Two Filipino-American skaters will represent Southern California at the 2019 US Figure Skating Championships in Detroit

EDITOR’S NOTE/UPDATE: Aubrey placed second, earning Silver Medal at US Figure Skating Championships. On that strong performance, she received her first international assignment from Team USA, and competed at the 2019 Bavarian Open in Oberstdorf, Germany. Henry placed 7th overall at US Figure Skating Championships. He’s getting ready for the new season after taking some time off for an adventure to Shanghai, China.

By Helen Mendoza

Southern California teens Aubrey Ignacio (15) and Henry Privett-Mendoza (16) will compete next week at the 2019 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, MI.  They have a lot in common: a love of skating; big families, and they’re both US Figure Skating novice level competitors. Together, these two Filipino-American skaters are bringing island style and a champion’s grit and determination to the championships.

For Aubrey Ignacio, who was crowned the 2019 Pacific Coast Sectionals Novice Ladies’ Champion in November, this is her first trip to the US Championships.  Aubrey fought through a back injury and faced tough competition to win gold in Utah. “I’m so proud and blessed to have watched Aubrey mature both as a person and a skater this season,” says proud mother Ophelia Ong. Prior to her championship performance in Utah,  Aubrey earned a Silver Medal at the 2019 Southwest Pacific Regional Championships.  In 2018, she was the Southwest Pacific Regional Intermediate Ladies’ Champion.  Aubrey is coached by Amy Evidente and Wendy Olson. Her short program was choreographed by Cindy Stuart. Her long program, a medley of songs from the Broadway show, “On Your Feet: The Musical”, was choreographed by Jamie Isley.

Henry Privett-Mendoza also fought through injuries for much of the 2018-19 season.  “It was tough being hurt,” said Henry. “I had to be really patient, keep working to get better, and trust that it would come together.” That patience and hard work paid off when Henry won the 2019 Southwest Pacific Coast Regional Championship in October and then followed up by placing 2nd at Pacific Coast Sectionals in November.  For Henry, who picked up a US Championship medal in 2015, this is his 5th trip to nationals, qualifying at every level he’s competed. Henry is coached by Robert Taylor and Rudy Galindo. Galindo, a USFS Hall of Fame inductee, is also Henry’s choreographer.

Aubrey represents the All Year Figure Skating Club and Henry skates for the Figure Skating Club of Southern California.  However, together at nationals, they are proud to be part of the great tradition of Southern California skating, and to represent their Mabuhay! heritage. The 2019 Geico US Figure Skating Championships Novice Ladies and Novice Men competitions will be held on January 21-22 at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills, MI.  The competition will be live-streamed through the USFSA Fanzone at

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Helen Mendoza is a film/video producer, writer, and photographer. She is a vocalist and a founding member of Vox Femina Los Angeles. She is also a mother of two and lives in Los Angeles with her wife.

8Tracks Review: ‘Island Blooms’ EP by Gingee

Gingee released her new EP Island Blooms last month, right at the spring equinox.

Coco Water

According to her Facebook bio, Gingee (Marjorie Light) is a DJ, producer and vocalist from Los Angeles. DJing and producing since 2003, she is known for her unique take on electronic music, which blends elements of global bass, world music, and hip hop. Her work is a reflection of the sounds and cultures she has been exposed to growing up in Los Angeles as well as the musical world of her ancestors and beyond.

From the percussive rhythms of instruments such as the Filipino kulintang, kettle drum, and cowbells, to synths, turntables, and rapping, she seeks to speak the language of music and poetry and use it to communicate a message of empowerment and celebration.  She has performed at Coachella, South by Southwest, Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture, Calentura, and Magic Garage, an art and music festival she founded.


Despite growing up in Waipahu and living for 20 years in Kalihi (a reference for my Hawaii peeps; they’re two of the most Filipino neighborhoods on Oahu), I can’t pretend I know a darned thing about Filipino music, either contemporary or ancient.  Still, Gingee’s grooves sound tribal, hurricane-beaten, humid, and warm.  She will remind you of M.I.A. for sure, which already makes her pretty cool, but Gingee’s definitely got some sounds and beats all her own.

I’m sharing this photo, which I’ve stolen from her FB, because it looks like the kulintang is part of her live show, something that has to be unique in her genre, right?  I mean, I’ve seen video of EDM DJs doing their thing, and they never play instruments live, let alone a set of gongs from ancient Southeast Asian cultures.

The first track, “Coco Water,” is fun and celebratory, and it will make you want to get up and shake your thing, if you’re the type to shake your thing.  I’m not, but I did find this some really nice music to listen to while writing.  It’s the highlight of the three-song EP, but all the songs are groovy.

The highlight for me begins at the 1:15 mark in the second track, “Ilha.”  Four measures of a long siren sound kick in.  They’re followed by the same tone, but broken up in a quick staccato, then followed again similarly, but even more rapid-fire, then again, this time not broken up, but faded back and folded over itself, in kind of a multi-voiced chorus at 1:30.

