Guest Interview on the Pilipinx-American Stories Podcast
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Pilipinx-American Stories Podcast EPISODE 3: Differences and Similarities Between East and West Coast Pilipinx-Americans feat. Emilie Tumale
You would be surprised to find out that not all Pilipinx-Americans think the same. In this week's episode, we have my friend, and guest Emilie Tumale break down some differences and similarities between East and West Coast Pilipinx-Americans. Being a transplant from the West Coast, Emilie has a unique perspective she was able to offer for her dissertation on said topic. We bring up such topics such history and migration patterns.
Shout out to Emilie, once more, for getting down and sharing a good vibe for this week's episode!
Podcast Interview Transcript
Alfredo (Pilipinx-American Stories Podcast) 0:02
Okay, so welcome to the Pilipinx-American Stories Podcast. We are here to better understand aspects of the Filipino American diaspora. We cover topics like but are not limited to community, history, and Pilipinx American culture. And I'm your host, Alfredo. And today's guest, we have Emilie representing New York. What's up, Emilie?
Emilie Tumale 0:23
Hi! I'm Emilie. It's so great to be here. Thanks so much for having me.
Okay, so before we go on to the topic, can you give a little bit of an intro of what you do?
Emilie Tumale 0:33
Yeah. So, I'm a doctoral student at NYU studying Sociology of Education. I'm originally from California though. I grew up in West Covina; I spent actually my whole life in LA County. So I spent my undergrad years and I did my masters at UCLA as well. I studied Asian American Studies, I did the Education Studies minor, and you know, concentration of Pilipino American Studies. So, um, when I came to New York to do my PhD in Sociology of Education, it basically just, like, changed my life and like how I, you know, thought about race and ethnicity, and what it means to be Filipino American. Um, so yeah. So, I basically started out my PhD pretty much being the only Asian American in the room, which is something that I'm, like, very not used to. And so, I thought about, I could only imagine what it's like to be Asian American or Filipino American in a place outside of California—even in New York, which is probably like the biggest shocker for me. So, and that's something I basically experience, you know, being in the Filipino American community here, for instance, being part of UniPro New York. And so that basically informs why I do the research that I do, which is on the experiences of Filipino American college students and like, what are their experiences (for those that grew up here), and also how do they think about race and like their ethnicity and things like that.
Ooh. And that goes on to the topic that we have for today. It's basically the differences and similarities between West Coast Filipinos and East Coast and considering you're from the West Coast and currently live in the East Coast right now, you're in a very interesting position, because you've seen both sides. And you actually did your dissertation on this, so can you talk about it a little bit?
Emilie Tumale 2:29
Yeah, so the dissertation is still in progress. I have basically done a ton of interviews at this point (I'm at over 40), but um, I've interviewed current and like recent alum Filipino American college students who go to school in the New York metropolitan area. So that includes New York City, Long Island and northern New Jersey. I'm basically asking them pretty much their experiences growing up, their experiences in college, and how do they think about what it means to be Filipino American in New York or New Jersey. And like, what do they think about, like, the differences between the East Coast and other parts of the US? So yeah.
And what was your specific like experience like being there? Like, how is it different than, say, living as a Filipino American, like, in LA or just like the west coast in general?
Emilie Tumale 3:25
Yeah, um, it's a great question. I feel like it's been—the biggest difference honestly is just like not being recognized as Filipino. Most people don't even know what Filipinos are. And it doesn't help that I'm also like, I guess I'm racially ambiguous. So people just assume I'm whatever. And, that might be going off topic here, but like for me, the biggest culture shock, for instance, is probably being viewed as an Asian American, or someone who is like, not really—whereas like, for instance, in California, like people would talk to me in Spanish all the time, like I just grew up with that, like being racialized as like Latina, for instance. And that doesn't really happen in New York. People—yeah. And then people tend to actually group Filipinos with other Asian Americans, which is just like a huge shocker for me. It's probably one of the biggest culture shocks actually. Whereas, like, in California, you know, Filipinos are like the largest Asian American group, and that's definitely not the case in New York. So, yeah. So people either don't know about who we are, or they just overgeneralize us. And again, for me the most shocking difference is like not seeing Filipinos as this like, "lower" ethnicity comparing to other Asian Americans.
That is a little wild because—wait, so the population density of or the population in general of Filipinos over in the East Coast, specifically where you're at, it's not that much, is it?
