Interview with Ray Hallare of Dowel Furniture

By Trish Fontanilla

Image provided by Ray Hallare

Image provided by Ray Hallare

Last month I had a chance to catch up with an old friend of mine, Ray Hallare. Ray and I met about 6 years ago through MassChallenge, a global startup accelerator that’s headquartered here in Boston. We bonded over our love of startups, and at one point, I even suggested we start a Filipino food cart here in town. While that never came to fruition, we both did end up starting ventures with ties back to the Philippines. Check out the interview below to learn more about the business that sprung out of his family’s factory in the Philippines, his favorite things around Boston, and of course Filipino food.

Where are you from originally?
Pasig City, Manila, Philippines

And what do you do?
I am one of the co-founders of Dowel Furniture. We sell custom designer-created furniture online.

Image provided by Ray Hallare / Dowel Furniture

Image provided by Ray Hallare / Dowel Furniture

What inspired you to start Dowel Furniture?
My family has been in the furniture manufacturing business my entire life and it's something that my sister, who's my business partner, and I grew up with. We felt that people have become more savvy about finding quality furniture online over the last couple of years and felt that this was a great opportunity. It was the right timing for us to build on top of our family's manufacturing expertise, and start a vertically integrated digital furniture brand.

Image provided by Ray Hallare / Dowel Furniture

Image provided by Ray Hallare / Dowel Furniture

What's been your favorite, or one of your fave pieces of furniture that you've made?
One of my favorite pieces we've done so far from our designer created collections is probably the Parisienne Chair. I think it's a great take on a classic chair profile and can easily fit in a lot of rooms either as a dining chair or as a standalone accent piece.

Image provided by Ray Hallare / Dowel Furniture

Image provided by Ray Hallare / Dowel Furniture

On Boston...

How long did you live in Boston?
I’ve been in NY for the last year, but I was in Boston for 10 years before I moved to NY. I also go back and forth to Manila every 3-4 months or so to check on production.

What are your favorite Boston spots? Could be restaurants / parks / anything!
Hmm... favorite spots are tough, haha. I'll break it down I guess:

  • Restaurant would be O Ya, which is probably a once in 5 year restaurant though because it's so expensive haha

  • Boston Common because I like walking through it, despite it being cliche

  • TD Garden mainly because I love watching Celtics games

Image provided by Ray Hallare / Dowel Furniture

Image provided by Ray Hallare / Dowel Furniture

On Filipino food…

What's your all-time favorite Filipino dish?
It's probably a tie between kare kare with bagoong [a type of meat stew with shrimp paste] or lechon paksiw [a dish made with leftover roast pig]. I've always liked the day-after lechon made into paksiw better than day-of lechon.  

What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?
It’s probably adobo [the unofficial national dish of the Philippines] because of value for time. It takes awhile to make but not because it's hard to make. It's super simple and tastes great.  

How can people stay in touch with you?  
Through our website:
Via email:
Or @hallarer on everything

You can also check out their showroom in NYC or at the Eliza B Design Studio in Concord.

Thanks for taking the time to chat, Ray!

Of Cockfights and Adobo

by Bianca Garcia

© Bianca Garcia

© Bianca Garcia

This is an excerpt of an article I wrote for Offline Magazine (now shuttered down). I wanted to write about a controversial local tradition, and weave in stories about my family and food (of course). The entire piece is published on my blog.


I stared at the gates outside the arena, gray and rusty, paint peeling off. The scorching sun was beating down on us, bright and relentless, and on the ground there were clouds of dirt being kicked around by the flip flops that everyone wears. There were sounds of children playing nearby. It was a typical provincial scene, grand and quaint at the same time. We shuffled to the entrance, and then we entered a different world.

We were at the cockfighting arena in San Fernando, Pampanga, a province in the Philippines. Dark, humid, loud and thumping, I could feel a frantic energy pulsing in the air. It was my first time going to see a cockfight, or “sabong” as it is called in Filipino. Cockfighting is a blood sport so violent that it’s outlawed in many other countries, but it has been part of Filipino culture for centuries.

In the Philippines, cockfighting is a great equalizer, where the rich and poor come together without any class distinctions. It is a community activity that brings neighbors together and ignites the bonding of the townsfolk’s men. A common joke among the wives is that the roosters are luckier than they are, because their husbands caress and lovingly massage the roosters first thing in the morning. Up until the 60s, when most parts of the country started becoming more urbanized, almost every backyard had chicken and rooster coops, with every family being invested in the sport of cockfighting.

