Playwright Mara Elissa Palma and her complicated relationships

July 27, 2017

SEATTLE  Filipino American actor, director and playwright Mara Elissa Palma will be performing a one-woman show about words starting with the letter F.

Mara Elissa Palma. Photo by Sonia Xu.

"The tagline is `a first-generation Filipina finding her way through family, friends, and fantasy,'" she says. The work will be the result of her involvement in Intiman Theatre's Emerging Artist Program, an annual summer training series where she's one of 12 participants.

This year's theme is "illustrating the new American dream," where the participants will be creating and performing autobiographical pieces.

"I'll be tackling my own struggle with growing up under many strong female role models and coming into my own femininity using what they taught me," she says.

She'll also incorporate her complicated relationship with her father as well as "some other male figures in my life, who have not been positive influences."

"I will tackle how make-believe and imagination came to play a big part in who I am as a person."


Currently based in Boston, Massachusetts, Palma was born in Quezon City and moved to California with her family when she was six years old.

Her acting credits include "The Real Inspector Hound" for Bad Habit Productions, "House of Blue Leaves" for Wellesley Repertory Theatre, "Yellow Face" for Office of War Information, and in an all-female cast of "Winter's Tale" for Maiden Phoenix Theatre.

Palma has had one of her short plays, "Love Told Pain," produced. Other works include one-acts "Boston: A Morality Play" and "Octavia and Kleopatra," and short play "Civil Hands"; the latter two of which are expressions of her interest in historical and documentary-dramas.


Palma discovered Intiman's program through a college friend who'd joined it last year. After filling out and sending in her application, she was called in for an in-person audition with this year's program co-curator and artistic lead, Sara Porkalob, alongside other Intiman Theatre officers.

"It was actually a really crazy process," she says of flying from Boston to Seattle to audition for the program while balancing her time between a show she'd been as she was working in her day job. "But sometimes that's the life of the artist! You've got to chase your dreams."

"I think about my family who picked up everything and left home to come to a new country, and moving from the east to the west coast isn't so scary when I put it into perspective."


The distance away and available time from her usual routine has been helpful to her artistic process. "It's also been helpful to be working with a completely new artistic community because it means new people, new ideas, and new ways of doing things."

"Every single day has been incredible! I have never been part of an artistic community like this one where I feel like I am being celebrated, supported, and challenged every single time we meet."

She's also relishing the chance to work with another Filipino American theater artist (Porkalob's mother is Filipino). "This is a singular and extremely special experience because I've only had the chance to work with another Filipino American theater artist once. Never mind the opportunity to work with Asian American or Pacific Islander artists in leadership positions!"

"Isn't that mind-blowing? I didn't realize it was something I wanted, or needed, in my life until I got to Intiman. Sara Porkalob is inspiring in her work and leadership of our program, and I really see her as a mentor and role model."


While the showcase will feature the participants' initial works-in-progress via five to eight minute excerpts, the objective is to help them build the foundations for full-length versions.

"The focus is on solo performance pieces and not so much `traditional' scripts. I'm leaving room for it to change as time goes on, as one often does with artistic pursuits."

"The dream is to someday be able to take that show to Seattle, the Philippines, and even London someday."

"By writing this solo performance piece, I hope to empower other immigrants, Filipino, Asian, and Asian American women of color to realize their voice matters and that they should tell their stories, too."

Free admission. Intiman Theatre's Emerging Artist Showcase runs Aug. 4-6 at Marleen and Kenny Alhadeff Studio Theater, Cornish Playhouse, 201 Mercer St., Seattle. Visit


Toronto’s Kultura Filipino Arts fest to offer food, music, shopping

July 20, 2017

TORONTO  This year's Kultura Filipino Arts Festival, now on its 12th year, will be a three-and-a half-day celebration in various locations, with its last afternoon featuring food vendors, a marketplace and entertainment at the Daniels Spectrum building.

