Building Communities Around Filipino Food - Episode Transcript

Find the transcript of my interview with Joanne Boston below.


Welcome to Exploring Filipino Kitchens. I’m your host, Nastasha Alli.

Today we’re talking with Joanne Boston, a founding member of the Filipino Food Movement. Joanne’s vision for the success of Filipino food in the American mainstream has and always will be supported and inspired by community – the main theme we’re talking about on today’s show.

Another big thing we’re talking about today is place – San Francisco, California in particular – and the people who live there. What you’ll want to keep in mind, while listening to this interview, is that even though Joanne’s talking about what her environment was like growing up in San Francisco – the experiences she has, especially around food – are totally universal, whether you’re Filipino or not and regardless of where you are.

As we’ll hear, building community is really about creating those experiences that bring people together, and then keeping that momentum, that excitement, going forward, and sustaining it so that people gain a sense of ownership and pride in the places they live in. That’s community, and how Filipinos build community, whether in a small town in the Philippines or big cities around the Bay Area.

This is essential listening for anyone interested in learning about how Filipino food culture has and continues to develop. Let’s dive right in.

JB: Thank you for having me. First of all, it’s an honor to be part of this project. My name is Joanne Boston. I am based in San Francisco, California...

NA: And for six years, Joanne was vice-president of the Filipino Food Movement.

JB: …which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was made official two years ago. I have been involved with Filipino food for over eight years. I think we are at a golden point in the progression of Filipino food, and I just want to be a part of it.

JB: My connection to Filipino food started from the day I was born. Let’s just say that. I grew up with Filipino food. I just see the beauty in it and I want people to get to know it.

NA: Full disclosure: I’m a contributor to the Filipino Food Movement blog, which was how I first got connected to Joanne. We talked a little bit about Project Adobo, one of Joanne’s early blogging projects that featured adobo recipes from home cooks and working chefs. Adobo is that quintessential Filipino dish that’s cooked with vinegar, spices, sometimes soy sauce, and often with a lot of other extras thrown in.

NA: I came across it when I was in journalism school at the time. Like I always do, I wanted to write about food in some way, but when I started back then I was kinda like, “You know what? It’s really cool that I’m seeing these stories that are distinctly Filipino, that was shared by Filipinos, about something that many other Filipinos can relate to.”

NA: So it’s one of those things where it really made me realize that you could approach the story about Filipino food in not a conventional way. So, it’s great to see that progress, to see it grow. Just the community aspect of it as well.

03:57 Project Adobo

JB: I saw that a lot of the people who contributed to Project Adobo ended up participating in other parts of my personal journey through Filipino food and with Filipino Food Movement. So, it’s a great place to see how one dish can affect one person’s life. And you know all the stories are different.

04:30 Starting a food blog

JB: So I started food blogging in 2007. I was on social media. Prior to that – high school – we were on Asian Avenue Apartment 107, really old school on social media. But actual blogging for food started 2007 when I started going to college here in San Francisco. I had been working throughout junior college, and then when I went to a medical program, I was in the city. San Francisco is a mecca of all these great Californian restaurants – very diverse restaurants.

JB: Coming from a family that works in hospitality – my mother and my aunties, they all worked at hotels in the city – I learned from my mom to go out and eat out because she was also in culinary and hospitality. She introduced me to home-run restaurants and really fine dining restaurants. And when I was walking around here, I said, “Wow! This is a great place. People come to San Francisco just to eat.” So I just decided to make a blog to chronicle all the things that I ate.

JB: I was in school. I initially did it as a “what can I eat on a college student’s budget.” And then after I graduated, my blog got more and more attention and I started doing freelance writing for different local publications here.

JB: There used to be one called ‘Pinch’ and I don’t know if it’s here anymore. But Pinch had CPS and they would ask me, “Hey Jo, can you write up a list for people who wanna look for the best burger, the best pizza, things like that?” There is just one time where I was asked to do that, and it was called ‘The Best Of...” series for CPS. I asked my editor if it’s cool to write a list of Filipino restaurants because there’s such a high concentration of Filipinos in the area, yet we are not represented anywhere. And so, I don’t know what made him say ‘yes’ but I made a small list of food carts and food vendors here in San Francisco.

