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P.O. Box 31928
San Francisco, CA, 94131-0928

A space to encourage writing of Filipino American literature and the arts




Philippine American Writers and Artists blog for lit/arts events, reviews, news, and opportunities.

Filtering by Category: Interview

Muzzle Magazine: 11 Questions with Jason Bayani

bjanepr 11 Questions with Jason Bayani


1.      How and when did you first get involved with the poetry slam?   

I kept hearing about these Poetry Slams while I was in college at San Francisco State. Never went to one because I was running around with this crew who was doing Asian party promotions.  Around this time (mid to late 90s) in San Francisco there was a bit of an artistic surge happening amongst young Filipino artists around performance and poetry and theatre and music and comedy that was inspiring as hell and I wanted to be a part of it.

The first person I’ve ever seen perform their poetry live was at this spot that used to be in Oakland called The Upper Room, and I saw Barbara Jane Reyes, who has moved on and done some pretty big things in the literary world, and it blew me away. I saw her doing her thing and it just hit me in the guts. I said, "I want to get on stage and do that ." When I graduated, I had been mostly doing theatre and felt I didn’t really have a future in acting, but I still needed something creative to do, so focusing in on spoken word seemed like the most practical and least costly way of being able feed those needs because I get to write AND perform and to do this; all I have to do is go out and drink beer. So I hit three slams within a few days of each other: Second Sundays at the now defunct Justice League in SF when it was hosted by Marc Bamuthi Joseph and was pulling in 400 plus a night, the Berkeley Slam, and the earliest incarnation of Jamie DeWolf’s show Tourettes Without Regret. After that, I was hooked.


4.      How has your working-class upbringing as the son of immigrants influenced your writing?

I think being the first American born child in my family and sitting right on that divide between here and the Philippines, because I don’t even know my own language, has in a way, maybe inadvertently, created a need in me to name my experience. It wasn’t any of fault of my parents, but growing up felt a lot like having to navigate this place, this America, on my own. To write became a way of coping, of trying to understand what this was. The poem helps me reframe my life, the experiences of my family, and to declare it when so much of my days are spent feeling, in this country, our experience is insignificant and easily erasable. 

5.      Can you speak a little about the genesis of Proletariat Bronze?

We were the only Filipinos at the time actively doing poetry slams in the Bay so we just kind of gravitated towards each other. There were several Asian American spoken word groups at that time. You had I Was Born With Two Tongues out of Chicago, Isangmahal out of Seattle, and the Bay had 8th Wonder. We thought we could start something like that and added a few more members but ultimately realized that might not have been the best idea and ended up stripping down to the three members we have today: that’s myself, Jaylee Alde, and Mesej 1.

09/23 - 09/25/2011: Universal Filipino at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe


Please also read Tony Robles's interview with Kilusan Bautista at Poor Magazine.

Who gave you the name Kilusan and what meaning does it hold for you?

In 1999, I was part of a Philippine study abroad program for Filipino Americans known as Tagalog On Site.  I was given the name Kilusan, which means active movement, by community activists and artists who encouraged me to continue the movement for social justice and human rights in the United States of North America.  The name Kilusan is more of a reminder that as a Filipino American I am connected to a global struggle and I have a responsibility to live consciously and to live for social change!

What is your relationship to poverty and how has it informed your work?

I grew up within a working class family in San Francisco.  Most of my youth dealt with the domestic struggles of having a father addicted to drugs.  I also have family in the Philippines who either live in urban slums or rural provinces.  As an artist and humanitarian, I create my work from these places because they molded how I see the world.  I work from the ideal that transformation comes from immense pain and struggle.  Therefore I look at poverty as a foundation that informs my work because it was a part of my identity as a young Filipino American and it was a huge push factor that influenced my family to immigrate to the United States of North America.

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PODCAST EPISODE 003: VISUAL ARTIST, JENIFER WOFFORD! Visual artists, take heed! The latest podcast features international artist and longtime educator, Jenifer Wofford! If you’re local to San Francisco, you may have recognized her work gracing the Market Street kiosk posters, or you may know her also as a member of the renowned Mail Order Brides art collective. Of the many gems that she offers in this episode, Jenifer shines light on:

  • The importance of artist adaptability; Curating your income streams
  • The secret advantages of the privileged in the art world
  • The concrete benefit of pursuing professional development (PD) and mentorship
  • Enjoying art outside of your own genre to keep your eyes fresh
  • And being “googleable”

“The ongoing crisis that happens in art departments, in our art programs, in art schools is that while they still do an excellent job of training young people how to make strong work, they do an absolutely appalling job of training them in how to get that work shared with other people and how to feel unconflicted about it.” --Jenifer K. Wofford

Podcast is here.

