Trying Halo-Halo in Metro Manila

By Roland Calupe

 Photo provided by Roland Calupe

Photo provided by Roland Calupe

If you haven’t heard of halo-halo before, it’s a Philippine shaved ice dessert that’s amazing to eat, and a great way to beat the heat and humidity in the summertime. The literal translation of halo-halo means “mix mix,” and it’s exactly that with the myriad of ingredients that are included in this tasty dessert.

On my trip to the Philippines in 2015, I tried some of the best versions of halo-halo in Metro Manila. Here are some of the most prominent ones from my trip:

 Photo provided by Roland Calupe

Photo provided by Roland Calupe

Razon’s of Guagua (Guagua, Pampanga) – The first Razon’s of Guagua opened in 2003, but it all started in Guagua, Pampanga in 1972. Today, Razon’s has grown to over 70+ stores around the Philippines! Their version is a purist’s dream of halo-halo. Besides the shaved ice and milk, there’s only 3 other ingredients: sweetened macapuno (young coconut), sweetened saba banana, and leche flan (custard with a caramel layer). This version just melts in your mouth, and it’s probably my favorite halo-halo!

 Photo provided by Roland Calupe

Photo provided by Roland Calupe

The Original Digman’s (Bacoor, Cavite) – My Dad’s family is from Cavite, and Digman is a barangay (barrio) of Bacoor. It’s actually really hard to go to the original Digman in Bacoor because the success and popularity of the original has spawned a multitude of other Digman’s Halo-Halo restaurants in the area. Some of the locals say that it dates back to the 1930s. This version of halo-halo contains a lot of ingredients, and is more consistent with what you may see at a Filipino restaurant in the U.S. It has saging na saba (saba banana), white beans, sago (starch from palm stems), garbanzo beans, red mung beans, nata de coco (jelly from fermented coconut water), jackfruit, sugar palm fruit, ube halaya (purple yam jam), red and white gulaman (fruit jellies), ube ice cream, and leche flan. All the ingredients come together with the ice and condensed milk to make a slushy-style halo-halo that you eat with a spoon, and drink straight from the glass it’s served in. All the ingredients are prepared fresh daily, and it makes their version of this dessert really come together.

 Photo provided by Roland Calupe

Photo provided by Roland Calupe

Milkyway Café (Makati City, Manila) – This version of halo-halo has similar ingredients to Digman’s but they have been an ice cream shop since the 1950s. Their halo-halo has leche flan, preserved fruits, ube, pinipig (toasted grains), and milk. You’ll really enjoy the flaky ice that they serve, as it goes perfectly with these ingredients. When you get it topped with their ice cream, it’s extra special. This easily could be anyone’s favorite version of halo-halo if they try it here first and decide never to go anywhere else!

Kabigting’s (Paralaya, Arayat, Pampanga) – Kabigting’s started in the 70s and their version of halo-halo has only a few ingredients: creamed corn, mashed white beans, and carabao’s milk pastillas (milk-based candies) along with extra finely shaved ice. As you can probably tell by now, ice is a big deal when it comes to halo-halo, and Kabigting might just have the best ice around. This version may be simple, but all the ingredients come together nicely. You can find Kabigting’s branches throughout Metro Manila these days, as they’ve expanded to several locations throughout the years.

 

 Photo provided by Roland Calupe

Photo provided by Roland Calupe

So if you ever get a chance to go to Manila, let me know which version you like and respond in the comments below!

Note from the BF team: If you’re ambitious and can’t get to a halo-halo spot, check out this article in Filipino Kitchen to try making it at home!


We’re always looking for BOSFilipinos blog writers / subjects! If you’d like to contribute or have a suggestions, feel free to send us a note: info@bosfilipinos.com.

Filipinos in Boston: An Interview with Volunteer Manager Jennifer “J.J.” Javier

By Trish Fontanilla

If you saw last month’s Filipinos in Boston interview, Christine Leider gave you a small hint of who we’d be covering this month. Thanks for the segway, Christine!

I was trying to remember how I first heard about Jennifer “J.J.” Javier so that I could do a proper introduction, but honestly, I think we’ve just been on a mutual friend’s personal Filipino meetup list, and never actually crossed paths (besides me looking her up after the last event). So last week JJ and I finally jumped on the phone to chat, and well here’s about a half of what we talked about. Don’t be surprised if her name comes up again in future blog posts!

 Photo provided by Jennifer Javier

Photo provided by Jennifer Javier


Where are you and your family from?
J.J.:
 I’m originally from Long Beach, California but my family moved around southern CA when I was growing up. So we lived in Long Beach for awhile, Riverside, and Irvine. However my parents are originally from the Philippines. My mom is from Manila, and my stepfather is from Cavite.

Where do you work and what do you do?
J.J.:
I work at 826 Boston, which is a youth writing and publishing center that serves underserved students by empowering them to find their voices and tell their stories. This way we can really uplift marginalized stories and voices, and also support students in gaining key communication skills. I manage the volunteer program here, which is about 700 volunteers across our different programs. Volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization, and do everything from tutoring to editing books to working on our physical space and more.