Kultura will start on Thursday, Aug. 10 at various sites in this city and culminate with the afternoon-long affair at the Daniels Spectrum building in the Regent Park neighborhood on Sunday, Aug. 13.

Entertainment at last year's Kultura Filipino Arts Festival.

"Contemporary and traditional Filipino culture will be showcased through performance art, visual art, dance, music, poetry, craft and cuisine," says Kapisanan Philippine Centre for Arts and Culture executive director Nicole Cajucom.

Organized by Kapisanan, last year's festival had an estimated attendance of more than 6,000.

Art and culture

Kicking off the festival will be an opening reception on Aug. 10 at Daniels Spectrum featuring an art exhibition of the works of participants of Kapisanan Centre's youth arts and culture workshops.

A party will follow at 10 p.m. that night at Cold Tea speakeasy on Kensington Ave.

Scheduled performances, publishing-related and art-related activities are listed at


The festival's "Kain Kalye: Filipino Street Eats Competition" on Aug. 13 will feature eight Filipino Canadian restaurateurs and food entrepreneurs.

Lasa by Lamesa (sister restaurant of Lamesa Filipino Kitchen), Dolly's Mojito Bar and Panciteria, and Paper Crane and Co. will offer savory selections.

Street-food inspired offerings from Kanto by Tita Flips and grilled skewers by Eskenita will also be included. Dahlia's will feature Mexican street food with Filipino flavors.

Sweet pastries such as cannolis, cupcakes and cheesecakes with traditional Filipino flavors such as ube (purple yam), buko pandan (coconut and pandan leaves), calamansi and mango will be provided by Filipino Fusion Desserts.

Next generation

Also included as a food vendor will be Kasama, a "food collective" composed of students who underwent Kapisanan's Ulam project from April to June.

Participants of Project Ulam.

The Ulam program taught participants Filipino culinary arts and related aspects such as cultural identity, family, peers, community, nation and homeland.

The group was trained by chef Dan Cancino of Lamesa Filipino Kitchen restaurant.

Shopping and entertainment

Also on Aug. 13, the festival's Kultura Marketplace will showcase Filipino Canadian artisans, craftspeople, and entrepreneurs including CocoVie Naturals, Fé Everyday Goods, Dee de Lara Jewelry, Tayo Collective and Export Express.

Shoppers and vendors at last year's festival.

Musicians and dancers will grace the Kultura Live! Stage to entertain festivalgoers.

Featured performers include Han Han (Haniely Pableo who raps in Tagalog and Cebuano); electronic-tribal music duo Datu (Alexander Junior and Romeo Candido); and modern-ethnic dance troupe Hataw.

Han Han collaborated with Datu and Hataw last year to make a music video of the lead track of her self-titled album. The uploaded video to her Facebook page had more than 678,000 views, not counting views from postings and shares by other pages and personal accounts.

Solo acts include hip hop artist Casey Garcia, indie folk-rock singer Darling Cora, and improvised electronic music artist Kyvita.

Music groups include neo-soul, R&B and jazz group Sol.Dust (vocalist and guitarist Charlotte Fabro with bassist and guitarist Chino) and jazz band JC3 (Jon Catanus, Cole Mendez, Peter Eratostene).

Filipino artists based in the US will also be performing: Detroit-based queer disco pop singer RV Mendoza and Los Angeles-based electronic, hip hop and world music DJ Gingee (Marjorie Light).

This year's festival has support from San Miguel Beer, Seafood City, Pacific Ark, Now Magazine, Toronto Arts Council, ArtReach Toronto, Ontario Arts Council and Canadian Heritage.

An orientation for volunteers will be held on July 27 at Artscape Youngplace (180 Shaw Street).

Kultura Filipino Arts Festival 2017 runs Aug. 10-13 at Daniels Spectrum, 585 Dundas St. East, Toronto. Visit

Yoga on YouTube, Fil-Am style

July 19, 2017

KANSAS CITY, Missouri  If you've ever wanted to try yoga but wished for a more private way of doing it, you could always watch one of Maris Dimayuga Aylward's instructional videos on YouTube.

