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.

Titles

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: info@bosfilipinos.com.

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?
Christine
: 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:
Christine
:  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?
Christine
: 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?
Christine:
“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: info@bosfilipinos.com.

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?
Virginia
: 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?
Virginia
: 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.

20170322-gather-here-0046.jpg

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?
Virginia
: 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.

20160726-gather-here-0126.jpg

On Boston…

How long have you been in Boston?
Virginia:
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:
Virginia
: 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?
Virginia
: 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?
Virginia
: 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.

20160726-gather-here-0525.jpg

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?
Virginia
: 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.

 

My Filipina Mama

By Leila Amerling

Bday.jpg

Mother’s Day. To my mom, and I’m sure to all moms, Mother’s Day should not be celebrated just ONE day a year. With an Asian mom, especially a Filipino mom, you’re bound to be reminded, or even guilted into thinking that you should show appreciation to your mother everyday! You readers out there who have an Asian mom know exactly what I’m talking about.

First there’s guilt...

An Asian mom will tell you that “nobody” (aka YOU) cares about her, just because you don’t call her every hour on the hour while you’re at work. She will “joke” about how YOU should be giving HER presents on YOUR birthday, because you should be celebrating the fact that she let you into the world. She will guilt you into saying that she makes the best adobo, which is actually true. No one makes adobo as well as your mom. But somehow if you want to eat out, she’ll make you feel guilty by saying that you don’t like her food. In fact, saying how delicious her food is only once in a day, means you really don’t like it very much and are just trying to be nice.

And if that isn’t enough, when having a disagreement with your Filipina mother, she will end the argument by claiming that “you are just like your father,” which somehow makes you feel terrible, as if being like your dad is a bad thing.

Then there are her awkward displays of affection...

She’s the mom who has a special way of kissing you by sniffing your cheek or your head.

She’s the mom who buys you clothes that are totally not your style but you’re guilted into wearing them anyway. But then your friends only compliment your outfits when you wear the stuff she buys you.

She’s the mom who while sitting in her room, or the TV room, will shout out your name repeatedly until you get to her, only to ask you, in the sweetest of ways, to pass her the remote control (that’s sitting right on top of the TV), by pointing at it with her lips, not her finger, and then rewarding you with another sniff kiss.

If you don’t answer your phone or get home right at curfew time, she will worry about you, but not in the way that other non-Filipina moms do, like maybe thinking you got into a car accident. She will worry that you’ve been kidnapped by a bunch of hooligans and sold as a sex slave to one of the drug cartels of Manila.

And finally there’s the brutal honest truth (many times told at inconvenient places) that you just don’t want to hear but really need to...

She will tell you if you’re getting fat, or if you’re too thin (although this will RARELY ever happen). She’ll tell you if your breath smells, or that you need to go see your dermatologist because you’re getting pimples again. She’ll tell you that your clothes aren’t “nice” or “sexy” enough when you’re going out on a date. But when you’re finally in a serious relationship, she’ll say that you’re too young to be in that kind of a relationship. And then when you’re getting older and are still single, she’ll try to set you up with the one son of Tita-so-and-so because he’s the only guy in her circle of friends that’s around the same age as you. She’ll start reminding you of your age and that you’ll need to get married soon because you’re getting too old and may not be able to have children. She’s the one woman on this planet (well besides your lola - grandma) that you can’t argue with and just need to accept the “fact” that she’s “always right.”

No matter what, we can’t imagine having another type of mother...

No matter how she shows it, she loves you unconditionally. Even if half of the things you do are done “over my dead body.” Without her, you literally would never have existed. You are at least half of her and hope that you’ve inherited all of the good Asian genes that she bestows (like looking like you’re 40 when you’re 60, or having a head full of luxurious black hair and golden, olive-toned skin that never burns when under the sun). You hope that someday, when you become a mom too, you will raise your child(ren) as well as your mom raised you. After all, you didn’t turn out so bad, right?

Nanay, Inay, Ina, Mama, Nanang, Irmat, Ma, I love you too!

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.

Your English is So Good! (First of All, I’m a Native Speaker…)

By Christine Del Castillo

It's the ambiguous melanin. The Spanish surnames. But most of all, the English. This, I think, is why it's so hard to track Filipinos down, especially when we're not congregating in an enclave like those in California or New Jersey. We're self-reliant because we're not speechless in this place; even recent immigrants come with a firm grasp of the English language.

Those who do are lucky. English speakers are much less common in poor and rural areas. I grew up in Metro Manila with parents who taught me both English and Filipino at home. Nevertheless, English is a co-official language of the Philippines, and many of us speak it in addition to one or more regional languages.

In this sense it's surreal—and offensive, in professional circles—when people exclaim “your English is so good!” First of all, I’m a native speaker. Secondly, the Philippines was an American colony for decades, ceded from Spain for a cool $20M back in 1898. Finally, this may mean that people have ideas about What Native Speakers Look Like, and that I don’t look like that. I won't pursue that train of thought. It’s more constructive to share the ways we remix and play with this language - the ways we make it our own.

Anong tawag doon, yung code-switching

Code-switching, or adapting your speech to build rapport with different groups, has a wide spectrum when you speak two or more languages. In Manila, that can look something like this: English with an American accent, when you’re at a call center talking to Americans at midnight. English with a Filipino accent, if you want to sound educated but approachable.

Taglish.png

“Let’s tusok-tusok the fishballs.” Chart via Wikipedia

You might switch to Taglish, if you ran into some people from high school and that’s how they speak. You may also toggle back and forth between multiple regional languages depending on where you are. Here, for example, are some words for “love” that differ wildly from language to language: mahal, langga, gugma, boot, ayat, hirang.

