Filipinos In Boston: An Interview With Artist Lexi DeLeon

By Trish Fontanilla

A couple weeks ago I wrote a bit of a rally cry post to invite more of the community to share their stories with us. It’s. Been. Amazing. Please, please keep the stories comin’ by nominating a Filipino you know / nominating yourself.

This month’s Filipinos in Boston post came to me thanks to Alex Poon who nominated his girlfriend Lexi DeLeon. Lexi is a super talented artist and - well, I’ll just let you read the interview below!

Photo provided by Lexi DeLeon.

Photo provided by Lexi DeLeon.

Where are you and your family from?

Lexi: I was born in the U.S., but my parents are both Filipino and both have family in the Metro Manila area (specifically in Marikina). I visited the the Philippines for the third time in my life last year, the first two times being when I was quite young. I don’t speak Tagalog, unfortunately, but it was really amazing and humbling for me to visit there, especially at an older age. I was also shocked at the amount of cousins I had that I never knew about. It made me realize how much of my culture I’m unfamiliar with, which was kind of sad and alienating at times. One thing that I really loved about being there was just the strong sense of community and family. Even though there were many titas / titos (aunts / uncles) that I had never met, they never hesitated to show me anything but warmth and hospitality, and always sought to make me feel included. I felt like I was never alone there, which was a really comforting feeling.

Where do you work and what do you do?

Lexi: Honestly I’m kind of shy about it, and it’s kind of surreal to write out, but I’m an artist. I do a lot of commission work and I also work a part-time job.

Can you tell us a little more about the art you create and how you got started?

Lexi: As a kid I was always drawing and doodling. My mom told me that when I was young I would take markers and scribble the brightest colors in different patterns until it filled up the whole page. I didn't take it seriously until I moved from New York to a random suburb in Connecticut during my teens. I was really shy and quiet, and I moved at a very weird point in the school year, so that was definitely a very isolating time for me. My mom had signed me up for an after school program which had a focus on the arts and I think that's when I really got into it because the teachers there were extremely supportive and encouraging. They were always willing to lend me art materials that I didn't have at the time or take the students to different art galleries in the area. And I dove head first into art as a means of trying to deal with this difficult transition in my life. Also because I’m shy and internalize a lot of my thoughts, art provides a way for me to express my emotions or how I’m feeling in a way that I can't articulate through conversation.

As for the art I create, I don't think there's a real deep meaning or grand message that is the driving force for the imagery. I think my art is really more emotion based and is inspired by whatever media I'm interested at the time. I'm really drawn to vivid colors at the moment so I'm always trying to incorporate as many colors in one illustration as I can, and there's always a lot of florals and nature. I love honing in small details or intricate line work as well, because my mind just gets lost in it. I feel like the way I make art now is definitely very similar to the way I made art as a child - just picking random colors that catch my eye and filling up a page with different intricate patterns until I feel it’s finished.

On Boston…

Photo provided by Lexi DeLeon.

Photo provided by Lexi DeLeon.

How long have you been in Boston?

Lexi: I’ve been in Boston for about 5 years now I think? I came here for college and have pretty much stayed ever since.

What are your favorite Boston spots (food, parks, spaces, etc!)

Lexi: Ooh, I love visiting different places for food and coffee especially. I’d have to say my favorite place as of now is definitely Solid Ground Cafe on Huntington. I saw an ad for it on Instagram I think, or maybe it was on the BOSFilipinos Instagram page (the only time I was ever actually been enamored by an ad on Instagram), and it was for a coconut pandan latte. I haven’t had pandan since I visited the Philippines, so once I saw the post I made it a priority to try and visit before they closed that day. I was running really late (in typical Filipino fashion) and I think I made it at 2:55PM, and they close at 3PM. I felt so bad being *that* customer, but they were extremely kind and made me a latte anyway. It was single-handedly one of the best lattes I’ve ever had in my life, and I’ve honestly had a lot - I worked at a coffee shop for like 3 ½ years. They also make this amazing ube tart and bibingka (Filipino bake rice cake), which makes me really happy because finding Filipino food in Boston can be really difficult. The owners themselves are just really sweet. When I can, I love just sitting there to have those nostalgic flavors and write / reflect / sketch. Oh, and I am a hardcore stan for Coreanos in Allston.

My long winded love letter to Solid Ground Cafe aside, I also really love sitting on the benches of the Charles River Esplanade during the Spring / Summer and walking along the river and people watching. The reservoir by Cleveland Circle is also a really lovely spot to go to on a nice day. I’m not a very talkative or outgoing person, so finding these spots / areas to just sit and reflect in the midst of everything means a lot me.

On Filipino Food...

What's your all time favorite Filipino dish? (Feel free to link up some recipes, otherwise I’ll find them around the web)

Lexi: This is so hard, wow. I think it has to be kare-kare (Filipino stew with peanut sauce) maybe? Growing up, I only had it during special occasions, so I would eat 3 servings of it as a kid and even now. I have to say lechon kawali (deep fried crispy pork belly) is a really close second though. After that has to be tapsilog (beef tapa, garlic fried rice, and egg). And anything ube flavored. Honestly, I love all Filipino food so much and it’s so rare that I have it so it’s very difficult for me to pick.

