Q and A with Mai, Tacloban City, Philippines
“Although not everyone will listen to you, or other people might think that you’re weird or different, I think that’s the beauty of it all–being unique and understanding who you are will really help you gauge who your people are and who you resonate with.”
Q: What are you passionate about?
A: I really find joy in traveling, music, and discovering new places (especially nature-related ones), and meeting people doing different disciplines of art. Currently, I am running a small visual branding and graphic design business where I cater to fellow small business entrepreneurs as well as event planners and community builders.
Being surrounded by a lot of amazing artists and graphic designers, years ago, I felt very insecure about my art. I felt like I did not belong, that I was not enough. When I was in high school, I remember that the first computer software I played around with was this app called PhotoScape. It is like the modern day Canva, with less functionalities of course, but still very useable. Back then, I used that software to create Facebook posts, the logos of the online businesses I started, and editing random photos of myself with my friends and family. I remember feeling happy after completing a single mini-project and, back then, it still was not that apparent to me that I was passionate about this.
I grew up not having an actual ‘hobby,’ so knowing that through this craft, I would be able to express myself, I started exploring other tools. Fast forward to today, I am still studying and honing my skills when it comes to visual branding and graphic design, but I am grateful to be able to go through that ‘impostor’ stage in my life because through that experience, I was able to compete with myself (and silently compete with others, too) and really realize where I stand in this field. Currently, I help different business, both local ones here in the Philippines as well as international clients, and I hope to really help more entrepreneurs in the near future.
Q: What were your younger years like?
A: I grew up in a family where my parents had high expectations of me when it came to education. Let’s just say, I was considered as one that was “academically smart” when I was starting my schooling. I always had this competitive nature in me that I wanted to always be at the top when it came to academic performance. From nursery until I turned 5th grade, I was the top, #1 performer in our class, except for one school year where our class had two 1st honors, and it was me and my best friend. Having these academic recognitions really boosted my confidence as a student and as a person for a while.
I remember I liked expressing my creativity with how I looked, and I loved buying clothes that somehow had that subtle grungy and Rockstar feeling. I enjoyed wearing accessories that were normally used by men. I even thought I was not straight, but I remember having a guy elementary crush which validated that yes, I am straight [laughs]. But I guess one of the major events in my life was when I was in high school; I remember starting an online e-book shop. Yes, let me cut to the chase, the business was illegal; I resold e-books I bought or downloaded online which I knew was not allowed, but that business really boomed and I felt that, at that time, I was not doing anything wrong. Things starting going down south when my shop got featured at a national newspaper, and I started receiving Facebook messages from the international authors’ editors or secretaries, saying that they’d hunt me down here in the country and sue me. I was really terrified and, even if the business was really doing well because I already had these “loyal customers,” I then realized that, yes, it was indeed wrong, and I should stop what I was doing. So, I did stop and closed down the page. It was through that business where I honed my entrepreneurial skills, but it was also at that business where my moral values were tested at a very young age, and though scary, I think part of me is grateful that that happened, because I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for that. I think if that did not happen, I would still think that piracy or even copying other people’s work is okay, which it is actually NOT.
Q: What is something valuable you’d like others to know?
A: I guess the most valuable thing I could share to other people is that authenticity really comes first. Although not everyone will listen to you, or other people might think that you’re weird or different, I think that’s the beauty of it all–being unique and understanding who you are will really help you gauge who your people are and who you resonate with. It’s also a great time-saving hack, I must say, because it will really help eliminate those people that don’t align with your values.
Q: What does feminism mean to you?
A: Feminism, for me, having a relation to the word ‘feminine’ does not necessarily mean woman. I think men also has this in them, the same way; masculinity is somehow a part of us as well. Feminism for me promotes values such as compassion, kindness, boundaries, and self-love.
Thank you for reading!
MORE ABOUT MAI: I am from Tacloban City, oh, and actually, I don’t want to consider myself as a ‘victim,’ but I’m one of the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, year 2013. And if you’re not aware about this, it’s actually considered as one of the strongest typhoons recorded in history. I was there, my family was there, and we really felt the struggle of losing everything. Thank God, no lives were lost. But this event also had a major impact on me. It taught me strength, compassion, camaraderie, resilience, and most especially, love. The values that we learn from these countless lessons we’ve had in life could go on limitless times, but I think the most important thing is how we’re able to carry these beautiful values and really apply them on who we are today and become the best versions of ourselves, for ourselves.
I’d love to connect with you! 🙂
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