Episode 18.5 – Tuli or Supot?: Filipino American Circumcision

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Some call it a rite of passage.  Some consider it a ritual obligation.  Some believe it’s a controversial matter, and some still consider it a health benefit.  In this mega cringeworthy episode, we’re talking about Tuli, or male circumcision.  The cultural practice of tuli is very common in the Philippines for boys around the ages of 10-13 and it’s a sign of Filipino masculinity. Here in the United States, we wonder if tuli is still something parents still consider this a rite of passage or if Filipino American parents consider this practice outdated and unnecessary.

Wince and squirm with the TFAL crew as we talk about this practice of tuli and share historical views on this topic.  Find out who among the TFAL group had to spend the summer after fourth grade in pain and wearing a skirt. Learn with us as we look back at some history on this practice.  And awkwardly laugh with us as we share our personal stories.

Whether it’s a “snip snip” from a hospital or rabbi or a “tuk-tok” from the village doctor, we are curious to hear about any interesting feedback or stories.  Aray!

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

Got interesting story about circumcision?  Let us know! Email us at  thisfilipinoamericanlife@gmail.com or leave a voice message on (805) 394-TFAL.

Bonus Episode – Live at the 2016 Justice for Filipino American Veterans March

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As a follow-up to our last episode on Filipino WWII Veterans, we present to you a collage of sounds and interviews from last year’s Justice for Filipino Americans Veterans march in Hollywood, CA.  It features interviews with students, community organizers, and a veteran, as well as the many chants that have come to characterize this event over the years.  Special thanks to Stephanie Sajor and Eddy Gana of Kabataang maka-Bayan for letting us tag along (and participating in the previous episode), Aquilina Versoza of Pilipino Workers Center for letting us ride in the Jeepney, and of course all the people we interviewed as part of this episode.

Listen, subscribe to and rate us on iTunes, learn, and join the discussion in the comments!  And you can email us at thisfilipinoamericanlife@gmail.com or leave a voice message on (805) 394-TFAL.

 

 

Episode 18 – Filipino WWII Veterans

 

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Images from the 2005 JFAV March in Historic Filipinotown (Photo Credits:  Producer Mike)

On November 11, 2017, Filipino American Veterans, students, and their allies will gather in Hollywood, CA for the 17th Annual Justice For Filipino American Veterans (JFAV) march.  In fact, for many years now, throughout the country, Filipino Americans have been organizing protests, actions, remembrances, and celebrations in honor of Filipinos who fought for the United States in World War II, many of whom never got the recognition or benefits they deserved and were promised.  Many of us here at TFAL have been a part of the Filipino Veterans movement in LA since the very first march, and continue to support local advocacy efforts to this day. But how can we best honor the sacrifices of our elders? What can we do now, with so many Veterans passing away each day?

In this episode, we dive into these issues and talk with both national and local leaders of the movement for justice and equity for Filipino Veterans of WWII.  Calling in all the way from Washington DC, Ben de Guzman of The Filipino Veterans Recognition and Education Project shares his perspectives on the national movement, and Stephanie Sajor and Eddy M. Gana Jr. from KmB Pro-People Youth join us in the studio to talk about the upcoming JFAV March.

Listen, subscribe to and rate us on iTunes, learn, and join the discussion in the comments!  And you can email us at thisfilipinoamericanlife@gmail.com or leave a voice message on (805) 394-TFAL.  Who knows, we just might share your thoughts on a future episode!

And check out this mini documentary from 2004 by our friends Michele Gutierrez and Christine Araquel:

Broken Promises Short Version from Science Friction on Vimeo.

 

Episode 17.5 – TFAL Goes to the Bay. Stories of Cannabis & Tech with Nina Parks and Carlo De La Fuente

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On this episode of This Filipino American Life we continue our Bay Area invasion and talk story with Filipino Americans in the Cannabis industry, as well as address the tech boom that’s associated with Silicon Valley and the many companies who dominate the area.  Nina Parks of Mirage Medicinal educates the crew about how her work goes beyond the product and is also a lifestyle brand. This is followed by our conversation with Carlo De La Fuente who highlights his experiences in San Francisco’s rapidly growing tech field.

