AAPI Heritage Month: Insights with Jonathan Balin


Jonathan BalinMay is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and Acuative is honoring the achievements and successes that members of the AAPI community have contributed throughout US history. As we celebrate AAPI Heritage Month, we're spotlighting the rich cultural diversity within our company. In this special blog feature, we sit with Jonathan Balin, our Marketing Coordinator and proud Filipino American. Jonathan brings a unique perspective and invaluable insights to our team. Join us as we delve into his journey, experiences, and reflections, highlighting the importance of embracing diversity and fostering inclusivity within our workplace and beyond.

Hi everyone! Kumusta! My name is Jonathan Balin, and I’ve been a Marketing Coordinator for Acuative since 2022. Since May is AAPI Heritage Month, I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about my culture. I am Filipino American, and I was born in New Jersey, but my parents were born in the Philippines. They speak Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, and are from Manila.     

My culture and my ethnicity are important to my identity because they shaped a lot of my childhood and my values. I grew up eating Filipino foods and hearing Tagalog from my parents and from my mom watching teleseryes (Filipino soap operas). My favorite Filipino dishes growing up were sinigang (a tangy, sour soup made with pork or fish), bistek (beefsteak braised in soy sauce, citrus, garlic, black pepper, and onions), and arroz caldo (chicken and rice gruel made with ginger, garlic scallions, and egg).

ParolFilipino culture is rich and vibrant. The first image to the left is of parols, which are lanterns that are displayed in front of houses during Christmas. The last image below is of a Filipino cultural dance called tinikling which involves stepping in rhythm to others clacking long sticks together underneath your feet, sort of similar to jump rope.

My favorite parts of Filipino culture are definitely the food, but also the people. Filipinos are a very positive people and place a lot of value in supporting family and in being kind and generous to others. If you’re ever at a gathering with a lot of Filipinos, you can expect to hear a lot of laughter, drinking, and karaoke. Some of my favorite memories are from my extended family getting together to watch Manny Pacquaio’s boxing matches. I remember my titas (aunties) always yelling whenever Pacquaio would get hit and all the titos (uncles) shadowboxing and cheering him on.

TiniklingI am proud of being Filipino, but I believe a lot of people are still very unfamiliar with Filipino culture. Embracing my identity is important to me because growing up, there was not a lot of Filipino representation in media. I didn’t even know what a Filipino was until my family explained it to me. In school, I had a lot of conflicts over my identity as kids would make fun of the way I look or the food I ate. Most of the time I would receive insults that were meant to be offensive towards Chinese people. Kids would call me Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee, and I would have to explain that I was Filipino and not Chinese. Instead of explaining that they shouldn’t be calling any Asian kids those names, I was too busy explaining that I wasn’t even Chinese!

Filipino representation is gradually increasing in media – shoutout to Bruno Mars and Olivia Rodrigo – but there is still a lot of work to be done in highlighting the beauty of Filipino culture. My hope is that one day, more Filipinos are celebrated and honored worldwide and that Filipino culture becomes more easily recognizable. Filipinos bring value to any organization they are a part of with their warmth, resilience, and respectful nature, and they deserve a seat at the table. We’ve only touched the surface here, but I hope this gives you a peek into the joys of the Philippines and inspires you to see for yourself and find out more. Salamat! (Thank you!)