Renowrites blog!

Author of YA novel "Enlightenment" available March 2019!

In the Country

I'm in the middle of reading Mia Alvar's "In the Country", a collection of nine short stories with a distinct Filipino perspective. One story is of a Filipino teacher in an Arab country. Another is of a white girl living in Manila. So far, I've found each story holding on to an unwritten fundamental authenticity that readers of all backgrounds would enjoy reading.

I applaud books like these. We need more storytellers, more writers to highlight the Filipino hues that make up the world's colors. Too many times, many Filipino writers and filmmakers have unintentional flaws in their storytelling. Some make the Filipino viewpoint an afterthought for the sake of satisfying a mainstream audience. Others make their stories have too many Filipino inside jokes and forget the important non-Filipino readers. It wasn't until I read Melissa De la Cruz's "Something In Between" did I finally read a novel that showcased the credible balance of a Fil-Am protagonist making their way n the world. Now with In The Country, I find another author working on this balance.

This gives me hope that Filipino American storytelling is evolving and morphing into a credible genre. We need to support books like these to prove to publishers there is an interested audience. I sure hope there is an interested audience. We need more successful Filipino writers, more impactful stories with Filipino protagonists.

Which has me biting my tongue about my writing. If all goes well, an announcement soon. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Filed under: Filipino American, Writing, , , , , ,

And the Idol accolades are in

One of my friends asked me if I was raving about Thia Megia only because she’s of Filipino ethnicity. What about the talent? A fair question that deserves a fair answer.

I’m a Filipino American writer with a blog, so anything pertaining to Filipinos I tend to write about because it interests me. The storylines in my novels center around Filipino characters, but I strive to make my stories have universal themes that anyone can relate to— pregnancy, grief, death, love, happiness, with these themes affecting characters inspired by my Filipino life.

At the same time, I’ve always been a mainstream kind of guy when it comes to music and movies. I’ve always believed that talent trumps ethnicity went it comes to the arts–I’m just more aware when it’s a Filipino blowing up the stage on American Idol. I used to work in the music industry with Classified Records, pushing a primarily Filipino American roster to mainstream radio and retailers. We reached nominal success, but the page has turned. It’s a new decade….with a new generation of kids who have the talent to compete with anyone.

Thia Megia is just one example. Clint Gamboa is a male singer and American Idol 2010 Top 24 finalist who has impressed. I personally don’t think he has the talent level to make it any further, so we’ll see tonight.

Outside of American Idol, a female singer named Maria Aragon from Winnipeg Canada is a huge YouTube sensation! She’s a 10 years old who brought Lady Gaga to tears! In today’s music industry, ethnicity is a secondary factor that influences music styles and affects fans looking for a connection to their culture. But true talent should always be the standard.

So to set the record straight. I believe Thia is one of the most talented vocalists who happens to be Filipino and from Mountain House, the town I call home. And to those who accuse me of being subjective–well, I guess I am–check out the entertainment industry’s review of her performance last night. I’m not the only one who think she’s got the talent.

Check out Hollywood Gossip and MTV News. If you do more google searches, you’ll see more. And was it crazy that Randy Jackson compared her to the great Michael Jackson? That came out of left field, and I’m not sure if he’s entirely accurate, but he was nonetheless impressed. The control of her voice and the pitch–it was probably one of the best Idol performances in a while.

Will she make it to the next round tonight? I think so, but you just never know. Idol is so crazy sometimes. All of Mountain House will be on pins and needles tonight rooting her on!

Filed under: Music, , , , , , , ,

American Idol Season 10 – Go Thia!

Filipino American Thia Megia is the real deal on American Idol Season 10. And she’s from Mountain House, the town I live in. And regardless of the fact she’s a local girl and Filipino, she has one of the best voices on the show!

Personally, it’s great to see the musical talent from the Filipino community really making a global impact. Apl.de.Ap of the Black Eyed Peas, Charice, Sway Penala, and Thia Megia are just a few of the names of singers and musicians representing. I know there’s a bunch I’m missing! I’m really proud of our community evolving and being able to perform competitively in the arts. Filipinos used to be the folks who worked behind the scenes, but now this is changing (finally!).

I remember when I worked in the music industry full-time, Filipinos would support each other simply based on the fact we were Filipino. I didn’t think that mentality helped cultivate the development of our community’s skills. We just gave each other props based on ethnicity, not necessarily talent or quality. And I was probably the biggest culprit of this.

But today’s talent…I’m excited for the future!!!! And if a Filipina American becomes the American Idol, I will probably just cry.

Filed under: Music, , , ,

Super Bowl, Super Proud

BEP - Superbowl 2011

The biggest American institution in sports — the Super Bowl. Green Bay 31, Pittsburgh 25. Great game. I personally looked forward to the halftime show knowing The Black Eyed Peas were performing, and I would have to say probably one of the best halftime shows I’ve seen in a long time.

