Filipinos In Boston: An Interview With Real Estate Broker Ronnie Puzon

By Trish Fontanilla

If you’ve gone to any of the Filipino Festivals in Malden, Ronnie’s name might sound familiar. That’s because he’s one of the founding partners, along with organizer Kristine Bautista!

Hope you all enjoy our interview with Ronnie, and special thanks to Ronnie for all he does for the Filipino community here in MA!

Photo provided by Ronnie Puzon

Photo provided by Ronnie Puzon

Where are you and your family from?
Ronnie:
My mother is from Bicol and my father is from Ilocos, but my parents met in California. My mother was a nurse at the time and my father was in the Navy. When my father got stationed in Boston, my mother planted roots here and became a teacher. They lived in the Charlestown Navy Yard in Navy housing, and when that was closed down, they moved the families into the Charlestown projects. I would call the projects home for the next 15 years.

Where do you work and what do you do?
Ronnie:
Right now, I am a Broker / Owner of RE/MAX Trinity in Malden, MA - a real estate agency and we currently have 20 agents. In addition to co-managing the office and agents with my partner, I also assist buyers and sellers with their real estate needs.

Can you tell us a little more about how you got into real estate?
Ronnie:
Well I attended Northeastern University and graduated with a degree in Finance. The co-op programs led me to a career on Wall Street where I was an equity trader for 20 years. After retiring in 2012, I decided to pursue a second career in real estate. I first started to get into real estate 20 years ago as an investor. It started out as a sort of hobby. I now rent a number of my apartments to low-income families, and I also help to educate my investors on using real estate as a retirement vehicle.

What are some of your hobbies outside of work?
Ronnie: I love to travel. My bucket list would be to travel to every country in the world. I have only been to 63 countries, so I may be running out of time! I also run and train for marathons. I have completed the 6 World Marathon Majors (Boston, New York, Chicago, Berlin, London and Tokyo). And since every true Filipino has at least 1 or 5 side hustles, I’m also into real estate and trading stocks and options.

If anyone ever wants to talk about any of the above, drop me an email!

Photo provided by Ronnie Puzon. // This picture is of Ronnie with his wife Malinda and his daughter Serena in Venice.

Photo provided by Ronnie Puzon. // This picture is of Ronnie with his wife Malinda and his daughter Serena in Venice.

On Boston…

How long have you been in Boston?
Ronnie:
I was born and raised in Boston. I worked in New York City for about 6 years, then came back to Boston. I just couldn’t stay away.

What are your favorite Boston spots?
Ronnie:
I like to spend a lot of time in the Seaport District and the North End.

What’s your community superpower?
Ronnie
: I like to give back to the community. Although I have not worked for a non-profit, I am involved at the local level with the Malden Rotary (President), Malden YMCA (Board Member), and Asian Real Estate Association of America - AREAA (past Board Member). Internationally, I am involved with Habitat for Humanity where I have been a part of a team that’s build houses in 10 countries.

On Filipino Food...

What's your all time favorite Filipino dish?
Ronnie:
I love all Filipino food. Whenever I get a chance to go to a cookout or party with Filipino food, I jump at the chance. I loved my mom's pancit and egg rolls. I wish I had the recipes.

What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?
Ronnie:
Unfortunately, I do not cook.

Photo provided by Ronnie Puzon // This picture is from his recent build with Habitat for Humanity in a village in Lesotho, Africa.

Photo provided by Ronnie Puzon // This picture is from his recent build with Habitat for Humanity in a village in Lesotho, Africa.

On staying in touch…

How can people stay in touch? (Social, email, website, whatever you’re comfortable with)
Ronnie:
Please feel free to drop me an email with questions on anything. I like to try to help people out and connect them if I can. I also love meeting people. My email is rpuzon@aol.com, and you can also add me on Facebook or Linkedin.


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.

Filipinos In Boston: An Interview With Account Executive Sunanda Nair

By Trish Fontanilla

I’m super excited to introduce you to, Sunanda Nair! Sunanda and I were trying to remember how we first met, but settled on some networking event many moons ago. The funny part is I’ve known her wife Melissa way longer since we were both among the early users of Yelp when it first launched in Boston almost 15 years ago! Sunanda and I recently reconnected on LinkedIn when I gave our previous Filipinos in Boston women a shout out on International Women’s Day because I wasn’t seeing many Asian / Filipino women being highlighted on speaker’s lists in Boston and beyond.

Thanks again to Sunanda for being a part of Filipinos in Boston, and I hope you all enjoy reading her interview!

Photo provided by Sunanda / Sunanda (far right) with her parents.

Photo provided by Sunanda / Sunanda (far right) with her parents.

Where are you and your family from?
Sunanda:
My mother is from the island of Bohol in the Philippines, and immigrated to the US after nursing school. My father is from Kerala, a state in Southern India. The majority of my mom’s family is still in Bohol and Cebu. When we go back, we always stay in Bohol but we stop in Cebu to see extended family on the way.

