Filipino American Nurses and Medical Workers Hit Hard by Coronavirus

If you are a Filipino American, it is highly likely that you know lots of nurses and other medical workers.  It also is highly likely that news that that Filipino American nurses have been hit hard by the COVID-19 Pandemic would not surprise you.  Then again, medical workers of all ethnic groups have been hit in some way (like the Khanna family, an Indian American family of five doctors that lost two members to the virus) and not just through harassment and discrimination.   What makes Filipino Americans different particularly hard hit?  I’d say it is a couple of different factors, both cultural and economic, some mentioned by the Stats News article and another that I think that they missed.

First, as the article points out, Filipinos, as part of the global supply chain for medical workers, make up proportionately more of the health care worker pool than their population in the US and beyond, including places like the UK, where a number of Filipino medical workers have died.  My cousins are nurses in New York, and the husband of one of them is medical technician who contracted the virus (we are thankful that he recovered and went back to work).  I would like to point out that it is not just doctors or nursing getting sick, but workers like my cousin’s husband, administrative staff members, and others.  One Filipino maintenance worker we know at the hospital where The Wife works ended up on a ventilator because of the virus – one of 14 maintenance workers who contracted the virus.  He also got better.

The article also mentions that many Filipino Americans live in multi-generational households, which adds other stresses, like concerns about bring the virus home to young children, grandchildren or vulnerable elderly parents and grandparents.  I have heard that concern from Filipino nurses I know, one who has an both elderly parent and a young grandchild at home. Some ended up staying in “Covid” hotels provided to them so that they don’t infect their family.

One other factor that the article doesn’t mention is that many Filipino Americans suffer from hypertension and diabetes, diseases that make a person much more vulnerable to the coronavirus.  This is factor that probably affected Indian American health workers also.

It seems that the coronavirus deaths have peaked in the US, at least for the moment.   Let’s hope the cases stay down, for all of our sakes and especially for medical workers.

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US Memorial Day: Remembering Hazel Ying Lee, WASP Pilot

Hazel Ying Lee  was one of two Chinese American women in United State’s Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) program during World War II (Maggie Gee was the other).  She learned to fly and later volunteered to fight the Japanese in China as a pilot, but since she was a woman she was only given a desk job by the Chinese Military.  She joined the WASP service and worked moving planes for deployment.

Lee died in after plane crash just three days before the Lee family learned that her brother Victor was killed in action in France.  The family wish to have them buried together in Portland in a particular cemetery was initially denied since the cemetery was whites only, but the family eventually won out, and she was buried in a nonmilitary funeral.

Thirty-eight WASP pilots died doing military work, with Lee being the last.  In 1977, the WASP unit was given military status retroactively.

A documentary on Lee was produced and can be purchased here.   We discuss her fellow WASP Maggie Gee in this article.

(photo credit: U.S. Air Force photo – This Image was released by the United States Air Force with the ID 160531-F-PS461-003 (next), Public Domain, Link)

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Today is Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s Birthday

Today Google’s daily doodle celebrates Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwoʻole‘s birthday and includes the above video.  His version of Somewhere of the Rainbow is well known, and I personally think of it before Judy Garland’s.  It was said to have inspired the Pixar Theatrical Short Lava.

Iz would have been 61 years old today.


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Amazon Prime Video: Jimmy O Yang: ‘Good Deal’ Comedy Special Now Streaming

Now that Netflix has popularized streaming comedy specials, Amazon Prime Video is seems to be starting to make more of an effort in this area (or at least this is the first special I have noticed). Jimmy O. Yang’s ‘Good Deal‘ was just released on Friday, May 8th:

“In his debut standup special, Good Deal, Jimmy will tell you all about his take on Asian representation, how he learned to speak English from rap videos, dating tall women, and pursuing his dreams only to disappoint his old school Chinese parents. From assimilation to representation, Jimmy O. Yang delivers an absolutely hilarious hour of comedy in Good Deal.”

I’m a fan of Yang’s and got to see him perform live last November, so some of his jokes in his special were familiar to me. Overall, I really enjoyed the special, but I generally like comedy specials. If you already subscribe to Amazon Prime – the delivery service, then you already have Amazon Prime Video for free and can watch the special here (or in their mobile app).

