Culture clash leads to inspiring podcast “Recovering Filipino” by Jim Agapito

Growing up in a multicultural society is a challenge to some people especially in a closely-knit Filipino community where history and heritage have been the strong binding forces. Children born here have to conform to the family’s connectivity with their own customs and traditions. But it seems the Canadian way is a much stronger force and thus, some children have quietly rebelled against the usual way of life, instead, they turn back and build their own cultural environment, ignoring their connections with their roots.

One of these is Jim Agapito, 41, a young and bold filmmaker, writer and producer, who found himself caught by a culture clash leading to the production of a new podcast “Recovering Filipino.”

Jim Agapito was born in Winnipeg from a solid family with an attachment to Filipino customs and traditions. Jim had taken a different path by ignoring the many ways and beliefs sacred to the family. And focused on what he liked in his life.

Instead of attending some Filipino functions and events and not feeling interested in Filipino cuisine, he concentrated on his studies at Durham College with a BA In Journalism, and Digital Film Production froma the Red River College. And that was the beginning of his journey. His first TV movie short was “Sister” in 2008 as a producer for APTN as a project with CBC’s Creator Network and CBC Manitoba. He has gone a long way as a producer, director, photographer, and project manager and in the field of journalism. When Jim Agapito isn’t working on his multimedia projects, he writes, does boxing, takes photos, and sings in a punk band.

And he is now working with the CBC. Last June 2021, A new podcast, “Recovering Filipino” was launched and hosted by Jim Agapito with producer Julie Dupre. Interestingly, this podcast will explore life, life, family, and Filipino culture through the eyes and escapades of Jim.

Q- FJ: What alternative activities you have pursued to detach from your cultural roots and what strong factors have led you to go on a different route? Are you comfortable pursuing those initiatives?
– Certain lifestyle choices cause me to detach from my cultural roots as a youngster. I was a vegetarian for a decade. I’ve also been a punk rocker for the majority of my life which raised many eyebrows in the family. My family didn’t understand why I made these choices. I also didn’t eat at family events so that caused a huge divide between me and my family. Things have changed (you grow up) and we all better understand each other now.

Q-FJ: At what point in your life to be awakened to the reality that you and your family have strong connectivity with your own culture and heritage?
– My family always loved me. Perhaps I was sick of being teased for being a little different but that’s just what families do. I get that now. I began to ask more questions in the past couple of years. It intensified after my lola called me a bad Filipino while she was leaving for the airport in 2019. She was upset that I knew little of the language, traditions and cultures. It’s what spawned me on this recovery mission of my Filipino identity.

Q-FJ: Are your parents, your siblings and most especially your Lola involved to guide you to embrace Filipinonism? Like savouring Filipino cuisine, attending some cultural and social events.
– Unfortunately, COVID put a damper on all of those in-person events. However, my entire family, especially my mom, has been involved in this journey. Each episode features family members. My mom has been along for the entire journey and she’s quite the character. She’s been the impetus for me asking the questions and topic for each episode.
– I am trying to savour many things in the culture now. While I can’t say I’ll eat a lot of the dishes that are presented in front of me, I can say I’m more likely to try new things. I’m hoping to attend more cultural and social events when things open up post-covid.

Q-FJ: Have you missed some of those delectable Filipino cuisines or just ignore them and instead, just “dig” on the Canadian food?
– In episodes 2 & 3 I go into details about why I’ve ignored a majority of Filipino cuisine. My family insisted I didn’t have allergies to seafood, even though I had allergic reactions to them. They were convinced it’s just a life phase. That negated me from eating half the dishes prepared at family functions.
– I was also a vegetarian for years… I was nearly thrown out of the family by lola for not eating. Keep in mind I love pancit, all the desserts, lumpia, Lechon and calderetta now…. as a visual person, the look of Filipino food didn’t appeal to me at the time… I realize now how much I’ve missed out.

Q-FJ: After your grandma has lashed you with this paradigm: “You’re a bad Filipino!”, what is your reaction?
– No one wants to be called a bad anything by anyone…. but to be called a “bad Filipino” by your lola is the absolute worst feeling ever! I felt like a horrible grandson.

Q-FJ: Would you consider grandma’s “wake-up” comment a turning point to look back on the uniqueness of your roots?
– Absolutely.

Q-FJ: Have you found it difficult to re-learn and embrace your newly-found connectivity with your own culture and, then, you are inspired more to promote it?
– I can’t say it’s been difficult. It’s been exciting to reconnect with my roots. I’m learning so much about the reasons why Filipino do the things we do. My mom is super happy because I’ll have the opportunity to teach the younger generation why we have certain traditions and their origins.

Q-FJ: With your current podcast, “Recovering Filipino”, would you consider that this has given justice to your estrangement with your own Filipino Culture. And at the same time, a great move on reconciliation of some cultural missteps you have done before?
– I’m still learning but it’s a step at being a better Filipino. My story is completely different from other 2nd generation Filipinos but I’m happy that other Filipinos have reached out and said thank you for me asking some of these questions.

Q-FJ: Knowing that your “Recovering Filipino” podcast would reach a wider audience, how do you foresee the future, like, mainstreaming the relevance of your culture as one of the stronger fibres in the Canadian mosaic of multiculturalism?
– Absolutely. This is one of the first times our Filipino story is being broadcasted to a big audience. 10.2 million Filipinos are living outside the Philippines. It’s about time everyone knew more about our culture and stories.

Q-FJ: And since 2009, you are involved in making the documentary, what are some of your plans to heighten the unique Filipino culture and heritage?
– I will continue to tell our Filipino stories using all of the skills I have as a storyteller. Whether it’s film, radio, via the web or in print I will continue promoting our culture any way I can.

Q-FJ: Any plan to visit your Lola and the Philippines and expand your knowledge on your cultural roots?
– 100%! That’s the goal! As soon as restrictions loosen and I can get time off from work I will go.

Q-FJ: Any regrets?
– None whatsoever.

Photographed by Ally Gonzalo