"Nice new shiny UCB building...
Nice new shiny UCB building...
The door was open and I could've went inside to see what it looked like but, I didn't want to bother anyone. Although, I hear it's opening in November (I wonder if that large marquee glows red?). One thing for sure, this second location will definitely attract a diverse generation of new improvisors...culturally-speaking"
That was my first post about the new Upright Citizens Brigade theater located on Sunset Boulevard (east of Western Avenue) on October 4, 2014 with the following photos I took that day.
That area is a densely urban neighborhood. The residents most commonly identify their ethnicity or ancestry as Mexican (23.9%). There are also a number of people of Asian ancestry (23.6%), and residents who report Armenian roots (11.2%), and some of the residents are also of Russian ancestry (5.4%), along with some French ancestry residents (3.0%), among others. In addition, 49.4% of the residents of this neighborhood were born in another country. The UCB Sunset campus attracted people of color and lifestyles interested in pursuing comedy. Not just improv and sketch, but, I've seen stand-up, too.
When I was studying long form improv at UCB, I was studying at local rented theaters around the neighborhood, and our graduation performances were held at the original Los Angeles UCB theater on Franklin Avenue. Two primary things were solved when the second theater was renovated from what once housed, and it can be summed up with just one word: Campus. All classes and graduation shows were held at UCB Sunset. And, because of its campus-feel, all Open Mics and smaller shows were moved from the Franklin theater to the Sunset campus..
Like the Franklin theater, Sunset had its parking issues. Residents complained of no parking spaces for them as students and attendees went to the Sunset campus daily. UCB Sunset offered valet parking but even that had limited slots. To get there early was essential but carpools and local transit helped.
I completed the basic program in 2013 at UCB Franklin. Afterwards, I hustled and networked around town at various improv theaters and weekly shows. I performed in one sketch Jonathan Grant wrote based on a premise I had at B.Y.O.S Sketch Open Mic...
...and, also performed in two sketches with Polyphilos Trismegistos at Smut's Dirty Little Secret show...
- all three at UCB Sunset's Inner Sanctum Stage in 2015.
Also, I witnessed the origins of Asian AF and Filipino AF beginning with the first "Scarlett Johansson Presents…" show in 2016 to the final show in 2017 (where I was hired to film the entire show. That's me with the plaid shirt).
I was there to see the first show of Asian AF presents Filipino AF. About 280+ filled the Inner Sanctum Stage with standing room in the back! I also took part in it in later shows thereafter.
With UCB Sunset's surprising announcement of its closure yesterday (after months of non-essential businesses ordered to shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic), I will miss going there between auditions, hiding from the summer heat by cooling off inside while seeing new acts, early parking tickets and that time after hiking at Griffith Park, before driving home to the SFV, I rested my worn out legs/feet there while consuming treats from the cafe.
Not to mention seeing old friends and meeting new people.
I wish UCB well. And, hopefully once the virus is controlled and this pandemic is eradicated, we can return to the Franklin theater with community.
I guess I won't be using this card anymore. I was one punch hole away from getting free items... And, UCB Franklin does not have a cafe.
Edwin A. Santos Co-Moderates Inclusion: Filipinas In Film & Television Panel with Princess Punzalan, Grace Moss and Janet Nepales, October 17
For the Artists, Creatives & Business Podcast:
**Live via ZOOM (requires registration), CLICK LINK HERE - and FB Live.**
Guest Panel: Inclusion - Filipinas in Film & Television, with Princess Punzalan, Grace Moss, and Janet Nepales.
- PRINCESS PUNZALAN - Actress, Producer, cast member of "Yellow Rose," and a respected actor in the Philippine entertainment industry now based in Los Angeles.
- GRACE MOSS - Sr. Director of Talent Development & Inclusion for NBC Entertainment.
- JANET NEPALES - is a multiple Los Angeles Press Club award winning journalist, and the first and only Filipina member of the prestigious Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) that presents the annual Golden Globe Awards.
Presented by the Filipino American Chamber of Commerce of Hollywood and the Los Angeles Philippine International Film Festival.
