Last summer I went on a quest to find my Mother's biological family. Not for the reasons you might think. You see, my mother was told by the adoption agency that she was half Hawaiian and half Filipino. My quest began when a Samoan man whom I met mentioned I should look into the benefits that the State of Hawaii offers Native Hawaiians. So I decided to look on the state's website. It was there I found information on The Hawaiian Homeland Commission Act. This act provides eligible Native Hawaiians land leases for up to 99 years at $1 a year and the act is transferrable to children! However, they do not accept DNA tests and you must be at least 50% Native Hawaiian. You must prove you're native blood through genealogy.

I was determined to get land, but I had to prove my mother is in fact half Hawaiian. This meant I had to find my biological family. However, through my search everything was pointing to the fact that both my mother's biological parents are Filipino. Many years ago, my mother began a search for her family. A few rules were bent to provide my mother two names. The names she received were her mother's name and her older brother's name. 30 years ago it was a lot harder to find people than today with the internet. So I did a quick google search of my Bio Grandmother's and found an obituary. Within this obituary was also the name of the only other name my mother had, which was her brothers! This took me by surprise, because it shouldn't be that easy? Right?

I quickly did a Facebook search and found a man with the same name who resided in the USA. All the others with the same name were in Malaysia and the Philippines. However, what really took me by surprise was he had also listed all the places he has lived, and in the early 50's he listed Kansas City, KS as a place once lived! Coincidence? I think not. I waited a couple days before I got the courage to message him.

I sent him a quick message asking if his mother happened to be the same person because my mother was adopted and I'm trying to find out information. He responded within an hour and confirmed that was his mother's name and that he had a sister who was adopted in Kansas. Best part is, he tried to find my mom too! We messaged for a couple hours and he confirmed many things that corroborated the same details my mother had from when she tried to find them.

Anyway, long story short, I found my Bio Uncle. Due to COVID, we've only met via FaceTime. We took DNA tests which confirmed he is my Uncle. We discovered that my mother is 100% Filipino and my brother's and I are 50% Filipino. My search to find my Bio family in hopes to move to Hawaii came to a halt, but I found my real heritage on my mother's side.

So this is why I decided to print a new shirt with Filipino Tribal Art. As a way to celebrate a little snippet of Filipino culture, which due to thousands of islands, is only a fraction. However, I found a Filipino Tatak Artist named Richie Lorega of TATAK DESIGNS to design me a new shirt and this is the design! He was kind enough to provide a meaning chart that I thought would be nice to post in my blog!

#1: Mountaintops/Path in Life: Just like how the mountain tops have ups and downs, life itself is full of ups and downs.

#2: Dagat Ocean/River Water Design: This design is divided into two lines, top and bottom line. The Top line represents new birth and new beginnings, the bottom line is for death and the afterlife. Together symbolizes the continuity of life. Our ancestors believe that metaphorically they came from the ocean then came to land (explaining our ancestors ocean voyages)and when they die their soul is ferried back into the ocean. Water is life and life is a continuous cycle, think of how rainfall coming from the sky fills up the rivers, then that river water finds its way back out to sea and then the cycle continues.

#3: Filig/Mountains Design: This design represents endurance and perseverance, two strengths needed when hiking up the mountain jungles of the Philippines. I gave you this design so that you may endure and persevere through any of life’s hardship.

#4: Wave Design: Throughout many islands in the Pacific, waves symbolize life. The ocean is filled with fish life and feeds the people. Waves also represent overcoming hardship. Imagine our ancestors setting out on a canoe trying to paddle against the wave is hard but they overcome the rough waves by keeping on going and making it out to sea.

#5: Banig Design/Woven Palm Mat: Symbolizes family unity. Woven mats are where our family gather to sit, It is also used for sleeping as protection from the ground. And is also used as walls on Nipa huts. That’s why a Banig symbolizes family unity, security and protection. Each tight weave of the mat represents

unity, strength and protection.

#6: Ngipon Sa Buwaya/Crocodiles Teeth: Crocodiles is one of our ancestral animal avatars! Crocodiles were held in high regards by our ancestors because of the animal's strength and ferocity as a patient hunter and resilience. Crocodile’s teeth in our ancestor’s time were mainly a warrior symbol. A person who wears such a design is to advertise that he is as strong and ferocious as the animal itself. And also that he is a great and patient hunter, just like a crocodile. I gave you this for you to have Strength, Patience, Wisdom, to grow old, and resilient just like the animal itself.

#7: Rice mortar: Representation of a hard working person. Rice mortars are used to pound away the shell like casing that wraps the rice inside, which is hard work.

#8: Mata Mata/Ancestors Eyes: Ancestors eyes watching over you night and day, hence the black and white color.

#9: Pongo Design: One of a few designs that symbolizes wealth, prosperity and status of the wearer. I gave you this not to say you are a rich person. But to wish you wealth and prosperity. This design can also represent rows of mountains or a chain of islands, which stands for the thousands of islands in the Philippines.

#10: Similar design and meaning like #1