As I was researching you for this interview, I landed on your LinkedIn page and saw you had a degree in Criminology, Law, and Society. Can you walk me through a little of your journey, from getting a degree like that to moving into a program like City Year and then paving a path for yourself in nonprofits?
J.J.:
I decided to study criminology, law, and society because I was very interested in social justice. I really wanted to provide a level playing field for those that don’t have access to the privileges that other people have. I really wanted to work in that realm very early on. My parents, however, had a very strict route for me. They wanted me to have a more traditional role like a nurse or a doctor, and if I wasn’t going into medicine I better be going into something equally prestigious. So for a really long time I thought, maybe I’ll be a lawyer or a forensics psychologist. Neither of those things really interested me, but those were professions that pleased my parents at the time. Criminology was the core of all that. I loved the major though, and I don’t regret taking those classes at all. But I realized in year 4 (of 5) that I didn’t want to become a lawyer, even though I was on track to becoming one. I had taken the LSATs. I started to get references for different law schools. And then I freaked out and realized I couldn’t spend 3 more years living out a dream that wasn’t my own. So I decided to apply for a gap year program. I had heard about different programs through school like AmeriCorps, the Peace Corp, and City Year. I applied to City Year and chose Boston because I had never been to Boston before, and it was the farthest away I could get from California without leaving the country. I had to distance myself from my parents and their dreams for me. When I got into the City Year program, I joined with very little support from my family. I thought I would get some congratulations, but my mom was livid when I got accepted. She asked me how I was going to pay for everything, but I managed. So I did a year of City Year with the little I had in savings, and I found that I really love working with youth and civic engagement. City Year is dedicated to civic engagement, and shaping youth to become civic leaders. I really latched onto that because I think there’s something really beautiful about community service. You don’t have to have a degree, or look a certain way. All of that doesn’t matter when you are volunteering, you know, when you’re deciding to reserve some of your time to help others. And serving others looks different to different people. It can be a formal thing like beautifying a park, or it could be bringing dinner for a friend that’s in the hospital. The idea of taking care of one another needs to be fostered more in youth, despite who you are, or whether or not you have a degree, despite whether or not you speak English, or you’re this race or that. I wanted to get to the heart of that. And that’s why I’ve been on this path working towards social justice.

And so after City Year I worked at Cradles to Crayons, and then Tenacity for a few years managing their AmeriCorps program. I found my way to 826 Boston because of their focus on literacy, and their mission around lifting up marginalized youth. I used to read dozens of books growing up, and my mom used books as a way to learn English, so literacy hits close to home. Books really shaped me as a person.

 Photo provided by Jennifer Javier / JJ's sister, mother, JJ, and her stepfather

Photo provided by Jennifer Javier / JJ's sister, mother, JJ, and her stepfather

On Boston...

What are your favorite spots in Greater Boston:
J.J.:
 I love Shabu Zen, which is a hot pot place in Chinatown. And I really like Pho Pasteur, which is also in Chinatown. Boston does really well with pho options because of the awesome Vietnamese population. Bukhara in Jamaica Plain is a really great Indian place. If you love steak, I love Boston Chops for special occasions. I also love Merengue in Dorchester, which is a Dominican restaurant. It’s fantastic and they do a lot for the community.

What are some cool Boston-based nonprofits in the city that you think people should know about?
J.J.:
 Ah, there are so many really great nonprofits in the city. There’s an amazing nonprofit called Urban Improv which is in Jamaica Plain, but they also serve Boston Public School students. They use life skills in theater, so they do improv with students and talk about real life things like teen pregnancy, drugs, sexuality and things that people / parents are afraid to talk about. Through the program students learn to navigate those issues in a healthy way.

Another non-profit / organization is Haley House. They do a few different things. There’s a residency program, they have a cafe, job placement for people that have barriers to entry, as well as tutoring. I love them because they’re local, they help people with job skills, and they make awesome food and host events like poetry slams.

Another organization I want to plug is ASPIRE (Asian Sisters Participating in Reaching Excellence). During my early years in Boston, I made some really amazing friends through ASPIRE. They’re working on some really great programs.

On Filipino Food...

What's your all time favorite Filipino dish?
J.J.:
It’s impossible to name just one, but growing up I would always request mechado (tomato base beef stew). I have an aunt that makes it really well. When I was sick, I would ask my mom to make tinola (chicken soup). But I really love it all!  

What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?
J.J.:
I make afritada (chicken and vegetable dish with a tomato base) for friends that have never had Filipino food before. The first time I made afritada I looked at a recipe, but was like eh, so I called my mom. I used the recipe for measurements but got advice from my mom for ingredients.

 Photo provided by Jennifer Javier / JJ's sister (left) and JJ (right)

Photo provided by Jennifer Javier / JJ's sister (left) and JJ (right)

On staying in touch…

Do you have any upcoming events / programs that you want to highlight? Are there ways for our readers to get involved with 826?
J.J.:
Like I mentioned, volunteers are the lifeblood of 826, so we’re always looking for people to get involved. We hold information sessions twice a month (they have 2 info sessions coming up - August 8th and August 21st), both in person and remote. If anyone wants to help our students with writing, creative writing, storytelling, they can attend those info sessions.

Something really exciting that’s happening this year is that we’re opening up satellite writing center in the Boston International Newcomers Academy, which is a high school for immigrant students. All the students immigrated to Boston within the last 5 years, some within the last few months. The school’s amazing, and we’re excited to have a writing center there so we can work with them and publish some of their stories as well. If people want to get more involved with that project, they can also learn more at our info sessions.

How can people stay in touch?
J.J.:
If people want to get involved with 826 Boston, they can email me at jennifer@826boston.org, and they can follow 826 on Instagram, Facebook,and Twitter.


We’re always looking for BOSFilipinos blog writers / subjects! If you’d like to contribute or have a suggestions, feel free to send us a note: info@bosfilipinos.com.

Our One Year BOSFilipiversary

By Trish Fontanilla

BOSFilipinos One Year Anniversary

Wow. Can y’all believe it’s been a year? Since BOSFilipinos launched on July 7, 2017, we’ve:

Not too shabby for a completely volunteer-run org!

So thank you, thank you, thank you to the cheerleaders, the contributors, the social media-ers, the table sitters, the volunteers, all the amplifiers that shared the love with us and their networks, friends, and families. We wouldn’t have gotten through this year without your support!

