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  • Keana A. Labra

The Clash Between An Acting Career and Family Expectations: An Interview with Joni Jon (JJ) Bautista

Ensuring that the family is financially stable is a shared sentiment among most Filipino immigrant parents with American-born children. With this in mind, these Filipino American children are often not encouraged to pursue a career outside of STEM, or Science Technology, Engineering, Medical fields. This push, in particular, often steers Filipino children away from their own interests.

For example, becoming a voice actor or even pursuing this particular path is not usually one of the more popular career choices. Joni Jon Bautista, or as he prefers to be called, JJ, is a native to the Bay Area, and an amateur voice acting hobbyist; however, he is pursuing a career as a Sterile Processing & Distribution Technician at Altamont Healthcare to fulfill his duty as an obedient Filipino son. His hobbies are centered around voice acting, such as playing video games and watching anime, tapping into his background in theatre to supplement his voice acting. Because it is a niche field, JJ wanted to offer his insight and advice to other aspiring voice actors in the Filipino American community and requested to speak with the editorial team of Chopsticks Alley Pinoy.

When asked if anything influenced him to voice acting specifically, JJ responds, “I think it came from anime, to be honest, anime dubs, to be exact. The first one that actually got me into voice acting might be video games or anime, such as shows like GTO and Gurren Lagann.”

“From my adolescence, Tales of Symphonia was a major component in getting me into voice acting. Playing with my cousins, we redid the boss battles because we would lose. It became second nature after hearing the dialogue over and over again. It was a combination of what was happening in the scene and the execution of the dialogue that interested me.”

Often, we are inspired in our childhood, much like JJ is, to nurture our passion, whether in its professional field or as a hobby. He segways into this topic himself, pondering, “when did I ever start practicing with anybody? I guess when I replayed a specific game, Danganronpa, I started actively copying their voices.”

When JJ is not at school, he is researching possible ventures for his voice acting. He “found a YouTube channel who is doing open auditions for a “Fanganronpa,” which is a recreation of the visual novel, Danganronpa. This would be [his] first audition, if [he] happens to do it.” He laughs, “Again, I do my voice acting for fun.”

He continues, “I don’t know [what inspires me]. I only do this for a hobby. No one in particular inspires me. However, the character, Kamina from Gurren Lagann, inspired me if that counts. I mimic a character’s voice if it sounds cool. I honestly wouldn’t pursue voice acting since it’s a difficult field to break into.”

This is a common outlook among immigrant children: how can they pursue their “dream jobs” if that is not what is expected of them?“

I would do this for fun; I don’t need people to associate me as being the resident ‘voice actor.’ If a friend needed a voice actor, I would do it either for free or for food.” Filipinos who have immigrated to America often sate their homesickness for the Philippines with customs they uphold in their home; however, there are some Filipino Americans who have not visited the Philippines before, and are unsure of their Filipino identity and culture. This remains true for JJ, expressing that “my parents speak Tagalog at home, but I’m not too sure. I feel like I can be too Americanized, but I have been to the Philippines! But, I still consider myself Filipino even though I can’t speak the language. I can understand it though!”

Even with his upbringing, JJ has a solid stance on art education: “I support [it.] I, myself, participated in theatre events while I was in high school, such as plays and improv. I pursue my voice acting because of my passion. My culture has not really been brought up in this pursuit. I don’t feel an obligation to make my art “political” since I’m a person of color. I honestly don’t think it matters if you’re a person of color or not. I do appreciate the strides other people of color are making for minorities, but I personally pursue my voice acting as pure fun. Thanks to their efforts, I don’t have to worry about advocating rights myself. I’m grateful for this privilege.”

Growing up with a background in both Filipino and American culture, JJ is one of the many who experiences this “in-between” space. There are those who argue against the blending of the two cultures, stating it’s taking away from the Filipino culture itself. This cultural debate is ongoing, and some individuals express their stance using their preferred artistic medium.

In relation to an artist’s work, whether academic or artistic, even the most seasoned artists will claim that there is still more to discover about yourself and the community of your origins. To JJ, he believes he is still discovering new things. He does not actively educating himself on the [Filipino community and] culture; but, his parents speak Tagalog at home, eat the food, and feels like his family connection is his exposure to the culture.

There are opposing stances when it comes to pursuing art. There are those who are adamant in pursuing it as a career, dedicating their entire lives to breaking into their respective field. However, there are also those who are content with keeping their passions a hobby. JJ explains, “I’m currently pursuing a new career path in Sterile Processing & Distribution Technician. Even though I’m not sure [being a technician] is a passion of mine, I feel like I could do it, so I want to try.”

The advice JJ has for up-and-coming Filipino artists echoes a familiar sentiment: “Believe in the you that believes in you.”

*Bautista has declined to provide photos and personal voice recordings at this time.

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Keana A. Labra - Milpitas, CA Contributor

Utilizing her background in English Literature, Keana would like to learn more about Filipino literature and history to bring an understanding and awareness to the culture. As a Filipino American, she is interested in further researching the impact of the feminist movement and how it affects Filipino tradition. She would also like to uplift the Filipino Americans who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. She hopes to encourage fellow Filipino Americans to participate and immerse themselves in the Filipino culture. Her hobbies include watching anime and reading manga. Follow Keana @KeanaLabra


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