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.
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!
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.
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.