To read the rest of the article, please head over to Confessions of a Chocoholic.

Filipino American History Month 2017

Did you know that October is Filipino American History Month (FAHM)? While it was established by the Filipino American National Historical Society in 1988, it wasn’t officially recognized nationally by Congress until 2009.

As I started to work on a FAHM post for the blog, I found the AARP / NextDayBetter video that came out earlier this month. For a video that’s only 7 minutes long, it does an incredible job of highlighting Filipino American contributions and history dating back to 1587! Most of which, I must say, was not in any of my history books growing up in New Jersey.

Some new things I learned from the video (including links to learn more) were:

  • Filipinos have been in what is now known as the continental United States since 1587 -
  • Many FIlipinos first formed settlements in Louisiana (Saint Malo) - link
  • Some Filipinos were at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair… on display - link
  • Filipino towns such as Stockton’s Little Manila served as a safe haven for labor migrants who were accused of stealing jobs… and women - link
  • The 1934 Congress restricted immigration from the Philippines to just 50 Filipinos per year - link
  • During WWII - 250,000 Filipinos served in the United States Armed Forces of the Far East - link
  • Filipino veterans in the Philippines were promised US citizenship and benefits, but the passing of the 1946 Rescission Act broke that promise - link
  • At one point, there were more Filipinos in the US Navy than the Philippines Navy - link
  • In 1965, the Immigration Act greatly expanded quotas (right around when my parents came to the US!), and by 1970 the Filipino community more than doubled. Population stats: 1930 - 45,000; 1970 - 343,00; 1980 - 774,000 - link
  • There are now over 4,000,000 Filipinos in the United States, and that’s just an estimation from 2011 - link

    And those are just a handful of the stats that are in the video!

    To watch the video in its entirety, click below and let us know what you learned!

BOSFilipinos and Milagros Project Pop-Up Dinner Recap

by Bianca Garcia

My heart was beating fast, my hands were sweating, and I smelled like adobo. I glanced around the cozy space at Saus and saw my team whirring around: Trish was going over the floor plan and putting last minute touches on the dining tables, Leila was prepping garnishes behind the counter, Saima was heading down towards the kitchen with a determined look on her face, and Chef Roland was laser-focused on the food, carrying big pots filled with deliciousness. I grinned wide and welcomed the first guest. We were ready to rock and roll.

Clockwise from top left: Leila, Roland, Bianca, and Trish © Bianca Garcia

Clockwise from top left: Leila, Roland, Bianca, and Trish

© Bianca Garcia

The next few hours went by in a blur. We were fortunate to have sold out both seatings for the evening, and there was a general buzz of excitement in the packed restaurant that sustained throughout the night. Once the food started coming out, we heard plenty of “oohs,” “ahhs,”  and “mmms.” The diners were happy and satisfied, and so were we. The Filipino Food Pop-Up Event by BOSFilipinos and The Milagros Project was a success! Below are a few pictures from the evening:

scallop kinilaw  © Matt Nagy

scallop kinilaw 

© Matt Nagy

ilocos empanada © Matt Nagy

ilocos empanada

© Matt Nagy

chicken inasal steeam bun © Matt Nagy

chicken inasal steeam bun

© Matt Nagy

pork ribs adobo © Matt Nagy

pork ribs adobo

© Matt Nagy

leche flan © Cathy Buena

leche flan

© Cathy Buena

Chef Roland talking to diners © Bianca Garcia

Chef Roland talking to diners

© Bianca Garcia

happy diners © Bianca Garcia

happy diners

© Bianca Garcia

the night's menu (hapunan means dinner in Filipino)  © Matt Nagy

the night's menu (hapunan means dinner in Filipino) 

© Matt Nagy

dried mangoes and bananas © Bianca Garcia

dried mangoes and bananas

© Bianca Garcia

We are all grateful for this incredible experience. The months of preparations and meetings (filled with food, no complaints) were worth it, and we are proud of our very first eat-up. Extra special thanks to: Chef Roland of The Milagros Project for sharing his talent and letting Boston have a little taste of the Philippines via his tasting menu; Chin, Lucas, Tanya, Aimee, Renee, and the rest of the team at Saus for their help and participation; our friend Saima for rocking out with us that night; my hubby Matt for designing our menu and branding; and of course to our attendees, family, and friends for the support and encouragement.  


the team post-event © Bianca Garcia

the team post-event

© Bianca Garcia