Filipinos In Boston: An Interview With Chef Ashley Lujares

By Trish Fontanilla

 Photo provided by Ashley Lujares / Taken at Myers+Chang by  Kristin Teig

Photo provided by Ashley Lujares / Taken at Myers+Chang by Kristin Teig

Before we started BOSFilipinos and I was still in the consideration phase of my Filipino food project, the universe kept asking me, “Have you talked to Ashley Lujares yet?” And by universe I mean, Ashley’s previous colleagues at Myers+Chang, Chefs Joanne Chang (owner / chef), and Karen Akunowicz (partner / executive chef), and Veo Robert (chef de cuisine). Seriously, three separate conversations, three suggestions that I should chat with Ashley. After meeting her at an industry night, and then having a coffee chat that lasted for hours talking about our upbringings as Filipino Americans, I thought she’d be perfect for the blog!

Ashley is one of the amazing chefs in Boston that is bringing Filipino food to the masses by highlighting special dishes wherever she goes. We’re stoked that she was able to do this interview with us. And don’t worry, we’ll be highlighting more of the amazing Filipino chefs here in Boston throughout the year.


Where are you and your family from?
Ashley
: I was born and raised in Massachusetts, but my parents are both from the Bicol region in the Philippines. Half of my mother's siblings reside here as well as the west coast. And my maternal grandfather was in the U.S. Coast Guard. He was stationed here in Boston and in San Diego, CA.

 Photo provided by Ashley Lujares

Photo provided by Ashley Lujares

What do you do?
Ashley: I am the savory chef at Flour Bakery + Cafe in Fort Point.

What inspired you to become a chef?
Ashley: Many situations in my life have inspired me to become a chef. The first inspiration came from a day I was watching cartoons and my dad said, “Why don’t you watch something that you can learn from. You are rotting your brain.” He put on PBS, and Julia Child’s show was on. I was instantly hooked!

Soon after that I moved to the Philippines for 3 years, and one of my earliest memories is going to the market with my grandmother. My cousin Joy and I would take turns going there with her, and I would throw tantrums when it wasn't my turn. I loved how full of life the market was; I loved the smell of the street food and seeing fresh produce.

My grandmother owned a pancitan (noodle factory). She also had a green thumb and planted all of the fruits and vegetables in our backyard. Any exotic fruit you can find at your local market in the US, my grandmother had in her backyard. My grandfather owned a balutan (balut factory), and my aunt raised pigs and sold meat at the town market. She also helped my mother prep for parties. Through those parties my mom taught me the importance of eating with your eyes first.

Well we know that Flour is one the best places to work in Boston (like really, not just because of the sticky buns), but how did you end up working there? 

Ashley: I was the sous chef at Myers+Chang for a few years and I needed a change. I love Joanne Chang’s management style, and I felt like I would learn a lot about how to be a better manager from her as well as the business aspect of the food industry.

On Boston...

 Provided by Ashley Lujares

Provided by Ashley Lujares

How long have you been in Boston?
Ashley: I have been in Boston for the majority of my life. I briefly lived in different places like New York City, the Philippines, and San Diego, CA.

What are your favorite Boston spots (could be restaurants / parks / anything!):
Ashley: My favorite restaurants are Sarma, Coppa, Toro, and my best friend’s family restaurant in Chinatown called Wai Wai’s. I frequent the back of the ICA overlooking East Boston, and I love going to museums like the MFA, ICA + Isabella Stewart Gardner. Mostly I'm in the South Shore where the Lujares family compound is located.

 

 

On Filipino Food...

What's your all time favorite Filipino dish?
Ashley: I really love my mom’s palabok (variation of Filipino noodle dish, pancit). It’s so rich yet so bright! I also love my mom’s lumpia shanghai (spring roll). Through the years she developed these recipes and made them her own, and both are her signature dishes.

What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?
Ashley: I love making Filipino barbeque and my grandmother’s atchara (pickle made from grated, unripe papaya). These components complement each other well, and they remind me of summer. I often make these at Flour!

On staying in touch...

 Photo provided by Ashley Lujares

Photo provided by Ashley Lujares

How can people stay in touch?
Ashley: My Instagram account is serajul. It’s my last name backwards if you are wondering where I got it from.

 


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.

Your English is So Good! (First of All, I’m a Native Speaker…)

By: Christine Del Castillo

It's the ambiguous melanin. The Spanish surnames. But most of all, the English. This, I think, is why it's so hard to track Filipinos down, especially when we're not congregating in an enclave like those in California or New Jersey. We're self-reliant because we're not speechless in this place; even recent immigrants come with a firm grasp of the English language.

Those who do are lucky. English speakers are much less common in poor and rural areas. I grew up in Metro Manila with parents who taught me both English and Filipino at home. Nevertheless, English is a co-official language of the Philippines, and many of us speak it in addition to one or more regional languages.

In this sense it's surreal—and offensive, in professional circles—when people exclaim “your English is so good!” First of all, I’m a native speaker. Secondly, the Philippines was an American colony for decades, ceded from Spain for a cool $20M back in 1898. Finally, this may mean that people have ideas about What Native Speakers Look Like, and that I don’t look like that. I won't pursue that train of thought. It’s more constructive to share the ways we remix and play with this language - the ways we make it our own.