Apl.de.Ap of The Black Eyed Peas is of Filipino descent and along with Manny Pacquiao, probably the world’s most successful Filipino in entertainment. Everytime I see him on a national stage, I feel proud and happy he’s doing his thing. I’ve met him a few times during my visits to Hollywood and he’s always been courteous and humble about his success. I hope he and BEP have 20 more years of commercial success. God knows it didn’t come easy for him–he was a poor kid growing up in the Philippines who ended up meeting a kid named William Adams, aka Will.i.Am, in high school when he immigrated to Los Angeles. He recently revealed to People Magazine what a lot of us have known for a long time—he suffers from nystagmus and is legally blind. I remember him touching my face and hand when I first met him and when I found out about his condition, it made sense. Apl.de.Ap is the epitome of someone overcoming adversity physically (eyesight) and economically, and his continued success should make everyone smile. It keeps me focused knowing that if Apl.de.Ap can do it, I can get my book or my music out there and be successful.

The Superbowl aftermath also revealed that Will.i.Am couldn’t tweet during the halftime show because there was no AT&T service! Check out this article here and how his star power has forced AT&T to defend themselves.

I feel your pain Will. I probably shouldn’t have signed that two year contract back in December now that Verizon carries the iPhone as a device.

I’ve been reading some great books lately, which I will post up my reviews shortly.

For all my author friends, keep doing what you’re doing! Believe!

Here’s to a great February!

Filed under: Music, Writing, , , , , , , ,

Seeing the Big Picture

Pacquiao vs. Margarito - 11/13/2010

In my opinion, the Manny Pacquiao victory over Margarito last month on November 13, 2010, was monumental, not only for boxing, but specifically for the Philippines.

Huh?

Before you start telling me I’m looking at this too deeply, le’s look at this from a historical perspective to understand the significance of Manny Pacquiao’s actions during this fight.

Since the Portuguese explorer Magellan (representing King Phillip of Spain) landed on Mactan Island in 1592, Filipinos have been a conquered people. Christianity quickly spread throughout the islands during Spanish rule, and many of the pre-Spanish cultural icons of the local Filipinos were eradicated. Spanish lords ruled the barangays for three hundred years until 1898, when the little advertised Spanish-American War made the Philippines a U.S. colony (It’s interesting that the U.S. education system only mentions this war as a footnote, but upon further research, this war had a dramatic effect on Filipino and American life forever).

For the last 110 years, the United States presence has changed the Filipino psyche considerably. How? For one, English became the language taught in Filipino schools. Before this, Filipinos learned Latin and Spanish in school, while speaking their native dialect only at home. As a U.S. colony, English became the language of the educated. Filipinos began immigrating to the U.S., many of them landing in Alaska, Hawaii and West Coast to work the canneries and asparagus fields. Throughout California, Filipinos were regulated to living in less than desireable conditions and were called “brown monkeys” up throughout the Great Depression. Filipinos were considered second-class citizens.

Once MacArthur vowed “he shall return” in World War II, the American perception of Filipinos began to change. Filipinos and Americans allied to defeat the Japanese. Since then, Filipino immigration to the U.S. has skyrocketed. Generations of Filipinos since have dreamed of having a better life in America, a mentality further spurred by the American dream throughout the years. It didn’t help that the Philippines government became inundated with corruption with the Ferdinand Marcos era of rule, which many Filipinos escaped by immigrating to other countries.

Fast Forward to the Pacquiao – Margarito fight on November 13, 2010.

Filipinos around the world have stood behind Manny because he’s the boxer that exuded Filipino national pride. Filipinos and Fil-Ams drop their generational and cultural biases towards each other — we are all for one when it comes to Manny!

So as I watched Manny let up in the 12th Round against a badly beaten Mexican warrior, I couldn’t help but love Manny not because he’s Filipino, but because of his sympathetic heart. He didn’t want to knockout Margarito in the 12th Round. He was genuinely concerned for his opponent’s well-being.

When was the last time you heard of a boxing champ not going for the kill in that situation?

In the post-fight interview, Manny repeated several times in broken English that “he just wants to make people happy” and that he’s a “public servant”, to serve the Filipino people.

Imagine that. A boxer from the streets of the Philippines, a reflection of what the Filipino people strive to be in today’s world. Manny depicts the ideal psyche of the Filipino people — abolish corruption, be honest, respect others regardless if they speak English well or not, regardless if they speak a Filipino dialect or not.

As our history proves, from the Spanish to the U.S. occupation of the Philippines, our community is continually evolving. Today’s Filipino family is diverse; Tagalogs, Visayans, Illocanos, mestizos still striving to escape the economic turmoil of the mother land, while maintaining good lives in our adopted countries. Many of us are Americans with Filipino blood looking for a connection back to the Philippines, but unable to determine how to invest back into the Philippines. I am a kid who grew up in the States, but hopes to give something back to the country that gave birth to my parents.

And then Manny Pacquiao jumps on the scene, and I see a Filipino man break all the barriers that many of us wondered would ever be conquered.

Is it possible that even with all of our generational differences and language barriers within the Filipino population, we can all come together for the common good?

I sure hope so.

Thank you Manny for showing that a Filipino can see the big picture. And with Manny Pacquiao being a Philippine Congressman, this perspective bodes well for the future of the mother land, as long as other government leaders can do the same.

Filed under: Writing, , , , , , ,