Family First

More than just karaoke and portraits with Mr. Hyphen Aristotle Garcia

February 19, 2010

ARISTOTLE GARCIA BARED IT ALL while winning the Mr. Hyphen competition by re-enacting Tom Cruise's infamous, tighty-whitey, Bob Seger lip-synching scene back in October. But his true colors came out when he brought his mother, 1 8-year-old niece and 105-year-old grandmother to this issue's cover shoot to illustrate what family is all about.

Garcia, the youngest of five siblings, says that he comes from a tight-knit Filipino family who like to get together to - no, not sing karaoke - but to talk about old times. He was born in the Philippines but moved to Sydney, Australia, at age 5 and to the San Francisco Bay Area when he was 1 3.

A talented and dedicated singer (he does use the karaoke machine to practice sometimes), Garcia's main focus is on the Filipino American Arts and Exposition (FAAE) - a grass-roots, nonprofit organization that contributes to the artistic and cultural pride of the Filipino American community. It was the recipient of Garcia's oversized check (and an actual check) for winning Mr. Hyphen, our annual celebration of male community activists ( Otherwise, Garcia can be found doing corporate event planning.

We caught up with Garcia to find out his biggest fears on pageant day and what he thinks keeps his grandmother looking so fly.

What was the hardest part of the Mr. Hyphen competition? Nightwear? Talent? Screaming fans?

Trying to stay focused in front of a sold-out crowd. The talent part was crazy since I had to change my song at the last minute because my guitarist was not able to make it on time! I was thinking, "Remember, oh please, remember the lyrics!" right before I sang the first word. The screaming fans were fantastic. They got my adrenaline going. That was probably the best part of it all.

Do you have any advice for other Asian American male activists out there?

I would say, "Push on and represent!" We have witnessed the first African American president and have already seen a larger representation of Asian American males and females climbing the political ranks, as well as in other professional industries. Let us unite as one and take pride in doing so.

What is FAAE up to these days?

We are planning the third annual Filipino Heritage Night with the San Francisco Giants in April. It is projected to be the largest event of its kind held at the park. Last year, we had 4,000 people there and this year we are expecting close to 1 1 ,000.

What is your relationship like with your 105-year-old grandmother?

We're pretty close. She is on my mom's side, and she bounced around my extended family while we were growing up, helping take care of all the kids. She was definitely the enforcer, the iron-fisted one. (Laughs) She is an amazing woman and has lived a full life.

Did it get crowded on that scooter?

The shoot brought our family even closer. I think when [my grandmother] arrived at the studio, she thought it was just going to be a family portrait. But as my mom and I explained the theme of the issue and how it was more than a photo shoot, she started realizing what a big deal it was and really got into character. I was so surprised at how attentive and expressive she was. Who knew that she could do that?

Writer Neelanjana Banerjee

Neelanjana Banerjee is marrying the original Mr. Hyphen, Robin Sukhadia, later this year. She's also Hyphen's managing editor.

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