Anong tawag doon, yung code-switching

Code-switching, or adapting your speech to build rapport with different groups, has a wide spectrum when you speak two or more languages. In Manila, that can look something like this: English with an American accent, when you’re at a call center talking to Americans at midnight. English with a Filipino accent, if you want to sound educated but approachable.

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“Let’s tusok-tusok the fishballs.” Chart via Wikipedia

You might switch to Taglish, if you ran into some people from high school and that’s how they speak. You may also toggle back and forth between multiple regional languages depending on where you are. Here, for example, are some words for “love” that differ wildly from language to language: mahal, langga, gugma, boot, ayat, hirang.

We’re so punny

In the Philippines, you’ll find a proverb like “every cloud has a silver lining” transformed into its gallows humor doppelgänger, “every cloud has a silver lightning.” Whether it's intentional wit or a misheard phrase, who knows? But we’ve been known to embrace our misheard English too, with expressions like “what do you take me for, granted?”—a combination of “what do you take me for, a fool?” and the idiom “to take for granted."

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“Take me into your eleven arms…”

Bilingual punning is rampant, often leaning heavily on English words said in a Filipino accent, or English words with a phonetic sound that translates to something else in Filipino.

  Ako wala = A koala.

Ako wala = A koala.

We also love our acronyms. “N...P...A? Nice People Around?” quips Imelda Marcos in Jessica Hagedorn’s novel, Dogeaters.

NR, or No Reaction, is something you might call your most deadpan friend: “That’s so sad. Aren’t you sad?” “I am sad. This is my sad face.” “Wow, you’re so NR.” The Tagalog opposite of that, by the way, is KSP, "Kulang Sa Pansin,” a person acting out because they're starved for attention.

I have a Taglish favorite that I probably learned in seventh grade: HHWWPSSP. Holding Hands While Walking, Pa-Sway Sway Pa. This refers to the public displays of affection of a couple in their honeymoon phase. Picture it. Murmur “eeewww.”

Fluency and industry

Speaking and teaching English is big business in the Philippines. There’s a massive population of young people who speak fluent, lightly accented English, which is why so many American companies outsource work to Filipino call centers. The country has become the call center capital of the world, generating about $25B in revenue.

English language education is also booming. According to Jose L. Cuisia, a former ambassador to the United States, “there are more and more Koreans that are studying English in the Philippines. In 2004, there were about 5,700…The following year, it tripled to about 17,000, in 2012 it was about 24,000. So we’re seeing an increasing number of Koreans. But they’re also from other countries: Libya, Brazil, Russia.”

Can't you just take a compliment?

Yes. Thank you. But there's a shade of difference between "You speak so wonderfully!" and "You speak like a native." If one feels a bit wrong, there's always the option to start some cultural exchange. Or you can just do what my dad does, which is so beautiful in its subtlety. When someone says, “Your English is so good,” he responds, “Thank you. So is yours.”

Learn a more about Christine on our About page.

SALAMAT PO! THANK YOU!

By Leila Amerling

Meetup1.png

Last Thursday, we had our very first BOSFilipinos Pinoy Meetup. Kababayans (fellow Filipinos) and BOSFilipinos friends (old and new) got together for a couple of cold ones and took the opportunity to meet a new friend.

Personally, it has been at least a few months since I’ve participated in an event with just Pinoys, so it was really nostalgic and exciting for me, to not only see Filipino pals but to meet new ones too !

THANK YOU to those who attended. We hope you walked out feeling just as excited as we were to meet new friends, and to contribute to bringing the New England Filipino community closer in some way (like guest blogging on BOSFilipinos for example! Wink wink!).

For those who missed it and wanted to be there, have no fear, there will be another meetup in the near future. Keep an eye and ear out for our next one, likely in May. We also hope to see you at the PAMANA event (more info coming soon) to celebrate the Philippine Independence Day in June!

Salamat po and ‘til next time!

 

Keep up with our events, goings ons, and / or be a part of the team by signing up to our newsletter or contacting us at info@bosfilipinos.com.

Don't forget to follow us on our socials @BOSFilipinos.

Filipinos In Boston: An Interview with Diversity & Inclusion Manager, Melissa Obleada

By Trish Fontanilla

If you’re an avid BOSFilipinos reader, you’ll notice that all of our pieces this month are about really awesome women. While some may see this as a ploy for Women’s History Month, to be honest, it wasn’t planned. How did we find these rad ladies? By using our networks, but also committing to go past them to elevate community voices through content like our blog and programming like our eatup (and upcoming meetup). And while the BF founders do this for fun, I was so excited for this interview with Melissa Obleada, who gets to work on diversity initiatives for a living! Melissa and I connected when she started following BOSFilipinos on Twitter, and I fell down a rabbit hole looking up all the great stuff she does in the community.

Thank you Melissa for taking time to chat with us this month!

 Provided by Melissa, HubSpot headshot taken by by  Liz Mollica Photography

Provided by Melissa, HubSpot headshot taken by by Liz Mollica Photography

Where is your family from? 
Melissa: I was born in New York City, and then we moved to the suburbs in New Jersey. My mom is from Santa Maria, just outside of Manila, and my dad is from Lucban, Quezon. I haven’t been to Lucban yet, but Santa Maria has a Dunkin Donuts so it feels like home.

