Crazy Rich Asians? I Thought You Said Crazy Rotations: Inside The Impact Culture Has On Asian-American Athletes

by Noel Alberto, FINDink Contributor

Naomi Osaka is the reigning US Open and Australian Open champion. She is of Japanese-Haitian descent but also identifies as an American (Photo by USTA)

Naomi Osaka is the reigning US Open and Australian Open champion. She is of Japanese-Haitian descent but also identifies as an American (Photo by USTA)

Binhi: Growth Through Action. The theme of FIND Dialogue 2018. Breaking Barriers. The theme of MAUVSA Advance Conference 8. Through growth, each of these professional athletes have broken barriers. In Hollywood, Crazy Rich Asians was important for Asian-Americans because it gave us full representation (the cast was all Asian/Asian-American).

While the breakthrough eventually came for Asian-Americans on the big screen, there is a scarcity of Asian-Americans in sports. The NCAA database has a demographic that shows that in the four major sports (basketball, football, baseball, and hockey), less than one percent of the total players are Asian-American. Granted that database isn’t taking into account women’s only sports or other sports such as swimming or track and field, it’s still difficult to believe that the number of Asian-American athletes will be significantly greater than one percent.

Naomi Osaka’s win at the US Open last year really shone a light on Asian-Americans and people of mixed descent in general. Osaka is of Japanese-Haitian descent and embraces both sides. Being a Grand Slam champion has helped Japan slowly come to terms in acceptance of people who are mixed. While Osaka has Japan and Haitian blood, she does consider herself American too having trained here most of her life.

Despite that, the world number one has largely been overlooked by the USTA. That was until 2016, and now she’s won the last two majors, the US and Australian Open, and looking for a third at the French. Osaka is now the new face of Asian-American sports along with the Toronto Raptors’ Jeremy Lin who recently won an NBA title.. She’s shy and humble but still has a comedic, loving nature to her which brights up the press rooms she’s in. For example, I had asked her at the US Open if she had seen Crazy Rich Asians, and here was her response after some back and forth, “Oh Crazy Rich Asians, I thought you said crazy rotations”

She has endorsement deals with Nike, Nissin, Nissan, Yonex, and ANA. Nike has given her the green light to put sponsors on her shirt, only the second time that’s been done since two-time Grand Slam champion Li Na did it. She’ll soon be designing her own attire and getting her own line of streetwear so more is to come from the 21-year-old.

Culture plays such a massive role for Asians. Growing up, we’re instilled with a set of values and beliefs that we are supposed to abide to for the rest of our lives. From hard work to being family-oriented to focusing on school, these are just some values that are taught to us at a young age.

At the US Open and through e-mail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Osaka, Nathan Adrian, and many other Asian-American athletes asking what from their culture they still use today, their role models, turning points, and much more.

Nathan Adrian is a former Olympic gold medalist and is half-Chinese (Photo by USA Today)

Nathan Adrian is a former Olympic gold medalist and is half-Chinese (Photo by USA Today)

What did you integrate from your culture growing up? What do you integrate from your culture now?

  • Vania King: I will never truly understand what significance my culture has in my life. When I was younger, I was more culturally Taiwanese than I am now. My parents are first-generation, they didn’t know anything different and how to integrate us into an American culture nor did they want to. They wanted us to be Taiwanese. As I got older, it was difficult to navigate that balance of being American and Taiwanese especially with my family.

Asian cultures are group-minded/collectivist. My parents were quite controlling as many Asian parents are. It took a lot of courage to breakaway from my parents. They mellowed out over the years, but it took a “jackhammer” to breakdown those cultural differences.

  • Thai-Son Kwiatkowski: I eat a lot of Viatnamese food, my mom makes some great pho. It’s awesome we live in a time where we can show we’re proud of our cultural roots. Movies such as Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther come to mind in setting a precedent for minority groups to feel comfortable.

  • Sophie Chang: I grew up definitely eating the cuisine a lot. It was a normal part of my life. When we visited our relatives on my dad’s side, we would get those little red envelopes on Lunar New Year.

  • Grace Min: I grew up speaking Korean, my parents are Korean and it was my first language. I really appreciate it. I eat Korean food, and I try to keep those a part of my life as an adult.

  • Evan Zhu: Food, my mom cooks Chinese food everyday. Values. Always work hard, try your best, family is very important. The main thing is discipline and working hard everyday.

  • Danielle Lao: Being Asian-American having a normal school life and balance was important. A lot of players who are serious about their tennis at a young age are homeschooled or do independent study. It was important for my parents to see me in a regular high school than college.