Emilie Tumale 5:05
It's not. So, at least according to Wikipedia, when I looked up the numbers, there's about like 100,000 Filipino Americans. So even though there are Filipino ethnic enclaves in the area, though they're mainly in Queens and Jersey City, it's so much smaller than the overall density of these areas in general. So, again, for instance, like New York has about 100,000 Filipino Americans, but the populations that New York City is 8.4 million. So it's very, very tiny.
What the heck? Okay, so that's the question a little wild because for San Diego, I just looked up the numbers now. It's almost 200,000. Yeah. And then for all New York, it's just like, it's just barely touching. six digits.
Emilie Tumale 5:49
That's pretty wild, but you also—Okay, so the main thing that you brought up that was like, pretty interesting. Well, the whole being grouped in as just like a general Asian American rather than being identified like as Filipino, like, what does that actually feel like? Because over here on the west coast, we already know how it is. Like, you were part of, like you were part of a Filipino org back in college, and so was I. And it's like, it's very apparent when you see someone that's Filipino, like, "Hey, what's up? I know you." Or like, I might know you're something or you might be family, but over there, it's like, just general like Asian American identity?
Emilie Tumale 6:29
Um, it—hmm. It depends. I think for me, I still get really excited when I see another Filipino even though it's like, it's still hard to like first even recognize each other. Like I've definitely had that experience. But I feel like—so for instance, one thing that really shocks me, for instance, is like the lack of Filipino fraternities, for instance. So I've met people that were like part of Asian fraternities and sororities and I was like, "Wait, what?" Like, you know, like it just really, it's honestly mind-blowing to like see, like, even though there's these Filipino clubs, there's just like not as much diversity in these clubs. Because as much as people, you know, enjoy organizing, there isn't much diversity in how these organizations occur. They're mostly social, and then like the political organizations are like outside of the university.
Wait so generally, like, so there are like Filipino clubs, like in New York or just like in the east coast in general, but it's, the population is not too much, right? It's not like compared to, I shouldn't like be comparing but it's like, it's not as much as like a West Coast like Filipino org right?
Emilie Tumale 7:53
Um, it actually depends. But yeah, so that was like another surprising thing I found in my research; is that like, in a lot of these colleges, like, Filipino orgs are probably one of the largest organizations. So, yeah. So it's like they're large for their schools, but then in terms of membership—no, they're still—it depends. Yeah, they're probably smaller than like your average organization in California. But um, yeah. But they mostly are like, smaller orgs, and so they're more likely—not more likely, but from what I've seen and what I've heard from interviews, they're more likely like social, and they try to do cultural things but it's usually limited to like food and like Filipino American History Month and those things.
That's so, like, I don't even know how to begin. Because, like over here, you're like so spoiled with a lot of—because a lot of the orgs over here are rooted in—or like in California specifically, like a lot of them are rooted in like politics, or a lot of them are rooted in organizing, especially the ones like in the Bay Area, and like SoCal and everything.
Emilie Tumale 9:09
So just hearing, I'm pretty sure like you had that—you even mentioned it. Like, you had like a lot of culture shock when you started, like getting down with these interviews and everything, right? How does—like, I don't even know where to begin with that. It's just like, an interesting take on things, but like do you know like any of the origins of like some of these organizations and everything?
Emilie Tumale 9:33
Um... I mean... not really—I feel like they're more just like, I feel like the origin is probably not as like political. But I also feel like at the same time, there might be a little bit of misremembering of like, even our origins in California. So for instance, even though like the Asian American movement was very prominent in like, in San Francisco, like—for instance, like UCLA, our org Samahang Filipino was actually started as a social organization. Or like, even ethnic studies, for instance, like, whereas people, like, you know, protested and like fought for their, you know, really fought for the right to have like a school of ethnic studies, like, at UCLA, they kind of just like, followed what they were doing in NorCal. And they didn't necessarily, you know, really struggle for these institutions to exist. Yeah. And then on the East Coast, even though there are these social organizations, they're actually very, very organized. Like, they have, you know, conferences and like, something that I noticed that I really appreciate is that a lot of these schools actually do collaborate with each other, versus like, in California because we're so far apart and because these orgs are too big, there isn't that much of a need to really connect with like, you know, other Filipino orgs that are in the area. Um, you know, like, I feel like for instance, FIND (Filipino Intercollegiate Networking Dialogue, inc.), which is like the East Coast version of SCPASA (Southern California Pilipinx-American Student Alliance), like, they're very, like they're very organized in terms of like, you know, having these different districts which are also like mini versions—or basically also again SCPASA again but specific to different states or areas. So like for instance, in New York, there's District III, so that's again, linking schools in Long Island, New York City, and northern New Jersey. So, so these schools are very much in contact with each other. I'm losing my train of thought here, I'm sorry. Um, but yeah, so there's that. But then, I guess there's like a huge lack of like, the institutional knowledge. So, there's like a huge lack of like Asian American Studies. And from my experience going into these Asian American spaces, they're very predominantly East Asian. Maybe there's more Southeast—sorry, there's more South Asian or Desi representation and like a handful of Southeast Asians, but like for me as a Filipino, it feels very, like predominantly East Asian. So, we kind of like do our own thing. But yeah.