What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?

Lexi: I’m sadly not very blessed with cooking skills but either sinigang (Filipino tamarind soup) or tinola (Filipino chicken soup). They’re just really comforting foods to make, especially in the wintertime. Oh and arroz caldo! I like to make it in a big batch so I can eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I had a dream that I made an ube cheesecake. I can’t really bake but I’m determined to learn now since I clearly prophesied this concoction.

Art by Lexi DeLeon

Art by Lexi DeLeon

On staying in touch…

Do you have any upcoming events / programs / even work things that you’d like to mention?

Lexi: I’m part of a group show at MECA gallery in Lowell , and the reception is this Wednesday on April 24th. I post a lot on Instagram but this is really one of the few times I’ve ever showcased my work in a gallery setting so it’s pretty exciting and anxiety inducing for me. There’s definitely a lot of fear with putting your work out there. At the same time I’m really excited to meet other artists and cultivate those relationships with creatives who may face similar struggles, and to help each other grow.

How can people stay in touch? (Social, email, website, whatever you’re comfortable with)

Lexi: I’m most active on my art Instagram, which is @lecksydee, and a lot of my work can be seen on my website at lexideleon.com.


We’re always looking for BOSFilipinos blog writers! If you’d like to contribute, send us a note at info@bosfilipinos.com.

Help Us Tell More Filipino Stories

By Trish Fontanilla

Trish as a hand model with the program from Dragon Mama.

Trish as a hand model with the program from Dragon Mama.

Last year when I saw Dragon Lady, the first piece in Sara Porkalob’s Dragon Cycle, I was completely blown away. And so this past Sunday when I had the opportunity to see Dragon Mama, the second installment in the trilogy, I was super excited. So excited that from the moment the lights went down, my mouth was embarrassingly wide open in awe. I may have whispered, “She’s so talented,” once or thrice to myself. By the end of the show I was crying (as much as I let myself in public) and in between my low key eye dabs, Sara came back out for some final words since it was the last night of the run. Honestly, I was so high up in the feels, I don’t quite remember everything she said, but there were two things that really stuck out. First, American Rep commissioned Sara to write Dragon Baby, a full cast musical and the final installment of the Dragon Cycle (cue a million screaming emojis and GIFs). And second, if we don’t tell our stories, who will?

Since we formally launched BOSFilipinos almost 2 years ago, I’ve been connecting with everyone’s “one Filipino friend” in Boston pretty much every week. And it’s been awesome, but I want more.

Next month is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. A month meant to celebrate everything API (Asian Pacific Islander) in the history of the United States. So I’m taking a cue from Sara, and pushing to share even more stories than we ever have before. I’d love to highlight, at least, 31 new stories of Filipinos around Boston, one for each day in May. That’s a lot of content, which means we’re going to need your help!

So, here’s my call to action:

  • If you have an awesome Filipino friend / partner / colleague / acquaintance in Boston or you’ve got a Filipino story to share that has something to do with the history of Boston, we would love to hear from you. You can either pass along our email address, info@bosfilipinos.com OR you can share their email address (with their permission) and I’ll reach out OR you can nominate them for a profile or interview by filling out this form. Don’t forget to tell them how awesome they are. I’ve found that folks don’t always believe that their story is worth being told. Hint: It is. Another hint: Don’t be afraid to nominate yourself!

  • If we’ve already highlighted you, let us know what’s new! Tag us on social with @BOSFilipinos / #BOSFilipinos on Twitter / Instagram / Facebook, or email us, and we’ll figure out a way to highlight you as well!

And while we’re here, it’s more than just getting Filipinos to tell their stories right? You can also…

  • Be more conscious about amplifying Filipino voices. That could be re-sharing a post from a Filipino artist in your news feed, or taking a look around during a club meeting and letting folks know that we’re missing from the conversation.

  • Support platforms and organizations like American Rep that are investing in storytellers like Sara, so that we can continue to get our voices and messages out to our community and beyond.

Thank you, as always, to our many supporters, sponsors, allies, and friends for continuing to support BOSFilipinos thus far. We wouldn’t be here without people like you. And if you'‘d like to get involved in any way (volunteer / sponsor / amplifier), please send us an email info@bosfilipinos.com.

We’ll see you out there!


We’re always looking for BOSFilipinos blog writers! If you’d like to contribute, send us a note at info@bosfilipinos.com.

Filipinos In Boston: An Interview With Account Executive Sunanda Nair

By Trish Fontanilla

I’m super excited to introduce you to, Sunanda Nair! Sunanda and I were trying to remember how we first met, but settled on some networking event many moons ago. The funny part is I’ve known her wife Melissa way longer since we were both among the early users of Yelp when it first launched in Boston almost 15 years ago! Sunanda and I recently reconnected on LinkedIn when I gave our previous Filipinos in Boston women a shout out on International Women’s Day because I wasn’t seeing many Asian / Filipino women being highlighted on speaker’s lists in Boston and beyond.

Thanks again to Sunanda for being a part of Filipinos in Boston, and I hope you all enjoy reading her interview!

Photo provided by Sunanda / Sunanda (far right) with her parents.

