Balut Club is Too Sweet

20246030_10105388193179505_8005052217380706392_n

This article is written by by guest contributor Berto Ponce. If you would like to write for TFAL email story ideas to thisfilipinoamericanlife [at] gmail [dot] com. 

On a summer afternoon when I was six, I turned the television dial and stumbled upon the first wrestling match I’d ever seen.  I had no understanding that it wasn’t exactly a legitimate sporting contest, and that the wrestlers were presenting stories of good versus evil.  It was a tag team match, and the bad guys won through nefarious means.  I turned to my dad in exasperation and exclaimed, “They cheated!  How are they getting away with this?”  My dad smirked and simply stated, “It’s wrestling.”  Instantly, I was hooked.  

Soon I discovered that I had friends who were also fans of professional wrestling.  We showed up at school on Mondays, excitedly discussing what we had seen on shows like Wrestling Superstars and Saturday Night’s Main Event.  We shared a bond, booing the bad guys and cheering the good guys.  As I grew older I started to realize that my friends, mostly people of color like me, and I looked more like the bad guys and nothing like the good guys.  It was the Cold War Era, and wrestling presented its larger-than-life foreign characters as evildoers.  

I was a Hulkamaniac.  A Little Warrior.  Consumed by Madness.   I was, and still am, a wrestling fan.  Around the time I started watching, Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior, and the “Macho Man” Randy Savage were the heroes and biggest names in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).  But my favorite wrestler was Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.  He was a good guy, and I was a Dragonian.  Or did that make me a Steamboatite?

steamboat

Ricky Steamboat had  a Hall of Fame career.  He was a WWF Intercontinental champion, a National Wrestling Alliance United States champion and World Heavyweight champion.  His match against Randy Savage at WrestleMania III is regarded by many fans as the greatest in WrestleMania history.  But I especially liked him because he kind of looked like me, a Filipino kid watching wrestling on Saturday mornings.

Steamboat was born in New York, but billed from Honolulu, Hawaii.  He is Japanese-American, but I don’t recall his heritage being directly referenced.  The Dragon nickname and the gi he wore to the ring may have been the closest allusions to it.  While there were other wrestlers of Asian descent on the roster, they were presented as evil foreigners.  There was Mr. Fuji and Pat Tanaka (both also from Hawaii), Akio Sato, and Yokozuna (who was actually Samoan).  But Ricky Steamboat was a good guy.  He was my guy.

Through the years, more Asian and Asian American wrestlers have made it to the WWE, and not always as villains.  There are now more avenues to ply their craft.  Ring of Honor, Impact Wrestling, Lucha Underground, and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla among others are some of the companies where aspiring wrestlers hope to make their mark.  As a historic first, two wrestlers of Asian descent will square off for the WWE World Championship at this year’s WWE SummerSlam: champion, Jinder Mahal, versus challenger, Shinsuke Nakamura, who made a name for himself in New Japan Pro Wrestling. (Side note: The Great Khali defended against Batista at SummerSlam in 2007 for the World Heavyweight Championship, which was a separate championship.)

New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) is home to the Bullet Club, a faction of arrogant heels who make being bad look cool, much like nWo and D-Generation X in the 1990s.  Watch a current wrestling show from any organization, and you’ll most likely spot at least one Bullet Club shirt in the crowd.

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 9.42.03 AM

I was watching a Bullet Club segment a couple of years ago when my brain started playing with words and puns, as it often does.  Balut Club.  I chuckled to myself, thinking “I’d wear that shirt.”  Which became, “I should make that shirt.”  Which turned into, “I should make that shirt so I can wear it, and send it to Filipino wrestlers.”  The idea sat in the back of my head until recently.

TFAL co-host Elaine Dolalas credits me with getting her back into wrestling over the last year – and in a big way.  During a group chat, I brought up the idea I had about Balut Club shirts, thinking it was a throwaway comment.  Elaine jumped right on it.  Within a day, Vincent Collyer finalized the design.  A few weeks later, we were wearing the shirts.