Moving Forward

What’s next? Well, we’re looking to our Filipino community AND allies to help us expand and form even deeper connections to Greater Boston. As for the founding team, right now Leila is taking some time “off” to spend with her beautiful baby boy that graced us with his presence this month, and Bianca will be taking a step back from BF as she continues to focus on her blog and her fab new job. While they will be contributing where they can (Leila will be re-joining us towards the end of the year, and Bianca will continue to run Instagram), to make this next year even more impactful than the last, we’re going to need some passionate volunteers to help us level up BOSFilipinos’ presence around Greater Boston.

Volunteer positions (of all levels) include:

Writers - If you’ve got one great post that you’ve always wanted to write but didn’t know where to publish, or you’ve got a series of posts in mind, we’d love to hear your ideas. We’ll work with you to develop your content, and we’ll help edit your posts as well.

Editors - If you know how to properly use a semicolon and have a 1 or 2 hours each month to proofread posts, newsletters, and the like, we’d love to have you onboard to make our content snappier.

Event planners / helpers - This goes out to the people that have event ideas they’d like to execute on, and the folks that love meeting new people and want to rep BOSFilipinos at events.

Social media - For the Twitterers, Facebookers, and Instagrammers that want to help us run our feeds regularly, or do takeovers at events.

Partnerships / Sponsors - If you’re a connector that wants to help us form deeper relationships with Filipino orgs, Asian orgs, the city, and beyond to create both inclusive and expansive events, this shiny new volunteer role is for you!

Designers - If you love makin’ posters, flyers, and graphics to promote BOSFilipinos and help us illustrate our message through design… hiii, let’s talk.

Admins / Project Managers - For those detail-oriented folks that like to keep everyone in check!

We’re looking for all levels of experience.

And if you want to help and you don’t quite fit into any of the categories listed above (maybe you’re a creative, maybe you’ve just got feedback), feel free to write in anyway: info@bosfilipinos.com or fill out the volunteer form.

Thanks again to everyone for being such an amazing part of the BOSFilipinos community (yes, if you’re reading this, we’re talking to you!). We can’t wait to bring you even more awesome BFness in the year to come!


We’re always looking for BOSFilipinos blog writers / subjects! If you’d like to contribute or have a suggestions, feel free to send us a note: info@bosfilipinos.com.

Mind the Gap

By Sophie de Castro

Sophie is currently a high-school senior at The Winsor School in Boston. She started her food blog, @eatgooodfood, on Facebook and Instagram in her freshman year of high school and has since enjoyed sharing and reviewing food from all over the world, and engaging with the communities and people that her blog has allowed her to connect with. When not eating or posting about eating, she loves to play her saxophone or take photos. 


When I first started thinking about this post, I wanted to speak to the cultural and generational gaps I have experienced as a Filipina­ American who is growing up in the US and who visits the Philippines each year. However, my personal evaluation of my family members living in the Philippines sounded more like complaints and frustrations rather than a coherent post. So, I tried again. Fresh off my most recent annual trip to the islands and fighting off jet lag, I wrote down my thoughts on some of the gaps I see between my experiences in the US and in the Philippines.

 One of the best meals of the trip:  Bacolod chicken inasal  at Chicken House © Sophie de Castro

One of the best meals of the trip: Bacolod chicken inasal at Chicken House © Sophie de Castro

Ever since I can remember, I have always loved to travel. I love to try different types of food, learn about other cultures, and meet new people. But when it comes to experiencing new places that are also supposed to be quite significant to one’s identity, it’s a little different. For me, I get caught between seeing Filipino culture as an outsider and inheriting this culture as my own given Filipino ethnicity. Here are a few examples.

Titles

My Lola (grandma in Filipino) has been retired for at least 25 years, meaning she hasn’t practiced pediatrics in almost three decades. Nonetheless, people who know that she was a doctor, will always greet her with “Doctora” (doctor in Filipino). Likewise, if you were a lawyer, you are greeted as “Attorney” and if you were a Justice, you are greeted as “Judge.” Here in the US, at least in my experience, I’ve witnessed these terms used only to reference someone who is still practicing, and only in situations where the title seems relevant, such as when greeting a clinician in their office. In the Philippines, these terms are used partly out of respect and partly due to the high importance that many Filipinos associate with one’s accomplishments and titles. While in the US, a ­retired doctor may not be greeted by that title by just anybody, you may encounter teachers with PhDs that ask their students to call them by “Dr.” and even more often you may see the convention of listing degrees after one’s name on business cards or email signatures. So, maybe the obsession with titles is not all that different?

Mall Experience

 Bag check by armed guards at entrance to mall © Life and Travel in Philippines

Bag check by armed guards at entrance to mall © Life and Travel in Philippines

Now, try this situation. It’s lunchtime in the Philippines. You’re heading into a mall because when you’re in Quezon City or Metro Manila that’s really where most people hang out and eat. First, you notice a number of police officers with guns. Yes, armed guards in front of a shopping mall. Next, you get in a line for a quick security scan or pat down and open your bag for the guard to check it. Nope, we’re not at the airport, still at the mall. During all this, you’re thinking, “Wow, that was quite a lot of security just to enter a mall,” while also thinking, “Well, that was some pretty lax security.” In my experience, the armed guards are more likely to open the car door for you or offer an umbrella to shield you from the rain than they are to use their guns. The security scan or pat down barely covers your back, and there’s no need to unzip your bag fully for the bag check. I’ve been told that this greater presence of police and security is just for show, and it’s easier to pull off in the Philippines because people are cheaper to hire. Armed guards at mall entrances may not be what you are used to in the United States, but you’d be surprised how quickly you get used to them in the Philippines.

