By Ed Dionko
A touching beer commercial makes a little history by showing what a Filipino American is all about.
Normally, we don’t show entire commercials on this blog but we’re making an exception for this one done by Filipino American standup comedian Jo Koy and his mom because, hey, March is Women’s History Month.
Koy is perhaps the hottest comedian right now. Not only is he filling sold-out sports arenas on his “Just Kidding” world tour he has a movie in the works featuring his Filipino American family.
He says that a lot of people forget to simply be grateful. “Sometimes we forget to say thank you to the ones you love. I toasted my mother and thanked her for everything she sacrificed, so I can chase my dream of being a comedian,” says Koy.
We’ve seen other commercials with Filipinos in it but usually, in the 30-seconds or a couple of minutes it takes to extol its product, the character’s ethnicity or story is secondary to selling the product.
In this ad, Sam Adams — the beer — is an afterthought to the heart of the ad which features a mother and son relationship and their love for each other. The product’s role doesn’t even come into the picture until the very end during the emotional toast.
In the commercial, Koy lifts a toast to his mother, Josie, who as a single mother, raised her children in Kent, Washington, near Seattle, to be proud of their Filipino roots, which play a major part of the comedian’s routine.
It is part of Sam Adams beer’s “Toast Someone” ad campaign that was launched during the 2019 holiday season. Koy’s commercial began airing last month.
The action of expressing gratitude has a positive impact on both the giver and receiver, but people are likely not doing it nearly as much as they should in their daily lives.
As part of the campaign, Sam Adams has also created a limited-edition Toast Someone two-pack carrier that fits two Boston Lagers and includes space for a written sentiment, because 49% of respondents in a survey stated that feeling awkward was the biggest barrier to expressing appreciation and we recognize a small prompt go a long way.
What I love about the commercial is that it shows two Filipinos as human beings with a very real mother-son relationship to which anyone could relate. No explanation is necessary.
By Josie’s appearance, it is obvious that she is an immigrant. Filipinos will instantly recognize her accent, while non-Filipinos may not.
The world might not instantly be cognizant of two very Filipino traits that show up in the commercial. Filipinos will recognize the concept of utang na loob, indebtedness. In Koy’s case, he feels deeply indebted towards his mother, and he shows the respect and honor that Filipinos reserve for elders. These two cultural traits, some might say, strongly influences the Filipino psyche.
When Koy and his mother toast, they both tear up in a moment of genuine emotion.
Another reason I’m so taken by the commercial is because it reminds me of my own mother, who as a military wife, had to raise her brood of three by herself for long stretches of time while my father was stationed overseas. She learned to drive, paid the bills and managed to raise the three of us through the turbulent teens as we struggled to fit in.
How she did it in a strange land and strange language without the support of the rest of her family — I’ll never know.
She was a teacher in the Philippines but she sorted tomatoes in the nearby farms and canned tomatoes in a factory in town to supplement the meager military paycheck sent by my dad.
After graduating with a Bachelor’s of Architecture degree from UC Berkeley, I made the announcement that I wanted to become a filmmaker/writer. To my surprise and contrary to the stereotypical Asian parents pushing their kids to careers as doctors and lawyers, my parents didn’t object even though my earlier goal of becoming an architect was their dream, too.
After my father passed away and I began working as a journalist with a Filipino American newspaper, she supported my decision all the way.
Though their stories are mostly untold and their sacrifices unheralded, to the strong immigrant women who persisted through the trials and tribulations of acculturation, we join Koy in toasting, honoring and love to all the immigrant mothers. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. Check out our new Instagram account. Go to our Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content. Please consider interning, joining our staff or submitting a story.