  • Claire Liu: My parents wanted me to do well in school. They think the discipline and responsibility of doing your work on time comes in handy especially in tennis because you’re the only one on the court so you have to problem solve on your own.

  • Nathan Adrian: Yes but I am not necessarily conscious of it. I am mixed so growing up a lot of things that seemed normal to me were actually a hybrid of both of my parents own cultures and senses of self. If eating any and all noodles with chopsticks counts that is something that I do. Growing up we spent a lot of time visiting family in Richmond British Columbia, which has a large Cantonese population.

We would go up there for Chinese new year along with other various holidays and II didn’t realize that every family didn’t have a ton of close relatives and have giant family gatherings centered around 3+ hour meals where everyone sits around and talks.

  • Bryan Clay: A few things from my childhood that I integrated into my career and life now is the concept of excellence and hard work. My grandfather taught me by example that hard work pays off and that my work ethic speaks volumes about what type of person I am. I believe these two qualities along with many others helped me become the athlete that I am.

Thai-Son Kwiatkowski is a former NCAA singles champion from the University of Virginia (Noel Alberto/VAVEL USA)

Thai-Son Kwiatkowski is a former NCAA singles champion from the University of Virginia (Noel Alberto/VAVEL USA)

Do/Did you have an Asian-American role model growing up?

  • Vania King: No not really. I have always been strong-willed and have admired people who were strong-willed. When I was younger, I watched Michelle Kwan. Now that I’m older, I appreciate more character and values that I admire. Culture doesn’t play so much a role in that.

  • Thai-Son Kwiatkowski: No, politics aside. Barack Obama is a great, affable man. In terms of sports, Kei Nishikori has done an admirable job setting an unbelievable model for treating everyone with respect.

  • Sophie Chang: My dad always knew the famous Asian-American famous actors such as Jet Li and Bruce Lee. I picked that up growing up. My dad is a great role model. He’s very level-headed, a great parent.

  • Grace Min: In mainstream media, not really. I would say Michael Chang but not really. I think Li Na definitely when I first turned pro, and I saw her winning Grand Slams. Sadly no, I didn’t have any idols or heroes growing up.

  • Evan Zhu: Tennis. Michael Chang. Growing up, there’s not too many actors.

  • Danielle Lao: All Asian-Americans look out for Michael Chang but that’s pretty much it. When you look at the Olympics you look at Michelle Kwan, but there weren’t that many. When I got to college there was Jeremy Lin who led the way. They’re spread out throughout the years.

  • Claire Liu: Li Na. Also, I loved Gemma Chan because I watched Crazy Rich Asians.

  • Nathan Adrian: Absolutely! It was hard to grow up without watching Bruce Lee movies. I think as a kid you grow up watching those movies because you think Kung Fu is cool, however, as I got older I grew to respect what he did for Asians in pop culture along with his dedication to his craft.

  • Bryan Clay: No, I did not have any Asian American role models growing up.

Michael Chang is someone mentioned by many as a role model especially being an Asian-American who’s played tennis (Noel Alberto/VAVEL USA)

Michael Chang is someone mentioned by many as a role model especially being an Asian-American who’s played tennis (Noel Alberto/VAVEL USA)

What was the turning point that helped you decide that you were going to pursue your sport full-time?

  • Vania King: My mom told me I wasn’t going to college (see next question for more details).

  • Thai-Son Kwiatkowski: I’ve been playing tennis since I was seven years old so it wasn’t that hard to decide.

  • Sophie Chang: I committed to go to college at UVA, the University of Virginia. Close when I was about to go there, I played that summer fully. When I played those three months, I started having better results, and I started to think, Oh I have a good shot at this.”

  • Grace Min: Winning the Junior US Open. I know it’s only a junior tournament but just being here and experiencing a Grand Slam atmosphere, I knew I wanted to dedicate my life and future to becoming the best pro.

  • Evan Zhu: I started playing tennis when I was eight. My parents were super big into school and studying. My parents saw me succeeding so they sent me to a tennis camp in Maryland (JTCC) until I was 16. I moved out to California to train with Taylor Dent and now in Texas with Taylor Dent.

  • Danielle Lao: At the end of my time at USC, I was a little conflicted. A lot of my other Asian-American peers were looking for jobs. I did an internship which set you up, but I sat on it for a couple of months after the school year ended. During the summer, I reflected if I wanted to keep going. I questioned if I was good enough, but I really love tennis and competing so I gave it half a year. That half a year turned into a year and there was a lot of success and now here I am.