At this point, you’re walking around inside the mall. You look to your left, and you look to your right. Each and every restaurant that you pass will have an employee outside their respective establishment saying, “Good afternoon, po / Ma’am / Sir!” Again, you have these titles that reinforce the significance of hierarchy in Filipino culture. Appending “po” in a sentence is meant to show respect, while the titles “Ma’am,” and “Sir” are used out of respect, but more importantly, as an acknowledgement on the employees’ part that their job is to serve you. On the flip side, you may hear customers call for waiters by saying “Boss” instead of “Excuse me” as one may say in America. Although the waiter is obviously not the “Boss” of the restaurant, many Filipinos use this title as a way to “butter up” the waiter before they serve them. Similar exchanges in the US don’t often involve these explicit titles, but certain American manners and customs, like a waiter saying, “Hi, my name is [insert name] and I’ll be serving you today!”, may have the same effect as the titles.

Beauty Standards

 Skin whitening ad suggesting lighter skin makes one more “sosyal” (slang term for upper class) © Belo

Skin whitening ad suggesting lighter skin makes one more “sosyal” (slang term for upper class) © Belo

Lastly, a little on societal standards of beauty in the Philippines. Given that the Philippines is a very sunny place, it’s much easier to get a tan there than it may be in many parts of the US. And most Filipinos are just born naturally tan. However, Filipino stereotypes suggest that if you are darker, you must work on a farm or belong in a lower socio-economic class. So a lot of Filipinos aim to be whiter and paler. Interestingly, the craze in America is always about getting tanner. If you’re not tan, you didn’t go on a leisurely and expensive vacation to a sunny island. In a way, skin whitening cream in the Philippines could be paralleled to fake tanner in America. One always wants what they can’t get.

I’ve tried to make sense of my Filipino and American cultures in a way that makes them seem not so different. While I know that they are unique in their own ways, it can be comforting to see their similarities as I grow up trying to understand and balance the two. I love them both / mahal ko silang kapwa!


We’re always looking for BOSFilipinos blog writers / subjects! If you’d like to contribute or have a suggestions, feel free to send us a note: info@bosfilipinos.com.

Filipinos in Boston: An Interview with Professor and Researcher Christine Leider

By Trish Fontanilla

This month’s interview with Christine Leider is brought to you by the good ol' Twitterverse. I’ve never met Christine, but when I was scrolling through the BOSFilipinos Twitter feed a couple months ago, her account caught my eye: Filipina American and ate (Tagalog for older sister). I clicked through to her professor profile, and thought her work was super fascinating. I’m so thankful to Christine for taking time to do an interview with me, and I hope you all enjoy getting to know another awesome Filipino in Boston!

Dancing at Ketchikan Filipino Community Center.jpg

Where are you and your family from?
Christine: My family is Bisayan. Both of my parents are from Cebu; my mom is from Cebu City and my father is from Sogod. My siblings and I are second generation immigrants, born and raised in Ketchikan, which is an island in southeast Alaska. There is actually a relatively large Filipino population in my hometown; and my family has always been active with the Filipino Community Club. There’s a brief article that the This Filipino American Life podcast did about southeast Alaska, and when they reference Ketchikan they refer to Diaz Café – Ninang Clara is my godmother!

Where do you work and what do you do?
Christine
: I am a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Wheelock College of Education and Human Development at Boston University. I’m a former ESL teacher and my work as a teacher educator involves working with pre-service teachers who are preparing to teach bilingual and immigrant students in PK12 (pre-K to 12th grade) public schools. I also do research on bilingual and immigrant student language and literacy development. A lot of what I do centers on anti-racist perspectives and pedagogy and equity in education.  I feel really fortunate to love what I do. Working with teachers and students is my favorite.

What motivated you to center your work on bilingual education?
Christine: I think it’s a bit personal, growing up in an immigrant family. I wish I could speak Bisaya. We’d speak it when I was younger and I understand when I hear people speaking Bisaya and Tagalog, but I can’t really talk back as much as I would like. My parents really wanted me (and my siblings) to focus on English. English was viewed as the pathway to success. That’s actually quite common among many immigrant families in the US, and not unique to my own experience. Research and census data document an intergenerational language shift among many immigrant groups such that by the third generation, children are monolingual English speakers. Language is definitely a part of heritage and identity, and it’s so unfortunate that society pushes so much emphasis on English. I’m not saying English isn’t important, but students shouldn’t have to give up their home language for it. There’s a lot of misconception around language development and bilingualism – and of course the power associated with English dates back to colonialism. I could go on about this forever. Anyway, I love working in bilingual education because it’s about breaking down these misconceptions about language and bilingualism, empowering bilingual and immigrant students and families, and working with teachers and communities to better support culturally and linguistically diverse learners.

On Boston...

How long have you been in Boston?
Christine: I moved to Boston in 2008 to attend graduate school at Boston College. I think I “became” a Bostonian when I bought my first Red Sox hat in 2009. Or maybe in 2010 when I first met my now husband – he’s from the Boston area. To be honest, when I first moved here I had no intention of staying in Boston, or Massachusetts for that matter, but here we are 10 years later. I love it, I just wish I was closer to family and that lumpia was easier to find.

What are your favorite Boston spots:
Christine
:  l love eating in Chinatown, especially hot pot – I’m partial to Q Restaurant because the a la carte menu includes both tripe and tendon. My dad would always make this dish, that was kinda like a menudo, with tripe, tendon, and beef tongue. I also like dim sum on the weekends at Hei La Moon, the spareribs taste really similar to something my mom would make. I grew up on an island, so I love sitting near water, and I also grew up in a small town so I have a thing for food courts, because we just didn’t have those where I grew up. So this is pretty touristy-cheesy, but I really like to get something to eat from Faneuil Hall and then walk over to the waterfront and eat over there. When I’m not eating, I enjoy walking around the city with my husband or reading a book in the Common. I can also be found grading and writing at various coffee shops in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville.