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

And since it’s Halloween, don’t forget to check out Bindlestiff’s latest work MUMU, an otherwise experience! This show runs until November 18th. Former TFAL guest Joel Quizon helped develop the soundtrack for the show! That is if you are brave enough to face the mumu!

What are your thoughts on cannabis and the tech field? Let us know! Email us at  thisfilipinoamericanlife@gmail.com or leave a voice message on (805) 394-TFAL.

Shallow Shore Leave: How Filipino Cruise Ship Workers Carve Out New Spaces in Alaska

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Over the summer, my family and I went on a cruise to Alaska. It wasn’t my first choice of a vacation destination, but being that this is a family trip and my mom’s 70th birthday wish, my familial obligations took precedence. However, being the academic nerd that I am, the week long cruise allowed me to make some interesting observations of the most glaring thing you’ll notice when you go on a cruise – the crew on the ship is comprised mostly of Filipinos.

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With the advent of jet air travel and the subsequent decline of ocean liners for intercontinental transit, many ocean liner companies launched cruise ships and gained mass appeal beginning in the 1970s. The popularity of the TV show, The Love Boat, certainly aided in marketing the industry. However, to maintain the bottom line, cruise ship companies incorporate outside the United States to circumvent U.S. labor laws. Employing many able-bodied workers from the Third World is essentially the industry’s dirty little secret. Ships are filled with international workers from Eastern Europe, Russia, Indonesia, India, South Africa, and Latin America, but Filipinos comprise the vast majority.

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From the casual conversations I had with some workers, many are contracted for these jobs, often for six to nine-months during the peak cruise season. They cook and serve food, they tend the bars, they clean the staterooms, they serve as security officers, and they maintain the ship, working seven days a week on meager wage. The majority of the Filipino workforce is male, but there are significant numbers of females as well. Surprisingly, Filipinos are not heavily involved in the entertainment division of the crew. Americans, Brits, and Australians hold many of the positions that provide “entertainment,” comforting much of the largely white, middle class clientele. Indeed, racial stratification among the staff was very much apparent throughout the voyage.

Yet, my observations of these workers on my cruise experience are less focused on their lives aboard the ship. There are other articles and studies of the roles of Filipino seafarers both in the shipping and cruise ship industries. (You can read some of them here, here, here, and here). Rather, I am more interested in their lives on shore and the physical spaces that Filipino cruise ship workers create, inhabit, or are created for them.

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Every week cruise ships leave the U.S. West coast cities and sail non-stop to Alaska, stopping by Alaskan coastal towns. My particular trip brought us to Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan, before heading back south to Victoria, Canada, then back to Seattle. Many of these towns have had a long history of Filipino presence dating back to the 1920s.

In Juneau, local residents established the Filipino Community Center and dedicated a traffic median as “Manila Square,” which pay homage to the long history of Alaskeros that labored in the area for nearly a century.

Ketchikan, Alaska was also a major stop for Filipinos of the Manong generation during the 1920s to the 1960s. Alaskeros came to the “Salmon Capital of the World” to work in the canneries during the summer and returned back to the mainland after a few months. The town was highly segregated, with many people of color relegated to the area south of the Ketchikan Creek.

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A remnant of that era is Diaz Café, a Filipino restaurant dating back to roughly 1921. According to the Ketchikan Historical Commission, the restaurant was first opened as The Lucky Spot, serving the thousands of Alaskeros who labored in the area.

However, with the cruise ship industry, Filipino spaces in Alaska have shifted to accommodate a new mobile, temporary workforce. Filipino cruise ship workers, like the cruise passengers, disembark and seek a short respite from their lives on the ship. Close to a thousand Filipino crew workers emerge from these ships to venture into town. Ten percent of the Juneau’s population is made up of Filipinos, roughly 3,000 in total. When cruise ships make their weekly visit at Juneau’s ports, the Filipino population instantly skyrockets.

Yet, their movements are restricted by the temporal demands of their work on the boat. They are only allowed to go on shore if their work schedule permits. If they do go ashore, they travel only as far as time allows, tethering them to certain a geographic area. In light of these restrictions and their mobility, they are still able to carve out spaces of their own. In these spaces, Filipino cruise ship workers can maintain their familial bonds with their loved ones in the Philippines, satisfy their cultural, material, and gastronomical needs, and most importantly, suspend social and racial hierarchies brought on by the employment structure of the cruise ship if only for a brief moment.