  • Claire Liu: A year ago when I got a wildcard into qualifiers and then qualified for the main draw. I was doing well in juniors and then beating some of the pros was a turning point for sure.

  • Nathan Adrian: There was no one inflection point that got me to say “I am going to do this full time.” I think it was more along the lines of seeing professional swimming evolving before my eyes as a kid and working at making that a reality.

  • Bryan Clay: The turning point for me didn’t happen in just one day. It was a slow turn, it happened over years and with refinement of many challenges.

Claire Liu is a former Junior Wimbledon champion (Noel Alberto/VAVEL USA)

Claire Liu is a former Junior Wimbledon champion (Noel Alberto/VAVEL USA)

Were your parents/guardians fully supportive of what you wanted to do or did they want your focus elsewhere?

  • Vania King: Yes and no. I wanted to go to college, I was accepted and enrolled into Stanford when I was 17. At the same time, I started playing well, and I was top 100. I had to make a decision since I was going to school in the fall, and I was top 100. I remember distinctly I was at Wimbledon and had to make the decision.

I called my parents and told them I wanted to go to college and my mom said, “No.” I was like, “No? No?!” and she said, “No you can’t.” I was still young, and when I was younger I obeyed my parents more. Now we have a two-way relationship.

Back then, I obeyed because they had the best in mind for me. It was very tough because I’m not Taiwanese, I’m American. I struggled for several years trying to be my own person with the decision that wasn’t the one I originally wanted. It has helped me become the person who I am. I have no regrets, and I learned that I do love tennis and it has given so much to me.

  • Thai-Son Kwiatkowski: Yea. Obviously coming from an Asian family, academics was important. They never told me academics was what I had to do with my life. If I wanted to be a tennis player then I can be a tennis player. It’s been awesome to have their support.

  • Sophie Chang: Yes my parents were very supportive. They said it was my choice which was hard at the time because I wanted someone to make the decision. They were proud of me either way. I’m appreciative of it now because I was able to go out and do what I wanted to.

  • Grace Min: Yes, my parents were much more into sports than academics actually. They were fully supportive of my professional career.

  • Evan Zhu: Yes. My parents saw me succeeding at around 12-years-old so they sent me to a tennis camp in Maryland. They were supportive of me moving out to California to train and the same in Texas.

  • Claire Liu: My parents wanted me to college, but my mom helped me make the decision to go pro. She said if I really wanted to play tennis, to put all of my effort into that. After you can go to school or keep learning on your own.

  • Nathan Adrian: As long as I maintained good grades in school they were happy to support my participation in sport. I think they appreciated the opportunities that Swimming would bring me as a young adult as they watched both my brother and sister get recruited to Division 1 schools.

  • Bryan Clay: My mother was always supportive of me running track and field. The only other thing she wanted me to accomplish was good grades in school.

Sophie Chang is a 22-year-old from Maryland with a Chinese background (Noel Alberto/VAVEL USA)

Sophie Chang is a 22-year-old from Maryland with a Chinese background (Noel Alberto/VAVEL USA)

Tips for young Asian-Americans trying to make it into sports?

  • Vania King: Not just for the athlete but for the family, let the kids enjoy playing and be independent. Let them enjoy the desire to discover things on their own. For the up and coming athletes, you have to put in the work, put in the discipline. If you do, keep pursuing that.

  • Thai-Son Kwiatkowski: Genetically we are smaller than other races, but we have some cultural diligence and tenacity that we can use to our advantage and always work hard.

  • Sophie Chang: A lot of Asian Americans are raised to work hard and be disciplined. I know a lot of kids who are spread really thin, but success is something that comes with hard work. It’s hard to succeed in everything at once, you don’t want to put too much pressure on yourself. You want to have fun, you want to enjoy and have love for the sport. That’s where the success comes from.

  • Grace Min: I didn’t see much diversity in the South, especially growing up and playing in the suburbs of Atlanta. If you don’t see familiar faces, just keep pursuing your dreams and never give up.

  • Evan Zhu: When you’re young, it’s okay to play a few different sports. When you’re older though, it’s more difficult to excel in multiple sports when you’re doing other things after school. If you like something, commit and represent.

  • Danielle Lao: Be open with your parents in terms of how much a sport means to you. A lot of times, Asian parents put us through a sport just as an extracurricular. If parents think that it’s still an extra curricular then that’s how they’ll treat it. If there’s a desire for the kid in the sport than they have to show it. The thing about Asian-Americans too is that they’re respectful, they’re obedient. Speaking their mind or speaking out is a challenge in some cases but communicate respectfully because your parents will help you pave the way.

