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Featured Filipina: Roanne de Guia-Samuels

I am so inspired by this month’s Filipina feature — Roanne de Guia-Samuels and am so thrilled to be able to share more about her with our community! Roanne is a loving mom, dedicated psychotherapist, and creator of the blog, Kalamansi Juice. She is such a resourceful woman and shares beautiful insight on supporting mental health and happiness. Almost every post she shares on her blog and on social media has been so relatable to me as a Filipina mom. It is such a breath of fresh air hearing her perspective on well-being and parenting. Read on to find out more about Roanne. 

Q: Where do you currently live? Where are you from?

A: I live in the East Bay in California. I was born & raised in Manila, Philippines.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your cultural background. 

A: I come from an ethnically diverse background, my grandmother was Irish/Scottish who married my grandfather from mainland China. My mother grew up with the label-  ”mestizang intsik”. My father was born & raised in a province called Marinduque. He came from humble beginnings and sold coffee to help his family make ends meet. Both my parents still live in the Philippines. Together with my brother, I immigrated to the States to live at a relative’s home at the age of 23.

Q: What do you want others to know about the Fil-Am/Filipino culture? 

A: Filipino culture is like a song. The songs we know from the heart are not once we necessarily know the exact words to but ones whose hymn, rhythm, tone, and inflection reach the inner recesses of our soul. Filipinos communicate through their food, through their haplos (touch), through their pasalubongs, through the expression of their unique Pinoy Love Languages ( ex. Lambing, Tampo, etc). Filipinos are people whose heart will always speak louder than their voices. 

Q: What do you currently do or have you been doing in hopes to contribute to the Fil-Am/Filipino community? 

A: I am the creator of Kalamansi Juice, a platform that provides happiness tools that elicit self-awareness and practical tips for Filipino families living abroad. I am also a licensed Psychotherapist that has dedicated my clinical practice in only serving Filipino women, specifically Filipino moms. 

Many Filipino women living in America (and abroad) hold traditional cultural dialogues in their head that clash with the Western cultural norms. Through my creative work- my blog, my other writings and free resources, I hope to forge a new way of reflective thinking that reconcile the Western way of living  so that you can confidently decide what Filipino values to keep and what to leave behind, living your best life, tailored to you and your family.

Q: What or who is your inspiration behind what you do?

A: My parents were civic-minded people. In particular, my mom taught me the value of serving the community. I remember for 10 years during our Noche Buena, a time where both kids and adults flash their best bestida/baro(dress) and work the whole day towards creating a feast that can feed the entire  barangay, my siblings and I spend the day preparing food in styrofoams ala assembly-line style so that we can traverse under the bridge, along the dark alleys in Manila to give the neediest their taste of Noche Buena. This is a reflection of my mother’s and not mine, nevertheless, it gave the lessons of empathy and service beyond any book or class can ever teach. 

Since my mother fostered an environment that allowed me to hang out with people from different walks of life, I’ve realized at a young age, that riches lie in the mind. I’ve met both- the rich, happy man and the poor happy man, and conversely, the unhappy rich woman and the unhappy poor woman. True wealth is cultivated in the mind. I became a therapist because I believe in changing the world, by helping facilitate change, one mind at a time. I have the best job in the world because as a prerequisite, it holds me accountable with my own, so I’m always learning, always evolving. 

Helpful Resources from Roanne

For additional Happiness Tools including relaxation exercises for both Adults and kids and Mental Health handouts in Tagalog ( Ano Ang Stress? AND Simpleng Kalungkutan o Depression?) check out our Happiness Tools Page @ https://kalamansijuice.com/happiness-tools/

If you’re interested in online therapy, schedule a free 20-minute session here: https://kalamansijuice.com/contact/

We just launched our YouTube channel, and we would love for you to subscribe! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tlYsomNrJk

Thank you for those who support my work, you are my inspiration!

Featured Fil-Am: Ria Pretekin

This month, we are featuring the amazing Ria Pretekin – educator, counselor and coach. She is a Filipina American mom of two, originally from Los Angeles and currently lives in the city of Chicago. Ria’s passion is to create community through cultural awareness. She is helping her children discover their Filipino American identities through adventures and storytelling.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your cultural background. 