My First Time As A Special Guest Speaker - at Long Beach Acting and Film Association's Asian In Showbiz Panel Series
As many panels I've attended and after seven panels I've created and produced since 2015, last week I was asked to partake as a special guest panelist.
I was asked in 2017 to be one of the guest panelists about Film Distribution, but my plate was full at the time. This year, I accepted the invitation at the Long Beach Acting and Film Association's themed guest panel discussion, "Asian in Showbiz" last week Sunday, May 27 at Forbidden City in Long Beach, CA.
My entire career flashed before my eyes at first look of the other guest panelists on the card. And, this was before I spoke. Some of them I have worked with before in various capacities while another handful were of mutual friends we've known for years.
I was the last one up and decided to speak the truth. My first time as a guest speaker who has gone thru the trenches for more than twenty-five years, the intent was to have all those listening (including some of the panelists) to be alert and to be prepared. Because there are "sheeps in wolves' clothings" out there. No one is immune from the negatives the Hollywood industry seem to attract, unfortunately.
I was about to write what my speech was about but, I remembered I was rambling on near the end .. like as I did three times while typing this sentence and deleting it three more times. I think it is best for me (and to my readers) to expand more about my speech in greater detail on future blogs (under Beyond The 4th Wall category) from here on out. So much has happened since; each with defined increments of hindsight, perspective and outlook.
It's Friday today and I have a busy week ahead of me. I want to spend this weekend to not think of serious things.
Although, the one thing I was reminded of before and after my guest speaking engagement as well as networking with the attendees just starting out -- as I try to expel my knowledge to them without rambling -- was that I am not comfortable being me on stage. I am very comfortable playing and portraying characters in front of the camera (it is the actor in me) and very comfortable playing an exaggerated extension of myself on stage (it is the improvisor / comedian in me).
But, being real? I had my MTV: The Real World moment last week. I was real with battle scars and war stories at LBAFA. I was honored to have been asked to participate and to share my experiences.
Born in America, but trained and wrestled at Japan’s World Wonder Ring Stardom since 2014, Filipina American wrestler Kris Wolf recently embarked on her 2018 Wolf Tour currently competing at various wrestling promotions all over the world. Third time’s a charm as she returns to the Los Angeles region at Baldwin Park’s Bar Wrestling this Thursday, April 12 with a match against current Impact Wrestling’s Knockouts Champion, Allie.
The following interview is almost a year in the making since July, 2017 as I found Kris’ story fascinating; from how she began to where she is going. Not to mention, she is the first female wrestler of Filipino descent that came to my attention. Finally met up with her at the RISE 6 – BRUTALITY wrestling show in October, 2017. Intuitive and personable, her journey is universal — especially among creative artists.
Read my exclusive interview with the Box Breaker, Kris Wolf.
Edwin Santos: This interview is going to be a bit about creativity and inside the wrestling ring, it is all about telling stories. Your backstory is close to becoming folklore. So please, introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a little bit of your journey -- presented in a folkloric tale..
Kris Wolf: My animal beginnings started two weeks into my stay in Japan. Prior to my migration, I worked as a freelance photographer, running around hustling and juggling five part-time jobs. As my photography took off, I was able to shed the part-time work. Unfortunately, my fiancee at the time felt distanced and decided that we weren’t gonna work out. I was devastated but understood. Yanno? I mean feelings change, people grow apart. It’s unfortunate, but these things happen. Nevertheless, I was broken. I had a friend living in Niigata, Japan who offhandedly suggested I come for a visit, and without much thought I bought a ticket and set out to another world. I spent two weeks crying on the sofa watching Breaking Bad. When I finished the series, resolved to GET UP. I rented a bicycle and tent, and cycled from Niigata to Hiroshima. It was almost 1000km and I spent twenty days crying up mountains and camping and pissing wherever I pleased. In the madness of hallucination, fever, hunger, and exhaustion, I think the soul of Kris Wolf was born…or released. Somehow I made it to Hiroshima. The biggest lesson I took from the experience, was that no matter what the odds, risks, or opinions of others are…if I want something I can get it…as long as I just keep going.
