Jersey dad creates ‘Phil the Fil-Am’ cartoon to help teach his kids Tagalog

David Asis modeled Phil after his son Michael

David Asis modeled Phil after his son Michael

A South Jersey father of four who wants his children to learn Philippine culture is creating a language-focused animation inspired by “Dora the Explorer.”

David Asis is doing a pilot of “Phil the Fil-Am” in the hope of teaching his children – son Michael, who is 4 years old, and triplet daughters Gabriella, Kayla and Abigail, 3 – about their Filipino heritage, in a format they’re familiar with: the cartoon show.

“Dora is the standard in language-focused children’s cartoon,” David shared with The FilAm his project of raising funds for a pilot trailer through Kickstarter. “It’s been around for 14 years and is one of the most common shows for young children to watch.”

U.S.-born David is an IT professional. He grew up in Jersey City where there is a strong Filipino community. His cousins grew up in the South Jersey suburbs, where, he noted, the Filipino presence wasn’t quite as strong.

“I noticed that even though we were all first- generation FilAms, I have a much stronger understanding of my Filipino roots than they do,” he said.

The Asis family is now living in a South Jersey suburb, where David believes his children are likely to be the only Asians in the neighborhood. Anxious about his kids possibly being culturally disconnected, he created “Phil the Fil-Am” to continue their language education, which of course began at home.

“I want them to feel that Filipino culture is something part of the world around them, and not just something that they get from their parents,” he said.

“Phil the Fil-Am” will initially be accessed through YouTube, but down the road, David is hoping to pitch the pilot to major studios, such as Disney and Nickelodeon, for greater distribution.

David said his children watch “Dora the Explorer” almost 2-3 times a day and have picked up quite a few Spanish words and phrases. They also watch “Ni Hao Kai Lan,” a Mandarin-based cartoon show. And while he sees nothing wrong with their children learning foreign words, David said, “I’d like for them to learn about their own roots as well.”

In his proposed TV show, Phil is this adventurous and inquisitive boy who has a cousin, named Benjie, in the Philippines. The main character Phil is modeled after David’s son Michael.

“The two love to communicate with each other via webcam,” said David. “It’s through this communication that Phil (and the viewers) will learn about life in the Philippines, and despite being on opposite sides of the world, how much the two have in common, like their love of sports.”

The cartoon not only teaches language but also fosters closeness with family.

Will there be additional characters, such as triplet girls, in the future of the show? Possibly, but David said he is not out to create a show that is a “1-to-1 replica of real life.” — Cristina DC Pastor

Michael with his 3 sisters Gabriella, Kayla and Abigail

Michael with his 3 sisters Gabriella, Kayla and Abigail

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