Anna-Rhesa Versola

Anna-Rhesa Versola
Pittsboro, NC
b. Manila, Philippines

"I feel so strongly that we don't have enough of the voices of Asians and Asian Americans as part of American history."

"I remember having a group of black girls pulling on one arm and a group of white girls pulling on the other arm, saying that I had to choose. 'Was I black, or was I white?' That's all they knew."

"Whenever there was a big [Filipino] party, we drove a good way into North Raleigh to get there. Everybody knew everybody. . .There was always somebody in the yard either doing nunchucks or talking about the tinikling dance with the bamboo poles."

Anna-Rhesa Versola was born in Manila, Philippines, in 1965. The Versola family has a long-standing connection to the United States. Her grandfather, Leonardo Rosario Versola, was a Filipino scout with the US Army during WWII. He survived the Bataan Death March and a Japanese prison camp only to bleed to death from a bullet wound at Fort McKinley during the waning days of the war.  He was awarded numerous medals, including the Bronze Star. His widow, Raymunda Bolante Versola, used the U.S. military benefits she received to help support two generations of the Versola family. Rhesa's father, Manuel Bolante Versola, went to medical school in the Philippines and, in 1968, continued his medical training in the United States. Rhesa was three years old when she and her younger brother, Jun, accompanied their mother, Mila, to join Manuel in Brooklyn, NY.  Dr. Versola's medical training took them to Portsmouth, VA in 1969 and then Raleigh, NC in 1970. Dr. Versola and his family lived in staff housing on the Dorothea Dix campus. Two years later, Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in the Philippines, making it impossible to return to Manila. Rhesa's parents committed themselves to making the U.S. their permanent home. At that time, only a handful of Filipino families were in Raleigh. Rhesa remembers how little people knew of the Philippines. When her family moved to Fuquay-Varina, Rhesa was even more acutely aware of the challenge of growing up neither black nor white in a small town in "Tobacco Road."

Rhesa went on to earn a BA in Journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1987 and has a multidisciplinary master’s from Duke. She is a former newspaper reporter, clinical development director, and published author.  Today, Rhesa is a photographer and lives in Chatham County with her husband and two daughters. She is founder of Southern Mix and an active member of the UNC Alumni Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity.

Carolina Asia Center