Journey to Gloryland

Multi-layered American flag painting, "Gloryland," oil/cold wax painting on panel

Gloryland, oil/cold wax medium on panel

When I learned that “Gloryland” was selected to decorate the walls of the new NH Hampton Circuit Court building, I did the happy dance. What an honor!

I was pleased with the way this painting turned out. My medium, oil and cold wax, allowed me to apply paint in several layers, as I do for all my paintings. Layering adds depth and character, and in this instance, it also lent a rustic appearance, a sense of history, of years gone by.

Given the upcoming elections, it also made me reflect on my unique American experience.

The View from Far Away

Growing up in the Philippines, I thought of America as the greatest country on earth. It was often described in superlatives. The best. The brightest. The wealthiest. The smartest.

Our Shared History

Did you know that after the Spanish-American War, the Philippines was ceded to the U.S.? Thereafter, American influence grew on the islands. Spanish, once the dominant, formal language, was slowly replaced. By the time I came around, English predominated. 

I grew up reading your fairy tales and parables, listening to the same songs, studying the same Bible. I had a steady diet of Popeye, the Three Stooges, Casper the Friendly Ghost, and Reader’s Digest. My school’s curriculum was modeled after the American system. I learned the difference between it's and its, their and they're. Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello.

Group of vintage magazines from the 1960s and 1970s.

Outside of school, I enjoyed flipping through the glossy magazines my Mom picked up at Dau Market, not far from Clark Air Base. It was our halfway rest stop between Manila and our home town in the country. I was mesmerized by the colorful ads and fancy products. Remember Halo Shampoo? Short & Sassy? Occasionally, we had Kellogg's Corn Flakes and we thought it was exotic. 😝 🤣😅  I had a Kodak Instamatic camera, and my favorite candy bar was Nestlé Crunch.

Dau Public Market in Angeles City, Pampanga

Dau Market, Angeles, Philippines

I devoured stories about the Kennedys and became convinced that anything American was better, classier, grander. I listened to the Beatles, watched Hawaii 5-0, Fantasy Island, Charlie Brown, and the first concert I attended was the Commodores. In an absurd way – notwithstanding the colorful, honking jeepneys and tricycles weaving through traffic, the amazing sunset at Manila Bay, the Marcos regime during martial law – it can be argued that I had a uniquely American upbringing.

Closer, But No Cigar

When I immigrated to Canada at 15, we made a pit stop in L.A. to visit relatives living in the Valley. Los Angeles was exactly as I had envisioned, just like the movies, a dream come true. The wide streets were lined with palmettos, a sturdy and stoic relative of the typhoon-swept coconut trees I was accustomed to. Cars moved at a steady speed on the highway. No water buffalo or rickshaws cutting across to slow down traffic. No daredevils speeding up to pass cars against oncoming traffic. Everything seemed orderly. A visit to Disneyland was the cherry on the cake. I loved it all. 

In the intervening years, I learned that North America is not the fantasy world found inside the pages of Woman’s Day, McCall’s, or Good Housekeeping. It’s not solely populated by beautiful people with bouncy, shiny hair wearing beautiful clothes.

Like any place on earth, it has its imperfections. It’s a country of laws, flaws, creativity, speed limits, and speed bumps. It values human life and has a love affair with cats and dogs. It's democratic, proudly patriotic, and loves the red, white, and blue. Scratches and all, it’s still the America of my youth. And it's always striving to be better.

American flag painting called "New American," made of oil and cold wax medium.

Another flag painting called "New American," which I made around the time I became a U.S. citizen. 
It was purchased a few years ago by Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

The New American

Three years ago, I became an American citizen and last week, I cast my ballot for the first time in a presidential election. I've had the privilege of being a citizen of three countries, and I come from a different perspective. 

Homer Simpson lazily sits on the couch watching TV, surrounded by family.

Whoever the U.S. selects to be its president will have far-reaching consequences. It affects little girls from dusty little towns, reading glossy magazines, dreaming of the land of milk and honey. So don't just stay home like Homer Simpson. Not everyone can vote in a U.S. presidential election, yet it affects them. Make a difference. Lisa Simpson would approve. Archie Bunker would approve. Heck, Santa Claus and Snoopy would approve. Go vote, my friends. Toot your horn and make yourself heard.

Vintage Vote poster with radio.