What do you do?
Melissa: I’m the Diversity & Inclusion Program Manager at HubSpot, a marketing and sales software company located in East Cambridge. I plan events and initiatives for two of our four resource groups – People of Color at HubSpot (POCaH) and the LGBTQ+ Alliance – as well as work to see how we can make our company more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

I see you started out in marketing at Emerson (woohoo Emerson alumni!). What inspired you to get involved in diversity and inclusion?
Melissa: Yes, go Lions! Good question. The gist of it is, as a queer, cancer-surviving daughter of immigrants, I found myself caring more about the state of D&I at our company than I did about my job at that time, which was mainly focused on employer branding.

I was a founding member of our LGBTQ and POC employee resource groups, and was in a unique position. Unlike my colleagues, my role was already focused on employee engagement, and I reported directly to a C-level executive, Katie Burke, who’s a huge advocate for D&I. My access to top leadership and wiggle room in my original role allowed me to spend most of my time focusing on these ERGs (employee resource groups). After about a year of this, I became Diversity & Inclusion Program Manager.

In a predominantly caucasian and male industry, I think I’m able to bring a unique perspective and voice to the conversation. I want to put in the work now to make sure that other folks who are underrepresented or othered can come to this company and not question whether or not they belong.  It’s cool to have my personal identity inspire my professional work.

 Provided by Melissa, pictured here at The Obama Foundation Boston Training - Fall 2017

Provided by Melissa, pictured here at The Obama Foundation Boston Training - Fall 2017

HubSpot seems to be one of the leaders in Boston when it comes to transparency in culture and D&I. What are some things that make HS different, but that other companies can emulate?
Melissa: When it comes to our culture, we think differently than most companies and that’s what sets us apart. A lot of people think a company’s culture (or vibe, feel, secret sauce, etc) is something that just is. But one thing that HubSpot did early on was write down our company values and all the things that make us us. (Shameless plug for culturecode.com.) Having that general framework keeps us from losing sight of what’s important to us as a business.

We have a cute acronym called HEART that we use to describe the things we look for in all of our employees: humble, empathetic, adaptable, remarkable, transparent. We apply HEART to everything we are and do. So in the context of creating an inclusive company, humbleness allows us the space to ask questions and learn from one another, empathy helps us understand one another, adaptability has us making sure we’re making the necessary changes to improve, transparency has led to us publicly posting our diversity data, and remarkability pushes us to not just tackle low-hanging fruit, but make the big changes.

Open and transparent communication in any organization when it comes to new challenges or obstacles ensures that everyone is on the same page, while closed door conversations and secrecy breed paranoia and distrust. Companies should be as honest with employees as they can be about diversity & inclusion efforts, goals, and initiatives.

 Provided by Melissa, taken at Boston Pride 2017 with the HubSpot marching group

Provided by Melissa, taken at Boston Pride 2017 with the HubSpot marching group

On Boston...

How long have you been in Boston?
Melissa
: I’d been coming to Boston on and off since I was 10, since my oncologist is here and my radiation treatments were also here back in the day. I’ve been in Boston full time since 2010 when I came for school.

What are your favorite Boston spots (could be restaurants / parks / anything!):
Melissa:

I heard you run another meetup outside of all the events you organize for work…
Melissa
: I organize Queers with Beers at Aeronaut Brewing Company in Somerville. It’s a very chill space for folks of all identities and orientations to come and hang out. It’s the first-ish Monday of each month. Like us on Facebook!

What's your community superpower?
Melissa: Empathy. I’m good at being able to understand things from other people's’ perspectives. My awareness of my own feelings as well as the spoken and unspoken messages coming from other people is very helpful in the work I do.

On Filipino Food...

What's your all time favorite Filipino dish?
Melissa: My mom’s lengua (beef tongue or ox tongue). She prepares it in a mushroom sauce, and it’s the best thing in the universe. Also her arroz caldo (Filipino-style rice congee). Perfect on cold days. Or all days, actually.

What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?
Melissa
: Whoops, I can’t cook Filipino food... The best I can do is making my own garlic fried rice (sinangag) with an egg and tocino (Filipino-style cured pork) or Spam from the grocery store. I guess we’d call that tocsilog and spamsilog.  I really want to try to make my own pan de sal though. Please, send me your recipes.

 Provided by Melissa, taken with Issa Rae at  INBOUND  2017

Provided by Melissa, taken with Issa Rae at INBOUND 2017

On staying in touch...

How can people stay in touch? (website / social / email if you want!)
Melissa: @MelissaObleada on Twitter and Instagram, probably the only Melissa Obleada on LinkedIn, and hello@melissaobleada.com.


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.

Filipino Entrepreneurs: An Interview with Rumples and Kat from Kubo Modern Living

by Bianca Garcia

As soon as I first heard about kubo, a line of handcrafted goods by Filipino artisans, I was immediately drawn to the bright colors and the beautiful designs. All kubo products are handmade in the Philippines, and feature traditional Filipino techniques, combined with a modern aesthetic. I chatted with co-founders Rumples Estacio-Miranda and Katrina Pesigan to learn more about them and their products.