JB: After that, I said, “Hmm… I could either go on and talk about tuna tartare and fillet mignon,” but after a certain point I got tired of that. I got tired of writing the same thing and it got old for me, and I said, “Okay, you know what? You gotta go back to your roots and you gotta write about what you really enjoy, which is the Filipino food.” So, after a couple of years I was writing for my blog. It went from a restaurant blog to more of a promotion blog of how to find Filipino restaurants.

JB: I got invited to certain community events, and the main one I was introduced to was ‘Kulinarya,’ which at the time was a Filipino cooking competition. Just think Iron Chef but with four chefs and there were judges for it. It was a big deal and I was asked to write a small article for their newspaper.

JB: Soon, I was approached by different people who were at that event. I was approached by the chefs, by other media outlets, and we all just said, “Hey! You know we see each other all the time.” This wasn’t the first time I saw them. I’d see them at festivals around the city. I’d see them at, of course Kulinarya, at restaurant openings, and we just said, “You know what? Let’s do something. Let’s go out. Let’s mash our brains and think of how we could get our culture and Filipino food here in San Francisco.”

JB: So I went from blogging, to freelancing, to attending events, writing for events, and then eventually collaborating with the people who are already in the industry and the community. So that was the progression.

JB: And from then on I just started meeting great people like Sonia Delen who was one of the chairs of Kulinarya. She introduced me to other restaurateurs in the city. And then on a trip to New York City, I met Chef Romy Dorotan, and he said, “You need to go meet PJ Quesada.”

JB: So, this whole networking was the key for this progression and I probably wouldn’t get here if it wasn’t for the blogging, because blogging is really important. I don’t do it too much now because I like to be more on the ground now, but blogging is very important because it does tell a story. And it does tell people tips on where to go, it gives them the chef’s story, your story. So hopefully for this year we hope to have a more active blog for the Filipino food community.

NA: Those stories are at the core of this episode. And really, the core of our existence if you happen to be as crazed about food and people as Joanne and I seemed to be. The idea of how the place you grow up in kind of fits into who you are as a person, is another big theme that runs throughout this talk. So, I asked Joanne to paint us a picture of what growing up was like for her in San Francisco.

10:18 Growing up in San Francisco

JB: I’m a rare breed. I’m from the Bay Area, San Francisco born and raised. I was born in the early 80s in San Francisco. I lived along Mission Street for much of my childhood and I only lived in two places really. I lived in San Francisco and then I lived in Daly City.

JB: I have been exposed to so many Filipinos over the course of my lifetime because the Bay Area – especially Daly City – they call it Manila town because there are so many Filipinos here. It was never anything foreign to me. I thought Filipino was the normal, which it is, it is the normal for me. I was just blessed to be brought up in an area where, you could just go down the street and rent out a VHS tape of a Lito Lapid action movie and buy a package of kutsinta or chicharon.

JB: Throughout my childhood, being Filipino has been an integral part of it. I went to a Catholic school – first two years of my schooling -- and a bunch of public school and high schools in Daly City where they had a Fil-Am club. Majority of the student population was Filipino. I went to school at Skyline College which is along the peninsula where more Filipinos lived. I was a co-founder of the Filipino student union back in 2005, and it’s great to see that it’s still alive, a lot more people joined after I left. We even produced the first PCN at Skyline. I want to say that was one of my proudest moments because it was very important for me to connect to my roots, because even though I was Filipino, I had not visited the Philippines in ten years. I went there every couple of years up until I was probably 13, and then I had a 10 year gap.