Rocket Kapre: Mervin Malonzo Talks “Tabi Po”


Via Rocket Kapre:

Mervin Malonzo’s “Tabi Po” is a beautifully illustrated webcomic that until recently was only available in Filipino. Now, Mervin has released an English language version on the Kindle and will be releasing another version on the Nook and the iBookstore. (Note that the Kindle version has a different layout than the original comic – the “sample” button is your friend.) I took the opportunity to speak to Mervin about “Tabi Po”, the pros and cons of webcomics, and the new English international editions.

How would you pitch “Tabi Po” to new readers? What’s it about, and why should people read it?

... to publishers and other people I’d like to impress, I would say, “It’s my own interpretation or deconstruction of the Philippine mythology and folklore. I made the aswangs, engkantos, diwatas and anitos as real as I could, putting them in our history, creating a feasible origin story for them and how they were affected by and will in turn affect the human race. Are aswang really different from humans? I am also fusing some Christian beliefs with the old nature worship. Ultimately, it is my explanation of how our world would work if these beings really existed. The purpose of this whole epic is to make the reader think about human nature, the environment, religion and the meaning of life, the universe and everything–all while still being entertained.”

Why did you pick an Aswang for the hero of your book?

Because I believed that it would be interesting and fresh! In most stories, aswangs are often depicted as the enemy, the evil ones, the devils! And they are commonly drawn as monsters, deformed and really really wretched.

I wanted to attack these norms. So I made them the center of the story and made them beautiful and almost human. They do not need to transform into monsters to look terrifying. Wouldn’t it be scarier if they looked human while they fed on humans?

Are they evil? Maybe so, because they kill! But humans also kill, right? Having an aswang as my “bida” allows me to have that moral ambiguity. There is no pure good and pure evil in this world, my friends!

Read more.

07/12/2011: Hossannah Asuncion and Tamiko Beyer on The Blood-Jet Writing Hour (Online Radio)


Join Rachelle Cruz as she talks with Hossannah Asuncion, author of FRAGMENTS OF LOSS and Tamiko Beyer, author of BOUGH BREAKS, on The Blood-Jet Writing Hour, Tuesday, July 12th at 11 am PST / 2 pm EST. To listen live, click here.

Or, you can copy and paste this link into your browser:

Hossannah Asuncion was raised near the 105 and 710 freeways in L.A. She currently lives near an F/G stop in Brooklyn. Kimiko Hahn selected her manuscript, Fragments of Loss, for a 2010 Poetry Society of America National Chapbook Fellowship. She is also a Kundiman fellow and a graduate of the Sarah Lawrence Writing program. She collects fragments of loss here:

Tamiko Beyer is the author of bough breaks from Meritage Press. She is the poetry editor of Drunken Boat and a freelance writer. She leads creative writing workshop for at-risk youth and other community groups, mentors high school writers through Girls Write Now, and is a founding member of Agent 409: a queer writing collective in New York City. Find her online at

Interview: R. Zamora Linmark at the Honolulu Weekly


From Honolulu Weekly: Did you have fun writing Leche? There’s a sense of fun in it.


Do you disagree?

There has to be pleasure and passion, but did I have fun? Not if it has to take me 12 years to write. It was grueling because the more I went into the history of Vince [the main character], the more research I had to do. And even when we were done editing the manuscript last fall, I was still rewriting and adding sections.

Why did it take so long to write Leche after Rolling the R’s?

Leche. [He laughs after using it as a curse word.] I didn’t want to write another Rolling the R’s. It’s easy to fall in that formulaic pit. I was writing against [it] even though I consider Leche a sequel. The challenge of producing another novel that has the same kind of originality… That took a while.

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Interview: Donna Miscolta at The Freelance and Fiction Blog


From The Freelance and Fiction: Today's special guest author is Donna Miscolta. Her book is titled When the de la Cruz Family Danced.