A: I am a Filipina American. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, the first few years of my life in HiFi (historic Filipinotown).   Both my parents were born and raised in the Philippines and came to California in the late ’70s. 

Q: What do you want others to know about the Fil-Am/Filipino culture? 

A: That there is so much beauty and richness to our culture. To be Filipino is to almost be a mystery because we don’t really fit into any category. We are Asian Americans but our culture is so heavily influenced by the 300 years of Spanish colonization. I read the book the “Latinos of Asia” by Anthony Christian Ocampo and that book helped me understand how Filipinos are the invisible Asians.

Q: What do you currently do or have you been doing in hopes to contribute to the Fil-Am/Filipino community?

A: I started a blog and Instagram (@urbanohana) to begin documenting my family’s adventures. I want to help educate others on what it means to be Filipino American and to help shift the narrative of American history to include the many amazing contributions of Filipinos to this country. I want to share the beauty of our culture through my stories and through the family programming I am hosting. 

Q: What or who is your inspiration behind what you do?

A:  My children and my parents. I want my children to know that they are Filipino American as well as half Jewish/white. I believe it is my responsibility as their mother to help pass along the stories of their ancestors down to them so that they may understand their roots. It is also just as much about my parents and honoring their legacy, who they are, and the country that they came from.

Q: Any other additional thoughts you want to share that we didn’t ask you yet?

A: My family is a multi-generational, multicultural, interfaith family. I am trying to ensure that my children are exposed to both the Catholic faith, Jewish faith, and Filipino culture. I am so fortunate to have my parents living with us, which is very nontraditional in American norms but common for Filipinos. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

(Related post: Latkes & Lumpia – Learn more about how Ria celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas with her family, for a beautiful blend as an interfaith celebration). 

Upcoming Special Event

June 27 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. Conversations & Cocktails (at Storefront Events in Chicago, IL):

Join Ria Pretekin & WE Events to discuss Raising Cultural Awareness in Families. An amazing panelist of women in Chicago will share stories and start the conversation about race, culture, and raising cultural awareness with intentionality. Their hope is to build a positive awareness of diversity in the community. If you are interested in an evening of discussion, journaling, and cocktails, find out more about the Conversations & Cocktails event here.

Follow Along & Learn More about Ria:

Featured Fil-Am: Sunday Garcia

We are honored to become acquainted with Sunday “Sunny” Garcia, who is making a name for herself blogging about Filipino American culture and soon to be releasing a Filipino and Filipino American apparel line. 

Q: What is the story behind your name?

A: My name is Sunday Garcia. My great grandmother was named Domingo, and since I was born on a Sunday, my mother named me after her. My nickname is Sunny.

Q: Where do you currently live? Where are you from?

I live in Yuma, AZ, born and raised. My husband and I were living in the Phoenix valley recently for over 12 years but just moved back to our hometown to be closer to our family.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your cultural background. 

A: My mom is Filipina. Her side of the family is from Angeles City and we are Pampangan. My father is French, German, Scandinavian mix and he was an American airman on Clark Airbase in the Philippines. That’s how he and my mother met. My parents moved to the states after following friends, in which they moved to small town Yuma, Arizona taking my then 4-year-old sister. My mother, second eldest of nine children, was the first to move to the states in her family. She later helped some of her immediate family members obtain their U.S. citizenship and make a life here in the U.S. through family sponsorship.

Growing up, we spent many holidays and family vacations with our Filipino side of the family in California (the San Bernardino area) mostly gathering around the table, eating pancit, lumpia, shrimp, tilapia, sinigang, lechon, adobo, and many other cultural foods depending on the celebration.

Locally, my mother was one of the first members of the Filipino-American Association in Yuma, and helped build the organization to what it is today with over 300 members.

Through the years, I participated in the local cultural events such as the Annual Santo Niño Fiesta! I had the opportunity to visit the Philippines when I was 7, but left early because Mount Pinatubo erupted (circa 1991), and I have not been able to make a return trip since. My only regret about my culture is not knowing the language. While visiting the Philippines when I was young, I learned a few words to get by running my grandmother’s candy shop based out of her home in which kids would come buy candies and treats after school. I still remember this experience quite clearly, almost 30 years ago! 

