Our 2nd Annual Filipino Dinner

July 10, 2018

Culture and Society

This past Sunday, July 8, 2018, some fellow Filipinos in my neighborhood and I mounted our second dinner serving authentic food from the Philippines.

This dinner was hosted by my friend Bashi and took place in his adorable home. We all started to arrive after 1:00 PM and began cooking our dishes soon thereafter. Dinner was served on time by 6:00 PM.

Here are the details of our menu:

Kare Kare: Oxtail in a peanut stew and served with optional Bagoong sauce.

Sinigang: Pork loin and neckbones in a sour/savory, tamarind-based soup with long beans and various greens

Pork Adobo: Pork in a sweet and savory sauce

Siopao: Pork wrapped inside fluffy steamed dumplings

Laing: a creamy and spicy stew  with pork, taro leaves, coconut milk, ginger, chili, and shrimp

Dinuguan: Pork loin sauteed in pigs blood

Chicken Inasal: BBQ chicken marinated overnight in a combination of lemongrass, soy sauce, ginger, Sprite soda, and various other seasonings.

Pancit: Noodles with chunks of chicken thighs, onions, garlic, carrots, soy sauce, and saturated in chicken broth.

(Vegetarian versions of Pancit, Sinigang, and Siopao were also made.)

Later on in the night, we also fixed a tradition Filipino dessert called Hallo Hallo. It was glorious.

We had between 30 and 40 people come out to eat.

Someone also grabbed some bamboo sticks, and I taught folks how to do Tinikling and Singkil.

Special thanks to my friends Bashi, Kubbi, Julian, Kat, and Brin for cooking up these amazing dishes!!

I cannot wait until we do this again!

-Roqué

 

Welcome to Tropical Shade of Green!!

July 1, 2018

Website Updates

Hello and Welcome!!

With much thought and deliberation,  I have decided to relaunch my blog and feature all of my personal writing and poetry here at Tropical Shade of Green.

All of my musings about creativity, social issues (such as immigration and saving the environment), reading books, film-making, and photography will be posted here.

I hope you don’t mind all of the changes. This is all par for the course for someone like me who has a broad range of interests.

This site is a work in progress. Feel free to poke around every now and then to see what is new.

-Roqué

There Is An Immigrant In All of Us.

Culture and Society

Have you ever found yourself in a completely new and slightly scary situation?

Maybe you started a new job and had to learn your work from scratch (in addition to getting to know your new co-workers and how to find everything in a new building).

Maybe you were forced to give a speech or presentation in front of a lot of people on the fly.

Perhaps you moved to a new city without a friend in sight and no idea of where to find a good grocery store or better gas prices.

Maybe you’ve been in a hospital about to undergo an operation. The prospect of strangers cutting you up and doing whatever they want to your body while you are unconscious is unsettling.

Maybe you walked onto a car dealership feeling like you knew what you wanted and left feeling like someone just took advantage of you.

What do all of these scenarios have in common?

For starters, they all involve being in a foreign environment. Secondly, they also involve some degree of fear, feeling out -of-sorts, and being vulnerable.

Now, imagine moving to a foreign country. People speak a completely different language. There are ways of showing respect and gratitude that are confusing. Their food tastes weird to your tongue. You have no idea how to get anywhere, and the public transit is mind-boggling. You miss your family and friends terribly. You miss the comforts of the food and places you were used to. You feel alone and afraid.

Being an immigrant involves being in a foreign environment. It is an experience that can be rife with fear, feeling out-of-sorts, and a sense of uncontrollable vulnerability.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Right now in America, the immigration debate has finally reached the forefront of our national attention. Immigrant families and children are being used as bargaining chips by our own president. Initiatives geared toward cracking down on illegal immigration are racist and inhumane.

Where is the compassion?
How do we find actionable solutions that treat all people with respect and dignity?
Surely we can do better than separating children from their parents and incarcerating all of them?

I will not pretend that I have all of the answers, but perhaps one place to start is to know that immigrants are essentially no different from anyone else. They have dreams. They want to build a good life for themselves and their children. They are intelligent. They know how to love. They feel sadness and fear. They have the capacity to work hard and help others.

If they are no different, then they are the same.

The next time you feel vulnerable, lonely, or afraid, remember that there is an immigrant in the world who is also feeling those things.

The only difference is that their situation might be far more terrifying, sad, and hopeless.

Helping immigrants helps all of us.

Compassion for immigrants is compassion for ourselves.

There is an immigrant in all of us.

-Roqué

I Am Not White, and I Have Less Power

January 8, 2018

Culture and Society

The heading for this post is a grim reality that I face.  Here in America, white people are the dominant political and cultural forces in society.

You can look at any magazine rack at any supermarket and drug store.  The vast majority of magazine covers has beautiful white people on them.  Every major film release and television show predominantly features white people in leading roles and  explores the stories and experiences of white people.