Edwin Santos: Wikipedia states you’re originally from Chicago, Illinois while other interviews mention New Jersey. Which is it? Or, are you one of those transcendent werebeasts?
Kris Wolf: AHAHAHA Good question! I flew out of the birth canal in Chicago, but spent much of my adolescent years in New Jersey.
Edwin Santos: Two years ago, I was there with my friends at the live taping of Lucha Underground when I saw the match between Pentagon Dark against Io Shirai, Mayu Iwatani and Kairi Hojo (currently Kaire Sane at WWE NXT). If it wasn’t for Lucha Underground, I wouldn’t have known about World Wonder Ring Stardom. Tell us about your home promotion and why you chose them to train at.
Kris Wolf: Stardom I imagine is like any other promotion that grows and evolves with time. The promotion I’m in is not the same as the promotion I joined in the beginning. I think there are many things that have improved since then and management knows how to handle their product. Believe it or not, was the first result in a YouTube search, and was also a suggestion from a friend. The fact that they were these little Asian girls, flying through the air doing all these amazing things made me believe I could do it too. Their image was much different from the image I had of the average pro wrestler.
Edwin Santos: Tell us about Oedo Tai? And to see original member Ruby Riott(Heidi Lovelace) challenging Charlotte Flair’s WWE Smackdown Women’s Championship title at WWE Fastlane?
Kris Wolf: I may have grew up in Stardom, but Oedo Tai is my home. For everyone that didn’t quite belong, Oedo Tai became their family. Misunderstood monsters is how I like to think of it. Misunderstood outcasts with the biggest hearts. I…f**king…love Heidi…and her as Ruby Riott makes me so proud. She has worked so hard and continues to do so. I admire her and wish her all the best! Nikki Storm (currently Nikki Cross with the faction, Sanity at WWE NXT) is also Oedo Tai alumni. But yes, Heidi is OG.
Edwin Santos: Are there any wrestlers, then and now, you look up to, appreciate the work that they do or motivate you to keep on going?
Kris Wolf: Act Yasukawa, Kairi Hojo, Alpha Female (Jazzy Gabert), Kay Lee Ray, Nixon Newell, Deonna Purrazzo, Toni Storm, Viper (Piper Niven), Thunder Rosa, Santana..man…really there are too many. Reality is I admire all the girls I meet. I admire each and everyone for gambling their luck and health in this game.
Edwin Santos: Being from a Filipino American family, I take it that your parents weren’t too thrilled with your career choice? What did you major in college? And, what career choice(s) your parents wanted you (or still wants you) to pursue instead?
Kris Wolf: Haha yeah, my mom wasn’t exactly thrilled with my decision. I majored in photography and graphic design, which she eventually approved of….but really now. What Filipino family doesn’t want their child to be a nurse, doctor, or some sort of lawyer?
Edwin Santos: Based on the 2010 U.S. Census, Filipinos are the second largest group of Asian Americans in the U.S. and are the largest population of Asian Americans within the City of Los Angeles. Since your first visit to Los Angeles in 2015, how was the welcome like when you returned two years later with RISE Wrestling and the Alternative Wrestling Show (AWS)?
Kris Wolf: It was raaaad. I saw some fellow “Balut Club” members out in the crowd. I felt the love. I hope this time around I can grab some FILIPINO FOOD cuz it’s been a while yo.
Edwin Santos: What are your thoughts on the growing interest of women in professional wrestling overall (examples: the Knockouts at Impact, WWE’s Mae Young Classic / WWE’s pay-per-view main event women’s matches and Ring of Honor’s Women of Honor tournaments?).
Kris Wolf: I think it’s amazing that women are getting featured more all over the place. I love that women’s rights and issues are being discussed more openly. And I’m proud to have been in a ring with these awesome humans. Having these different talented women on TV and in these tournaments is great. It shifts the idea of who can be a wrestler and what’s cool or admirable. More variety and appreciation for all is what I’m after.
