I’m talking about RACE again *shudders*

For the past few years I’ve been at the Jewish Board, I’ve been thinking about my role and my place within the agency. Moving to New York has been an eye opening experience in many ways, particularly when it comes to being Filipino. For the first 25 years of my life, I was spoiled. I have a big Filipino family that never quite gave up the culture and traditions for the sake of assimilating. I speak the language, I can cook the food (grew up w/ a dirty kitchen in Concord at grandma’s house), and I know the history to a ‘t’. So I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to get when moving to New York City. I knew where Queens was and that I get involved when I can with the community in NYC, but I was hoping that it would be the same as California – it is New York, the most diverse city in the world. But the experience has been very different, in New York I have become accustomed to people in Bushwick assuming I was Dominican or Chinese/Korean/Japanese if I was in Manhattan (save for Chinatown – they KNOW I’m Filipino there). It is kind of weird to me, but I don’t mind feeling this way because I think it has helped me become more aware of who I am and how I can use that knowledge as a clinician.

Such is the feeling I got the other day when I attended the first regional Jewish Board Brooklyn People of Color meeting. I knew I was going to be the only Filipino, only Asian, in the room and everybody else was of African descent or Spanish-speaking. This has not been the first time I’ve attended a meeting of this kind and was an ‘only.’ New York, in many ways like other parts of this country (California being the exception) still views racism as Black and White. And 5 years of thinking about this conundrum finally led to this ‘epiphany’ and it all came spilling out when it was my turn to share my feelings on our first meeting. I was nervous, but managed to get through it with the help of everybody else. I talked about all of the above. It was freeing.

I also noted how it could have been really easy for me to get a job with an agency that targets Asians in New York, but I didn’t want to (I noticed one of the other attendees saying, “I was about to ask you that). I chose not to apply to any of those agencies because I strongly believe that I am at a point in my life, my identity where I needed a different challenge. I will ALWAYS be a part of the Filipino community in some form, but I also think that it is my responsibility as a Filipino professional clinician to give my community a voice by working in a larger agency with other groups of ‘others’. As a student and community organizer, I’d often become frustrated by the lack of recognition of Filipinos in the many movements targeting civil rights and racism in this country. I think that’s due in part to divide and conquer tactics by dominant White society attempting erase our struggle in this country and their imperialism from the textbooksandthe Filipino community’s own provincial nature. So if it means that I’m the only Filipino sitting at the room during these meetings for the time being, so be it. Bring on the challenge. I’ve sung to the choir many times and now it’s time to bring it to the church. I want other people of color to know that our community exists and that we stand in solidarity with them in examining one of the most important issues that impacts us all – this country’s racist history and how we can help each other andour clients through our own journeys with it.

Happy Holidays!

Hearty ham soup

Hearty ham soup

As many of you know, I prepared a holiday ham for my family’s Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) celebration. To make transport easy, I carved it off the bone and kept the bone for soup. My recipe? Well, it’s a combination of different ones I saw on the internet. I wanted something hearty, creamy. Perfect for winter and many servings for the next several days since my sis and I are moving. Here goes…
– 1 onion diced
– 1/4 lb of ham (shredded off the bone)
– 1/4 lb of ham fat for rendering
– 2 regular-sized cans of kidney beans
– 3 regular-sized cans of corn
– 2 regular-sized cans of peas
– 2 regular-sized cans of chicken stock/broth
– 1 pint of heavy cream
– 1 lb. red potatoes diced
– 3 tbsps. olive oil
– 1 pack mushrooms sliced
– 1/2 lb. cheddar cheese – cubed
1. Render ham fat and onions til the drippings start to get golden brown. 2. Add ham meat, mushrooms, and potatoes. 3. When meat, etc. starts to cook, add chicken broth and bring to a slow simmer over low-medium heat. 4. Once potatoes are cooked, add rest of beans, peas, and corn. 5. Allow to simmer for at least 15-20 minutes to allow flavors to come out. 6. Add heavy cream and cheese. 7. Salt to taste.

Upper East Side Filipino Thanksgiving = Turkey MIA

Lechon, originally uploaded by joeytoofresh.

My family has never really been big fans of turkey. The earliest Thanksgiving I remember my family celebrating when I was in grade school, the centerpiece was a chicken. We made turkey in following years, but never in the traditional American way. One year my uncle roasted it outside on a spit. The past two years my dad has been slow cooking it in our Webber to perfection.