Photo provided by Sunanda / Sunanda (far right) with her parents.

Where are you and your family from?
Sunanda:
My mother is from the island of Bohol in the Philippines, and immigrated to the US after nursing school. My father is from Kerala, a state in Southern India. The majority of my mom’s family is still in Bohol and Cebu. When we go back, we always stay in Bohol but we stop in Cebu to see extended family on the way.

Both my mother and father are close with their families, so as a child I visited their homelands every other year on a rotation. I was born in India but truly feel close to both my Filipino and Indian sides. I grew up around a lot of Filipinos and Indians in the Detroit area, and most of our meals were either South Indian or Filipino cuisine. It was a treat when we got “American” foods in the house for dinner. Although I still prefer the food I grew up with. I could eat rice with literally every meal.

Where do you work and what do you do?
Sunanda:
Currently I work at Privy, a tech company in downtown Boston. I am a Senior Account Executive on the team.

You’ve got an interesting resume that’s taken you from non-profits to for-profits, startups and public companies. Can you tell us more about your career journey and what led you to Privy?
Sunanda
: So my career trajectory is a winding one. I went to school for cognitive science and landed my first job abroad in India doing  HIV / AIDS research at the largest government hospital in the country. After that I came back to the US and split my time between playing poker online and working for non-profits and NGOs. I landed in Boston accidentally because my close friend was moving here, and I came along for the ride on the moving truck. I hung out here for awhile before deciding to take a summer certificate program at Boston University in public health. After finishing the program, I found myself working for an organization called Massachusetts & Asian Pacific Islands for Health (MAP for Health) doing program management, and research with the Massachusetts Department of Health and the CDC. The focus was on HIV / AIDS awareness and prevention in the Asian community. After MAP I worked for MataHari, a local Boston organization that works with diverse communities with a mission to end gender based violence and exploitation. While I was there I started to really enjoy marketing and took on a part-time internship as a social media marketer, which then turned into a part-time job. Because of that I started taking on consulting projects doing marketing and lead generation for various small businesses. While that was great, I realized I wanted some benefits like healthcare so I decided to apply for full-time marketing roles. I was able to secure an interview at a small startup that had no VP of  Marketing, so the VP of Sales interviewed me. Two days after my interview he offered me a sales job and I thought he was legitimately crazy. However, he challenged me to take a risk and I took it. I’m lucky that he was a great coach and mentor. I quickly learned I loved sales, even though it was really hard. That first sales job was all cold calling and even door-to-door sales. From there I went to a few more startups, and landed at one that was acquired by IBM. I spent 2 years at IBM and then wanted to go back to small company life and back to sales. I worked with Wistia for 2 years, which was amazing, but an opportunity to join Privy presented itself and it felt like a challenge so I took it. I love where I am right now, but can’t wait to see what the next 5 years have in store for me!

Photo provided by Sunanda / Sunanda with her 2 y/o son Rishi.

Photo provided by Sunanda / Sunanda with her 2 y/o son Rishi.

On Boston…

How long have you been in Boston?
Sunanda:
I moved to Boston in 2009, spent half a year in NYC and then ended back up in Boston. So almost 10 years! Wow, that’s crazy for me to type out.

What are your favorite Boston spots (food, parks, spaces, etc!)
Sunanda:
I love the Boston Common and Public Garden in the summer. It seems a little cliche but it’s a great place to have a picnic, walk around when the weather is nice, and just enjoy the urban park. Now that I have a son the Frog Pond is the best thing to go to on hot days.

Also, I love love  Winsor Dim Sum Cafe in Chinatown. It’s been one of my favorites for years.

I hesitate to share this secret but in my opinion Charlestown is one of Boston’s best kept secrets. I lived there for almost 3 years, and it’s like a mini town right next to the city. It feels like a community.  I knew my neighbors, some who have lived there for 50+ years. There are tons of parks, a brewery, a growing restaurant selection, and you can walk to the North End in about 15-30 minutes depending on where you are in the neighborhood.

Photo provided by Sunanda

Photo provided by Sunanda

On Filipino Food...

What's your all time favorite Filipino dish?
Sunanda:
Oh, man. It’s hard to pick. I will say my mom’s pancit recipe (noodle dish I would have to write it out), and kare kare (coconut milk or peanut sauce version). I couldn’t pick between the two. I feel like lechon is a given. Does it even need to be said?

What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?
Sunanda:
Ok, so full confession I am not really the cook in my house but my goal is to perfect my mom’s version of pancit.

On staying in touch…

Do you have any upcoming events / programs / even work things that you’d like to mention?
Sunanda:
I love a good side hustle and started investing in real estate in 2016. I am always down to talk to people who are interested in it, currently doing it, or both. I consider myself a novice still so the more I talk to people about it the more I learn.