But that also has to do with like, the immigration like patterns and everything, like Filipinos didn't really—like primarily since like, California is like, right there. It's way closer to the Philippines and everything, so most of them did start coming to the west coast. But like, Do you know any of the history for like, immigration, like in New York?
Emilie Tumale 12:43
Yeah. So it's funny that you mentioned that because I think that's like a huge thing as to why people outside of California view you know, West Coast Filipinos the way they do, it's very much like they know that narrative of like these earlier migration patterns. But there isn't much awareness of like the current or like more contemporary waves of migration. So, for instance, like yeah, like so people just like assume that people on the West Coast are like, third generation, fourth generation. And I'm like, I've only known like, probably like less than five people that are like multigenerational. Like, we're not all like that, you know. But in the East Coast, on the other hand, like I've actually met, I've actually met a good number of people that migrated like really early, like parents that migrated in like the 1950s, where they were like, really forced to like assimilate. But um, you know, they like, they resisted that as much as they could. And that's why FANHS like New York, Metropolitan New York chapter is a thing (which is also an org that I'm part of). But um, so there are some earlier like waves of migration, but they're just like, not as prominent because I feel like New York is just so diverse basically, that it's really hard to acknowledge all of its diversity. You know, like, yeah, like the [European] immigrant groups of the earlier eras are so much larger than like the Filipinos [immigrant groups] that have been here for decades. But other than that, like, a lot of—something that I found in my research and just from meeting, or yeah, just really meeting people in the area, is that a lot of their parents came in, as nurses, like after 1965. Like, through like an actual, like, what's it called?, like an actual agency that like links, that like recruit, that actively recruits nurses in the Philippines to like work in areas that have nursing shortages. And so yeah, and so that's why a lot of people have come to work and in all over New York City, including, you know, Long Island, even the Bronx actually, I've like I've never have met Filipinos from the Bronx until doing these interviews for instance. And yeah, so they're in pockets of New York City, but a lot of them literally needed that connection to come to the US. But with that said, it's also very different in that like, because they're coming in through these agencies, they have their degrees honored. Whereas, like you know, in California or what's shared—what people talk about in the in like education research, like Filipinos often come to the US with their degrees not being honored. So for instance, like, like, I know, someone who came to the US and like, their mom was like a doctor. And now, they ended up becoming a language interpreter, like instead of like even working in the medical field. So I think that's also really important to consider.
You've read Empire of Care before, right?
Emilie Tumale 16:00
That's like the whole, I think you just nailed it on the head about the whole like immigration thing, especially the agency part.
Emilie Tumale 16:07
Like, I just remember the whole, like the I don't remember what the actual, like the full name of it is, but it's like the H1-B visas that are we're helping a lot of like Filipino nurses getting over to places like Chicago and New York and all that, and now they're just like, a lot of them just started settling there because of like the the better pay and everything. And you also touched upon the whole fact that, like some of those people that did immigrate here, it's like, it's very different in that sense, because like you said they weren't honored when it came to their, their degrees, and now they're just kind of like, doing stuff. Does that, do you think that's like, part of the reason why a lot of like Filipinos on the West Coast started organizing so early?
Emilie Tumale 16:53
Um, I think it's a mix of things actually. But I think yeah, that could make more sense. It makes sense in that, you know, thinking about socioeconomic status, I see a huge difference. That's not to say that there aren't working class Filipinos in New York, but I've found that those communities are very, very separate. So for instance, like I'm sure there are undocumented immigrants in New York, but it's just so much harder. Um, there's just so much less visibility, especially in the Filipino community. Like when people think about undocumented immigrants, they don't think about other Asian Americans, let alone Filipinos. Like there's this assumption that all the Filipinos in New York are like second-generation. Yet at the same time, there's like this assumption that all Filipinos in the West Coast are like later generations when there's actually like continued migration. But the thing with, the thing about New York though, is that there is there probably is continued migration. Like I actually have had the chance to interview a handful of 1.5-generation immigrants, but it's just so much, it's just so much less common or if it is more common, they're like, not in these, like more prominent, like Fil-Am organizations, even in the college scene. It's just very different. But yeah, and then with that said, like more of the recent immigrants or like undocumented immigrants are actually OFWs, so like migrant workers. And so it's very different from like, you know, a 1.5 generation Filipino who like, doesn't have citizenship or who is like undocumented. So that's like a huge difference that I've seen.
