TFAL Podcast: Episode 88

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hanging out (virtually) with the incredible team at This Filipino American Life Podcast. I’ve been listening to the podcast on and off for about a year now. Joe Bernardo, one of the hosts, is a friend from college. I knew him as a youngin’ when we were at UC Santa Barbara together. That he is involved with this podcast makes perfect sense. Joe has always been invested in and curious about the various textures of Filipino/American life.

I was so happy to be part of this episode because it allowed me to discuss further, some of the issues that weren’t covered in the Refinery29 story. Since it aired, I have received a tremendous amount of love and support from people who felt connected to the topic. For that, I am very grateful. Again, many thanks to Joe, Elaine, Ryan, and Mike of This Filipino American Life Podcast for the lovely conversation and share.

Maraming Salamat,
Joanne L. Rondilla, Ph.D.
San Mateo, CA

coffee stories

As I was listening to an episode of This Filipino American Life, I learned that my FAVORITE coffee shop carries Philippine coffee. (As of this writing, it’s unavailable, but I’m keeping my eye out on you, Andytown!) After listening to the show, I found this story by Corazon Padilla, Andytown’s Director of Quality Control. I’m sure we all have a coffee story to share. Here, Padilla explains a brief history of Philippine coffee in the U.S. that pre-dates Starbucks. Fascinating! Cheers to your morning cuppa joe and the pan de sal you’re dunking into it.

Maraming Salamat,
Joanne L. Rondilla, Ph.D.
South San Francisco, CA

on Refinery29

A few months ago, I was invited to be interviewed by Refinery29, a multi-media news outlet that focuses on stories that concern young women. They run a series called Shady, and were producing an episode on skin lightening products in the Philippines. I was really impressed by the team’s ability to visit and conduct interviews overseas. Their enthusiasm and curiosity was clear throughout the process. While the issue of skin tone hierarchy and discrimination is a vast one, I’m always happy with any interest surrounding it.

The interview process was a little lengthy because the team was juggling budget and location issues. After a little back and forth, we managed to meet in Southern California, where I was interviewed for about two hours. This, on top of the pre-vetting in the very beginning, I spent just under three hours total with the team. I mention this because I have received a number of comments about the feature. Please note that interviewees do not have say over the final story. Also, the feature is meant to function as a simple taste into the larger issue. If anything, this experience really inspired me to go forward the research because there is a lot to say and the Refinery29 story just scratched the surface.

The video is below, and you can find the corresponding story here. Enjoy!

Maraming Salamat,
Joanne L. Rondilla, Ph.D.
South San Francisco, CA

The Philippine American War

Hello Friends!
Through the magic of Facebook, I saw that filmmaker Marissa Aroy (the genius behind the documentary, Delano Manongs) is working on a new film with Niall McKay. The new project is titled, The Philippine American War: America’s Bloody Empire. For those of you who don’t know much about the Philippine American War, blame history books… and the colonialism… and the patriarchy… and the haole supremacy… and… and… and…

To help get this film underway, I urge you to donate to their fundraising efforts. As you all know, independent filmmaking is difficult because the production costs can be insurmountable. However, it’s also important that the funding remains grassroots because it helps maintain the integrity of the film. To donate to Aroy and McKay’s film, please go here or here. Donate as much as you can, when you can.

Here’s a message from the filmmakers:

We’re raising funds for the Philippine American war documentary by Marissa Aroy and Niall McKay. Your donation will be tax-deductible and will go towards the research and development and production of the film.

We’ve got a lot of archival research to do and have our Filipino and Filipino American academics to help advise, support and research with us.

Screen America Inc is the non-profit started by Marissa Aroy and Niall McKay. Screen America Inc Showcases And Supports Films And Filmmakers From Immigrant Communities Providing Them With A Platform And Network In The United States.

As an educator, I’m ecstatic to hear about this project because (1) Marissa Aroy is 100% phenomenal (I should know. I met her this past spring at a conference and I’m still starstruck. That is why there is no photographic proof of that meeting. You’ll have to simply trust that I met Marissa and likely acted like a blundering fool because that’s how I do in the presence of greatness.) (2) I’m glad to see something about the forgotten Philippine American War that’s not Savage Acts. (To clarify, Savage Acts was life-changing for me. It’s what helped inform the beginnings of what would be my dissertation. Sadly, EVERYONE in Ethnic Studies uses it. After a while, you kinda crave for more stuff. If films about the Philippine American War were treated like films about Steve Jobs, I’d be happy.)

Again, please donate. If you have any questions about the film, please direct them to the filmmakers.

Maraming Salamat,
Joanne L. Rondilla, Ph.D.
South San Francisco, CA

SM recommendations

Happy Monday everyone!

Alright, if you know me, you know I’m a bit of a media whore. One of the reasons why I started this site is to share some of the things that I’m watching (or have my eye on). Here are some of my current media picks (thoughts and reviews will follow in future posts… hopefully.)

