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.

 

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.