 Rumpes Estacio-Miranda and Kat Pesigan of kubo 

Rumpes Estacio-Miranda and Kat Pesigan of kubo 

Where are you from originally? Where do you live now?

Rumples: Kat and I are sisters. We were both born and raised in Manila. I moved to New York City in 2013 to study Fashion Merchandising in at Parsons.

Kat: I moved to New York City in 2008. Rumples and I are both married with kids and live with our families in Brooklyn now.

What do you do?

Rumples: I am the co-founder of kubo together with my sister. I am also a full-time mom to my 16-month old son.

Kat: I work as a public health consultant and am building the business of kubo with my sister.

 Boho Tote

Boho Tote

What is kubo? What inspired you to start it?

Rumples: kubo is short for “bahay kubo” in Tagalog and refers to a traditional Filipino home. kubo creates consciously crafted goods for the modern lifestyle through partnerships with local artisan communities in the Philippines. We take pride in the recognition of traditional Filipino craftsmanship and opening it to a global community.

Kat: kubo is a reminder of home and the comfort it brings. We launched during the Summer of 2016 with a mission to stay connected to our roots, promote traditional methods of craftsmanship, and to sustain the communities that make them.

What's your favorite piece from your line?

Rumples: The Bayong Tote is my favorite piece in our latest collection. It’s a reinvented version of our bestselling Boho Tote. It can fit a lot of stuff and be used every day - as a work bag, a shopping tote, a beach bag, or whatever!

Kat: My favorite piece is the Inabel striped throw - it is a true all around piece. I take it with me whenever I travel. It’s great to have, especially if you have kids. I have a 7-year old and a 9-month old, so the throw is a staple in our stroller.

What's been the most memorable story you have since starting your business?

Rumples: The firsts are always memorable - our first online order, the first summer market we joined, our first pop up, first collab with another brand.

Kat: Also being able to meet fellow entrepreneurs in events, on social media, through peer connections - there is no shortage of advice and support!

What's your favorite Filipino food?

Rumples: It’s such a tough question to answer because I absolutely love Filipino food and I can’t really pick just one dish. My list of favorites include adobong pusit (adobo-style squid), my lola’s (grandmother’s) kare kare (meat and vegetable stew in peanut sauce), my mom’s binagoongan (pork sauteed with shrimp paste), and my mother-in-law’s adobo and monggo (mung beans). I also love taho (sweet silken tofu snack) and I miss it oh so much! You just won't find anything like the street vendor taho we have in the Philippines here in New York!

Kat: I love chicken inasal (grilled chicken). I say that because I was recently in Bacolod and had the most amazing chicken inasal ever!

Where can we find kubo? How can people get in touch with you?

Rumples and Kat: kubo is available online at www.kubomodernliving.com. We are also an Instagram @kubomodernliving. Stay updated by signing up for our newsletter through this link.

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Thanks so much, Rumples and Kat!

This dynamic duo created a discount code exclusively for the BOSFilipinos community! Use code BOSFILIPINOS to enjoy 10% off your purchase until 3/31/18. You can also share this discount link via email or social media. Your discount will automatically be applied at checkout.

https://www.kubomodernliving.com/discount/BOSFILIPINOS

Dragon Lady is Comin' To Town: An Interview with Sara Porkalob

By Trish Fontanilla

I know people have mixed feelings about Twitter these days, but if you’re following the right people then it ain’t so bad. Case in point: theater companies. A few weeks ago I saw The A.R.T (American Repertory Theater) tweet:

WHAT? Why hadn’t I heard of this show before? Will actual Filipinos be playing the characters? The last question was a gut response in reaction to some recent conversations I’ve had around minority actors. More specifically, the discussions were about Evita being produced without a Latinx cast here in New England, and the Daily Beast piece about the movie ‘Annihilation’ and Hollywood’s erasure of Asians. So as you can imagine, I was stoked to learn more about the woman behind Dragon Lady, Sara Porkalob. Straight from her bio, “Sara Porkalob is an award-winning solo performer, director, and arts activist recognized on City Art’s 2017 Future List and has recently finished her term as Intiman Theatre’s 2017 Co-Curator. She is a co-founder of DeConstruct, an online journal of intersectional performance critique.”

Something I totally missed as I was feverishly scrolling through her blog and her performance list is that she’s based in Seattle. Well, while Sara isn’t a BOSFilipino, she is a boss Filipino and you need to catch her while she’s in town performing her latest show Dragon Lady at The A.R.T (OBERON) March 22nd - 24th.

And thank you to Sara for taking some time to chat with me about her past work, inspiration, and how we can make theater more inclusive.

 Dragon Lady picture provided by Sara Porkalob

Dragon Lady picture provided by Sara Porkalob

Do you remember a particular moment growing up that inspired you to be a performer?

Sara: I was born a performer! My mother says I came out of her vaginal canal performing and I am inclined to believe her.

I loved going through your performance list and seeing you playing characters that aren’t traditionally cast with Asians or POCs (people of color). What do you think the theater community can improve upon or do to be more inclusive?