Also, I am working on a product with my first sales boss which you can view at suvliner.com. Yes, we definitely know the website needs work. I would love to connect with people who have a background in consumer goods since we both are learning as we go. The website just got launched, but we aren’t in full selling mode yet, but we do have inventory.  Right now we are testing a new prototype for a smaller version of the product so we can offer 2 sizes. We are still very early in our journey and we aren’t looking to be millionaires just trying to have fun and keep learning new things. Although, if we hit it big neither of us will complain. :)

How can people stay in touch?
Sunanda:
sunanda.nair@gmail.com / https://www.linkedin.com/in/sunandanair/ (if we haven’t met just leave a note introducing yourself and I am happy to connect) / and Twitter: @snaps4life

I am open to grabbing coffee with people all the time so don’t hesitate to reach out!


We’re always looking for BOSFilipinos blog writers! If you’d like to contribute, send us a note at info@bosfilipinos.com.

This is Our Strength: Why Filipinos Celebrate Fiestas and Festivals

By Reina Adriano

Photo provided by Reina Adriano

Photo provided by Reina Adriano

In many Filipino homes, there will always be a corner for reverence. You will find an altar with many statues of saints perched on top, with candles, rosaries, and novenas adorning the table where it is set. In the States where I do not have my own altar, I  have a makeshift one instead: a small area of my study table is occupied by stampitas—images of the Pope, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus Christ on bookmarks—staring straight at me while I read my notes for grad school, allowing me to remember where my religious roots lie. Beside those on my desk, a rosary hangs around a small lamp. My mother usually chats me up on Messenger in the evenings, “Don’t forget to pray before going to bed,” she says. “And ask for guidance while you’re away.”

 

“I will, Ma,” I reply. “I always remember.” I close my laptop and head to bed.

 

I make it a habit to remember that February is the feast day of Santa Misericordia, the patron of my mother’s town--and to some extent, mine--in Legazpi, Albay. It is a small town in Bicol, Philippines. Tourists who visit our place long for beach weather and white sand, clear skies and fresh flowing water, but reality is far from that. Where my mother comes from, there is not much but sea and storms, the wind brushing past from the east side of the peninsula. There is also an active volcano that erupts every so often, spreading lava to the nearby towns and dusting every rooftop with ash. My mother loves visiting our province--both her hometown and my summer spot--in time for the fiestas; my grandparents, too. They are all religious devotees of the Virgin Mary.

 There is this concept called Panata, or a votive offering, wherein families pass on the tradition of servicing the Church. The religious statues symbolize the faith of many Filipino households, always revering the saints in altars secluded in a corner of living rooms. The scent of candles, fragrant oils, and incense waft through the house; rosaries, novenas and prayer books decorate the pedestals. It is our way of connecting with divinity. In addition to this, some families give out donations, others volunteer their sons and daughters to partake in the parade for the festivals of their patron saints. In my family’s case, we promised that we would give our patron saint, Nuestra Senora de Santa Misericordia (Our Lady of Mercy), her dress for the parade. It is a tradition that has been upheld and passed on for generations.

My mother is an avid believer of this Panata. It is her promise of attending to Our Lady in exchange for a good life for everyone in our family. Imagine buying fabric, getting the measurements, sewing the dress, adding beads and sequins, and putting ornaments on a statue. Imagine numerous preparations, sleepless nights on choosing the best design “worth wearing by the Virgin Mary,” hands overworked from threading through a needle. My family does all of this because we believe there is value in these acts somewhere in the afterlife. However, my family also does it to show how close-knit we are with the community. Not many people understand our customs and traditions, but it is in that mystery behind the beliefs that make them want to see it for themselves. What’s so amazing about this culture of togetherness that other nationalities find so fascinating? What is so special about the Filipino handaan (feast) and salusalo (get-togethers), the kamayan or boodle fight, and the festival etiquette that is associated with it? Why do we love celebrating feasts and even eating with our hands with the food served on banana leaves as a way of sharing food with the entire community?

Photo provided by Reina Adriano

Photo provided by Reina Adriano

Popular festivals such as Masskara, Sinulog, Ati-Atihan, Dinagyang, Panagbenga, and Moriones are part of tourists’ bucket lists. These festivals are mostly connected to our history and Spanish influence due to the 300-year occupation. Needless to say it also anchors us down to our religious history of the dominant Roman Catholicism. Many tourists watch penitential rites during the Lenten Season, thinking its all colors and loud music when in fact it’s all about people reflecting on their faith and their way of life—a time for contemplation and penance. I remember as a child watching other young girls being dressed up as an angel to help in the Salubong for Easter Sunday, as a flowergirl for Flores de Mayo, and as Reyna Elena, if chosen for the Santacruzan parade. It should be worth noting that these are quite different from the livelier festivities tantamount to fun and enjoyment. However, if they stay long enough until Easter they will find themselves surrounded by activities that signify rebirth and renewal. Cash-prized contests such as Bingo and raffle draws, palarong Pinoy (Filipino games), and even beauty pageants are also part of the week-long activities.

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The food will not disappoint, either: the adobo, palabok (festival noodles), kare-kare (curry), lumpia (egg rolls), all the smells of palatable cuisine which the household is ready to share to anyone who chooses to enter. Sometimes I would watch my grandmother toil in the kitchen in her own sweat, wondering why she tries to give so much when in fact she receives very little in return. She would let me taste-test a few of her treats, lest she’s expecting a lot of guests knocking on our door. “May bisita, Apo (We have guests, Granddaughter,” she would tell, “Papasukin mo lang (Just let them in).” Never mind the small, cramped living room, or the lack of air-conditioning in the house. We have extra monobloc chairs and mini-electric fans, anyway. Never mind that there isn’t much to go around; what’s important is that we have something to share.

