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!

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):

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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!


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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: info@bosfilipinos.com.

Philippines Independence Day & BF Founders Around Town

By Trish Fontanilla

Filipino trivia: On June 12, 1898 the Philippines celebrated their declaration of independence from Spain. Interestingly enough, that’s not when the Philippines gained its full independence. Spain had only ceded the islands to the United States as a part of the Treaty of Paris. The U.S. granted the Philippines their independence after World War II (yep, Filipinos fought alongside Americans during the war), and the Treaty of Manila was signed on July 4, 1946.  

For years the Philippines yo-yoed their celebration between the two dates. Today June 12th is a national holiday, but you still gotta go to to work on July 4th, which is now recognized as Republic Day / Philippine-American Friendship Day.

In Boston there’ll be celebrations throughout the month, but here are the events that the BF Founders will be attending:

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Philippine American Mainstream Advocacy for Nonpartisan Associations, Inc. (PAMANA) will be celebrating the month with a few events!

The Parade & Festival are June 10th, 10AM ~ 3PM at La Salette Shrine in Attleboro. BF Co-Founder Bianca Garcia will be there partying at a BOSFilipinos booth, and she’ll be selling some of her homemade mini ensaymadas in addition to some flan from BF Co-Founder Leila Amerling!

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The 2nd Annual Filipino Festival is June 23, 4:30PM ~ 7:30PM at the Malden YMCA. The Filipino Festival is independently run, and supported in part by a grant from the Malden Cultural Council. The event itself will feature food, performances, and activities celebrating Filipino culture. I'm super excited for this year’s festival because I know that the organizers have a deeper focus on inclusivity. I’ll be there reppin’ BOSFilipinos with a booth and language station!

If you’re heading to any of these events, let us know below or via Facebook / Instagram / Twitter!

And for more events this month, check out the BOSFilipinos Events page. We’ll see ya out there!


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 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 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

BOSFilipinos and Milagros Project Pop-Up Dinner Recap

by Bianca Garcia

My heart was beating fast, my hands were sweating, and I smelled like adobo. I glanced around the cozy space at Saus and saw my team whirring around: Trish was going over the floor plan and putting last minute touches on the dining tables, Leila was prepping garnishes behind the counter, Saima was heading down towards the kitchen with a determined look on her face, and Chef Roland was laser-focused on the food, carrying big pots filled with deliciousness. I grinned wide and welcomed the first guest. We were ready to rock and roll.

Clockwise from top left: Leila, Roland, Bianca, and Trish  © Bianca Garcia

Clockwise from top left: Leila, Roland, Bianca, and Trish

© Bianca Garcia

The next few hours went by in a blur. We were fortunate to have sold out both seatings for the evening, and there was a general buzz of excitement in the packed restaurant that sustained throughout the night. Once the food started coming out, we heard plenty of “oohs,” “ahhs,”  and “mmms.” The diners were happy and satisfied, and so were we. The Filipino Food Pop-Up Event by BOSFilipinos and The Milagros Project was a success! Below are a few pictures from the evening:

scallop kinilaw   © Matt Nagy

scallop kinilaw 

© Matt Nagy

ilocos empanada  © Matt Nagy

ilocos empanada

© Matt Nagy

chicken inasal steeam bun  © Matt Nagy

chicken inasal steeam bun

© Matt Nagy

pork ribs adobo  © Matt Nagy

pork ribs adobo

© Matt Nagy

leche flan  © Cathy Buena

leche flan

© Cathy Buena

Chef Roland talking to diners  © Bianca Garcia

Chef Roland talking to diners

© Bianca Garcia

happy diners  © Bianca Garcia

happy diners

© Bianca Garcia

the night's menu ( hapunan  means dinner in Filipino)   © Matt Nagy

the night's menu (hapunan means dinner in Filipino) 

© Matt Nagy

dried mangoes and bananas  © Bianca Garcia

dried mangoes and bananas

© Bianca Garcia

We are all grateful for this incredible experience. The months of preparations and meetings (filled with food, no complaints) were worth it, and we are proud of our very first eat-up. Extra special thanks to: Chef Roland of The Milagros Project for sharing his talent and letting Boston have a little taste of the Philippines via his tasting menu; Chin, Lucas, Tanya, Aimee, Renee, and the rest of the team at Saus for their help and participation; our friend Saima for rocking out with us that night; my hubby Matt for designing our menu and branding; and of course to our attendees, family, and friends for the support and encouragement.  

MARAMING SALAMAT PO! THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

the team post-event  © Bianca Garcia

the team post-event

© Bianca Garcia