I didn’t comparison-shop.  It’s $2.97 for the whole EP on Amazon, so I didn’t waste any time and just purchased it.

See the Sun

site, utube, sndcld, sptfy, bndcmp, fb, tw, ig, amzn

also:  Gingee played Coachella in weekend 1 and is back for more in weekend 2, beginning this evening.  She writes, “I’m playing 4 sets this week at Coachella!  If you’re around come thru w your amazing self!

  • Thursday: 9:15 pm- 10:30 pm at the dome in camping center lot 8 (THE afterparty spot in case u didnt know)
  • Friday: Sahara stage 12:00 pm-1:35 pm
  • Saturday: 10 am-2pm at the arts and crafts tent in camping center lot 8 (come make dope crafts/swag for FREE!)
  • Sunday: 10 am-2 pm arts and crafts tent (shared set w @djfrancescaharding)”

I’ll update this post with video if any gets posted!

New Animated TV Series Tells Terrifying Tales from Filipino Folklore

Inspired by frightening favorites like The Twilight Zone, the first animated series about Filipino horror folklore, Umbra will feature creatures and monsters from traditional Filipino folklore retold in the modern-day Philippines. The series includes stories about a flesh-eating, shape-shifting monster; the lost soul of a dead bride looking for a new husband to join her in death; and the conquest to destroy a murderous mermaid.

I’m not into horror, but I’m down for anything bringing Filipino culture into the mainstream, and the animation looks promising. Umbra premieres Wednesday, October 11 at 8:00 Eastern on Myx TV. New back-to-back episodes air every Wednesday, with episodes available for streaming online the next day at

Every Night I Die World Premiere in Washington, DC

It gives me enormous pleasure to introduce to you all the world premiere of Every Night I Die at the Capital Fringe Festival, a play written by Amanda Andrei and directed by Francis Tanglao-Aguas. It’s not everyday that I can brag about my college friends and these two have played a crucial role in defining my Asian American identity and my decision to be an actor.

Continue reading “Every Night I Die World Premiere in Washington, DC”

Filipino Language Classes in High School

On our family vacation to San Diego, we visited friends in the heavily Filipino city of Chula Vista.  To my surprise, one of my friend’s sons was studying for his Filipino quiz the next day!  I blogged about language retention and Filipinos before as have others.  While I have complained about the lack of Filipino Language classes,  Otay Ranch High School apparently has done something about it.  This school has enough years of Filipino classes available to fill the University of California subject requirements.  Impressive.  Not a huge number of high schools offer Chinese or Japanese, which would have wider appeal, but in addition  to Japanese, this one offers Filipino.  I’d say that it is becoming useful as a diaspora language – I know I have heard it spoken in different parts of the world as Filipino immigrants and Overseas Foreign Workers are now all over the globe.

(Flickr photo credit: PHBascon)

One of the reasons that there are many Filipinos in the San Diego area is the heavy Navy presence there.  For a long time, Filipinos nationals could directly join the US Navy, and that is how my father came to the US.  Despite their numbers in the area, I didn’t think that Filipinos would have the political clout to do things like get Filipino language classes instituted, so this was a pleasant surprise.  There have been some issues with credentials for Filipino Teachers, but since the classes are still going on, it would seem that that they have been solved.  Other San Diego high schools like Rancho Bernardo also have Filipino as an language option.

It was both interesting and fun taking look at the kid’s Filipino lessons.   Note that Filipino is not the same as Tagalog, as there are some differences.  Our friend’s son was trying to remember common phrases, which I found to be extremely polite.  My comment to his dad was that The Wife would never talk to me like that.  To ask for  a drink of water, the lesson said “Puwede bang uminom ng tubig?” which is literally “Is it okay to drink water?”  The Wife would probably say to me “Tubig!  Bilasan mo!” which is, well, slightly less deferential!

Incidentally, if you want to learn Filipino, The Fililpino Channel has occasional lessons with their Filipino Ka Sabihin Mo segments, some of which are available online.  Another interesting point from the credentialing article is that despite the availability of Filipino classes, some Filipino parents don’t want their kids taking it!

Adding a Helping of Heritage on a Full Plate (Part 1 – Language)

“Dad, what are they saying?” said Number One Son.

“Yeah, what are they talking about?” said Number Two Son. 

My sons were referring to the animated conversation that was going on in Tagalog between, their Aunts, their Uncles, and the Wife at the dinner table.  I tried to translate as fast as I could, but I didn’t catch everything.

I was reminded of this time when John forwarded a link to this article to the 8asians blogger mailing list. The Asian American couple (he of Korean descent and she of Chinese) sent their busy, highly scheduled three year old son to Chinese school even though neither of them spoke Chinese.  The family lives in a mostly white area, and one of the goals of sending him there was to expose him to other Asian American kids.  To their surprise, the vast majority of students were white.   The son didn’t seem to take to the classes, and so the parents let him quit.