Wait, so just touching on your dissertation again, did you, when you were doing these interviews, you were basically taking it case-by-case right? Because—
Emilie Tumale 18:51
The way it sounds or at least the the way this, like, this direction's going, you can't really lump like East Coast Filipinos and West Coast Filipinos as its own thing. Like, everyone, in a sense, is like very different. Because for me personally, like my story and like my background, everything, I'm 1.5 [generation]. I immigrated like back in the '90s with my family and everything. Like you were born in you were born in the West Coast, right?
Emilie Tumale 19:17
So it's like, there's a weird, there's not—it's not weird or anything, but it's like, it's just interesting—
Emilie Tumale 19:24
Taking it case by case. So like, what else have you encountered that's like, very different and not so, not so generalized that people might think of?
Emilie Tumale 19:37
Um, yeah, so I think actually, to kind of summarize thinking about these differences between like East Coast West Coast is that—I have it written down here. Um, basically, what I'm seeing is that people are conflating these regions like East Coast versus West Coast or "No Coast" even. Versus, like that's being conflated with different waves of migration. So that's kind of like what I talked about earlier. Like, people assume that if you're on the West Coast, you're probably like, like your parents aren't immigrants or something. Like because like, or—yeah, like the idea that like someone's grandparent could be like a third-generation Filipino. Like, that means that the grandchildren are like, fifth-generation, and like, I can't even imagine [that]. Like, that's, that's like, that's probably really, really rare. You know? Um, there's also the conflation of like urban versus suburban. So I think that's kind of something that I probably had as a misconception in my own head before even coming to New York. Like, I assumed that New York would be very much like LA in terms of like political organizing, and I've learned that, I've learned the hard way that that's definitely not the case. Um, it's very different. Um, and then also, the real difference is really thinking about people who grew up in like large Filipino communities or like ethnic enclaves, versus those who didn't grow up in a large Filipino American community. So that's how people, that's like another huge way in which people tend to separate like, East Coast—being Filipino on the East Coast versus being Filipino on the West Coast. Like there's the assumption that like, just because you know, we have, just because there's like Seafood City and like, like, so much like Jollibee restaurants in parts of California, they assume that, like, everyone has that experience. Whereas, like, there's literally also Jollibee in New York. There's also one in Manhattan now. Um, and, you know, so there's like, yeah, so like, there are communities in New York—there's not as many though, but then there's just the assumption that like, you know, because someone's outside of California that like they're missing out on being immersed in the culture, where even—whereas like, even in our communities, like, there's a huge diversity of us. Like, even in my own family, for instance, like I'm the only one one—well, first of all, I'm the only one with a college education at this point, like, my siblings are still in college. They're still in community college, but like, so that's like a huge thing too, given that, like, I'm like a grad student. But also like, because they're in community college, they don't have access to ethnic studies or like the same things that I was exposed to. at UCLA. So yeah, so there's that as well.
There's so many differences, but from what I've experienced, just through living life and everything, there's a lot of similarities that do bring Filipinos like on the East Coast, West Coast, No Coast, and like in the South, like, a lot like—the first time I met you, like, I mean, we bonded over like West Coast stuff. Like, I don't remember how that conversation went, but it was just like, "Oh, West Coast, West Coast!" Like, we had like that kind of understanding, but I'm pretty sure like, especially with our group of friends and everything, there's a lot of similarities that we can see. So like, when you were doing your interview for your dissertation like were—what kind of similarities did you see from like the people that you interviewed? Well, I mean, first of all, did you just, when you were interviewing and everything, were they, the people that you interviewed, were they specifically only on the East Coast?
