Fresno-born Jon J. Tulio: Moving to Bacolod, learning Ilonggo, and ‘becoming Filipino’

 Jon J. and wife Marcia with their two boys Judah, 10, and James, 6.

Jon J. and wife Marcia with their two boys Judah, 10, and James, 6.

This article is part of a continuing series on second-generation Filipino Americans who have returned to the homeland, lured by more fulfilling careers and an opportunity to bridge and embrace their two cultures

By Wendell Gaa

Born and bred on the West Coast, Jon J. Tulio and his wife Marcia had grown up with pride being Filipino American. Then, they came to realize how little they understood what the culture and everyday life was like in the Philippines until they made Bacolod home to their family

They would visit the Philippines together frequently, and in the process formed a deep connection with the country and its people. When opportunity came knocking, the Tulios found their calling to live in the Philippines for longer periods to help in the form of Christian-centered leadership and education of youth through sports.

Currently, they spend 9-10 months every year in Bacolod City, where among the positions which Jon holds is a Director at the Deeper-School of Kingdom Living (based in Bacolod), which is a four-month Christian living education/training program consisting of discussions on various biblical topics and features both local and foreign church ministers.

A devoted fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, he is also the director and founder of the Nothing to Lose (N2L) Foundation which manages the organization of sports camps and clinics, high school and college scholarship programs, and youth leadership counseling in the Philippines, particularly in nearby Romblon province. Additionally, Jon J. is a youth coach and owner at BC Martial, which teaches children ages 4-15 the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Born in Fresno, California, but raised in Glendale within the sprawling metropolitan region of Greater Los Angeles, Jon J. is the son of Atty. John Tulio who is originally from Olongapo, Zambales. He lived in Manila before moving to Southern California where he attended school at California State University in Long Beach and then went on to earn his Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from Western State University College of Law in Fullerton. He became a member of the California Bar in 1975.

Jon J. (3rd from right) together with N2L Foundation tournament co-organizers and players

Jon J. (3rd from right) together with N2L Foundation tournament co-organizers and players

This writer has known the Tulio family since the late 1980s when we attended the same church in Glendale. My father, the late Ambassador Willy C. Gaa, had also personally known Atty. Tulio during his diplomatic posting at the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles in that period. Retired from practicing law, Atty. Tulio, together with his wife Jessie, is now based in the Philippines where they serve in the Gospel Life Global Outreach, an international Christian ministry.

A 1993 graduate of Monterey Bay Academy, an Adventist boarding school in Northern California, Jon J. would go on to earn his degree in Business Administration-Finance at California State University-Fullerton in 2001. He would later marry Marcia. The couple would have two young sons, Judah, 10, and James, 6.

A mixture of excitement as well as apprehension was in the air as soon as Jon J. and his wife Marcia decided to make their move to Bacolod in 2008. They did experience challenges common to many FilAms who have never spent time growing up in the Philippines.

“For sure it was difficult,” said Jon J. “First of all was the language. Both my wife’s parents and my parents are Tagalog speakers and they spoke Tagalog at home. Also in the U.S., unless you are at a family party, whenever most Filipinos get together you hear Tagalog because it is the common language among Filipinos who have emigrated there. When we moved to Bacolod, where people speak Ilongo, we realized that our understanding of Tagalog was not going to help us too much. We experienced a lot of miscommunication in the beginning, but also learned to be more intentional communicators.”

The Tulios had to get used to so many cultural expectations, along with the initial burden of being physically separated from their core family members in the U.S., especially their aging parents. But through their commitment to flexibility, Bacolod City has now become their home base.

“Working in the Philippines also takes adjusting to the culture of the people you serve with your business or even your charitable work,” said Jon J., “but if you understand that the majority of the time we have to be flexible, it just makes everything an adventure.”

Upon moving to Bacolod, Jon J. realized a passion for Jiu Jitsu, and that pursuit became his bridge to help him forge some very strong friendships. He is now teaching martial arts to the local children, while his wife is able to link up with other parents who in turn became their close friends.

“For us, having real community has been the key to living here. Finding connection is what makes raising our sons here possible, especially with all our family living in the U.S.,” he said.

The quality of life in the Philippines is something which Jon J. and Marcia thoroughly enjoy, as they get to spend substantial quality time with their two boys. Whether it is for work or pleasure, the Tulios make the effort to travel around the country to such places as Cebu, Palawan, Negros Island and Romblon province. To sum up his whole Philippine experience, he simply said, “In the U.S. when you meet someone you say you’re ‘Filipino,’ but now I’m actually becoming Filipino.”

Copyright © 2017 The FilAm

 Jon J’s parents Atty. John and Jessie Tulio enjoying Boracay.

Jon J’s parents Atty. John and Jessie Tulio enjoying Boracay.

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