As a first generation Filipino-American, I remain trapped in a state of flux, haunted by the echoes of the American (immigrant) dream. Even though my father left the Philippines to create a better life for his children, as his son, I am expected to behave as if I also grew up there, knowing all of the intricacies and traditions that accompany it. However, like many immigrants, my father disavowed his heritage in order to assimilate into American society, leaving me in a precarious place amongst and outside of the Filipinos living in America and Filipino-American communities. Excluded by other immigrant communities and pitied by those fortunate enough to grow up immersed in Filipino culture, I remain “othered” by those who see me as “ethnic.” Through my artistic practice, I seek to piece together what it means to be a Filipino-American rejected by what I see as both sides.
Drawing on this predicament, my work focuses on two elements: my relationship with my father and my desire to belong to a culture of which I am expected to be a part of, even though I do not have much if any experience with it. Through varied processes, I work to uncover history to weave a new visual vocabulary capable of exploring my father’s heritage from which I feel so removed. The fragments that stick with me the most tend to be the mythological traditions connected to our ancestral family, and mundane experiences of my father’s youth. By utilizing handmade abaca paper with photographic inclusions taken from my father’s own albums combined with various printing techniques, I create my own interpretations of the cultural traces that I have gleaned from my father about our heritage. In appropriating these stories, I juxtapose them with modern landscapes and traditional imagery, creating a bridge between myself and others who share my experiences as a Filipino-American.