Emilie Tumale 23:15
Um, yes. So everyone I've interviewed, the one thing they all have in common is that they have gone to undergrad in the New York area, New York City [or Long Island] or like, Northern New Jersey. So whereas like, I mean, I didn't go to college—I didn't go to undergrad in New York, but um, I feel like that was like, the one thing I made sure was like, very important. And I prioritized, you know, since I'm studying education, I wanted to see like, what was the role of education in all this, so I limited it as much as I could to current undergraduate students. But yeah, I found a lot of similarities from a lot of the interviews actually, like I—like for instance, like the people who grew up in Queens, like they had, like I felt like I could really relate to like their experiences being in such a diverse area. Um, so there's that. But let's see, um, also I felt like I could relate to the handful of my interviewees who are just like very, who have become more radicalized coming to college, whether it is through being involved in a [Filipino] organization or not. So that was something I was also very mindful of in doing my interviews, and—is that not every—first of all, not every college has a Filipino org. So I've actually interviewed a handful of students who, you know, are involved, but they have to be involved outside of the school, or they find community through Twitter, actually. So some folks have found my study through Twitter and like, I literally had no connection [rapport]. And then yeah, but also I interviewed folks that are like super involved in their orgs. And that they have like leadership roles. And so, I made sure to capture some of the those differences. And I felt like I could relate really to those who, you know, really want to learn more about their culture and learn more about their history. It's just, it's just hard because they don't really have access to that kind of education, basically. And so I guess that's where the differences come in. Um, yeah. Yeah.
What do you mean in terms of access, like, they don't really have, like that same education to get, or they don't have like, those kind of resources to help them to self-educate, or they don't really have the mentors to help them out?
Emilie Tumale 25:44
Yeah. Oh, that's a good question. Actually. Um, I would say like, definitely ethnic studies, like, it's not really there. Um, and even for the few schools that have Asian American Studies, it's not really like a Filipino American studies—or I think there's like one school where they have like a Filipino studies minor, but it's only taught by one professor and so the exposure to like different types of perspectives is very limited. And yeah, and like that Filipino studies minor isn't the same as like thinking about, um, you know, Asian American studies or even ethnic studies as a whole. It's like, you know, Filipino language and then like Filipino history and not thinking necessarily about, um, you know, histories of like, racism that affect all of us, but in different ways. So yeah. And then also when you think about like speaking of mentors, I think that's also a very huge difference; is that there is a lack of like academic mentors and although there are Filipino grad students who do want to reach out to undergrads, so that's why there was this Filipino PowerPoint party that happened this past weekend. Um, it's like not, there isn't that much of a connection between like, Filipinos who are studying ethnic studies, like in terms of grad students, well one of—for one, there's just very few. And so with that said, there's very little mentorship in that way. But then the mentorship is more so in terms of like alumni networks. So that's something that a lot of these Filipino student orgs are very passionate about, like reaching out to alumni. So it's more so in terms of like professional development and not so much in terms of like education, or even thinking about, you know, going to grad school to like pursue an Asian American studies or Filipino American Studies education.
So there's like, a huge disconnect in terms of that and it's like, compared to the west coast, I mean, I wouldn't consider it like oversaturated, but we have like a surplus of mentors like in like ethnic studies, moving everything we have, like people like Dr. Robin Rodriguez, we have—is Kevin Nadal still teaching? And like, he's still, I think I might be thinking of someone else, but like, there's a lot of people in SoCal. They're like having that same kind of movement to help people who want to go into like the ethnic studies route. Like it's a lot more accessible in that kind of sense, right?
Emilie Tumale 28:20
Yeah. And so with that said, like speaking of mentors, like I've realized, like, doing these interviews and even just like being involved in UniPro and the Filipino American community [at large], like I'm, I feel like I'm often like the first doctoral student these people meet. And so, it feels like, it feels like a lot. Like, it's great to be able to connect with people—honestly, like, doing these interviews has been like my favorite, my absolute favorite part of being in this program, because I finally get to talk to people that you know, that look like me or that like, understand my experiences, even though it might not be exactly the same or they don't think it's the same because they're from here, from New York. Yeah, like it's, they don't really, it's really rare to find—for undergrad Filipinos at least—in this area to connect with like Filipino grad students. Yeah. Like, it seems, I get—I feel like there's more of that pressure, you know, just to like be successful and to like, you know, just like go into the job market and thrive in that way. But not so much in terms of like, really, like, you know, having that education. So there's that as well. Like, I would say, there's definitely like—
Your experience alone sounds—oh wait, what were you saying?
Emilie Tumale 29:40
Oh, sorry, I was just saying there's just definitely less mentorship in that way. And kind of like, you know, I, I'm connecting with as many Filipino like, fellow grad students as I can, and trying to like bridge that gap, you know, and connect with undergrads, but it's hard because there's just so few of us.
