About Me

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Mabuhay! I'm an Asian American writer (Back Kicks And Broken Promises, Abbott Press, 2012), martial artist and teacher who was born in The Philippines, raised in Hong Kong and ended up in New Jersey.

22 May, 2012

AAPI Summer Book Giveaway

May is Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. This weekend, Memorial Day Weekend, is the unofficial start of summer. With summer, comes going to the beach, hanging by the pool and lounging on your backyard hammock, if you have one. Like many, when I do any of those things, I like to have a good book with me. 

Why not celebrate AAPI Month and Memorial Day with my novel, Back Kicks And Broken Promises, by winning a FREE copy for your Nook or Kindle. The first five people who comment on this post or email me on Monday, 28th May, 2012, will win an ebook of my novel. Make sure you provide an email address where I can gift you the ebook. 

Here's what's on the back flap of the print editions and below are some links that will, hopefully, get you excited to read it.


Ricky Gilbert’s world has been turned upside down. The seventeen-year-old, Filipino, adopted son of American parents, Ricky tries to adjust to a new life after moving halfway around the world from Singapore to New Jersey. With the help of Max Parada, an American-born Filipino, and Amy Cho, his Korean-American classmate, Ricky begins to find his place and identity in his new home through Taekwondo training.

The training, however, is more than kicks and punches. Instead, it becomes Ricky’s guide to life as he progresses from one belt to another. Even so, just as he begins to adjust to his new environment, Ricky’s world takes another hit when he discovers a secret that forces him to question who he is and what family means to him. Coming to terms with this—and with the large sum of money suddenly in his possession—Ricky has to decide whether he’s going to stay with the family he’s known all his life or leave and become a family of one.

As he tries to sort out his life, traveling to the Philippines and back to Singapore, Ricky discovers things about his father that make the two of them more alike than he’d ever thought - or even hoped - possible.


20 May, 2012

How Much Is Enough?

I’m multiethnic and multinational. I have American citizenship, having been naturalized in 1987, and I have Filipino citizenship, which I reacquired in 2009. Ethnically, I’m fundamentally Filipino and American. My mother is half Filipina and half American. Her mother was Filipina and her father was from Reading, Pennsylvania. My father is Filipino. Both of his parents were from The Philippines. I do, however, have other blood in my system. My maternal grandfather’s parents were from Germany. My father’s mother was half Chinese, Manchurian to be exact. And, as many Filipinos can claim, I have Spanish blood and I can trace mine to a great x 5 grandfather who, from my understanding, was a missionary priest.

So, what am I?

When asked this, I typically say I’m Filipino or Filipino-American. When pressed further by people saying there’s more in my makeup or that they thought I was “some kind of Spanish” or Chinese even, I tell them that I’m “Filipino, American, German, Spanish and Chinese.” As a result of my ethnic makeup, I believe I can legitimately claim some kind of allegiance to all of these countries. I can claim being an American because I’m a quarter American, have US citizenship and have lived in The United States for the last 27 years. I can claim being Filipino by being three quarters Filipino, have Filipino citizenship, was born there, spent parts of my childhood there, can speak and understand some Tagalog and enjoy Filipino culture (food, dress, literature, etc). I was raised In Hong Kong, which in my heart will always be home, speak and understand some Cantonese, and have Chinese blood. Incidentally, Hong Kong Chinese food may be my favourite of all kinds of food. So, I believe can also legitimately claim Chinese ethnic affiliation. I have German and Spanish ancestry so I can, although I’ll agree it’s far more distant, claim come kind of Spanish and German affiliation as well.

What makes someone a welcome member of a particular country or ethnic group? Is it purely bloodlines? Is it social and cultural acclimatization? Is it decided by the passport a person carries or by what is written under ‘Country of Origin’ on his or her birth certificate? Interestingly, for some of my fellow Filipinos, I’m not Filipino enough and for some westerners I am not white enough. But then, again, do I have to be? In my interview with The Manila Bulletin, when asked what message I hoped to impart by writing my novel, Back Kicks And Broken Promises, I said, “The message is probably this and it's geared towards my multiracial third culture brothers and sisters: you're not alone, it's okay to be confused (if you are) and you don't have to be any ONE thing or belong to any ONE ethnic group or culture…whether you're an immigrant or not, multiracial or not, but especially if you are either or both, it's okay to be who you are and if that means…being a chameleon that's okay because that's you.”

