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a cartoonist and her sketchbook


i remember one day in third grade, my teacher was going around the classroom asking all the students what they wanted to be when they grow up. my seat was at the back of the classroom, so i had a lot of time to think about what to say, but i already knew the answer before the question finished leaving her lips.

i wanted to be a cartoonist.

i don’t even know how i learned what a cartoonist was, but i knew that’s what i wanted to be. my dad graduated with a fine arts degree from the university of santo tomas (UST stand up!), so the artist influence was always there. we used to sit outside in our garden and he’d teach me how to draw things. but cartoonist? i don’t know… i knew the word, and i knew that they made drawings over and over that resulted in cartoons, and i knew that’s what i wanted to be. a small smirk crept up to my lips as i watched the panic appear in some of my classmates around me. calm and collected, i faced forward and awaited my turn.

and then it happened. i don’t know who started it, but all of a sudden the answers started to sound like a rythmic song…a repeating loop of lyrics that young filipino 3rd graders knew by heart. boy: “i want to be a doctor, ma’am!” girl: “i want to be a nurse, ma’am!” boy: “ma’am, gusto ko po maging doctor” girl: “ma’am, ako po ay magiging nurse sa pag laki ko!”

oh my god.

my heart started to race. was there really no one who wanted to be something else besides a doctor or a nurse? the teacher gave them all approving smiles and a nod. what do i do?? i couldn’t possibly say something different! i’d be labeled as an outsider! and then it was my turn…and i choked.

“ma’am, i want to be a nurse too,” i said.


a year later, i found myself in the united states, at an elementary school in daly city. the dream to become a cartoonist had not faded, and was actually stronger than ever. hell, with 24/7 access to cartoons via cartoon network, i think it probably added more encouragement. i kept a sketchbook, mostly filled with cartoons that i was familiar with. i often borrowed “how to draw” books from the local library, and just kept on practicing. my rule: i couldn’t trace.

click on the image below to peruse my 4th grade sketchbook!



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