JB: Even though I was raised Filipino – I saw Filipino people everywhere literally – college was when I really realized that you have to go back to the Philippines. It’s a blessing just to be in the Bay Area. However, you do see a stark difference with other cultures. Filipinos’ most concentrated area in the United States, yet again, we’re not represented, and we’re not necessarily brought up in many conversations as far as entertainment, cooks, things like that, but we’re there. It’s just that there’s not enough noise about us out here, and I think when I met up with those people at those events, we saw the same thing. We see hundreds, thousands of people going to these Filipino fiestas, but where are we in the press? Where are we in mainstream media? Where are we in the cooking shows? That’s where it all started. It’s was just very daunting that we are here but we’re still being ignored. It’s about time that people get to know us. I don’t want people to know us just because some guy on TV made us cool. I want our own people to be proud of us, to be proud of ourselves. I still think it’s a cultural thing, that we aren’t that way. But it’s changing.

NA: I think that a lot of what drives this desire to be known is, in one way or another, related to our search for identity. Whether it is establishing your identity as a Filipino-American, a Filipino-Canadian, just being able to reconcile who you are with your cultural background, I think is such – at least for me – that’s the big driver for me and why I’m very interested in learning about the culture, traditions, and the history of Filipino food in particular.

JB: Guaranteed if you ask any young person – or any person in general – what are the best parts of being Filipino, guaranteed they’re gonna say ‘their food.’ Guaranteed.

NA: From those early events, when you had to think about how you want to present Filipino food to the public, how did that change over time? Could you tell us about when it’s been particularly challenging or rewarding?

15:17 Early days of local food communities

JB: When I first started getting involved with the community, there were only two organizations that really initiated events here. One is the consulate, and FAAE, which Al Perez – he’s one of our board members – started it. He’s in charge of the Pistahan festival. There weren’t very many kids in my generation who were doing that at the time, around 2009-2010. But then again, Pistahan has been here for 25 years. They have been here forever.

JB: So, my generation, we’re coming to that age where we know, we now have a voice, and we have a force. Back then, it was very hard to get everyone together because it was very sparse where people were, who were interested. There was only two people at the time having a pop-up. The restaurants that were open at the time were very traditional, are very traditional, usually owned by first-generation Filipino-Americans or immigrants who came from the Philippines to open up businesses here, or were born there, came here at younger age, there wasn’t any sort of glue.

JB: I think that’s what we want to create. We want to create a net for everybody to fall into and work together.

NA: Now, I know this might not be relatable or even all that interesting to everyone. If I were busy with my back-to-back shift six days a week from a couple of years ago, I probably wouldn’t be listening to this podcast at all. But the fact that you are means that you are interested in hearing about how grassroots communities spring up around food, and how people strengthen their relationships with each other by eating together. To my mind that is a very powerful thing.

NA: So, how exactly did this small network of people bound by their love of Filipino food turn into a base 56,000 followers and counting on social media?

17:41 Looping in chefs

JB: Let me backtrack to 2010, where I met those people at those events and when my kuya Chet – he was a nephew of one of the chefs I met, and he was the one who created that spark – said, “Why don’t we collaborate with the chefs?” Back then the chefs never really worked together unless they knew each other from way before. But for the most part, each restaurant was working for themselves. They weren’t really collaborating.

JB: So, we went to each chef and went to the restaurants and said, “Okay, is it possible to have an event at your restaurant, invite a demographic that hasn’t been touched yet, and possibly provide a dish or entrée that hasn’t been presented onto your menu? So make it a special event for whoever comes.” And the group that I was in at the time, we called ourselves ‘kapaMEALya.’ It’s a social dining group. This was way before Feastly, or even before all that.

NA: The word ‘kapaMEALya’ is a play on the Tagalog word ‘kapamilya,’ which by definition is someone you’re related to by blood. But like a lot of Filipino puns, food is kind of in there in the mix someplace. In this case, where the English word ‘meal’ stands for the family that you enjoy eating with, with whomever you count as family.

JB: And it was a success for the most part, until we found out that the restaurants were closing left and right, and we were losing our venues. That was a wake-up call, like, why are all these restaurants closing? And of course a plethora of notions came, like, maybe the general public is not educated. What are they thinking about Philippine food? Do they even know what Filipino food is? Do people know where to get Filipino food?