  • Claire Liu: Most important thing is to have fun. There are some crazy tennis parents. The days off are the most important so you can do other things that you love.

  • Nathan Adrian: I think the best tip I could give anyone doing anything these days would be to learn how to compartmentalize your time. When working on school work put 100% of your energy and effort in to school work. Same thing applies when you are doing your sport or anything else for that matter. It doesn’t do anyone any good for you to be present physically but mentally be elsewhere (preparing for a test at practice or thinking about your next training session while at school).

  • Bryan Clay: Culture plays a huge role in who you are weather you want to admit it or not. Don’t be ashamed of where you come from. Harness the good qualities and have respect for the ones you don’t agree with. Then take on the ups and downs in life and capitalize on both. Everything you experience is an opportunity.

Danielle Lao is of Chinese-Filipino descent and was a two-time All-American at USC (Noel Alberto/VAVEL USA)

Danielle Lao is of Chinese-Filipino descent and was a two-time All-American at USC (Noel Alberto/VAVEL USA)

Thoughts on Crazy Rich Asians?

  • Vania King: I thought it was so funny, I cried at the end. I had to look up the mahjong scene. It’s slightly less about Asian values and more about upper-class values. We relate to it a lot.

  • Evan Zhu: I didn’t see it yet (at the time). But in terms of Fresh off the Boat, I see the similarities between my mom and the mom from the show. My mom was strict but nothing like a tiger mom.

I resonate most with the oldest sibling from the show because he’s very into pop culture, especially rap.

  • Claire Liu: I just love the whole movie because an Asian cast. I just felt so represented and proud.

  • Naomi Osaka: Yeah, I think it’s really cool. I know that there hasn’t — like, other than Lucy Liu, there is not a famous Asian lady, if you know what I mean. So I think it’s really cool that they’re casting Asian people now for Asian roles. Yeah, I know that there is a live action Mulan coming out, so I’m excited to see that, too.

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.

Small

by Angelique Campo, FINDink Contributor

I spent a lot of my years trying to get to the bottom of who I am.

At a young age, I taught myself how to be small, in every essence of the word.

When I became aware of all my flaws, aches, and growing pains that I didn’t like about myself, I began to learn what it felt to be insecure and suddenly, being small became progressively easier.

There were parts of me I kept hidden away. I pushed everything I felt down, hoping that one day those feelings would disappear. I thought I was just being dramatic when I was younger. But then it started following me for longer periods of time. My mind took one, little thought and ran with it, and it wouldn’t stop until I was hyperventilating. It was such a stark contrast of what I felt versus who I portrayed myself to be to everyone around me.

You never want anyone to know, because it brings an onslaught of shame and guilt. Like I’m not allowed to feel this way. Because there’s no reason to. It’s not real and I’m not actually suffering.

You have this, and you have that. You’re so lucky compared to others. Stop complaining.

So, I stopped.

I made it so that it was small; so tiny that it was insignificant.

Because if it were small, I wouldn’t have to deal with it.

If it were small enough, it wasn’t real. And if I brushed it off like I learned to, then I would be fine.

I hadn’t realized what a disservice I was doing to myself by invalidating my own emotions. I was shrinking myself to fit into an outdated cultural narrative that was brought down from generations before me. I didn’t understand it until I got to college. I couldn’t run from it anymore. I couldn’t ignore it when it started seeping into my life during the day and putting italics on my sadness at night.

When I finally got diagnosed with anxiety and depression, it was such a weird sense of relief. Like I could breathe now that I knew what was wrong.

But at the same time, it opened doors to conversations I still was not ready to have, with people I loved who couldn’t quite understand why, and trauma from growing up that I had to relive over and over again until I accepted it for what it was: trauma.

For me, healing meant having to peel myself down to the very core, everytime, in hopes to get to the bottom of it all. You make a valiant effort to explain it to other people, and yet, it still doesn’t get any easier.

That’s why this month in particular is very special to me. It’s the first one that’s allowed me to feel valid. After a year of not being able to recognize her, she was able to build herself back up.

Once I faced the fear that became my own truth, I made some room, instead of shrinking.

I finally felt the gravity in kind words. I started saying them to myself. I said it out loud. It was then that I decided this is where I begin again.

And I will start over every time if it means getting the opportunity be better than I was before.

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.