On Netflix: Kim’s Convenience

Kudos to Angry Asian Man for their short write-up of the Canadian sitcom. I read the short article and filed it away in my brain. When the preview showed up on Netflix, I couldn’t wait to watch it. As a lover of our friends up north, Kim’s Convenience does not disappoint. Go ahead, watch the first episode. After that, feel free to comment at how much you hate-love me for introducing you to your latest Netflix binge. You’re welcome!

Side note: After bingeing the series, you need to watch Paul Sun-Hyung Lee’s award speeches here and here.

In your local theaters: Sorry to Bother You

That I’m bay area based, my affinity for Sorry to Bother You is pretty natural. I won’t bore you with my thoughts and love for this film. Instead, I’m just going to tell you to go out and watch the darn thing!

It’s harder to find, so try to organize a local screening for your community: Fattitude the Movie.

Fattitude Trailer from Fattitude the Movie on Vimeo.

A few years back, I contributed to the Kickstarter campaign for Fattitude the Movie. Like many of these campaigns, nothing is guaranteed. (I’m still waiting for my edible spoons and magical French press… just sayin’.) When I received notice that there was a local screening, I jumped at the chance and brought The Huz with me. We’re still chatting about the film and the post-discussion. Since the filmmakers are still sorting out distribution, check out their website for screening info. The great thing about going to these screenings? You may be lucky enough to meet the filmmakers and cast!

What are you watching these days? Please let me know in comments!

Maraming Salamat,
Joanne L. Rondilla, Ph.D.
South San Francisco, CA

the rookie professor


Hello all! It’s been a long time. I’ve been out of commission because of some employment transitions that I now feel comfortable sharing. In a nutshell: I taught at Sonoma State University this past school year. It was a blast and I continue to feel blessed by the opportunity to have been at this awesome, underrated university. Yes, I taught during a tumultuous academic year that included the NorCal fires, where members of the campus community lost everything. At some point, I’ll write about what it was like to teach at that time.

The larger piece of info that I have been holding on to is this: after six years of teaching as a lecturer (ASU) and visiting faculty member (SSU), I am happy to share that next month, I will be starting a tenure-track position at San Jose State University. How I managed to get the job is a long story, one that is best heard over coffee. For now, just know that my hire is part of this initiative. I’m both nervous and excited about the transition. Friends and family know how difficult it has been getting a TT post in the bay area. This job allows me to come back home and be with friends, family, and my partner. I remain grateful and ready!

As I prepare for my new position, I’m learning that I am a rookie in many ways. For example, San Jose State University has an incredible support system that are helping me get settled in. Most recently, I was asked about my computer preferences. I responded that I am a MAC user, that I’d like a desktop, and I’m not picky. Previously, I’ve inherited computer hand-me-downs, so I assumed as such. When they asked me to look at the apple site and choose my computer (I was given a budget, of course!), I nearly died! After responding with a link to a mid-range desktop, the computer person wrote back and suggested I get a better computer – one that will last me for at least three years, and that I shouldn’t feel guilty about getting a good system. With that, I scoured the apple site again and opted for a desktop with a larger screen and a more powerful system. I also ordered the ergo-compliant keyboard and mouse (as opposed to bringing the one I have from home to the office). Sigh. I’m not used to these perks. When I was hired at ASU, I was able to choose an accent wall color. I thought that was the highlight of my career. A snazzy computer that someone else ordered and set up for me?! How did I get so lucky?!


I mention this silliness on my part because it tells you where public school educators come from. I’m not used to having access to cool things at my job. At SSU, our lovely office manager thought it was silly of me to feel guilty for ordering purple pens. (I explained that in a previous university job, I got called in to the manager’s office for spending $6 on pencils.) My reactions and expectations are very different from people who work in the tech/corporate world, where simple luxuries are expected (and not always appreciated). My friends that work in tech/corporate expect top of the line computer systems, outfitted with proper accessories. They expect extra treats such as free meals, entertainment, and gym memberships, along with hearty expense accounts. As a public school educator, I can’t wrap my head around it. This makes me sad because I expect second class treatment, even though the work educators do is infinitely important. Admittedly, I have it good as a professor. There are severely underpaid K-12 teachers who have to pay for school supplies out of pocket! (sigh; this is another rant for another time…) The long and short of it is, when it comes to embracing job perks (even having access to the necessary tools for work), I remain a total rookie.

Maraming salamat for tuning in,
Joanne L. Rondilla, Ph.D.
South San Francisco, CA

images found here and here


The Tiger Hunter

Recently, the Huz and I caught the short run of The Tiger Hunter, a film directed by Lena Khan. (For an article about Khan and making The Tiger Hunter, go here. For those of you who don’t already know, I watch a lot of film – especially smaller, independent films. I believe that if you want to see more diversity in Hollywood and popular media, then you have to do your best to support media that reflects those sensibilities. I was struck by her take on an immigrant story set in the late 1970s/early 1980s. The story was inspired by her father’s story, and Khan set out to create a film where the main character is Muslim. That she is one of a small handful of Muslim women filmmakers, makes this film a definite accomplishment. It seems the film’s theater distribution is limited, so please check out their Facebook page for screening information.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that the cast that includes Dani Purdi, Rizwan Manji, Jon Heder, and Karen David, is amazing. The story is very heartening, and serves as a reminder of the optimism one carries and humanizes the hardships that many experience upon immigrating to the U.S. Though we disagree on the film’s ending, the Huz and I were glad to have made our way to San Francisco to watch this. I do wish that it had a broader distribution. If there is a screening near you, please be sure to buy your tickets and check this out!

