Anna Gabriella Casalme
What’s your passion?
Finding and utilizing untapped intersections, especially between the areas of health, design, media, arts and culture.
Why do you support a creative economy?
With regards to the creative economy, I firmly believe in two things. First, human beings, when given the opportunity, display an innate ability to create, innovate and collaborate. Second, progress happens when individuals and communities have access to such opportunities. I support a creative economy because true development, at its core, is for the people, not for the profit. I believe in investing in individuals. I love seeing the spark that occurs when people recognize problems, brainstorm, share ideas, and develop solutions. I want meaningful work to be a reality for many, not a privilege for a select few.
Why are you interested in Pulse?
A couple years ago, I received a cursory email about PULSE from Stanford’s Pilipino American Student Union. Last summer, I happened to be working on a project in the Philippines and I was able to meet with Rovaira and Melissa! We chatted about everything from superheroes to creativity to diaspora. The same conscientious yet action-oriented energy that I witnessed at that first meeting permeates all throughout PULSE. I love being part of an organization that cares about what I care about: building communities, passion-driven careers, sustainable development, storytelling, working hard, and playing hard. Even though I want to pursue a career in medicine, I will always be excited about the creativity and potential of people and I know that my experience and values at PULSE will find their way into whatever work I do in the future.
What interested you in diaspora? What is your diaspora story?
I am LA born and raised, but I have been able to come to the Philippines about every other year. I didn’t grow up speaking Tagalog. Both of my parents moved to the US relatively young (my dad was twelve and my mom was twenty) and assimilated completely. I became hyper-aware of how different my family was culturally and I loved/hated coming here. As I got older, I learned that growing up outside the Philippines does not make you any less Pinoy. I have been able to experience and appreciate the shared bond between Filipinos, regardless of what comes after your hyphen: Filipino-Italian, Filipino-Canadian, whatever. Connecting is not only a basic human need, but an essential component of human progress. I love how the diaspora lends itself to that.
What do you think is Manila’s pulse? What are examples of experiences or thoughts you’ve had while here?
A friend once told me that the Philippines is the most emotional country in the world. Word. No matter how many times I come back, I experience a wide variety of feelings: isolation, empathy, frustration, elation, gratification, anxiety, sadness, love – I can go on and on. To me, the energy and chaos of Manila comes from its unrelenting desire and ability to adapt and survive. I am still amazed every time I see a clutch recycled from wrappers or straws. I can’t believe how many possible uses there are for the seemingly limited tire here (so far, I’ve counted five). As my mom says, “People here find a way to make something work or happen when most people would have given up.”
How do you think this experience will influence your life back home?
It has been incredibly validating to meet other people who believe in the importance of the arts and do not find it frivolous or naive. At the same time, however, it is still easy for arts-focused initiatives to become wasteful, unsustainable or lacking in impact. I know this experience will definitely influence my life back home because it has influenced the way I think about work. First, there is no way I can ever do a nightmarish internship ever again, especially not after realizing how much fun it can be! I will certainly be more critical when it comes my own future endeavors, but confident in my values and flexible in my approach.