Tell us about yourself:
I’m a Visayan and Chinese journalist with mixed feelings about journalism both as a practice and as an institution. Before I was a journalist, though, I’ve been a writer, with a haphazard record of (occasionally successful) fits and starts at newsletters, fanfiction, blogs, podcast scripts, vignette scripts, short stories, and poems, among other things.
In my free time, I’m looking for Snoopy screencaps to use as my Spotify playlist covers, making jewelry, editing work for the media criticism newsroom The Objective and visiting local bakeries. I’ve also been rebuilding my running routine and learning to play electric guitar.
A piece of yours or project (in any medium) that you'd like to share.
I’m really proud of this Prism piece I worked on in collaboration with my friend Grace, about how crucial supportive families — chosen and biological — are to helping usher in trans joy and euphoria. And during Pride Month this year, I got to work on a profile of a lending library and archive dedicated to LGBTQ+ communities in Sacramento.
Also, I’m grateful to have put together this story on Sacramento-area intergenerational and transnational activism as a response to the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship during martial law in the Philippines in the 1970s and 1980s — and this year’s Philippine elections, when Marcos’ son won the presidency in an election marred by misinformation and controversy. The ongoing struggle is close to my heart for several reasons, not least that my parents were in the Philippines during martial law and that many of my friends are directly involved in organizing for national democracy in the Philippines today.
What draws you to storytelling?
A couple years ago, I found out that my dad’s side of the family has been putting together a generational book to compile their and their parents’ stories. In its introduction, some of my relatives write, “If one would say to us that we are not famous (and by deduction, do not warrant being written about), we would object: ‘We are we, therefore, we exist. And as we exist, therefore, we are.’”
Storytelling is how I remind myself that I don’t exist in a vacuum — living around and with other people is a messy ordeal, but it’s also beautiful. Every story feels like a continuation of another, and I want to be able to record all the stumbling ways people build bridges toward each other and themselves, to find some way to remember. Especially when collective memory so often leaves out queer, trans people of color and movement narratives; it’s those stories I’m most interested in ensuring make it into record.
What excites you the most about being a New Voices Scholar?
Being part of a group of thoughtful audio producers and storytellers who come from a mix of professional and personal backgrounds and think about stories in many different ways! Especially people who don’t come from a strictly journalistic background. I’ve been excited to learn from the ways my fellow cohort members approach storytelling, too.
What’s playing on your radio/audio streaming service right now?
This Object of Sound memorial episode celebrating Frightened Rabbit four years after its lead singer died by suicide. It’s so clear how much love went into the making of this episode, both from the people Hanif Abdurraqib interviewed and from Hanif himself. I’ve been trying to find words for what Frightened Rabbit’s music, particularly their seminal album Midnight Organ Fight and the song “The Oil Slick”, has meant to me over the past year, and this episode approximates them better than I can.
Also currently alternating between SZA’s sophomore album (love the rock turn on “F2F”) SOS, Paramore’s After Laughter and this Christmas EP by Slow Club, which contains my all-time favorite Christmas song.
What’s the most underrated tool (technical or not) that you use in your creative process?
Talking stories out with someone else. If I’m stuck on an idea, I’ll usually iron it out in a conversation with a friend — especially if they’re unfamiliar with the topic, they’re able to help untangle what I’m trying to say while getting to articulate it more clearly. Kind of like the idea of rubber-duck debugging that programmers use!
What is something you want to see more of in the industry?
God, there’s so much. Last year I wrote a Nieman prediction about the pitfalls of relying on representation to usher in systemic change without any actual effort to upend structures, which… is still true, I’d like to see more collective work done to interrogate journalistic norms like objectivity and to move the buck beyond “We’re diversifying our newsrooms, therefore we’re anti-racist!”
“Collective” is the key word there — I hope that the industry can be filled with more people building relationships with each other not for the sake of Linkedin connections, but for solidarity and creative, interdisciplinary growth. In that way, I’d love to see more folks struggle together for an industry free from labor exploitation, tokenization and forced sanitization of stories.
What are your radio/audio aspirations?
Hanif Abdurraqib’s Object of Sound for sure. Hanif is an amazing interviewer, and I’ve learned a lot from the conversational, thoughtful nature of the questions he asks along with how much research goes into crafting them and the way music is weaved into each conversation.
Fiction-wise: I listen to a lot of musicals, but Two-Up’s podcast musical 36 Questions is a stand-out to me for both its concept and execution. I really love the effort that went into making the medium within the medium (the two main characters are speaking into a recorder) feel realistic, and the sonic choices in developing the soundtrack are super interesting to me. Also James Kim’s Moonface, which was actually the first fictional podcast I listened to. The soundscapes in each episode are so layered, the dialogue delivered so wholeheartedly, and I was so impressed by how deftly all the storylines were woven together.
As someone working in local news, KQED’s The Bay and CapRadio’s The View from Here podcast series (no longer active) are two of my favorite series because of their sense of place. I’m consistently impressed by how much information and history The Bay team puts into each short episode, too.
And as a former computer science major who eventually got a degree in science and technology studies because I wanted to be immersed in discussions about what “progress” looks like and interrogating its purpose, I also really enjoy the conversations in This Machine Kills and how much ground they cover.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Thank you for reading! Echoing Zahra’s spotlight kicker — as we’re in the thick of holiday season, try to make time to invest more in your community through mutual aid, as opposed to charity. mutualaidhub.org is a great place to look to find groups near you that are redistributing resources to other community members!