19:47 How the Filipino Food Movement started

JB: We had all these questions and it was disheartening to see friends of ours having to close down their restaurants and we said, “Let’s do something about this.” We didn’t know exactly what at that point, but we knew we had to create noise some way. A year after kapaMEALya stopped operations, because, life happens, I met with Amy who introduced me to PJ Quesada, who is from a family business who’s been in the area for a really long time and his passion is Filipino food.

NA: And when Joanne got together with PJ to brainstorm ideas for the kind of group they could gather around promoting Filipino food…

JB: Some of our conversations, we realized that social media was a huge tool. This was when Twitter was coming out – Twitter had been ‘the’ thing in 2009-2010 – Instagram was coming, and we saw the values in using those vehicles. And then one day he just said, “Jo do you want to do a food event?” Honestly when he said that, I knew I found the right people because I had wanted to have a Filipino food festival for the longest time.

NA: To put things in context, this was when…

JB: The street food movement was here, the food carts, the food trucks… This was about 2011-2012, so they were hyped up at that time. And I was saying, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we had all the food trucks come at one place and everybody just eat Filipino food?”

NA: And then a year later…

JB: That’s what they’re doing now, not with just Filipino food trucks but with Mexican, Puerto Rican, Spanish, all these Asian food trucks. So, he said, “I have a similar idea but it’s gonna be with the chefs and restaurants and food trucks.” And when he told me that it was going to be at Justin Herman plaza…

NA: One of San Francisco’s largest public squares…

21:46 Collaboration over competition

JB: I was like “Wow!” If he told me that I was gonna be able to do this when I first started blogging, I would have told him he was crazy because I never expected anything like that to happen.

NA: And as those initial ideas with PJ and key community leaders came into sharper focus…

JB: I don’t know what it was. Call it a major coincidence, the right timing, I don’t know. But after that event we had in 2014 here in San Francisco, I have seen so many collaborations between the chefs who were present at that event, whether they cooked or participated in on the prep or just being there.

JB: So I began to see all these connections being made, and again if he told me that if that was gonna happen back when I first started blogging, I would have said, “No, that’s impossible.” Because at that time it was more about competition over collaboration.

JB: Now it’s collaboration over competition where everyone is working on the same team. We have the same goal, but those who are in it now, they see the value in working together. Rather than pushing each other down, they’re pricing up together, which is great!

NA: Collaboration over competition. I love how that’s like straight out of a motivational poster of some kind. But it’s real and more importantly, addresses another key issue that’s familiar to Filipino communities across the globe. That infamous crab mentality, where, as you push yourself up just a little bit higher to get closer to the top, to your goals, you realize that the competition to get there means a lot of other people are also determined to pull you down.

JB: But then again, it’s hard. A lot of restaurants are still having trouble keeping their doors open. There’s a lot of people opening their restaurants, but then again, I see that some of them are not educated enough on the business end. Their food is great but on the business end, it might be a little lacking.

JB: So I’ve seen the struggles the chefs have had, but I’ve also seen successes which has been great. Like here in San Francisco, we have two great friends of FOB Kitchen where they actually said, “We started our pop-ups because we see all these inspiration from all these other chefs doing it.” And that to me was like, “Wow!” If they could just feed off each other’s energies and be successful with their businesses, isn’t that great?

NA: Now, I have never been to San Francisco, but I could almost see – like a flashback – Joanne sitting with her grandparents by the window of this restaurant, with San Francisco’s Manila town behind them. Bustling with people doing groceries, running errands, going about their everyday lives, and I kind of imagine that it’s me and my folks sitting on the stools by the window of this burger joint called Tropical Hut in my hometown in Manila. It’s definitely got this 80s vibe to it.

NA: There’s a little carousel in the corner that six kids can ride on, and one of the best things I loved about this place was how every time we went, my dad would always order something called ‘burger steak,’ which is a hamburger patty dripping in gravy. This insanely juicy burger patty, rice on the side, easily the best part of our week.

NA: The last time I went home, I sat at the Starbucks across the street from this place, and thought about how strongly my memories of home were tied to the four blocks that surrounded this corner. It was right at the entrance of our town, so you can’t come in or out without passing it.