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 9.25.28 AM

I sent a shirt to Kris Wolf, former Stardom High Speed champion, who I met at a Stardom show in Japan.  TJ Perkins, the inaugural WWE Cruiserweight champion, ordered one.  They both posted the shirts on social media and as a result, other wrestlers requested the shirt.  Now, people from all over the world are ordering it.  It’s surreal, but it’s an awesome feeling – sharing this parody about a wrestling thing that happens to pay tribute to our Filipino heritage.

Other people’s love for the shirt and witnessing some of our favorite wrestlers rocking it isn’t even the best part for me.  We decided early on that we would donate a portion of the proceeds to charity, and the Calub Fund would be the best fit.  Mark Calub is a friend of mine and Elaine.  He was visiting Atlanta a few months ago when he and his friends were randomly and viciously attacked.  He was taken to the hospital and was in critical condition.  Mark is healing now, but the fund will help alleviate the costs of recovery to Mark and his family.

calub

The experience has been nothing short of amazing.  Indulging in something I’ve enjoyed since childhood.  Sharing that geekdom with others.  Having the athletes we watch become a part of something we started.  Celebrating our Filipino heritage.  Doing our smallest part to bring awareness to an important cause.  It really has been too sweet.

 

Episode 15: Lab and Basketball – Hoops from a Filipino American Perspective

Basketball_in_The_Philippines

Basketball has a special place in the hearts of many Filipinos and Filipino Americans alike. One cannot visit the Philippines and not notice Filipinos playing on the millions of makeshift basketball hoops, barangay courts, and gymnasiums throughout the country. Likewise, one would be hard-pressed to know a Filipino American (particularly male) who does not follow the NBA.

Basketball was first introduced to Filipinos by YMCA clubs established in the Philippines during the early American colonial period. Institutionalized by American colonial officials in Philippine physical education as a way to instill discipline among their colonial subjects, basketball was adopted and adapted by many Filipinos and spread quickly among the populace. With Filipinos’ early success in the sport on an international stage and its economic accessibility, the game became a national obsession.

Yet, basketball is more than simple recreation. It tells us a lot about ourselves. For instance, basketball is a way many Filipino and Filipino American men perform masculinity. Likewise, the way that basketball is played among Filipinos reflects more communion and democracy compared to American norms on the court.

In this episode, we explore Filipino Americans’ particular relationship with basketball. How did our families introduce us to the sport? How do Filipino Americans play basketball differently than Filipino immigrants? And most importantly, who was the Philippines’ “Best-Looking Team”? All these discussions and more in this edition of This Filipino American Life.

Listen through the embedded player below, download directly here or subscribe to us on iTunes here!

 

Also, check out some of these vids:

Bonus Episode: “About Tita” by Lauren Lola

tita_dad

In the photo: the great aunt and father of Lauren Lola.

Hey TFALers!  Here’s a bonus episode brought to you by TFAL superfan, Lauren Lola, about her great aunt, Justita.  We are collecting any stories that is out there in the Filipino American community.  If you have any audio stories to share, please email us at thisfilipinoamericanlife@gmail.com!!

Listen through the embedded player below, download directly here or subscribe to us on iTunes here!

Episode 14.5: #TFALheartsOPM

20170624152007

Cheats performing in Los Angeles in 2017

OPM, or Original Pilipino Music, is a term that once referred primarily to the ballads and love songs popular in the Philippines in the 1970s and 1980s.  A modern take on the harana traditions, these songs were sung mostly in Tagalog and were often tied to equally emotive films and television shows.  They also served as reminders of home for many Filipino Americans, who could relatively easily get their fill picking up cassettes and video tapes from the local Filipino market.

Today, however, the OPM label is just as likely to be applied to any of the music coming out of the Philippines, from the Pinoy Rock traditions of the Eraserheads to the electronic musings of Tarsius.  Filipino music has always been diverse, but in the internet age its that much easier to find yourself perusing reggaeton tracks from Iloilo and Calypso from Manila.

But are Filipino Americans, particularly those that are born here, even listening?  Certainly a band like the Eraserheads can and has filled places like the Hollywood Palladium with eager Fil-Am fans, but is there a genuine audience for music from the Philippines beyond its shores?

