Filipinos In Boston: An Interview With Doctor Manny De La Rosa

By Trish Fontanilla

Well it’s been almost 2 years of Filipinos in Boston profiles (I started this a few months after we started the organization), and we’re finally interviewing a doctor! I met Manny at the BOSFilipinos meetup at Parsnip in July (amazing food and crew over there!). He’s super new to Boston, so I figured why not introduce him to the BF community more formally? After all, we’re all about storytelling and community!

Thank you to Manny for taking time to chat with me, and I hope you all enjoy getting to know him!

Where are you and your family from? Also, feel free to share more about your family’s background and ties to the Philippines.
Manny:
For Fil-Ams like ourselves, the story really began in the Motherland. My mom is originally from Bataan and grew up in Quezon City, and my dad in Candelaria in Quezon Province. My maternal grandparents were physicians; Lola (grandma) was a psychiatrist and med school professor and Lolo (grandpa), a pediatrician. On my dad’s side, my Lolo was the Vice Mayor of Candelaria, while my Lola stayed at home to support the kids. My parents are from huge families! My mom grew up with six sisters and two brothers, and my dad has two brothers and two sisters. Starting in the 70s, my parents, titas (aunts), and titos (uncles) on both sides of my family gradually came to the U.S. to pursue their professional careers and start their branches of our family. I have relatives on both coasts and in the Midwest. My dad settled in Iowa for his first job as an engineer for Case before moving to Indianapolis to work for General Motors. My mom finished high school in Ohio, studied nursing initially, but then moved to Indiana, where she switched her major to respiratory therapy and was later hired by one of the local hospitals in Indy.  My parents met through mutual friends in the small Fil-Am community in Indianapolis, where I was born, raised, and educated. I have a younger brother who lives in Orlando and runs his own social media marketing firm called Vadela (check it out at www.vadela.co). After graduating from medical school at Indiana University in 2016, I moved to the D.C. area for internal medicine residency at Inova Fairfax Hospital. I finished residency this past June, and here I am now!

So tell us a little more about where you work and what you do.

Photo provided by Manny De La Rosa / “Still looking alive after a night shift!”

Photo provided by Manny De La Rosa / “Still looking alive after a night shift!”

Manny: I’ve worked as an internal medicine doc at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a part-time instructor at Harvard Medical School since July. My job at the Brigham is to admit patients to the various medical and oncology floors at night, whether they come in as transfers from another hospital or through the emergency room. At the same time, I am available for any overnight needs for about thirty to forty patients who are assigned to me for the shift. At Harvard, I teach med students how to interview and examine patients at the hospital, and I am one of the proctors for the clinical skills exam they take at the end of the course. I am a tough grader… muahahaha. 


For most Filipino families, having someone working in the medical field feels like a pre-req, but when did you decide to get into medicine? 
Manny:
I knew I wanted to be a doctor when I was about 7 or 8 years old. My mom kept many of her college textbooks around the house, and I remember browsing through many of the pictures and diagrams. I thought that the human body was the coolest thing in the universe! Particularly inspiring for me as a kid was how my own pediatrician listened and observed carefully to address my concerns. Every time I saw him, I was curious about why he was asking so many questions, and what he hearing with his stethoscope that helped him come up with a diagnosis to restore my health when I was sick and keep me well when I was healthy.  Combined with the fact that I always naturally enjoyed my science classes, loved working in teams of all kinds, and engaged in philanthropy, I knew that medicine was the perfect career for me. Even though a handful of my relatives are physicians, nurses, and medical lab techs, I never experienced family pressure to pursue a career in healthcare. Now that I am a fully practicing physician after many years of school and on-the-job training in residency, I believe that the same things that drew me to the profession as a kid are why I still enjoy coming to work every day! 

Photo provided by Manny De La Rosa / “This is from my residency graduation banquet. My colleague and I shared the award for Resident Scholar and Teacher of the Year.”

Photo provided by Manny De La Rosa / “This is from my residency graduation banquet. My colleague and I shared the award for Resident Scholar and Teacher of the Year.”

On Boston…

How long have you been in Boston?
Manny: 
I moved here at the end of June, and I live in JP. 