Welcome to the blog, Donna! Could you tell us a little bit about your novel? Thanks, Rachel. The novel concerns the emotionally disconnected de la Cruzes, a Filipino-Mexican-American family living in one of the overlooked and unimposing little cities south of San Diego and north of Tijuana. It’s a place where Johnny de la Cruz, a reluctant immigrant, fulfilled his dream of owning a home. Now, sick with cancer and faced with the possibility of dying, he feels deeply the lack of a son. It is a lack that his wife has shared to some extent and which over the years has distanced them from their daughters. A young man, Winston Piña, whose mother has recently died and whose father had earlier abandoned him, enters the lives of the de la Cruz family. He brings polish and charm and a sense of accomplishment, perhaps completion, to the family whose relationships have long been fragile. The story explores a couple of questions: How does one deal with regrets as the end of life nears? Where and how do we belong in terms of family, community, and even the world?

What led you to write this novel? Long before I was ready to write a novel, I wrote a first chapter as an exercise for a writing class I was taking. I started the chapter as I waited for a flight from Seattle to San Diego to attend my father’s funeral. Though the novel isn’t about my father, losing him prompted questions about his life that I wanted to apply to a fictional character.

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Interview: Donna Miscolta at First Line Blog


From First Line: Donna Miscolta's debut novel, When the de la Cruz Family Danced has just been released. Her short fiction has appeared in Calyx, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, New Millennium Writings, Connecticut Review and other journals. Her short story collection, Natalie Wood's Fake Puerto Rican Accent was a finalist for the 2010 Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction. She has received literary awards from 4Culture, Artist Trust, the Bread Loaf/Rona Jaffe Foundation and Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs. She's been an artist-in-residence at Anderson Center, Atlantic Center for the Arts and Hedgebrook, and was recently awarded an NEA-sponsored residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She grew up in National City, California and lives in Seattle, Washington.

Welcome to the First Line blog, Donna!

First Line (FL): Donna, I read that you did not start writing until you were almost forty. Were you always an avid reader, though?

Donna Miscolta (DM): Yes, I’ve always been a reader except for a phase in high school when I sort of zoned out in the lost days of my awkward adolescence. Even the comfort of a good book couldn’t rescue me from a sense of displacement and disorientation – of not fitting in and not knowing who I was and where I belonged. But even then, I considered books things of wonder and thought that the creation of one was reserved for the divinely ordained – which is the reason, I think, it took me so long to give writing a try.

FL: You have a great story about how your novel, When the de la Cruz Family Danced was discovered and eventually published. Would you mind retelling it for us?

DM: The discovery happened after my novel had been turned down by over thirty editors.

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Interview: Blue Scholars at NPR


The Record with Ann Powers: "Grind and Shine: Blue Scholars." ARTISTS: In the early 2000s in Seattle, Blue Scholars performed the essential task of bringing hip-hop to music lovers who weren't all that familiar with hip-hop, but were willing to give it a chance. Rapper George Quibeyen, better known as Geologic, and DJ/producer Sabzi Sabzi (born Alexei Saba Mohajerjasbi) are big reasons why today — as opposed to 15 years ago — a rap concert is something the average Seattleite might attend on a Friday night.

The duo's ultramelodic, super-sincere style also resonates especially well with tweens, which has helped their audience beyond Seattle grow as other artists take over the slot of most-buzzed about local act. Blue Scholars is currently regrouping, promoting new album Cinemetropolis more independently than ever before, looking forward to non-Scholars projects with California residents. Geo is set to release music with rapper Bambu; Sabzi will pursue his nascent rap-inspired headphone pop group Made in Heights, with singer Kelsey Bulkin.

SETTING: The Station, 2533 16th Ave. South, Beacon Hill


At the Station in Beacon Hill, the Blue Scholars are stars — and family. Geo and Sabzi are buddies with the owner, Luis Rodriguez, and his staff. As we talked in this small, warm-spirited establishment, the sound of a barista scraping Mexican chocolate into drinks mingled with the yelps of Geo's kindergarten-aged son and his friends as they played a game on Dad's laptop. The scene felt comfortably hyper-local. The Blue Scholars are clearly still rooted here. But the Internet is helping this most emblematic Seattle hip-hop pair go international in new, exciting ways, as they revealed to us in the final interview of our series on Seattle hip-hop, Grind And Shine.

ANN POWERS: When Blue Scholars came on the scene in the mid-'00s, fans and critics loved you for representing the diversity of Seattle — the multi-ethnic nature of the neighborhoods here.

SABZI: I don't like the word diversity.

GEO: For the record, let it be known that Ann made scare quotes with her fingers when she said the word, "diversity"!

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