From this interview, The Wrap provides some background on the special:

“Prior to taping, Yang spent four months touring to hone his material. He scouted the venue — Seattle’s Neptune Theater — and worked with his director and production designer on everything from lighting and staging to the colors he was going to wear.

“I toured Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco and San Jose, just to name a few cities, and they were all awesome. They were big metropolitan cities with big Asian populations, and a lot of my fanbase was there,” Yang explained to TheWrap.

“In Seattle, one of their big comedy clubs had closed down. I didn’t have a chance to tour there so that was one city that the audience hadn’t seen this new hour. At the same time, it was perfectly a tech hub without Silicon Valley. And secondly, it had a great, diverse population; people kinda just get the representation stuff. So it turned out to be a great decision. Some of my favorite AAPI comedians like Jo Koy’s ‘Live in Seattle’ and Ali Wong’s first special taped there.”

And while there are a fair number of Asian jokes, Yang’s hot takes on everyday situations like dating, apartment hunting, and (not) living up to parents’ expectations, are universally relatable.”

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8mm Review: Netflix’s ‘Tigertail’ – A Taiwanese Journey to an Unfulfilled American Dream (Spoilers)

I’m a bit late getting to this, but I did watch Tigertail‘ when it premiered on Netflix on April 10th. Tigertail was written, produced and directed by Alan Yang (most known for his work on Netflix’s ‘Master of None.’). The film is about:

“A Taiwanese factory worker leaves his homeland to seek opportunity in America, where he struggles to find connection while balancing family and newfound responsibilities in this multi-generational drama from writer-director Alan Yang.”

A more detailed synopsis of the film and review in Rolling Stone describes ‘Tigertail’:

“Once upon a time, a young man wanted to come to America. He’d grown up in the rural countryside of Taiwan with his grandmother, occasionally having to hide in cupboards from communist Chinese soldiers looking for unregistered citizens. The boy was lonely, except for a girl he met in the fields. His name was Pin-Jui, and her name was Yuan. Later, as a teen, his mother brought him to live with her (his father had long since passed away) and work beside him in a factory in the city. At night, Pin-Jui and Yuan dance to ’60s beat pop at a local bar and dine-and-dash at expensive restaurants. Their friendship is blossoming into a romance. But an opportunity to move to the U.S. beckons, so Pin-Jui leaves his mother, and his job, and his true love behind. He has a new life, a new wife and a humble New York apartment. Decades later, he’ll have a family, including an adult daughter who he doesn’t know how to talk to, and an old man’s memories and regrets. Many, many regrets.”

As a Taiwanese American, there was a lot I could relate to this film and in some ways, see how my parents’ journey to the United States reflected in this story. Much of the film is in Taiwanese (which I don’t understand but can recognize) and Mandarin, subtitled in English as a lot of the film have flashbacks to the past in Taiwan.

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CAAMFest Online: Heritage at Home – May 13-22, 2020

When I first moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and then eventually discovered the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF), now known as CAAMFest (CAAM = Center of Asian American Media), is one of my favorite annual events I like to attend to screen Asian American films.

Since we’re still “Staying in Place” and socially distancing ourselves due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s CAAMFest is going online:

“The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) is pleased to announce a reimagined festival experience. From May 13-22, 2020, CAAMFest Online: Heritage at Home will be providing an online alternative in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage month. Now, more than ever, CAAM is commited to bringing communities together through the power of storytelling. With the theme of Heritage at Home, CAAMFest provides community and engagement while maintaining the physical distance necessary during this time. CAAMFest Online: Heritage at Home features over 20 digital events, ranging from online film screenings to interactive panels, watch parties and house parties featuring live performances, all free of charge.”

You can find out more details at:

Although everything is online and free of charge, there are capacity limits, so you do need to register online.



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“Asian Americans” premieres on PBS on May 11, 2020

Asian Americans, a new PBS series, premieres on May 11 and 12. A quick synopsys:

Asian Americans is a five-hour film series that delivers a bold, fresh perspective on a history that matters today, more than ever. As America becomes more diverse, and more divided while facing unimaginable challenges, how do we move forward together? Told through intimate personal stories, the series will cast a new lens on U.S. history and the ongoing role that Asian Americans have played.