Are there any Boston-based programs that people should know about to work in / volunteer for / learn more about the kind of work you do?  
Christine: Have you heard of 826Boston? They do awesome literacy work with Boston Public Schools – and their Volunteer Manager is a fellow Filipina! More specific to my own line of work, this is more at the State level, but I sit on the MATSOL (Massachusetts Educators of English Language Learners) Board of Directors, which is a non-profit dedicated to promoting excellence and equity in the education of bilingual students in Massachusetts. There’s lots of opportunities to get involved in different ways through MATSOL and other organizations like MABE (Multistate Association of Bilingual Education, formerly the MA Association of Bilingual Education) and MIRA (Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition), especially if you are a teacher and / or advocate for bilingual and immigrant students.

What's your community superpower?
Christine
: Connecting like-minded people with each other.

On Filipino Food...

What's your all time favorite Filipino dish?
Christine: Lechon baboy. Hands down. Also lumpia shanghai. I was pescatarian for a good amount of time, which was cool and all, but didn’t jive well with the Filipino diet.  I think my family was pretty relieved when I started eating meat again, especially pork.

What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?
Christine:
“Filipino breakfast” aka a fried egg, white rice, and some sort of pork or corned beef. I could eat that for every meal. When I was in college I would often make bacon and then eat it with a fried egg and rice. To me, it was just “breakfast,” but my roommates would always call it “Filipino breakfast.” That’s more of a meal though. As far as preparing a dish, I think I enjoy making pancit the most. Primarily because I’d make it with my mom. I think it might have been one of the first things I learned to cook. Speaking of pancit, did you know there’s this children’s book, Cora Cooks Pancit, that is all about a Filipina-American making pancit with her mom? I wish I had that book when I was younger.

On staying in touch…

Do you have any upcoming events / lectures / program that you want to highlight?
Christine: It is currently summer, so I’m trying to keep a low profile right now! When the school year starts up though, I am the Faculty Advisor for the Bilingual Education student club in the Wheelock College of Education at BU and the club often hosts several social and informational events on education, advocacy, and bilingualism. Feel free to join us, I post event information to my Twitter and Instagram feed.

How can people stay in touch?
Christine: Follow me on Twitter and Instagram! Thanks so much for the interview!


We’re always looking for BOSFilipinos blog writers / subjects! If you’d like to contribute or have a suggestions, feel free to send us a note: info@bosfilipinos.com.

PAMANA Filipino Parade and Festival

By Bianca Garcia

We had a blast celebrating the 120th Philippine Independence Day with PAMANA (Philippine-American Mainstream Mainstream Advocacy for Nonpartisans Associations) last weekend. We ran a dessert booth in collaboration with BOSFilipinos and Confessions of a Chocoholic, and it was a hit! I made mini ensaymadas, Leila made leche flan, and our friend and BOSFilipinos member Val made calamansi bars.

Here are some pics from the day:

After the parade, there were some welcome comments, a flag raising, and various types of performances. And of course: Filipino food in abundance. Quintessential Filipino foods like lumpia, longsilog (longganisa + sinangag + itlog) plates, pancit, BBQ, halo-halo, and other snacks fueled us throughout the day and brought us a taste of home.

Our neighbors at the next booth were the Pulutan Boyz, Philjay (you may have seen him at BOSFilipinos events) and Mac, slinging longganisa and tocino sliders.

It was such a fun day seeing other Filipinos and celebrating our culture together.

Thank you so much to everyone who stopped by our booth to say hello and buy our desserts! We hope we were able to entice some of you to be a part of the BOSFilipinos gang in some way. Thank you to Jen and PAMANA for coordinating the Independence Day celebration. And maraming salamat to Val for baking goodies, and to Matt for driving us all to Attleboro.

In case you missed us at the parade, don’t worry, you can find us at the next Filipino event on June 23rd at the 2nd Annual Filipino Festival in Malden. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to catch up with us every month.

You can also reach out to us at info@bosfilipinos.com and tell us how else we can build on the Filipino community. Or better yet, let us know how you want to participate.

We look forward to meeting more of you soon. Mabuhay!

(More pics on our Facebook page.)

Filipinos In Boston: An Interview With Costume Designer / Entrepreneur Virginia Johnson

By Trish Fontanilla

Hat tip to BOSFilipinos contributor Christine Del Castillo for suggesting we interview Virginia Johnson this month. When I used to live in Somerville, I would bike by gather here almost daily. I should’ve known that a Filipina was involved in creating a space that is so warm, welcoming, and vibrant. I hope you all enjoy learning more about Virginia as much as I did!


Where are you and your family from?
Virginia: I was born in Subic Bay, the old U.S. Naval base. My mom and her 12 siblings all grew up in the province of Bulacan. My grandfather and now my Uncle Jose owned and operated a bottling plant in San Miguel. We moved to Southern California after my younger brother was born. My dad, on the other hand, was born and raised in Eastern Iowa. He enlisted so he could go to college, and it happened to be during the Vietnam War. And he ended up being stationed in the Philippines during the war.

Where do you work and what do you do?
Virginia
: I am a costume designer for film and television, mostly major motion pictures like Patriots Day and The New Mutants. I’m also the owner of the Cambridge stitch lounge and fabric/fiber boutique, gather here. I wrapped up a film in Bogota, Colombia in late February, so I have been focusing my energy on community activities and workshops at gather here.

