MDWK Magazine’s 2017 in review

MDWK Magazine’s 2017 in review

Reflecting on the newsmakers, personalities, organizations, and events that made the cover

With 2017 now a distant memory, the Asian Journal editorial team begins 2018 with a reflection on the top MDWK Magazine cover stories from the past 12 months that were widely read, shared, and discussed.

Despite the hard news stories within the pages of Section A — many of them covering politics, conflicts, tragedies, controversies, and more along those lines — the weekly MDWK Magazine continues to be a source of positivity and inspiration, highlighting the Filipinos and Filipino-Americans who are succeeding in the fields of politics, health care, business, sports, media/entertainment, fashion, and culinary.

 *To read these selected features & other stories in their entirety, please visit

LA Deputy Mayor for budget and innovation Miguel Sangalang: Helping Los Angeles and the community connect through technology (View Article)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2016 told the Asian Journal that the city is “one of the great Filipino cities of the world” and praised the various Filipino-Americans who work within his administration and throughout the city’s departments.

In June 2017, Garcetti appointed Miguel Sangalang as deputy mayor for budget and innovation, making the latter the first Fil-Am deputy mayor under the Garcetti administration. Under this role, he coordinates general functions of the city: budget, performance management, sustainability, technology, data and innovation.

Sangalang, a 10-year veteran of the city of LA, was previously executive officer for budget and innovation, and has held various roles such as IT specialist in the Bureau of Sanitation and director of finance and performance management.

“If you look at my background and how I got here, it’s not necessarily a straight line to government. All of those experiences end up being a part of who you are so you need to have them in order to calibrate your own internal compass because, in places where you have greater responsibility and greater elevation, it becomes a little hazier — cloudier, I’ll say. You always need that internal compass to help guide you,” Sangalang said during the interview.

 Rachelle Ann Go & Christine Allado: All set to play the Schuyler sisters in the West End production of ‘Hamilton’ (View Article)

In fall 2017, Filipina thespians Rachelle Ann Go and Christine Allado began their tenure as the Schuyler sisters in the West End production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton: An American Musical.”

Go took on the role of Eliza Schuyler, wife of Alexander Hamilton, while Allado has the dual roles of Eliza’s younger sister, Peggy, and the temptress Maria Reynolds in the second act.

Go — whose experience includes “Miss Saigon” and “Les Miserables” — told the Asian Journal that “Hamilton” is “another dream musical.”

“I listened to the album and na-in love ako sa music (I fell in love with the music). Sabi ko, ‘Naku, Lord, parang gusto ko ito!’ Then narinig ko yung songs ni Eliza so sabi ko, ‘This is what I want’. At that point, cli-naim ko na, I’m going to do this. (I said, ‘Lord, I think I like this!’ Then, I heard Eliza’s songs so I said, ‘I’m claiming it, I’m going to do this),’” she shared.

Meanwhile, Allado, an acclaimed classical Filipino crossover singer, has previously been seen in the West End productions of “Here Lies Love” and “In the Heights,” among others.

Jordan Clarkson on embracing basketball and his Filipino roots (View Article)

Jordan Clarkson, the shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, has long embraced his Filipino roots on his mother’s side. But in 2017, in particular, Clarkson made extra effort to reach out to his Fil-Am fans by attending more community events. In the earlier part of the year, he held a meet and greet in New York, which was attended by Philippine Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, who remarked that Clarkson is a “Fil-Am ambassador of basketball” for younger Filipinos and Fil-Ams. In October, Clarkson was joined by his mother and grandmother at the Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture (FPAC) in Los Angeles, marking his first public appearance at a large Fil-Am community event.

On being Fil-Am, Clarkson told the Asian Journal, “It means a lot — it’s a part of my culture. I feel like a pioneer…with me being a Filipino-American in the NBA right now and being the only one is definitely something I want to represent.”

“I know we take a lot of pride and passion in our culture. It’s just something to be proud to be a part of and I’m looking to be involved in many ways,” he added.

Shanna Mendiola: NBC4’s Emmy Award-winning meteorologist on hard work and success (View Article)

Fil-Am Shanna Mendiola has been the meteorologist for NBC4 Southern California’s weekday morning newscast “Today in LA” since March 2017. Before moving to NBC4 in 2014, she worked for TV stations in Denver, San Francisco, and Oregon.

Mendiola told the Asian Journal that her daily work spans beyond the misconception that meteorologists just “talk, smile, and be pretty.”