It sounds like in the, in the work that you're specifically doing for your dissertation and everything, like, I'm pretty sure that what's like happening right now is going to continue on whether it's like you or someone else. It's like, it sounds like it's setting the foundation of something a lot bigger. It's like—just going back to the whole interview process and everything. It's like, it was very, I'm assuming like it was a very healing process for you, because you didn't really get to see that like the first time you were in New York, right?
Emilie Tumale 30:34
Absolutely. Like I I get emotional because um, you know, being from LA County, like, and growing up in a predominantly POC area, like, it really messed with me to like be the only the only Asian American—and actually in two of my classes, I was the only Asian in the room. And so when people would, you know, especially to be [studying] education, like, we're seen as as model minority. And the biggest shock for me was to be, even as a Filipino, to be not seen as a person of color. Like, yeah. So, my classes weren't predominantly white, you know. There was like, you know, it was pretty racially diverse, but I feel like it was—we were very much being put in like this Black-and-white binary. And I feel like that's kind of like what seems to be the experience of being in the East Coast. Like, even though it's racially diverse, um, yeah, like people just assume that—well, people don't really know what Asians are. But they, yeah, they just assume that Filipinos are like other Asian Americans, and they equate like Asian American "success" with like, you know, with whiteness in that way. And so, that was like something that I really struggled with. And so yeah, and so, being able to connect with other Filipinos, it was like—other Filipino students, it was really nice to like be able to talk through that experience. So even though a lot of my interviewees have been able to find community in college, it was like, that was their one chance—or not their one chance, but their first time being able to have that community. Versus like, being in a high school where they're—being in like in K - 12 in their schools as like the only Filipino in the room, or all, or sometimes even the only Asian. And this even happens in New York. Like, even in Queens like, because schools are like so smaller, like some people, a lot of New Yorkers, for instance, actually went to school in like private Catholic schools. Um, they're actually like, not predominantly Filipino, which is like the hugest shocker for me, but um, yeah. So, I think that's like something that's like really important to know.
This like so wild again, because there's, like, the way you're speaking on it, again, there's a lot of pockets of Filipinos in New York or just like in [the] East Coast in general. But like, in the places you would expect to find them, like generally, you'd find them like in Catholic schools in like different areas or like different colleges. Like on the West Coast, it's like you don't really see that same similarity for like Filipinos on the like on the East Coast and everything. It's just, it's such a culture shock, even though I'm like, I'm not there, it's just like the idea of it is very, like, it's just interesting, but it's also very surprising.
Emilie Tumale 33:29
Yeah. At the same time, I think something that's important to note is that like, I feel like, I guess something that makes New York great, I would say is that despite like how small it is, and like how it's like really easy to feel invisible, I feel like New York, Filipino New Yorkers do a great job of like, connecting. Um, so like, I honestly don't think I would be able to do this kind of research if I, you know, were in California still. Like, I mean, one could say that like, "Oh, well, there's just a ton of Filipinos anyway." But I mean really, like, it's so hard to, you know, connect with people outside of like your current institution. So like that was like my experience doing my master's thesis. For instance, when I was like, interviewing Filipino community college students or like transfer students, like I did this whole IRB process, so I could do research at the community college. But then I just could not connect with anyone there. [redacted]
Emilie Tumale 34:50
Versus like in New York, I've been able to connect with so many, like so many random people. Like, I started obviously by interviewing some of my friends, former mentees, people that like really wanted to like support me and can, you know, and help me with this dissertation. But then, like, the majority of people that I've met are like, through extended net—like extended networks that are like, you know, that are, like, not my friends or like, you know—especially now because the age gap is very huge now, but like, I don't think that would be very possible, though. I don't think that would be feasible to do in California, because, you know, these orgs are huge, and like, everyone's just like, not at capacity. Like, you know, people are just like doing their own thing. And it's very, very busy. So like— I mean, [Filipinos in] New York [are] busy too, but like, because this research is so uncommon, especially to focus on Filipino Americans in New York and New Jersey, like, that's like, why people especially, you know, see this work is important.
Also, they see like, they see a reason for why this is something that needs to be done, because they've never seen something like that before.
Emilie Tumale 35:59
Whereas, whereas like somewhere on the West Coast, like this works being done, like left and right. So it's like, "Oh, it's just another person researching and everything." So is that what you meant by like, it was hard to connect? Like, people already saw it, so it's like, they didn't see a point to it? Or was it just like it was a hard time like understanding each other? Like—
Emilie Tumale 36:20
What exactly do you mean by like having a hard time connecting?