Sara:

  1. Hire POC in all areas, especially in positions of power.

  2. Allocate resources, infrastructure, and decision-making to POC.

  3. Make EDI (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) Training mandatory for all Trustees and employees. Implement this ideology into the mission, vision, and programming.

  4. Create systems of accountability and actionable quarterly objectives.

  5. Engage with the community outside of your audience demographic, maintain these relationships and deepen them through community programming curated BY them, FOR them.

Theatres can do more, but I charge a consultant fee for those :)

Did you find that the more you studied acting, the more you were driven to be an activist? Or were you always engaged in conversations and work around social change?

Sara: I’m privileged to have been raised by two women who value social change and justice. Our household was talking about intersectional activism before they became buzzwords. The more I studied acting, the more I realized how problematic and white American theatre and arts education was. It was this disparity that pushed me to become an advocate and activist within the arts community.

 Dragon Lady picture provided by Sara Porkalob

Dragon Lady picture provided by Sara Porkalob

Reading through your blog post “Institutional Racism Made Me a Better Artist,” we get to hear a little bit about the early inspiration for Dragon Lady, which is your family. What has been their response to the show and your other work?

Sara:
In this order:

  1. Disbelief and suspicion

  2. Incredulity and laughter

  3. Tears and catharsis

  4. Anger and healing

  5. Pride and joy

  6. Sharing MORE stories of the past, making sure I know all the details.

My family is my rock. They keep me humble. They are a constant reminder of where I come from and why I should never forget that. They love my work and think I’m the best of my peer group, but they could be biased. Or not. ;)

Did Dragon Lady always have music? What drove you to make it a full musical?

Sara: Dragon Lady has always had music. Transitioning to a musical made sense but required more capital and institutional support. The first two years of performing it, I had musical tracks and sang covers of popular songs that had special significance for the story. The third year, I had enough resources and support to commission a composer to create original music, plus create covers of the past songs. My grandmother was a singer in the Philippines. All of the women in my family are singers and the men are musicians. Music is in my blood. It wouldn’t be a Porkalob show without music.

Who / what (else) inspires you?

Sara: My entire family. Black women. Children. Asian Grandmas.

 Dragon Lady poster provided by Sara Porkalob

Dragon Lady poster provided by Sara Porkalob

Performing can be physically and emotionally draining, are there any activities you like to do to recharge?

Sara: I eat Korean, or Filipino, or Japanese food. I also enjoy a hot shower, with a cold beer, and then some good ol’ marijuana after. I also love cats and enjoy relaxing with mine because she’s sassy and silly and doesn’t bore me with small talk.

How else can our community here in Boston support you (besides attending your show)?

Sara: GET MORE BROWN AND BLACK PEOPLE OUT IN THE AUDIENCE!!! That’s the dream, as many POC as I can get, I’d love for them to see this show.

One last question, because I read somewhere that your happy place is “food in my face,” so naturally, I had to ask... what’s your favorite food? Favorite Filipino dish?

Sara: Korean food allll the wayyyyy. Sorry, Filipino ancestors! Fave Filipino dish? Sinigang, all the way. With some patis and hot rice, yesssssss.

 Dragon Lady picture provided by Sara Porkalob

Dragon Lady picture provided by Sara Porkalob

Thanks again to Sara Porkalob for being amazing, and taking time to do this interview.

If you don’t have tickets to her show Dragon Lady, playing over at OBERON in Cambridge, get your tickets now! The show is running for 3 nights at 7:30PM, March 22nd - 24th, with one 2PM matinee on March 24th: https://americanrepertorytheater.org/events/show/dragon-lady


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 Civic Action Leader Helena Berbano

By Trish Fontanilla

I met Helena Berbano a few years ago when I was volunteering with ASPIRE (Asian Sisters Participating in Reaching Excellence), and emceeing their Asian American Women in Leadership Conference. There was a volunteer potluck afterwards, and while I do remember Helena pretty well, I remember the food she brought even better. Seems like the Filipino way, right? The way to our hearts is through food? I’ve been incredibly impressed with Helena’s work (we’ll be doing a followup piece on more opportunities for civic engagement), so I figured she’d be perfect for our “Filipinos in Boston series!

 Picture provided by Helena Berbano / Helena and her mother in  Batangas , Philippines

Picture provided by Helena Berbano / Helena and her mother in Batangas, Philippines

Where's your family from?
I’m from Boston, by way of Bronx, NY and Winter Park, FL. My mother and father are from Quezon City, and my grandparents are from Quezon City and Cavite. My dad’s side is Ilocano, and my mother’s side is Tagalog.

 Picture provided by Helena Berbano / Helena knocking on doors for Newton City Council Candidate, Nicole Castillo

Picture provided by Helena Berbano / Helena knocking on doors for Newton City Council Candidate, Nicole Castillo

What do you do?
During the day I work with grassroots groups on their civic action and electoral work. Off hours I’m involved in progressive political campaigns and nonprofits. I’m also a full time karaoke queen. Other hobbies include fiction and poetry writing, hiking, amateur baking, and binging Law and Order: SVU.

