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Ray Buyco temperament as a leader as a lecturer at San José State and the chapter president were shaped by the devoted support of his mother and the prejudice he faced growing up in a largely white environment. Buyco’s mother had a degree in political science from the National University of the Philippines with hopes for a career all her own. However, her ability to assert her identity and agency was limited by the restrictions of tradition and hostility towards immigrants.
Under her tutelage and with the support of others in his life, Buyco developed his model of feminism and combating misogyny.
“I hear my mother in my decision-making. As much as my father was a part of my upbringing, my mother was much more influential. My commitment to equality comes directly from my mother’s experience,” Buyco said. “My feminist practice teaches me that my ego is not important.”
The CFA San José executive board is predominantly women. “There are strong female voices that are essential to our team here at CFA San José that I am accountable too. I think it makes me a stronger leader,” Buyco said. “It’s an ongoing process to continuously check myself. We have an adage in organizing here, ‘let people speak 80 percent of the time.’”
San José lecturer and campus vice president Karin Jeffrey works closely with Buyco.
“When I first met Ray a few years ago, I was immediately impressed by his dedication to student success and social justice. As our chapter President, Ray continues to impress me with his unfailing respect for others and appreciation of everyone’s efforts.” said Jeffrey. “He listens carefully to different viewpoints and responds thoughtfully. His strong, inclusive, non-reactive yet committed leadership style has helped me model those qualities for my students. And in these often-troubling political times, when it would be so easy to turn cynical, Ray helps me remember that we only lose if we give up!”
Effecting change in the classroom is also a priority for Buyco. “As a lecturer, I realized that I have a great opportunity to mentor and support young women in having the experiences and independence that my mother didn’t have.”
Looking forward, Buyco is concerned about the 2022 midterm elections and the participation of young people and, in particular, Filipino Americans.
“I’m doing everything I can to get their vote out. But it’s, they still don’t seem to understand the gravity of each of these elections. We could change the world if young people voted,” he said.
Buyco also recognizes that young people are offering tremendous leadership.
“I see with young Filipino Americans that they’re charting their own course. I’m learning from them as to the way forward. They’re leading somebody like me at the tail end of the baby boomer generation. They’re leading us to a brighter future regarding what the new Filipino American tradition can and should be,” Buyco said.
The American experience is a difficult one. Certainly, difficult for people of color and especially over the last few years for Asian Americans. These challenges have been formative, and Buyco believes they give people of color the necessary temperament to lead.
“I think that we are resilient. We learn from our experiences, and we have earned the right to be leaders in our community. If you’re asked to lead, say yes, say yes,” Buyco said. “We know how to lead. Our families taught us how to lead. Our experiences living in America have taught us how to lead.
“So, if the opportunity presents itself, take it and lead. Get your people together. Get your support together. We are qualified to lead and be strong voices for our communities and neighbors.”
Buyco faced harsh lessons about resiliency when his family moved to San José in the 1960s. As the only person of color in his kindergarten class, he was hazed relentlessly.
Frustrated and dejected, he announced to his mother that he wasn’t going to school anymore. Undeterred, Buyco’s mother walked him to school and saw what he was facing.
“She saw how they surrounded me, made fun of my eyes, the things that made me different,” Buyco remembered. “It was heartbreaking for her. But the way she grew up in the Philippines, the hardships she faced, she wanted me to have that armor.”
She instilled in him the belief that he could face prejudice and learn resilience.
Years have passed, and the memories are still vivid for Buyco. He insists that no one should face the prejudice and hazing he did; however, he knows that these experiences were formative and shaped the leader he has become.
The hazing only subsided when in the third grade, he punched one of his bullies. He was motivated by wanting the hazing to stop. Knowing a paddling was coming didn’t matter.
“That was a liberating moment for me. To stand up to that racism,” Buyco explained.
Sadly, the punishment wasn’t new. Buyco’s father was “big into corporal punishment. So, the paddling was nothing compared to the belt buckles and the violence that old-school Filipino fathers thought they needed to inflict on us.”
Like many of his generation, the lessons of masculinity were beaten into defenseless boys. He would later learn that not every father was like that, and he could choose a different path.
On the other hand, his mother instilled in him a sense of defiance and accountability to the people he is responsible to. As his San José state colleague and lecturer representative Sharmin Kahn explains: “I campaigned with Ray in our chapter elections last spring. I was very impressed by his sense of devotion to the union, his perseverance, his political acumen, and his steady temperament. He is just what our chapter needs now to bring people together and to work towards a common goal. Ray is a good listener and a consensus builder, evidenced in the way he runs meetings as well as interacts with both faculty and management. He works extremely hard to promote union priorities: decent wages, better working conditions, and social justice for all.”