Emilie Tumale 36:23
Yeah. I mean, it was literally like hard just to recruit people. Like, I only interviewed like seven people. And then like, not all of them were transfer students actually, like, and versus like, in New York, like so many. Yeah. So that it was "connected" in terms of like, being able to recruit people basically. And it was hard to recruit, because there isn't really that network. There isn't really that tight-knit network, especially in different like areas of education. So even though there's SCPASA, like, you know, I feel like the chance of me like interviewing or random person say, you know, at, you know, UC San Diego or San Diego State, like that wouldn't be possible, because you know, these orgs are too large to like, have that good—like to be able to connect in that way. Does that make sense?
Yeah. So, I think there, that shows like the contrast between like the West and East, especially since you mentioned FIND like a few minutes ago, or like 20 minutes ago or whatever. But that whole tight-knit network that's already been established there, like a whole organization process, or the other organization process of how people are able to like run things there. Whereas in the West Coast, it's very, like, spread out and it's a lot harder to connect on that kind of level.
Emilie Tumale 37:48
So, did the whole—like you mentioned the whole tight-knit network, was like, was that one of the factors that help make this like dissertation / project a lot easier to put together?
Emilie Tumale 38:01
Absolutely. So like, being able to know like, or to be able to connect with, like, the people in charge of that network was like a huge factor, I would say, in being able to find a lot of my interviewees—but not like all of them. I mean, again, like some of them I found, fortunately like randomly, like through Twitter or just like people helping circulate my study, but like being able to, to connect with this this umbrella organization was like very important in like also, again, like building like, building rapport with these people. So like, I don't think it would have been possible for me to build rapport with like, with like SCPASA for instance, because it's like, because the schools are literally so spread out. And also, yeah, like, again, like people are just like not, people are just very overworked and like just doing a lot. Because like these orgs are like diverse and—even again, in multiple in schools, there's like multiple organizations even at like UC Irvine, for instance, or especially at UCLA. I can't, I can't say much about other schools because I don't know. But like, whereas like in, in New York, like people are either involved for, you know, to connect with other Filipinos, or they're just not going to be involved in the organization. So there isn't like a range of possibilities in terms of student organizing [within the university].
The differences and similarities is, like, it's so vast hearing this, especially with your project and everything. And considering I've only lived on the West Coast, it's just expanding that knowledge—or not knowledge, but like expanding this, like, understanding of how different and how similar we are. I'm just trying to wrap my head around it right now. It's very like, my mind's in like a huge thought process right now. So it's like very hard to digest something that's very different. But like you said, you're in a very interesting position where like you lived on the West Coast and now you're currently living on the East Coast doing this kind of work. And you're seeing you're, you're basically seeing [that] with the work you're doing.
Emilie Tumale 40:14
Yeah. Yeah. But I mean, yeah. And the important thing too for me to emphasize is that like, um, you know, even the East Coast is diverse as well. So, I mean, yeah. So that's like really interesting how like people, you know, here are like, "Oh, my God, like, West Coast is so different." But like, even New York is like, very, very different from like, I would say, definitely the rest of the East Coast. Like, there's very much like that narrative. So for instance, like there aren't—so I mean, you know, you being from San Diego, right? Like, I'm sure there's like a lot of Filipinos that are like involved in the military, but like, that's not necessarily the case here. Whereas like I'm sure in like Virginia, for instance, like there's like a lot of like, you know, folks who have relatives in the military. So like, there's, so that's like something like important to consider. And again, like, you know, Filipinos are everywhere. Like that's, that was at least like my conception when I was in California. And like, there, it doesn't really feel like it here [in NYC], but in a sense, it's like, we are here it's just a lot more dispersed—even in New York. But at the same time, like, I don't know, it just like there's, again, so much diversity in the East Coast and also even within like the New York metro area itself.
And that's just the East Coast too like—
Emilie Tumale 41:38
If we're thinking of it from just like a "non coast" perspective, it's probably a lot more different for someone that say like, might be from Texas, or might be from like, Chicago, or like Colorado or something. It's like it's very, very different. It's like making me—so I do actually have the question of the day, so just the prompt more thinking for the viewers or like the listeners and everything: How do you view or—I'm trying to figure out how to word this, but it's on the notion that Filipinos in the West Coast, "no coast," East Coast, like everyone's different. So how, essentially how do you identify yourself as a Filipino? Because not everyone is the same. So, could you, do you have an answer for that question, just to give people like an understanding of what to look for what to think about?
