By Pamela Delupio
Each year in October, we celebrate Filipinx American History Month to commemorate the arrival of the first Filipinx people in America in what is known today as Morro Bay, CA in October of 1587.
We not only share our history, but our culture, loves, and beliefs in honor of our families past, present, and those yet to come.
Sharing stories is a huge part of the Filipinx tradition. It is in sharing our words and experiences that we give a piece of ourselves to the history.
To spread the joy and laughter of our culture, today I asked four amazing authors who identify as Filipino to give us a glimpse into their own stories through this fun Q&A.
First, please give us a brief introduction, your name, title of your book, and a book by another Filipino author you recommend.
Lygia: I’m Lygia Day Peñaflor. Creep: A Love Story is my third novel. It’s the tragic love story of Laney Villanueva and Nico Fiore, Holy Family High School’s most popular couple, as told through the eyes of Rafi, the sophomore who’s stalking them. I’m currently reading Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades, a vivid, immersive novel about families in Queens, New York.
Maan: Maan Gabriel, author of After Perfect, and I recommend every Filipino book in existence. It is the only way we can normalize our culture in mainstream space.
Jason: I’m Jason Tanamor, author of the YA Filipino novel, Love, Dance & Egg Rolls. A super cute book I just finished reading is by Tracy Badua called Freddie Vs. the Family Curse.
Tracy: I’m Tracy Badua, Filipino American author of books for children and young adults. My debut contemporary fantasy middle grade, Freddie Vs. the Family Curse, came out earlier this year, and my contemporary young adult novel, This is Not a Personal Statement, is out January 17, 2023. I live in sunny San Diego with my family and photogenic Maltese, Sandy.
I’d love to give a shoutout to Gail D. Villanueva, author of such wonderful middle grade works as My Fate According to the Butterfly and Sugar and Spite. I’m excited for her upcoming Lulu Singatala and the Tagalog Gods series, out next year!
Parents are a big influence on our stories as well, and Filipinx people definitely have a lot of humor. So many jokes and funny stories shared at parties. Tell us your favorite Filipino dad joke or Filipinx saying.
Lygia: My dad believes you should always dress well for your sports. This way, at least you look good, even if you’re not. He’ll show off his tennis outfit and say, “If you cannot play . . . display!” Ha!
Maan: “Make sure you finish your food in one place. If you move, you will get married twice.” My mom says that all the time. LOL!
Jason: Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big “dad joke” guy. My favorite Filipino dad joke is:
What is a Filipino’s favorite flower? Tulips. As in 😙 (kissing face emoji)
Tracy: I don’t have a specific, favorite Filipino dad joke, but as a writer, I particularly love how word play is such a great source of humor in our languages! The hosts of the This Filipino American Life podcast are so clever and creative at this, so check them out if you haven’t already.
As for my favorite saying, it’s right in Chapter One of Freddie Vs. the Family Curse, when Freddie asks his mother if they have any rice left. Her response: “Look with your eyes, not with your mouth.”
Also very prominent in Filipinx culture is the food. Oh yes, you all knew this question was coming! Tell us your favorite dish, and as a bonus, can you cook it/have your own personal recipe?
Lygia: I love halo-halo on a hot day! With ube, buko, beans, lanka, and leche flan. I’m looking for a shaved ice machine so that I can make it at home.
Maan: My ultimate favorite is sinigang, of course. And when I cook, I put a lot of tomatoes and taro.
Jason: I love egg rolls, and whenever they are set out, I can toss them down like a sleight of hand magician. Oftentimes, three to seven at a time. Years ago, my grandmother taught my wife and me how to make them (at least her recipe), so we’ll (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘my wife’) will make them and I’ll help roll them.
Tracy: Extra-sour sinigang is my favorite! I can make it, but I’ve never ventured past the soup mix packet to try using tamarind or other from-scratch souring agents. I know better than to push the boundaries of my so-so cooking skills.
Since a lot of our books stem from growing up in the Filipinx culture, and our stories reflect our experiences, can you tell us a favorite memory from your childhood that you may have woven into your book, or a scene inspired by a personal experience?
Lygia: My cousins have always been my best friends, so I gave Laney Villanueva cousins as her best friends in Creep. Her cousins are b-boys who compete in breakdance competitions. They also sing karaoke at parties. They all go to the same high school—I always thought that would be so fun.
Maan: My parents’ love. I tried to show the love I felt from my parents in After Perfect. I draw so much about how my mom has stood by me through thick and thin. I was not an easy teenager.
Jason: There is a mahjong scene in Love, Dance & Egg Rolls involving family members of the Filipino dancing troupe. They play all night, betting small wages while people eat and chat around them, and karaoke blasts on the television nearby. This organized chaos was a regular part of my life growing up. When our dancing troupe would break to eat, I’d sit at the table that my father was playing at, eating while watching the group banter and smack talk, while dropping ivory tiles and clicking them together. It’s one of my favorite memories and scenes in the book. It’s one of the most Filipino moments that was a big part of my life.
Tracy: There’s so much in Freddie that is loosely drawn from my own life. For example, Freddie having an elder family member—his great-grandmother Apong Rosing—in his household and him spending a lot of time with his cousin Sharkey are experiences I share. Even tiny details like having banana ketchup and home-cooked rice with your store-bought fried chicken or using ginger to treat muscle sprains are little hints to how I grew up.
Lygia Day Peñaflor is the author of Creep: A Love Story, All of This Is True, and Unscripted Joss Byrd. She also teaches young Hollywood stars on television and movie sets. Her students have included cast members of Gossip Girl, Boardwalk Empire, Spielberg’s West Side Story, and others. She lives on Long Island, NY, where she rides horses and flies from a trapeze. Twitter / Instagram @lygiaday.
Maan Gabriel is a mom, wife, dreamer, writer, and advocate for women’s stories in literature. She earned her BA in communications from St. Scholastica’s College in Manila and MPS in public relations and corporate communications from Georgetown University. She has lived in Manila, Brussels, Dakar, and Mexico City. During the day, she works in strategic communications. Gabriel, along with her husband and son, currently calls suburban Washington DC home. After Perfect is her first novel.
Jason Tanamor is a Filipino American writer and author. Named as one of the “5 Best Modern Filipino Writers” by Pinas Global Newspaper, Tanamor enjoys writing in different genres. He is the critically acclaimed author of the novels Anonymous, Drama Dolls, Vampires of Portlandia, and Love, Dance & Egg Rolls. His writings have appeared in more than 250 publications. He’s interviewed Smashing Pumpkins, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Guns n’ Roses, Pete Rose, and Dane Cook, and has covered U.S. President Barack Obama. Tanamor currently lives and works in the Portland, Oregon area.
Tracy Badua is a Filipino American author of books about young people with sunny hearts in a sometimes stormy world. According to her grandmother, Tracy inherited this love of the written word from her great-grandfather, a school teacher in the Philippines. To Tracy, this means writing is in her blood, and she continues this family tradition by telling stories with her own spin in an accessible, heartfelt way. By day, she is an attorney who works in national housing policy and programs, and by night, she squeezes in writing, family and pup time, and bites of her secret stash of candy. School and work brought her from California to Washington, DC, and back, and she now lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, family, and photogenic Maltese.
Pamela Delupio was born in Manila, Philippines and raised in Southern California. She currently works for a library in the same neighborhood in which she grew up. She earned her bachelor’s in journalism with an emphasis on Public Relations. She is currently working on a young adult novel, Move the Stars, which can be described as The Labyrinth meets Howl’s Moving Castle in a world inspired by Filipino folklore. Twitter/Instagram/TikTok: @pameladelupio