“My day starts the day before with planning and getting a good night’s rest, but before that, studying all the computer models,” she shared. “Meteorologists do a lot of work. I studied in school to learn how to read these computer models to tell us the weather patterns and what’s going to happen, and then keep up to date with the news because that relates to weather and telling people what to be prepared for as well.”

Growing up, the Emmy Award-winning meteorologist recalls watching Al Roker on the “Today” show daily during her social studies class. She would later fill in for Roker on the show in several instances. “I watched him every day as a kid. I got to work for him. How exciting is that? I feel very, very blessed to have done it, and to be the first Asian American to have done it as well — that’s history,” she remarked.

Coolhaus co-founders Freya Estreller & Natasha Case bring architecturally-inspired, creatively-flavored frozen treats (View Article)

The Asian Journal had the opportunity to sit down with Freya Estreller and Natasha Case, the co-founders of Coolhaus, a nearly-decade old Los Angeles-based artisanal ice cream sandwich company with out-of-the-box flavors from fried chicken and waffles to foie gras PB&J. The pair spoke about how they built the company and what it’s like to be both business and life partners.

Case, who as an architecture background, recalled how she began making ice cream sandwiches for an employee holiday bake sale while working at Walt Disney Imagineering. Though comprised of an ice cream scoop wedged in between two cookies, they were more than that, as she calls it: “Farchitecture” (food + architecture) creations, playing on famous architects and structures. Realizing how much of a hit the combinations were, Case, along with Fil-Am Estreller, soon transformed this hobby into a business venture.

“I really like that core principle of expressing yourself,” Estreller said. “No flavor or collaboration is too weird or kooky.”

Esteller, who has since moved on to other ventures including Ludlows Cocktail Co., continues to consult with Coolhaus occasionally.

“You have to be bigger than the brand and the brand has to be bigger than you. Luckily, Coolhaus is a brand that’s not only our faces and identities,” Case shared. “It’s bigger than just the who. Our relationship didn’t exist for the purpose of growing Coolhaus… If anything, having an Asian woman co-founder and being a same-sex couple — all these elements of diversity have only helped us.”

In the next three to five years, customers can expect more flavors and products and for Coolhaus to be sold at more retail locations.

Jonas Gaffud on making beauty queens (View Article)

Beauty queen maker and pageant coach Jonas Gaffud, also known as “Mama J,” was in Los Angeles this past fall to launch his book, “The Crown: The Essential Guide to Becoming a Beauty Queen.” Considered a “crash course into the world of pageantry,” Gaffud shared personal stories, industry insights, tried and tested makeup, fitness, and posture tips.

Gaffud and his Aces & Queens squad have helped over 30 beauty queens become winners. His most recent trainees include Miss International 2016 Kylie Verzosa, Miss World 2013 Megan Young, Arida who was third in Miss Universe 2013, and of course, Wurtzbach who took home the Miss Universe crown in 2015 in a highly-publicized win.

“I think they’re a symbol of hope, especially in the Philippines,” Gaffud told the Asian Journal as to why beauty pageants and queens are popular among Filipinos.

Chess Grandmaster Wesley So: Dedication and ability to be the best in the world (View Article)

At 23 years old, Filipino Wesley So is considered the second best chess player in the world. Considered one of the youngest grandmasters on the planet, his position in the chess world proves that mastery and skillfulness lie not on age, but on dedication and ability.

So shared that he began playing chess at 6 years old and would challenge those older than him to play with him.

At age 9, he acquired his very first major tournament victory in the 2003 Philippine National Chess Championships, and has since then, traveled all over the world for tournaments, often times placing at the top of them. In 2016, he won The Sinquefield Cup, 42nd Chess Olympiad, London Chess Classic and Grand Chess Tour.

“They say this sort of work is not something you choose, it chooses you. I am grateful to be chosen,” he said.  “It (chess) is my job and I am good at it and the people I work with treat me with respect.  It is an arena I am comfortable in.”

Fil-Am footwear pioneer Rich ‘One’ Cofinco: Keeping the vision (View Article)

From his beginnings as a respected street artist, to building a name in the footwear industry, Rich “One” Cofinco has proven to be an unstoppable, freewheeling creative.

Confinco, whose experience includes working at Vans and starting brands like 4ce Footwear, Creative Recreation, and As Seen in the Future, said: “your blueprint is your sole — no pun intended — of your shoe.”