Maris Dimayuga Aylward in rajakapotasana or King pigeon pose.

Some of the entry-level styles or sessions she teaches include gentle/beginners yoga and hands-free or wrist-free sequences. Some are only 15 minutes long. Though longtime practitioners can also tune in for her full-hour power yoga sessions.

"I wanted to provide high quality online yoga videos for free," she says of the "Yoga Upload" channel she created in 2015.

"My intention was to help people who had limited resources to go to classes, those who lived in an area without easy access to yoga, and students who preferred to practice in the privacy of their own home."

When she was still living in the Philippines, she acted for the major TV stations and movie studio Star Cinema, as well as theater companies such as Tanghalang Pilipino. In addition, Aylward loved working out and going to fitness classes.

She started practicing yoga in 2003. "I was just curious in the beginning. I tried it and I was hooked!"


Yoga transformed her life in many unexpected ways. "Starting a yoga practice and radically changing my diet and habits were among the best decisions I've made in my life.

Aylward is also an actress.

"As I practiced over the years, I learned how to nurture myself, to listen to my body, and to be simply grateful for whatever the present moment brings.

"Yoga started out as a physical activity and slowly evolved into a deeper practice that supports my psychological and spiritual growth."


Aylward moved to Kansas in 2010. "My husband, Dave, is from here. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines when we met in 2007. We got married in Manila in 2008."

Upon arriving in the US, she studied to become a certified yoga instructor and started teaching in different studios.

She hosts "Arts Upload" on KCPT-PBS.

"It felt natural to transition into becoming a yoga teacher. I have a teaching background, having taught high school at St. Paul College (Pasig City, Metro Manila), and corporate training background."

She also currently co-hosts "Arts Upload," a weekly TV show on KCPT-PBS (Kansas City Public Television). The show features local artists and arts events.

"Aside from hosting the local TV show here, I also do acting for commercials and modeling for print ads."

Eventually, she started producing and uploading videos on YouTube. "Again, it felt like a natural transition to merge my yoga life with my background in TV, film and theater."

There are now over a hundred videos on the channel and more are added every month. Aside from the instructional videos, she also posts Q&A sessions where she talks about diet, yoga equipment and other related topics.

On her website, she's already created an option for users to download her videos onto their devices so they can watch even if they aren't connected to the Internet.


Fil-Canadian playwright has 'lesson plants' in her works

July 13, 2017

TORONTO - Filipino Canadian Jo SiMalaya Alcampo's play "Hilot Means Healer," a historical drama set in World War II recently received a staged reading by Cahoots Theatre.

Alcampo (center) looks on at guests touch the plants in her installation.

"Hilot Means Healer" is about a family's attempt to heal psychic wounds from atrocities during the Japanese occupation, through the touch of plants and hope found in the garden of a healer.

Held at Tapestry & Nightwood at the city's Distillery District, the reading was directed by another Fil-Canadian, Nina Lee Aquino.

"I believe that if we are to recover from the ecological crisis we have created on this planet, we need to understand that we are interconnected to the natural world and our actions have consequences," Alcampo says.

"I want to create work that invites people to imagine and embody a mutually respectful relationship with plants and other ecological beings."

The current iteration of the play is a result of Alcampo's playwright residency with Cahoots Theatre.


This was her second residency with the group. "Over the course of my residencies, I developed my play under the guidance of artistic director Marjorie Chan," she says.

Jo SiMalaya Alcampo.
Photo by Dahlia Katz

Alcampo had worked with Chan previously, when Chan taught playwriting to Alcampo and other members of the Filipino Canadian theater group Carlos Bulosan Theatre.

Their sessions resulted in Alcampo's one-act play "inviable heart" (a one-woman play that she also performed), and prior to that, another one-act that she co-wrote with other playwrights, "Tempting Remo."

