Day 238: Metro Manila

Metro Manila

Metro Manila

Currently streaming on Netflix is Metro Manila, an excellent film about a family trying to escape poverty in the Philippines.

Driven by economic despair, a rice farmer moves his wife and two children to metro Manila, where he hopes to take advantage of the opportunities the city will provide. He and his wife quickly discover that predators of all types lurk in every corner of the slums they live in.

Lead actor Jake Macapagal is outstanding as Oscar Ramirez. He’s the moral center of the film and has a quiet dignity about him that stands above the chaos of the big city. John Arcilla is solid as Oscar’s co-worker/mentor Ong, a grizzled veteran with a secret that will change Oscar’s life. The character Ong reminded me of someone who could easily be found in a John Woo heroic bloodshed movie.

I’ve written about a few of the movies on the AFI 100 list this year and Metro Manila reminded me of The French Connection in a few ways: it captured the grittiness of Manila, just as The French Connection did with New York. Both movies were smack dab in the middle of a world full of moral ambiguity.

Day 228: Sunday Fun-Day


Jason Day was getting close to holding the uncoveted title of Best Player to Never Win a Major. He’d nearly won several times, but couldn’t seal the deal.

I’ll never forget his 2011 Masters run. My brother, a friend, and I had just completed 18 holes when we went to a restaurant that was showing the Masters. Day was in contention throughout, but Charl Schwartzel went on a late birdie binge to snag the green jacket away from Day.

We were crushed.

Fast forward to today. I’m not golfing or even watching golf as much as I’d like, but there was no way I was going to miss the final round of the PGA Championship. Day had the 54-hole lead and was paired up with the two-time major winner, Jordan Spieth. If Day was going to finally break through, it would have to be against the world’s best golfer.

Thankfully, Day didn’t wilt under the pressure and today’s round was the storybook ending he wanted, as he captured his first major championship. He also did it in record-setting form, posting the first -20 ever in a major.

But most importantly for me and many others, Day was the first Filipino to win one of golf’s major championships. He’s a Filipino-Australian and I always take pride when a kababayan becomes the “first” to do so something. It was a long-time coming, but it’s nice crossing off another “Filipino first” from the list.


Day 152: APA Heritage Month Reading

American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese

Although Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month just ended, it’s easy to experience APA arts and culture throughout the year. Professor Timothy Yu posted a terrific list of Asian Pacific American/Canadian fiction (all published pre-1990) and I’m looking forward to making my way through this list; I can personally recommend the works of Carlos Bulosan, Maxine Hong Kingston, Joy Kogawa, and Bharati Mukherjee.

Here are a five more that I would add to the list of recommended books about the Asian-Pacific Islander experience. I’ve included a few non-fiction titles as well and linked to the Goodreads pages.

1. Big Little Man Eye-opening look at the perceptions and experiences of APA men, especially Filipinos.

2. Ghost Month Murder mystery set in Taiwan’s night markets.

3. Everything I Never Told You Coming-of-age mystery set in 70s middle America.

4. The Accidental Asian: Notes of a Native Speaker Thought-provoking collection of essays by former White House speechwriter Eric Liu.

5. American Born Chinese Outstanding graphic novel of the immigrant experience.


Day 135: Asian/Pacific Islander Cultural Arts Night

Josh Chang

Josh Chang

Tonight I’m live-tweeting from the Asian/Pacific Islander Cultural Arts Night in Rancho Cucamonga, California. You can follow me on Twitter from 7-9pm; I’ll use the hashtag #APICANRC for my tweets and photos.

I missed last year’s celebration, but the previous year was awesome, mainly because I met Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, author of the Asian American literature classic Farewell to Manzanar. She did a brief Q&A before meeting fans and signing (free!) copies of her book.

I’m looking forward to tonight’s event, with headliner Josh Chang and other entertainers. I’ll post photos later on my Google+ page, but for now you can check out my photos of the last event I live-tweeted, the Riverside Tamale Festival, here.

Day 134: Fung Brothers

Fung Brothers

Fung Brothers

Thanks to my wife sharing a news item with me about the Fung Brothers, I just binge-watched an hour’s worth of their videos on I’d already seen the hilarious “Asians Eat Weird Things” song with AJ Rafael, but this was the first time I watched any of their other videos. It’s easy to see why they landed their own television show: they’re passionate, funny, and brilliant.

I loved the pop culture references, the music, and the energy in each 5- to 10-minute clip. I had a blast watching them and learned a lot, too. My number-one lesson? Don’t watch on an empty stomach. I’m craving Din Tai Fung, The Hat, Korean BBQ, fried rice, and boba right now.

Day 128: Ajisen Ramen

Ajisen Ramen

Ajisen Ramen

We celebrated an early Mother’s Day with my mother-in-law tonight at Ajisen Ramen in Rowland Heights. It doesn’t compare to the legendary Daikokuya and other top ramen spots in Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley, but Ajisen is always satisfying and I like the modern decor of this Japanese-based chain restaurant.

After inhaling the baby octopus and fried tofu appetizers (both were delicious), we dove right into our ramen. I went with the Premium Pork Ramen this time and left a happy camper. There are many excellent ramen shops in the area (Ramen Yukino Ya and Foo Foo Tei, to name just two), but Ajisen has never let me or my family down.

Day 127: Din Tai Fung


Din Tai Fung

You know a meal is good when you’re still thinking about it days later. Din Tai Fung does this to me every time. The xiaolongbao is perfect. The service is fast and efficient. The other food, from shrimp and pork shao mai to the sautéed string beans with garlic, is excellent.

It’s consistently great, but none of this matters if the company is bad, right? Fortunately, I’ve always found myself here with my wife, family, or good friends.

Outstanding food with amazing people: it’s the only pairing that matters.