So as part of our continuing series #TFALheartsOPM, the crew talks about music from the motherland, how we’ve connected with it, and why others may or may not be pumping these artists on their stereos.

Listen through the embedded player below, download directly here or subscribe to us on iTunes here!

And as a bonus, some music videos by Producer Mike’s current favorite OPM bands:

Episode 14: On TFAL’s Wings – Thoughts on Filipino Catholicism with Father Radmar Jao

Radmar Priest

Take me to Church!

As Filipino Americans, most of us were raised Catholic.  With over 80% of the people in the Philippines identifying as Catholic, it’s no surprise that those of us in the TFAL crew grew up going to church every weekend, observing religious holidays, and some even going to Catholic school.

On this TFAL episode, we talk about Catholicism, how we practice or not practice the religion.  We have a candid conversation with our special guest, Father Radmar Jao, S.J.  He is a Jesuit priest and currently serves as the Campus Minister at Boise State University.  He’s also the son of Filipina actress, Tessie Agana.  He himself has worked as an actor and a singer on stage in Hollywood before joining the Jesuit order.  He even has an IMDB profile!

We only begin to scratch the surface as we delve into questions about Father Radmar’s choice of joining the priesthood, his thoughts on Church policies and politics, and how to approach religious leaders and priests we disagree with.

Find out who among us pondered being in the religious ministry, enjoy a story about how one “must repent,” and spend some moments listening to Father Radmar talk about the faith the TFAL crew grew up with, be critical about, and watch develop over time.

Listen through the embedded player below, download directly here or subscribe to us on iTunes here!

For more info on the Caritas retreat where Ryan met Father Radmar, go to this link: http://www.christusministries.org/#welcome-home.

 

 

Episode 13.5: The Manny Pacquiao Era

Pacman_3490363b

For about a decade, Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao captured the hearts of millions of Americans and people throughout the world. He became a household name for even the casual American boxing fan because of his electrifying punches, religious humility, and off-tune singing. Even fans of his opponents loved the guy for his rags-to-riches story. Manny Pacquiao becoming synonymous with the Philippines. And for a brief moment, everyone knew what a Filipino was.

For Filipino Americans, he represented a hope of self-becoming in a society that deemed us “invisible.” Pacquiao sparked a sense of nationalist fervor rarely seen in a community prone to “assimilate.” Filipino Americans from all walks of life – radical, conservative, Catholic, Protestant, Californian, Midwesterner – succumbed to Pacquiao fever. In many ways, Pacquiao’s entry into American national discourse told us about ourselves and our place in this world as much as it told us about a poor skinny kid from General Santos City.

The TFAL Crew discusses Manny Pacquiao’s meteoric rise to stardom and his fateful downfall.  This episode is not so much an analysis of his boxing career, but rather an examination of his cultural impact on Filipino America. Nobody brought together Filipinos around the world as much as the Pacman. Love him or hate him, Manny Pacquiao is a significant part of our history.

Listen through the embedded player below, download directly here or subscribe to us on iTunes here!

Let us know your memories about Manny Pacquiao!  Email us at  thisfilipinoamericanlife@gmail.com or leave a voice message on (805) 394-TFAL.

Also, check out these awesome videos after you listen to the episode.

Episode 13: Filipinos and Gentrification

Capture

Apparently, cities are back. People are moving back into the inner core of cities. Coffee shops, bars, and artisanal eateries are thriving in certain neighborhoods. Millennials are ditching their cars for public transportation. Politicians are touting the brand new economy of “hipster-dom” that is reviving cities nationwide.

But what do these changes mean for families who live in these inner city neighborhoods? What happens to the demographics of the city? How does it affect young folks who are looking for a place to live or trying to buy their first home? How do these economic shifts impact the diverse Filipino American community who live in both the inner core and outer suburbia?

In this TFAL episode, the crew speaks with Jennifer Ganata, a housing advocate and community activist in Los Angeles, to discuss the economics of gentrification and how it affects Filipinos in Southern California and throughout the country. Whether you live in neighborhood likes SoMa Pilipinas, Beacon Hill, or Woodside or suburban areas like Rancho Bernardo, Bergenfield, or Skokie, gentrification has a major impact on all of us.

