APA Spotlight: James Lim, Executive Director, Philippine International Aid

APA Spotlight is a weekly interview of Asian Pacific Islander Americans (APIA) community leaders. It is a spotlight on individuals who have dedicated their careers to issues surrounding the APIA community with the goal of bringing much deserved recognition to their work and cause(s).

James Lim is the Executive Director of the Philippine International Aid, a non-profit organization based in the Bay Area that provides assistance in the areas of shelter, rehabilitation, education, health and nutrition, assimilation and livelihood programs to disadvantaged youth in the Philippines and in the Bay Area.

The first Filipino-American general manager in San Francisco, James Tecson Lim was born in the Philippines of Chinese and Spanish ancestry. For years, James has been very active with various organizations that help the youth in exploring career options. He served as an advisor in the Travel & Tourism Advisory Board of San Francisco Unified School District where he helped introduce the hospitality industry to high school seniors.

He has also served on the Board of Advisers for the Hotel Management program of City College of San Francisco, Cal State East Bay, and Golden Gate University. James wants to break the stereotypes of Filipinos in the hotel industry. He wants to send a message to young Filipino-Americans that there are many successful Filipino-Americans in this industry and that this is a field where they can also excel.

James is the Regional Managing Director of the Union Square hotels in San Francisco. He personally manages the Galleria Park Hotel and oversees the Hotel Rex and the Hotel Adagio. James is happily married to Maria Carlota Lim with three children, Mikki, Nina, Matthew and an English bulldog named Bubba.

What is the mission statement of your life?

“Wake up each day happy, knowing that I’M ALIVE! Lead each day centered around the principles of Integrity, Trustworthiness, Empowerment, and Fairness. Remember what’s important in life is Family, Financial Security, Lasting Relationships, Respect and Spiritual Fulfillment. Seize each moment to leave positive imprints on others and end each day thanking God for another day.” I have a printout of this on my wall at work and I read it every morning.

How did you end up doing what you’re doing?

I work full-time as Regional Managing Director for Joie de Vivre Hotels. I also do volunteer work with Philippine International Aid (PIA), serving as its Executive Director for the past year and a half. Growing up in the Philippines and being aware of how hard life is to many impoverished children there, PIA has become a shared personal crusade of mine along with the organization’s many tireless volunteers. I first joined PIA when I sponsored a child during their annual fundraiser. Then, six years ago, I was asked by Mona Lisa Yuchengco, the founder of PIA, if I were interested in joining the board.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see play the lead role as you?

I don’t think my life is exciting enough to be made into a movie. But as a fun question to answer, I’ll base my choices on temperament rather than physical attributes. I’d be okay with Dean Cain, Richard Gere or Edward Burns.

How can people find out more about your organization or get involved?

Please visit our website at phil-aid.org. We accept donations through PayPal or you can also sign-up to be a volunteer.

If you had a crystal ball, what do you see for the future of the Asian Pacific Islander American community?

I do believe that our community is now realizing our full-potential whether in politics, entertainment, and philanthropic initiatives. Especially in the Bay Area, I believe that Asian Pacific Islander leaders will play more pivotal roles in the next few years.

Bonus Question: What advice do you have for young Asian Pacific Islander American professionals?

Never lose touch with your ancestors’ culture. Get involved with other Asian American organizations whether it’s for networking or philanthropic purpose. As one of my favorite heroes in the Philippines once said, “It is a useless life that is not consecrated to a great ideal. It is like a stone wasted on the field without becoming a part of any edifice.”.

Bonus Question: What are your comfort foods and what memories do you have associated with them?

My dad is part-Chinese and my mom is Spanish-Filipina. I grew-up in the Philippines eating Adobo at home. Every night, we would wait for my dad to come home before we would eat our adobo dinner. Nowadays, eating adobo reminds me of those special moments of family dinners. At home, I make sure that of the three meals, my family should always eat dinner together every night.

Since the Philippines was colonized by the Spaniards, the Filipinos typically eat light meals that would otherwise be referred to as afternoon tea in the afternoon. We call this Merienda. My grandmother used to cook Maruya (banana fritters) for merienda. It is prepared by coating thinly sliced and ‘fanned’ bananas in batter and deep frying them. They are then sprinkled with sugar and served with slices of jackfruit preserved in syrup. I think of my grandmother whenever I eat this comfort food.

Bonus Question: What’s your guilty pleasure?

Maiz con queso (sweet corn with cheese) ice cream with Klim milk on top! This ice cream is not just your plain maize (sweet corn) ice cream, it has bits of cheddar cheese in it hence the name. Sounds weird? Nah…It’s actually a perfect combination!

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Author: Koji Steven Sakai

Writer/Producer Koji Steven Sakai is the founder of Little Nalu Pictures LLC and the CEO of CHOPSO (www.CHOPSO.com), the first Asian English streaming video service. He has written five feature films that have been produced, including the indie hit, The People I’ve Slept With. He also produced three feature films, a one hour comedy special currently on Netflix, and Comedy InvAsian, a live and filmed series featuring the nation’s top Asian American comedians. Koji’s debut novel, Romeo & Juliet Vs. Zombies, was released in paperback in 2015 and in audiobook in 2016 and his graphic novel, 442, was released in 2017. In addition, he is currently an adjunct professor in screenwriting at International Technological University in San Jose.