What are your favorite Boston spots (food, parks, spaces, etc!)
Manny:
My favorites are Fenway, Newbury Street, Seaport, the Boston Common, and Quincy Market. In terms of food and drink, James Hook & Company has the best lobster rolls I have ever had, but if you know of a better place, let me know! The Liberty Hotel is my go-to for upscale drinks and dining. Last, but not least, JP Licks in Brigham Circle is where you will frequently find me for a cup of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream before work!

This town is great for fitness too! I often take my bike out to Cambridge and ride along the Charles for the great views and fresh air. Before I moved to Boston, I took up powerlifting. I hired a coach based at Rx Strength Training in Somerville, but I now do most of my workouts at GymIt near BU since it’s in a more convenient location for me, while my coach works with me remotely. 

What’s your community superpower?
Manny:
Large-scale philanthropy! I was the Vice President External for the Midwest Association of Filipino Americans (www.wearemafa.org) from 2011 to 2012. As part of my role as VPE, I organized a school supply donation competition between the MAFA member organizations (all university-based Filipino clubs) called the Balikbayan Box Project. We sent a wide variety of items to the Philippines-- everything from pencils and books to old computers.     


On Filipino Food...

 What's your all time favorite Filipino dish?
Manny:
I am thinking about this while my mouth waters… tinola

What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?
Manny:
Beef Kaldereta

Photo provided by Manny De La Rosa / “Last Fall, we went on a triple date with my girlfriend and friends from Indianapolis who were visiting D.C.”

Photo provided by Manny De La Rosa / “Last Fall, we went on a triple date with my girlfriend and friends from Indianapolis who were visiting D.C.”

On staying in touch… 

How can people stay in touch? (Social, email, website, whatever you’re comfortable with)

Manny: Instagram and Snapchat: mannydlr, and email: mcdelaro2@gmail.com

I will be starting a vlog and health/medical education channel on YouTube in the upcoming months, so stay tuned!


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

Help Us Tell More Filipino Stories

By Trish Fontanilla

Trish as a hand model with the program from Dragon Mama.

Trish as a hand model with the program from Dragon Mama.

Last year when I saw Dragon Lady, the first piece in Sara Porkalob’s Dragon Cycle, I was completely blown away. And so this past Sunday when I had the opportunity to see Dragon Mama, the second installment in the trilogy, I was super excited. So excited that from the moment the lights went down, my mouth was embarrassingly wide open in awe. I may have whispered, “She’s so talented,” once or thrice to myself. By the end of the show I was crying (as much as I let myself in public) and in between my low key eye dabs, Sara came back out for some final words since it was the last night of the run. Honestly, I was so high up in the feels, I don’t quite remember everything she said, but there were two things that really stuck out. First, American Rep commissioned Sara to write Dragon Baby, a full cast musical and the final installment of the Dragon Cycle (cue a million screaming emojis and GIFs). And second, if we don’t tell our stories, who will?

Since we formally launched BOSFilipinos almost 2 years ago, I’ve been connecting with everyone’s “one Filipino friend” in Boston pretty much every week. And it’s been awesome, but I want more.

Next month is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. A month meant to celebrate everything API (Asian Pacific Islander) in the history of the United States. So I’m taking a cue from Sara, and pushing to share even more stories than we ever have before. I’d love to highlight, at least, 31 new stories of Filipinos around Boston, one for each day in May. That’s a lot of content, which means we’re going to need your help!

So, here’s my call to action:

  • If you have an awesome Filipino friend / partner / colleague / acquaintance in Boston or you’ve got a Filipino story to share that has something to do with the history of Boston, we would love to hear from you. You can either pass along our email address, info@bosfilipinos.com OR you can share their email address (with their permission) and I’ll reach out OR you can nominate them for a profile or interview by filling out this form. Don’t forget to tell them how awesome they are. I’ve found that folks don’t always believe that their story is worth being told. Hint: It is. Another hint: Don’t be afraid to nominate yourself!