Suicide, Smiles, and the Saserdote

by Alpheus Llantero, FINDink Contributor

In the Philippines, the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation has a depression and suicide prevention hotline to help those secretly suffering from depression. The numbers to call are ‎804–4673 and ‎0917–558–4673. More information is available on its website.

In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you are in crisis, call 1–800–273–8255.

Content Warning: Mentions of suicide and mental trauma.

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For all the values instilled by the Spanish colonization, Catholicism visibly remains the greatest remnant. The Catholic Church teaches the Filipino how they ought to live, and more importantly, how they ought to die. For many, Christianity has been the saving grace of a country where nearly a quarter of its population lives a hand-to-mouth existence — isang kahig, isang tuka. The kingdom of heaven is not theirs on earth, but theirs in heaven. Endure the miserable existence, so that one day, you may be rewarded — endure the evictions, the hurricanes, the slave-like labor and menial wages — so one day, the kingdom of heaven be yours.

It is not a surprise that the public conceives the image of a happy Filipino. Numerous pictures and articles have showcased the impoverished-but-smiling Filipino, a testament to the resilience of the Filipino spirit. A poll last March reported that 87 percent of Filipinos are “very happy and satisfied with life”, despite half of the population rating themselves poor. The National Statistics Office reports that 17 to 20 percent of Filipinos are diagnosed with some form of mental illness, with a recorded suicide rate of 3.2 for every 100,000 people. How can we reconcile these troubling, conflicting statistics?

“Talk to a priest” may be the answer to suicidal ideation — a common refrain among elders who may commonly see one’s intent as a symptom of normal emotions of difficulty or sadness, kalungkutan. After all, life really is hard. For those that live in poverty, the physical and financial hardship is already an established fact. That’s why for variety show host Joey de Leon, “Yung depression, gawa-gawa lang ng mga tao ‘yan. Gawa nila sa sarili nila”, depression is made-up by people; it’s their attitude.

Happiness is the only option for the poor Filipino, it is needed for their survival. It is needed for the worker who goes home to their family after long hours on the factory or field — that they may wake up the next day with purpose and go through the process all over again. The struggle is subdued through a culture of “good vibes lang”, “let’s look at the bright side of things”, let’s stay positive”, or “a negative mind only sees faults”. It is a culture that is reinforced by asking the poor Filipino people to get on their knees and look to the Lord, for indeed, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The culture of happiness proves quite helpful in the face of tragedy — it has fostered a generous interdependence that built the then-leveled City of Tacloban from the ground up after Typhoon Haiyan, and literally moves houses from one barangay to another, the classic example of bayanihan, the ancient Filipino custom of group work. The culture of happiness is quite useful in another regard — in the exploitation of the Filipino. For the Oversees Filipino Worker, the culture of happiness binds together the suffering Filipino; the domestic helper based in Hong Kong lament their subhuman treatment to fellow abused Filipinos. And the exploiter persists in their exploitation, because the Filipino persists in their “enjoyment” of exploitation.

If anything sounds familiar, look no further than the values that the Spaniards instilled in their subjugated people. The qualities of “hard work” in men and docility in women are exactly what the colonizers needed, in that they fulfill the needs of the Encomienda system and the needs of the household. These are the qualities of a good Catholic; these are the qualities that shall make the kingdom of heaven yours.

But even for the not-as-exploited middle and upper-middle class, their experience, too, is that of vulnerability. Growing wealth and upward mobility has led to increased pressures to sustain such progress. Pressures manifest themselves at work with extended hours, or at school with the perfect GPA in the hopes that one may land a spot at the premier University of the Philippines or study abroad; this is the “hard-working” Filipino. And do not submit to rest or defeat, for you ought to overcome.

Suicide in the Philippines is actually among the lowest in Asia. But its optimistic numbers are undercut by the non-acceptance of suicide, as per Catholic dogma. There is a sense of shame for the mentally ill, or for those who have died because of suicide — the idea of one taking “the easy way out” emerges, as well as the anger of a lost source of income or interpersonal support. Because of this, a large percentage of the deaths actually attributed to suicide are actually reported as an injury or accident. Filipinos do not want to confront their families with the reality of a loved one taking their own life. Good vibes lang.

Not until June 2018 did the Philippines have a mental health law providing for the implementation of mental health services. The lack of a framework to provide access to critical services has left the Philippines with a mere 600 psychiatrists in a country of 100 million people. While Republic Act 11036 presents itself with potential as a starting point to change attitudes surrounding mental health, the much larger problem with the culture of happiness must be addressed.