We’re so punny

In the Philippines, you’ll find a proverb like “every cloud has a silver lining” transformed into its gallows humor doppelgänger, “every cloud has a silver lightning.” Whether it's intentional wit or a misheard phrase, who knows? But we’ve been known to embrace our misheard English too, with expressions like “what do you take me for, granted?”—a combination of “what do you take me for, a fool?” and the idiom “to take for granted."

Tweet.png

“Take me into your eleven arms…”

Bilingual punning is rampant, often leaning heavily on English words said in a Filipino accent, or English words with a phonetic sound that translates to something else in Filipino.

Ako wala = A koala.

Ako wala = A koala.

We also love our acronyms. “N...P...A? Nice People Around?” quips Imelda Marcos in Jessica Hagedorn’s novel, Dogeaters.

NR, or No Reaction, is something you might call your most deadpan friend: “That’s so sad. Aren’t you sad?” “I am sad. This is my sad face.” “Wow, you’re so NR.” The Tagalog opposite of that, by the way, is KSP, "Kulang Sa Pansin,” a person acting out because they're starved for attention.

I have a Taglish favorite that I probably learned in seventh grade: HHWWPSSP. Holding Hands While Walking, Pa-Sway Sway Pa. This refers to the public displays of affection of a couple in their honeymoon phase. Picture it. Murmur “eeewww.”

Fluency and industry

Speaking and teaching English is big business in the Philippines. There’s a massive population of young people who speak fluent, lightly accented English, which is why so many American companies outsource work to Filipino call centers. The country has become the call center capital of the world, generating about $25B in revenue.

English language education is also booming. According to Jose L. Cuisia, a former ambassador to the United States, “there are more and more Koreans that are studying English in the Philippines. In 2004, there were about 5,700…The following year, it tripled to about 17,000, in 2012 it was about 24,000. So we’re seeing an increasing number of Koreans. But they’re also from other countries: Libya, Brazil, Russia.”

Can't you just take a compliment?

Yes. Thank you. But there's a shade of difference between "You speak so wonderfully!" and "You speak like a native." If one feels a bit wrong, there's always the option to start some cultural exchange. Or you can just do what my dad does, which is so beautiful in its subtlety. When someone says, “Your English is so good,” he responds, “Thank you. So is yours.”

Learn a more about Christine on our About page.

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.

kubo_SS17-2.jpg

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.

Filipinos In Boston: An Interview With Civic Action Leader Helena Berbano

By Trish Fontanilla

I met Helena Berbano a few years ago when I was volunteering with ASPIRE (Asian Sisters Participating in Reaching Excellence), and emceeing their Asian American Women in Leadership Conference. There was a volunteer potluck afterwards, and while I do remember Helena pretty well, I remember the food she brought even better. Seems like the Filipino way, right? The way to our hearts is through food? I’ve been incredibly impressed with Helena’s work (we’ll be doing a followup piece on more opportunities for civic engagement), so I figured she’d be perfect for our “Filipinos in Boston series!

Picture provided by Helena Berbano / Helena and her mother in  Batangas , Philippines

Picture provided by Helena Berbano / Helena and her mother in Batangas, Philippines

Where's your family from?
I’m from Boston, by way of Bronx, NY and Winter Park, FL. My mother and father are from Quezon City, and my grandparents are from Quezon City and Cavite. My dad’s side is Ilocano, and my mother’s side is Tagalog.

Picture provided by Helena Berbano / Helena knocking on doors for Newton City Council Candidate, Nicole Castillo

Picture provided by Helena Berbano / Helena knocking on doors for Newton City Council Candidate, Nicole Castillo

What do you do?
During the day I work with grassroots groups on their civic action and electoral work. Off hours I’m involved in progressive political campaigns and nonprofits. I’m also a full time karaoke queen. Other hobbies include fiction and poetry writing, hiking, amateur baking, and binging Law and Order: SVU.

What inspired you to be so civically engaged?
What compelled me to get involved in civic action work is reality. I can’t pinpoint when it happened, but what I can describe it as...is that I faced a self-reckoning on the reality of access, power structures, and privilege. I confronted myself about the model minority myth, growing up “middle class”, and I reflected on my experiences as a 2nd generation Filipina who grew up in the South. The result of this reckoning was an unyielding passion and motivation to dismantle oppressive systems.

On Boston...

How long have you been in Boston?
I’ve been in the Greater Boston area for almost a decade. I’ve lived in Metro Boston for about 4 years.

Favorite Boston spots (could be restaurants / parks / anything!):
Food: The Beehive (South End), Avana Sushi (Chinatown), Eldo Cake House (Chinatown), Le's (Allston), Thinking Cup (Downtown), L’Espalier (Back Bay), and many more.

Places: Jin Karaoke (Brighton), Lawn on D, Brighton Music Hall, Boston Public Garden, and the Museum of Science.

What's your community superpower?
Keeping up constant humor despite the disheartening political situation. Like I always say, “I laugh, so I don’t cry.”

Picture provided by Helena Berbano / Helena at the  Taal Volcano  in the Philippines

Picture provided by Helena Berbano / Helena at the Taal Volcano in the Philippines

On Filipino Food...

What's your all time favorite Filipino dish?
Kare Kare hands down. It’s savory, funky, and decadent.

What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?
I love making Chicken Adobo (writer's note: including a recipe we recently published on the blog). It’s simple, delicious, and magical. When I am having a bad day, the smell of toyo (soy sauce), suka (vinegar), bawang (garlic), and peppercorns is the most comforting thing. Also, sinangag (garlic rice) with adobo is NOT OPTIONAL.

On staying in touch...

How can people stay in touch? 
At me: @helenaberbano (Twitter)


We’re always looking for BOSFilipinos blog writers! If you’d like to contribute, send us a note at info@bosfilipinos.com.