‘Molly of Denali’ explores Filipino Athabascan identity

Two cartoon character girls giving each other a high five
A nonetheless from Molly of Denali’s “The Fili-Bascan Chefs” episode. (Screenshot from PBS Kids)

A brand new episode of the children’ present “Molly of Denali” facilities round a personality named Vera Malakas, who’s Filibascan, a mixture of Filipino and Athabascan. Those who labored on the present say that illustration of Filipino Alaskans will permit extra children to see themselves and their lives on TV.

In the episode, Vera desires to shock her mother by making lumpia — a Filipino spring roll — for a competition, so she and Molly must steal the recipe with out her mother noticing.

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Vera has been a facet character in earlier episodes of the present, however present author Vera Starbard needed to see extra of her. 

For Starbard, who’s Lingít and Dena’ina, Filipino tradition was a big a part of her group rising up in Alaska.

“I really thought lumpia was this Indigenous Alaska Native food,” Starbard stated. “And I won’t even say how old I was when I realized it was really not.” 

Starbard stated that meals is a superb alternative for kids to find out about different cultures.

“Food is one of those underestimated pieces of culture, as far as its impact. And that became an important part of the episode as far as ‘here’s how we can share culture. Here’s how we can mix culture and that is understandable to kids,’” she stated. “They get it. They get that this food is different and this food is familiar to them and mixing them could be cool and this is what you can learn about a culture from literally tasting it.”

Starbard invited E.J. David to contribute to this episode. David is a professor of psychology on the University of Alaska Anchorage and researches the psychological penalties of colonialism. He can also be a father to 4 Filipino Athabascan kids. And he’s the one who coined the time period “Filibascan.”

“Seeing yourself on mainstream TV, and knowing that a lot of people put a lot of work into it, and a lot of people put a lot of resource into it, it legitimizes who you are, it tells you that your identity and your culture and your heritage — that those things are valuable,” David stated.

David needed it to be clear that the present didn’t make it look like all Filipino tradition was the identical. Vera Malakas is Kapampangan like David, and celebrating a Kapampangan competition made it so her id was particular and actual. He was excited to offer Vera’s character the final title “Malakas,” which suggests “strong” within the Tagalog language.

Both David and Starbard grew up with out illustration of themselves on children’ reveals, so this present means stopping that have for future generations.  

“And so then the opposite message is conveyed when you don’t see yourself on the shows, right? It makes the message that it conveys to you is that who you are, and your identity and your heritage and your culture are not valuable enough,” David stated. “They’re not worthy enough to be invested in, right, to put resources in. And so, that’s what I felt growing up.”

Before “Molly of Denali” first aired, Starbard went to the PBS station in Boston, the place “Molly of Denali” and different children’ packages originate. She stated that she noticed all the opposite PBS Kids reveals like “Curious George,” “Arthur” and “Clifford the Big Red Dog.” In that second she had the belief.

“Oh, gosh. Molly is going to be a part of this, and there’s no Alaska Native child that’s ever going to not have that experience of seeing themselves on the screen,” she stated.

For Alaska’s Filipino inhabitants, that additionally grew to become true this week. “The Fili-Bascan Chefs” episode premieres Thursday on PBS stations and on-line.

This story is a part of KTOO’s participation within the America Amplified initiative to make use of group engagement to tell and strengthen our journalism. America Amplified is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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