Edwin Santos: Tell us about RISE Wrestling, its mission statement and your involvement with the promotion?
Kris Wolf: They’re pretty neat! They’re a wrestling promotion that holds seminars and gives chances to new wrestlers of all backgrounds to connect with people in the business who can help them grow as wrestlers and within the business. I’m pretty new to RISE myself, but I assisted Bull Nakano as her translator and helped with a training session before. I will be doing the same again in Chicago, so I’m looking forward to that.
Edwin Santos: What would be your dream match?
Kris Wolf: A deathmatch with Jelly beans, dorito chips, and tacos…ah..and beer….Also I would like to wear a sumo costume…or something of that nature.
Edwin Santos: Who are your musical influences? I ask this based on your singing, guitar playing and piano playing from your videos. Were there thoughts of pursuing a musical career early on?
Kris Wolf: I grew up listening/watching Broadway musicals and old folk bands that my mom liked. So that definitely played a hand at developing my musical tastes. I thought about singing or being in a band for a bit, but not seriously. I don’t think I sing that well to be honest. I like to do it though.
Edwin Santos: If you were inducted into a wrestling hall of fame, who would you want to induct you and why?
Kris Wolf: I think they’d have to be some crazy mofo, I’m not so much for awards to be honest. I think I live too much in a realm of chaos where nothing means anything. My prize is energy and adventure.
Edwin Santos: If you could go back in time, what would Kris Wolf today say to Kristina Hernandez then before she made the big life change?
Kris Wolf: Keep going…you’re gonna hit something that’ll change your life…but stretch and do yoga!
Edwin Santos: Lastly, to end this interview, do a promo as Kris Wolf, or in a folkloric presentation (or both). Your choice.
Kris Wolf: DEAR UNIVERSE,
THANK YOU FOR ALL THIS TERRIFYING, EXCESSIVE ENERGY.
I WILL TRY MY BEST TO USE IT EFFECTIVELY AND SHARE MY JOY.
I just realized that after originally writing these memories back in February 13, 2018 - when it was announced that iO West was closing - that I never took a class in improv or sketch writing there...
I knew of Improv Olympic's existence since its Complex Theater years and while I was with Monkey Butler Comedy (the latter closed in 2014). After studying improv at Upright Citizens Brigade in 2012, I was indecisive on which sketch classes I'd take... iO West or the Pack Theater?
During that time, I joined the sketch comedy team, Oi! Oi! Oi! (Elizabeth Ebeling, Javier Ortiz, Kate Rodman and Corey Slater) and we performed live at iO's Mainstage in the last three consecutive Saturday nights of 2013 -- performed a Christmas sketch called Twas The Night Before Drunk at the Sketch Holiday Theme Party Show hosted by Animal Style...
...performed a musical sketch at the Comedy Music Circus! show hosted by Keith Saltojanes...
...and performed a sketch I originally wrote for Go Sketch Yourself hosted by CLIVE RICE! -- in front of Saturday night audiences (except for the one drunk guy in the back who was booted out of the club).
Recorded the 13th 'Super Awkward Funcast' episode with Elle Latham and Linnea Snyder at iO during the SNL 40th anniversary year...
...help in making the documentary short for the host about improvisor, actor and teacher Craig Cackowski about improv at iO...
Our team "The Olympian Beers" from the last two games became "Brainiac 3" and won the Pub Quiz hosted by Suzi Barrett. Also, I joined the three-persons team at the "Win, Lose, Draw, or Drink...The Booty Call" drawing competition at iO WEST Main Stage (April 27, 2012). We were tied from the get-go against the other team but, sadly we lost. But, I did learn how to draw simpler illustrations to get my team to guess the right answers quicker.
