Owner/Creator - Eric Leocadio
American Pinoy provides casual Filipino fusion food and other sweets as a way of introducing Filipino flavors (or just my own creations) in a familiar context to a broader audience, cultivating community, and increasing visibility and interest in Filipino themes. "Pinoy" is a term that commonly refers to a person from the Philippines.
As a Filipino American (aka Fil-Am), a part of me felt disconnected with my heritage. I was born in the Philippines but since my father joined the U.S. Air Force, I moved with my family to the United States when I was only 3 years old. During my early years, I grew up in Hawaii. We assimilated well and so my connection to my culture was limited. Like many Fil-Ams, I could somewhat understand but couldn't speak Tagalog among other Filipinos and I had a difficult time relating with many Filipinos. After my parents' divorce when I was 11 years old, I moved with my mom to Long Beach, California. After that, I felt disconnected from my family.
At the age of 14 years old, I survived my own suicide. The feeling of disconnectedness followed me into adulthood. I never felt like I "fit" while growing up. I was brown among predominantly white people. I was gay among straight people. I was too reserved among some gay people. I was single among straight and gay couples. I was overweight among skinny people. I was in the closet among church people. I was a person of faith among those who had other beliefs. These clashing realities led to some confusing times and hard mistakes.
But I began to rebuild my life from rock-bottom-up. I eventually came to the realization that I wasn't supposed to fit into any single group. I didn't fit because I was always in the gap between each group. I understood each group of people even though I didn't feel like I was fully a part of any of them. I realized that I was meant to be a bridge.
The trend of my life has always been that of being a bridge. In fact, in the last 15 years I have done extensive work as a community organizer, event planner, and bridge-builder working towards the common good having created and implemented over 200 programs, projects, activities, trainings, and events both small and large. The common theme has always been to help people feel connected.
I co-founded a faith-based non-profit organization called Kingdom Causes in 2002. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems from DeVry University, Long Beach in 2005. I founded a community-based non-profit organization called Catalyst Network of Communities in 2006. I earned a Master of Arts in Social Entrepreneurship and Change from Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology in 2012.
When I finally visited the Philippines in 2012 for the first time (after having left when I was a toddler), I was excited about learning more about my culture. At the time, my mother lived there in her hometown of Dinalupihan, Bataan and had been traveling back and forth between California and the Philippines. In February 2012, I was traveling many parts of the Philippines to meet and interview over 40 cacao farmers as part of my grad school internship program. I was also able to spend time with my mother as she introduced me to relatives and showed me the town and other sites. By the end of my month-long trip, my mother and I made plans to start a business in the Philippines and I was excited to launch a cocoa-related social enterprise in the U.S.
Less than a week after my return to the U.S., my mother was brutally murdered in her home in the Philippines. Naturally, I was devastated and the tragic event gave me mixed feelings about the country and my heritage.
Now, 6 emotional roller coaster years later, I wanted to redeem the memory of my mother and the enthusiasm I once had about creating a social enterprise related in some way to my Filipino heritage. I also needed a way to heal.
Estrelita Payumo DeLeon Meyer. My siblings and I called her "Mama." She was loving, hard-working, and sacrificial. She always cooked for the family. She enjoyed singing on her karaoke machine. She liked orchids and planting in her garden.
Growing up, Filipino food was the one bridge that helped me to identify as a Filipino. Cooking makes me think of her. American Pinoy is a way for me to share about the person my mother was and also to build that bridge connecting Filipinos, other Fil-Ams, and the broader American public. Since I can't do much to effect change in the Philippines, I can continue my bridge building efforts locally by helping to create the kind of community that doesn't experience the kind of tragic murder that happened to my mother. Or at least try to reduce it. So as a social enterprise, once this business is sustainable, my dream is to use profits to create scholarships and grants and to support community programs.
Filipino fusion food really describes my own personal identity - as someone with Filipino roots but also shaped by so many other cultural influences here in America. It’s something that I am excited to share with others.