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About Pineapple Ind

January 16, 2017

Dear Mother Philippines,

You may not know who I am. I'm one of your long lost sons. Forgive me for being this direct, but you have no idea how much I love you. I have a lot to thank you for. Thank you for all of your children throughout the world. It was through two of them that I was born a part of you, and, with the help of many more of your daughters and sons, I learned about you. 

I only learned small bits and pieces about you early on in my life. That's not because my parents and my community did not teach me. I was born and raised in New York, about 8,510.8 miles away from your heart. I hope you understand how difficult it is to learn about you while being so far away. Regretfully, I started to forget, neglect and even resent you. Growing up in America will do that to children of immigrants. I'll tell you more about that in another letter.

As I grew into a man, I accepted myself and you. I sought to learn as much about you as I could. In the middle of all that learning, I fell in love with you. There is so much to love about you - all 7,641 of your islands, the spirit of your children and your difficult past, among many other things. As of late, I've just been so taken by your culture. Your younger children have done so well lately to push the way you nourish and feed us through food. I think they've got that covered.

About four years ago, my father handed his two custom-made barongs down to me. My love for you grew even stronger the minute I saw them and tried them on. They fit so well, and they looked so beautiful. I felt so connected to you and so proud to be a part of you when I wore them in public. Unfortunately, one was so old that the piña fabric ripped in multiple places after wearing it for one day. I was so afraid to rip the other that I only wore it once in front of people.

The first time I wore a barong tagalog in public circa 2013

I tried to buy barongs of my own here in the US, but I had plenty of trouble finding ones that fit me and my personal tastes. My only option was to visit you and find the best barong-makers on Earth to custom-make some for me. After a lot of searching, I found them. They are true artisans that come from generations of hand embroidery tradition.

Of course, when you love someone, you cannot stand to see them suffer. One of the first things I learned about you is that you suffer from many ailments, such as the lack of opportunities on your islands, the distance and separation of your children across the world and the wearing away of your culture and tradition. When I found my barongs and the people that made them, I also found my own little way to try to help you. I want to bring your barongs, and your culture and tradition overall, to as many people here in the US as possible. By becoming the local made-to-measure barong seller for every neighborhood in the US, I can not only help preserve your culture and tradition, but I can also help the diaspora seem a little bit smaller and help support the families of artisans making these garments at the same time.

Many of the reasons why I wake up every morning can be traced back to wanting to help you. I hope that, at some point in my journey, you can see how much I love you, and I can earn my keep.

With love from your son,

Randy

PS - Please forgive me also for being terrible at learning your languages. Part of it is that "growing up in America" thing I mentioned in the second paragraph. One day, though, I'll write you a letter in one of your languages, I promise.  : )