I was born and raised in Hudson County, New Jersey, to Filipino immigrants. As a child, despite eating Filipino food every day and my parents speaking Tagalog at home, I was indifferent to my heritage. However, I still can recall microaggressions said to me throughout my life, such as frequently being perceived as Chinese-American or another
East Asian American ethnicity based on my appearance (in fact, Filipinos are Southeast Asian), kids being disgusted at my baon (Tagalog: Packed homemade lunch) and being called “White-washed.” It wasn’t until the end of my sophomore year of college after visiting my late grandma in the Philippines one last time that I became truly interested in my Filipino roots. I did know basic Philippine history from my parents and AP U.S History in high school, but I wanted to know more.
I decided to take the opportunity to study abroad in the Philippines at Ateneo de Manila University during my junior year in Spring 2020. Despite it was short-lived due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I learned so much as an exchange student there and made so many wonderful friends I remain close to. Even now, I’m still learning new things about the Philippines.
From what I learned, I like to express my heritage and passion for history in my art as a way to take pride and educate others about the Philippines, Filipinos living there and the Filipino diaspora living overseas.