This Filipino American Life

This Filipino American Life is a podcast that explores the nuanced experiences of Filipinos in the United States. With the idea to create personal content and provide a voice to Filipino American lives, the Los Angeles-based team — Joe Bernardo, Ryan Carpio, Elaine Dolalas, and Mike Nailat — discuss a range of topics, from mental health and popular culture to gangs and gentrification. They bring personal experiences, share their stories, and welcome guest to discuss various topics. Providing a voice and point of view not always discussed in the mainstream, TFAL is a podcast for all Filipino Americans.



What is the inspiration behind This Filipino American Life? And how did you get started? 
The podcast really started when I was looking for a way to discuss issues in the Filipino American community, but not necessary known or discussed in mainstream media (or even ethnic media). I had been studying Philippine and Filipino American history for a while and wanted to come up with an appropriate medium to share random ideas I've had.  I came up with the idea of a Filipino American podcast partly to fulfill this void.

I approached my friend Ryan about starting a podcast, and he immediately loved it. (He's my go-to for my half-baked ideas).  I then approached Elaine, who ran her own podcast, the now-defunct Oblivious Nerd Girl’s Great Idea. I knew her fun and enthusiastic personality would complement us. She brought on her husband Mike, who produced all of her podcasts. Once the four of us were on board, we were off and running.

We wanted a podcast that tackled issues and cultural trends in a lighthearted, humorous way. We wanted to mix the seriousness of 92.3 The Beat’s Street Science (from the 1990s and 2000s) and the humor of KROQ’s Kevin & Bean show. All four of us are involved with the Filipino American community in some form, so many of the issues on TFAL come from our experiences. And we all value humor as a means to bring people together. We talked about these issues all the time through humor, but it was never public or archived in any way. We thought, might as well record our conversations and see if anyone would listen to us.

How do you choose podcast subject matter and talking points?
The four of us take turns being in charge of a full episode.  That means coming up with the theme, booking the guest, devising the questions, etc.  We all have somewhat of a niche.  I tend to gravitate towards history and politics, Elaine is a pop culture enthusiast, and Ryan likes more obscure topics (think Vice), and Mike is kind of all over the place.  (In fairness, Mike has only been in charge of a handful of episodes).  For our mini-episodes - in which we talk about a topic among ourselves - we try to discuss the latest happenings in Filipino America or we discuss a random cultural practice or trend that Filipino Americans like to do. 

What has been the most popular/talked about podcast episode?
By far, our most popular podcast has been our gang episode. Gangs were a big thing in the Filipino American community during the 1980s and 1990s, but kind of fell out of the public consciousness. When we released the episode, our downloads and website hits blew up. I think it was probably the nostalgia of Filipino American gangs that attracted some to the episode. For others, it was the curiosity of supposed Filipino “deviancy.” Whatever the case may have been, that episode really helped spread the word about TFAL.


What is the driving force behind TFAL?
It's really been about our love for the community.  All of us have been involved with the Filipino American community in some form or another.  To get listeners to think about issues that affect their lives, to get inspired by creative Filipinos, to relate to the nuances of our culture, and to laugh in the process is really a step forward towards the success of our community.  There are close to 4 million Filipinos in the United States and all of us are different.  The other day, a TFAL listener from a state that doesn't have a lot of Filipinos emailed us and said that the podcast is one of the only things that connects him to his Filipino roots.  That kind of feedback humbles us in that it reminds us of how spoiled we are to have grown up in California.  Just to share our ideas and hopes with a Filipinos who are hungry for this kind of content means everything.  

What do you love about the work you do?
It's so fucking fun to do.  I mean, the four of us get to talk about the stuff we love and are curious and concerned about, AND we try to make each other laugh?  It's amazing.  Plus, the four of us have really only been close friends for a few years.  None of us really know how each other grew up or formed their identity (well...with the exception of Mike and Elaine since they're married).  So learning about those little nuances about each other has brought us closer together.

How does your community uplift you?
They uplift us by doing what they're doing.  It's amazing to hear about Filipino Americans taking on a new endeavor or excelling in their respective fields or continuously trying to make this world a better place.  These kind of stories inspire us to do our part, which is try to be a vehicle to tell some of these stories.  To be sure, there are a whole lot of shitty people in our community, but we believe the good folks outweighs the bad ones. 

Do you have any upcoming projects, events, podcasts you are excited about?
There are always things in the works. Some of the same stuff we do, and some new stuff we'll try out.  Follow us on Instagram (TFALpodcast), Twitter (@TFALpodcast), and Facebook ( for updates!

Photos courtesy of This Filipino American Life 

Jeannine Roson