AAPI Heritage Month: A Glimpse into our People Making the Difference

May is Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month and this year’s theme is “Advancing Leaders Through Collaboration.” As the month comes to a close, we pay tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America’s history and are instrumental in its future success by spotlighting these MIL leaders who help our company thrive.

Amjad Farooq, Financial Analyst, and his family emigrated from the capital city of Pakistan, Islamabad via a Special Immigration Visa four years ago. He and his family enjoy making authentic Pakistani dishes such as Biryani, a dish made from aromatic rice, chicken, and spices and he is glad to see its popularity growing in mainstream America. His favorite traditions and holidays include the gathering of family during the fasting month leading up to the day of celebration called Eid. Amjad explains this day is analogous to Christmas in the Christian tradition. When asked what he would like others to remember most about his culture he stated he wanted others to know more about the rich history of Pakistani folklore, its museums, and its agricultural farming industry. Folklore in Pakistan can differ from the Northern region to the Southern region, but a key theme common to both is a universal one shared by many other cultures: forbidden love. One such prominent piece is the story of Heer and Ranjha and is similar to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Cherry Ung, Associate Program Analyst, moved to the United States from the Philippines with her family when she was eight years old. While she did not realize how important it was to understand her culture until many years later, as an adult she sees the crucial importance of embracing the language and the traditions of both her Filipino ancestry and the Vietnamese ancestry of her husband. Cherry mentioned that over 92% of Filipino households are of the Christian religion and hold the Christmas holiday to be near and dear to their traditions. However, according to Cherry, they take it to another level! Once the months end in -ber, it becomes acceptable for the Christmas celebrations to begin. Following the Western traditions of Santa Claus, tree decorations, and lights, Cherry’s favorite memories come from the multitude of fake trees (pines do not grow in the Philippines) and the extended time of focusing on family and of course, food! The tradition of Simbang Gabi is a time of nine to 12 days before Christmas where each night, Filipino Catholics go to mass and then have feasts, pot lucks, and festivities at the church afterwards.

Janice Ho, Business Development Director, is a Cambodian, Chinese, and Vietnamese descendant and has memories similar to Cherry. The holiday that means the most in Janice’s family is the Lunar New Year, where feasts and festivities play a critical role in celebrations. In each feast throughout the season, each dish carries a significant, symbolic meaning. For example, her family eats noodles for longevity while praying for luck and prosperity – a key theme in welcoming in the new year. While preparing for the new year, families clean the house from top to bottom, purge unwanted items, and wear new clothes. When the new year arrives, there are more feasts, fireworks, and great tributes to their ancestors where they burn incense which invites the ancestors to feast with them. Each celebration also includes the tradition of older relatives and friends giving red envelopes with money in them to children in their lives. Janice fondly remembers that it did not matter how much money was in the envelope, it was just exciting to get gifts from almost every adult you came across during that season.

Tharana Seddiq, Marketing and Communications Associate, is an Afghan descendant whose parents moved to the United States before she was born. Tharana’s cultural ties to Afghanistan’s traditions and customs were so strong that she did not speak English until she was school aged. She is still fluent in Pashto and her parents are fluent in English, Pashto, and Farsi. The biggest holiday in Tharana’s family is Eid which happens twice a year, after Ramadan. The three-day celebration varies from family to family, but always involves visits to the mosque, spending time with family, feasts, wearing new clothes, and elders giving children money. Additionally, Tharana shared how weddings are a bit different in her culture in that they last three to four days! Starting from the time of engagement, the bride is showered with gifts every few months. At the wedding, the bride wears a green (or white) dress, and the festivities last well into the early mornings. There are brunches, lunches, and then more festivities where the new bride and groom are celebrated by 300-400 of their closest friends and families—which is not an exaggeration given their family units are generally very large, with lots of brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles!

MIL is proud to celebrate the diversity of our team through our very unique backgrounds and perspectives and we hope you enjoyed meeting a few of our People Making the Difference!