Rene was born and raised in Baguio City in the Philippines and immigrated to the U.S. in 1987. He is a journalist, nonprofit manager and community advocate. He was executive director of the Asian American Journalists Association from 1999 to 2008. He has written for various community and national publications in the Philippines, Hawaii and the San Francisco Bay Area. Aside from writing and food, his other passions include music and travel.