Creative Recreation’s shoes quickly gained attention from celebrities including Kanye West, Justin Timberlake, Alec Baldwin, Robert Downey Jr., and Ryan Seacrest, among many others, and were featured in magazines like GQ, Marie Claire, Men’s Health, and Men’s Vogue.

The success of the company wasn’t something Cofinco really expected, saying, “Even to this day, I look back and can’t believe something like that happened.”

Explaining why he considers himself his biggest influence, he said, “You have to believe in yourself at the end of the day. If anyone is a true believer of what you do and has your back, it’s yourself. Everyone else around here will do that for you as well, but you have to believe in yourself.”

Matina CEO and Founder Margot Bautista Henry on expressing Filipino pride and personal style (View Article)

Filipina Margot Bautista Henry, who had been in the banking industry, came up with the idea of a clothing company after discovering the shortage of Filipino-made/designed clothes she could wear to work.

“My searches would always come up with Filipiniana clothing, terno, or any variety of the Filipino national garb or costume — which, of course, I could not (would not!) wear to my corporate job,” Henry shared with the Asian Journal. “I recognize[d] that I must not be the only one that has search for this, being that I am not the first, nor the only, first-gen Filipino immigrant that has probably had the same yearning.”

Opened in August 2016, Henry’s line, Matina, is one of the fastest-growing U.S. based online store featuring world-class apparel by Filipino designers, curated for life in the U.S. and beyond. The store features brands like Uniform, Anika, Florence Fling and Ethnique, which are all owned and run by Filipina women.

“Matina features designers that are Filipino. Their work may or may not be Filipino-inspired. I think this is an important distinction because we are not positioning ourselves as a store selling Filipino-themed items, rather we are a Filipino brand, seeking to fulfill the need of the Filipino-American to be able to wear world-class and high-quality apparel that has a little piece of home with them that they can show off and be proud of,” Henry explained.

National Nurses Week: Celebrating Filipino nurses’ contributions to the US 

(View Article)

Besides featuring certain personalities, organizations and businesses, the MDWK Magazine also runs special supplement features that are tied to certain holidays and celebrations of a given month. In May 2017, we ran our first-ever special section dedicated to the nurses who take of patients across the United States, in time for National Nurses Week (May 6-12).

There are over 3.1 million registered nurses (RNs) in the U.S., many of whom are Filipino and Fil-Am. The history of Filipinos migrating to the United States to be trained as nurses stems back to the 1900s. Some stayed in the country, while others returned to the Philippines to put their expertise to practice and set up nursing schools and programs. According to a report by Quartz, “nearly one out of every five Filipino women in the U.S. works as a nurse” and in California alone, 20.3 percent of nurses identify as Filipino.

The Asian Journal interviewed several RNs across the country to ask why Filipinos are attracted to the field.

“Filipino nurses excel in the United States because caring for others — especially our elderly and family — is already a quintessential part of our culture,” shared Kathleen Reyes, a registered nurse in Southern California. “Having a dynamic with our own families that includes extended relatives and our elderly has formed our nursing skills of caring even before we pass our NCLEX. Filipino nurses are important because we do give that unique and deeply authentic [tender loving care].”

“People and communities should honor [and] pay tribute to nurses [all] year long. Not only on Nurses Week, but every day,” Tess Dela Cruz, an RN for over three decades and a current nurse care manager in New York, said.

Anthony Cailan: Fil-Am sommelier in Los Angeles (View Article)

Anthony Cailan, the current beverage director at restaurant/wine bar Hayden, is considered one of the youngest sommeliers to oversee a wine program in Los Angeles.

In his conversation with the Asian Journal, Cailan — who is the younger brother of Alvin Cailan of Eggslut, Amboy, and Unit 120 — talked about his start in the food industry, lessons from his older brother, the best wines to pair with Filipino cuisine, and what it takes to become a sommelier.

“[Alvin] kept on reminding me that ‘You are a Filipino-American.’ I’ve always just associated myself as being an Angeleno, but in reality, I am also a Filipino-American representing [my] people in that industry,” Cailan said.

The younger Cailan, who graduated from Culinary Institute of America, held Alvin open Eggslut and went on to work at famed wine shop Domaine LA to some of the best restaurants in LA, including Bestia as a runner, server and eventually wine steward, and Animal as a line cook.

Cailan, whose goal is to have his own restaurant and wine bar, said his advice for those who want to get started in the industry is to “Work hard. Don’t have a huge ego.”