Both my mother and father are close with their families, so as a child I visited their homelands every other year on a rotation. I was born in India but truly feel close to both my Filipino and Indian sides. I grew up around a lot of Filipinos and Indians in the Detroit area, and most of our meals were either South Indian or Filipino cuisine. It was a treat when we got “American” foods in the house for dinner. Although I still prefer the food I grew up with. I could eat rice with literally every meal.

Where do you work and what do you do?
Sunanda:
Currently I work at Privy, a tech company in downtown Boston. I am a Senior Account Executive on the team.

You’ve got an interesting resume that’s taken you from non-profits to for-profits, startups and public companies. Can you tell us more about your career journey and what led you to Privy?
Sunanda
: So my career trajectory is a winding one. I went to school for cognitive science and landed my first job abroad in India doing  HIV / AIDS research at the largest government hospital in the country. After that I came back to the US and split my time between playing poker online and working for non-profits and NGOs. I landed in Boston accidentally because my close friend was moving here, and I came along for the ride on the moving truck. I hung out here for awhile before deciding to take a summer certificate program at Boston University in public health. After finishing the program, I found myself working for an organization called Massachusetts & Asian Pacific Islands for Health (MAP for Health) doing program management, and research with the Massachusetts Department of Health and the CDC. The focus was on HIV / AIDS awareness and prevention in the Asian community. After MAP I worked for MataHari, a local Boston organization that works with diverse communities with a mission to end gender based violence and exploitation. While I was there I started to really enjoy marketing and took on a part-time internship as a social media marketer, which then turned into a part-time job. Because of that I started taking on consulting projects doing marketing and lead generation for various small businesses. While that was great, I realized I wanted some benefits like healthcare so I decided to apply for full-time marketing roles. I was able to secure an interview at a small startup that had no VP of  Marketing, so the VP of Sales interviewed me. Two days after my interview he offered me a sales job and I thought he was legitimately crazy. However, he challenged me to take a risk and I took it. I’m lucky that he was a great coach and mentor. I quickly learned I loved sales, even though it was really hard. That first sales job was all cold calling and even door-to-door sales. From there I went to a few more startups, and landed at one that was acquired by IBM. I spent 2 years at IBM and then wanted to go back to small company life and back to sales. I worked with Wistia for 2 years, which was amazing, but an opportunity to join Privy presented itself and it felt like a challenge so I took it. I love where I am right now, but can’t wait to see what the next 5 years have in store for me!

Photo provided by Sunanda / Sunanda with her 2 y/o son Rishi.

Photo provided by Sunanda / Sunanda with her 2 y/o son Rishi.

On Boston…

How long have you been in Boston?
Sunanda:
I moved to Boston in 2009, spent half a year in NYC and then ended back up in Boston. So almost 10 years! Wow, that’s crazy for me to type out.

What are your favorite Boston spots (food, parks, spaces, etc!)
Sunanda:
I love the Boston Common and Public Garden in the summer. It seems a little cliche but it’s a great place to have a picnic, walk around when the weather is nice, and just enjoy the urban park. Now that I have a son the Frog Pond is the best thing to go to on hot days.

Also, I love love  Winsor Dim Sum Cafe in Chinatown. It’s been one of my favorites for years.

I hesitate to share this secret but in my opinion Charlestown is one of Boston’s best kept secrets. I lived there for almost 3 years, and it’s like a mini town right next to the city. It feels like a community.  I knew my neighbors, some who have lived there for 50+ years. There are tons of parks, a brewery, a growing restaurant selection, and you can walk to the North End in about 15-30 minutes depending on where you are in the neighborhood.

Photo provided by Sunanda

Photo provided by Sunanda

On Filipino Food...

What's your all time favorite Filipino dish?
Sunanda:
Oh, man. It’s hard to pick. I will say my mom’s pancit recipe (noodle dish I would have to write it out), and kare kare (coconut milk or peanut sauce version). I couldn’t pick between the two. I feel like lechon is a given. Does it even need to be said?

What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?
Sunanda:
Ok, so full confession I am not really the cook in my house but my goal is to perfect my mom’s version of pancit.

On staying in touch…

Do you have any upcoming events / programs / even work things that you’d like to mention?
Sunanda:
I love a good side hustle and started investing in real estate in 2016. I am always down to talk to people who are interested in it, currently doing it, or both. I consider myself a novice still so the more I talk to people about it the more I learn.