Filipinos should feel sad, too. Filipinos should allow themselves to feel sad. Filipinos should allow their fellow Filipinos to feel sad. To allow the recognition of negative emotions is to allow the recognition of problems, and the recognition of problems is to allow the recognition of solutions.

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.



Knot Who I am

by Carlo Arellano, FINDInk Contributor

A heavy knot weighs down in my chest, and it can’t be loosened or untied.

It was skillfully crafted by the hands of many Filipino men, passing it down as a family heirloom before they died.

My father wove his string into it, as did his father before him, and his father before him, and now this weight in my chest is my birth-righted inheritance, but I’m the first one to be born foreign.

I am a Filipino-American, spelled with a hyphen that is eighty five hundred miles long and having to face the realities of two clashing mentalities makes it hard to decipher right from wrong. cuz you see -

Growing up, grade school was a breeze, all As with not even a single B on my way to getting a degree, but it was my homeschooling that brought me to my knees, praying for mercy.

My homeschooling taught me that there is something in the water of those 7000 islands that make these men fall silent because they don’t talk about the knots in their chests without getting violent.

This same water distilled in every San Mig because why emotionally try and dig if you can just take swig after swig in between puffing pain out the butt of a cig?

That was the kind of communication imported to us from another nation but us Filipinos are a special variation of being Asian because we have own unique set of complications.

After all, we are as Asian as European, we have the whole spectrum of religions to believe in, but our region is mostly made up of God fearing individuals whose English is mainly biblical which makes this language barrier so formidable so I understand why us FilAms become so cynical when our parents “force” us into clinicals or any other field THEY deem profitable.

So please, listen to every word and syllable when I say that this hole in my heart, both metaphorical and literal, is simply unfillable because no matter how hard I try dad,

We are just not relatable.

That’s why I love hearing about your past, and learning what makes you laugh, so while trying to be you and find me, my heart feels torn in half even though i know that all you want for me

Is to have what you couldn’t have.

You gave up your entire life to be here, left your home with nothing but a suitcase and fear, yet the only time I saw your eyes bear a tear, was when lolo passed on…because he was there, and you were here.

You were here, giving the American Dream a try just so you can put food on my plate, and turn out the lights, working the full-time job of teaching your boys wrong from right, all while I struggle with the fact that I am the reason, you don’t sleep so you can work day and night.

The knot in your chest dad, is only getting tighter and tighter, and I wish it was me and not the alcohol that could make it lighter, so that’s the reason why I am here to pull these all-nighters in the hopes of being hired so I can finally send you back home to see lolo, and finally retire. But just like yours dad, my knot is only getting tighter, and i wish i told you sooner but you didn’t raise crier, you raised a fighter.

I love being your son, but I can’t be you. I know your love for me is true but when I have no clue as to what to do with my life, the last thing i need is a heart that is black and blue.

So when I raise your grandkids, I am going to love them with all of my being,

I am going to patch them up when they are bleeding,

And say “i love you” after I’m done with their night time readings,

And when I am old and my life is fleeting from a heart that stopped beating, they will remember me by seeing the truth behind the lies that the toxic parts of this culture’s masculinity was feeding and that life lessons do not have to be learned at the end of an emotional, or physical beating.

I love you dad, but I won’t be you.

And eventually,

I hope my children tell me the same thing too.

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Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.


5 FilAm artists for APAHM

by Yuuki Nishida, FINDink Contributor

We all heard AJ Rafael and Jeremy Passion, but here’s a list of more Filipinx American artists that you should listen to for APAHM.

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1. Ruby Ibarra

This list wouldn’t be complete without having Ruby Ibarra in it. Immigrating to San Lorenzo, California, at the age of four, Ibarra grew up listening to hip hop. Her musical upbringing was heavily influenced by hip hop artists, Tupac, Wu Tang Clan, and Eminem. She uses her own rhymes and flows to express herself and share her own story as a Filipnx American. Her album CIRCA91 explores different topics within the Filipinx diaspora such as colorism, colonial mentality, and assimilation into American culture. Rapping in Tagalog, English, and Waray, her family’s dialect, Ibarra’s flow, and rhythm give a thrilling introspective into her life.

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2. Mario Jose

Graduating from Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mario Jose was a part of the award-winning a cappella group Pitch Slapped. He then moved to Los Angeles to continue on his music career. Jose performed for and with other famous musicians including Pentatonix, Prince, Meghan Trainor, and John Legend.

