Christmas in September!

By Leila Amerling

Ahh September...Personally, I think it’s one of the best months of the year. You still have a chance to soak up a few more hot beach days but you’re also being eased into fresh, crisp Fall weather. As we gear up to getting our first taste of PSLs (aka pumpkin spice lattes) and all other things pumpkin for the season, the other side of the hemisphere is starting to get ready for, believe it or not, Christmas!


Oh yes, it's that time of year when malls, hotels, and radio stations across the Philippines are beginning to play Christmas carols and decking their halls with lights and decorations. While we in the U.S. anticipate to celebrate other festive holidays such as Halloween and Thanksgiving (has anyone else noticed that the supermarkets are starting to sell Halloween candy way too early by the way?) Filipinos gear up to celebrate Christmas. Although it’s technically not the only holiday celebrated between now and December (a.k.a the “-BER” months; stay tuned for our post about All Saints’ Day this November), Christmas is by far the favorite and highly anticipated holiday in the country, also the longest celebrated holiday of the year.

Throughout the “-BER” months, fake Christmas trees are sold on the streets, tiangges (markets) pop up throughout the city, fruit cakes are being baked and exchanged, queso de bolas (cheese balls) are being stocked up at supermarkets, and the same Christmas carols from the 80s and 90s are playing on repeat everywhere. Side note: the “-BER” months are also known as such because the country starts to cool down by a few degrees. It’s still the tropics, so cooling down means highs of 90 degrees and lows of upper 70s.


Not only is Christmas a time for presents and food though, it is also the holiday in which beloved family members come home from working overseas. During this time, Filipino overseas workers start sending balikbayan boxes (aka care packages) to their families and booking their flights home. This, I believe is truly what makes this holiday the most anticipated and happiest time of the year.

Coincidentally, scientific reports have indicated that putting up Christmas decorations early can actually make you happier. Perhaps this is why Filipinos are known to be some of the nicest and happiest people in the world. So while you skim through Amazon for the perfect Halloween costume, it’s perfectly acceptable to start digging out your Christmas lights and detangling them.

BOSFilipinos Fall Events Roundup

By Trish Fontanilla

Okay, okay… it’s not Fall yet, but we did want you to make sure you marked your calendars for these awesome upcoming events. If we missed something, feel free to leave a note for us in the comments and we'll add it!

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4th BOSFilipinos Meetup
Thursday, September 13, 2018
6PM - 8PM @ Scholar’s

Our next BOSFilipinos meetup will be September 13th! There's no agenda for this hang out... just food, fun, Filipinos + friends. We hope to see you there! RSVP on Facebook:


A One-Night-Only Filipino Feast at B3
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
6PM - 8PM

“For one night only, Berklee College of Music partner restaurant B3's executive chef Jeffrey Salazar, will be cooking up a spectrum of Filipino dishes—a tribute to his Philippine heritage—where guests are invited to feast together family-style, in partnership with Cross Cultures by Cheryl Tiu.”

Orientation Workshop for Foreign-Trained Immigrants in Greater Boston
Saturday, September 22, 2018
10AM - 2PM @ East Boston Library

“Join us for our New Immigrants Orientation Workshop! We are bringing in experts to answer questions and provide resources that will help recent immigrants build on their foreign training to reach their potential in the United States. Come learn more about how to navigate the U.S. systems, hear about career development opportunities and meet other new immigrants and advocates in the Greater Boston area. Attendance is FREE.”

Asian Street Food Night Market
Saturday, September 22, 2018
4PM - 11PM @ The Shops at Chestnut Hill

“Welcome to the one and only Asian Street Food Night Market in the Greater Boston Area! 30+ local Asian vendors will be cooking and serving over 100 different types of Asian dishes and snacks, including Chinese crepes, takoyaki, Korean rice cakes (topokki), Uyghur lamb kebab, skewers, fruit teas, Thai dessert, and so many more!”

The 8th Asian American Cultural Concert
Sunday, September 23, 2018
3PM - 5PM @ Isaac Harris Cary Memorial Building

“A high-quality art and cultural concert is coming up in Lexington Battin Hall. Audiences will enjoy ethnic culture, music, dance, and innovative performances from Asian countries. Let's grab a seat and enjoy this wonderful afternoon with us. The end of the concert, we are going to have a big surprise. Don't miss out on all the FUN!”