I bring all of this up because of the recent scandal involving the winner and, subsequent disqualification, of the Miss Fiji title who would go on to represent Fiji at the Miss World contest in China in August.  If you’re not aware of what happened, click here.

Basically, though, Torika Watters, who is Fijian and European, won the title. Shortly after, she was stripped of her title. Pageant officials state that it was because Ms. Watters was underage, that she was 16 instead of the required 17, that she was dethroned. However, there were also outcries of racism that she was stripped of her title because she wasn’t Fijian enough. For me, that IS a form of racism. She’s half Fijian and, as a result, she’s a representation of what a Fijian is and can look like. This world is made up of full-blooded and mixed-blooded people. Just look at my native Philippines. There are browner Filipinos of the Malay race, there are lighter complexion Filipinos with more Chinese blood and there are some who are in between with Spanish, American, and other western heritage. Are you going to say that they’re not Filipino? Go there and try it and let me know what happens.

Personally, I believe that I represent what American looks like, what Filipino looks like, what Chinese looks like and to a lesser degree - although I have been told I am the most Germanic looking between myself and my siblings - what German and Spanish look like.

I don’t know Ms. Watters and I’m not a pageant show frequenter. I simply came across the article the other day when I was going through my daily perusal of the headlines. I just hope that this doesn’t scar Ms. Watters, especially at her young age, and that her cultural and ethnic identities aren’t shattered. Sadly, this whole situation is an indication that bigotry is very far from being eradicated.

11 May, 2012

Second Feature - Interview in The Manila Bulletin Newspaper

Hi. Here's the latest news: the interview I did with The Manila Bulletin newspaper, The Philippines largest newspaper, in February is out. It's in the "Students and Campuses" section of their 12 May, 2012 issue.

Here's the link. Enjoy.

Back Kicks And Broken Promises in The Manila Bulletin

03 May, 2012

5 Things Not To Say To Children

I came across this on Yahoo! today and I thought I'd post it on my blog and not just share it on Twitter. As a parent - and a self-proclaimed (part-time) Tiger Dad at that - I found it interesting and insightful. You might, too, if you're a parent, know someone who is or if you work with children.

Click here for the article.

01 May, 2012

Things May Change But They Will Always Be The Same

We - my wife, son and I - took a trip down to New Brunswick last weekend. That's where I went to school, as an undergrad at Rutgers University. It was the Friday after our son's birthday (his birthday was on the Thursday) and usually we visit Belmar, stroll on the boardwalk, have pizza then head home. That's what my wife and I did the day before our son, Jude, was born so we've made it a bit of an annual tradition. We were all set, with Jude's new Optimus Prime Transformers bicycle with training wells, but it was too windy and cold so we took Jude on a very early college visit instead.

We parked on Hamilton Street, close to the frat houses, and had lunch at Stuff Yer Face. This wasn't the first time I'd visited RU since graduating in 1991. I'd probably gone back a good dozen times or so but this was the first time I'd gone as a parent. It is WAY too early to think about where Jude will be going to school - although we do need to start saving money for his college tuition now - but I can't help from think about such things, this time of the year, as I see speak to my former students and current athletes who are seniors who are starting to receive acceptance (and rejection) letters.

Stuff Yer Face has a new outside dining area. The walls are less decorated than I remember they were but it's still the same place. The wood paneling hasn't changed and there are, naturally, the requisite Rutgers posters on some of the walls. In the corner, next to the fireplace, is something I think very collegial - a poster advertising Stuff Yer Face's 70 Beers Club. After you've tried their seventy beers you get something like a t-shirt and a free boli.

Thomas Sweets, the ice-cream parlour that my college girlfriend introduced me to and the first place I learnt about that blended ice-cream with 'fill-ins' like M&Ms®, Gummi Bears®, crushed Heath Bars®, nuts and other candy is still there. We didn't go there this time but it did bring back memories of Friday nights having dinner at Stuff Yer Face followed by dessert at Thomas Sweets.

We headed towards The Ferren Deck Mall where the Rutgers Bookstore is but, on the way, we made a pit stop into the New Jersey Books, an independent bookstore that specialises in RU textbooks, attire, paraphernalia and, even, 'regular' books you'd find in any other bookstore. It's a much bigger place on Easton Avenue, with two floors, which is a far cry from the small and often subway train-cramped location around the corner on Somerset. We bought my son a Lisa and Gaspard book and I managed to talk to one of the managers about carrying my novel, Back Kicks And Broken Promises, on consignment.

