people pinching their noses. Some who were curious enough to ask what they were and what they tasted like. I shared with these curious individuals and they ended up liking my food. 

I learned to embrace my uniqueness with my Filipino food culture and customs. I learned that I can be authentically Filipino in my ways and an American if I choose confidence over insecurity. Simon Tam’s speech resonated with my upbringing and culture. I strive to continue advocating for marginalized populations by sharing my experiences and giving others a voice in the midst of the majority.


Cher Sintos is a premedical student at TAMU-CC and a current Associate Editor of The Windward Review. She was raised in South Texas, where she found her love for Mexican culture and cuisine and cultivated her interest in rural healthcare. An aspiring physician, she hopes to advocate for low-income, incarcerated, substance-abuse, and minority populations to provide affordable, quality, and culturally-sensitive care.

Cher Sintos