The fact remains that people will always invite you to eat at their place, even when you tell them you're just passing by, or that you just wanted to see the parade, and then go your way after. The locals would even ask you to take some food along before you leave. This is also the reason why we love karaoke over beer and good company while singing to our heart’s desire, why we can fill an entire house with a dozen relatives or more from both sides of the family. We remember our faith and traditions by celebrating these festivals. But we also love to leave the impression that we can always share, despite the strain in financial resources or in times of trouble. We choose to welcome those who are estranged, those who rise above adversity, those who have strength to hope. All I can say is that Filipinos endure. I am miles away from my family right now, but I can imagine everyone happily eating with their hands. I can smell the waft of great food from the kitchen. I can hear the chatting of relatives and the queuing up of songs on the jukebox. Somewhere in the corner, the saints and our offerings. This is our way of community.


We’re always looking for BOSFilipinos blog writers! If you’d like to contribute, send us a note at info@bosfilipinos.com.

[Recipe] Baked Filipino Torta

By Bianca Garcia

Picture provided by Bianca Garcia.

Picture provided by Bianca Garcia.

I grew up eating torta. I ate it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, always served with fluffy white rice. Torta was one of my family’s go-to dishes, made with simple ingredients that even picky eaters would appreciate. It’s essentially a round omelette with ground pork, onions, and potatoes.

It is sometimes referred to as “tortang giniling” (giniling = ground) because it is made with ground meat, typically pork or beef. This distinguishes it from different versions of torta. For instance, there’s “tortang talong” (talong = eggplant). There’s “tortang gulay” (gulay = vegetables), that’s made with different veggies like squash, bittermelon, cabbage, etc. There’s also a dish that is a combination of the above: tortang talong (eggplant) stuffed with ground beef. That dish is called a rellenong talong (relleno refers to anything that is stuffed) but then we are going on a different topic, and I’m here to talk about torta. Specifically ground pork torta.

The torta we eat at home in the Philippines is made painstakingly by my Tita Ine. It has teeny tiny cubes of uniformly cut potatoes that mingles seamlessly with the juicy ground pork, all in a delicate frittata-like casing, flavored simply with white onions and salt (never pepper). She cooks the ground pork first, then the potatoes and onions, adds in eggs that have been whisked into submission, and then flips the entire pan into a plate, and transfers it back to the pan to cook the other side. I’ve tried many times to recreate her recipe and follow her instructions, but it never turns out the same because 1) my knife skills are not great / I don’t have the patience to cut teeny tiny cubes of potatoes, 2) my flipping skills need work (there’s been more than one occasion of a torta gone wrong), and 3) I always seem to overstuff my torta and it doesn’t exactly come out as a delicate piece of art.

So I decided to make my own, easier, non-intimidating version. I made a few updates: 1) I roughly chop the potatoes into half-inch cubes, 2) I bake the torta, which saves me the stress of flipping it, and 3) I use a deep dish pan so even if it’s overstuffed, things don’t spill out of the pan, and instead it comes out as one big sturdy-looking frittata.

Below is my own recipe, which my husband and I make at least every other week. It has the same flavors as the torta I grew up with, and it still goes very well with white rice. But it also goes well with an arugula salad, or a sandwich (with a little smear of mayo, yum), or just eaten by itself. I like dipping it in ketchup, but some people like fish sauce or soy sauce.

Picture provided by Bianca Garcia.

Picture provided by Bianca Garcia.

Baked Filipino Torta by Bianca Garcia

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb ground pork
2 medium potatoes, chopped into ½ inch cubes
½ cup chopped white onions
6 large eggs
Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

  2. On the stovetop, heat olive oil in a large oven-safe pan over medium-high heat (you can use a cast iron skillet or a non-stick pan). Add ground pork. Stir often and break up clumps with a wooden spoon. Cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Season with salt. Remove pork from pan and set aside.

  3. Reduce heat to medium. Add potatoes and cook for about 3 minutes, and then add onions. Cook until onions are translucent and potatoes are soft.

  4. Beat the eggs with a generous pinch of salt.

  5. Add eggs to pan. Let sit on stovetop for a minute or two, until edges start to set, and then transfer to oven.

  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until eggs are set.

  7. Slice into wedges and serve.

I know that torta could mean different things for different cuisines: it could be a Mexican sandwich, a Spanish flatbread, an Italian cake, a Brazilian pie. But to me, it’s an egg concoction with ground meat and veggies. To me, it has always been Tita Ine’s torta. And now, it’s mine, too.


We’re always looking for BOSFilipinos blog writers! If you’d like to contribute, send us a note at info@bosfilipinos.com.

BOSFilipinos Events Roundup

By Trish Fontanilla

If you’re starting to get stir crazy, here are a some Filipino / AAPI events around town to help you break out of your winter hibernation. Comment below if there’s something we missed!

Picture from the Board Game Night Meetup page.

Picture from the Board Game Night Meetup page.