Listen through the embedded player below, download directly here or subscribe to us on iTunes here!

Have you seen major demographic shifts in the place you grew up in or the place you live now? Do you have any opinions on gentrification? Let us know your thoughts on thisfilipinoamericanlife@gmail.com or (805) 394-TFAL.

Bonus Episode: “The Filipino and the Drunkard”

In this short bonus episode, TFAL presents a retelling of the short story, “The Filipino and the Drunkard.”  Written in 1935 by William Saroyan, this short story tells the tale of a young Filipino who is aboard a ferry boat in 1930s San Francisco.  While waiting to go across the Bay to visit his brother, he is suddenly finds himself followed and harassed by a drunk White bigot.  Truly relevant to today’s tense racial climate under the Orange Cheeto administration.

I0016182A

Anonymous letter send to the Chief of Police of Sunnyvale, CA in 1930.  Photo credit: http://www.personal.anderson.ucla.edu/eloisa.borah/filfaqs.htm. (Original picture found at James Earl Wood Photograph Collection, Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley).

This will hopefully be the first of a new series of audio short stories we will present on TFAL.  If you have a story (personal or otherwise) that touch upon the Filipino/Filipino American experience and you would like to produce it for the podcast, please email us at thisfilipinoamericanlife@gmail.com.

Listen through the embedded player below, download directly here or subscribe to us on iTunes here!

Episode 12.5: Reflections on “My Family’s Slave” and Katulong Culture

Most of us have read “My Family’s Slave” on the Atlantic, written by the late Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Alex Tizon.  The article saddened us, angered us, and confused us.  What’s to make of the story of Eudocia Pulido, aka Lola, who toiled her whole life against her will and without pay for a family that wasn’t her own?

mfs

There are many angles and layers to this gut-wrenching story.  On this episode, the TFAL crew gives you our thoughts and reflections on the article as well as “katulong culture” in general.  It’s a tough issue to wrap our heads around, and we only scratch the surface. Give it a listen and let us know what you think in the comments below or leave a voicemail at (805) 394-TFAL (8325).

Listen through the embedded player below, download directly here, or subscribe to us on iTunes here!

For more opinions on this article, check out this compiled list of responses/reactions from TFAL listener Marnette Federis.  Also, for great insight on the Alex Tizon’s life, the history of enslavement culture in the Philippines, and the life of a trafficked Filipina woman in New York, listen to NPR’s Code Switch podcast episode on the story, featuring one of Joe’s grad school advisors, Professor Vicente Rafael.

Here are links to local organizations who are fighting for the rights of domestic workers and those who are victims of human trafficking:

Finally, a distant relative of Eudocia Pulido who is in contact with the Pulido family set up this gofundme page to help raise funds for their family in the Philippines. Please consider donating.

Pogi Pose Picks!

TFAL loves a pogi pose as you can see by all the awesome pogi-ness below.

In preparation for our Happy Birthday TFAL party we asked TFALers to send us their pogi pose. Here are the top 3 pogistas!

Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 9.11.07 AM

Kid Heroes Filmmaker Patricio Ginelsa’s adorable son Logan rocking a baby pogi pose.

Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 9.15.53 AM

Much love to Francis, Strela, and Iskra! The family that pogi poses at May Day marches!

Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 9.20.14 AM.png

Friend of show Paolo Espiritu rocks an ice cream cone pogi.

Honorable pogi mention goes to AJ for this black and white group shot. Berto for the 90s bangs and asian squat shot. And lastly Beverly for the puppy pogi pose!

 

It’s been an awesome year of TFAL. Much love to everyone who listens to the show and enjoys our stories, history, and puns!

Join us at The Park’s Finest THIS SATURDAY, May 13th from 8pm-12am for an epic Filipino Family Party! RSVP now at Happy Birthday TFAL.  What are some of your favorite TFAL moments from this past year?  Let us know 805-394-TFAL 805-394-8325.