Green is Gorgeous 3: Healthy & Delicious in Historic Filipinotown

In the heart of Historic Filipinotown I’ve discovered a little slice of heaven. For pesco-vegans like me – people who eat fish but no other meat – the Filipino-owned and operated Tribal Café is paradise.

On the corner of Temple Street and Belmont, this funky hole in the wall café has a casual and inviting ambiance. The main wall inside presents intriguing art, much of it created by Filipinos, which changes every week.

The dining room contains small tables and chairs, many of them filled with folks practicing the literary arts. Framing both sides of the room, the cafe has three industrial sized refrigerators. These units house “the secret” of Tribal Café’s success.

The refrigerators contain an array of fresh vegetables and fruits, boxes and bags and cartons of them. The owner, Joshua Jose, who has been on-site every time I’ve visited, strongly advocates for green juice and smoothies to manifest optimum health. These are his “ammunition.”


For those who are new to the powerful notion of green juice or green smoothies, here’s the 411:  Green juicing involves using lots of fresh green vegetables, such as kale, spinach, or chard, in combination with your favorite fruits in a blender or juicer. Green leaves contain all the essential minerals, vitamins and amino acids that humans need for optimal health. When they’re cooked, you lose most, if not all, of their nutrients.  Examination of prehistoric humans has revealed that they ate a copious amount of green leaves — along with fruits, blossoms, seeds and insects. When the industrial revolution began, people transitioned dramatically from consuming whole foods to convenient processed foods. These processed food are high in calories and low in nutrition and one of the main causes of serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Numerous scientifically documented studies of ill people have shown that by eating more whole foods — particularly drinking green juice or smoothies – unwell individuals are able to cure themselves of their illnesses (including cancer!) by loading up on green leaves and fruits.

Traditional Filipino cuisine, unfortunately, is rich in processed food. Filipinos eat a lot of meat (fried, stewed), white rice, white bread and noodles.

The vegetables are often cooked by boiling or frying, which destroys many of their nutrients. It’s unsurprising that the number one killer of Filipinos in and out of the Philippines is heart disease.

How refreshing to see a Filipino-owned café that serves vegan cuisine and green drinks!  Though they also offer non-vegetarian food, Tribal Café’s focus is to provide low-cost, healthier food choices concentrating on health-supportive, plant-based whole foods – the foods that contain micronutrients our bodies need for nourishment and healing. According to Mr. Jose, the amazing “Green Detox” is one of their most popular green juices. It’s made from wheatgrass, assorted leafy greens, fruits, cayenne pepper, turmeric, and flaxseed.

This kind of spicy-herby-fruity drink is good for detox, weight loss, diabetes control and prevention of chronic diseases. Mr. Jose says, “I hope to develop Tribal Cafe as a ‘healing café,’” where we are able to impart as much information as possible on the subject of nutrition, healthier food choices and lifestyle changes.”

Mr. Jose, who opened Tribal Café in 2005, reports “Filipino-Americans have the highest incidence of chronic diseases among Asian-Americans in the US.  This sad state is largely the consequence of the traditional food we consume at home and in the restaurants.  To improve our community’s poor health, we need some drastic changes in the way perceive our food, the way we acquire ingredients, and the way they we consume.

We Filipinos should learn the spiritual value of food as nourishment to the various organs of our body and not merely as a source of pleasure or instant gratification.”

Green is Gorgeous: Water is Life

Water is life.

Access to water is a basic human need, a fundamental human right.  But according to a 2006 United Nation’s Human Development Report, more than 1 billion people are denied clean water, and more than 2.6 billion of our brothers and sisters lack access to adequate sanitation.

Every year, 1.8 million children die as a result of diarrhea and other diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation. Every day, millions of women and young girls spend hours collecting water instead of attending school or earning wages at a paying job.  In the Philippines, 16 million Filipinos do not have access to safe drinking water (Millennium Development Goals Report 2010). One out of five Filipinos is being deprived of a basic human right: water.

Thanks to the collaboration of the Philippine government, private sector, nongovernment agencies (NGOs) and Millennium Development Goals Fund (MDGF) Philippines, Filipinos at home and abroad are working to alleviate this shameful situation.

Philippine Water Runs (PWR 11) is a series of benefit runs scheduled in major cities across the Philippines from Sept 15, 2011 through March, 2012. The goals are to raise funds to provide immediate solutions for families most in need and to increase awareness of potable water’s vital importance.