Filipino Fiesta Boodlefest Dinner & Dance Fundraiser
Saturday, October 13, 2018
6PM - 11PM @ Watertown Sons-Of-Italty

“In the Philippines, a boodlefest is a military style meal in which food is piled on top of banana leaves, laid out on long tables, and eaten with bare hands. Join BKP in celebrating its 20th year! Eat, dance, support our literacy programs and libraries in the Philippines.”


Boston Asian American Film Festival
Dates vary

“This is the 10th festival and we're extending our fun and films to another weekend! The festival will be held at Brattle Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 18 and the rest of the programming will be at Paramount Center and various other venues. Please save the date and join us for a great experience with the community.

Save the date for our PREVIEW PARTY | September 26, 7-9PM @ Oberon”

ASPIRE Happy Hour
uesday, October 2, 2018
6PM - 9PM @ The Pour House

“Come out to meet some awesome people whether you are new to the area or looking to stretch your network. It never hurts to make more friends! Appetizers will be provided! Bring yourself! Bring your friends! All are welcome!”

2018 CelebrAsians Benefit Fashion Show
Saturday, October 13, 2018
6PM - 9PM @ Boston Medical Center Shapiro Center Atrium

“CelebrASIANS is a benefit fashion show presented by AWFH to celebrate the strength and resiliency of Asian cancer/trauma survivors. They will model the creations of leading Asian designers while the audience learns about their inspiring stories and aspirations.”


2018 AAPI Civil Rights Forum
Friday, October 26, 2018
8AM - 3:15PM @ Federal Reserve Plaza

“The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Asian American Commission and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Boston Area Office invites you to this (non-political) forum and hope you will leave this event more empowered to embracing the synergy that will strengthen us. This forum is created by your community for our community.”

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Tuesday, November 6, 2018
7AM - 8PM, @ Your Local Voting Booth

No, this isn’t an Asian / Filipino specific but it’s important. To check whether you’re registered to vote, where you vote, and more, click on the links above.

Farm-to-KITCHEN Cooking Class: Classic Asian Flavors with Chef Irene Li
Monday, November 19, 2018
6PM - 8PM @ Boston Public Market

“The KITCHEN at the Boston Public Market is honored to welcome James Beard Rising Star Chef Irene Li for a very special hands-on cooking experience. In Chef Li's class, attendees will learn the traditional Asian fusion cuisine that has people lining up for her popular food truck and restaurant, Mei Mei. Join us to cook side-by-side with one of Boston's most prestigious chef heros who is committed to highlighting New England’s local farmers, fishermen and artisans on her menus!”

As always, you can keep up to date with the latest Filipino / Asian events around town by checking out our Events page. We’ll see you out there!

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:

Filipino Books at the Boston Public Library

By Trish Fontanilla

 Boston Public Library / Taken by Trish Fontanilla

Boston Public Library / Taken by Trish Fontanilla

Fun fact: growing up I went to library school instead of preschool, so I started reading at a very early age. And while other kids’ favorite games were Candy Land or Mouse Trap, my favorite game was Dewey Decimal Classification Bingo. So it’s probably no surprise that when I moved to Boston I quickly fell in love with the Boston Public Library. Now that I’m a consultant, I spend even more time there, and it’s one of my favorite places in the city by far.

Another reason I love the BPL is because of the number of Filipino books it has on the shelves.

Here are 8 books on my Later shelf (a category on the BPL website for folks like me that have a ton of books checked out AND are on the waiting list for an equally absurd amount of books):


1. The Oracles: My Filipino Grandparents in America by Pati Navalta Poblete

I’ve gotta admit, I was initially drawn to this book because of the title. I regularly call older family members The Elders Council because they are the last say on important decisions that impact our very large family (dates people can get married, when reunions are, etc). In this memoir, Poblete talks about the intergenerational issues she experienced growing up Filipino American and living with her immigrant grandparents.

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2. Filipino Cuisine: Recipes from the Islands by Gerry G. Gelle

This is one of the larger Filipino cookbooks available at the BPL, with hundreds of recipes from different parts of the Philippines like Northern Luzon, Central Plains, Bicol, Visayas, and Mindanao. So if you’re looking for a cookbook that’s a general overview of Filipino cuisine, this one’s definitely it!