Board Game Night - NAAAP Boston Scholarship Fundraiser
Saturday, February 23, 2019
6PM - 10PM
@ 50 Milk Street

This weekend NAAAP is having a board game (feel free to bring your own!) night to support their scholarship fund for for college-bound high school seniors of Asian / Pacific Islander descent. To learn more head to: https://boston.naaap.org/events/boardgame-night-fundraiser-2


Picture from their Facebook event.

Picture from their Facebook event.

Call Her Ganda Screening
Wednesday, March 6, 2019
2PM - 5PM
Dowling Hall @ Tufts

Call Her Ganda is screening as part of the Women Take the Reel Film Festival. More on the movie: “When Jennifer Laude, a Filipina trans woman, is brutally murdered by a U.S. Marine, three women intimately invested in the case–an activist attorney (Virgie Suarez), a transgender journalist (Meredith Talusan) and Jennifer’s mother (Julita “Nanay” Laude)–galvanize a political uprising, pursuing justice and taking on hardened histories of US imperialism.” For more information, head to: https://www.facebook.com/events/614960168935533/


Picture from Facebook event page.

Picture from Facebook event page.

Art Workshop with Bren Bataclan
Saturday, March 9, 2019
10AM - 12PM
@ Malden Senior Center

Filipino artist Bren Bataclan is running a 2 hour art workshop for kids at the Malden Senior Center. The $20 fee includes art materials, snacks, and refreshments. This event is in partnership with the Filipino Festival in Malden. For more information, head to: https://www.facebook.com/events/310297012937054/


We, Ceremony Kickback
Thursday, March 14, 2019
6PM - 8PM
@ Dudley Cafe

Join the We, Ceremony team for a night of networking with other womxn of color. There will be raffle prizes, music, and food (Dudley Cafe’s kitchen will be open until 7PM). For more information, head to: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/we-ceremony-kickback-tickets-56543148078

Picture from the We, Ceremony Eventbrite page.

Picture from the We, Ceremony Eventbrite page.


Picture provided by Sara Porkalob,  from last year’s BF profile .

Picture provided by Sara Porkalob, from last year’s BF profile.

Dragon Cycle
Running from March 20th - April 6th
@ Oberon

Sara Porkalob is back! And not only is she performing her incredible musical Dragon Lady, she is also performing the next chapter in the Dragon Cycle, Dragon Mama! As a side note, her show last year was incredible and the BF community came out in full force to support Sara. I hope you all get a chance to see one or both of her shows! For more information, head to: https://americanrepertorytheater.org/shows-events/dragon-cycle/


BOSFilipinos March Meetup
Thursday, March 21, 2019
6:30PM - 8:30PM
@ TBD

Our next bi-monthly BOSFilipinos meetup will be March 21st! There's no agenda for this hang out... just drinks, fun, Filipinos. Friends and partners are, of course, welcome. To RSVP, head to: https://www.facebook.com/events/633231877134162/

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Picture from the Eventbrite page

Picture from the Eventbrite page

Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence 2019 Annual Meeting
Monday, March 25, 2019
6PM - 7:30PM
@ Pao Arts Center

The ATASK Annual Meeting will feature highlights from 2018, ATASK’s vision for the future, and ATASK honorees. For more information, head to: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/atask-2019-annual-meeting-tickets-55408399013


Change the Way You Bake
Sunday, April 28, 2019
1PM - 5PM
@ Milk Street Cooking School

While there are a few techniques and baked goods you’ll learn about during this class, I saw that they had Filipino Coconut-Rice Cupcakes on the menu, so I figured it deserved a shout out! For more info, check out: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/change-the-way-you-bake-tickets-56342506955

Picture from the Eventbrite page.

Picture from the Eventbrite page.


We’re always looking for BOSFilipinos blog writers! If you’d like to contribute, send us a note at info@bosfilipinos.com.

From Manila to Boston: Thoughts of an International Student

By Reina Adriano

For an international student, I suppose studying abroad is the closest thing to living the “American Dream.” I wasn't born to a family of migrants, but to one of privilege nonetheless--we had enough resources for my parents to send me to school in the States. It’s been two years since I first stepped foot into Logan Airport--that was when I first saw Boston with my own eyes and took in all the sounds and smells of the city. I didn’t have answers to a lot of things and had to figure a lot on my own. All I knew was that I was in an entirely different place, a thousand miles away from home, and ready to start a new adventure as a grad student. I also knew there’d be learning and failing and laughing at mistakes, but I hoped that somehow, I would be brave enough to get through anything that came my way.

Photo by Dominic Cotoco // Photo Provided by Reina

Photo by Dominic Cotoco // Photo Provided by Reina

There are times when I wonder what it would be like if I were lucky enough to stay for good. I wanted to take up my Master’s degree abroad right after finishing  undergrad, and only decided to become an international student because I saw a lot of other people who were taking up further studies outside the Philippines. But what many people don't tell international students is that studying abroad is not a free ticket to becoming an immigrant. It increases your chances, yes, but they never reveal the nitty-gritty of what you have to go through just to land a job, negotiate your salary, or to get your name entered in the visa lottery, not to mention get petitioned for the green card. They don't mention the stricter government regulations or that the current administration is not so keen on accepting foreign-born workers anymore. They just tell you life will be different, but they don't tell you that it won’t be any easier.

