Emil Guillermo: The Three E's in New York–An earthquake, the eclipse, and Emil Amok's entertaining history lesson

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You might have seen a certain digital billboard over Times Square last week.

Hope you didn’t blink. It was up just 5 seconds an hour for just ten hours. It did not cause the earth to move. If you missed it, this very picture will be used in another digital ad over Times Square by the George Cohan statue this coming Saturday.

Image by AALDEF

It’s all about spreading the word of the NYC Fringe Festival this year, featuring a number of AAPI shows like “Yoga For Billionaires,” “Curry and Catharsis,” “Mulan and Now,” and “No F*s Given, None Taken, All Done,” as well as my “Emil Amok” monologues.

In fact, this Monday after the solar eclipse is visible, all or in part to more than 30 million Americans, my “Emil Amok, Lost NPR Host , Wiley Filipino, Vegan Transdad,” has its second performance at Under St. Marks Theater in the East Village at 8:10 pm. (Ticket info below.)

I must like performing in the wake of Mother Nature.

Last Friday, a 4.8 magnitude earthquake shook New York City, reported as the “biggest earthquake with an epicenter in the NYC area since 1884” when a 5.2 quake hit. A bit bigger. The last quake similar to Friday’s was a 4.9 in 1783.

Alexander Hamilton felt it–241 years ago.

That’s why New Yorkers were freaking out on Friday. They were in the room where it happens.

And it just doesn’t happen that often.

Beyonce singing country music happens more frequently.

Last week, I felt New York’s earthquake. It reminded me of a time in a San Francisco TV newsroom when editors fretted about a lack of news an hour before showtime.

Then the office carpeting moved for a good ten seconds, and the news gods gave us our lead story.

On Friday when it happened in NYC, I noticed the lines in the carpeting in my hotel room wiggling. But I thought it was from a raucous hotel worker vacuuming nearby.

I didn’t even think earthquake. In New York?

I just went about my business as if nothing had happened. Considering the age of structures in New York, I should have been more concerned about falling objects inside (shelves, stuff on walls) and outside buildings (signs, scaffolding), fire hazards from possible gas leaks, and then I should have looked for others on my floor and in the hotel lobby to confirm or aid or tell stories.

Earthquakes are great for stories. Was it more bongo board or hula hoop?

Those are the things to watch for next time. For New Yorkers, that may be in another 241 years–2265?

Of course, as a Californian who has lived through and covered quakes in the 4 to 6 magnitude range, I tried to calm down any traumatized New Yorker I encountered by taking full responsibility for bringing in the quake from the Bay Area.

I reassured them things would be all right, and then let them know that 4.8s are nothing.

And then I invited them to my consoling post-Earthquake performance of “Emil Amok, Lost NPR Host…” where I bang the earthquake fears away.


It’s nice to have a billboard flash the name of my show for less than a New York minute, but it’s less effective than actually meeting New York Filipinos in person.

There I was at Johnny Air Mart on Avenue A and E. 14th St., where a woman at the register named Evelyn declared it the only Filipino store in Manhattan.

Next to what looked like my mom's conchita and the bibingka pastries, Evelyn was a youngish looking woman in her 50s, who came to America less than ten years ago from the same Philippines province as my father. She travels by subway from the Bronx to her job every day. She’s also typical of the new Filipino American community, whose fate is tied up in U.S. politics and history.

She shared local news like the story of the Filipino man whose face was slashed in the subway during the pandemic. She pointed to the stop where it happened in the neighborhood, a few blocks from the store.

Local news she knew. But how much Filipino American history did she know?

Could she tell me when the first Filipinos arrived in America and were struck by a javelin?

Did she know of Filipinos from my father’s era who came in the 1920s?

She just shrugged her shoulders and smiled.

And that’s what I find is the case for most of our community.When I started doing my show, which describes how my life is determined by American history, I thought it was the majority—mostly whites--who were ignorant.

It’s actually everyone who is in the dark about this history.

For Filipino American history from colonization forward, and how it impacts all of us as AAPIs, Filipinos and Americans, it’s almost a total eclipse—of history.

Come out of the darkness. See my show on Monday night, April 8.

No eclipse glasses needed. You won't be blinded by the truth.

A portion of profits from my five-show run will be donated to AALDEF which has been so instrumental in AAPI community activism for the last 50 years.

Go to this link, scroll down to the calendar and pick a date: The next screen gives the option for a live in-person show, or a “Watch from home” option for live streamers.

See you post-eclipse for “Emil Amok, Lost NPR Host, Wiley Filipino, Vegan Transdad."

My friends keep asking: “Transdad?” Is that a Mrs. Doubtfire thing?

You’ll have to see the show!


NOTE: I will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on