Born in Manila, Alcampo's family moved to Scarborough when she was in the first grade. She'd been involved with CBT since the mid-'90s (then known as Carlos Bulosan Cultural Workshop), acting in or stage-managing shows.

"I co-directed 'Walang Sugat' with one of my mentors, Fely Villasin." (Villasin and Martha Ocampo founded the group originally to serve as the cultural wing of the activist group Coalition Against the Marcos Dictatorship's Toronto chapter.)


Her residencies at Cahoots allowed Alcampo to work with other playwrights, providing her with a peer support group for exchanging theatrical ideas, sharing scripts and receiving feedback.

Cast of "Hilot Means Healer."

"The purpose of each residency was to explore different creation processes and nurture my growth as a professional playwright. During my 2015-2016 residency, I developed a script and workshopped the play for public reading," she says.

"It was very helpful to experience the play with an audience. However, I was left with many questions that I wanted to explore further."

Her 2016-2017 residency allowed her to workshop the play over a much longer period. "This gave me the opportunity to delve more deeply into the text."


During the day, she worked with Chan and Lee Aquino and four actors (Lana Carillo, Belinda Corpuz, Matthew Issel McMillian and Keshia Palm).

Playwrighting was done at night. "I'd share rewrites the next morning and we'd explore the script further each day."

As part of developing her play, Alcampo was also able to incorporate songs and indigenous Philippine instruments such as kulintang gongs into the storytelling.

"I was grateful to work with such a musical cast who were willing to take risks with the script. The collaborative nature of the workshop and reading process really helped me grow as a playwright."


Next steps for "Hilot Means Healer" are still in the works; meanwhile, Alcampo has been telling other stories through her non-theater endeavors.

Alcampo also works on installation-based art and electro-acoustic soundscapes-where she extends her passion for plant life.

Last month, she had an interactive sound art installation at Evergreen Brick Works titled "Visitors: Singing Plants (Redux)," where potted banana plants were made to respond to human hand gestures by emitting soundscapes of Aboriginal chants, songs and spoken words.

"Plants have many teachings to offer us. When people reach out to plants and hear them sing the Hudhud chants of the Ifugao people, or immerse themselves in a play about a healing garden in the Philippines, my hope is that they, in their own way, feel some connection to these teachings."

She's also been working on a comic book about Canada's Filipino caregivers with illustrator Althea Balmes. The pair has teamed up with the Toronto Public Library to hold "Comics/Komiks Meet-Up," a once-a-week session for participants to network and develop their comics.

"This will be a space to meet other creatives and share resources in a supportive community," she says.

"Comics/Komiks Meet-Up" runs July 10-Oct. 30, Monday evenings at Lillian H. Smith Library, 239 College St., Toronto. Visit


Gino Gonzales wins silver in 2017 World Stage Design

July 7, 2017
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Gonzales' costumes designs for Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas' 2014 production of "Hakbang sa Hakbang" (Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure") won him the silver prize in the Professional Designers category at the 2017 World Stage Design (WSD) in Taipei, Taiwan.

Gino Gonzales.
Photo by Jethro Joaquin.

The Elizabethan-inspired, cream-and-brown-hued costumes were constructed using three grades of muslin (katsa), combined with indigenous materials such as raffia, abaca, sinamay and jute. Wigs and headwear were also made from abaca.

Costumes for "Hakbang sa Hakbang."
Photo by Vladimier Gonzales.

WSD is organized by the International Organisation of Scenographers, Theatre Architects and Technicians and is held every four years, showcasing works by set, costume, lighting and sound designers from around the world and chosen by an international screening panel.

Gonzales previously won the bronze prize for his set design for the opera "Spoliarium" for WSD 2005 held in Toronto, Canada.

READ about the other Filipino designers featured at World Stage Design 2017 here.

READ a previous profile of Gino Gonzales here.