What motivated you to go from costume designer to entrepreneur?
Virginia
: I didn’t give up costume designing completely. I just couldn’t. I love working collaboratively, and watching a group of people come together and create something as awesome as a film. And I love telling stories through what people wear. However I also wanted to put down roots, and opening gather here was a way to do that. I’m investing in the community not only by having a brick and mortar store, but by providing employment opportunities, sharing creative knowledge, and passing on the tradition of handcraft to future generations. Working as a freelance designer felt impermanent, while owning and working at gather here, despite the challenges of retail, felt like my forever home. When we opened in February of 2011 I was terrified that I had sunk all of my savings into a hairbrained idea, but we have flourished and even moved to a bigger location in 2016.

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Well we know you have a great love for makers considering you built a space just for them, but tell me more about your work with your neighborhood and the greater Boston community through the shop’s “We Care Wednesday” initiative. What are some of the non-profits that you’ll be focusing on this summer?
Virginia
: After the 2016 Election I wanted to just hole up and hide, but my responsibilities to gather here were too important. So I found comfort just going in, helping people with their projects, and sewing in the studio. In the quiet of sewing it became clear that the collective “we” would have to step up and support the programs that are essential to our communities. Since there’s already a Giving Tuesday we chose We Care Wednesday (we find that people are out of town on Fridays and Mondays so didn’t want to hurt the fundraising efforts in the summer). We created this initiative not just because we, gather here, care but because we, the community of makers, care. Every Wednesday 5% of our profits are collected for a nonprofit that we announce on our blog at the beginning of the month. At the end of the month we tally up the totals and make a donation as We Care Wednesday at gather here. We are currently fundraising for the Pride Youth Theater Alliance since it is Pride Month and I was a theater kid. July’s recipient will be Fenway Health - a former advisee from my years teaching at Tufts worked there prior to starting medical school and with the constant threat of healthcare repeal it is so important. We don’t have a nonprofit selected for August at the moment because we leave one month available every quarter should a specific need arise. In May we raised money for MusicWorks because one of our employees, Sue, is a volunteer for that organization. The elder she was paired with passed away in April and she asked if we would consider fundraising for an organization that had brought her so much joy and friendship. In September the recipient is Y2Y in Harvard Square. It’s the kick-off of another academic year and this student-run shelter is so inspiring!

One of my favorite NP’s from 2017 was Girls Rock Campaign Boston. They are doing so much to build up the confidence of girls! They sent us an awesome postcard that we framed.

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On Boston…

How long have you been in Boston?
Virginia:
I moved to Boston in 2000. I lived in Waltham, right on Moody Street when I first got here. I’ve been here nearly 18 years! That’s the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere!

What are your favorite Boston spots:
Virginia
: I love the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. If I knew that the end of the world was at 5 PM tonight I would head to the museum and sit in the atrium. I also really love Fenway Park. I’m a Cubs fan having spent my formative years in the Midwest, but Fenway’s history is so rich. I love all the public spaces in Greater Boston. Walking along the Charles River, the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the Public Garden, and all the small parks and memorials throughout the city.

Do you have a favorite Boston-based art project? Either something that was made in your space, or by a maker you know?
Virginia
: Well, I love Bren Bataclan. And not just because he’s Filipino. I have one of his paintings that my friend commissioned after seeing his work at Christopher’s in Porter Square. She knew I would love it, and I’ve been obsessed ever since. Bren’s Smile Project is international and it comes from the best place - from the heart.

What's your community superpower?
Virginia: Space. I created gather here with the intention of reserving space for people and gathering. It was never designed to be filled with product. Currently we are hosting Badass HERstory meetings for people who want to tell their story through fiber for a worldwide craftivism project. When Red Fire Farm lost their CSA pick-up location I immediately volunteered our store. And when the Cambridge Modern Quilt Guild was looking for a meeting space we invited them to take over the back of the shop on the last Sunday of every month.

Creating a space that champions community and wants to help people share their stories, I think, is the most valuable gift I can give.

On Filipino Food...

What's your all time favorite Filipino dish?
Virginia
: Pancit. Like I would stop a car for that. Especially for my sister’s pancit. She’s the best cook, and has kept our family’s recipes alive.

What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?
Virginia: Lumpia. It’s easy and everybody loves it. Seriously, do you know anyone who doesn’t like lumpia? I mean, my mom would say that my technique isn’t perfect but most people don’t know.

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On staying in touch…

Do you have any upcoming events at the store that you wanted to highlight?
Virginia: Yes! We're hosting a special event this Saturday with a guest artist, Melody Hoffman from Latvia. And we're doing a tea tasting from Tea Hive! For more events, our Classes calendar is updated regularly. 

How can people stay in touch?
Virginia
: I’m a social media junkie. To follow our crafty community on instagram: @gather_here. For my costume design/personal struggle: @vee.bee.jay. I tweet about craft, community, and the state of our nation as @gather_here.

 

Philippines Independence Day & BF Founders Around Town

By Trish Fontanilla

Filipino trivia: On June 12, 1898 the Philippines celebrated their declaration of independence from Spain. Interestingly enough, that’s not when the Philippines gained its full independence. Spain had only ceded the islands to the United States as a part of the Treaty of Paris. The U.S. granted the Philippines their independence after World War II (yep, Filipinos fought alongside Americans during the war), and the Treaty of Manila was signed on July 4, 1946.  

For years the Philippines yo-yoed their celebration between the two dates. Today June 12th is a national holiday, but you still gotta go to to work on July 4th, which is now recognized as Republic Day / Philippine-American Friendship Day.

In Boston there’ll be celebrations throughout the month, but here are the events that the BF Founders will be attending:

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Philippine American Mainstream Advocacy for Nonpartisan Associations, Inc. (PAMANA) will be celebrating the month with a few events!