NA: As a teenager, it was easy to hop onto a tricycle or a jeepney from the terminal – that was our escape from boredom – and spending the last of my pocket change at the barbecue stand another block away on ten sticks of isaw, which are chicken intestines marinated in this sweet, garlicky, tomatoey, peppery sauce. The barbecue vendor there never cared that a bunch of teenagers always hung around her stall for hours, gorging on grilled meats and cigarettes.

NA: That’s what I mean by the concept of place as a central force to defining and understanding who you are as a person, because we all have our origin stories and the places we spent our formative years – for better or worse – make up an integral part of who we are and who we become.

NA: And back in San Francisco…

26:41 “We are here!”

JB: I would see all the same people just working together, collaborating, consulting on each other’s menus. It’s a rewarding feeling just knowing that they’re all here for each other. You could say the area’s been saturated with Filipino restaurants, but at the same time, we’re creating a community. We’re creating a force that will not be erased. We’re here.

JB: Currently, I’m in downtown San Francisco, but two blocks away, there’s SOMA Pilipinas, which is a district that San Francisco just made official last year. And that’s huge! It’s time for this country that, we have a community of Filipinos and I think that efforts from all these business owners, and all these restaurateurs and chefs, they’ve all contributed to that – to that noise, to that effort. It’s heartwarming, it’s rewarding, it’s something to be very proud of. I don’t want to tear up right now. My family has been in San Francisco since shortly after World War II. My grandpa and granduncle came here because of their efforts in the war. My granduncle stayed in the old Manila town way back when, and then ended up moving to different parts of the city before he settled down near Mission Street where I grew up.

JB: So, San Francisco in itself, is a very important part of who I am. I don’t think I could live anywhere else, honestly. Just knowing the city recognizes us and the city knows we’re here and finally giving us a place to call our own? That’s amazing. I have seen the progression of how we were, you know kind of on the surface, where we’re an oil slick on the surface, but now we’re a frickin’ iceberg. You know we’re here, you’re not gonna avoid us, you can’t avoid us now.

JB: So that’s how I see it. But then again, we still got a lot of work to do. The Heritage District is still in development and what I’ve seen is lots of organizations working together. I hope to participate in the development of that area because I used to come to this area so many times as a kid because my grandparents would just sit at a restaurant on Fifth and Mission and we’d eat Filipino food there together.

29:32 The Filipino food community

NA: So who does the Filipino Food Movement reach out to? Who are some of the people in the community?

JB: The Filipino food community have this drive to make their families proud. Every person I talk to, every chef I talked to, I ask them, “Why do you cook?” And they said, “I wanna tell my family story and I wanna make my mom proud.” What we see in the community is that they want to make a name for themselves, they want to be successful and they want to change the narrative. They don’t want to be part of that generation where everybody became a nurse or a lawyer or a doctor. They want the community that we work with. They’re the trailblazers – there we go – they ARE the trailblazers. They’re the one saying that we can be successful in the restaurant industry, as cut-throat as it is already.

JB: I’ve seen that there are so many openings of Filipino restaurants with an American narrative to it. That’s one community that we work with. Another community we want to work with more are those who are intrigued or are curious about Filipino food.

30:44 FFM’s mission

JB: So, let me just backtrack. The Filipino Food Movement’s mission is to promote, preserve, and progress Filipino food through education and community-building. So, we see all these chefs coming together. I think that’s a great way of promoting and progressing. And then as far as preserving and promoting, you have to make sure that those who have not had Filipino food are educated about the dishes, that they know the general history.

JB: It’s very multifaceted, our food. It’s got Spanish, Malay, Chinese, American, the native flavors in it, and I think that was one part that was missing from a lot of the menus back in the day. They just serve the food, no description, where it came from, it’s just there. So people were kind of, “Okay, what are we eating? Why are we eating this? How does this connect to anything?” So we want to create that context.