READ previous coverage of Gino Gonzales here. link (posted July 6, 2017):


SF’s Bindlestiff Studio to stage 3 Tagalog plays from Manila

July 5, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO - Filipino American theater group Bindlestiff Studio will stage "Tagalog 2017" this month at its theater on 6th Street, featuring a trilogy of one-act plays imported from Manila to be performed in Tagalog with English supertitles.

Poster of "Tagalog 2017"

"Changing Partners" written and composed by Vincent de Jesus is a "torch musical" about the May-December relationship between Cris and Alex.

The storytelling and staging twist involve two actors portraying each character, for a total of four actors in the cast.

Musical director is Rhoda Gravador. Current Bindlestiff artistic director Aureen Almario co-directs with Tonilyn Sideco.

Sibling rivalry

"Kung Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady" ("How I Came to Be the Leading Lady") by award-winning graphic novelist Carlo Vergara is about domestic help, sibling rivalry and shattered dreams. (Vergara has since adapted his play into a graphic novel and a full-length musical.)

Allan Manalo directs. Manalo and his spouse, Joyce Juan, took over management of the studio in 1998, developing its programming to focus on Filipino American performing artists.

Since then, Bindlestiff Studio has produced original plays, music festivals, stand-up and sketch comedy shows, dance, visual and video arts created by Filipino Americans.


Just last May, the late writer Alex Tizon`s story "My Family's Slave," about his family's maid, went viral and sparked commentary and discussions on maids and servants in Filipino culture.

"The article in The Atlantic magazine is much heavier in subject matter and disturbing in many aspects. Unfortunately, it's a sad glimpse into issues of social class structures," says Manalo.

"The script given to me was meant to be humorous and doesn't broach the subject of abuse or even servitude.

"The premise of 'Leading Lady' is the idea of someone working as a 'housekeeper' at a superhero headquarters, akin to the Justice League headquarters in DC comics, leading to a role reversal plot twist.

"You place a character with a traditional role into an incongruent setting for comedic effect. For example, writing a play about the waiter at the Last Supper," he explains.

Solace in siblings

Dominique La Victoria's "Ang Bata sa Drum" ("The Child in the Drum") is about how a sister comforts her brother, who has been punished in a strange way.

Homegrown director Joe Cascasan, who has trained and acted with Bindlestiff for more than a decade, says he discussed the play's issues with his cast and they observed that "punishment or 'disciplining' in the Philippines would seem so severe here in the States."

Nonetheless, he believes that theatergoers who will catch the show will "be keen to know the cultural differences on being raised by a Filipino parent. But I can see some audience members being very disturbed on this matter, and I think that's fine."

"As a mischievous child myself, I have vivid memories of being punished by my yayas in the Philippines. I remember being put in a box a couple of times, similar to the character in the play who was placed in a water drum."

The first "Tagalog" production premiered last year. As with last year's selections, this year's line-up of plays are from previous installments of the Virgin Labfest, an annual showcase of new one-act plays that has been held in Manila since 2004.

Cast features Kathlyn Cabrera, Faye Denise, Richgail Enriquez, Nic Feliciano, Russelle McDermott, Ryan Morales, Jeffrey Ramos, Lee Robin Salazar, and Paula Sison.

READ previous coverage of Bindlestiff Studio here.

"Tagalog 2017" runs July 14-29 at Bindlestiff Studio, 185 6th St., cor. Howard St., San Francisco. Tickets at Visit or

John Carlo Pagunaling's costumes make it to 2017 World Stage Design exhibition

Also featured are designs by Mio Infante, Gino Gonzales and Jethro Joaquin
July 1, 2017
Philippine Daily Inquirer

John Carlo Pagunaling's costume designs for "Ampalaya the Musical" will be exhibited under the Emerging Designers category at the 2017 World Stage Design event in Taipei.

Pagunaling's costume designs for "Ampalaya the Musical."
Photo by Urich Calumpang.

Held every four years, the event showcases works from set, costume, lighting and sound designers from around the world, chosen by an international screening panel.

The works of Mio Infante, Gino Gonzales, and Jethro Joaquin will be exhibited under the Professional Designers category.

