The Southeast Asian American Student Association (SEAASA) will host its first soirée event, called "Temple in the Sky," on Apr. 23 at 5 p.m. in the Sahara Banquet Hall in Mesa to celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage Month, which ASU honors in April instead of May.
The event will consist of Southeast Asian cultural performances from groups, including a Cambodian dance group performance. The soirée will include a dinner featuring staple foods of Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, such as lumpia (Filipino egg rolls), Thai papaya salad and Lechon (roasted pig). The organization also plans to include cultural information to inform attendees of the unique elements of Southeast Asian culture.
"Because ASU is one of the largest public universities in the country, there's so much diversity here," said Angeli Sirilan, president of SEAASA and junior biomedical sciences and global health major. "It's really nice to be able to learn about those different people so that the more that we learn about other cultures, the better that we can be and the more understanding we can have about each other."
According to a University report, just under 8,869 Asians enrolled at ASU during the Fall 2021 semester, making up 6.5% of its student population.
Founded in 2018, SEASSA's mission is to promote cultural awareness of Southeast Asian culture at ASU and advocate for the often misrepresented communities of Southeast Asian Americans.
The organization seeks to educate the community about cultures that may not be the standard Asian cultures that are typically recognized. Southeast Asia consists of 11 countries: Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Daniel Gomez, SEAASA historian and a junior studying digital marketing, said Southeast Asian culture is often underrepresented. He said the event hopes to shed a light on the beauty of the culture and the unique aspects of Southeast Asian countries.
"Because a lot of these communities and cultures are not as publicized, a lot of people don’t know much about them," Gomez said. "This event is a great opportunity for us to capture these experiences and give people a glimpse into what each culture has and what makes it unique."
The event will be temple-themed, which SEAASA treasurer Xyrus Tamba said was done in hopes to emulate the significance of a temple as a place of gathering in Southeast Asian culture. SEAASA invites not only the Southeast Asian community but anyone who is interested in celebrating the culture of the community
"We're also a social club as well as a cultural club, so we want to make sure it's an inviting space to everyone — not just Southeast Asian students, but anyone who's interested in learning about culture or advocacy," said Tamba, a junior studying biomedical science. "Although it’s educational, it's also a celebration."
In addition to celebrating Asian Pacific Heritage Month, the celebration will function as the organization's end-of-the-year celebration. During the soirée, officers will announce the SEAASA members that will make up the 2022-2023 executive board.
Sirilan said SEAASA members have been working on the Temple in the Sky soirée for three years, after having to postpone in-person celebrations because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's going to be really exciting for us and our original founders for this idea to finally play out after so much hard work for so long," Sirilan said. "This is also a community that we don't really see a lot of representation for, so I think it'll be really meaningful for everyone to see."
Tickets are $25 for pre-order, $30 at the door for those over 12 years old, $10 for children 5 to 12, and free for anyone younger.
Sadie Buggle is a full-time reporter for the Community and Culture desk at The State Press. She was previously the editor-in-chief and news editor of her high school newspaper.