Q: What do you want others to know about the Fil-Am/Filipino culture? 

A: I am an avid learner of our culture, and I want people to know that the Filipino culture is rich and vibrant, as many other cultures are, as well as unique in its own right. I want people to respect our culture by acknowledging and understanding the special intricacies of the many islands, languages, history, food, cooking, traditional dress, and the kind nature of Filipino people in general.

Q: What do you currently do or have you been doing in hopes to contribute to the Fil-Am/Filipino community?

A: In hopes of contributing to the Filipino American culture, I have been writing and storing a collection of personal blogs on experience and culture over the past 10 years – primarily focusing on Filipino American culture and my personal/family’s experiences. These blogs are intended to bring and inspire cultural awareness to others. With the help of social media, I use my personal blog via WordPress.com and also often post photos relating to our culture on my Instagram profile from Filipino food, traditional events such as the Santo Niño Fiesta held in my town each year, and sometimes Filipino news, facts, history, etc.

And, more recently, I am in the process of launching a t-shirt and apparel line promoting Filipino and Filipino American culture. The t-shirts are geared towards women for now, but I plan to later have apparel for kids and men. The t-shirts are digitally printed designs that I have designed myself and consist of symbols of our culture such as the sampaguita and the Filipino flag sun. I am also including a print design for people of mixed race, “mestizos”, which is the reason for the name: “MestizCo Apparel”—hoping to officially launch within the next 30 days!

Q: What or who is your inspiration behind what you do?

A:  My inspiration comes from many spaces. First, my mother and the Filipino side of my family has inspired me to discover more about our culture, which is why I pursued a minor in Asian Pacific American Studies during my baccalaureate degree program. While in the program, several of my professors inspired me to continue to study our culture and demonstrate the importance of understanding positive promotion of culture through reading, writing, speaking, and bringing awareness. I would say that is where most of my inspiration lies.

 I try to blog every few months on culture. But my t-shirt line, MestizCo Apparel, is set to launch end of June! 

Follow Along & Learn More about Sunday:

Blogs/Facebook/Instagram/Website information:

Cultural Blog Site: Pinay Sunday in the City

MestizCo Apparel (officially launching soon)

Featured Fil-Am: Danielle Colayco

We are excited to get to know and feature Danielle Colayco, a leader and advocate of healthcare for the under-served community. Let’s take a peek into the life of this influential leader of Komoto Family Foundation.

Q: Where do you currently live? Where are you from?

A: I currently live in Southern California. I was born and raised here.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your cultural background.

A: My parents were born in Metro Manila, and we are a multi-racial family which includes Filipino, Chinese, Spanish, and British ancestry. My four older brothers were all born in Manila. My parents and Lola then immigrated to California, where my sister and I were born. All of my siblings and I grew up speaking English at home. Our Lola spoke Tagalog to my dad and English with everyone else. She is also fluent in Spanish (Castilian). As a Southern California native, I took three years of Spanish (Mexican) in high school, so I can now speak like a toddler.

Now that I have a child of my own, I’m inspired to reconnect to my Filipino roots and learn basic conversational Tagalog along with my daughter. I’ve also recently learned to cook Filipino foods at home, including my Lola’s pancit bihon — but I add my own twists. For example, I’m too lazy to wash an extra pot. So rather than boiling the noodles separately, I just add stock to the same pan with the noodles and vegetables so they can soften while cooking. I do have to confess that when I was a small child, I didn’t love a lot of Filipino food. I thought American cheeseburgers and pizza were the most delicious foods, because all of my friends at school were eating those things. I was embarrassed to bring our food to school for lunch, so I begged for Lunchables and peanut butter sandwiches instead. Only when I became an adult and started to build more self-confidence did I start to appreciate and reclaim my own culture. It’s a method of empowerment and healing from our colonial mentality.

Q: What do you want others to know about the Fil-Am/Filipino culture?