One of the methods for delivering clean drinking water to families in need is the “Lifestraw.” This is a mobile unit manufactured in Switzerland by Vestergaard Fransen. It requires no batteries, electricity or external filters. For every 20 racers registered, a needy family will be given (and taught to use) this water purifier which produces a neutral taste and positive appearance, while promising to deliver clean drinking water free of bacteria, viruses, protozoan parasites, and fecal matter. One Lifestraw unit filters up to 18,000 liters of water, enough to supply a family of five for three years.




The PWR 11 organizers are aware that this is only a temporary solution.  A government project under way called “Sagana at Ligtas na Tubig para sa Lahat” will provide permanent solutions for needy communities.

The initial run on September 18 is in Vigan. Subsequent runs will be in Naga City (October), Quezon City (November), Marikina City (January), Davao City (February) and Cebu City (March). There will be 3K, 5K and 10K runs in each city, and registration fees range from P350 to P500. Registration generally begins two months before each event; registration for the Vigan kickoff has already started.

I encourage our kababayan in the Philippines to support this great initiative. I encourage Filipinos outside the Philippines to  donate or pay for a registration of a local runner. It’s less than $10 per participant.  Registration details are available on the Facebook page for “Philippine Water Runs” or at

I’m putting my money where my mouth is. Starting today,  80% of proceeds from the purchase of my water-advocacy anthem “Flow: A Simple Drink of Water” from my Something Good album will be donated to PWR.

Here’s to clean water! Here’s to life!

Green is Gorgeous 1: Why an environmental column?

[published at Asian Journal July 2011]

Most Filipino-Americans know me for my music, for creating a new genre combining Filipino melodies with American jazz called “jazzipino.” Indeed, performing my original music has taken me around the globe. During these tours, exploring new countries every year, I was frequently exposed to the perils faced by our Mother Earth – perils that are largely a result of human beings.

In 2008 I started becoming active in environmental campaigns. I’m currently a member of Food & Water Watch and Sierra Club (specifically, the Water Committee). In the past three years, whenever I’ve attended green festivals and other environmental campaigns I’ve noticed that very few Filipino-Americans participate in these events. Sometimes I’m the only Pinay.

My objective for this column is to bring salient environmental information to the Fil-Am community. I encourage my kababayans to participate in the most urgent issues facing us and our families. What kind of planet do we want to leave our children, our grandchildren? These are questions that can no longer be ignored.

As I inaugurate my column, today is also the first day of a newly enacted law that bans plastic bags at large stores outside Los Angeles county’s incorporated cities.

Passed by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors on November 16, 2010, 67 large supermarkets and pharmacies are not allowed to provide customers a plastic carryout bag. This prohibition does not apply to produce bags used to prevent contamination with other grocery items, such as those that hold fruits, vegetables or raw meat.

If the stores offer paper bags, they must sell them for 10-cents each.

One of the many benefits of this ordinance is to reduce the stacking of plastic bags in our landfills. Plastic bags, usually made of polyethylene, does not biodegrade, decompose, or break down organically. This means they will stay where they’re buried forever. If they’re exposed to direct sunlight, they’ll eventually crack and turn into microscopic granules, a process that takes between 500-1000 years. Landfills being giant holes in the ground don’t receive much sunlight. Our plastic bags will be “with us” for a very long time.

A 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times documented how plastic bags have damaged our seas and the life they contain. In fact, because plastic bags are not biodegradable, a garbage patch twice the size of Texas is turning clockwise in the Pacific Ocean between San Francisco and Hawaii. You can see it on Google Earth: our trash, coming back to haunt us.

Thanks to the dedication of environmental groups working with County Supervisors Gloria Molina, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Zev Yaroslavsky, we’re starting to see positive changes in our environmental policies. Communities such as Rowland Heights, Hacienda Heights, Altadena, La Cresecenta, Topanga Canyon, Marina Del Rey, Baldwin Hills, Athens, Willowbrook, Florence, Rancho Dominguez, Valencia, East Pasadena and East Los Angeles are affected by the new no-plastic-bags ordinance.

The environment doesn’t end at city boundaries. Whether or not you live there, every time someone disposes of a plastic bag you’re affected, too.








Vegan Find!