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3. Michael Seyer

Born Miguel Reyes, 23-year-old Michael Seyer immigrated from the Philippines and grew up in Culver City, California. Growing up, Seyer felt that he always stood on a “scale of ethnic ambiguity” not feeling any sense of belonging to any Asian or minority group. He plays out this theme in his music as well. Seyer is committed to breaking traditional Asian boundaries of pursuing practical career paths in favor of achieving artistic pursuits. His latest album, Bad Bonez, explores ideas of love, loneliness, and self-discovery. With hazy guitar tunes and a whimsical atmosphere, Seyer’s take on “Bedroom pop” is an emotional trip.

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4. Rex Mac

Boston-based Filipino hip-hop artist, Rex Mac, produced and released his own full-length album, Alboom. Mac openly confronts mental illness and the emotions of growing up in both California and Boston. He seeks to create a change in the Boston hip hop scene working as a self-made artist.

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5. Melissa Polinar

Singer-songwriter Melissa Polinar gained her popularity with her songs “Try” and “Meant to Be” reaching front pages on the YouTube music section. Growing up in Nashville, Polinar had a huge presence in the singer-songwriter industry as an Asian American artist, gaining attention from other artists like Jeremy Passion. Polinar’s musical blend of soul, blues and folk explore themes of self-love, reflection, and empowerment. Her most recent album, Rise At Eventide, showcases her musical prowess.

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.

A Taste of Home

by Katie McColgan, FINDink Contributor

Being a third generation Filipino American, I always felt like my strongest, and sometimes only connection to my Filipino heritage was through food.

Growing up, I never felt like I was Filipino enough. I’ve never been to the Philippines, never learned my grandparent’s language, and didn’t know about any cultural traditions. The one thing I did have was the food, and so I held my relationship with Filipino food very close to me.

Filipino food is also a very strong connection I have with “home”. Adobo, pancit, and lumpia were all very frequent occurrences in my household, and rice was a daily staple. Other dishes like singigang, pinakbet and kare kare were more often eaten when I’d visit my extended family. But no matter what it was, eating Filipino food always made me feel that much more validated in my Filipino-American identity, and proud to claim it as my own.

But now, as a college freshman living off dining hall food, I find myself dreaming of having a kitchen, and living vicariously through the pictures of home cooked meals my mom will send me from time to time. Since being in Boston, I’ve made pancit, and my friends have made me adobo, but nothing comes close to a home-cooked meal from my mom.

There is one dish in particular that I miss the most; one of the last meals I ate before I left home, and the first meal my mom made for me when I came back for winter break. However, I didn’t have a name for it until recently when I was asked about my favorite Filipino food and I realized that I didn’t even know the name. At home, my family just called this dish Upo Soup-o, a cute rhyming name for my favorite dinner. But upon a quick google search, I discovered that the actual name is Ginisang upo.

Ginisang upo is a very simple stew with tomatoes, some kind of meat, and of course: upo. The word “ginisa” means sauteed, which is a pretty self-explanatory name for the dish. Upo, otherwise known as bottle gourd, calabash, or long melon is a very mild vegetable that just absorbs the flavors of the broth it cooks in.

The soup itself isn’t all that special, there are very few ingredients in total, but I guess it’s that simplicity that makes it so comforting and familiar. There is sweetness from the tomatoes, saltiness and umami from the fish sauce, a refreshing crunch of upo and a fattiness from the pork. There is no special secret ingredient, or fancy cooking technique, but nonetheless, it is one of my all time favorite foods.

Recently, I had really been craving a homemade meal of upo soup, but when I asked my mom for a recipe, of course she didn’t have one written down. She gave me the ingredients and general guidelines to her own version, but told me that everyone has their own variation. Upon looking for recipes online, I found she was right, and that every website had their own twist to a similar dish.

Wanting to recreate my mom’s version the best I could, I decided to go with what she told me over the phone, and from what I remembered when I cooked with her back home. I also thought that this was the perfect opportunity to document the process by writing a recipe myself so I could share my favorite food with my others.

This week, I went grocery shopping in Chinatown to find upo (unfortunately there was no upo in sight at my local Whole Foods), invaded my friend’s kitchen and cooked dinner for a bunch of people. This was my first time cooking in a long time since I haven’t had access to a kitchen during my freshman year of college, so I was nervous that I would mess something up or that no one would like what I made. Or even worse: that I wouldn’t be able to recreate something that lived up to what my mom made for me at home.

But all that worry melted away once I tasted what I made and rush of warm nostalgia filled me. My self-confidence boosted, I more confidently splashed in some more fish sauce and served up bowls of food to my friends.

Below, I wrote up my version of my favorite food to share with you all!

