Bonus Episode – TFAL talks Crazy Rich Asians

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On this bonus episode the TFAL crew talks about the recent phenomenon that is Crazy Rich Asians. The popular novel by Kevin Kwan debuted in 2013. The film premieres this month with high expectations. Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, and director Jon M. Chu grace the cover of Hollywood Reporter with the cover story The Stakes Are High for ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ — And That’s the Point.

Constance Wu shared why this film is a monumental moment for Asian Americans. Crazy Rich Asians is the first blockbuster film with a predominantly Asian American cast in twenty years. Nico Santos is a part of the cast and Kris Aquino makes an appearance, but does this film have a larger impact on Filipino Americans? Is the story reflective of our own stories? Does it have to be?  We discuss these issues and more on this bonus episode.

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

What are your thoughts on Crazy Rich Asians? Let us know by emailing us at or call our voicemail, (805) 394-TFAL (8325)!

Episode 26.5 – Filipino American Weddings


(Photo Credit: In The Clouds Events)

The union of two people is a very momentous occasion and the catalyst for much celebration throughout human history.  Weddings signify many things from the love of two people, the alliance of two families, and the coming together of a community.

Weddings also signify exclusion.  Marriages were and still are elusive to many people.  In decades past, people of color (including Filipino Americans) were forbidden from marrying Whites in many states of this country.  The LGBTQ community was not able to partake in marriages legally until recently (and even its legality is on shaky ground at this day and age).  Weddings (at least extravagant ones anyway) can exclude those without the means.

And yet, weddings continue to be prevalent in our communities.  They provide an opportunity to experience some cultural traditions.  Jumping the broom.  Riding a white horse.  Wearing something blue.  Many of these traditions are ways the married couple can share a part of themselves with people they love.

In this TFAL mini-episode, the crew discusses Filipino and Filipino American wedding traditions.  A mixture of Filipino, Spanish, and American traditions, many Filipino American weddings have a certain formula to them.  We talk about some of them and more!

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

Which Filipino or Filipino American wedding traditions do you know of?  Let us know by emailing us at or call our voicemail, (805) 394-TFAL (8325)!


McRibbed for Our Pleasure: A Conversation with Xanthe Pajarillo and Jason Barlaan from ‘AIRMEN’

An Interview With AIRMEN’S Xanthe Pajarillo and Jason Barlaan

In this guest blog post on This Filipino American Life, Xanthe Pajarillo, the creator of the web series AIRMEN, and Jason Barlaan, AIRMEN’s starring actor, sit down and talk about their new show, life in the military and the film industry, and their experiences of growing up Filipino. Pajarillo is a United States Air Force (USAF) veteran, while Barlaan, who portrays 2nd Lieutenant Anders, is a United States Marine Corps (USMC) veteran.

AIRMEN is a new web series that follows a group of Air Force troops navigating life during peacetime operations. It is a response to the lack of diversity in veteran narratives. It takes on a subject matter that is often marginalized in the entertainment industry: how military members experience their time in service, rather than focus on war or PTSD. They are currently raising funds for the first season on Seed&Spark.  The deadline to contribute the web series project is August 15.

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XANTHE: The first thing that I noticed was when you introduced yourself. Jason Bar-lun? I thought it was pronounced Bar-lawn.

JASON: You know it’s Barla-an in Filipino but no one gets the two “A”s at the end. Bar-lun is the American one. That’s the way most people can understand it. That’s how it was all through the military too.

XANTHE: What did you do in the Marines?

JASON: I ended up in the Aviation Support field. When we were deployed, they would call our unit to dispatch aviation assets: drones, anything that had to do with the sky to help with the war out there in Iraq and Afghanistan.

XANTHE: When you joined the military did you feel you were going to be the only Asian?

JASON: I’m used to that, growing up in this part of Los Angeles being the only Asian. You’d see [Filipinos] more so in the Navy but not in the Marines.

XANTHE: When I was talking to one of my Filipino friends while I was in the Air Force, he said that he expected that he would be the only Asian in a sea of white dudes, but then he met a lot of Asians. It depends where you are, I guess.