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Servicing the needs of these workers, budding entrepreneurs from the Filipino community have opened dozens of stores and restaurants near or around the port.

A handful of all purpose “sari-sari” stores serve as community centers for these Filipinos, who become Juneau residents for the day. Dressed in casual wear (men usually wearing the latest NBA basketball sportswear), Filipinos can buy Philippine snacks and other curios, remit money to their families in the Philippines, and watch TFC.

Right next to Juneau City Hall, there are two food stands, or BBQ-han, where hungry crewmembers can eat Filipino barbecue.

Further up the street, a turo-turo restaurant, Bernadette’s, serves Filipino dishes – Adobo, Sinigang, Munggo, and even regional dishes like Pinapaitan and Bicol Express.

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Aside from filling their nostalgic needs of a home cooked meal, Filipinos largely take advantage of the free wi-fi – a resource they cannot access while on the cruise ship – to video chat with their loved ones back in the Philippines or somewhere else in the diaspora.  Every town we stopped at, Filipino workers knew exactly where to log on.

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Reminiscent of the “Little Manilas” that sprouted up during the 1920s and 1930s in U.S. towns, many young Filipinos “make tambay” along the sidewalks in front of these stores, making their presence visible in the town. To be certain, racial, gender, and labor dynamics are different from the pre-WWII period, but these spaces similarly service a transient labor population.

Skagway, Alaska is no different from Juneau. A small gold rush town during the late 19th century, Skagway is now fully dependent on tourism as its main economic driver. There is one restaurant that is a favorite among the Filipino cruise ship workers: Gold Digger.

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The owners are a Filipina and her husband from Italy. They opened a small restaurant near the cruise ship docks called Mermaid Garden. Proving their model was quite profitable, the owners purchased the old Gold Digger restaurant on the main drag of town and changed the menu to serve Filipino food. (Why they didn’t change the name of the restaurant is beyond me). Their portions are enormous, which make the restaurant among Filipinos’ favorites. Here, one can hear laughter abound. Jokes and stories are abundant. And at times, workers vent about their work life on the ship. I heard one gentleman tell his fellow shipmates how idiotic his Australian supervisor was when doling out staff assignments.

The cruise’s last stop, Ketchikan, the state’s so-called “First City,” is the most popular place for passengers to buy their souvenirs. Like in Skagway and Juneau, many crew workers visit Ketchikan to run some much needed migrant worker errands. However, as one crewmember explained to me, many workers choose Ketchikan’s sari-sari stores to send balikbayan boxes to loved ones in the Philippines given the number of curio shops in town. It became such a popular destination for Filipinos to fill balikbayan boxes that Walmart capitalized on this global circuit of consumption. The local Walmart established a shuttle that takes cruise workers from the downtown area to its store some four miles away so that they could purchase material goods to ship home.

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Today, Ketchikan has several Filipino sari-sari stores that serve the cruise worker community.

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A week later, we were back in Seattle and ready to go home. When I exited the port terminal, I noticed a make shift “Crew Center” at the edge of the passenger pick-up area with a tent full of Filipino goods as well as a food truck. At first, I was surprised to see this pop-up market on the port grounds given the readily available Filipino stores in Seattle. After some thought about the limited mobility of these workers, I was no longer surprised.

Overall, these service stops are a double-edged sword. They act somewhat of an oasis from the cruise ship for the migratory labor force. Filipinos are able to eat their own cuisine, socialize with other workers, and communicate with their loved ones. They are spaces Filipino cruise ship workers and immigrant communities alike carve out to alleviate the alienation of being in a foreign place.

Yet, the comforts of the familiar these spaces uphold only reinforce the realities of global migration. These spaces allow them just enough familiarity and comforts of home to facilitate their exile from it. On the other end, these spaces also allow workers just enough access to get a taste of living in the First World. They are continual reminders of the political and economic confinement of workers in this global industry. As one worker told me, the stores in these Alaskan port cities remind them of how far they are from their families in the Philippines and yet how close they are to their extended family in the U.S. Left in limbo, Filipino cruise ship workers sail on.

