Remembering Nanay (aka Lola Lina)

16 years ago, my grandma passed away in the comfort of her home in the Philippines, surrounded by family. My sister, mom, 2 aunts and I had flown out to spend the prior week with her in the hospital. She still had so much spunk. She had convinced our younger cousins to give her scissors so she could get rid of her catheter!… I still remember her last words were something along the lines of "I'm hungry. Give me some rice." I love it. Going out with literally such an appetite!… This photo was taken in September 2000 in the Philippines when we were celebrating her last birthday… I miss her every day but truly believe that she's reincarnated in Drae. They have that same bad-ass attitude mixed with goofiness and bear-hug kind of love. And let's not forget their love of talcum powder. Love you, Nanay. I can still feel you watching over me. #tbt #nanayknowsbest #family #love #philippines #missyou #thankyou

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Artisan Made Philippines

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Ay nako!  It has been almost 2 years since my last post!

Yesterday, I attended an amazing launch event for Artisan Made Philippines.  Overnight my cup runneth over with the sense of Pinay Pride.  And just in time!

One of the biggest things that has been weighing down on my mind, heart and soul has been my struggle to teach my kids Tagalog and cultivate their Filipino identity.  Yes, I speak to them exclusively in Tagalog, but I know my version of Tagalog is not enough.  I myself need some immersion crash course in order to discuss more complex thoughts and feelings with them.

Thanks to Artisan Made, I came away from last week feeling connected to a vibrant Filipino-American community.  I’m feeling happier.  It’s the kind of feeling you might experience when you spend a whole day with cool cousins.  Mind you, I only knew Kristine Surla, the founder of Artisan Made when I walked in the door, but everyone felt familiar as they shared their stories of being Filipino or Filipino-American.  It didn’t matter that we were from all different parts of the Philippines or different parts of the US.

It’s a huge understatement to say that I was thrilled and inspired.  The day wasn’t about fleeting fashion trends.  It was about Filipinos and Filipinas making a difference in other people’s lives.

  • Moved by the work that the non-profit, Gawad Kalinga, is doing to end poverty and hunger in the Philippines.
  • Lost my mind shopping for beautiful pieces by Anthill – a social and cultural enterprise in the Philippines working to preserve local weaves through contemporary design to sustain livelihood and tradition.  Each piece had a story about the specific weaves and the weaver or craftsperson who created it.
  • Witnessed the inventive and improvisational culinary skills of The New York Times-featured Filipina chef, Yana Gilbuena.  I inhaled the 5-course kamayan meal after admiring her artful presentation.  I also learned that you can peel ginger with a regular spoon!  It’s work, but it means that you don’t waste any of the ginger!  Genius.
  • Discovered that “heirloom Philippine rice” exists!  Last night’s menu included black rice by Social Products — an organization that sources organic food products from Philippine coop smallholder farmer partners that empower rural farmers, women, and indigenous peoples with a more sustainable way to eradicate poverty.
  • Excited to taste and learn about Kalsada Coffee from the Philippines and roasted in Seattle.
  • And wow!  Theo & Philo artisanal chocolates.  Yum!  They’re the Philippines’ first bean-to-bar artisan chocolates.  You have to try them!
  • And calamansi liqueur?  Yes, please!  I am now on the hunt for Manille Liqueur de Calamansi.  According to Forbes, it was “conceived as a Filipino take on the Italian limoncello by president and CEO Olivia Limpe-Aw, in collaboration with restaurateur-turned-writer-and-television-host Stephanie Zubiri-Crespi, Manille Liqueur de Calamansi, launched in January 2014, is a vodka-based drink that uses the essence of the zesty calamansi rind sourced from Mangyan farmers in Mindoro, a province located off the coast of Luzon, and northeast of Palawan.”
  • And most importantly, I have secured some SoCal Tagalog play dates in my family’s future!  In fact, because of the press coverage leading up to the event, I now know that there’s a show, Kababayan Today.  And because of that show, I now know that there’s a summer school program by the Filipino Cultural School here in LA!  It’s far but it will be worth it to enroll Cedro next summer.

Maraming salamat, Kristine! Mabuhay!