JB: So that’s one community. Another community we want to work with are those who are curious, have entrepreneurial spirit, yet they don’t know how to start their own businesses. So I guess we have the established, we got the newbies, and we have those in transition – from becoming a newbie to an established restaurant.

JB: When you say ‘community’ it could go in so many directions because Filipino food grew from community, but yet it can grow into so many different ways and go into so many different tangents. So I think we have a real great opportunity to tap on all those communities and see what they want to happen with our food.

JB: Like for you and I, for example. We like to write about Filipino food. We like to tell the stories and create connections between our families, the food we eat, and our culture. That’s one of many parts of preserving, progressing, and promoting. So, we’re all aligned. We are all in this for one goal. Actually, many goals. We all have different goals. But one main goal that we have is to show off our culture and be proud of that culture.

NA: But at the same time…

33:20 Filipino food outside the Philippines will always be different

JB: We have to be mindful that the food that is being made here in the United States, or in Canada, on in Europe is gonna be different from the food that’s going to be made from the Philippines, because the personal stories are gonna be translated on that menu. The community we work with are entrepreneurs, work hard, the ones who work their butts off to make themselves seen in the media, who go above and beyond to ‘just cook.’

JB: One person is Alvin Cailan who is in LA Unit 120. He had an incubation program where he let other chefs in his area come in and test out their concepts. That’s great! That’s the type of people we want to work with. We want the community we work with to work with other people, other chefs, business owners, entrepreneurs, so that they could help each other out, so that these businesses can thrive.

NA: You’re not seeing my head but I’m nodding very vigorously with a lot of the things you say. It is truly heartwarming. Because as you mentioned a couple of times, the word ‘community’ and what’s happening in the Bay Area, is guys like younger chefs who are changing the narrative of Filipino food. I identify with that quite a bit because we’re all doing our part even if it’s you introducing your non-Filipino friends to one Filipino dish at a time, even if it’s that one little step that you take forward, it does play a big role in kind of like paying it forward and introducing more and more people to it. It’s the community aspect of it is totally at the heart of all of this, I think.

JB: Yup, and plus Filipinos are naturally hospitable people.

NA: Absolutely!

JB: Yeah, that’s what I like about us. You will never leave a Filipino household hungry.

35:42 Three truths to live by – be inclusive, diverse and personal

NA: Let’s talk about truth and pride.

JB: We at Filipino Food Movement, we have three truths when it comes to Filipino food. The first one that is inclusive. The second one is diverse. The third one is personal.

NA: Now, let’s go through that one by one.

JB: Again, the inclusive, this is for whoever wants to eat it, eat it. Whoever wants to make it, make it, do it. Who can say that you can’t eat or make it? I think a lot of people do not have access to Filipino food within their communities, which makes it harder. But hopefully with more and more restaurants and more and more chefs around the country contributing to the movement or doing their own events, that’s helping the movement already.

JB: The second thing is that it’s diverse. So many regions in the Philippines, so many dialects being spoken. An adobo in the north will totally be different from adobo in the south. And pride comes into that because a lot of people say, “Well you know, mom’s adobo is the best. I’m not gonna taste yours because I already know it’s gonna suck.” So, pride plays into that because a lot of people do not want to go out to restaurants to eat Filipino food because they automatically think that what they’re gonna get, won’t be good as the one they get at home.

NA: Let’s stop for a second here. In many Filipino communities, that reaction that Joanne talks about where people go, “I’m not even gonna try this because my family or my region’s version is better,” is a real barrier that prevents many Filipinos – wherever they are in the world – from appreciating the full spectrum of Filipino cuisine. It prevents people who live in the northern provinces of Luzon, for example, from sampling the palate of spices used in everyday southern Mindanao cooking, simply because they don’t know what it’s about or what it’s made of. It’s the kind of thinking, unfortunately, that prevents your particularly traditional relatives from enjoying the refinement that the soul of their cooking impressed upon younger people.

JB: But then again, if you have an understanding that it is diverse, you have to keep an open mind that whatever you’re gonna have outside of your household will be different from yours. You cannot be making comparisons, only because you’re doing yourself a disservice, you are not letting yourself enjoy what other people have made for you. So that, having pride there, that can affect it. That can affect your own availability to eat the food other people have made.