Also, I am working on a product with my first sales boss which you can view at suvliner.com. Yes, we definitely know the website needs work. I would love to connect with people who have a background in consumer goods since we both are learning as we go. The website just got launched, but we aren’t in full selling mode yet, but we do have inventory.  Right now we are testing a new prototype for a smaller version of the product so we can offer 2 sizes. We are still very early in our journey and we aren’t looking to be millionaires just trying to have fun and keep learning new things. Although, if we hit it big neither of us will complain. :)

How can people stay in touch?
Sunanda:
sunanda.nair@gmail.com / https://www.linkedin.com/in/sunandanair/ (if we haven’t met just leave a note introducing yourself and I am happy to connect) / and Twitter: @snaps4life

I am open to grabbing coffee with people all the time so don’t hesitate to reach out!


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

Filipinos in Boston: An Interview with Events Administrator Desiree Arevalo

By Trish Fontanilla

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

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

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

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

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

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

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

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

On Boston…

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

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

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

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

On Filipino Food...

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

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

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

Photo provided by Desiree Arevalo

On staying in touch…

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

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

By Trish Fontanilla

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

PA310606.jpg

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

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

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

On Boston...

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

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

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

On Filipino Food...

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

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

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On Staying in Touch…

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


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

Filipinos in Boston: An Interview with Multimedia Producer Hyacinth Empinado

By Trish Fontanilla

Photo provided by Hyacinth Empinado

Photo provided by Hyacinth Empinado

I had the pleasure of meeting Hyacinth at the last BOSFilipinos meetup. As we were chatting I thought she’d be a great person to interview for our Filipinos in Boston feature because she’s done an awesome job of combining her passions.

I hope you love learning about Hyacinth as much as I loved meeting her.


Where are you and your family from?
Hyacinth:
I am a proud Cebuana. I was raised in a town called Minglanilla. Our claim to fame is an Easter festival called Sugat-Kabanhawan, which commemorates Jesus’ resurrection. Festivities start at dawn on Easter Sunday. There’s pyrotechnics, street dancing, angels on harnesses, and a giant eagle. It’s pretty awesome.

Where do you work and what do you do?
Hyacinth:
I am a multimedia producer at STAT, an online news publication that covers biotech and research. I create mini-documentaries, often profiling scientists and their work. I also create animated explainer videos that walk viewers through how something works. Occasionally, I also produce The Readout LOUD, a weekly biotech podcast.

Tell us a little more about your path to becoming a multimedia producer.
Hyacinth:
In second grade, I was telling everyone that I was going to be a TV journalist -- mass communications was going to be my college major. This baffled my teachers because I was a pretty shy kid, but I knew that I was destined to wear a press badge.

But in high school, I fell in love with biology, so I decided to study bio in college and spent many hours gently poking glowing worms under a microscope. (I was studying aging and longevity in a nematode called C. elegans and had to poke the older worms to see if they were still alive.)

All the while, my interest in television never waned, and I started volunteering at my school’s student-run TV station. Amidst the tangled cables and cameras, I never felt more at home.

Sometime between microscope-induced eye strain and tripping on cables, I found out that there’s such a thing as science journalism, which allowed me to meld my love for science and television. I got a master’s degree in health and medical journalism from the University of Georgia, and now I get to produce my own videos and show the world how cool science is.

In the lab / Photo provided by Hyacinth Empinado

In the lab / Photo provided by Hyacinth Empinado

On Boston…

How long have you been in Boston?
Hyacinth:
I have been in Boston for over three years.

What are your favorite Boston spots:
Hyacinth:
I love getting ramen at Santouka. You can also never go wrong with dumplings at the Gourmet Dumpling House.

I also enjoy seeing strange and quirky films at the Coolidge Corner Theatre and watching plays and musicals at the Huntington Theatre and the American Repertory Theater.

Are there any Boston-based programs that you love?
Hyacinth:
When I first came to Massachusetts, I got involved with Catholic Charities. They do amazing work helping refugees navigate life in the United States. I got assigned to help a refugee learn English, and it’s been great seeing his language skills improve over the past couple of years.

Cape Cod / Photo provided by Hyacinth Empinado

Cape Cod / Photo provided by Hyacinth Empinado

On Filipino Food...

What's your all time favorite Filipino dish?
Hyacinth:
My mom’s dinuguan. Hands down. A very close second is sisig.

What's your favorite Filipino recipe / dish to make?
Hyacinth:
I like to make lumpia shanghai and bistek. I also like making leche flan. It’s my go-to potluck dish.

I don’t really know how to make a lot of Filipino dishes yet. But since moving to Massachusetts, I’ve been craving a lot of my mom’s cooking. So, I often FaceTime with her, and she walks me through all the steps. Recently, we made pancit and chicken tinola together. I’ve yet to have her teach me how to make dinuguan, though.

Video provided by Hyacinth Empinado, made for STAT

On staying in touch…

How can people stay in touch?
Hyacinth:
Check out my latest videos on Twitter and find out what my latest plant baby is on Instagram, both @sayhitohyacinth (Twitter / Instagram). You can also find my latest stories at www.statnews.com.


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