I was born in Las Pinas, in Metro Manila, Philippines, in 1982. My family moved to Surrey, BC, Canada in 1989, when I was still in the middle of first grade. Even though it’s been 21 years since then, I still remember when my family first arrived. I have vivid memories of how fresh and cool the air smelled compared to the muggy, polluted air of Manila. I remember looking out and seeing mountains and trees, instead of rows upon rows of traffic congestion.
But somehow, somewhere between that day 21 years ago and right now, I lost track of those feelings. I still remember coming here with my family, obviously, but what I mean is that I lost track of the feeling of being a Filipino in Canada. Sure, when I go to my parents’ home for lunch or dinner on weekends, we eat the usual sinagang, adobo, and lumpia – but other than that, I can’t really claim to have many ties to my Filipino roots in my every day life. I’ve embraced Canadian culture to the fullest, even taking in bits and pieces of the Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Korean cultures that also help make up Vancouver – but in doing so, did I involuntarily let go of my Filipino roots? And if so, how do I reconnect?
Filmmaker Stephen Dypiangco, being born in California from Filipino American immigrants, knows this feeling well and attempts to find answers in his personal documentary, Home Unknown. The documentary follows Stephen and his parents on a trip to the Philippines, where he hopes to learn more about his cultural heritage and family history. During the course of Home Unknown, we get to see Dypiangco travelling to his parents’ hometowns, talking with long-forgotten relatives, and in the process, learning a lot more about his mother and father.
Stephen Dypiangco grew up in the multicultural suburbs of LA, and attended NYU’s graduate film program. He has made some notable films, including the short documentary Made In The Bronx, about a group of inner-city teenagers working together to create a boat using their hands, which was a Regional Finalist for the Student Academy Awards and won the Best Documentary prize at the Starz First Look Student Film Festival; and All Americana, which was his narrative thesis on an immigrant high school student who fights to keep her college dreams alive.
You can find more of Stephen Dypiangco’s short films, including Home Unknown webisodes online. I encourage you to watch them all, but Home Unknown in particular. The documentary is still in post production, which means the full length feature isn’t quite finished yet, but we need to support this film and get the word out. What began as a small movie intended for Dypiangco’s family and film festival audiences grew in scope as Stephen discovered more and more Filipinos who share his experiences. If you want to see how it means to be a 1.5 or 2nd generation North American, Home Unknown lays it all out.