A: One out of five Filipino-Americans is multi-racial. One of our most frequently asked questions, particularly from other Asians, is “what are you?” If we respond “Filipino,” typically the follow-up response is some form of “oh, so you’re half.” One time, somebody literally told me, “You’re not what I expected.” So, for my fellow mixed-race Filipinos, I’d like to share with you our Bill of Rights by Maria P.P. Root, PhD, a fellow multiracial Filipina: https://www.safehousealliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/A-Bill-of-Rights-for-Racially-Mixed-People.pdf     You get to decide how you identify, regardless of your racial composition or whether you speak the languages of your ancestors. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not Filipino enough, or that you’re “only half.” You are a whole person, and you are enough. Full stop.

Q: What do you currently do or have you been doing in hopes to contribute to the Fil-Am/Filipino community?

A: I run a nonprofit organization called the Komoto Family Foundation, whose mission is to improve access to healthcare services from pharmacists for under-served communities. One of our key communities includes the farmworkers of Delano, California. If you’ve ever eaten grapes before, chances are that they were grown and harvested by the people of Delano, which also happens to be home to over 7,000 Filipinos. Perhaps the most famous is Larry Itliong, who led the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) in the Delano Grape Strikes of 1965. He convinced Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and the Latino farmworkers to join forces with the Filipinos to fight for fair wages and humane working conditions. (There’s an excellent children’s book written by the late Dawn Mabalon and Gayle Romasanta:Journey for Justice: The Life of Larry Itliong

These days, many of the growers have partnered with the Central Valley Farmworker Foundation (CVFF), whose mission is to improve the quality of life of farmworkers. We collaborate with CVFF to bring health education to the farmworkers during their work hours in the fields. Because of several factors including social conditions (low incomes and educational attainment, immigration issues, language barriers, etc), the farmworkers face a number of health concerns including diabetes, heart disease, depression and anxiety, sexually transmitted infections, and unintended pregnancies. One thing we’ve noticed is that our health education materials are typically translated from English into Spanish to accommodate the 70% Latino population, but very rarely do you see anything translated to Tagalog, Ilokano, or any other Filipino language. When I attended a talk by Dr. Mabalon last year, she mentioned the erasure of the Filipinos within the majority Latino population of Delano — which explains why Cesar Chavez is so well-known but Larry Itliong is only recognized by some. Part of her legacy as a historian was to bring visibility to the Filipino community, and I’d like to help continue that in her memory.

It starts with engaging the community in their languages (our staff includes native Tagalog and Ilokano speakers in addition to Spanish speakers, and we have started translating our materials accordingly), but it also includes speaking to the unique health challenges of the Filipino community. How do you tell a Filipina with diabetes that she needs to stop eating white rice, when it’s such a staple of our diet? Maybe it starts with incremental changes, like reducing the portion from two cups to one, and encouraging her to replace that volume with some gulay.

We also need to start breaking the stigma around mental health and sexual health, because these are literally life or death issues. Most of us have either been personally affected or know somebody who has been affected by depression or anxiety, as well as unintended pregnancy — and yet, these issues are completely taboo in many Filipino families. Some of this stigma is related to our colonial history, in which our indigenous practices around sexuality were considered sinful by our Spanish colonizers.

In addition, the suppression of normal emotions like sadness or anger is common in many Filipino families. The concept of walang hiya has resulted in the silencing of those who suffer from mental illness, those who have experienced an unintended pregnancy (especially teen pregnancy), and those who are not cis-gendered and heterosexual. This needs to change, and it starts with our generation beginning to talk to our kids about mental health and sexual health in age-appropriate ways. If our kids are lucky, they can find a trusted adult to talk about these difficult issues (e.g. a teacher, coach, doctor, etc), but wouldn’t it be great if our kids could also feel safe turning to us for that help?

Finally, we need to harness the power of our Filipino resilience so that we can rise above our risk factors and find strength in our community. Our people have survived over 400 years of colonization by Spain, Japan, and the United States, and we all have stories of suffering — but we also have stories of family, faith, and healing in the wake of adversity. Part of the work I do as a pharmacist in the for-profit sector is engaging key family members as part of the healthcare team along with the patient, and other healthcare professionals. It is crucial to acknowledge the patient as a whole person and part of a whole community, rather than just treating their disease. By engaging communities, we healthcare professionals can start to become much more effective as healers.