Of the forty-five Presidents of the United States of America, 44 of them have been white.  The members of congress, the senate, and the supreme court have been primarily white people across this country’s history.  This counts for all three of branches of our federal government.

It’s clear to see who has the power and who has control of our media, popular culture, and government.

If none of this is directly intentional, then isn’t it at least eerily pervasive?  In the most ethnically diverse country in the world, why is it that one specific skin color is so dominant in virtually every facet of life?

White people are the standard of beauty in this country.  I have often been passed over in favor of the pretty white boy and have been told that I suit more “exotic” tastes.

I have performed at countless open mics as a musician in Nashville and been treated like some sort of novelty because of how foreign I look.  I am more than just a novelty.  I am more than just a token.

White people have won the vast majority of Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, and Tonys.  They are well represented among talk-show hosts, newscasters, successful pop stars, and CEO’s of multi-national corporations.

I am a person of color from a family of immigrants from the Philippines.  I am currently a straight-A honors student in college.  When I graduate with my well-earned diploma someday, I go out into the world knowing that I am not part of the privileged elite.  I look different no matter how qualified I am.

I am not white, and I have less power.

I say all of this not because I want sympathy or a handout.  Everything I have in my life I have earned through my own blood, sweat, and tears.  My modus operandi is to work hard, and I would not have it any other way.

I say all of this because it bothers me.

In my lifetime, I want society to evolve out of this paradigm.  I want equal opportunity for EVERYONE and not just the white people.  I want representation for all people and not just the white people.  America is vast and rich with cultural diversity.  You would not know it if you watched the Oscars or sat in on a congressional meeting.

Surely this is not the best we can do?  Is this as good as it gets?

I sincerely hope not.

So, where do we begin?  We can start by acknowledging how our privileges affect others.  The place you hold at the table is a place that has been denied to someone else, and there is only so much room at the table.  There are only so many voices that can be heard.  There are people, perspectives, stories, and experiences that are all but invisible in places where important decisions are made.

We need to constantly ask ourselves whose voices are we not hearing?  Whose faces are we not seeing?  Whose lives and experiences are we dismissing in favor of an all-encompassing status quo?

I am not white, and I have less power.

This is the truth that I face, but I will take what little power I have and use it.  If I have to work ten or twenty times harder than a white person just to be noticed or valued in some substantive and meaningful way, then so be it.  It’s what I have always done.

I am a person of color, and I will use my power.

-Roqué

#metoo

December 17, 2017

Culture and Society

Yup, #metoo.

I was 19-years-old then, too young to have the wherewithal to stand up for myself against someone who took liberties over my body.  It was a part-time job at a small sandwich shop.  Our lunch rush required us to have the ability to make up to twelve sandwiches wrapped and ready to go in under five minutes within a team of three people.  It was during this lunch rush that she groped my crotch as I was carrying a basket of bread over to a counter.  The look of shock and disgust on my face did not faze her.  I was speechless and completely caught off guard.  She laughed it off and went back to work. This would be one of three instances in which she did this, and one of several in which she would humiliate me in front of others.

She was not a manager, but she had the benefit of having worked there longer than any other employee.  She was bossy and demanding, and quite honestly, she was a monster.

The owners of the business liked her a lot since she seemed to get a lot done, and in hindsight, I should have spoken up.  I also should have left.

Now, years later, I wonder why I’ve never spoken openly about this experience.  It truly was humiliating and dehumanizing.  At the time, I was embarrassed and ashamed and couldn’t get myself to talk about it to anyone.

I filed it away under memories that were isolated incidents that I would rather forget.

I never forgot.  I never forgot how she made me feel.

Fast forward to the last couple of months when many courageous women are standing up for themselves and holding people accountable for their bad behavior.  This took me back to my own experiences.  All things being relative, what happened to me feels small compared to what others have gone through, and I am thankful that I have not been in a similar situation ever since.

I truly hope that this time of reckoning in our culture creates deep and substantive change in our society.  I hope we can take this further and figure out ways to talk to our children about how to stand up to people who abuse their power by abusing others.  Maybe it can be discussed in schools.  I wish someone had taught me about how these dynamics play out.  I did not have that awareness back then, but I do now.

I wish someone had told me that no one has a right to treat me and my body that way without my consent.

To some extent, even though it accounts for a short period of my life, I wonder how it affected me in the long-term.  Anybody who knows me knows how extremely modest I am.  Someone would have to pay me very well to take my shirt off in public.  I often default to being passive when dealing with difficult people (I’m working on this one), and I avoid terrible people at all costs.

So, maybe there’s good and bad in the end.

If I ever see her again, I would tell her how she made me feel and that she had no right to treat me or anyone else that way.  I would tell her to rot in hell, because I still feel a little angry about it all, as long as I’m being honest.

Whether it’s a film production company, NBC, CBS, a factory in the midwest, or a sandwich shop in the south, I hope women and all people can feel safer where they work.

We all deserve safety, respect, and to be treated with dignity.

-Roqué