The Parade & Festival are June 10th, 10AM ~ 3PM at La Salette Shrine in Attleboro. BF Co-Founder Bianca Garcia will be there partying at a BOSFilipinos booth, and she’ll be selling some of her homemade mini ensaymadas in addition to some flan from BF Co-Founder Leila Amerling!

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The 2nd Annual Filipino Festival is June 23, 4:30PM ~ 7:30PM at the Malden YMCA. The Filipino Festival is independently run, and supported in part by a grant from the Malden Cultural Council. The event itself will feature food, performances, and activities celebrating Filipino culture. I'm super excited for this year’s festival because I know that the organizers have a deeper focus on inclusivity. I’ll be there reppin’ BOSFilipinos with a booth and language station!

If you’re heading to any of these events, let us know below or via Facebook / Instagram / Twitter!

And for more events this month, check out the BOSFilipinos Events page. We’ll see ya out there!


We’re always looking for BOSFilipinos blog writers / subjects! If you’d like to contribute or have a suggestions, feel free to send us a note: info@bosfilipinos.com.

Food and Recipes Inspired by My Mom Celia

By Bianca Garcia

Continuing our May celebration of mothers, I want to talk about my mom, Celia. She is my most influential food guides. She has always been the first one to introduce me to different tastes and flavors from all over the world. I learned to love food because of her, and as fate would have it, I now have a food blog where I can share my favorite foods with the world, too.

Here are some of my mom-inspired recipes and favorite foods that I’ve shared on my blog:

 kesong puti, pan de sal, tsokolate © Bianca Garcia

kesong puti, pan de sal, tsokolate © Bianca Garcia

It all started when I was still in utero, and my pregnant mom was constantly craving and eating kesong puti, the milky white cheese that’s native to the Philippines. It’s essentially buffalo mozzarella, but creamier and fresher. According to Filipino superstition, my mom’s pregnancy craving was the main reason why I myself developed a lifelong longing for kesong puti.

 sardinas © Bianca Garcia

sardinas © Bianca Garcia

My mom is the one who taught me to love sardinas (sardines), the Spanish or Portuguese kind, in oil and spices. I love these little sardines (that still have skin and bones), on top whole wheat bread, toasted dark, slathered with creamy butter.

 key lime pie © Bianca Garcia

key lime pie © Bianca Garcia

My mom loves key lime pie, and (surprise!) so do I. Key limes are smaller than regular limes, with a more yellowish skin, instead of bright green. They are very similar to Filipino calamansi. I would juice a million key limes by hand for my mom!

(Here’s my easy recipe for Key Lime Pie.)

 caramel thumbprint cookies © Bianca Garcia

caramel thumbprint cookies © Bianca Garcia

My mom cannot turn down anything “turtle” flavored - chocolate, caramel, pecans. These little turtle cookies are a nice little treat. Like me, she enjoys dessert. But unlike me, she’s typically content with smaller portions (ha!).

(Here’s my recipe for Caramel Thumbprint Cookies.)

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My mom makes me feel like I can do anything. She believes that I can go to Harvard, land my my dream job(s), star in a TV show, rule the world. Thanks to her encouragement and support, I have done it all. Well, I’m still waiting on that last part, but Beyonce says we already run the world anyway…

Her faith in my cooking also helped me finally recreate her famous pasta sauce, which is like a mixture of a bolognese with a surf and turf plate. It’s a meat-lovers sauce (ground beef + bacon + Italian sausage) with big juicy shrimp. It’s as mouth-watering as it sounds.   

(Here’s the recipe for My Mom’s Pasta Sauce.)

 mini almond cinnamon buns © Bianca Garcia

mini almond cinnamon buns © Bianca Garcia

When I see any kind of citrus marmalade - orange, lemon, grapefruit - I immediately think of my mom. And when I see a breakfast treat or pastry studded with nuts - almonds, pecans, walnuts - I think of my mom as well. I wanted to make a citrusy breakfast inspired by her favorite flavors, and landed on little cinnamon buns with almond paste, slivered almonds, and Meyer lemon marmalade.

Meyer lemons, by the way, are like a cross between a lemon and an orange. They’re sweet and not as tart as their more ubiquitous cousins. They’re also smaller with a thinner skin that has a slightly more orange tint, and they come into season during mid-winter to late spring. They remind me of Filipino dalandan.

(Here’s my recipe for Mini Almond Cinnamon Buns.)

 crab cake linguini © Bianca Garcia

crab cake linguini © Bianca Garcia

Even though I’m a woman in my thirties, I am not exactly adept at eating crab, one of my favorite seafoods. That’s because whenever I’m home or with my parents, I turn into a child and ask my mom to do the work  for me. Shell the crab, pick the meat, open the claws – the whole show. She’s just so adept at it! (And I’m too lazy.) My mom and I both love crab cakes, so I made this easy but luxurious-tasting linguini with crab cakes.

(Here’s my recipe for Crab Cake Linguini.)

 cheesy anchovy toast © Bianca Garcia

cheesy anchovy toast © Bianca Garcia

Last but not least, since my mom was the one who influenced my love for anchovies and all things cheesy (melted cheese, snacking cheese, cheesecake, cacio e pepe - if it has cheese, give it to me) I recently made this anchovy toast. Crunchy bread, garlicky cheese spread, and salty anchovies, finished with a shower of chopped chives and red pepper flakes. The flavors are unapologetically strong, not for the fainthearted, and perfect in every way.

(Here’s my recipe for Cheesy Anchovy Toast.)

 Bianca and Mom in the 80s © Bianca Garcia

Bianca and Mom in the 80s © Bianca Garcia

Thank you, Mommy, for introducing me to the foods that have become my favorites  <3

I hope I was able to inspire some of you to make something delicious and enjoy it with your mom and loved ones!