Q: What or who is your inspiration behind what you do?

A: My daughter inspires me to be a better person because I believe in leading by example. The most important lesson that my husband and I can teach her is to treat all people with kindness and to think about how to make our community a little bit better. Usually, that involves alleviating human suffering. This can be achieved in both big and small ways. Right now, the superhero stories are very popular, where you hear about “chosen ones” doing grand gestures to “save the world.” But not everyone has the means or the ability for that.

I also think that the savior narrative is problematic because it doesn’t acknowledge the agency of the communities who are being “saved.” These folks are protagonists in their own stories, too. Instead, if the rest of us would focus on our local communities and just do one small act of kindness per day, it would be so much more transformative. This desire to make incremental, positive changes is what led me to pursue a career in healthcare. My parents made that possible through their unconditional love and by financing my education. My dad told me once, “Your mother and I will do everything within our means to help you chase your dreams,” and they have done that for all six of their children. Because of their personal sacrifices, I feel that it’s especially important to make sure that their efforts were not in vain.

Follow the Instagram links below to see some of Komoto Family Foundation’s work:

Partnering with CVFF to help the farmworkers of Delano

Partnering with CVFF at the Central Valley Pruning Competition

Komoto Family Foundation Reproductive Health Fund    

Guidance on how to talk to kids about their bodies, consent, sexual health, and mental health

Featured Fil-Am: Deborah Francisco Douglas

We are excited to launch a blog series, “Featured Fil-Am,” in which we will highlight a Filipino/Filipina-American who is making an impact on our community. We will share our “interview” with each person in hopes to bring awareness of his/her amazing work.

Our first featured Fil-Am is blogger and writer, Deborah Francisco Douglas. She is widely known for her lifestyle blog, “Halo-Halo, Mix Mix” and has recently launched her own memoir, “Somewhere in the Middle.” 

Let’s learn more about Deborah:

Q: Where do you currently live? Where are you from?

A: I currently live in San Diego, but grew up in Washington State.

 

Q: Tell us a little bit about your cultural background.

A: I’m half Filipino but was raised in a typical American/white household. My dad is Filipino and is from Iloilo City, Philippines. My mom is part Slovenian, Irish and French(?) and grew up in California. It definitely makes me a very unique mix of different cultures.

Growing up I had always longed to know more about my Filipino side and oftentimes had this feeling like I was missing out on the “Filipino American experience,” not even sure what that meant.

“My identity as a Filipino American had always felt ambiguous. It was definitely not something I felt I could claim as my own. Sure, I knew what lumpia—the Filipino version of an egg roll—tasted like. I had learned tinikling, a traditional Philippine dance, and I remembered loud parties at my relative’s house where singing karaoke was just as important as the overflowing pot of white rice. But what did it mean to be Filipino? I couldn’t answer that question.”
 

– Somewhere in the Middle

A few years after college I was coincidentally assigned to the Philippines as a Peace Corps Volunteer and found myself on a journey of self-discovery with a unique opportunity to learn more about my roots and identity as a Filipino. Living in the Philippines for three years as a volunteer was such a transformational experience that I wrote a memoir about it called Somewhere in the Middle: A journey to the Philippines in search of roots, belonging, and identity. In the book, I reflect on my struggle to identify with both cultures at the same time, feeling caught in the middle between two very different worlds.

Q: What do you want others to know about the Fil-Am/Filipino culture?

A: Filipinos are one of the most hospitable people I have ever encountered. In the Philippines, I’d get invited to random people’s houses for coffee or to share a meal, or a random stranger would volunteer to accompany me to my destination if I was lost. Everyone would go out of their way to welcome me into their homes and share whatever they had. And I loved the smiles of the people on the street as I passed by. They’d give you a big smile, wave, and say hi and I always marveled at how easy it was for them to be so friendly to strangers.

