Christine Bumatay - Social Media Community Manager, Founder of Sosyal Gal, Freelance Writer
Christine Bumatay is the Soysal Gal. A 1.5 generation Filipina American, Christine spent her formative years in the Philippines, migrated to the US with her family when she was 9 years old, become a US Citizen, studied abroad, graduated Cum Laude with Honors from the University of Southern California, a Social Media Community Manager, the Founder of Sosyal Gal, and a Freelance writer. She’s written Fil Am centered articles including “I am a Filipina Who Was Addicted to Skin Lightening Products” on Huffington Post and “Ube Ice Cream Is The Flavor of Summer 2019, Here’s What Filipinx Folks Want You to Know” on Bustle. She started the Soysal Gal brand and offers fun Fil Am inspired merchandise. She’s inspired by family works to have Filipinx seen as dynamic, passionate, multifaceted people. Christine is a driven woman, a game changer and with a side hustle.
How did you create your career path?
This is definitely a two-part answer and might have readers comment “TLDR”. But stick with me because I don’t mean to seem philosophical here, but to me, the definition of “career” is a bit skewed because of my age and how I grew up. As a young Millennial who grew up around the Internet and social media, I know that “side hustle culture” is celebrated. Although results may not be immediate or instantaneous, I’ve realized that the Western world applaud people who have a side hustle. However, as a young Millennial who was born and raised in poverty in the Philippines, having a side hustle was not created to entertain a hobby, make extra cash for next month’s vacation, or have a savings account-- it was to make money to put food on the table. So, how did I create my career path? Simple. I grew up poor and I grew up around people who didn’t take no for an answer when it came to making their lives better. They taught me that success would never be given to me. From the ages of 12-17, I read and anything and everything — from Charles Baudelaire to Charles Bukowski. I dabbled in Jose Rizal. I would write anywhere and everywhere — from restaurant napkins to my notes app. At 18, I moved to Paris, France to study Art History and Literature. At 19, I transferred to the University of Southern California to study Public Relations and Entrepreneurship. At 22, I graduated Cum Laude and with honors. Two days after graduation, I started my corporate job. I didn’t grow up with a trust fund or a network -- this came later, after signing my life away with a $200,000 student debt. I didn’t have time to travel or take a gap year. I didn’t want to go back home after college and live with my parents. I knew I’d become stagnant and comfortable. I didn’t grow up white, and I didn’t grow up white passing. I didn’t grow up with privilege. I didn’t grow up with white-picket fences and green grass in my front lawn. So believe me when I say, I grew up understanding that there was a bigger system that was built to put Filipina immigrants like me “in our place”. I realized this in every classroom, meeting, party, or social function where my pronunciation of certain words were called out, the question “Did you really go to USC?” would be asked as a joke, and my credibility was always questioned. I noticed that what mediocrity my white peers gave (and others would call “genius” or “contemporary”), I’d have to work and give 10,000 times harder. There’s really no singular answer to this question, except the fact that I created my career path with no doubt in my mind that I’d have to create my own success in my own terms and in my own way. That if a girl from Mandaluyong City, Philippines could get out and make something of herself, then why the hell not make the best version of it?
What is the inspiration behind Sosyal Gal? And what do you want to accomplish through Sosyal Gal?
Since coming to America, I obviously gained an American accent. Whenever I go home to the Philippines, my cousins make fun of me for having a “sosyal” accent. Sosyal is associated with the rich. The term “Sosyal Gal” came about when I was sitting in my personal branding class at SC, and I realized that the moniker “Sosyal Gal” was catchy. It incorporated both Tagalog and English, while also shattering social norms -- that this poor girl could be called “sosyal”. I thought, “Why not change the definition to something positive?” Since then, the Sosyal Gal fam has definitely been growing. Everyday, I receive lovely messages of hope, inspiration, and love from the Filipinx community when I share my stories. I read each and every one and use it as inspiration for my next project. Now and in the future, I hope that the brand Sosyal Gal can be an emblem of hope for the Filipinx and Filipinx American community, and would act as a bridge between culture differences and similarities.
