E.J. runs Fundamentals Eagle Rock, a musical education program for preschoolers. Since 2015, he has been the Music and Me instructor in Koreatown at KYCC’s preschool, Kids Town, which serves children ages 2.5 to 5 years.
Where is your hometown?
I was born and raised in Antipolo City, Philippines, which is famous for the Antipolo Catholic Church. Our city is 2,000 feet above sea level so people walk up to our city, from other cities, to the Catholic church in the month of May, after Easter. I moved to Eagle Rock when I was 17. I stayed for two years and then I went back and then settled back here in 2005. I had no permanent address then; I was moving around, going to Japan and Singapore for six months to a year. I never got to go to Korea but I would love the food!
How are you involved with Koreatown?
KYCC was looking for a new music teacher and now I’m with Kids Town every Thursday. I go to 17 schools in the greater Los Angeles area, mostly in west L.A. — there are three of us on our team and I have a couple of teachers working for me at my other schools.
It’s been twelve years since I started working in music with kids. I was a professional singer back in the Philippines in a cover band, a show band. Personally, I had a bad experience with a music teacher when I was young so I grew up with a bad impression of music until it became my profession. With our program, we instill in the minds of the kids that music is fun and memorable by teaching the fundamentals and we develop their character. Some kids are shy at school but because of their experience with us, they learn to become more sociable and active. I see how they develop their social and motor skills. For me, it’s not a job — it’s a passion. I love seeing these kids.
What are your thoughts on Koreatown today?
When I think about Koreatown, it’s always about food. Eating Korean BBQ is the best part. I’ve only learned about it since I moved back to the U.S. in 2005. Every year, my wife and I run the L.A. Marathon. The best replenishment is the food in Koreatown. When we have friends visit from the Philippines, we always think of Korean BBQ; our friends are familiar with it but we always bring them because they’ve never been before and we want to offer them things they’re not used to. Korean BBQ comes up in conversations real fast.
Where is your favorite place in Koreatown?
We always go to all-you-can-eat Korean restaurants. I love the idea of cooking your own food. One place has valet parking and is more expensive and the other is more presentable. We always bring friends and stuff them with food. Whenever we have guests, we have to send them back where they came from 10 pounds heavier. Now that we live in the Inland Empire, when we bring them to the restaurant and they notice the Korean writing on the signs, I tell them, “That’s Koreatown.”