Actor | Screenwriter | Producer | Muay Thai Fighter | Charity Founder | Author | Content Creator
I was born in Toronto, Canada. I fought Muay Thai internationally representing Team Canada and I was a former champion in the lightweight division in 2008 and 2009. To where I branched off into acting and had my first speaking role in 2009. This year I'm currently in Vancouver, coming off of the Emmy nominated Netflix limited series, Maid, and Steven Spielburg produced comedy Easter Sunday. I have been on shows like: ABC’s Take Two, Designated Survivor, and CW’s The 100. But it was my time off from film sets that I decided to explore a memory that I hold dearly, my mother peeling fruit for me as a child.
Growing up Filipino with immigrant parents, I have had a hard time identifying what it was to be categorized as Asian, considering I didn’t really identify with the more popular Chinese, Japanese, or even Korean cultures that had more prevalent communities in the city. Then entering the world of entertainment as an actor back in 2009, when diversity on screen was still a foreign Hollywood concept, getting cast as an Asian was not in the cards, which then made the connection to being Asian even more distant. It wasn’t until I took some time away from acting that I was able to travel the world and come to a realization that the oceanic community within the Pacific held many answers to what it meant to be Filipino. Over that time till now, my understanding of my cultural identity became stronger, to where I knew that Filipino stories had a place in this world.
With the help of Rhoda Domingo, a Filipina from New Zealand, I wrote the words, and she (Rhoda) brought it to life with her images. As much as the story follows Fernando (named after my father) from infancy to adulthood and the significance of mangoes in my life, the underlying plot is about a mother’s love coming full circle – that her love language was heard. Although there are many easter eggs in the images and dialogue that make this a very Filipino story, I also chose items that are also relatable across all the islands in the Pacific. When asked what they were, I said, “if you know, you’ll know when you see it.”
When I was a kid, I remember my mom and Titas around a kitchen table reading a kid’s book while all the kids were asleep, except me. I found it interesting that a group of adults were moved by a kid’s book – that book was none other than, Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. I’d like to think I understand that moment now, and that’s what I’m hoping this book does for families. The beautiful images by Rhoda will connect with the kids by letting them see a brown face they might be able to relate to, but the story is for the adults. My hope is to have told a story, I feel many my age, especially those of immigrant parents, can relate to.”
My first children's book Peeled Fruit that explores a mother's love language of peeling mango for her baby. In a time where representation in media matters. Peeled Fruit officially goes on sale November 9th and will be shipping worldwide through retailers such as Wal-Mart, Amazon Bookstore, Powell’s, and Barnes & Noble. But to stay up to date on the release and news of the book, be sure to check out and follow @PeeledFruitBook on Instagram for information on how you can get your hardcover or e-version copies. Peeled Fruit was also created as a tool to bring more eyes to The Play On Foundation. A Canadian charity founded by (me) - Xavi de Guzman, Ignatius Lewis, Kris-Andre Smith, and Alex Mallari Jr, with the goal to raise awareness for neurological research in brain aneurysm development and prevention. An initiative that I hold close to my heart ever since the passing of my friend, Nathan Noel, October 1st, 2013. Learn more about that at www.letsplayon.org
What were the biggest initial hurdles and how did you overcome them?
Initial hurdles were understanding that I need to be my biggest supporter. In the entertainment industry, you need to be aware that discouraging words can come from some of the closest people you had growing up. What helped was learning to build a support team that knew how to push you towards your dream but also kept it real and honest when it came to critiquing you.
Your advice to an upcoming youth or talents locally and internationally?
Everyone is doing their best, and that's all you can ever offer whatever it is you decide to put your mind to.
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