Maraming Salamat,
Joanne L. Rondilla, Ph.D.
South San Francisco, CA

oh, Dove….

Dove racist ad

NB: The image was found here.

The internet went crazy this weekend when Dove (you know, that company behind the real beauty campaign) released a gif that features a Black woman transforming into a white woman (who transforms into a presumably Asian? woman). If course, the social media brigade wasn’t having it, and rightfully so. Since the uproar, the ad has since been removed and Dove has issued an apology. You can read the details here.

Confession: I’m never surprised when something like this happens. When you study and consume media as much as I do, it’s a given that people behind advertising and media making are by and large, white (I mean this in a holistic sense). That, coupled with general ignorance about race in this country leads us to moments like this time and time again. Ads like this are not shocking. They’re old news, used to perpetuate and give permission to everyday racist practices.

Before you start probing me, let me be clear: (1) We do not live in a post-racial society. Race and racism still matter. (2) Until we fully understand and acknowledge the historical legacies of white supremacy which this country was founded on, we cannot even begin to entertain the idea of a post-racial society. (Yeah. You read that right. These legacies include the genocide of indigenous peoples, enslavement of people from Africa, colonial subjugation of basically every person who comes from places the west has colonized… I could go on, but let’s just start there.) (3) Companies can apologize all they want for the faux pas. For anyone who has worked in media, you know that these images are vetted heavily. That the ad would still make it to distribution illustrates my first two points. (4) We live in a world were capitalism reigns. Bad publicity is still publicity. I wouldn’t be surprised if the release of the ad was intentional, just for the hullaballoo of it all. (5) There is no moral code in a capitalist world.

Yeah. Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day, folks!

Maraming Salamat,
Joanne L. Rondilla, Ph.D.
South San Francisco, CA


Last night, my husband and I had the pleasure of watching Justin Chon’s latest film, Gook. An independent film that is currently screening in smaller theaters across the country, Gook takes place during the first day of the 1992 L.A. riots. Since 2017 marks the twenty five year anniversary of the riots, Gook is an important, timely film that centers on a young girl, Kamilla, and her friendship with two Korean American brothers, Eli and Daniel.

As an Ethnic Studies scholar, inter-ethnic and inter-racial conversations are very important to me. When the riots happened, I was in high school. The images of the burning buildings, the Korean shop owners protecting their stores with guns, the violence, and looting still burn in my memory. Other than shock and odd fascination, I cannot recall any substantive reactions from my sixteen year-old self. I sort of knew about Korean/Black racial tensions at the time. It would be years until I would be in grad school and re-visit the riots and what they continue to mean to the country’s history of race relations.

This post is not meant to be a film review. Rather, I’d like to simply urge you to watch it at your local theater. Justin Chon does a great job at capturing the relationship between these characters, and how their interactions are reflected in the larger backdrop of the riots and race relations in Los Angeles. (Confession: After seeing Chon’s directorial debut in Man Up, I had serious doubts about Gook. Luckily, reading various reviews helped me overcome those ill feelings.) Simone Baker, the film’s lead, is fantastic as Kamilla. David So, who is most notable for his comedy, also treats us to a commanding and touching performance. For your reference, feel free to peruse the videos below for more on Gook.

Maraming Salamat,
Joanne L. Rondilla, Ph.D.
South San Francisco, CA

Gook Trailer

Justin Chon Interview on BUILD Series

Justin Chon Interview on Kore Asian Media

Gook Cast Interview

PSA: Shades of Prejudice – Call for Essays


Note: This photo was island-style borrowed from Dr. Nikki Khanna’s professional website.

Hello All!
I want to share some exciting news. For those of you who have been looking for materials on colorism and Asian Americans, you have likely run into Is Lighter Better? Skin-Tone Discrimination Among Asian Americans. While Paul, the incredible contributors, and I remain proud of the book, it still stands as one of very few books on the topic.

This is why I am so excited to share Dr. Nikki Khanna’s call for essays for her upcoming anthology, Shades of Prejudice. Please see below for the short announcement and appropriate links! (Yes, kindly share with your networks.)

Hi, I am looking for Asian American women (including multiracial women with Asian ancestry!) to contribute essays for an upcoming book with NYU Press on “colorism.” Colorism is found in many Asian American communities and is phenomenon whereby light skin is privileged over dark (see link below for more info on submissions).

I am specifically looking for women to share their personal experiences with colorism – how has your skin shade (whether light, dark, or somewhere in-between!) influenced your life? Essays will be reviewed on a rolling basis until October 31st.

PLEASE help me spread the word by sharing this on your site!!!! I would be very grateful for your help! And if you are Asian American and a woman, please consider submitting an essay!

For more information, go here. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at

Maraming Salamat,
Joanne L. Rondilla, Ph.D.
Millbrae, CA