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JASON: As a military person, are you proficient in weapons handling?

XANTHE: No. I was Health Services Management. The only time I held a weapon was in boot camp. I saw a lot of family members and airmen needing appointments.

JASON: I wanted to ask you something. The Talk of Santa Clarita podcast we did last week reminded me of your McRib thing. As a friend to you, I’m like “Was that an act?” My wife and I just finished watching it this morning, too. You don’t have to answer…  [Laughs]

XANTHE: [Laughs] No, I get it all the time it’s fine. In Germany where my dad was stationed, the McRib is there year round. When we moved to the US, we wondered why McRib was only here in the fall. We made the McRib a part of our fall routine. I moved here for CalArts and got ovarian cancer. I had surgery to take it out. My dad was in Iraq. After we got together again, we wanted to do our family thing, and McDonald’s said the McRib’s not coming back. I thought, “This is not okay,” and I went to the [Santa Clarita] City Council — not because I felt like those were the correct people, but I thought someone there would get something done.

Song written in support of Santa Clarita City Council plea

JASON: I saw that video before I knew you. I thought that was a total gag. [Laughs] Now that you put it into context, you never judge. That’s a beautiful story. I never knew that. Wow, that’s so resilient.

XANTHE: Thanks. It’s been weird because I’ve gotten extreme reactions. Someone was really offended when they found out I was a veteran. They said, “You’re a disgrace to the military.” A lot of mad people message me, but some appreciate it too. I’ve had friends say “I need to go viral” and it’s actually not fun.

JASON: You lose your anonymity. They threaten you.

XANTHE: But I’ve met a lot of cool people through it too so it has its pros and cons. How was your upbringing? You said you didn’t have a traditional Filipino upbringing.

JASON: I meant in the sense of nuclear. My mom died in a car accident when I was six. My dad wasn’t in the picture, so my maternal grandmother raised us. My mom’s brother came from the Philippines and he had a drug problem. I went through a long period of time of child abuse. I know for a lot of kids in Filipino culture, that’s standard punishment, but in America it’s abuse. So yeah, Filipino traditions came in family parties. So when I see your mom cooking on set, I see the other actors and crew say, “This is awesome!” and I say, “This is standard, dude.” [Laughs]

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Photo Credit: Courtney McAllister


XANTHE: This is a Filipino party!

JASON: Yeah, you just cook.

XANTHE: Well, thanks for sharing your story.

JASON: Yeah, it’s part of why I started teaching now. There’s a lot of kids that are like me. They’re down and out and want to turn to crime. I want my life to be like, “Hey, I was there, and it’s actually possible to make a good life.”

XANTHE: So you’re into teaching.

JASON: I had to put the acting thing on hold. You know, child care and going into these auditions in Hollywood… the high rejection rate is not paying off. Burning all the gas and time, paying for child care. I’d probably book every four months. Sometimes I wouldn’t even book.

XANTHE: Do you have a horror audition to share?

JASON: I wrote I knew capoeira on my acting resume. I know basic one-two movement of capoeira. It got me into an audition for a music video for… not One Direction, it was one of the groups at the time. The other kids were literally jumping off of walls, somersaults, aerials, and stuff like that. I don’t know how to do that. I had to slate my name and I had to go. She was a very well-known casting director. I did this number. I grabbed my foot and did a Homer Simpson. It was bad. The song gets radio play every now and then and when it plays, it’s like “This is the song!”

XANTHE: You hear it still?


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L: Jason in Not Man Apart’s Ajax in Iraq, R: Performing at CalArts


JASON: Yeah. I have a lot of good experiences with auditions, too. I was the stereotypical Asian featured guest spot in Ghost in the Shell with Scarlett Johansson. I was an “Asian bad guy militia man.” All I had to do was fire the gun twice. I was shooting on set for twenty minutes, but I was on the lot for about 10-12 hours. That’s typical Hollywood, life of an extra.

XANTHE: Is there anything repetitive in what you’re brought in for?