Upo Soupo (Ginisang upo according to me)

When I think of comfort food, I think of a warm bowl of upo soup and rice. It is super easy and quick to make, budget-friendly and definitely a household favorite.

Ingredients

  • Pork spare ribs

  • 2 pints of cherry tomatoes

  • 2 medium-sized upo, peeled and sliced into half moons

  • 1 medium onion sliced into strips

  • 4 cloves of minced garlic

  • 2–4 tablespoons of fish sauce (patis)

  • 2–3 cups of water

  • 1 tbsp cooking oil

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Note: All of these ingredients are totally adjustable to your liking! You can use however much of any of these you’d like, and different substitutes too! Instead of upo, you could use other vegetables like bitter gourd or even sayote. For meat, I chose to use pork because it’s my favorite, but some recipes I’ve seen online use shrimp, canned sardines or a combination of pork and shrimp. You can also adjust the fish sauce to how salty you like it, and water to how soupy you want it.

Instructions

  1. Heat pan and add cooking oil (Use a pot/pan deep enough to hold all the vegetables and water later)

  2. Sautee onion and garlic

  3. Add tomatoes and cover with lid until soft. Then mash with a fork (just enough to split tomatoes and let juices out)

  4. Add pork and cook until browned (stir to make sure all sides are cooked)

  5. Add upo and stir to combine

  6. Add fish sauce to season and stir again

  7. Add water and let simmer over medium heat for 10–12 minutes, or until upo is tender and becomes more translucent

  8. Add more fish sauce and salt to taste

  9. Serve over rice and enjoy hot!

Before letting the upo cook for 10–12 min

Before letting the upo cook for 10–12 min

After letting the upo cook for 10–12 min

After letting the upo cook for 10–12 min

Note: Highly recommend eating this meal with a mixture of extra patis, lemon, and sriracha on the side. I use this to spoon a little extra oompf onto every bite I eat.

Note: Highly recommend eating this meal with a mixture of extra patis, lemon, and sriracha on the side. I use this to spoon a little extra oompf onto every bite I eat.

And that’s it for my making my favorite food! Your hands might smell a bit like garlic and fish sauce when you are done, but it’s well worth it for a full belly and the feeling of home.

Getting to share my favorite meal, both by actually cooking for my friends, and posting this version online has been such a rewarding experience, and I can’t wait to do this more when I actually have a kitchen next semester.

Home doesn’t feel as far away anymore, now that I’ve brought the taste of home along with me.

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.

That Time I Went Grocery Shopping

by Yuuki Nishida, FINDink Contributor

As I entered my second year of college, one of the things I was really looking forward to was getting a kitchen in my housing. I was ready to ditch the bland dining hall food and cook my own meals. However, I was met with the harsh reality of buying groceries.

It was near the first few days of classes, and I needed to buy groceries to feed myself for the next few days. When I walked into the supermarket for the first time, I was shocked at the cost of what I bought. I didn’t even buy that much. I didn’t have enough food to even feed me two meals a day for the week. I began to panic. I hadn’t bought any of my textbooks, yet most of my money disappeared from trying to sustain myself. I knew that I had to sacrifice a couple of meals just so I could have the materials to pass my class, and that’s just not right.

Food insecurity among college students is higher than the national average of 12.7 percent. According to a study done by the American Anthropological Association, a reported range of 14–59 percent of students felt a level of food insecurity at some point during their college career. And higher level institutions aren’t doing much to fix this problem.

In an interview with the Harvard Graduate School of Education, professor Anthony Jack focused his research on low-income students attending college. He coins two terms to describe the kinds of low-income undergraduates: “doubly disadvantaged,” students coming from under-resourced public high schools, and “privileged poor,” students who attended private or prep schools.

Jack highlights the challenges that low-income students face when dealing with food insecurity on campus. “What you find at community colleges and state colleges and other places is chronic food insecurity, where not knowing where their next meal is coming is more of an everyday reality,” Jack said. He also describes episodic food insecurity, for students who struggle to find meals because of closed dining halls since they can’t afford to go home during breaks.

“By documenting not just the rates but the difference in nature, we can get a better understanding of the kind of interventions and solutions different colleges can take,” said Jack.

My story is is one of many that other students across the nation. While I’m blessed that I am now on co-op working a full-time job, there are still students out there that struggle to make ends meet while pursuing their education. It’s important to note the harmful effects that the “Broke College Student” stereotype can have. Students eat instant noodle packs, not because they want to, but because they need to feed themselves.

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.