Celebrating being a Filipino-American through Hand-Lettering, Art & Twitter

How I connect to my roots with art

Back in March, I visited the Philippines after 11 long years of distance, so 11 years of not seeing my family up close & personal. Pretty emotional trip, for sure, but returning now as a 28 year old, super career-driven, semi-i-got-my-life-together adult, I had an eye opener to how important it was to really remember (and carry out the culture) of the roots in your family.

I had been studying Tagalog the summer prior to the trip to up my game in conversing with my family, especially my grandmother, as that language barrier was always the hardest. After she had passed before I could even see her again, a little piece of me gave up — kind of reverted back to that selfish teen thoughts of, “Well what’s the point now? Both sides of my family’s grandparents have passed and now I really can’t speak to them” deal going on in my head. But I set aside my selfish side for the trip and tried my best to converse with family — even with the tiniest bit of Tagalog I could scrounge up to make sense (“Tagalish,” I like to call it). I witnessed how difficult the lifestyle was like there compared to the states. Revisited the taste of the food, the culture, the food, the traditions, values and history.

Being back in the Philippines, especially when you’re an adult developing your stance on issues, there are some moments during your stay that can tug at your heart.

Growing up in the states is a privilege and something I could never pay back in full to my parents for leaving their home to raise a family. Seeing how difficult it is to live there was an eye-opener.

One of the most poignant moment was being in the car at a drive thru late at night and see this batang lalaki (little boy), who must’ve been about 5 years old, begging for change. I could only give him a couple pesos I had on me but the haggard look on his face was something that haunted me the rest of my trip. I couldn’t help but draw him out.

Be grateful for the things you have, even just having a nice bathroom, bed and pillows/blanket. There are so many people across seas who are less fortunate. And if you can, please always give, volunteer, spend some amount of your life to help those in need.

As mentioned before, this trip — total eye opener.

I came back to the states pretty determined to keep my roots as a daily reminder to myself of where I’m from and integrate it in whatever I do.

So what’s the best outlet for an artist like myself? Hand-lettering & doodles, of course.

About a month ago, I chatted it up with a co-worker of mine at PACO Collective all about Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month (that’s a mouthful I tell ya) and she presented me with the opportunity for me to do a Twitter takeover on our company profile and school folks on being Filipino-American. You can imagine my excitement to mix three things I’m interested in — content marketing + hand-lettering + celebrating my heritage.

It‘s #AAPIHeritageMonth, a time to celebrate. So I did my research, found the words/phrases I saw fit, and just went with it. By mixing values of my workplace (which is a multicultural advertising agency) with the values/mission of Filipino history, culture and of course, being a creative person — this hand-lettering project was a great time to reflect and really think through what it means to be Filipino.

Below are the tweets that went out that day, and honestly my first time attempting to animate something I drew (super elementary, I know, but baby steps!)

Magandang umaga! Elisha here ready to share Filipino culture & build your Tagalog vocab in celebration of #APAHM
Like PACO chilaquiles, Pinoys ❤ Halo-Halo for more than taste; it symbolizes the mix of cultural influences #APAHM
Maging matapang ka! Risks=courage. Read about the ’86 People Power Revolutionhttp://bit.ly/17UzjVc #FBF #APAHM
Kain na tayo! Longsilog is a personal favorite. Have y’all tried any #FilipinoFood like lumpia or pancit? #APAHM
Creative Tip: Find paraluma in cultural roots. There’s an abundance of inspiration in traditions & artifacts. #APAHM
#FBF to the never forget moment honoring the Bayanihan Pinoy spirit seen when Typhoon Haiyan hit back in 2013 #APAHM

#PaalamFelisha (yeah, I had to go there and make fun of my name!)


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You can read more about my art travels, art show coverages and advice for fellow illustrators and designers on Threadless. On the side, I’m committed to my labor of love project dedicated to those who have a thing for traveling and an eye for hand-lettering.

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