Received words of wisdom and practical applications from casting director Dorian Frankel, Jessica Makinson, actress Janet Varney, comedian Jason Horton and Joshua Mattingly at iO's 10th LA Improv Comedy Festival. And, supported my friends' (Nick Rasmussen, Moses Storm, etc.) shows by seeing their shows at iO. Lastly, assembled and edited a video tribute about my late friend, Billy Spindler. It was screened at his memorial hosted by Joanna Ke and Ai Yoshihara held at iO West in 2014
Participated in afternoon trivia games with other improvisors and comedians while I wondered if that one comedienne/actress who hosts a popular podcast stared at me or stared out the window from the bar, attended live WWE Viewing Parties hosted by Joshua Lassman and Steve Kaufmann along with other improvisors and comedians who happen to be wrestling fans (thank you!).
...and took a date to see a show at iO only to be abandoned when she went to Second City to get her friends yet never returned. Still wondering if that was a bit? In any case, iO West will surely be missed especially all my favorite improv teams. Most importantly, the trio of Dasariski. Because with them, it is okay to perform improv slowly...and not always quick and fast all the time. The trio consists of Bob Dassie, Rich Talarico, and Craig Cackowski. And, Dasariski is known for their “slow play” style of longform improvisation, creating an hour-long piece of theater with a focus on believable characters and relationships inspired from a single audience suggestion. Love them! iO, thanks for the crazy and humble memories -- like this February 23, 2013 (4 years ago today) Harlem Shake video we did at iO.
Filmmakers Panel Discussion:
"From Creative Artist To Business Producer"
Friday, October 27, 2017 from 1:00pm to 2:30pm
- Lawrence Fajardo (Director of "Imbisibol")
- Rolando Sanchez (Director of "EJK")
- Rommel Andaya (Director of "Back To One")
- Dale Fabrigar (Director of "Sequins")
Moderater: Angel Qinan
Actors Panel Discussion:
"From Aspiration To Action: What Does It Take To Be A Working Actor"
Saturday, October 28, 2017 from 12:00pm to 1:30pm
- Billy DaMota (Hollywood casting director) *
- Bernardo Bernardo (lead actor in "Imbisibol")
- Sheila Tejada (lead actress in "Sequins")
- Mon Confiado (lead actor in "EJK")
Moderater: Angel Qinan
Screenwriters Panel Discussion:
"INT. THEATER - Screenwriters Discuss Writing For Film"
Sunday, October 29, 2017 from 12:00pm to 1:30pm
- Atom Magadia ("Dagsin")
- Rolando Sanchez ("EJK")
- Ruben Maria Soriquez ("Of Saints & Sinners")
- Rommel Andaya ("Back To One")
Moderator: Craig Obligacion-Wilson
An educational panel discussion and networking event featuring special guest panelists from the Philippines and Hollywood who represent their crafts. Hear the panelists discuss about their explorations of the process, profession and business of their crafts; their reflections on personal experiences and artistic influences that informed and shaped their careers; their discussions of past and current projects and share valuable insights into the craft and the industry both in the Philippines and in Hollywood; how each have similarities and differences. Get a chance to ask the panelists questions, learn about open opportunities, and build your network.
Cinemark Carson and XD
inside the SouthBay Pavilion Mall
20700 South Avalon Blvd #285
Carson, CA 90746
Join hostess Elle Latham and her guest Edwin A. Santos (Samurai Cop 2) in this long-awaited Oscar Edition episode of Super Awkward Funcast as they discuss Oscar-worthy films from Moonlight to Captain Fantastic, The Young Pope, the Grammys and more! Your Academy Awards rundown before this Sunday's live event!
To listen to the show, click the link here: http://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-hneux-67cfe9 Or, you can activate the podcast player above.
You can also listen to it on iTunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/episode-16-academy-awards-edition/id672079467?i=1000381367198&mt=2
Early in my career as an actor, I usually was the only Filipino-American on any given project. Many of my contemporaries felt the same way early in their careers — whether as an actor, a producer, an editor, a writer, or even as a background actor. I brought up this subject seven months ago, with editor friend, Dexter Adriano, who now works on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He told me that early in his career, he felt a lot like he was the only one, not just in the company or on the project he was working on, but in the entire industry. Part of the reason I became an actor was to break through these barriers and make Filipino Americans a regular sighting.