In terms of Filipino American culture, I have come to realize that Filipino American identity is actually a much more diverse experience than people realize – and that’s a good thing! I grew up thinking there was only one type of Filipino American and that if you didn’t experience the same things or weren’t able to relate to that one type, it meant you weren’t really Filipino American. But my experience of living in the Philippines, as well as reading/writing about Filipino American identity over the past few years, has taught me that the term “Filipino American” can mean a lot of different things. One’s perspective of Filipino American identity can be shaped by various factors such as where you grew up, the friends and family you were surrounded with, your economic background, the demographics of your hometown, or even how you saw yourself in relation to others. Even depending on whether you’re a 1st generation immigrant, a 2nd or 3rd generation, or even what some now define themselves as a millennial Filipino American can affect how you identify yourself and how you view Filipino American culture. Some feel much more connected to their Filipino side and some much more connected to their American side, and most are somewhere in-between. It’s important to recognize that we all have diverse experiences and that each is valid and at the same time we can still be connected through our common Filipino roots.

Q: What do you currently do or have you been doing in hopes to contribute to the Fil-Am/Filipino community?

A: One of my passion projects is running a Filipino American lifestyle blog called Halo-Halo, Mix-Mix: Discovering the Filipino American Identity. I chose the subtitle to include the word “discovering” because I have come to understand that my identity of being Filipino American is an ongoing learning experience and I wanted to reflect that fluidity in the title. The original purpose of the blog was to share more about Filipino culture for those who want to connect more with their roots and heritage. But in the last year or so I have come across so many Filipino entrepreneurs that are doing amazing things and I love helping to promote these businesses and improve their visibility. The best part about this has been developing an awesome community of friends all over the world from Australia to Canada to the Philippines and all across the U.S.

Having now published my memoir, I hope to be able to inspire others who are searching for their roots to seek out their own journey of discovery and hopefully write and share their stories. Each of our stories matters and if we don’t tell our own stories, the world will be missing out on something great. In the future, I would love to be able to host memoir writing workshops to help others craft their story in a creative and fun environment.

Q: What or who is your inspiration behind what you do?

A: I feel very inspired by the Entrepinay community which is a group of Filipina entrepreneurs who connect with one another for networking, collaboration, and sisterhood. Just seeing all the amazing things they have accomplished inspires me to keep on pursuing my own dreams.

Q: Tell us anything else about where to find samples of your work.

A. Be sure to check out my book Somewhere in the Middle, and let me know what you think about it! It’s available on Amazon in both the paperback and Kindle version. You can also purchase it at any major online retailers such as Barnes and Noble or Apple Books.

Feel free to also check out my blog for posts on Filipino culture, food, travel, books, and identity. You can also read about my journey in the article “What are You?” featured on the Filipino American Voices series.

Giveaway Time!

Next week you can enter the giveaway of an autographed copy of Somewhere in the Middle, hosted by This Filipino American Life Podcast on April 10-14. Check out the Instagram accounts @tfalpodcast and @halohalo_mixmix for details.

Upcoming Events

In June, Deborah will be speaking at an author event hosted at Philippine Expressions Bookshop in San Pedro, CA on June 29 from 3-6pm. Please come say hi if you are in the area!

For future dates, she will be posting book events on her website at http://www.halohalomixmix.com/read-the-book/

Follow Along & Learn More

Instagram: @halohalo_mixmix

Email: info {at} halohalomixmix.com

Blog: http://www.halohalomixmix.com/

Bio:

Deborah Francisco Douglas is a writer, blogger, dreamer, and adventurer. She served three years in the Philippines as a Peace Corps volunteer (2011-2014) working on community development and youth outreach programs. As a Filipino American, Deborah’s volunteer experience abroad connected her to a culture she had long desired to understand. When she returned to the United States, Deborah created the blog Halo-Halo, Mix-Mix – Discovering the Filipino American Identity, as a way to share her love of Filipino culture.

Deborah lives in sunny San Diego and loves hiking, reading, walks on the bay, and lazy mornings drinking coffee. Somewhere in the Middle is her debut memoir.

Visit her blog at http://www.halohalomixmix.com to learn more about Filipino culture, travel, and lifestyle.