  • If we’ve already highlighted you, let us know what’s new! Tag us on social with @BOSFilipinos / #BOSFilipinos on Twitter / Instagram / Facebook, or email us, and we’ll figure out a way to highlight you as well!

And while we’re here, it’s more than just getting Filipinos to tell their stories right? You can also…

  • Be more conscious about amplifying Filipino voices. That could be re-sharing a post from a Filipino artist in your news feed, or taking a look around during a club meeting and letting folks know that we’re missing from the conversation.

  • Support platforms and organizations like American Rep that are investing in storytellers like Sara, so that we can continue to get our voices and messages out to our community and beyond.

Thank you, as always, to our many supporters, sponsors, allies, and friends for continuing to support BOSFilipinos thus far. We wouldn’t be here without people like you. And if you'‘d like to get involved in any way (volunteer / sponsor / amplifier), please send us an email info@bosfilipinos.com.

We’ll see you out there!


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

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):

index.jpeg

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.


index (1).jpeg

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!


510RZENCP4L._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

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.


index (3).jpeg

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.”


index (4).jpeg

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.”


index (6).jpeg

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.

Filipinos in Boston: An Interview with Volunteer Manager Jennifer “J.J.” Javier

By Trish Fontanilla

If you saw last month’s Filipinos in Boston interview, Christine Leider gave you a small hint of who we’d be covering this month. Thanks for the segway, Christine!

I was trying to remember how I first heard about Jennifer “J.J.” Javier so that I could do a proper introduction, but honestly, I think we’ve just been on a mutual friend’s personal Filipino meetup list, and never actually crossed paths (besides me looking her up after the last event). So last week JJ and I finally jumped on the phone to chat, and well here’s about a half of what we talked about. Don’t be surprised if her name comes up again in future blog posts!

Photo provided by Jennifer Javier

Photo provided by Jennifer Javier


Where are you and your family from?
J.J.:
 I’m originally from Long Beach, California but my family moved around southern CA when I was growing up. So we lived in Long Beach for awhile, Riverside, and Irvine. However my parents are originally from the Philippines. My mom is from Manila, and my stepfather is from Cavite.

Where do you work and what do you do?
J.J.:
I work at 826 Boston, which is a youth writing and publishing center that serves underserved students by empowering them to find their voices and tell their stories. This way we can really uplift marginalized stories and voices, and also support students in gaining key communication skills. I manage the volunteer program here, which is about 700 volunteers across our different programs. Volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization, and do everything from tutoring to editing books to working on our physical space and more.

As I was researching you for this interview, I landed on your LinkedIn page and saw you had a degree in Criminology, Law, and Society. Can you walk me through a little of your journey, from getting a degree like that to moving into a program like City Year and then paving a path for yourself in nonprofits?
J.J.:
I decided to study criminology, law, and society because I was very interested in social justice. I really wanted to provide a level playing field for those that don’t have access to the privileges that other people have. I really wanted to work in that realm very early on. My parents, however, had a very strict route for me. They wanted me to have a more traditional role like a nurse or a doctor, and if I wasn’t going into medicine I better be going into something equally prestigious. So for a really long time I thought, maybe I’ll be a lawyer or a forensics psychologist. Neither of those things really interested me, but those were professions that pleased my parents at the time. Criminology was the core of all that. I loved the major though, and I don’t regret taking those classes at all. But I realized in year 4 (of 5) that I didn’t want to become a lawyer, even though I was on track to becoming one. I had taken the LSATs. I started to get references for different law schools. And then I freaked out and realized I couldn’t spend 3 more years living out a dream that wasn’t my own. So I decided to apply for a gap year program. I had heard about different programs through school like AmeriCorps, the Peace Corp, and City Year. I applied to City Year and chose Boston because I had never been to Boston before, and it was the farthest away I could get from California without leaving the country. I had to distance myself from my parents and their dreams for me. When I got into the City Year program, I joined with very little support from my family. I thought I would get some congratulations, but my mom was livid when I got accepted. She asked me how I was going to pay for everything, but I managed. So I did a year of City Year with the little I had in savings, and I found that I really love working with youth and civic engagement. City Year is dedicated to civic engagement, and shaping youth to become civic leaders. I really latched onto that because I think there’s something really beautiful about community service. You don’t have to have a degree, or look a certain way. All of that doesn’t matter when you are volunteering, you know, when you’re deciding to reserve some of your time to help others. And serving others looks different to different people. It can be a formal thing like beautifying a park, or it could be bringing dinner for a friend that’s in the hospital. The idea of taking care of one another needs to be fostered more in youth, despite who you are, or whether or not you have a degree, despite whether or not you speak English, or you’re this race or that. I wanted to get to the heart of that. And that’s why I’ve been on this path working towards social justice.

