By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly
Business owners Chera Amlag and George “Geo” Quibuyen know quite a lot about leadership and activism – universal human connection, in other words.
The husband-and-wife team work as volunteer community organizers who are not only interested in social change but also in showing that their ideas can help make that change happen.
Quibuyen, 35, expresses his ideas through hip-hop music and rhyme as rapper Prometheus Brown and uses them as vehicles to take on issues like racism and youth empowerment.
“My approach to the music was always just be myself. Write about what I know so you’ll hear a lot of my own personal history,” he said. “It’s also about your place within a community.”
Born in Long Beach, California, he lived in National City before moving with his family to Hawaii at age 2. They eventually moved to the mainland city of Bremerton, Washington where he met Amlag, an immigrant from Olongapo City, Zambales, Philippines who arrived before Quibuyen with her own family in 1986.
At the University of Washington (UW), Quibuyen met fellow student Alexei Saba “DJ Sabzi” Mohajerjasbi in 1999. They formed the hip-hop duo Blue Scholars in early 2002, and Quibuyen took on the role of emcee as MC Geologic.
“After (I worked) four years at the Wing Luke museum, we finally got an opportunity to actually go on tour, put out our music as independent artists, and I’ve been doing that ever since,” he said.
“I said, ‘I’m going to do this rap thing. I’m going to go on tour. We’re going to do shows, but when I’m not doing that, I’m going to actually be in the community, doing the education, doing workshops.’”
While attending a UW Filipino American Student Association conference, Amlag, 35, learned about impoverished Filipino women who travel overseas to earn money as domestic workers, many of whom unknowingly become victims of human trafficking.
“That was probably the spark for me,” she said about her start as a community organizer and her desire to find mentors and work with other community organizers.
She added, “I think those were very formidable years, I think, for both of us, learning a lot about our history, in turn, learning a lot about ourselves and our community and our own identities.”
It was during this period of time that they turned their initial feelings of anger over the injustice they saw “into something creative whether it’s hip hop, but for me, it was spoken word.”
“It spurred this sense of responsibility in a way,” Amlag added. “It made me realize, ‘You have to do something with this information.’”
In 2001, she joined the Seattle chapter of the GABRIELA Network, an organization involved in solidarity movements in the Philippines and in developing awareness in the U.S. of such women’s issues as human trafficking and the mail-order bride industry. She began applying her event-planning skills on its first task: organizing a national women’s educational conference at Seattle University called the North American Consultation for Women of Philippine Ancestry.
A second spark of creativity struck during their 10th wedding anniversary in 2013. Deciding to use their imagination, foresight, and culinary talent, they celebrated the occasion by hosting a special feast for their family – including sons Ajani and Amado – and friends.
The gathering proved to be so successful that they decided to do it again but in a different way. Their monthly pop-up restaurant, Food & Sh-t, debuted at Inay’s Asian Pacific Cuisine in September 2013, and it has popped up every third Monday of the month ever since.
By using large conference-style tables for communal dining, their menus – each one designed around a different theme – get strangers from different backgrounds to meet and talk over their Filipino and Hawaiian-inspired food with familiar Pacific Northwest flavors. Lumpia (an Asian spring roll) with salmon is one example.
Chera’s Hood Famous Ube (a purple yam) Cheesecake has become one of the items on the Food & Sh-t menu in biggest demand, even selling out online at Lish Food last year.
Bringing a culturally-diverse community together is important to the couple as well as promoting Filipino cuisine as an excellent choice for those who enjoy dining out.
Recently, Amlag decided to start an online bakery called Hood Famous Bakeshop and now runs it full-time. She thanks everyone who supports their devoted interest “to get Filipino flavors out to the masses” on its website.
“All these things are things, I think, are connected, and we have a passion for,” said Quibuyen.
For more information about Blue Scholars, go to bluescholars.com. For reservations, call 206-223-0623 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
James Tabafunda can be reached at email@example.com. (end)