JB: The third one, personal. Of course everyone has their stories. We’ve been talking about stories the entire time. Stories are very important. One, because we all have them. It makes us human, and it makes us appreciate what we do appreciate in our daily lives. We have to keep those stories alive in order for our kids, their grandchildren, our grandchildren, their kids, their kids, their kids, to really understand our culture, and to appreciate. Our immigrant families coming over from the Philippines, and even the families coming or that are back home in the Philippines, we have to make sure those stories stay alive. A lot of Filipinos think that it’s all pork-based, that it’s all brown, that it’s not healthy. But that’s not necessarily true.

39:25 Pride in culture

JB: As far as pride, I think the pride the chefs feels when they have their dinners, when they create a new dish, or the pride they feel when they know that what they’re cooking is an homage to their family? That’s the pride I appreciate. Not so much the pride of ‘my mom is so much better than yours.’ There’s different levels of pride. The pride that I want to resonate is the pride in our culture, that we are all working together to make our culture known, and that we are all putting together an effort, contribution to this bigger thing that we are.

JB: I don’t want to keep calling it ‘the movement’ but I guess this approach, even more so than just the food, just us as Filipinos, that’s the pride that I feel that we all should feel.

NA: What I personally believed was a big key to telling the story of Filipinos all over the world, and of the food in particular, one of the keys to being able to tell that story more fully and more richly, does have a lot to do with educating people. Not just educating foreigners like people who are non-Filipino, but also Filipinos themselves because a big part of this, I guess you can call it a bit of a rediscovery of the different types of regional cuisine, like “listen to us because we have legitimate stories to tell and we do actually have really good food we wanna share with you!”

NA: And we do have all these great cooking techniques and ingredients back home that, thankfully I’m starting to see becoming a little bit more available even outside the Philippines. So, it’s exciting!

41:34 Closing thoughts

This month was a blast, and I truly wanna thank Joanne for taking the time to chat with us for this episode. She was totally down with this idea of sharing stories from the Filipino Bay Area community with all of us. So, our sincerest thanks!

What I hope you take away from all this, though, are not just stories about the emergence of Filipino food in the US and western world. In fact, I encourage everyone who identifies as Filipino, including friends and family that I grew up with back home, to appreciate the magnitude of what a passionate, curious group of young people can do. This idea of building communities around food, it’s an old one, by no means invented or “made cool” by the kids of American immigrants. We’ve known this for centuries.

Every culture celebrates around food: for baptisms, weddings, getting a new job or house, anniversaries, or – in the Philippines – town fiestas in particular for patron saints that are very much alive and well. I admit, I really wish I went to a lot more of those town fiestas when I was a kid.

Anyway, this gathering of people with a common goal, to share their love of Filipino food, I think is the most extensive and purposeful spread of knowledge about food in the Philippines. Ever. Think about it... with stuff you can find online, accessible wherever you can get a Facebook connection, that community-building aspect almost automatically comes with it, and enables us to have these conversations about food, and why it’s okay to talk about them it in terms of being trendy, in terms of more people who’ve never had Filipino food before, trying them for the first time.

Even if there are larger, more pressing issues about food in the Philippines – like food security that also exists, that also needs time in the larger frame of discussions – I really believe that the best way to tackle these complex issues is to start by making it matter to you, to a friend, to one person at a time. Eventually, those people will find a way to come together and build the kinds of communities that can make change happen themselves, almost organically.

It’s all about strength in numbers and it’s the best way for us to make noise – as Joanne puts it – to engage as many as we can in meaningful conversations around Filipino food. The more we talk about it, the more we collectively lend our voices to the emergence a strong, burgeoning food culture.


Music for this episode is by David Szestay, Eric and Magill, The Polish Ambassador and Podington Bear.

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Maraming salamat - thank you, for listening.

This is a transcript of “Episode 05: Building Communities Around Filipino Food With Joanne Boston” (Click the episode link for the audio!)