We Are Kubo

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There are more than 3.7 million Pilipin@s in the U.S. We’re the third largest Asian population in the U.S. while the Chinese population ranks first with over 4 million people and the Indian population ranks second with over 3.8 million people (Source: U.S. Census Bureau. 2013. 2013 American Community Survey. American Fact Finder.).

I’ll say that again — there are over 3.7 million of us. But these stats don’t necessarily guarantee us any consistent mainstream media representation. Where are our stories? Where are we within the digital sphere? Do you see us on TV or in movies? Are we content creators on YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, or Twitter?

This is why Co-Founder Conrad Contreras and I are building Kubo, a platform for Pilipin@s of our generation. I admit to you that I’m nervous to launch Kubo — mostly because I play this soundtrack repeatedly in my head:

I want to build a Pilipin@ media platform, but what gives me the credentials to build one? Am I “enough” in terms of my Pilipin@ identity, my connection to the Philippines and the issues taking place overseas, my Pilipin@-millennialness (what does that even mean?!), and my support for Pilipin@ artists and businesses? The list of questions goes on and on.

And then I tell myself to remember Kubo’s purpose. I am enough, but mainstream media isn’t. That’s the real problem we’re committed to tackling via Kubo, our new content engine for Pilipin@s of our generation.

Together with Conrad, we interviewed forty Pilipin@s ranging in age from 18–36 in March 2017. Here’s what we found:

  • On average, we’re spending 2–3 hours daily browsing on our phones
  • We’re grappling with a generational gap — we’ve grown up with culturally Filipino values and traditions, but how do we integrate these foundational pieces into our “modern” lives?
  • It’s confusing when we associate the terms “millennial” (those born after 1980) and Pilipin@ — many Pilipin@s our age don’t think of these two aspects together
  • We want to learn about one another’s stories, i.e. “Is anyone else feeling this way?”
“If I had something like Kubo growing up, I feel like my childhood experiences would’ve been very different.”
— Interview respondent from March 2017

The responses we heard only strengthened our resolve for starting Kubo. Kubo is our home within the digital sphere and I hope that we share stories that provoke something within our readers — whether it’s a sigh of relief, a laugh, a few tears, or a realization about our shared experiences as Pilipin@s of this day and age.

Just last week, I came across three startling and troubling situations that reminded me why we’re launching Kubo today.

1. Bambu (@BambuDePistola), a community organizer and MC with Beatrock Music, tweeted the following image:

See Bambu’s tweet here
  • (Pictured on the left) Mike Grogan’s self-help podcast titled “Inspiring Filipino Excellence” to “empower 1 million Pinoys”
  • (Pictured on the right) “Ultimate Guide to the Filipina Philippines” podcast, described as the “ultimate guide for an expat dating a Filipina”

Do you notice anything wrong with these podcasts?

2. Google AdWords Keyword Planner (search conducted on 8/17/17)

Google Adwords’ Keyword Planner will show you keywords by relevance, the average number of searches for a keyword, competition based on the number of advertisers, and the suggested bid for a keyword.

I googled “Filipino” to see which search terms would come up. Common keywords associated with “Filipino” include dating, brides, women, dating sites, and wives. We’re reduced into objectified, sexualized figures, which inaccurately depicts the strong Pinays I know. All the more reason for us to rewrite our digital footprint.

3. On a more personal note — A text from my mom:

My cousin Bongbong passed away in Las Piñas in the Philippines due to a ransom related to drugs. This might have ties to Duterte’s violent crusade against the drug epidemic, but it’s clear that I have a completely different life compared to my family in the Philippines. Having grown up in California with certain privileges, I’m still making sense of what it means for me to switch between the polarities of privilege and poverty. I am building Kubo (with my memory of Bongbong front and center) in order to bring light to the issues affecting Pilipin@s around the world.

These three examples surfaced within the span of one week. Our Pilipin@ generation navigates school, work, family, societal pressure, culture, and content within the digital sphere on a daily basis, but how often do we talk to each other about all of this?

Inspired by the term Bahay Kubo meaning “cube house,” Kubo is a home constructed for us and by us. More than passive recipients of mainstream media, we are Pilipin@ architects laying the foundation for our own future.

It’s also important for us to share upfront that Kubo is not a research tank/encyclopedia/dictionary. We plan to share resources with our audience, but we aren’t here to provide our readers with the single source of truth. There are Pilipin@s out there with expertise (and hopefully they’ll write for Kubo one day!) when it comes to Pilipin@ research and academia. Kubo’s purpose is to tell stories and to give our Pilipin@ generation a platform when mainstream media chooses to turn a blind eye.

Thank you for helping us bring this vision to life. We hope that Kubo becomes your home within the digital world, too.


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