“Wine tends to do that to people, but work really hard and honestly, have humility. If someone has a different palette than you, that’s normal. Be someone who’s always open-minded and always be willing to try something new or even try something you have already written off. Try again,” he added.

LA, NYC Fil-Am chefs at the heart of ‘ULAM’ (View Article)

“ULAM,” (Tagalog for main dish) an hour-long documentary by Filipina-American filmmaker Alexandra Cuerdo, looks at the rise of the Filipino food movement in Los Angeles and New York City. It was first previewed in front of over 600 individuals at the Million Dollar Theater as part of the LA Food Bowl, the Los Angeles Times’ inaugural month-long festival this past May 2017.

As seen in “ULAM,” this current accessibility to Filipino food is thanks to chefs and restaurant owners like NYC-based Romy Dorotan and Amy Besa of Purple Yam and Nicole Ponseca and Miguel Trinidad of Maharlika and Jeepney. In LA, we have Andre Guerrero (The Oinkster, Maximiliano, The Little Bear & Ramen Room), Johneric Concordia and Christine Araquel-Concordia of The Park’s Finest, Alvin Cailan (Eggslut, Amboy & Unit 120), Ricebar’s Charles Olalia, and brothers Chase and Chad Valencia of LASA.

“Right now, we’re kind of hitting this stride — this renaissance, if you will, of Filipino food in the states. Everyone is doing something very different and unique, where it’s personal to themselves, authentic to themselves,” Chase Valencia narrates.

In a conversation with Fil-Am cinematographer Matty Libatique, Cuerdo was encouraged to pursue a Filipino food documentary and reached out to John Floresca, who became the film’s co-producer and cinematographer. She then met Cailan at a NextDayBetter event in 2015 and became connected with other chefs in LA.

While only chefs and restaurants in LA and NYC were highlighted in “ULAM,” Cuerdo hinted that it could spring off into a series of documentaries on more chefs in cities like Washington D.C., Chicago and San Francisco. “By no means did we want it to be a manual, an A to Z. This is just a taste of what’s to come, so we would love to do part two. We would love to profile many of the other amazing Filipino chefs and we’re looking forward to the future,” she told the Asian Journal, adding “At the end of the day, if we can get anyone who watches this film to try one of these restaurants, that’s the goal. We’re really trying to promote our culture through food.”

‘The Girl Who Sees’: Fil-Ams design new video game on Filipino culture and mythology (View Article)

Building on Filipino-produced video games, including Anito: Defend a Land Enraged (2003), a group of Fil-Ams has embarked on the journey to develop an internationally-released, kid-friendly game about ancient Philippine mythology.

Set during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II, “The Girl Who Sees” is a 2D point-and-click adventure role-playing game (RPG) that follows Quina Laban (the Tagalog word for fight), a young Filipina girl living in a fishing village. She encounters mythological creatures, like a duwende (dwarf) or kapre (tree giant), and embarks on quests, such as translating a mysterious ancient scroll.

Pattie Umali, the game’s creator and project lead, came up with the idea in 2016 while pursuing a master’s degree in international and intercultural communication at American University in Washington, DC, where she had taken some courses at the Game Lab. Later that year, she participated in the Global Game Jam, where she met Cherisse Datu and Nathan Hahn, who are both now part of the design and development team of “The Girl Who Sees.”

Though the target audience is 10 to 30 years old, the team says it can transcend generations and age groups — kids can play it with their parents and other older relatives and start conversations their own stories— and cater to those who don’t have much experience playing video games.

“I hope that people who don’t traditionally play games will give this a chance and check out our demo. Something that I’m really focused on is making this game accessible to people of all types of ages and all levels… because as I said, I do think that this is something that could really bond people of different age groups together,” Umali said. “They don’t have to be scared of it just because it’s a video game. It is fun to play and it will teach you some things.”

To coincide with Filipino-American History Month in October 2017, the team launched the game’s demo and a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo with a $30,000 goal. This funding will go toward developing, promoting and publishing the game with four chapters by December 2018 available for Windows and Mac computers

‘Motherland’: A conversation with award-winning Fil-Am documentarian Ramona Diaz on witnessing the miracle of life amidst chaos, reproductive rights in the Philippines (View Article)

The Asian Journal sat down with Ramona Diaz (“Imelda,” “Don’t Stop Believin’”), the filmmaker behind “Motherland,” a documentary that explores the goings-on inside Dr. Jose Fabella Hospital in Manila, which is purportedly the busiest maternity ward in the world. Throughout the 90-minute exploration into the daily life of Fabella, perhaps the most significant takeaway is despite difficult conditions, the miracle of life and strength of the human spirit still finds a way to shine through.