Emilie Tumale 42:35
Um, yeah. I guess, yeah, like my—I actually encourage people to like, again, like not really think so much about like, what region you're in. Because like, honestly, like, I didn't grow up being like a West Coast Filipino. Like, I didn't even—like, if I did the same interview with people in California, like it wouldn't, it wouldn't make sense to like for instance ask someone like, "Oh, what does it mean to be a West Coast Filipino?" Because like, I literally never even heard of that phrase until I came here. You know? Or as we know, like California is like huge. So it makes—and the West Coast in general, so it doesn't make sense to be able to speak for like Filipinos in Washington or like in Oregon. Like, I'm sure it's [actually], it's so different, again. So I would encourage people to really think about, like, you know, like, what was your neighborhood like? Or like, what is your family's immigration story? And also just think about, like, what are like, what was it like to grow up as a Filipino American? Like, did you ever feel weird about, you know, your culture? Or did you, like were people ever, like, you know, did you ever experience any racial microaggressions based on being Filipino or based on being Asian American? So, I guess those are like, things that I would encourage you to think about, in addition to like being in whatever region you're in.
Really just emphasizing that point. Because everyone, there's layers to what it means to be Filipino or Filipino American, and not everyone's stories are exactly the same. Like someone, like even for me personally, like, there are people—or there are Filipinos in San Diego, specifically in like the area that I'm in. Even though we may have been from the same region or like the same, like zip code, everything, a lot of our stories are very different, especially on how we were raised and everything, and how we were brought up. So it's like, just keeping in mind that everyone has a different story to tell. And yeah, that's really just like, the main thing to keep in mind, that everyone's experiences are very different, but there are a lot of similarities that can tie us together. And that being said, so in terms of what you have planned for after like this dissertation, like what do you have planned for it?
Emilie Tumale 45:04
That's a good question. It's very hard. I mean, honestly, it's very hard to tell, like what's going to happen, even right now, because of the pandemic that we're in.
Emilie Tumale 45:15
Yeah. So like, I'm, it's honestly, like, I'm, you know, still working on this dissertation, obviously. But I'm just trying to take things like day by day, like I'm—and even before the pandemic, I'm like, wasn't really sure like, what's going to happen after my program. Because, you know, the academic job market, it's just like, very, it's very dismal. And it's even worse right now, especially, so.
It's a very rocky thing, right now.
Emilie Tumale 45:43
It's not very, but it's just like, "Oh, oof."
Emilie Tumale 45:47
Yeah, but I would love to, you know, be a professor of Asian American studies. That is like, yeah, like in an ideal world, like that's what I would love to do. But I was specially would, like, love to be an educator in the New York area. Like, as much as I have, like a love/hate relationship with New York, I don't want to leave. And you know, especially because ethnic studies isn't really available to folks in New York, like, It's like my passion to help make that accessible for people. So yeah.
And I'm really hoping that happens in the near future, because honestly, we, we just as like a nation, everything, we need more ethnic studies. And just having someone that I know to do that kind of work is a lot more meaningful. And especially with the work you're doing right now, it's like, you're laying the groundwork and everything, and I feel like you're setting a good foundation to like start this off for the next generation. And, that being said, so do you have any other upcoming projects that you want to mention or shout out so you want to do before we end this interview?
Emilie Tumale 46:58
So yeah, this dissertation is basically my project. So that's, I would say, is upcoming. I would like to do a shout out to my friends on Twitter and even outside of Twitter. So even, as much as there's this like whole notion of like this East Coast / West Coast binary, like, I've been able to make good friends in New York who are, I would say, are very different than like, what the stereotypical like "East Coast Filipino" is or like, you know, "non-West Coast Filipino" is. So, again, I'm very thankful for those friends. So shout out to Isa Cajulis, Czaerra Ucol, and yeah. Also the amazing folks that I've found on Twitter—follow me on Twitter!
Yo, shout out to—what's your handle so people could follow you?
Emilie Tumale 47:46
Oh, yeah. My handle is @emilietumale, that is spelled E-M-I-L-I-E-T-U-M-A-L-E. And then also if you want to follow me on Instagram where it's more personal stuff, but less academic. Um, but you know, I do post milestones. My Instagram handle is @miss.emilie, so that is M-I-S-S [dot] E-M-I-L-I-E
Heck yeah, shout out to your followers on Twitter, on Instagram. And with that being said, thank y'all for listening to this episode of the Pilipinx-American Stories Podcast and we will see you on the next one!