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Old Globes' Hair' Has Filipino flavor

By Adam Behar


“Where are my people?”

Asking the question is Broadway actress/dancer/singer Jaygee Macapugay, a proud Filipino American, who plays Jeanie in the Old Globe’s production of “Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical.”

She says she’s having a blast bringing the pregnant hippy to life. But Jaygee has one gripe: “Where are my people?” 

“When I looked out into the audience, I was so happy to see full houses, but very few people of color and very few Filipinos,” she explains via Zoom. This came as a surprise to the actress from Illinois, who is aware of San Diego’s large Filipino community, estimated to be 200,000-plus. 

“I'm the only Asian American actor in the company and I do feel a certain pressure to want to be able to represent my people well,” Jaygee says. She notes that the lack of diversity in the audience is a bit ironic, given that the cast of “Hair” is remarkably diverse. “I don't believe in my experience that there's ever been as ethnically diverse a cast as what we've assembled here in San Diego.”

The good news is that “Hair” – and its message of hope and healing – has been extended until October 3. This means there’s still time to demonstrate your Filipino pride while being entertained under the stars by Jaygee and a first-rate ensemble cast.

Directed by James Vásquez, the 1960s counterculture musical, which opened at the Old Globe on Aug. 15 after being postponed due to the pandemic, also has the distinction of being the first live performance in Balboa Park in 17 months. The main character in “Hair” is Claude. Conflicted about being drafted into the Vietnam War, he’s adopted by a group of antiwar hippies. The cast of 16 performs popular hits from the GrammyAward–winning musical including “Let the Sunshine In,” “Aquarius,” and “Good Morning Starshine,” among others. 

One of many highlights is “Don’t Put it Down (Crazy for the Red, Blue, and White),” a satirical song reinterpreted by director Vasquez as a celebration of ethnic and cultural pride. “Vasquez took this opportunity to showcase the people of color in the company,” Jaygee explains. Angel Lozada, who plays Woof and is Puerto Rican, enters holding the flag of Puerto Rico. Soon after, Jaygee enters, triumphantly raising the flag of the Philippines, something she’d never done on stage. And although she’s performing a role, she says this moment is personally empowering, as it represents Filipinos “finding their voice.” 

Clearly, Jaygee’s Filipino identity is an important part of who she is. And the actress is encouraged by seeing more Filipino Americans pursuing acting and, in particular, theater. “When I first started out, it wasn't that way,” she observes. “It’s exciting because it means we've broken through the barriers.”

Jaygee’s road to Broadway (and to the Old Globe) was anything but linear. After graduating from the University of Illinois, where she studied advertising, she faced a dilemma. She knew she wanted to sing and perform, but when Jaygee looked at members of her immediate family and even her extended family, she didn’t see anyone who was involved, in a serious way, in the theater. Jaygee didn’t have role models or mentors to help guide and encourage her; on the contrary, her family was against the idea. Because her parents were more traditional, they hoped their daughter would choose a more conventional and practical career after college. 

“So I chose to go down a career path that was more typical,” she says, accepting a position with a boutique advertising agency in Chicago.  And how did that work out for her? Advertising wasn’t fulfilling for Jaygee, not in a deep or meaningful way. She was unhappy, and could no longer hide it. 
So, what to do?

It turned out that Disney was holding auditions in Chicago for its theme park shows, and Jaygee’s friends encouraged her to audition. Jaygee felt unprepared and didn’t even have a headshot, which is a must in the theater world. This, however, didn’t deter Disney. They offered Jaygee a job, and in two weeks’ time she was preparing for her first show, “Tarzan Rocks.” 

She had a blast and learned a great deal with Disney, she says. “Disney is where I got my union card and became a member of Actors Equity. Disney is a great long launching pad for your career.” But in the back of her mind she knew it wouldn’t be enough; she was thinking bigger: Broadway big. Broadway was calling her name, a voice she had heard since she was a child, but didn’t listen to. But now Jaygee was ready to follow her bliss. After five years with Disney, she could see this truth and feel it more clearly than ever before. It was time to move on.
So she moved to New York, a Midwestern Filipino American girl in the big city, chasing her quintessentially American dream. 

And yet Jaygee was under no illusions. First, she understood that performing at Disney is a good stepping stone, but far from a direct path to Broadway. Although naturally gifted in song and dance and acting, Jaygee knew she needed formal training – and the credibility that goes with it – to achieve her goal. She took acting classes and studied the Method Acting at the prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse, which she describes as “the very opposite of theme park training.”

Next, she would confront the hardest part of her journey – competing for roles in Broadway and off-Broadway musical theater productions. No matter where you live, auditioning is stressful, usually involves painful rejection, and is no one’s idea of a good time. In New York’s theater district, the stakes are even higher; if you go it alone, chances are you won’t survive. 