I look forward to seeing some fascinating segments, like this snippet about Louisiana families finding about their South Asian roots.   The show was produced in 2019, but I wonder if they will include anything about the recent hate that Asian Americans are facing during the Coronavirus pandemic.

A press release about the production of Asian Americans reveals that it was produced by WETA Washington, DC and the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) for PBS, in association with the Independent Television Service (ITVS), Flash Cuts and Tajima-Peña Productions.

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8mm Review: Filmmaker Alice Wu Returns with Netflix’s ‘The Half of It’

The Half of It was released by Netflix on May 1st and is about:

“When smart but cash-strapped teen Ellie Chu agrees to write a love letter for a jock, she doesn’t expect to become his friend — or fall for his crush.”

I had only heard of the film maybe a week or two before it’s release – which surprised me since I am a big fan of writer/director Alice Wu‘s first film, ‘Saving Face,‘ that came out in 2005. At an after screening party in San Francisco, I met Alice Wu and had her sign a movie poster (it says “John, write!” – in reference to my desire to write a film based on a semi-biographical idea I had) that is still hanging in my home today:

I had read a long time ago that Wu was going to be working on an adpatation of a book, ‘Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China’, to film, I was excited to see her next film. But ultimately, it never was made.

A more detailed synopsis of the film by Rolling Stone of ‘The Half of It’:

“Picture a modernized, queer-teen version of Cyrano de Bergerac, in which the title character is a closeted Chinese-American girl who’s hired by a tongue-tied jock to write love letters to win the heart and mind the high-school queen they both secretly love. That’s the starting point for Alice Wu’s sweetly subversive The Half of It, a romcom (streaming on Netflix starting May 1st) that undercuts Hollywood formula at every turn.

Instead of Paris, where Cyrano is set, this revisionist take on the classic transpires in bluntly un-romantic Squahamish, a dead-end town in Washington state where conformity is king. Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) is a social outcast and dutiful daughter who lives with her widower father (Collin Chou), an engineer with a PhD and an immigrant now reduced to the job of local station master. To help improve his halting English, he watches classic movies on TV. Ellie’s adored mom believed that every song, movie and story had “a best part.” To Dad, the best part of his favorite movie Casablanca is the ending which points to the beginning of a beautiful friendship. That seems out of reach for Ellie, who rides her bike to school while students shout racial slurs and whose life in Squahamish is her own personal version of Sartre’s No Exit. Literary and cinematic allusions are this young woman’s specialty; it’s not every YA comedy that begins with an animated prologue about Plato’s origins of love.”

Overall, I enjoyed this “young adult” romantic comedy, but not as much as Saving Face. The setup for a high school love triangle is quite familiar, but this film definitely has quite a few twists and turns. The film kind of reminds me of ‘Juno,’ another quirky young adult romantic high school comedy in terms of genre.

The performance by Leah Lewis, who plays Ellie, is fantastic. Actors Daniel Diemer playing Paul and Alexxis Lemire playing Aster Flores are good as well – but it is Lewis that really carries the film and is in every scene. Collin Chou, who plays Ellie’s windowed father, does a decent job – but I felt his character wasn’t really developed that well.

My biggest disappointment was the climactic scene where a lot of loose ends get very quickly tied up coupled with some plot elements that also didn’t quite make sense to me. But I agree with the overall conclusions to the ending of the film – which felt realistic rather than a traditional “Hollywood” ending.

Overall, I recommend the film and I hope is “successful” internally to Netflix so that it can fund whatever other project Wu might have lined up. Wu has a unique vision and I enjoy the stories she has told.

If you want to learn more about Alice Wu and The Half Of It, checkout this excellent ‘They Call Us Bruce’ podcast interview by Jeff Yang and Phil Yu (‘Angry Asian Man’) 

It was really great to learn some of Wu’s thinking about the film as well as her overall journey since Saving Face – a lot that I could personally relate to. Since Wu is based in the San Francisco Bay Area like myself, I’m hoping to see her at some future event when the Shelter In Place quarantine order is over.

