Unlike my fellow BOSFilipinos founders, I didn’t grow up in the Philippines. I’ve actually only been once, and I had a really good time if you couldn’t tell by the picture (I’m on the far left). My parents, however, were born in the Philippines but on different islands. My mom is from Pangasinan (Luzon) and my dad grew up on a farm in Iloilo (Visayas). They came to America around the same time in the 60s, and actually met in Newark, New Jersey where there was a Little Manila at the time. Both of them grew up in big families with little money, so they came to the US to live that “streets paved in gold” American dream.
When I was a kid, my dad was adamant that we be "American.” To him that meant always speaking English to me and my brothers, and assimilating whenever possible. On the other hand, my mom always made sure that we were connected to the Filipino community, especially when it came to parties and food.
The best way I can describe my Filipino experience growing up is by talking about the two birthday parties I had each year. It wasn’t because of any particular extravagance, it was because my mom insisted that I have an “American” birthday party and a Filipino one. The American party was a Saturday lunch with my classmates from school. We had Domino’s pizza and Blimpie subs and a white cake with calligraphy writing from Pathmark, our local supermarket. The lunch was generally two hours long. The kids and their parents were on time, and they left on time. The Filipino party “started” at 5, but people didn’t show up until 6 or 7. The food was all Filipino, and mostly made by my mother with the exception of the lechon (a whole roasted pig). There was karaoke and line dancing and mahjong (an Asian tile game) and loud laughter that went into the wee hours of the morning. Or until my neighbors called the police, which is a whole other fun blog post on race relations for another time.
So for a very long time, the way I lived was much like the parties I grew up with. There was my “American” self that walked around most days fitting in as best I could. Then I was my Filipino self on the weekends and at home. And without many people that looked like me in the media - movies, magazines, etc - it was hard for me to imagine that you could be Filipino “out loud” and be accepted. Ah, one of the many reasons why representation is important.
Now after living in Boston for 15 years, a couple years off from being here half of my life, it’s now all coming full circle. But instead of the segregated identities I grew up with, over the past several years here, I’ve started to build a community to merge my Filipino American experience. And I know that may feel completely foreign to some, but I believe it will resonate with anyone out there who is Filipino American or a first generation kid or just trying to figure themselves out. BOSFilipinos is for all of the above, and more.
This project rose up from a place of warmth and hospitality (thanks for that influence, Mom!), and I’m so excited for you all to be a part of this community.