Filipinos in Boston: An Interview with Artist Bren Bataclan

By Trish Fontanilla

 Photo provided by Bren Bataclan / Taken by Zach Bouzan-Kaloustian

Photo provided by Bren Bataclan / Taken by Zach Bouzan-Kaloustian

I first heard about Bren Bataclan over 10 years ago when I went to an event at Berryline in Harvard Square. I told one of the owners that I wanted “dealer’s choice,” any froyo with any toppings. The exchange went something like…

“How about I add mango?”

“Oh, how Filipino…”

“You’re Filipino? The artist that did the murals here is Filipino!”

I was so stoked, I obviously gave Bren a shout out in my Berryline review, and I’ve been following his work every since. I'm so glad BOSFilipinos gave me an excuse to interview him, and I’m excited for even more people to get to know Bren’s story!


Where are you and your family from?
Bren
: My parents were born in Makati, Philippines, and their ancestors are from Cavite and Bicol. I was born in Makati as well, but my family moved to the United States (Daly City, CA) in 1981.

What do you do?
Bren
: I am a full-time artist. I live in Cambridge but my studio is in the South End (Boston).

In past interviews you’ve talked about your previous career as a tech guy. What inspired you to be an artist? And when did you make the leap to doing it full-time?
Bren
: I moved to Massachusetts to teach computer graphics at UMass Amherst in 1995. I then joined the dotcom world in the late 90s. When the whole economy crashed in the early 2000s, I became one of those ex-dotcomers who lost their job and could not find work. I was unemployed for about a year and a half, and it was one of the most challenging times of my life. I tried all kinds of creative things to make money, including painting the cartoon-like characters I've been drawing since I was a kid. I premiered this new series of work from childhood at the Cambridge Open Studios in 2003. To my surprise, 49 out of 56 paintings were sold! To thank Cambridge and Boston, I started a street art project where I left paintings in public spaces with a note attached saying, "This painting is yours if you promise to smile at random people more often." I invested the money I earned from the open studio event, and made 30 additional paintings which I gave out around the city. The Boston press and word-of-mouth got me painting projects with businesses, hospitals and schools. Slowly, my street art project led to me becoming a full-time artist. Sixteen years later, and there is no turning back. I love my job!!! I never thought that I would become a full-time artist, let alone a muralist. Now I have painted about 175 murals, mostly at schools. It's awesome to work with students, and all of my school murals are based on kids' drawings.

 Photo provided by Bren Bataclan / "Liberty For All Painting

Photo provided by Bren Bataclan / "Liberty For All Painting

Your pieces have a joyful, playful spirit to them, and I love the pay-it-forward Smile Project that you highlighted here and in your TEDx Talk. However, your Liberty For All piece has a different tone. What inspired you to create it and donate all the proceeds?  
Bren
: Right after the 2016 election, a family in Acton asked me to paint how I felt about Trump winning. They cleared a large wall, asked me to find the biggest canvas, and most importantly, they allowed me to paint whatever I felt. I am glad that I didn't start painting right away because I probably would have painted something negative. After taking some time I was able to muster enough positive, hopeful and compassionate thought, and I ended up painting the Statue of Liberty comforting really vulnerable people (a Black Lives Matter activist, a Jewish man, a Muslim woman, the Syrian boy pulled from the rubble of an Aleppo bombing, a Mexican American woman, a gay man, and a woman fighting for equal rights). I am really proud of this piece.

 Photo provided by Bren Bataclan /&nbsp;Boston Children’s Hospital

Photo provided by Bren Bataclan / Boston Children’s Hospital

On Boston…

How long have you been in Boston?
Bren: 22 years.

What are your favorite Boston spots?
Bren
: The ICA and MFA. We subscribe to the A.R.T. and the Celebrity Series, and so we are always at the Loeb Theater, Symphony Hall, and Sanders Theatre. I also love the Public Garden.

Do you have a favorite Boston-based mural or project?
Bren
: The Boston Children's Hospital (pictured above) painting series I did in the beginning of my art career, the Sidney Borum mural (pictured below) I painted fairly recently, and the Berryline murals (pictured above the Filipino food section) in Cambridge I painted about 10 years ago.

 Photo provided by Bren Bataclan /&nbsp;Sidney Borum

Photo provided by Bren Bataclan / Sidney Borum

What's your community superpower?
Bren
: I love starting groups, especially Filipino-related ones. I helped form the Boston Filipino American Book Club, and we just celebrated our 10th Anniversary!

 Photo provided by Bren Bataclan / Berryline

Photo provided by Bren Bataclan / Berryline

On Filipino Food...

What's your all time favorite Filipino dish?
Bren: Way too many to mention: lumpia (spring roll), adobo (marinade, generally a meat dish), empanada (savory stuffed pastry), and halo halo (shaved ice dessert).

What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?
Bren
: It changes depending on my mood, but lately I've been loving cooking tortang talong (eggplant omelet). In fact, I just gave two tortang talong cooking classes at the PAO Arts Center.

 Photo provided by Bren Bataclan / Kulap

Photo provided by Bren Bataclan / Kulap

On staying in touch...

Do you have any upcoming shows / events?
Bren: I had an exhibit entitled "Kulap" about my immigration experience at the PAO Arts Center in Boston. PRI's "The World" on NPR just covered it. I hope to exhibit "Kulap" next at the Daly City Museum. And I have a current group exhibit at the Boston Children's Museum.

How can people stay in touch?
Bren
: Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter


We’re always looking for BOSFilipinos blog writers / subjects! If you’d like to contribute or have a suggestions, feel free to send us a note: info@bosfilipinos.com.