What inspired you to be so civically engaged?
What compelled me to get involved in civic action work is reality. I can’t pinpoint when it happened, but what I can describe it as...is that I faced a self-reckoning on the reality of access, power structures, and privilege. I confronted myself about the model minority myth, growing up “middle class”, and I reflected on my experiences as a 2nd generation Filipina who grew up in the South. The result of this reckoning was an unyielding passion and motivation to dismantle oppressive systems.

On Boston...

How long have you been in Boston?
I’ve been in the Greater Boston area for almost a decade. I’ve lived in Metro Boston for about 4 years.

Favorite Boston spots (could be restaurants / parks / anything!):
Food: The Beehive (South End), Avana Sushi (Chinatown), Eldo Cake House (Chinatown), Le's (Allston), Thinking Cup (Downtown), L’Espalier (Back Bay), and many more.

Places: Jin Karaoke (Brighton), Lawn on D, Brighton Music Hall, Boston Public Garden, and the Museum of Science.

What's your community superpower?
Keeping up constant humor despite the disheartening political situation. Like I always say, “I laugh, so I don’t cry.”

 Picture provided by Helena Berbano / Helena at the  Taal Volcano  in the Philippines

Picture provided by Helena Berbano / Helena at the Taal Volcano in the Philippines

On Filipino Food...

What's your all time favorite Filipino dish?
Kare Kare hands down. It’s savory, funky, and decadent.

What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?
I love making Chicken Adobo (writer's note: including a recipe we recently published on the blog). It’s simple, delicious, and magical. When I am having a bad day, the smell of toyo (soy sauce), suka (vinegar), bawang (garlic), and peppercorns is the most comforting thing. Also, sinangag (garlic rice) with adobo is NOT OPTIONAL.

On staying in touch...

How can people stay in touch? 
At me: @helenaberbano (Twitter)
Spam me: berbanoh@gmail.com


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

BOSFilipinos Event Roundup

By Trish Fontanilla

Hey y'all! One of the questions we always get asked here at BOSFilipinos is, "What events should I be going to?" Well this month, we decided to do a quick roundup of some upcoming happenings around town that you should definitely check out! If we missed something, feel free to leave a note for us in the comments and we'll add it.

 Taken from the Tanam event page

Taken from the Tanam event page

Lunar New Year Kamayan
Monday, February 19, 2018
5:30PM - 7:30PM & 8PM - 10PM (2 seatings)
@ Mei Mei

Chef Ellie and the crew at Tanám are celebrating Lunar New Year by eating with their hands! We saw the menu in their newsletter and it. looks. amazing. From lechon kawali (braised and deep fried pork belly) to ginataang alimasag (coconut milk braised crab) to ube cheesecake with coconut meringue, February 19th just feels so far away! For more info: https://tanam.co/


 Taken from the Craft Food Hall Project FB invite

Taken from the Craft Food Hall Project FB invite

Restaurant Pop Up: Kain Na - Time to Eat Filipino Food!
Tuesday, February 20, 2018 - Thursday, February 22, 2018
Times vary @ Craft Food Hall Project

Craft Food Hall in Lowell does weekly pop-ups, and next week they'll be featuring Filipino food! We hear they'll have chicken adobo, turon (essentially a banana spring roll), pancit (Filipino-style noodles), and more. For info: https://www.facebook.com/events/963843737100752/


 Picture taken from the ASPIRE event page

Picture taken from the ASPIRE event page

Hot Pot Fundraiser for ASPIRE
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
6PM - 8PM @ Hot Pot Fundraiser

ASPIRE, a non-profit dedicated to career and leadership development for Asian American girls and women in Boston, is having an all-you-can-eat fundraiser at Hot Pot Buffet in Chinatown! For more info: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/hot-pot-buffet-fundraiser-tickets-42993047362


 Taken from the We, Ceremony invite

Taken from the We, Ceremony invite

Contemporary Women of Color Making History
Thursday, March 1, 2018
6PM - 7:30PM @ Cambridge Public Library

Our friends over at We, Ceremony are kicking off Women's History Month with a Cambridge Public Library collaboration. There will be a panel featuring three local women of color who are changing Boston and beyond. For more info: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/contemporary-women-of-color-making-history-tickets-43008878714


 Taken from the BCNC event page, image by Bren Bataclan

Taken from the BCNC event page, image by Bren Bataclan

In the Kitchen: Tortang Talong
Saturday, March 3, 2018
11AM - 12:30PM @ Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center

Cambridge-based artist, Bren Bataclan, will be teaching a cooking class featuring one of his favorite Filipino dishes: Tortang Talong! For more info: https://bcnc.net/upcoming-events/2018/3/3/in-the-kitchen


27797907_1845880092098494_8586518878879900790_o.jpg

BOSFilipinos March Meetup
Thursday, March 22, 2018
6PM - 8PM @ TBD

Join us for our first meetup in 2018! We’re bringing together some of the awesome folks in the Boston Filipino community for a happy hour in March. No agenda, just bring yourself and your friends! RSVP on the Facebook page to receive updates: https://www.facebook.com/events/1949448662037487/?active_tab=about


Dragon Lady
Thursday, March 22, 2018 - March 24, 2018
Times vary @ OBERON

From the A.R.T website: “It is the year of the Water Dragon and the eve of Grandma Maria’s 60th birthday. By the light of the karaoke machine, fueled by pork dumplings and diet Pepsi, she shares a dark secret from her Filipino gangster past with one lucky grandchild. Traversing 50 years of faulty family memories, Seattle-based performer Sara Porkalob presents this timely new musical about what it means to come to America.”