 

 

4-min Daily Doodles for 40 Days

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For Lent this year, I’ve decided to draw a 4-min doodle every day. Today’s doodle is inspired by my friends, Tom and Thomas, who I’ve known for 18+ years. They are 2 of the sweetest people on planet Earth. Check out this interview about their business. I love how they make time for community work despite their busy schedules. (Tom has owned a few Boston Terriers over the years in case you were wondering about the dog.)

Drawing Again!

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I always need a deadline to push me to draw more than a doodle.  Tonight’s final deadline for the 2015 Communication Arts Illustration Competition was as good a reason as any… The piece is inspired by the tendency of feeling like I have no ideas when I need them the most.  It’s as if my mind were completely blank with the soundtrack of crickets in the background.  Ironically, when I want to try to relax and put my mind to rest, that’s exactly when my brain starts buzzing with no off switch within reach.

It feels good to draw again.

Inspiration in West LA

Limited Edition Mint Tins by Audrey Kawasaki, one of my favorite artists — purchased as set of 5 from GR2 // Giant Robot Gallery in West LA

Limited Edition Tins designed and signed by Audrey Kawasaki, one of my favorite artists — purchased as set of 5 from GR2 // Giant Robot Gallery

During a lazy Sunday afternoon of mundane errands, I had a serious “Ah ha!” moment.  (More like, “No duh!” moment.)  I was reminded that there is way more to my life than a 9-to-5 job and emails and agendas and deadlines and things to prove.  That everyday things can be works of art and that I am completely content simply spending time in a Japanese grocery store or Tokyo Outlet.  And it was all thanks to our old neighborhood, Little Osaka along Sawtelle Boulevard.

I decided to wander into GR2 and was immediately inspired by the current Stories group show.  Galleries and museums can often be so alienating but I love the shops on Sawtelle.  The art scene here in West LA feels authentic yet approachable and even fun.  Always inspirational.  I love checking out what other artists are trying.  Edwin Ushiro‘s graphite on vellum drawings are amazing.  And I am totally in love with Jeni Yang‘s paintings on wood with laser cut embellishments.  My favorite is her Nuke piece.  I couldn’t stop staring at it.

Just as I was about to leave, a little stack of  Audrey Kawasaki tins caught my eye.  I couldn’t resist.  Audrey Kawasaki is one of my favorite artists.  And just when I thought my modern Asian-American art adventure was coming to an end, who happened to be the cashier but none other than Eric Nakamura himself!  Founder of Giant Robot.  I was completely awestruck.  I tried desperately to think of something intelligent and thought-provoking to say as I paid for my tins.  Instead, all I could think of was, “Uh that’s a cool watch in the display case…  It’s on sale?  Can I take a look at it?”  I’ve bumped into famous people both in NYC and in LA and I usually have no problem chatting it up.  “Excuse me, are you Henry Thomas?… OMG, I loved your work in E.T.!  Wow!”

Oh well.  I was never a very good extemporaneous speaker.  Next time I run into Eric Nakamura, I’ll have my speech prepared about how inspirational his work has been — both in the art world and in the Asian-American community.  In the meantime, I’ll just have to say my somewhat silent thank you via this blog post.

Love is in the Air!

Danny + Arlene Yoo

Rather than re-use our excuse, “Why I Haven’t Blogged in a While,” I’m going to  say, “Love is in the Air!”  Valentine’s Day is around the corner and to top it off, my sister is pregnant!  Not only is she pregnant, but she is due to give birth in a matter of weeks!  Knowing my sister and brother-in-law, my hunch is that this baby girl is either going to arrive early OR right on time.  3-3-13 is coming up fast!

I am excited for Arlene and Danny.  It goes without saying that they are going to be wonderful parents.  My niece is going to grow up so loved.

In Honor of Filipino World War II Veterans

Our long overdue tribute to the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who fought side by side with American soldiers during World War II.  We also feature Mr. Greg Villanueva, a Filipino guerrilla fighter who is still awaiting the benefits promised to him by the US government 67 years later.  Special thanks to Mr. Villanueva for sharing his story with us and to his family for welcoming us into their home.

In Honor of Filipino World War II Vets from BARKADA(KO) ART + DESIGN on Vimeo.