As many of you know 8asians is one of the blogs that inspired me to create Fil-Am Ako. For those of you who are not familiar with 8asians, it is a blog created by Ernie which is a collaboration of Asian Americans and Asian Canadians. I was very fortunate to get in contact and an interview with Jeff who is a contributor to 8asians and representing Fil-Ams through his writing as a blogger.
Jeff lives in Silicon Valley, and attempts to juggle marriage, fatherhood, computer systems research, running, and writing.
How did you get into blogging and become one of the 8 Asians on 8asians?
I found the 8asians site doing a search. I wanted to write outside of technical papers and computer industry white papers, and I also wanted to practice writing faster. I started commenting on posts on the site and after building up a number of comments, I asked Ernie Hsiung, the creator of the 8 Asians, if I could be one of the writers. By the way, there are more than eight writers! Only eight are displayed at a time (eight being a lucky number in some Asian cultures).
What part of Philippines are you representing?
That’s an interesting question. My mother is from Surigao and my father is from IloIlo, but I was born in the United States. You could say that I represent the first generation of the Filipino diaspora that is born outside of the Philippines. My wife is from Pangasinan but grew up in Manila.
How do you preserve Filipino culture and traditions in your everyday life?
I live in Silicon Valley (San Jose specifically), California where my family and I are surrounded by Filipinos, Filipino culture, and many other Asian cultures. My neighborhood is mostly Asian with a large number of Filipinos. My sons go to a mostly Filipino school. If some kid goes to school bringing rice and longanisa for lunch, no one cares. If another kid calls their brother Kuya or their sister Ate, no one cares either. There are also lots of Filipinos at my daughter’s high school, too. I’d say that the ethnic composition of their schools prevents and reduces many of the identity issues encountered by Asian-American kids growing up in a mostly white environment. For my children, it’s okay and normal to be Filipino – there are many kids just like them who do just fine.
In my house, we have an extended family situation as my brother-in-law lives with us. My wife’s parents used to live with us, and much of her family lives within walking distance. My own parents live only 25 minutes away. Thus we see our extended family fairly often. As we are generally immersed in Filipinoness, I don’t feel a strong need to do specific things to preserve Filipino culture. Preservation reminds me of a something you do with a mummy in a museum. Rather than “preservation,” I think it is better to have Filipino cultural elements integrated into our daily lives. My sons call their older sister Ate for example, although for some reason, my youngest son refuses to call his older brother Kuya.
The life I described is a big contrast to how it was when I was growing up in the Bay Area during the 70s and early 80s. While there were an increasing number of Filipinos and other Asians during that time, the availability of Filipino food, culture, and other institutions was fairly low as compared to what it is today. My kids are exposed to many more kinds of Filipino food than I was. Some of them eat Pan de Sal every day – something I never did. With the magazines my wife occasionally buys and with the Filipino Channel on at home, we are exposed to Filipino media to an extent that I never had.
While I think I am quite lucky, that doesn’t mean I don’t have any regrets. I wish I spoke Tagalog better, and I wish my wife and I spoke consistently to our children in Tagalog (a subject that I have blogged about). I also wish we could have gone to the Philippines more often. Also, the way the Filipinos appreciate (or often, don’t appreciate) their culture becomes apparent when you are around many other Asian ethnic groups. My children’s friends go to Chinese and Vietnamese schools. There are also Japanese schools. We have no such analogous schools for Filipinos. I wish we did.
Where do you get your inspiration on the subjects you post on 8asians?
There are a number of sources. The 8 Asians writers often circulate ideas and stories among themselves, and those internal conversations are some of the best parts of writing for 8 Asians. Ernie posted a number of these conversations on 8 Asians. Living where I do and seeing the collision of many cultures is another source of inspiration, spawning posts such Indian/Salsa fusion and Sriracha sauce. Asian-Americans achievers, particularly those who break stereotypes, are often the subjects of my posts. Finally, my children, with all of their antics, adventures, and activities, spawn much food for thought and blogging.
Are there any famous Pinoys or Filipino historical figures that you look up to as a role model?
Dado Banatao has been a role model as a Silicon Valley engineer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He did work on early personal computers and key pieces of PC technology. He founded some famous Silicon Valley companies like Chips and Technologies and S3. With the money that he has generated, he has become a philanthropist. He donates to the Asia Pacific fund, the foundation that funded the work on Asian American obesity. He also contributes to CITRIS, the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society, a research institute at UC Berkeley dedicated toward providing Information Technology solutions that will help the world. I met him a few times, and despite his achievements, he was humble and approachable. If I achieved close to half of his technical, business, and philanthropic achievements, I’d be overjoyed, and I’m not sure I’d be as humble.
What are your favorite Filipino dishes?
So many! I love crispy pata, daing na bangus and nilaga, along with lots of my wife’s cooking. I particularly love things that are “stuffed”, with rellenong bangus being my favorite. I love my wife’s leche flan.
When was the last time you visited the Philippines?
What do you have in mind for future blog posts on 8asians?
I plan on talking about many of the subjects I discussed above: the interactions between Asians and Asian culture with America, Asian-American youth and popular culture, and Asian-Americans making a difference. There will most likely be some focusing specifically on Filipino-Americans.
Is there any additional information about you that you would like to share?