JASON: They brought me in for a Benghazi movie. I could hear the people behind the camera say, “He’s not tall enough. We need more Asian.” I’m full 100% Filipino. I went home and the movie came out. I wanted to see who got my role. I’m not doubting his talent, but I was very confident in that audition. I totally killed that thing. But he was tall, darker, had a head of hair. He delivered the lines the same way. It taught me about what casting directors look for. They needed someone at the same eye line [as the lead actor.]

XANTHE: What were some stereotypes you’ve experienced from people?

JASON: My half-sister’s Black and Filipino. I would always get the dirty eye from the black community. They would think we’re dating. One night I was dropping her off at her dad’s house. We’re at a red light, and there’s this older black man who’s like, “Roll down your window!” I’m like, “What’s your deal?” He said, “Take her home! How dare you!” I said “That’s my fucking sister, dude.” The guy says sorry, all apologetic.

XANTHE: He doesn’t want black and Asians to date.

JASON: It’s very sad, but it’s also very interesting. If Magat and Anders [the two characters from AIRMEN] actually got together you could deal with that. People who don’t have those experiences and don’t want to know the different cultures. Like people who don’t take off their shoes when they walk into our homes. [Laughs] We say it as a courtesy “You can keep them on,” but what we really mean is take your shoes off.

XANTHE: At our house we tell them to take them off.

JASON: Take it off, man. These rugs aren’t cheap.


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A still from the AIRMEN episode, “An Officer and an Airman.”


XANTHE: How do you feel about the current state of Asian representation in the media?

JASON: It’s horse shit. It’s nonexistent. It’s a pecking order: Caucasian, black, Latino, LGBTQ — which is great, but then below all of that is Asian. I can tell by the way I’m casted or auditioned, I’m never considered for those speaking roles. I’m a trained actor. I’m competent. I’m educated. I can totally do this, but I’m never given the opportunity. That’s why I commend you because you’re making it happen, which is what you’re supposed to as a minority. We need more people like you. The representation is sub-par, saying it nicely. It’s really bad.


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Xanthe directing actors Chloe Mondesir and Blu Lindsey on AIRMEN.  Photo Credit: Courtney McAllister

XANTHE: How do you feel about those shows like Fresh Off the Boat and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend? They’re trying to add some change to that.

JASON: My sister’s a huge fan of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and I think it’s great… but it’s very centered around our culture. It’s not centered around being a human being in America. I’m watching a show called Sharp Objects with Amy Adams. Great actress. Super talented. But they’re not celebrating her whiteness. They’re just telling a story about her being a journalist. I wish the marginalized groups like the Asians and Indians, Latinos, and LGBTQ would get those kinds of shows.

XANTHE: About who they are.

JASON: Yeah, about who they are. Just the humanness of them.

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L to R: Blu Lindsey, Jason, and Chloe Mondesir.  Photo Credit: Nick Jarry

XANTHE: How do you feel people will feel about seeing a Filipino in the military in AIRMEN?

JASON: You see them more so in the medical field as doctors and stuff. But as a military officer, it’s always good. It’s not out of the norm, nor is it for any kind of race, but it’s just sad how other shows create these other narratives about veterans. It’s important to show that Asian officers — they’re there, they’re real. Interracial relationships are there, they’re real. And other things you point out in your project. Very important.

Find AIRMEN on Seed&Spark, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


Xanthe Pajarillo is a filmmaker, musician, photographer, and USAF veteran from Germany and Virginia. She is driven by a duty to tell stories that expand people’s empathy towards one another. She received a BFA in Photography and Media from CalArts, and will begin her MFA in Film and TV Production at USC this fall. Find Xanthe on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and on the web at


Jason Barlaan is a proud Marine Veteran who served honorably in both OIF & OEF as an enlisted Marine and an Officer, and has received recognition in multiple ranks. He carried over those talents into his civilian life and has credits with commercial work for USAA, Navy Federal, and USO. He loves his craft and understands the many challenges it presents, but being a Marine has prepared him to endure Hollywood and beyond. Jason loves working on projects with other Veterans!