Pagunaling's costume designs for "Ampalaya the Musical."
Photo by Adrian Begonia.

Selected for exhibition are Infante's set design for "Rak of Aegis" for Philippine Educational Theater Association (Peta); Gonzales' costume designs for "Labaw Donggon" for Ateneo Entablado and "Hakbang sa Hakbang"/"Measure for Measure") for Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (DUP); and Joaquin's sound design for "The Normal Heart" for Actor's Actors, Inc.


"Ampalaya the Musical" is based on Augie Rivera Jr.'s children's story "Alamat ng Ampalaya," on how the vegetable acquired its bitter flavor. It has music by Michael Dadap; libretto by Dadap and Patty Yusah. Music direction was by Elizabeth Vista-Suarez and direction was by Dessa Quesada-Palm.

John Carlo Pagunaling

Produced by Silliman University, the show ran in Dumaguete City in 2014 and 2015. It had a performance at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 2015.

Pagunaling earned the 2014 Philstage Gawad Buhay for outstanding costume design for his work on Peta's "Rak of Aegis." Recent credits include Cornerstone Entertainment's "Ako si Josephine," DUP's "Faust," and Tanghalang Ateneo's "Boy" and "Kalantiaw."

Mio Infante's set design for Peta's "Rak of Aegis."
Photo courtesy of Mio Infante.

Born and raised in Bulacan, Pagunaling's interest in theater began in high school at St. Mary's College of Meycauayan, where he became president of its theater organization Sining na Malaya.

"My teacher, Ms. Adaon, recommended that I audition for University of the Philippines' theater arts program," he says.

Constantly learning 

Pagunaling credits his professors and mentors in college for grounding him in technique, efficiency and discipline. "A good teacher will produce a good student."

In college, he first did costumes for DUP's staging of "Tatarin." Apprenticing in set design under Tuxqs Rutaquio and director Jose Estrella for "Sepharad: Voces de Exilio" and in costume design under the late Ogie Juliano for a trilogy of Severino Montao one-acts steered him towards deciding on a future career in production design.

Gino Gonzales' costume designs for "Labaw Donggon."
Photo from Ateneo Entablado Facebook page.

His first break professionally was working as John Abul's associate designer for the costumes of Peta's "Care Divas."

Pagunaling strives to constantly learn more about his craft. He's taken clothing and textile classes at UP's College of Home Economics and is currently taking dressmaking classes at Slim's Fashion and Arts School. "I want to further enhance my knowledge and skills."


He says the decision to commit is the first step for any project. "If I'm willing to give my one hundred percent to a particular production, I'll join the team and finish the race whatever happens."

Gino Gonzales' costume designs for "Hakbang sa Hakbang."
Photo by Vladimeir Gonzales.

His process begins with reading the script several times. "I analyze it using Jacque Lacan's three psychoanalytic orders of symbolic, real and imaginary."

He stresses the importance of research as the backbone of design. "I always go to libraries, museums, galleries. I also use magazines, films, interviews and credible internet sites like Project Muse."

He then collaborates with the director and other designers (lighting, set, sound, etc.) to craft a "master symbol" or "master concept." "Then I translate that into costume designs."

Filipino exhibited entries in past installments of WSD include Jay Aranda's lighting design for "Turn Up the Quiet, Just Dance" and Gonzales' set design for "Spoliarium" (bronze prize) for WSD 2005 in Toronto, Canada; and Jed Balsamo's sound design for "Amihan" and Joaquin's sound design for "Hamlet" for WSD 2009 in Seoul, Korea.

"World Stage Design 2017" runs Jul. 1-9, Taipei National University of the Arts, Taiwan. Visit WSD2017. com.

READ about Filipino theater designers featured in 2015 intl exhibitions in Prague and Moscow

READ about Mio Infante's design process for the set of Peta's 'Rak of Aegis' link:


Monthly Fil-Am night market to start in SF’s Filipino Cultural District

July 1, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO  Undiscovered SF, a monthly Filipino American night market aimed at jumpstarting several Fil-Am enterprises, will kick off in August at the San Francisco Mint.