3. Filipino Children’s Favorite Stories by Liana Romulo (hard copy / eBook)

Growing up in America, most of my bedtime stories were about my dad’s farm in the Philippines. So while my favorite stories are of Filipino origins, I’ve actually never heard Filipino retellings of classic folktales. In this book, Roulo compiled 13 stories, some of which have companion tales in other cultures. Bonus: Romulo’s book Filipino Friends is also available at the BPL!


4. The Filipino Americans 1763 - present: Their History, Culture, and Traditions by Veltsezar Bautista

The 2nd edition of this book is available at the BPL. As Filipinos are not generally credited for their contributions in America, I found it fascinating that in reading this book’s description, it covers everything from the economy, politics, entertainment, and more.

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5. Filipinos Represent DJs, Racial Authenticity, and the Hip-Hop Nation by Antonio Tiongson

Stoked to read this. I knew many Filipino Americans growing up who were obsessed with hip hop, and I actually did a little hip hop choreography at my cotillion (Filipino American Sweet 16). I’m just going to share the Amazon description here because I couldn’t have worded it any better: “Looking at the ways in which Filipino DJs legitimize their place in an expressive form historically associated with African Americans, Tiongson examines what these complex forms of identification reveal about the contours and trajectory of contemporary U.S. racial formations and discourses in the post–civil rights era.”

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6. Asian Americans in the Twenty-First Century by Joann Faung Jean Lee

This book covers oral histories of First to Fourth Generation Americans from China, Japan, India, Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Laos. I love that it features AAs from all these different countries and differentiates some of their experiences. I feel like people often forget how much of a blanket term “Asian” is, and how different we all can be from hair / skin color to cultural and religious traditions.

7. Monsoon Mansion by Cinelle Barnes

I was wondering why I hadn’t heard of this book before, and realized it came out in 2018! “Told with a lyrical, almost-dreamlike voice as intoxicating as the moonflowers and orchids that inhabit this world, Monsoon Mansion is a harrowing yet triumphant coming-of-age memoir exploring the dark, troubled waters of a family's rise and fall from grace in the Philippines. It would take a young warrior to survive it.”

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8. 10,000 Islands: A Food Portrait of the Philippines by Yasmin Newman

Admittedly, this isn’t a book on my Later shelf, I have this book checked out right now… but I promise to return it soon! So far I’ve made mango icebox cake, flan, and empanadas. I love Newman’s take on a cookbook as a cultural guide, and her notes on the origins and influences on each recipe.

 Boston Public Library Courtyard / Taken by Trish Fontanilla

Boston Public Library Courtyard / Taken by Trish Fontanilla

What are your favorite Filipino books at the BPL (or locations across the city)? How about books that should be at the BPL and aren’t? Comment below!

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:

Trying Halo-Halo in Metro Manila

By Roland Calupe

 Photo provided by Roland Calupe

Photo provided by Roland Calupe

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

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

 Photo provided by Roland Calupe

Photo provided by Roland Calupe

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

 Photo provided by Roland Calupe

Photo provided by Roland Calupe

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

 Photo provided by Roland Calupe

Photo provided by Roland Calupe

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

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


 Photo provided by Roland Calupe

Photo provided by Roland Calupe

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

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

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

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

By Trish Fontanilla

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

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

 Photo provided by Jennifer Javier

Photo provided by Jennifer Javier

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Boston...

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

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

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

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

On Filipino Food...

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

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

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

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

On staying in touch…

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

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

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

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

Our One Year BOSFilipiversary

By Trish Fontanilla

BOSFilipinos One Year Anniversary

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

Not too shabby for a completely volunteer-run org!

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

Moving Forward

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

Volunteer positions (of all levels) include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’re looking for all levels of experience.

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

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

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

Mind the Gap

By Sophie de Castro

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

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

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

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

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


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

Mall Experience

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

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

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

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

Beauty Standards

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Trish Fontanilla

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

Dancing at Ketchikan Filipino Community Center.jpg

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

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

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

On Boston...

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

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

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

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

On Filipino Food...

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

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

On staying in touch…

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

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

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

PAMANA Filipino Parade and Festival

By Bianca Garcia

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

Here are some pics from the day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(More pics on our Facebook page.)

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

By Trish Fontanilla

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

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

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

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


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

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


On Boston…

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

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

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

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

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

On Filipino Food...

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

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


On staying in touch…

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

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