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An Interview with Amy Schemenauer
FAAWIS Board Member 2013-2014

An Interview With Amy Schemenauer
(Conducted by Roger Austria, a two-term FAAWIS Board Member)
 
Amy Schemenauer, an American woman of many talents, is an interesting person.  Married to Brian, she has been teaching at the Milwaukee Public Schools for the last sixteen years teaching three, four, and five year olds with severe special needs.  She takes pride in caring for small children.  (You have to be a child lover in order to take care of their special needs).


 
     Amy wears many hats:  she is a musician, poet, artist, computer geek, and calligrapher.  She also has a penchant for singing and dancing.  Her talents are not limited to the arts, she is also an avid Bible reader with an abiding faith in God, with an inclusive philosophy of "seeing the ways we are all alike, rather than the ways we are different."  The youngest in a family of four, she has one sister and two brothers.
 
     What makes Amy interesting is her deep interest in Filipino culture, its people and language making every effort to learn it.  Because of her deep interest in Filipino culture, Amy has been elected an honorary member of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association of Wisconsin.  She is now also a new member of the FAAWIS board.  You may recall that Amy sang the Philippine National Anthem in Tagalog during the annual picnic last summer and at other events.  She has also sang "Bayan Ko” on several occasions.
 
Following is the full interview.

1)  How did your interest in Filipino culture and the Filipinos develop?  What did you find in the Filipinos that made you decide to explore further Filipino custom, culture, mores, language, etc?

 
It is quite unique how I came to be amongst you.  It started when I was extremely ill, in the emergency room 2 years ago.  I was in need of an OBGYN, but didn't have one.  My regular doctor was called and he recommended one for me.  I went to that doctor who decided I would need surgery and since she doesn't operate she gave me a list of 5 doctor's names to choose from.  Dr. Jazmin Parcon was first on the list.  I chose her because she had the most experience and I liked the sound of her name.  I liked her and "hired" her.  I had the surgery and recovered remarkably well.  I have to say that there was something about Dr. Parcon that endeared me to her.  She touched my heart in a way that made me want to "give back".  So I researched her online and found the Philippine Center, the Free Clinic and Faawis.  (More on that later.)  I soon found myself perusing the websites of these organizations, looking at pictures, reading articles, etc.  I was very intrigued.  I then started looking up facts about the Philippines.  Like I have stated, I liked dabbling on the computer and web-surfing....it's kind of a hobby.  Also, since I'm a musician, I was interested in hearing what the Philippine National Anthem sounded like.  I found that clip they had on the Faawis website of Charice singing at a boxing match.  I fell in love with the melody right away....trying to learn the words and looking up translations.
     After my recovery I decided to make a gift of artwork for Dr. Parcon and I wanted to make it unique, just for her.  I had found out she spoke Tagalog (which I never heard of before!) and I started looking up Tagalog words....words I would later incorporate into my artwork/gift.  This fostered an intrigue, an interest in learning more of the language.  It was at that time I even got a Tagalog translator online to download on my computer.  Sometimes when I remember back to the beginning of my "Filipino" journey, I have a hard time understanding myself where my love for all things Filipino comes from.  I have to believe it comes from God....when I reflect back, I think I realize God had His hand in it and led me to your community.  At La Naval last year I had a lovely conversation with Jazmin Parcon and she wondered aloud to me if God meant for us to meet.  I told her that there was no doubt in my mind that that was true.  She than replied, "It was Providential!"
 
2)  How did you happen to get connected w/ the Philippine Center?
 