Jaygee did it the smart way, by seeking and finding support and comfort in New York’s Filipino theater arts community. Who knew that was even a thing? In 2009, she and her Filipino “brothers and sisters” in the theater community banded together and created “Broadway Barkada.” This tribe of Filipino, professional dancers, actors, and singers provides each other with emotional support and a sense of belonging, which helps them weather the ups and downs of the sometimes cruel theater world. They also collaborate on important causes, like raising money for the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Ondoy.

With her support system in place, things began to click for Jaygee. She began winning auditions and highly sought after roles in regional theater, off Broadway (playing Imelda, yes that Imelda, in “Here Lies Love”), on Broadway (“School of Rock”), and has since appeared in more than 10 productions, including “Hair.” Meanwhile, she fell in love with New York and now calls Brooklyn home. (Follow Jaygee on Instagram @jaygeemacapugay)

What will happen to Jaygee Macapugay come Oct. 3, when the musical’s run at the Old Globe ends? Ideally, she’ll continue to live in New York and perform for many years to come, until her body can no longer tolerate the physical grind of being a musical theater performer. “I'm an artist for life and I'm going to continue to create,” she emphasizes, mentioning the possibility of one day writing her own material. What’s clear is that Jaygee’s heart will always be in musical theater. But there’s also TV and film. The high-energy actress, who can currently be seen in the movie “False Positive” on Hulu, says she certainly wouldn’t mind doing more of both. 

But at the end of the day, whether it’s TV, film, or theater doesn’t really matter. As long as it’s not advertising, she’s good.



A New ‘House of the Philippines’ is Coming Soon
But they need your help to get it done!

By Adam Behar


Since 1961 the House of the Philippines in Balboa Park has shared a cottage with the House of France. A group of Fil-Am community leaders has been working tirelessly over the past several years to turn their vision of a separate, standalone House of the Philippines into a reality. Construction is already underway –in fact it began back in June and the group is getting close to achieving this important milestone for the community. 

But unfortunately, delays with obtaining city permits, rising construction costs, and COVID-19 have resulted in unexpected expenses, according to Rom Sarno, president of the House of the Philippines’ board of directors. This means they need to raise $150,000 in order to complete construction on the final 20 percent of the project and meet their goal of opening to the public in spring of next year. 

The board of directors is asking for members of San Diego County’s Fil-Am community to contribute to this important cause. “The new House of the Philippines will be like a second home for our community,” said Rommel Alberto, co-vice president. “Contributions of any amount are needed and greatly appreciated.” (Editor’s Note: Donations can be made at The fundraising campaign ends December 31, 2020.

The new House of the Philippines will be located behind the Hall of Nations and next to the House of Iran in Balboa Park, said Mr. Alberto. It will include a 500-square-foot space and resemble a “mini museum,” he said. It will feature cultural and historical displays, videos, and photographic exhibits. Special events and activities will be held throughout the year. 

Given that there are more than 200,000 Filipinos living in San Diego County, it’s hard to believe there’s not a Filipino American cultural center in San Diego, said Joe Mazares, a member of the fundraising committee. He points out that in most other cities with large concentration of Filipino Americans – Los Angeles, Carson, Daly City, San Francisco, Virginia Beach – you find Filipino American cultural centers. They celebrate the culture, history, and traditions and serve as a gathering place for the local Fil-Am community. At 500-square-feet, the House of the Philippines may not be big enough to constitute a cultural center but it is a big step in that direction, said Mazares.

 “The House of the Philippines is like a home,” said Mazares. It helps provide that connection between our newly arrived immigrant communities, people who are transitioning to San Diego, and those who have been here for a few generations. We are that bridge for the community.” Mazares urges proud Filipino Americans to contribute to the fundraising campaign “because the House of the Philippines is not just for you, but also for future generations to come.”

It is also a symbol. It sends a message to the larger community and to future generations that the Fil-Am community is on the map. It’s not invisible. So it really speaks to the sense of belonging and identity that is so critical to everyone’s sense of well-being. House of the Philippines’ treasurer Sam Besa said, “The story of the Philippines certainly has helped us achieve that sense of identity. But that story, you know, doesn't end once we arrived here; that story continues today.” The House of the Philippines is where that story will be told. 

The movement to build a separate House of the Philippines also speaks to a bigger change that is occurring in San Diego’s Fil-Am community, as a younger generation rises and begins taking on leadership positions not only in the medical field or business sector but also in politics, arts and culture, and community advocacy.