And so after City Year I worked at Cradles to Crayons, and then Tenacity for a few years managing their AmeriCorps program. I found my way to 826 Boston because of their focus on literacy, and their mission around lifting up marginalized youth. I used to read dozens of books growing up, and my mom used books as a way to learn English, so literacy hits close to home. Books really shaped me as a person.

Photo provided by Jennifer Javier / JJ's sister, mother, JJ, and her stepfather

Photo provided by Jennifer Javier / JJ's sister, mother, JJ, and her stepfather

On Boston...

What are your favorite spots in Greater Boston:
J.J.:
 I love Shabu Zen, which is a hot pot place in Chinatown. And I really like Pho Pasteur, which is also in Chinatown. Boston does really well with pho options because of the awesome Vietnamese population. Bukhara in Jamaica Plain is a really great Indian place. If you love steak, I love Boston Chops for special occasions. I also love Merengue in Dorchester, which is a Dominican restaurant. It’s fantastic and they do a lot for the community.

What are some cool Boston-based nonprofits in the city that you think people should know about?
J.J.:
 Ah, there are so many really great nonprofits in the city. There’s an amazing nonprofit called Urban Improv which is in Jamaica Plain, but they also serve Boston Public School students. They use life skills in theater, so they do improv with students and talk about real life things like teen pregnancy, drugs, sexuality and things that people / parents are afraid to talk about. Through the program students learn to navigate those issues in a healthy way.

Another non-profit / organization is Haley House. They do a few different things. There’s a residency program, they have a cafe, job placement for people that have barriers to entry, as well as tutoring. I love them because they’re local, they help people with job skills, and they make awesome food and host events like poetry slams.

Another organization I want to plug is ASPIRE (Asian Sisters Participating in Reaching Excellence). During my early years in Boston, I made some really amazing friends through ASPIRE. They’re working on some really great programs.

On Filipino Food...

What's your all time favorite Filipino dish?
J.J.:
It’s impossible to name just one, but growing up I would always request mechado (tomato base beef stew). I have an aunt that makes it really well. When I was sick, I would ask my mom to make tinola (chicken soup). But I really love it all!  

What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?
J.J.:
I make afritada (chicken and vegetable dish with a tomato base) for friends that have never had Filipino food before. The first time I made afritada I looked at a recipe, but was like eh, so I called my mom. I used the recipe for measurements but got advice from my mom for ingredients.

Photo provided by Jennifer Javier / JJ's sister (left) and JJ (right)

Photo provided by Jennifer Javier / JJ's sister (left) and JJ (right)

On staying in touch…

Do you have any upcoming events / programs that you want to highlight? Are there ways for our readers to get involved with 826?
J.J.:
Like I mentioned, volunteers are the lifeblood of 826, so we’re always looking for people to get involved. We hold information sessions twice a month (they have 2 info sessions coming up - August 8th and August 21st), both in person and remote. If anyone wants to help our students with writing, creative writing, storytelling, they can attend those info sessions.

Something really exciting that’s happening this year is that we’re opening up satellite writing center in the Boston International Newcomers Academy, which is a high school for immigrant students. All the students immigrated to Boston within the last 5 years, some within the last few months. The school’s amazing, and we’re excited to have a writing center there so we can work with them and publish some of their stories as well. If people want to get more involved with that project, they can also learn more at our info sessions.

How can people stay in touch?
J.J.:
If people want to get involved with 826 Boston, they can email me at jennifer@826boston.org, and they can follow 826 on Instagram, Facebook,and Twitter.


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 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.