Episode 26 – TFAL Meats Kris Wolf


Growing up in the 1980s there was WWF and WCW on the airwaves. Depending on where you grew up, you idolized wrestlers from either show. Guest contributor Berto Ponce wrote about his love of wrestling for TFAL and how it lead to the creation of #BalutClub in the article Balut Club is Too Sweet.  It’s through Berto that we learned about Kris Wolf, a Filipino American wrestler who got her start STARDOM a promotion based out of Japan.  In the video below you can see what Kris Wolf and fellow Filipino American wrestler Shotzi Blackheart bring to the ring. You might also spot a few familiar TFAL faces in the audience!


On this episode of TFAL the crew talks about who they used to watch growing up, how they followed wrestling as kids, and who would drop in and out of the scene throughout high school and college. The Park’s Finest hosted us for this interview as Elaine, Producer Mike, and Berto talked with Kris about her path and passion for wrestling, while dining on delicious bbq.

You can catch Kris wrestle at Bar Wrestling on Wednesday, July 25th in Los Angeles! Get tickets here: Bar Wrestling: Don’t Hassle Me I’m Local.  Can’t make it to Bar Wrestling? Follow Kris on Facebook (@wolfinjapan), Twitter (@wolfinjapan), Instagram (@wolfinjapan) for future wrestling dates! You should also subscribe to her Youtube Channel where she’s known to smash boxes!

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

Who were your favorite wrestlers growing up? Would you be a heel or a face? Drop us a line on our voicemail, (805) 394-TFAL (8325)!

Want to hear more about wrestling from Elaine and the Mantaur Berto? Check out both of them on Episode 58 of Geek Offensive with Producer Justin.



Episode 25.5 – The Bakit List 2.0

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Why do Filipinos put raisins in everything?  Why are there so many Fil Am Justins?  Why is every current Philippine movie released in the U.S. about some drug lord?  Bakit?  Bakit?  Bakit????  In this TFAL mini-episode, we goofballs tackle these life-changing questions and more!  We don’t have all of the answers (or any logical ones at that), but at least we raise the questions!

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


Have any answers to these questions?  Got any questions of your own?? Drop us a line on our voicemail, (805) 394-TFAL (8325)!


Episode 25 – Filipino Americans and Panethnic Identity

As a Filipino, do you identify as an Asian American?  Do you feel more affinity towards Mexican Americans and other Latinos?  Do you believe Filipinos are Pacific Islanders?  Do Filipino Americans belong to a specific “race”?

These are some questions Filipino Americans grapple with all the time.  Living in the United States, “Asian,” “Pacific Islander,” or even “Latino” is thrust upon Filipinos.   Filipino Americans, in numerous ways, do not fit these arbitrary racial and/or panethnic categories, yet many of us have the arduous task of choosing which one we belong to.

In this TFAL episode, we explore the ways in which these arbitrary panethnic categorizations are unfair to Filipinos, how they fail to encapsulate our lived experiences, and how they elide so much of our political realities in the United States.  We speak with Dr. Anthony Ocampo, Associate Professor of Sociology at Cal Poly Pomona and author of the renowned book The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race.

Listen as Anthony talks about Filipino Americans ambiguous belonging to Asian America and what Filipinos need to do to advance from our marginalized position under the Asian American category and in the United States at large.  Later, we have a great conversation about his future book project on the experiences of LGTBQ persons of color.  Also, we find out what race Ryan really is!

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

How do you identify?  Do you believe Filipino American are Asian or any other category?  Drop us a line on our voicemail, (805) 394-TFAL (8325)!


Episode 24.5 – TFAL Goes to Las Vegas: Michael and Lynn Arage; Carl Araneta


Although Las Vegas is more than just America’s playground, we could not do a Vegas show without talking about the gaming industry and the combat sport industry. Las Vegas is arguably the most popular gambling city in the world and the fight capital of the United States.  As kids, we may have gone to play games at Circus Circus to win a big stuffed animal, but as adults we try to win big money by playing slot machines or cards.  Likewise, we go to Vegas to watch the best boxing fights and MMA events.

