Filipino American History Month: Ritchelle Alinsao

Photo of Ritchelle Alinsao

October is Filipino American History Month, which commemorates the first recorded presence of Filipinos in the continental United States. To learn more about Filipino culture, The Daily is putting the spotlight on Filipino American members of the Case Western Reserve University community to celebrate their accomplishments—and shed light on their experiences at CWRU.

Half of the people in Ritchelle Alinso’s family aren’t blood related. That’s because anyone in her culture is considered family—your family friends are your cousins, your mom’s coworker is your tita (aunt), and the elderly couple down the street are your lola (grandma) and lolo (grandpa). 

“Growing up, my parents were always proud to say that Filipino culture is centered on two things: family and food,” said Alinsao, who has family ties in the Philippines. “Family celebrations are truly a highlight of the culture, as the huge emphasis on celebration through food and parties bring us together.” 

When it came time to choose a career path, Alinsao found herself having long conversations with members of that family who are in the nursing field. She figured they’d know how she could apply her drive to help people—and they did. The only thing left to do was choose a university. 

After she learned about Case Western Reserve University’s nursing program, the connections she’d make, and opportunities she’d be afforded, Alinsao, who hails from New York City, made the jump from the East Coast. She’s now a fourth-year nursing student at Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing

“I’m happy with my decision,” Alinsao said, “and have found my favorite part [of my education] to be searching for the patient population I want to work with after graduation.”

A global campus

As Alinsao adjusted to living in a new place all by herself, the Filipino Student Union presented an opportunity for her to get involved and feel like she’s at her home away from home. 

“I’ve always looked forward to the events as it is a time to bond with others over our upbringings within our cultures and to introduce our friends to Filipino cuisine,” she said. 

When she was on the executive board of the student group, Alinsao often ran into people who felt it would be awkward to attend their events because they weren’t Filipino themselves—but the goal of the club is to share Filipino culture with the entire campus community. 

“The community is full of wonderful people who not only love to connect with those from similar backgrounds, but enjoy seeing others participating in our events and loving the food,” she explained. “Our heritage is something to be shared and to be proud of.” 

The next chapter

As she nears the end of her time at the university, Alinsao hopes to travel, take big risks, see family she hasn’t seen in years, visit the countryside—and try new food to nurture her soul before settling into her career. 

“Once I graduate, I want to be able to step away from the books and the constant thoughts about school and upcoming classes,” she said. “I hope to use this period of time to learn more about myself, what I like and don’t like, and go places I never considered visiting before.” 

Stay tuned to The Daily through Oct. 28 to learn about other Filipino American members of the Case Western Reserve University community.