Why this US journalist loves Filipino culture, Vice Ganda

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Posted at Jun 19 2014 10:07 AM | Updated as of Jun 20 2014 06:51 PM

Astoria, New York – With a San Miguel beer in one hand and dried Philippine mangoes in the other, this is how American journalist Jonathan Block typically spends his afternoon while watching "Dyesebel" – one of his favorite teleseryes on The Filipino Channel.

"Even though I don’t understand a lot of it, I happen to watch TFC. I love Vice Ganda. I think he’s hilarious," he said.

Block is an editor for a publication for psychiatrists. He has written articles on healthcare reform and the healthcare industry where he met and worked with many Filipinos.

This New York born-and-raised American says his love for everything Filipino is bordering on obsession.

“Well, obsessed is a strong word. But I have a strong affinity for the Filipino culture that has just gotten bigger and bigger over the years,” he said.

Block takes regular trips to Woodside, New York where popular Filipino restaurants and shops are located, so he could satisfy his Pinoy food cravings.

One cannot truly embrace the Filipino culture until one has eaten balut, he said.

His favorite Filipino food is sisig.

This so-called "American with a Filipino heart" even sings his heart out in a Filipino karaoke restaurant in Queens.

About six weeks ago, Jonathan’s dream of visiting the Philippines for the first time came true.

“You really are the friendliest nicest people — definitely in Asia, perhaps the world,” Block said.

Six years ago, he started sponsoring a child in Legazpi City in Bicol through Children’s International.

Through that trip, Block said he finally met the 14-year-old child he sends to school. The child's family lives in a shanty.

“That was very eye opening,” Block said. “Her family does not have that much but they’re still very very grateful.”

Helping the Philippines is nothing new for Block. He donated money to victims of Typhoon Yolanda last year.

“I was fortunate growing up in this country,” Block said. “I think in this country, Filipinos have disproportionately contributed to American society. They work extremely hard and I want to help people who I know are hard workers and good people.”

Block said the Filipino smile says it all. It taught him about the resiliency of the Filipino people.

“Despite all these hardships Filipinos have succumbed to, they have a very resilient spirit and everybody smiles all the time there,” he said.

“Overall it just confirms what I always thought before going there — is that I love Filipino culture, I love the Filipino people, I love Filipino food. It just confirmed everything that I have already felt. It just made it even stronger, if that is even possible,” Block said.