Desi Danganan

Guided by a young, Manila-born entrepreneur, the market is envisioned to feature fashion and accessories, technology products, handicrafts and housewares, artwork, health and wellness products and even social activism organizations.

Food vendors, thus far, include Janice Dulce's F.O.B. Kitchen, Ronnie Taylor and Tim Luym's Alchemy SF, Deanna Sison Foster's Mestiza Taqueria, Kristen Brillantes and JP Reyes' Sarap Shop, and Jay-Ar Isagani Pugao's No Worries Cuisine. Sweet offerings include Jason Angeles' FK Frozen Custard and Sugar and Spun.

"We're calling all artists and merchants to join us in jumpstarting a new Filipino American renaissance," says Kultivate Labs Executive Director Desi Danganan.

Free entertainment will be provided, including music, urban dance, DJ sets, spoken word and even martial arts.

Organized by Kultivate Labs, a non-profit organization that mentors aspiring entrepreneurs, the night market aims to jump-start the economic activity at and create public awareness of SOMA Pilipinas.

SOMA (South of Market) Pilipinas was designated as the city's Filipino Cultural District last year. It stretches from 2nd St. to 11th St., bordered by Market and Brannan streets.


"We're looking for entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations from the Fil-Am community who want to showcase their brands and represent the versatility of our community," says Danganan.

One of the objectives of Undiscovered SF is to allow Kultivate Labs to identify emerging business ventures and assist in accelerating their growth.

Selected vendors will be given mentorship and workshops on topics such as branding, accounting, legal, crowdfunding, etc.

"Our vendors will all be in different stages in the lifecycle of their business and we'll adapt our services to meet their needs. Once we know who the A players are, we'll set them up for long term growth opportunities.

"This way, we can begin to populate SOMA Pilipinas with a new wave of Fil-Am entrepreneurs that are financially resilient and can adapt to the market needs to all San Franciscans, and not just a small segment of our community," explains Danganan.

Need for assistance

Kultivate Labs was established after a survey of Fil-Am entrepreneurs revealed that there was no organization to facilitate their success.

"There's a host of non-profit business incubators out here in San Francisco, but what makes us different is our laser focus on the Fil-Am community and our innovative programs that build on the foundational programs of our partner organizations like Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center," Danganan clarifies.

Danganan is also the Economic and Workforce Development chair for SOMA Pilipinas. He previously opened a restaurant and a café before starting his own business mentoring consultancy, Plinth Agency, and has more than a decade's experience of helping grow business in the food, music and technology areas.

"Kultivate Labs is my way of giving back to our community. It's been a personal passion of mine to help the cultural district succeed."


Born in Manila and raised in West Covina, California, Danganan moved to San Francisco in 1999. He has seen the city's struggles with economic forces that result in gentrification and displacement as well as "the class wars that were dividing the city between the haves and have-nots."

"We're all chasing the American Dream. But with great privilege comes a responsibility to be a good neighbor, to find ways to bridge the gap."

"The media likes to portray entrepreneurship as a surefire way to success. It's not. It's extremely tough." Nonetheless, he says that business doesn't need to be cutthroat and winner-take-all.

"We can all come up together. SOMA Pilipinas is a once in a lifetime opportunity for entrepreneurs to fulfill the dreams of our forefathers before us that came to the US to build a better life, to stake a claim in the American Dream. There's room for all us to prosper and thrive."

"If all goes according to plan, by the 2020s, we'll have a vibrant commercial corridor filled with new Fil-Am restaurants, cafes, retail concepts, innovative placemaking initiatives, outdoor markets, etc., for all of San Francisco to enjoy."

"Undiscovered SF" launches on Aug. 18, 2017 and will then be held every third Friday thereafter at The San Francisco Mint, 5th St., San Francisco. Visit