Six years ago, acting took me to the Upright Citizens Brigade and in 2011, I was taking my UCB 301 class. One night, a bunch of us went to see Diamond Lion, a musical improv show at the UCB Theatre. And I will always remember that show, because that night I saw a Filipino guy support an initiation by starting a rap. It was hilarious to me, because his inflections were just like the mid-to-late-80’s KDAY 1580 AM hip hop I listened to. That was the first night I saw Eugene Cordero.
My initial reaction to him was: “Whoa, another Filipino!” I had just seen Rene Gube (now a writer on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) with his team, Hip Hop Penguin at Cagematch the year before, and he was the first Filipino performer I saw while at UCB. Was this the start of a trend? A year later, I just happened to see Eugene on East Hollywood’s Theatre Row while I was walking to my UCB 401 class. He was just standing outside with his notepad while on his phone. And a few months after that, I saw him again, as one of four teachers I had in my intensive advanced improv class.
During his tenure as both instructor and performer at UCB, he carved out a good chunk of projects – appearing in Drunk History, Kroll Show, House of Lies, Comedy Bang! Bang!, Parks and Recreation, Key & Peele, Playing House, Silicon Valley and as one of the leads in Paul Feig’s Other Space.
Last year, when I was putting together the inaugural FAC Actors Panel, Eugene was my first choice — to represent not only as an actor, but also as a teacher. The panel was created to be a place for young Filipino American actors to see people who look like them successfully climbing that Hollywood ladder. And who better to show them than Eugene?
In Eugene’s pre-interview, he was asked: “What representation is out there for Filipino American talent to be improvisers?”
“To be improvisers, there’s plenty of room for us,” he said. “To find each other and create that group will take some time, but there is definitely a voice that needs to be heard as far as Filipino improvisers are concerned.”
Eugene’s momentum continued onto the big screen this summer with two movies, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and Ghostbusters: Answer The Call. And next year, we can look forward to seeing him in Kong: Skull Island. Could he be the Filipino American version of #StarringJohnCho?
I met Nico Santos for the first time on the morning of this year’s FAC Actors Panel. On the main cast of NBC’sSuperstore, Nico is playing one of the most highly visible roles for Filipino-Americans on television, so he was definitely at the top of my list. But I didn’t personally know him – I brought him on with the help of 2x panelist, Tess Paras (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend).
Nico shared an interesting story about the origin of his character.
“None of the characters of Superstore were written for any specific ethnicity,” Nico said. “The only part that had a specific ethnicity was Mateo and he was supposed to be a Latino thug. A butch gangster. He was supposed to be this huge tough guy. But, you know, they were open-minded enough to see me in the role and so I did it as a version of me. And they ended up really liking it and changing it to a Filipino gay guy.”
When asked how Filipinos and Asian Americans have reacted to his character, he said, “They’re super excited! I also didn’t realize how big a deal it was until I started getting a lot of messages on social media. Not only Filipino but like also seeing like a queer Filipino on television. When I was getting into the business, all I knew was Alec Mapa, the only ever queer Filipino I ever saw on television. When I saw him, I was like, ‘Oh! My God! Yes, there’s hope!’ It actually just made me think, wow there really isn’t a whole lot of us if we’re getting this type of response from everybody.”
At the same time, he pointed out that there’s still a long way for Filipino-Americans to go.
“We’re the second largest community in the United States, the largest Asian community in California but we are hardly represented in media at all.”
In 2011, my agent sent me out to a co-star audition forRaising Hope. In the breakdown, I saw the words “Filipino / Asian” used in the description for a guest-starring role.Specifically, Filipino / generally Asian. I was ecstatic. I’d never seen “Filipino” before on a television casting breakdown. I was also happy because it meant that writers were starting to create Filipino American characters!