For info: https://americanrepertorytheater.org/events/show/dragon-lady


 Image taken from The Wilbur show page. 

Image taken from The Wilbur show page. 

Jo Koy
Friday, April 27, 2018 - Saturday, April 28, 2018
Times vary @ The Wilbur

Filipino American comedian, Jo Koy, is in town in April, and you’re in for some laughs as he pulls inspiration from his family, and specifically his son. Did you see his Netflix special? I’m still crying-laughing about it. For more info: https://thewilbur.com/artist/jo_koy/


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

Vin Diesel* Goes to Manila: Five Things I Learned in the Philippines

by Matt Nagy

 Here's a picture of me (*not Vin Diesel) with the SM Aura mall security guard carrying a rifle.

Here's a picture of me (*not Vin Diesel) with the SM Aura mall security guard carrying a rifle.

Hello there! My name is Matt, and I am married to one of the BOSFilipinos co-founders, Bianca. I’ve always lived on the east coast, sharing my modest time on this earth between New York and New England. I never really traveled before I met my wife. I was always told you can travel and explore the world with your partner-in-crime, but I never expected the chance to see and experience the Philippines.

2017 was my first time overseas (besides the Canadian side of Niagara Falls) and luckily for you all I chronicled some of my experiences while I was there. Below are the top five things I learned while I was in the Philippines:

The traffic is unreal. You will only understand this once you go there.

My wife and her friends complain constantly about the traffic in the Philippines. You can only understand how bad it really is when you are actually in the middle of traffic in Manila. The night we arrived, we were welcomed by the heavy, dense, humid, post-rain air. We gathered up our bags and hopped in the family car. We made our way into the heart of Makati, the business district. As we got further and further from the airport, I was nearly blinded by these massive electronic billboards, none like which I have ever seen. I made the mistake of changing my focus to the road in front of us. And to the left of us. And to the right. We were sandwiched in what appeared to be gridlocked traffic.  I started to learn very quickly that the traffic here is intense, but it is also an ordered chaos. So much so that we were often inches from giant tour buses and jeepneys (Filipino jeep taxis). There is a certain sigh of relief you get once you descend from the highways of Manila and make your way towards the subdivisions (gated residential areas).

 My favorite Filipino meal.  © Bianca Garcia

My favorite Filipino meal.

© Bianca Garcia

Filipino Breakfast is the best.

We ate outside in the mornings, on the back porch. The cool, balmy morning breeze lifted the rich scent of soft garlic fried rice, called sinangag, from the confines of a hastily set table. The true definition of eating family style in the Philippines features multiple dishes and suitable condiments, all sharing space on a lazy susan.

I would often pair the sinangag with itlog (fried egg) and longganisa (Filipino sausage). This common breakfast combination is appropriately called longsilog (the combination of the words longganisa, sinangag, and itlog). The creamy egg yolk, folded into a warm bed of rice was perfectly complemented by the rich crunchiness of the sausage. I would wash it all down with a refreshing glass of fresh calamansi juice. Calamansi is a Filipino citrus fruit, small and round, looks like a baby lime, and very tart in flavor.

Upon completion of this carb- and protein-rich greasy delight, Bianca’s dad would come bearing fresh mangoes from a local market. Without a doubt, these are the best mangoes I have ever had. This would be another staple item to my meals while at my in-laws. It turns out that these are in fact not even very good mangoes, because they were not in season during the time we visited (January). Filipino mangoes, like most mangoes, are best in the summer. Could have fooled me. I’ll take your crappy Philippine mangoes over our “good” US mangoes any day.

 Graffiti along Diliman Avenue on the way to the UP Town Center mall.  © Matt Nagy

Graffiti along Diliman Avenue on the way to the UP Town Center mall.

© Matt Nagy

The rich and the poor are neighbors.

We arrived in the Philippines at night, so the only thing I was focused on was the giant backlit billboards, the angry traffic, and when I was finally going to be able to shower after 30 hours of travel. The first full day we were in the Philippines was the day I truly understood what it’s like to live in a third world country.

We spent one afternoon in U.P. Town Center. It is a sprawling mall complex sharing a mix of indoor and outdoor stores and restaurants, in the University of the Philippines area. We ate ramen and I bought a pair of sneakers. Normal activities you might expect in a first-world country.

But on the way there, nestled in between our secluded subdivision and the mall, were these small, metal, roughly constructed shanties and storefronts, representing a metaphysical window into the impoverished life that many experience here.

Upon returning to Bianca’s home from a day of shopping and eating, I was reminded of the safety and comfort of a gated community, and the surrounding area of elegant Mediterranean-style and ultra-modern homes of their subdivision. Seeing these extremes back to back made me realize how good I have it. It's one of the most interesting parts of visiting the Philippines.

Being a minority here is like being a celebrity.