Episode 17 – TFAL Goes to the Bay: Lily Prijoles and Allan Manalo

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The San Francisco Bay Area is home to the 2nd largest Filipino population in the United States.  Soma Pilipinas, the Filipino cultural district recently designated by the City of San Francisco, is the heart of Filipino America in the Bay.  Last month, TFAL paid a visit to Soma Pilipinas to talk to some of the movers and shakers in the community.

In this first installment of interviews, we talk to Lily Prijoles, one of the co-owners of Arkipelago Bookstore.  We then interview Allan Manalo, a long-time community activist and co-founder of Bindlestiff Studio, the “epicenter of Filipino American performing arts.”  Listen as we discuss the history of these great institutions in the Bay Area, the future of SoMa Pilipinas in this age of gentrification, and of course, some NorCal-SoCal sports rivalry banter.

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

Episode 16.5 – TFAL goes to the Bay: Voicemails / Filipino Folklore

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Once upon a time…we started a podcast. 

Storytelling is one of the most fun ways we communicate in our podcast – sometimes through deep reflection and other times through funny interpretations of our past.  More importantly, it was a way our parents, grandparents, or teachers were able to communicate important lessons and morals to us as we grew up.  It was a way to engage young minds, and perhaps a vehicle for inspiration.

On this mini episode, TFAL Crew is joined by Roger Habon and Rhean Fajardo, members of our TFAL family, as we share fables, stories, and legends that some of us grew up hearing.  We look at Filipino folk tales that our parents and grandparents have passed on to us.  Discover with us the legend of the pineapple, who is afraid of the “white lady” and why you shouldn’t be eating red meat with tea!

Plus, listen to our fans who have left us voicemails asking important questions about Filipino American food and identity.

In honor of Filipino American History Month, we record from Arkipelago Books, a Filipino bookstore in the SoMa Pilipinas district in San Francisco.  They have been a great pillar to the Filipino American community in the Bay and our gracious hosts for this episode.

Whether written or told, share our stories, pass on your own, and discuss. Let’s learn together and not be Juan Tamad about it.

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

Episode 16: The World Is Just A Bridge. Gaming and Dungeons & Dragons

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On this episode of This Filipino American Life the TFAL crew talks about video games and Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). We talk about who used video games as an escape, who did not really play as much as a kid, and who thought video games reinforced Eurocentric mythology.

While we start the conversation around video games, the conversation pivots to Dungeons and Dragons when we talk to our guests Earl Baylon (Elaine’s semi-cousin, Jonah Maiava from the Tomb Raider series, and Artistic Director of Room to Improv) and Edren Sumagaysay (writer, The Park’s Finest expediter, and Dungeon Master extraordinaire). Earl and Edren go into how they got into Dungeons and Dragons and explain to the TFAL crew how D&D works. We even begin to brainstorm a Filipino American D&D campaign!

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What are your thoughts about gaming and D&D? What were/are your favorite video games? If you played D&D what character would you play as? Orc? Rogue? Wizard? Would you play a Filipino American D&D campaign if we put one out? Let us know! Tweet at us @TFALpodcast. Email us thisfilipinoamericanlife@gmail.com. Leave us a voicemail 805-394-TFAL.

This episode is brought to you by Brown Baked Homemade Desserts. Thank you to Jason Lustina for providing TFAL with delicious cookies while we recorded this episode! Want more cookies and waffles and other delicious Filipino Food treats? Follow Brown Baked in Facebook and Instagram

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

 

 

Episode 15.5: Filipino American Hometown Associations

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“Welcome to the Induction Ball of the Filipino Association of Sorsogueno Americans of Greater Las Vegas and Vicinity, Inc. (FASAGLVI).”

For many Filipino Americans, hometown associations and other organizations gave recent immigrants a home away from home. In these associations, Filipinos found fellow kababayan, built networks, developed a sense of community, and found power in a country where they faced constant marginalization. On the other hand, these associations also served as battlegrounds for community leadership, venues to reinforce heteronormative and gender norms, and distractions for pertinent political issues affecting the Filipino American community.

In this mini-episode, the TFAL crew discusses our 2nd generation experiences with hometown associations and try to make sense of the multiple functions of these unique institutions. Find out why “incorporating” is so important, who went to high school dance with a beauty queen, and who served as an “escort” for a hometown association.  And, of course, at the end, we:

SAYAW  –  SAYAW  –  SAYAW

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

Balut Club is Too Sweet

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.