Harry Go and his tale of two childhoods

Marvel Entertainment lead producer Harry Go.

By Cristina DC Pastor

In Harry Go’s photographic memory, what he remembers as a little boy growing up in the Philippines are unblurred images of living in a house on a hill, bringing spiders to school, and sitting in his father’s car which was technically an old jeepney painted blue.

Harry, 34, a lead producer at Marvel Entertainment,  was born in Ozamiz City in Misamis Occidental, but spent his early childhood in Cebu. At the age of 8, his family emigrated to the U.S. Harry’s coming-of-age would continue in New Jersey, in a town called Clifton where David Henry Chase, the creator of “The Sopranos” once lived.

How his two childhoods intersected gave him a different way of looking at the world and contributed to his development as a creative professional. Growing up in an immigrant family with parents who have a multiethnic background reinforced his “unique advantage.”

“My time in the Philippines almost felt like another life, a previous life,” said Harry in an interview with The FilAm. “We had to boil our drinking water and dealt with electricity ‘brown outs’ almost every week, but it was a wonderful childhood and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Harry and sister Hadel growing up in the Philippines. Their parents Harry Go Sr. and Dely Po Go come from a multiethnic background.

His upbringing in the Philippines would gradually give way to a whole new world in the U.S. filled with assorted friendships, cultures, social norms, and lifestyles. Over time he embraced much of it but kept his Asian identity intact. “A lot of our years growing up in the Philippines were spent in a gated compound, so my sister and I only had each other to run around with. And when we immigrated to the U.S., for a few years we also really only had each other to play with as we were making new friends,” he said.

“Not only did I have my own experiences as an immigrant from the Philippines, that experience was also colored by the multiple cultures that my familial heritage consists of,” he said, pointing out that his parents have Filipino, Chinese and Japanese lineage and that the Go family speaks Cebuano, Ilonggo and some Fukien language.

It was comics, music and art that helped with his assimilation in American culture. He would turn to drawing Marvel characters for classmates and even made some extra cash on the side. In Cebu, he would watch the X-Men cartoon every Friday at 8 p.m.

“It would be an event with my sister and I to always tune in to watch it every week because it was literally one of maybe two cartoons we would get where we lived. So, when I moved here, it was something I already had in common with the rest of the kids. I knew who Wolverine and Gambit were and could easily geek out with classmates about them,” he said.

Marvel intern

His first job straight from Fordham University – where he earned a degree in Business Administration & Marketing in 2008 — was at Marvel Entertainment. At that time, Marvel was just about to release “Iron Man” and was not yet the pop culture juggernaut that it is today. 

He met future wife Renee Rivas in high school. She is the daughter of former Bergenfield Mayor Robert Rivas.

“I started as an intern and by the time I graduated, I had built great relationships with some incredible people. Folks like John Cerilli, Jim Boyle, and Marvel’s President Dan Buckley, were incredible mentors who looked out for me as I started my career,” he said. He eventually became part of the newly formed digital content department in 2008 and after graduation worked his way up to becoming a producer.

“Back then, only people who were into comics really knew what Marvel was. I remember telling friends in college that I got an internship at Marvel and some had no idea what that was.” Part of his job then was producing live event coverage for red carpet premieres and interviewing celebrities.

He transferred to HBO and worked as an associate producer. After three years, he went back to Marvel when “the irresistible pull brought me back.”

“Everyone outside knows Marvel as a gigantic corporate entity that is taking over pop cultureso every time I mention that I am a producer for Marvel, there’s always this moment of wide-eyed acknowledgment,” he said. “But everyone inside knows that what it’s really about are the people who work here, how much we care about the brand, and the creative relationships that have allowed us to collaborate on incredible things. It’s really a family inside, and that’s what working at Marvel is really like.”

‘It’s really a family inside, and that’s what working at Marvel is really like.’

He is currently the executive producer for a documentary series going on Disney+ and producer for the Marvels podcast starring Cliff “Method Man” Smith, Ethan Peck, AnnaSophia Robb, and Seth Barrish. He had also produced podcasts and short videos where he would take on alternating roles as director, consulting producer, or one in charge of budgeting.

Marvel has always had a strong connection with Filipinos, declared Harry. Among the FilAms who have illustrated for Marvel – now owned by Disney – include Whilce Portacio, Mike del Mundo, Kim Jacinto, and Leinil Yu. Harry himself devoured Marvel comics growing up in the Philippines.

“I learned how to draw by copying Marvel art. I would draw the same covers and pages over and over as a child, poring over every detail. I also credit reading Marvel comics with teaching me how to tell a story. Something I now have to do every day as a documentary producer,” he said.

His ‘co-conspirator’

His wife of three years was a girl he met in high school but did not date until they were in college. Renee Rivas, a lawyer, is the daughter of former Bergenfield Mayor Robert Rivas. The Go and the Rivas families are close having known each other for 15 years. Harry’s parents – Dely Po Go, the president of Nursing Network LLC., and Harry Go Sr., share a natural rapport with Rivas, who made history as the first Filipino mayor elected in New Jersey.

Harry and his sister Hadel, who is slightly older, remain affectionately close, having shared a childhood that straddled two cultures. Hadel is completing her Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine at Rowan University.

“She’s one of the few people I have an almost telepathic connection to. We can sit in a room silently and know what each other is thinking,” he said. 

Some of his fondest memories with Hadel was making their own bubble liquid by squashing gumamela flowers, and feeding the wild goats that strayed into their backyard in Cebu.  “I can’t even remember one time where we had an argument. What we have is more of a lifelong friendship than just a familial tie,” he said.

© The FilAm 2020

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