The Chung/Liu Family by Janet Durrans for the New York Times

The article generated a lot of discussion on the 8asians list.  Some bloggers objected to the claim in the article that Asian-American families concentrate 100% on assimilating their children.   Others pointed out the folly overloading kids so young, while others pointed out that many Asian Americans parents seem to be intent on “earning points” by having their kids do many activities while ignoring the real purpose of those activities.  Shouldn’t be sports be about learning sportsmanship, discipline, and appreciating and learning exercise?  Shouldn’t music be about learning culture and appreciating the splendid works of the past?  Shouldn’t learning languages be about learnin g different perspectives and cultures?

All great questions and comments.  My own particular thoughts came in three areas:  teaching the kids languages, exposing your kids to other Asian Americans, and loading and on how much to push on kids.  I had a lot of thoughts on this, so I am dividing them into three parts.  This first part is about teaching kids the languages of the ancestral homeland.  I wish I had learned as Tagalog as a kid, but most Filipino immigrant parents at the time when I was a kid didn’t bother and generally didn’t seem to care.  Most spoke English fairly well.  I have heard that some Filipino parents during that time were told that if they didn’t talk speak only English to their kids that the kids would fall behind in school. 

The colonial mentality of Filipinos and Philippine geography (lots of islands and different languages) does not help either.  The Wife tells me that some richer families in the Philippines would speak only English to their kids, and that the kids would only learn Tagalog from their maids and nannies.  Also, in some regions of the Philippines, I am told that the people would prefer to speak English rather than Tagalog.  My mother only learned Tagalog in the US.  In some places, like Hawaii and Guam, the common language of Filipinos is Ilocano.  My brother’s Chinese wife was really shocked to learn that Filipinos generally don’t make an effort to pass on language skills of Filipinos languages. Where I live, there are Japanese language schools, Chinese language schools, and Vietnamese language schools, but no Filipino language schools.  Ironically, my brother never learned Tagalog, but he learned Japanese and Mandarin, although that didn’t do him much good communicating with his father-in-law who only speaks Cantonese.

I ended up learning Tagalog on my own from some books.  Having The Wife yell in Tagalog when she gets mad also helped!  I generally can understand conversations and the action on TFC (The Filipino Channel), but I take a while to compose sentences when I have to talk.  Filipinos, I find, are generally not particularly amused by my accented slow Tagalog, although they think that it is SO cute when a white guy like Travis Kraft speaks it.  My kids ended up not learning Tagalog, something I regret.  It would have helped the Daughter greatly in her Spanish language classes.  For one, it would have helped her think mo re flexibly. The Daughter’s friend, who is fluent in Mandarin, also takes Spanish, and I remember her helping the Daughter with Spanish, saying “don’t try to make sentences the same way as in English.”  My daughter, knowing only one language, had trouble thinking flexibly in different grammatical patterns.  Also, Tagalog has many words from Spanish.  If she had known Tagalog, she already would have had a substantial vocabulary.

In the article, there are non-Chinese parents who send their young kids to Chinese school.  I have a friend who did this.  My guess is that his motivation is give his child an advantage knowing what he, who worked as an expat in Asia for a long time, perceives as a dominant language of the future.  So I think that the benefits of teaching the ancestral language are three potentially threefold:   the ability to think in more flexible ways, picking up an economically useful skill, and the ability to better connect with other generations of family.  Some stories, like the one that Number One Son and Number Two Son asked about, are just better told in Tagalog, and my hurried translations just don’t do them justice. 

Compensation for Filipino Veterans

Filipino Veterans at the White House
Filipino Veterans have been neglected for nearly 60 years since World War II. And the US Senate finally passes a bill boosting veteran benefits, including those for Filipino Veterans.

Supporters of the controversial provision said it would overturn a 60-year-old law and give 18,000 Filipino veterans of World War II who live abroad a roughly US$300-a-month pension.

Sadly, it’s a bit too late for the majority of Filipino Veterans who have passed on.

I was five when I learned of my grandfather’s story during World War II. A local San Francisco Bay Area news reporter, Wendy Tokuda, came to interview my grandfather about his experience. It was during this television interview that I learned of my grandfather’s bravery. My grandfather enlisted when he was 18 to fight against the Japanese in World War II. He was a cook in the Navy, because at that time most minorities were given these types of jobs. But it wasn’t the job that became so interesting for the news reporter. It was what the Navy asked my grandfather to do. In 1945, they ordered him and a number of other soldiers to stand on the bow of their ship and look at the water. They were told to look at the ocean along the horizon. A few minutes later, a bright light flashed and a mushroom cloud formed. The navy conducted tests on my grandfather to study the affects of nuclear blasts and radiation on their soldiers.

I understood why my grandfather wore thick glass-bottled lenses. I understood why he had trouble seeing his later years in life. But I never understood why he was still so proud to have served in the Navy, after what the military and government had done. To his last dying day he was proud to be a Filipino Veteran. He looked upon his duty with honor, without remorse or regret.

The bill’s passing is honorable, and it’s welcomed. But for most it’s a bit too late. But even if it came many years after, I’m sure if my grandfather was here today, he would still stand and salute and would have been ever so proud to have served.