While researching Dr. Parcon online, I came across the Philippine Center and FMC, like I stated.  I wanted very much to give back some how, so I decided to send a donation to the FMC in Dr. Parcon's honor.
A couple months went by and the Lord prodded me again to send a donation, so I sent a second donation.  This was in June of 2011.  Three weeks later I received a phone call from Gerry Ramos inviting me to the PCCCF's Open House.  I guess they wanted to meet this stranger who was sending them money.  I attended, of course, and I met Gerry, Jojo, Dr. Violeta Singson and Linda Ramos.  Dr. Singson invited me to the FMC to check it out and I agreed.  I went to visit 2 weeks later and started volunteering on the spot.  I have been a regular volunteer ever since that first day.  I want to add here that I am extremely beholden to Dr. Singson, who immediately took me under her wing.  She helped me immensely with my Tagalog, and encouraged me to learn Filipino songs, the first one being Bayan Ko.  She gave me extra computer jobs to do and she fostered a friendship between us, even calling me her adopted daughter.  She helped me to integrate into the community, showing my talents off at FMC lunches, letting me sing and giving me alot of constructive criticism, which was invaluable to my learning the songs so quickly.  Without her support and help, I wouldn't know half of WHAT I know and I wouldn't know half of WHO I know.  I will be eternally grateful to her.  I am also utterly grateful to Jojo Ramos for her tutelage in Tagalog and help along the way.
 

3)  What do you find in Filipinos that is so unique that you don't find in other races?
 
I have always admired and respected the Asian culture for their family values.  I think the Filipino culture is unique in the area of hospitality and graciousness.  I find you to be an extremely warm and welcoming people.  I felt welcomed and accepted immediately, which has fostered in me a desire to learn more Filipino culture and to better myself.  I have read many Cultural books on the Philippines, which I have absorbed like a sponge.  I also was totally surprised to find out that Filipinos love to sing and dance, which is right up my alley.  It wasn't long before I realized I fit right in because of my own interests and hobbies.     
 
4)  What is your current occupation?
 
As I have stated in my Bio, I am a teacher in Milwaukee Public Schools.  At present I teach 3, 4 and 5 year olds with severe special needs, such as Autism, Down's Syndrome and severe ADHD. 
 
5)  Have you been to the Philippines?  If not, would you be interested in visiting the country and what do you expect to learn in the country?
 
No, I have not been to the Philippines, but I would absolutely love to go there.  If I ever get to go, I hope to visit many of the famous sights, including the University of the Philippines, of which I am an honorary member.  I would expect to learn much history and see first hand the "native" culture.  I want to learn more about your hero, Jose Rizal.  I would also expect to try all kinds of Filipino foods.  I wonder if they taste better over there than here?  I have heard the fruit is to "die for".  Hopefully some day, if God willing, I will be blessed enough to travel there.  It would be a dream come true to be able to try out my Tagalog skills on the locals!!  I would also very much like to visit the child I sponsor there.
 
 6)  Tell me about your family including your ancestry, siblings, etc.
 
I have been married to Brian Schemenauer for 25 years.  He is German-Russian by descent.  His maternal grandmother came from Siberia.  I am mainly Austrian/German, with some French and English mixed in.  We have one child, a daughter, Amanda, age 22.  She is a CNA still living at home.  I have absolutely no Filipino blood in my blood line.  My father is still living while my mother passed away 6 years ago.  I have 3 siblings.  A sister, Laurie, and two brothers, Mark and Tim.  I am the baby of the family.  I have 10 cousins, several aunts and uncles, 6 nephews, 1 niece and 1 great-nephew.  One interesting family tree fact....my paternal great-great grandfather invented the Murphy bed... you know, the bed that folds down from the wall?

Some follow-up questions:
1)  You said your paternal great, great grandfather invented the "Murphy bed."  Did he own the patent for the invention?

I actually do not know the answer to this question…..If he was still living, I would be able to ask him.  My grandfather was very proud of this fact and “bragged” about it often, but never mentioned if he had the patent.

2)    You indicated that your "dream is to visit the Philippines and see the girl you sponsor there."  Tell us more about this "sponsorship."


I sponsor a little girl from the Philippines, through the Save the Children Foundation.  Her name is Shemae and she is 9 years old.  She lives in the Caloocan area.  I write letters to her, send her cards and “special gifts” from time to time.  She also writes to me.  I can’t tell you how excited I get when I see that Philippines postmark in my mailbox!!  Sponsoring a child has always been a dream of mine and when I was finally able to do so, I felt there was no other choice for me than to choose a child from the Philippines.
   

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