“Motherland” — which was filmed over 14-16 hour days every day for six weeks — was screened at the coveted Sundance Film Festival in January 2017 where it won the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Commanding Vision award. Diaz has screened the film all over the world including Los Angeles, New York, Austin, Australia, Germany and Russia.

“I’m always interested in women’s rights and female stories, which are very important stories to tell. It was interesting to me too because I grew up in the Philippines, which is a very Catholic country and also the only country in the world that doesn’t have [a] divorce law. There are so many things about this that makes me think, ‘I can’t believe we’re still fighting over bodies of women or what women can do.’ It just boggles my mind,” Diaz shared why she wanted to explore reproductive health rights in the Philippines.

A Pinay gathering: Celebrating Women’s History Month through Fil-Am women writers and their books (View Article)

To mark Women’s History Month in March, Philippine Expressions Bookshop in San Pedro, California held a gathering of Filipina authors who each shared the value of their books.

Those in attendance included Herminia Meñez-Coben (“Verbal Arts in Philippine Indigenous Communities: Poetics, Society, and History” and “Explorations in Philippine Folklore”), Carlene Sobrino Bonniver (“Filipinotown: Voices from Los Angeles”), Lucy Urgello Miller (“Glimpses of Old Cebu”), Roselyn Estepa Ibanez (co-author of “Filipinos in Carson and the South Bay”), Cecilia Manguerra Brainard (“Magdalena”), Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko (“Forty Years Writing in America), Leslie V. Ryan (“I am Flippish”), and Carmen F. Davino (“Of Love and Virtue”).

Bonnivier, editor of the anthology “Filipinotown: Voices from Los Angeles” featuring 40 contributors, spoke of growing up in the Historic Filipinotown neighborhood of Los Angeles, where her strong paternal genes from her Swedish father forced her to stand out in the neighborhood. Though she says she does not capture the look of a traditional Filipina and was not born in the Philippines, her heart remains close to her mother’s heritage. Bonnivier spoke fondly of her mother who is “not five feet tall or 100 pounds,” but a gentle, sweet, and tender woman. Capturing daily life in the decades of the 1900s, Bonnivier shares the exciting daily adventures in “Little Manila,” as well as the political struggles Fil-Ams had to endure with the swaying government decisions.  The cover of her book displays artist Eliseo Silva’s famous mural depicting Fil-Am history, which can be found in Unidad Park along Beverly Boulevard.

Ibanez, a public servant working with the LA City Housing Council to focus on combating the issue of homelessness, told the audience that the city is politically active and calls for more Fil-Ams to be more engaged.

“Our history needs to be told and our stories need to be written,” she stressed.

 26 years of Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture (FPAC): LA’s largest and longest-running Fil-Am celebration crosses generations, showcases best in Filipino culture (View Article)

Each year, Filipino-American communities across the United States mark October as Fil-Am History Month through historical events, parades and festivals.

In Los Angeles, one of the most-anticipated celebrations is the Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture (FPAC) organized by the Association for the Advancement of Filipino American Arts and Culture (FilAm ARTS) was held on Saturday, October 14, 2017 at Echo Park Lake. FPAC was first conceptualized in 1990 as part of the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department’s Festivals Program, an arts program designed to address the multicultural constituency of the city.

“Twenty-six years later, we are still that authentic cultural festival that bridges generations,” shared FilAm ARTS interim executive director Tina Salonga-Bulchand. “The festival is inclusive, bringing those layers of multiple generations and levels of immigration to one place. It’s something that lolas, second-generation Fil-Ams, and even non-Pinoys, can enjoy.”

The theme for 2017 was Salin-Lahi (“Bridging Generations”), which can be reflected in every facet of the festival, from the food to performances. Headliners included Jordan Clarkson of the Lakers, Black Eyed Peas’, R&B singer Jessica Reynoso, DJ Virman of the Far East Movement, Kronika of Soulection, Anatalia Villaranda from The Voice Season 12, Bella Fiasco, and Joel Quizon (Disco Manila).

The festival also honored five awardees: LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis (Public Service Award), Pilipino Workers’ Center (Community Service Award), Philippine Expressions Bookshop (Literary Award), Martial Arts Guru Richard Bustillo (Excellence in Arts Award), and actor Reggie Lee (Excellence in Arts Award).

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