Photo from the Pan-Harvard Filipino Group // Photo provided by Reina

Photo from the Pan-Harvard Filipino Group // Photo provided by Reina

I have a month left before graduation right now, which means that I’m currently looking for opportunities to work and stay here. I’ve found myself desperately trying to craft narratives of my journey, as if all the experiences I wrote on my resume were something I planned all along. I made pitches pretending I knew more than I did just to impress potential employers. I hustled up names for referrals, and made use of the name of my schools--Philippine Science High School, Ateneo de Manila, and even Hult International Business School--just to find connections. It's like being a puzzle piece desperately trying to alter its sides to fit in to different places. When I got tired of storytelling that never made sense to me, I started looking for people I could connect with--people who would understand that while I’m young and inexperienced, I am full of hope. I found these people who could understand the plight of a young professional like me in small niche communities such as BOSFilipinos.

Growing up, we have been told that Filipinos are resilient, but up to what extent? Twenty-three years of learning Philippine history has educated me about the forefathers of the motherland. It's common for Filipinos to get further education in other countries, just like what our forefathers in history used to do--the Ilustrados like Jose Rizal, Marcelo del Pilar, Antonio and Juan Luna, among others. They took the risk to learn something elsewhere and to bring  that knowledge back home. That was all it was about, wasn't it? Taking chances? There was so much more to learn by getting out of my comfort zone.

Hult Filipino graduate students // Photo from Shara Cabrera // Provided by Reina Adrianao

Hult Filipino graduate students // Photo from Shara Cabrera // Provided by Reina Adrianao

I know I'm not the first one who wanted to live a better life elsewhere--there have been so many immigrants who have been successful in building their family and their careers in the States--but for the longest time, I wished my life had been like theirs. To some extent, I've been jealous of these Filipino-Americans, whether they were born and raised outside the Philippines or whether they were sponsored by family. I could roll my eyes whenever I heard an American accent mispronouncing words like ah-do-bow (adobo), curry-curry (kare kare), or bae-gow-ohng (bagoong). I could dislike the way they ask why I prefer a tabo to a tissue, or why I would open an umbrella under the heat of the summer sun so as not to get any darker. I could sneer at the fact that they would never understand my mother tongue the way I learned it while growing up.

But that is not the way to live.

The more I talk to the Filipino-Americans, the more I realize that I am just as privileged as they are. I’ve learned many of their stories, of their families' plight to the States years and years ago. I’ve learned of their hardships too, of times when they were separated from their families while waiting for their papers to become legal immigrants. Sometimes we would talk about the Filipino food, the homesickness, the longing for Jollibee or the sound of Tagalog, or maybe even the cultural shock or the high currency rates. Sometimes we would talk about the friends and family that we have left back home. Or that one can never be prepared enough when the winter hits. I learned that despite the difference in circumstances, all Filipinos still endure through the same hardships in life.

There are days when I can't help but wonder if everything I do will matter too, but there are also days when I can't help but remember I have a community who supports and understands me. This is me hoping that somehow, someday, the world would take its chance on me. Here I am, hoping that all these sacrifices and longings will bear fruit on its own. Here I am, holding up.


About the author:
Reina is completing her Master's in Finance this March 2019. She loves math and writing as well as learning about things and people that make an impact on the world. Reina also hopes that one day the world will take a chance on her. (aka please hire her)


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

Filipinos in Boston: An Interview with Events Administrator Desiree Arevalo

By Trish Fontanilla

With the Filipinos in Boston series, not only do I try and find people from all different backgrounds and professions, I also try to find people that I don’t know. However this month, I decided to highlight my friend Desiree (Dez) Arevalo because she’s going to be the ring leader of the BOSFilipinos salsa meetup next week. I’ve known Dez for almost 10(?) years now, and she was even a consultant at one of my first startups (not the one mentioned below), something I totally forgot until I was looking through emails and wondering why I asked her for a copy of my license. Dez is a ball of energy and bright light around this community, and I can’t wait for you to learn more about her.

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

So where are you and your family from?
Dez:
My mom is Puerto Rican and my dad is Filipino, from Davao. He immigrated here when he was 14 with the rest of the gang, and he sadly has never been back to the Philippines (which will hopefully change this year!).

This is extra exciting to ask because I know you just started a new job, but where do you work and what do you do?
Dez:
I’m 8 days into my new job at WBUR and I couldn’t be more excited! It’s really a dream come true to be able to work with people who are as excited and passionate about community engagement, politics, and bringing unsung stories to light, as I am .

I’m specifically working for their newest arm of programming, CitySpace, which is a new venue for public conversation. It’s a space where we will bring content that you hear on the radio to life - think interviews, podcasts, performances, discussions, debates, etc. It’s also a rentable space, so along with companies and organizations, we’re encouraging community organizers and artists to utilize this space to elevate and showcase their work.

