Harvard senior Jeromel Dela Rosa Lara immigrated with his mother from the Philippines to the U.S. in 2011. Lara studies social anthropology and the comparative study of religion. His thesis focuses on the experience of Filipina migrant domestic workers.
As a member of the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture marketing team, Lara arranged for Leni Robredo to visit the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology. Robredo is the former vice president of the Philippines and 2022 presidential candidate runner-up, the only female to pursue that role. Robredo was a Hauser Leader at Harvard Kennedy School.
Along with the curator for Oceanic Collections, Ingrid Ahlgren; associate archivist Marie Wasnock; and academic engagement coordinator Emily Pierce Rose, Lara helped gather materials from the museum’s Philippines collection for her visit, including the brass betel nut box (in photo below).
We asked him some questions about his life at Harvard.
Q: How did you become interested in what was to become your thesis project?
LARA: I come from a family of Filipino migrant workers. My grandfather was a seaman. My mother worked as a caregiver. I have other relatives who have worked as migrant workers across the world, and I have always been intrigued by the fact that the Philippines is the world’s largest exporter of laborers.
Q: Where did you complete your field work?
LARA: I studied, did fieldwork, and immersed myself within the Filipino migrant worker community in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. At least 96 percent of the more than 43,000 Filipino migrant workers in Jordan, and the region, are domestic workers, and almost always women.
Q: What was the outcome of your research?
LARA: I was able to present an ethnography of the religious experience of Filipina women domestic workers in Jordan, which is considered as part of the Holy Land of the Abrahamic traditions. I pose in my thesis that the ways female Filipina domestic workers congregate and perform ritual practices in the space of religion are part of how this community endures and practices caregiving.
Q: What does Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month mean to you?
LARA: We do not understand American history if we do not recognize that Filipinos have been in this part of the world before the United States was even created (look up “Louisiana Manila Men”).
There are more than 4 million Filipinos in this country and Filipino is the fourth most spoken language. I hope this month reminds us about the presence of these communities, as we take the time to learn from them.
Q: What other interests do you have on campus?
LARA: I am a peer concentration adviser in the Anthropology Department. I am available to first-generation and low-income (FGLI) students, and share my own journey.
I am also active at WHRB Radio and I was a reporter for the Harvard Crimson. I love photojournalism, film photography, and gardening.