As we headed for the college bookstore, we passed the new (well, they were already up in the mid 1990s) campus apartments next to the New Brunswick train station. Looking at the building, with apartments on the upper floors, and stores on the ground floor, the structure could've been pinched from New York's Fifth Avenue or Upper West.

Ferren Deck Mall, however, with Marita's Cantina next to the bookstore looked exactly the same as it did when I attended Rutgers. Inside, the bookstore, albeit with newer things -iPods instead of Sony Walkmen - and more stylish college apparel, was laid out the same too. We bought Jude his first pullover college hoodie and, in his straight jeans and adidas® Sambas, he did look like a mini-collegian.

From the bookstore, before our drive home, we stopped into the new Dunkin' Donuts-Baskin Robbins at the train station. The florist at the bottom of the steps and escalator is still there. The steps and the escalator are still long, steep and narrow and have the same brownish-green paint and tiles it had twenty years ago. Driving home, I noticed how there's a sushi spot at almost every block on Route 27 back to the Garden State Parkway and that the campus buses are much more space-agey.

Maybe it's my age and something that happens to those of us entering middle age that makes us reminisce. Maybe it's the lingering images of yesteryear - the train station, Stuff Yer Face, the familiar red brick of Ferren Deck Mall - juxtaposed with the new buildings and improved roadways that triggers fondness. Even though it had been years since I'd lasted visited my alma mater, I almost felt like I'd never left. It was like walking passed someone on the street and both of you doing a turn around, double take before recognising each other and, even though it had been ages since you last saw one another, you pick up right where you left off; hopefully it was a good experience the last time you saw each other.

I write about all of this not because it's what I did with my family and this blog is part living diary. No. It's because it's that time of year that promotes looking back for those of us who've been there and the time of year of hope and adventure for those of us who are about to step in. High school seniors are about to graduate and, two months later, they'll be college freshmen. College seniors are graduating, too, and they're full of hope and knowledge and ambition and dreams to start making their way - and name - in this crazy world of ours.

As quickly as the last four years have gone by, the next fourteen will eventually pass and Jude will be entering his freshman year. To him, in the future, and to all the high school seniors and college seniors, I wish you all good luck and happy adventures. Enjoy this time of your lives and make the most of it. Learn as much as you can, live life as fully as you can and, when the time comes, share all of that with you children.

Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

It's May and as I do every year I celebrate Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Being Filipino, I get to claim both Asian and Pacific Islander membership. I also have Chinese blood, from my paternal grandmother whose ancestry traces to Manchuria.

As part of my annual celebration, I've put up a display on the bulletin board outside my classroom. On it is a definition of the terms 'Asian-American' and 'Pacific Islander' along with some statistics, from the US Census Bureau, on the breakdown of various Asian groups living in the United States. I've also included three our four celebrities in music, entertainment (film and television), sports and literature who are Asian-American and/or Pacific Islander.

Asians and Pacific Islanders are part of the American diaspora. We have been for decades but, recently, it seems that more of us are getting recognised as representatives and role models within and for our ethnic communities as we are for our accomplishments. More attention has been brought on us in all areas. Take politics, for instance. Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana-born Indian-American Republican governor was talked about as being John McCain's vice-president in the 2008 elections. President Obama even, with his upbringing in Hawaii and Indonesia, has brought attention to Pacific Island and Asian culture.

Here are some examples:

In music, there's Bruno Mars. He was raised in Hawaii and his mother his Filipina. Ne-Yo, the Hip Hop, R&B and Rap artist is one fourth Chinese. Looking at sports, of course, there's Tiger Woods (Thai and Chinese). Hines Ward, Super Bowl winner, has a Korean mother and he was born in Seoul. And, dare we talk about Asian-Americans in sports and not mention Jeremy Lin, the California-born Chinese point guard of the New York Knicks. In entertainment, there's Sharon Leal (Dreamgirls), who is part-Filipina and don't forget Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson who is Polynesian. Closer to home, there's Kal Penn (Harold and Kumar, House, The Namesake) who's Indian and was born in Montclair.

The next time you watch a movie or listen to a song or read a book or watch your favourite team win a championship, be mindful that there might be some kind of Asian or Pacific Islander involvement. What wasn't news to the Asian-American community but, apparently seemed surprising to mainstream media, was that Asians can play basketball. Jeremy Lin opened mainstream America's eyes to that; although that's something Wat Misaka already did in 1947 and American seemed to forget about.

So, open your minds and your hearts, and join us in celebrating the contributions that Asians and Pacific Islanders have made to our country. Hug an API and unleash your inner Asian!