So, in true Santos-Villacorta style, we served pork loin roast, pinakbet (pork w/ string beans and squash), baked chicken, and a ham accompanied by rice, stuffing, etc. The picture above is from the after party. YES – the day after. It just so happened that a bunch of family was visiting from the Philippines and Washington State so we were invited to not one, but two nights of revelry where Friday evening’s centerpiece was a suckling roast pig. Better than any turkey out there. Vegetarians beware when coming to my house…

Sometimes It Sucks Living in a Social Experiment

Social Experiment. Those are the two words that best describe what’s happening in Bedford-Stuyvesant, my adopted neighborhood. What’s happening in Bed-Stuy is not too different from other urban neighborhoods – gentrification bringing in changes that are good for the community (more Black owned businesses, community initiated revitalization, etc.) and sometimes bad (people getting priced out, gentrifiers not really caring about the history of the community they’re moving into, etc.) Most days I love it and other days – well it’s just down right frustrating because, despite my self-awareness of where I fit in this social experiment, I never thought the negative effects would hit home.

Imagine this – the evening after the United States’s democratic process won and elected Barack Obama – my housemate is walking up our block w/ groceries and is hit over the head w/ a brick and robbed of his wallet. Knocked out COLD and taken Woodhull Hospital. The police show up at our doorstep and fortunately my sister is home to hear the news. She heads over there and finds him a little shook up, but otherwise ok. We start talking about all the strange things happening in our part of the ‘Stuy – more gang activity since Halloween, etc. and what it all means for us. Because even though a lot of this stuff had been happening over the two year span we’ve lived here (hey we’re not far from the Marcy Projects), we were relatively safe. Our neighbors on our block look out for everybody else and we return the favor. We also participated in block activities and made it a point to get to know key players on the street. But when this happened to my housemate just four houses down, who is a young African American man at that, it really made me think about just how safe my sister and I really are walking these streets and if it’s even worth the risk of staying.

We were thinking of riding it out for a couple more months until the same housemate was taunted in front of the same house where he was robbed and asked if he was looking for his wallet. Moreover, I spoke to one of our neighbors who I’m friendly with and he informed me that this particular house is full of squatters and is a drug den that the block association has been trying to get rid of. And the icing on the cake was my sister called the cops as a precaution this past week because she overheard a kid saying someone was bringing a gun to the block to shoot somebody.

Now, after all the crazy events of this week and a half, there is no doubt in my mind that my sister and I are making the right decision to move. Not out of Brooklyn, but to an area where we don’t have to constantly worry about our safety and be closer to our friends – whether that means Bed-Stuy or not, as long as it’s a good place. I’m happy with our decision, but part of me is still angry and sad about the circumstances that led to this choice.

I am happy not because…

Thanks to my fellow blogger Wqueens7 for posting this pic!

Thanks to my fellow blogger Wqueens7 for posting this pic!

Not because the candidate I voted for was elected.

Not because my family came in the 1970s and fought hard to become US citizens and reminded for days on end to vote.

Not because the kids I work with finally have a popular Black male role model to look up to who isn’t an athlete or music star.

Not because my friends around the world are breathing  a sigh of relief.

Not because he kept whatshername out of the White House.

Not because he is Black.

I am happy because we were all witness to the democratic process working on that glorious Tuesday evening, bringing back some of the hope and faith lost 8 years ago.

And when the confetti is cleaned up and the streamers put away – we can go to bed at night knowing that Barack Hussein Obama won fairly and convincingly.

God Bless America.

Decision ’08 Presidential Results


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Sunday in Prospect Park

Family, originally uploaded by joeytoofresh.

One thing I’ve noticed this summer is that I’ve been more active. I don’t think I’d be this active without Milo. These days walking from Joe’s place in Flatbush to his mom’s in Park Slope, a 4 mile roundtrip jaunt, isn’t too daunting. It helps that we go through Prospect Park and its beautiful scenery along the way. The walking has paid off and I feel like I’ve toned up a bit more and kept off most of the weight from the South Beach Diet (hey, I like my summertime ribs!).  Today as part of our goal to keep active, Milo, Joe and I went to the dog beach.  It was a great day post-Hannah and everybody in BK was taking advantage of it by going to Prospect Park.

For the blog readers who are not familiar w/ the park, Prospect Park is Central Park’s slightly younger sister designed by the same architects – Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Some say that Prospect was the pair’s masterpiece because they were able to incorporate more nature into the park compared to other city parks they designed, including Central Park. If you ever get a chance to visit Prospect Park, particularly the trails, you’d never think you were just moments away from bustling Flatbush Avenue.  It’s one of my favorite places in the city and of course, Milo is in tow.