How important is sharing the Filipino American perspective in your writing?
Well, actually I’m a 1.5- generation immigrant. So, I wasn’t born here. I came here when I was 9 years old. I only became a US citizen when I was 17 years old. Because of this, I don’t particularly identify as Filipino American. I write from the perspective of a Filipina who grew up in both countries. It’s extremely important for me to share this perspective because it helps unify native Filipinxs and Filipinx Americans, as well as speak to readers in the Philippines and the United States.
What are some favorite pieces you've written? And how have they been received?
Oh, this is a super hard question! I love all of them. The most recent Huffington Post article tops the list for sure. I couldn’t believe that a Filipino story made the HuffPost, let alone written by me. I tend to want to write the topics some people don’t want to write about because they’re a bit too controversial -- but like I said, I grew up in the streets. I can take the heat. All pieces from Medium, Bustle, and Huffington Post have been received with about 85% positivity. I’m so grateful for the outpouring of kind messages and interest. There are certainly haters out there, though. I’ve had white people tell me I have a biased POV; I’ve had Filipinxs tell me I’m too much of a “snowflake”. All I can say is I tell the truth and if they can’t take it, then bahala sila sa buhay nila.
What are Fil Am stories and subjects that you want to write about?
ALL OF THEM. Yes, reader, please DM / email / holler at me on social if you have any stories you want out there. I promise to read and acknowledge your story the best way I know how!
Is it difficult pitching Fil Am stories to mainstream media?
Hell yes. AAPI is still seen as a monolith, y’all. No shade thrown towards the folx who receive privileges when seen as a “model minority”— just straight up facts. Brown Asians are absolutely underrepresented in the media and I intend on changing that.
Please describe your biggest driving force.
1. My parents, Nanay, Lolo, Aunties, Uncles, and my brother - After their sacrifices for me, I absolutely will not let them down.
2. My great-grandfather, Sgt. Bumatay. He has a major street named after him where I’m from. He died in the Bataan Death March. Family legend says that he was an anti-colonialism and anti-oppression. He fought for his people against the Japanese. Sometimes I think his passion and activist lives within me.
3. I have this dream that one day Filipinxs will finally be seen, in every shape and form -- whether in movies, music, news, sports, arts, politics, etc -- in a way that’s not just to check off the “diversity” initiative in a company or to sprinkle in Brown Asian perspective. My dream is that we will finally be seen, that Filipinxs are dynamic, passionate, and forces to be reckoned with. That’s my biggest driving force.
What are some goals you want to accomplish through your work?
Proper representation for Filipinx people in the media and calling out double standards in the AAPI group. Calling out ignorance, especially people who use diversity as a buzzword. Education and awareness.
You've posted photos of your new merchandise, what is the inspiration behind it? Do you have a favorite design?
Yes! So, actually, funny story. I posted a pic last year with the caption “Suplada on the outside, soft as siopao on the inside” and a few gals told me they’d totally cop if it was on a t-shirt. Almost a year later, Sosyal Gal Boutique was born. All the designs are thought of by me (so they’re all my favorites haha) and inspired by the nostalgia of my childhood in the Philippines. It’s then crafted by my kick ass best friend/freelance illustrator Lauren Fox (follow her IG @thriftyandthirsty). The inspiration behind the boutique was again the under representation of Filipinx culture -- this time in fashion. I’ve always loved fashion and clothes, and this activism + fashion intersection has been quite fun and inspiring. I’ve had orders from Anchorage, Alaska all the way down to the southernmost tip of Florida. I’m so grateful!
Do you have any upcoming projects, events that you are excited about?
Always! What y’all can expect from me is that I’ll always have an upcoming project hah. For October (Filipino American History Month, woohoo!), I have a few articles coming out, more merch drops for the holidays (stay tuned) and most importantly, I was invited to the Entrepinay Summit in San Francisco next month. I’m so so so grateful for the opportunity and I can’t wait to see familiar and new faces. So, if you’re going, please say kamusta! I’m the gal who looks suplada pero is actually a siopao :)
Photos courtesy of Christine Bumatay