I truly understand what it’s like to be a minority now. Fortunately for me, I only experienced the positive aspects of being a minority. There were times in my trip where I could see a lot of heads turning in my direction, people looking up from their lunch to react to seeing a white guy in the same restaurant, and the noticeable pause in conversations when people caught me in the corner of their eye. This isn’t the case everywhere. There are a few communities where there is a relatively large white population, but so few and far in between that even I gawked at white people when I saw them in the mall. I will say that the best, most flattering part was when the family driver told Bianca that I look like Vin Diesel. Just to be clear, I might be a dumb-looking bald white guy, but I look nothing like Vin Diesel. Whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing is up to you.

 With the Garcias

With the Garcias

Filipino people are some of the most welcoming people in the world.

Last, but certainly not least - despite the fact that I am a dumb-looking bald white guy, I never felt like I was the only non-Filipino in the room. At every meal, every celebration, and every other meeting in between, I felt like I have always lived in the Philippines. The way I was embraced by Bianca’s family and friends was nothing short of amazing.

I’m looking forward to going back and experiencing the warm hospitality again, seeing more of what the Philippines has to offer, and eating more longsilog. I mean lechon. I mean Jollibee.

A conversation with my Best Friend, Saima

By Leila Amerling

  Saima and I, THEN and NOW...   (our Junior year of highschool (1998) and Saima as my maid of honor (2016). I actually couldn't find one normal picture of us in any of my wedding photos.)

Saima and I, THEN and NOW...

(our Junior year of highschool (1998) and Saima as my maid of honor (2016). I actually couldn't find one normal picture of us in any of my wedding photos.)

Saima Kazi is a half-Bangladeshi, half-Indian Muslim living a foodie life in Boston. Saima has a story to tell and it starts (where most of our stories begin) where she grew up: the Philippines. Saima was born in Bangkok, Thailand, moved to the Philippines later in elementary school, and lived the rest of her formidable years there. She then moved to Boston for college and has been here ever since.

Saima and I have been friends, best friends, since the 6th grade (although she will claim it was the 4th). Like any close friend, she has been a part of many of my life transitions, she was even my maid of honor. She is the reason why I actually live in Boston. Well technically, she was the person who convinced me to move to Boston from the Philippines for college. The reason why I’m still here, well, I ask myself that every winter. It could have something to do with Saima’s cooking. If you ever have her cooking, you’d probably stay in Boston too.

Saima is one of the first members to join BOSFilipinos, and was a sous chef for our Filipino Food Pop-Up last September. When we host our monthly Filipino food potlucks, Saima's contributions are the first to be cleaned out. Anyone who has tasted her food will agree that she's an incredible cook. And anyone who meets her will also agree that she completely lives and understands the Filipino way of life.

Leila: This might be a loaded question but, where are you from originally?
Saima: I inherited the ethnicity of being from Bangladesh, but moved to the Philippines from Thailand where I was born. I grew up in the Philippines which is where my most coherent years were spent (i.e. teens), and it’s where I feel the most connected, like the culture and the food. Mainly because I was surrounded by Filipinos.

Leila: What do you do?
Saima: I help manage a boutique in the fashion retail industry.

Leila: What’s the best part of your job?
Saima: Meeting different people, being able to style them, and being able to teach people how to style them, leaving everyone happy once I’ve interacted with them! Well, at least most of the time...

Leila: What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?
Saima: Cook new things, spend time with my Besties, dance with my handsome Haitian boyfriend, and catch-up on Netflix. I’ve been watching Downton Abbey lately.

Leila: What is your favorite thing to cook?
Saima: Oh boy! Another loaded question. Adobo, Pinakbet, Arroz Caldo, Munggo, Thai Meatball Curry, Haitian Chicken Stew, Biryani, anything with a fried egg on it. I could keep going but those are in rotation in my kitchen.

Leila: Is that influenced by your background?
Saima: Oh yes! Thai I picked up from spending my early years there. At home, we cooked Indian, and most of my latter years was spent in Filipino restaurants and homes. But it’s not just the food, it’s the people that I’ve come across that have influenced my cooking (you and your mom are a BIG part of it). I was born into a conservative Indian family forced to follow rules but the Philippines brought me sunshine, tanduay rum, dried mangoes and introduced me to the other aspects of non-conservative ways of life, like binge eating, drinking, dancing and singing karaoke. I mean who doesn’t want a piece of the Philippines?!

Leila: How did you learn to cook?
Saima: Well, I never had to cook until I moved to the the States. I am a foodie so when I left the Philippines I craved it a lot. I thought about the flavors that I missed and enjoyed the most, so I took my favorite flavors, and learned to cook by trial and error.

Leila: When do you plan on going back to the Philippines?
Saima: When they eradicate all lizards. Hate them. Or when there’s a wedding to attend. That’s when all of the best Pinoy foods come out to play (except lechon, I’ll never know the true deliciousness thanks to my religion).

So there you have it folks. A little peek into the life of my friend, Saima. I’ll bet you may think that you have a boring life, but really, like Saima, you have a story to tell too!

 

We want to hear your story too! Or if you know of anyone that has a story to tell, or that you want to interview please let us know! Send us an email at info@bosfilipinos.com or hit us up on social media and we'll get back to you ASAP.