Thumbs up: Luna & Larry’s Organic Coconut Bliss in Dark Chocolate

Non-dairy frozen dessert made of organic coconut milk and organic agave syrup, organic fair trade vanilla extract and organic fair trade cocoa

Taste test: Creamy, not too sweet and tastes just like chocolate

Price: $5.99 at Whole Foods for 1 pint


About Water: Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act

Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act

From Surfrider Foundation

The Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act will invest in the planning and construction of green projects that are designed to restore our watersheds and fight water pollution. This bill proposes to establish up to five Centers of Excellence across the country to research and develop best management practices and policy recommendations.   It will also create a green infrastructure program within the Environmental Protection Agency to promote the use of green infrastructure and provide technical assistance to states, local governments, and the private sector.

The Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act will  provide Americans with thousands of green jobs, energy savings and better health and well-being. Please contact Congress today and ask for their support here:

Green Shopping on a Budget

I’m always hunting for bargains on green products, organic produce, and green/vegan/vegetarian eats. And I like to share my discoveries with friends and family. In fact, my father told me the other day that all he and Mom ever hear from their daughter is “organic this…organic that.” He calls my music organic as well!

Today I’ve decided to widen my green circle. Welcome to the Green Bargain Shopper Network…now I’m including you!

I’ll be posting discoveries here on my blog…so come back often.

Today’s Discoveries:
SOAP — Who would have thought that corporate behemoth Rite Aid would have some really great (and green!) soaps?

  • 100% pure vegetable oils, 100% pure shea butter, paraben free, phthalate free, sodium lauryl sulfate free
  • 98% plant-derived
  • $2.99

  •  paraben free, phthalate free, sodium lauryl sulfate free
  • $1.59
The soaps come in a paper package, which is biodegradable.
Suggestion to the Manufacturer: It would be a greener product if the packaging were made from recycled materials.


Happy World Water Day (March 22)!

 Today (Tuesday) is World Water Day. Created by the United Nations, WWD highlights the scarcity of potable water, a crisis that is ongoing in every region of our increasingly thirsty planet including my birth country, the Philippines.


To commemorate World Water Day and to raise awareness of an issue that affects us all, Im releasing a NEW MUSIC VIDEO of my water-themed song "Flow: A Simple Drink of Water," from my album Something Good.


The United Nations tells us that "every twenty-seconds a child dies or suffers because of water problems."  We can do better.


The music video for "Flow," viewable HERE, is intended to draw attention to our global water crisis. I really believe the lyrics: It doesn’t have to be this way. No, we’re not condemned to slow decay. This is a problem we’re capable of fixing — if people become aware!  What do you think?
Thank you for celebrating water with me. Thank you for celebrating life!

"Flow" from Something Good (Razon/Konik)

March: World Water Month

I’m thrilled to have completed post-production on my 3rd music video. The song is “Flow” from my current album Something Good. Recently I’ve become acutely aware of the problems our world is facing because of scarce potable water.

According to United Nations, “every 20 seconds, a child dies from water-related disease.”  While other countries such as the United States have the luxury to waste water, i.e., washing vehicles, watering lawns, etc., the residents of many countries fight every day to get a drop to drink. What’s most unfortunate is that those of us with an abundance of water generally are not aware of the rest of the planet’s water  

problem. My hope is that our music video will increase awareness of the global water issue and encourage folks to actively participate in a new water consciousness.

On March 12th, the “Flow” crew embarked on a journey to complete the music video. Led by our director, Eric Goodwin, we spent a day playing in nature, in the water, with five beautiful children. Here are some of the photos we took .

Jaden Austria with Eric Goodwin & James Hiatt (assistant)
Jalen Austria
Lilian, Nael and Niora on the way to the creek.
Niora & Lillian going down the small hill.
Here’s Nael! He stole my heart.
Make-up/Hair Stylist Joel Sebastian taking a rest from the hike. *sigh*
Eric carrying Lillian across the creek.
Eric & James hard at work.
The children had so much fun playing in the water and so did the parents!
[photos courtesy of yours truly]
Look for the debut of "Flow" on World Water Day, March 20th.

People Power

Feb 25, 1986, was one of the proudest moments of my life as a Filipino. This was the day that the People Power revolution ended the Marcos dictatorship. The nonviolent movement was led by the late President Corazon Aquino.  Last night, on February 26, 2011, almost exactly 25 years later, I had the rare honor of singing for her son, our current President, Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino, at the Malacanang Palace. Invited guests included United States Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas, Senator Mar Roxas, and other officials of the Philippine government and the U.S. Philippine Embassy. This performance was the highlight (so far!) of my singing career. It was an honor to sing for a President who holds the promise of change for a better Philippines.