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Passing Pauses: Reflections on a Single Death in a New York City ER

When patient M.M. died during her shift, Emergency Room Nurse Laura Ng didn’t feel much at the moment.  Only after she had a day off did she have a chance to do some justice to that death. Of the accounts out there about the life of medical workers in COVID-19 battle zone in New York City Hospitals, this piece by Laura Ng has stuck out in my mind.  We see so many figures and statistics about cases and deaths.  Those numbers can blur us to the fact that it is individuals who are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and grandmothers and grandfathers that are dying.

M.M. was an 87 year old patient who Ng knew wouldn’t survive.  The best the ER department could do was make her comfortable until inevitable.  Her family had a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) and Do Not Intubate (DNI) order, which Ng says is the kindest thing that they could have done.

Ng wishes that M.M. had a death with more dignity.  What came to mind to me is that we probably have little control over the time of our deaths, but we have some control over our lives – make sure we live life fully, say the things we want to say and do the things we want to do, as we never know when the end might come.  What also came to mind is the need for Advanced Directives.  We might not know the time of our deaths, but we can set some directions how we want to die.  Make your wishes known should you be in a situation where resuscitation is a question – best to document that and make it known to your loved ones.  Forcing them to decide would be a cruel addition to learning about your own impending demise.

That’s my short summary of the story and some lessons that come to mind. It’s better read to read the whole thing – a short nine minute read that is, in my opinion, worth your time.

(h/t:  MS)
(photo credit:  homieg340 under CC 3.0

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Extraordinary Runner takes Boston Marathon Postponement in Stride

72 year old Jeannie Rice is still motivated to run, even after the Boston Marathon, which she was scheduled to run, was postponed to September 14, 2020 because of the coronavirus.  While I am sure that many people were disappointed, as the Boston Marathon is notoriously difficult to qualify for, she took the news in stride.  That’s because Jeannie Rice is no ordinary runner.

Just how extraordinary is she?  You can find out more about her in the Runners’ World video above.  This grandmother has broken numerous marathon age group records, most recently breaking her previous record in the Berlin Marathon by running it in 3:24:48, a 7:49 pace.  I have trouble running that pace for a whole 5K!  I find it inspirational that she can continue to get faster even in her 70’s.  So many people accept physical deterioration as a given as they age – she is doing just the opposite.

The 2020 Boston Marathon would have been her 122nd marathon.  Instead of that race, she ran 11 miles with a friend.


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Asian American Movies to Watch during the Coronavirus Lockdown

Northwest Asian Weekly suggested these “Asian American-y” movies to watch during the lockdown.  Author Stacy Nguyen says that some of them are good and some aren’t so good, but she got something out of them and put them into her list.  I tried out one of those on her list that I had not seen yet, The Big Sick (trailer above).  I liked it a lot, but The Wife sided with our review of the movie and thought that it was just okay.

While I have seen some of the movies on the list like The Farewell, there are others on her list that I had not heard of before, such as Seoul Searching, that I think I might watch.  Anyway, be safe out there, and you will probably be safer at home watching one of these movies.

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The Darkness Has Not Overcome It: Jeremy Lin on the Coronavirus, Hate, and What he is Doing about It

When I saw an e-mail called titled “The Darkness Has Not Overcome It” this morning, I thought to myself, “some Players Tribune article, maybe I’ll read it later.”  I was surprised when I did read it later after seeing some news about Jeremy Lin and the coronavirus and wanting to confirm where that news came from. I found The Darkness Has Not Overcome It to be a fascinating and even moving essay from someone who has seen the coronavirus story from both sides of the Pacific.

“Every Asian American I know knows someone who has been targeted during this time.”

Lin has spoken out about the hatred that Asian-Americans are experiencing and talks about it in his essay.  He also mentions, somewhat embarrassingly, about how at first he didn’t take the crisis that seriously, even although he was close to the epicenter of the coronavirus shock.  Most importantly, he says that we can be lights in this time of darkness.  And to show that he isn’t just mouthing those words, he is donating $500,000 to two charities, Feeding America, and Direct Relief, and matching up $500,000 in other people’s donations for a month.   You can use the two previous links to donate to either charity and qualify for the match.

Be the light.

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