In the end, talent should win, and more and more, that’s the change we’re starting to see. We’ve seen at both of our panels that Hollywood is starting to open up [link]. They will cast POC talent to roles originally written for Caucasian talent. In addition to Nico, Eugene mentioned that his role in Other Space was originally written for an African American character, and his role in House of Lieswas originally written for a Caucasian character. And now I’m being brought in on auditions for characters written with Caucasian names such as the case in 2015 when I auditioned for a guest star role of a character named ‘Michael Patrick’ for The Real McCoys.
There’s a community of us out here in Hollywood, and it’s growing. I am excited to see who might join us next year and beyond. The future can only get brighter.
Why are Filipino Americans still forgotten and invisible?
Filipino American professor and community activist E.J.R. David asked that question (link) after reading a piece from the New York Times series, “Conversations on Race” (link) where Asian Americans talk about how stereotypes unfairly brand them as the “model minority.” He noticed that out of the twelve participants whose stories were featured and shared, not one name appeared to be Filipino.
He pointed to five key reasons why Filipino American are still forgotten and invisible, even today:
(1) Uniqueness of Filipino American History
(2) Huge Filipino American Population
(3) Large Immigrant Population
(4) Significant Contributions to “Asian American” Identity
(5) Filipino Experience Racism at a Very High Rate
I’d like to add a sixth point: Self Acceptance vs. Self Denial. Identity. This is my story, a Filipino American story.
I first wrote about this subject on my own blog (link), after Filipinos reached a milestone in American TV history…twice on the same week. While every Pinoy and Filipino American publication reported on Crazy Ex-Girfriend when the musical comedy introduced the first Filipino American family on primetime broadcast mainstream television, I noted that history was also made when two different shows that featured Filipino American storylines in the same week. And, it was the lesser known NBC comedy I related to the most.
Truth Be Told starred Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Vanessa Minnillo-Lachey as parents, with Sophie Mackenzie Nack as their daughter. The episode was about self acceptance. [link]
I do not speak for those who came to the United States of America as children and decided to deny who they are. In my opinion, it would be a difficult task because they spoke Tagalog and carried the traits that are specific to the culture. I do not. I was born and raised in the U.S. and my parents never taught and spoke to me Tagalog. I’m English-only. And, despite being exposed to the culture — from family gatherings in the U.S., to summer vacations in the Philippines, to being part of cultural organizations, to even living in the Philippines for one entire year — I continued to deny my ethnicity. Even when faced with choosing my identity on a job application, rather than checking off Filipino, instead I check off Asian. Most of the time, it was not even an effort. In Los Angeles, I listened to KROQ music than the R&B music on KJLH or the KDAY jams Filipinos love. I enjoy baseball more than basketball. Moreover, I told people I am American Filipino. And so on. There was nothing in common between us.
In an interview from Yahoo Style (link), actress Shay Mitchell of Pretty Little Liars admitted she was once deeply unhappy with her half Filipino-heritage and went out of her way to look more Caucasian.
“I hated being asked who I was, and all my friends had blonde hair and blue eyes,” Mitchell says, having grown up in a predominately white area of Toronto. She dyed her hair lighter, wore colored contacts and hid from the sun to leave her skin pale.
I always believed only first-generation Filipino Americans would go through this experience of self denial, and every generation after them would proudly accept their culture. But, every Filipino American faces the question anew, of how to identify with and accept their heritage.
As I matured, I began to embrace the Filipino culture and my early exposure to it in earlier periods of my life. I also started having more Filipino American friends, most of them much younger than me — because they have an experience like mine: American-born and English-only. I felt a sense of guilt of my past denial of my own culture. I finally spoke about this in 2008, at the Chicago Filipino American Film Festival, in a group discussion among other FilAm filmmakers. It was a load off after carrying it for years.
Truth Be Told was quietly cancelled at the end of last year, as NBC struck down the sets and cast lead actor Tone Bell in another series. The final two episodes were burned off on Christmas Day. But, the spark was already lit. Filipino Americans are the second largest Asian ancestry group in the United States of America (link: Page 15, Column 2). We haven’t been fully seen yet. We haven’t been fully forgotten. Our next breakthroughs will come from getting ourselves first, and continuing to share what we see in ourselves.