If earlier generations of San Diego’s Filipino community were, understandably, more focused on assimilation and fitting in, now a new generation of Filipino Americans wants to reclaim their identity and history. They want their voice to be heard and they want to have an impact. Consider rock star chef and entrepreneur Phillip Esteban, who is helping to shape the new National City, or Bennett Peji, who speaks passionately about the importance of identity, place, and belonging for Filipino Americans, and who was recently appointed as chairman of the board of California Humanities by Governor Newsom.

Then there’s Noli Zosa, the charismatic part-owner of the Dirty Birds chain, who ran a strong campaign to serve on the San Diego City Council; and Lorna Delos Santos and Ditas Delossantos Yamane who competed for seats on the City Council of National City. Of course there’s also San Diego’s new mayor, Todd Gloria, a rising star who is proud of his Filipino ancestry, and Fox News 5 San Diego morning news anchor Kristina Audencial, among many other Fil-Am San Diegans who refuse to be invisible. It’s a new generation! 

Mr. Besa, who’s been involved with the House of Philippines for ten years, told me that there is a feeling among many in the community that the contribution of Filipino Americans to the region is not well known by locals and visitors. The history is also not well known, especially by younger generations. This underscores the need, he said, for the Fil-Am community to have its very own House of the Philippines in Balboa Park. “The House of the Philippines,” said Mr. Besa, “is a place where we as a group can tell our story: What is our story? How do we connect to the United States? And for us to share our culture so visitors have a sense of what our values are and what our history has been and what, and how, we've contributed.”

San Diego’s Filipino flavor is undeniable. There are more than 200,000 Filipinos and Filipino Americans living in all parts of San Diego County, from Mira Mesa and Rancho Penasquitos to Oceanside and Vista to National City and Chula Vista. Mariel Schmidt, the house’s vice president in charge of membership, pointed out that, according to a 2010 SANDAG survey, after Spanish, Tagalog is the most widely spoken language in San Diego County among bilingual residents.

Rommel Alberto, the board co-VP, observed that Filipinos were among some of San Diego’s original locals and they have a history with San Diego that dates back to the founding of the city. “They were a part of the Portola Expedition,” he said of the 18th century explorers who were the first Europeans to reach what would later become San Diego. “There were at least two Filipinos who were aboard the ship that came to San Diego. The Portola Expedition eventually led to the founding of the City of San Diego.” 

Mr. Alberto emphasized that the House of Philippines board has been fortunate to have the support of many in the community, for which he is very grateful. He credits Audie De Castro, the Philippine Honorary Consul of San Diego, for opening many doors for the group. For this final fundraising push, the board is counting on the support of the community. This makes sense since members of the Fil-Am community and their offspring will benefit from and enjoy this beautiful house in Balboa Park.

Please donate today at



Dirty Birds-Noli Zosa


Filipino–American Noli Zosa’s parents made a deal with him. He could pursue whatever career path he long as he went to law school first. And he did, graduating with his Juris Doctorate from the University of San Diego in 1999.


In fact, Noli made quite the mark at USD, receiving his B.A. in American Government and Politics there in 1994. The Torero homecoming king was also responsible for both founding and leading multiple campus organizations, including USD’s Multicultural Organization Coalition.


So, he’s a lawyer? No. Noli’s been very busy finding joy and success as an entrepreneur. His penchant for problem solving, gift for staging large-scale events, and passion for connecting people to quality products and one another have all led him down a path that’s a bit different from what his parents had in mind.


First, Noli lead and grew his family’s business, Zosa Ranch & Gardens Bed & Breakfast in Escondido. Their impressive portfolio includes hundreds of lavish special events and weddings.


Noli then founded San Diego Young Professionals through which he connected rising leaders from various industries for both fun and career development.


Then, in 2008, Noli became an original partner in Dirty Birds Bar & Grill. It wasn’t too long after the restaurant’s grand opening that the economy had its infamous crash. But Dirty Birds rose unscathed. In fact, its original Pacific Beach restaurant just celebrated its 10th anniversary, and there are now two more locations, in the College Area and Liberty Station.


Noli welcomed me to Dirty Birds’ Liberty Station branch, which sits right beyond Liberty Station’s north gates and alongside the lovely golf course. Noli shared that Tuesday nights are their busiest at all of their locations, as they offer half-priced wings and pitchers of beer. (Noted.)


As dinner time came and the sun began to set, Dirty Birds’ welcoming patio framed in palm trees and party lights filled up with families, pet owners and countless groups of friends. Danceable tunes played as folks exchanged laughs and smiles over food and drinks that lived up to the banners hanging throughout the restaurant touting community and critics’ choice awards. Noli shared that just that day they were selected as Reader’s Pick for Best Chicken Wings in San Diego Magazine’s Best of 2018.