Filipinos in Boston: An Interview with Events Administrator Desiree Arevalo

By Trish Fontanilla

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

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

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

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

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

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

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

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

On Boston…

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

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

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

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

On Filipino Food...

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

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

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

On staying in touch…

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

Filipinos in Boston: An Interview with Journalist & Educator Alyssa Vaughn

By Trish Fontanilla

Happy New Year, BFers! We’re kicking off 2019 with an awesome new profile: Alyssa Vaughn. While I haven’t met Alyssa in person, we connected over social media and I was totally fascinated by her work with Teens in Print. Thank you Alyssa for taking time to chat with BF, and I hope y’all enjoy learning more about her!

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Where are you from?
Alyssa:
I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. My mom’s family immigrated to the Midwest from Cavite City.

Where do you work and what do you do?
Alyssa:
I work full time at a nonprofit called WriteBoston, where I manage Teens in Print, an after school newspaper journalism program for Boston public high school students. I’m also currently the editorial fellow at Scout Magazines, the hyperlocal bimonthly magazines of Somerville and Cambridge. Basically, I spend my days designing lessons to teach my budding writers the basics of journalism, and I spend my evenings and weekends making sure my own journalism skills stay sharp!  

Can you tell us a little more about how you got started with Teens In Print?
Alyssa:
After college, I knew I wanted to work in journalism in some capacity, but I wasn’t sure how. I was also interested in spending a year serving in the AmeriCorps program, as I participated in a lot of community service throughout my high school and college years. As I was looking through the AmeriCorps positions available in Boston, I came across a position with Teens in Print, and it seemed like the perfect way to both serve the community and pursue my interest in journalism. After my service year, I was fortunate enough to be hired by WriteBoston as a full time staff member—so now I get to continue teaching journalism and working with amazing kids, but with a real salary instead of that tough AmeriCorps stipend!

On Boston...

How long have you been in Boston?
Alyssa:
This is my sixth year here—I moved here originally to attend Boston College.

What are your favorite Boston spots:
Alyssa:
I’m totally partial to Cambridge and Somerville since I spend so much time learning and writing about those communities. I love Bow Market in Union Square (I’m eagerly awaiting the kamayan dinners that will be hosted there at Ellie Tiglao’s Filipino restaurant, Tanam!). I cook a lot, so I also love to poke around the city’s specialty food shops, like Capone Foods, Formaggio Kitchen, and the Central Square H-Mart. I also appreciate all the beautiful outdoor spaces we have in this part of town—North Point Park is my favorite place to sit outside and read in the warmer months.

What's your community superpower?
Alyssa:
As you can probably tell from what I do for a living, I’m passionate about building community through writing. I’ve actually written for the local magazine of every city I’ve ever lived in because I love to uplift people who are doing amazing things right in my own neighborhood. I think that storytelling is an incredibly powerful force, and that when you read about your community, you can’t help but feel more connected to and excited about it. I feel really lucky to have a career that’s focused around facilitating that connection.

On Filipino Food...

What's your all-time favorite Filipino dish?
Alyssa:
That’s such a tough question! The winner has to be my Nana’s pork adobo.

What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?
Alyssa:
Chicken adobo was one of the first things I learned how to cook, and I make it ridiculously often. I just follow my mom’s method: I lightly sear about a pound and half of chicken thighs in a pot, then pour 1/2 a cup of vinegar, 1/2 a cup of soy sauce, and all the garlic in my apartment over them. There’s also nothing quite staining my clothes and making my whole house smell like oil while frying up a batch of lumpia.

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On Staying in Touch…

How can people stay in touch? (website / social / email if you want!)
Alyssa:
Follow me on Twitter!


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

Filipinos In Boston: An Interview With 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.

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.

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.

Filipinos in Boston: An Interview with Food Photographer Tina Picz

By Trish Fontanilla

Picture provided by Tina Picz / Tina with her husband and daughter

Picture provided by Tina Picz / Tina with her husband and daughter

Where are you from?
I grew up in Massachusetts and have lived in California, Florida, and Brooklyn, NY. My mom is from Leyte, Philippines and my dad is from Rhode Island. 

And what do you do?
I've been a food photographer for over 3 years and a freelance writer as well.

What inspired you to be a photographer?
I became a food photographer after having a cooking blog in NY for a bit, by way of trying many creative outlets over the years like singing in bands, designing clothing, planning fashion shows and selling vintage clothing. I'm always in search of new artistic paths, and have loved trying my hand at many different mediums of self-expression. I've always enjoyed capturing moments of beauty, in whatever form I could, and sharing them with others.

On Boston...

How long have you been in Boston?
I have been back in Boston for 3 years now after moving around the country for 6 years.

What are your favorite Boston spots? Could be restaurants / parks / anything!
Some of my favorite spots are Boston Public Garden, biking along Charles River, and for food I love Mei Mei, Pho House, Dosa N Curry, The Indo, Whole Heart Provisions, and My Thai Vegan Cafe.

© Tina Picz / Jacqueline Dole pop-up at Mei Mei

© Tina Picz / Jacqueline Dole pop-up at Mei Mei

What's been your favorite, or one of your favorite photoshoots?

One of my favorite photoshoots in Boston was probably a pop-up dinner event at Mei Mei a few years ago, at which Jacqueline Dole, founder of Parlor Ice Cream Co., was pastry chef and made delicious Baked Alaska. I loved the local, seasonal, one-night menu, and the usage of handmade pottery by Adria Katz. It was fun to get behind the scenes and capture the chefs cooking, the young, lively staff having a good time, and of course eating the great food they offered!

What's your community superpower?
Helping food pantries and food businesses tell their stories through photographs. I especially love working with local female entrepreneurs and small businesses, and seeing all the ingenious and creative ways that they've incorporated food into the community to benefit those less fortunate. I like offering my photography skills as a volunteer service where it can help spread the word to more people regarding ways to get involved locally.

On Filipino Food...

© Tina Picz / Tina's mom's birthday party

© Tina Picz / Tina's mom's birthday party

What's your all-time favorite Filipino dish?
My all time favorite Filipino dishes are: Sinigang (my mom's fish soup), Fish Adobo, Champorado (chocolate rice), Biko (sweet rice cake), Puto (rice cake), and Suman (coconut sticky rice in banana leaves).

What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?
My favorite to make is Champorado because it's easy and sweet!

How can people stay in touch with you?  
To stay in touch, follow me on Instagram @bostonfoodphoto and @deerdrifter or http://deerdrifter.tumblr.com

© Shannon Aubourg  / Tina with her mother and her daughter

©Shannon Aubourg / Tina with her mother and her daughter

Interview with Ray Hallare of Dowel Furniture

By Trish Fontanilla

Image provided by Ray Hallare

Image provided by Ray Hallare

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

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

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

Image provided by Ray Hallare / Dowel Furniture

Image provided by Ray Hallare / Dowel Furniture

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

Image provided by Ray Hallare / Dowel Furniture

Image provided by Ray Hallare / Dowel Furniture

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

Image provided by Ray Hallare / Dowel Furniture

Image provided by Ray Hallare / Dowel Furniture

On Boston...
 

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

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

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

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

  • TD Garden mainly because I love watching Celtics games

Image provided by Ray Hallare / Dowel Furniture

Image provided by Ray Hallare / Dowel Furniture

On Filipino food…
 

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

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

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


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

Thanks for taking the time to chat, Ray!