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On this final Vegas episode, we talk to Poker pro Michael Arage and Lynn Arage who works in marketing for a slot machine company to talk about living in Las Vegas and working in the gaming industry.  Find out who really loves poker, who loves slot machines, and who loves to do impressions of bad Russian accents.

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In the second half of the episode, we speak to Carl Araneta of Cobra Kai Jiu Jitsu of Las Vegas and founder of Ten Braves Apparel, a clothing company geared for the ninja and jiu jitsu lifestyle.  Find out how he got into MMA, his fight record, and what he does to train his child.

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

As always, feel free to email us at, leave us a voicemail at (805) 394-TFAL, or write us a comment below if you have any opinions about the episode!

P.S. It’s World Series of Poker month in Las Vegas. Wishing Michael a good series and all the luck to get a bracelet!!!


Episode 24 – TFAL Goes to Las Vegas: Gloria Caoile and Rozita Lee; Tessa Winkelmann

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Think Vegas is only about gambling, partying, and buffets?  Think again.  Las Vegas is also home to a fierce bunch of activists trying to make a difference in the Filipino American community.

In this episode, the TFAL crew talks to long time political advocates, Gloria Caoile and Rozita Lee.  These fiery ladies have been organizing the Filipino American community in Las Vegas for decades.  Listen as they discuss the importance of political empowerment of Filipinos in the United States, their tactics on how to engage the community, and their passions that keep them going.

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In the second half of the episode, we sit down with Tessa Winkelmann, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).  How does she teach ethnic and gender studies to a bunch of students who want to go to nursing?  How does she illuminate the shadows of American imperialism and its lasting impact on hospitality majors?  Listen and find out!

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



Honor the Scholars Among Us with Doctora Designs!


It’s a little known fact that most of the TFAL crew have advanced degrees. Elaine, Gerlie, Joe, and Producer Mike (sorry Ryan!) invested portions of our lives in graduate school. For us, and for countless graduates of color, the journey through the academic path was full of hardship, difficulty, and restlessness. The bar is set much higher and the obstacles are more numerous for folks whom society has traditionally deemed not suited for university life.

Yet, what kept us going in graduate school were the little things – words of encouragement, advice from mentors, small victories along the way. Now, there’s another way to encourage graduate students to cross that finish line. For those who are continuing their education in graduate school, there is a special line of jewelry just for them.

Dr. Angela Chen presents Doctora Designs, a company that celebrates the academic achievements of ALL of us. Dr. Chen, a former undocumented student herself, started Doctora to inspire and empower those who identify as women, people of color, immigrants, and folks handling life on various intersectional margins. Her mission is to recognize our struggles and celebrate milestones of those historically marginalized in academia and society as a whole.

Whether you are a student or you know of someone in school, Doctora is the jewelry line everyone in education should get. These tokens of support, encouragement, and achievement go a long way in one’s academic career.

Graduation season, as well as Mother’s Day, is fast approaching. Honor the scholars among your family and friends with jewelry that celebrates their achievements. Make a statement, inspire yourself and others with jewelry from Doctora Designs! Isulong!

Check out all the inspiring jewelry on Doctora Designs!

Episode 23.5 – TFAL Goes to Las Vegas: Intro and FNGR Podcast

Las Vegas

Viva Las Vegas!!

On a weekend in April, the TFAL crew ventured to Sin City for a bit of R&R.  Well, not really.  TFAL went to Las Vegas to get a slice of Filipino American Life in the desert.  Perhaps the most hyper-capitalist, hyper-sexualized city in the United States, Las Vegas is also home to the fastest growing Filipino American community.

On the next few episodes, you’ll get to hear from a few Vegas Pinoys shaking up the city.  In this first installment, listen as we recap our perceptions of Las Vegas, then speak to Mike and Producer Paul, half of the crew of the FNGR (For No Good Reason) Podcast.  Much thanks to the good folks at FNGR for hosting us for the weekend.


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

Check out the FNGR Podcast here!