I know you studied Political Science, but most of your roles have been in operations or events. What inspired the switch?
Dez
: I actually became an event person by accident. I was working in sales at a diversity and inclusion media start-up, and I had helped with very small event tasks (aka wore many hats as one does in a startup) like registration, helping with speakers the day of, etc. It wasn’t until the event manager unexpectedly moved out of state that I was asked (or pushed) to take a bigger role in the event planning of their signature event, which snowballed into conceptualizing other events and managing those. For the record, I was terrible at sales and sold basically nothing and they probably forced me into the events job as a last hurrah.

Another reason I’m excited about this WBUR job is I get to marry my love of politics and what I’m good at (events) for a living!

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

On Boston…

How long have you been in Boston?
Dez:
Born and raised woop woop!

What are your favorite Boston spots?
Dez:
Too many. I think we are blessed with an amazing food scene and cultural scene. Wally’s is one of my favorite places to go on a Thursday night for their Latin Jazz. Best Puerto Rican food is at Vejigantes in the South End. If you want really amazing but cheap Latino food though, East Boston is the place to go. Endless restaurants of authentic dishes and for super cheap.

Coming from the events perspective, are there any events / spots around town that you love?
Dez:
I tend to be a small community event go-er and Dudley Cafe is my go-to and always has some poetry slam, author reading, community forum, or paint night going on. They’re also in my hood and (sadly) the only non-franchised coffee shop in Roxbury right now. AMAZING coffee and quick food, BTW.

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

On Filipino Food...

What's your all time favorite Filipino dish?
Dez:
SINIGANG 100%. I was vegetarian for over a year at one point in my life, and my lola’s (grandmother’s) sinigang was the dish that broke me!

What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?
Dez:
Ube anything. I usually make a large batch of regular ube, then make ube cakes or ube ice cream, straight ube on a spoon. Can’t go wrong with that purple root of pure love, man.

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

On staying in touch…

How can people stay in touch?
Dez:
I’ve recently returned to the Twitterverse! I’ll be mostly posting about cool events and happenings at WBUR and the greater Boston area there. I can be found at @iamDEZisme on both Twitter and Instagram. Holler bizzle peeps!

New Year, New Volunteers

By Trish Fontanilla

Today I feel like one of those franchise owners that gets to announce a new roster! 2019 is going to be a big year for BOSFilipinos, and I’m so incredibly excited to introduce you to a few of the folks that are going to make that happen. Take a moment to peruse their bios, then show them some love by commenting below or messaging them on social!


Hyacinth Empinado // Multimedia Content Contributor & Editor

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Hyacinth is a multimedia journalist at STAT News, an online life sciences publication. She creates mini documentaries and animation, and also produces The Readout LOUD, a weekly biotech podcast. In her spare time, she enjoys playing Zelda, learning Japanese and Chinese, and turning her apartment into a jungle. 

Lightning Round Questions
Where are you from? Cebu, Philippines 
Fave Filipino Dish
: Dinuguan and buwad (dried fish) with rice and vinegar
Fave Boston spot: I like to see shows at the Huntington Theatre and the American Repertory Theater. I also enjoy going to Santouka in Cambridge for a nice bowl of ramen. 
Social media: @sayhitohyacinth on Twitter and Instagram 


Melissa Obleada // Marketing Contributor & Liaison

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Melissa Obleada is the Diversity & Inclusion Program Manager at HubSpot, a marketing and sales software company in Cambridge. Originally from New Jersey, she attended Emerson College in Boston to study marketing and has been here ever since.

Lightning Round Questions
Fave Filipino Dish: “100% my mom's lengua in a mushroom sauce, then my mom's arroz caldo with generous fried garlic, lemon, and fish sauce, then pandesal on Christmas Day with leftover ham & cheese from the night before.”
Fave Boston spot: The Esplanade and Harvard Square
Social media: @MelissaObleada on everything (Twitter / Instagram)


Reina Adriano // Blog Contributor

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Reina is completing her Master's in Finance this March 2019. She loves math and writing as well as learning about things and people that make an impact on the world. Reina also hopes that one day the world will take a chance on her. (aka please hire her).

Lightning Round Questions
Where are you from? Quezon City but I have Bicolano roots in Legazpi, Albay
Fave Filipino Dish: Pork Sisig!
Fave Boston spot: The Boston Public Library
Social media: @reinagination on IG and reinagination.wordpress.com


Mihaela (Mihae) Hinayon // Designer

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Mihae is a freelance graphic designer working with local clients in retail, pharmaceutical, and manufacturing. She designs anything from print collaterals, packaging, and large format graphics, to user interfaces and webpages, mostly from her home office slash urban jungle. Born and raised in the Philippines, Mihae moved to Rhode Island in 2011 and currently lives in Providence, RI with her husband and their four-year-old Tibetan Terrier, Finley (@finleytheexplorer).


Lightning Round Questions
Fave Filipino Dish: My all-time faves are kaldereta and buko salad but right now I'm definitely craving pancit canton and lumpia
Fave Boston spot: New England Aquarium
Social media: @mihaehinayon (Facebook/Instagram/LinkedIn)


And if you find that this new volunteer piece has inspired you to become a volunteer, just send an email over to info@bosfilipinos.com (or check out our one year anniversary post). I’d be happy to chat to see how we can get you more involved!