Albany teen Sophia Kapunan wins Jose Rizal digital art contest

Artist’s statement: ‘As a FilAm youth living in the United States, there have been different obstacles that came along with residing here. This may include feeling out of place at school and facing cultural differences. Despite these challenges, I fought through it and managed to keep my culture close.’

By Cristina DC Pastor

A freshman from Albany won Sentro Rizal New York’s Digital Art Contest, a competition organized by the Philippine Consulate, with the theme “Reimagining Rizal, the National Hero, through the eyes of today’s FilAm Youth.”

Sophia Gabrielle Kapunan, 13, drew an image of the National Hero using her iPad. The image of Jose Rizal has the Philippine flag and his famous quote, “Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan,” in the background. She said was moved to join the contest, so that “I could have the chance to strengthen my connection with my own culture.”

“Jose Rizal is my favorite Filipino hero,” said Sophia when reached by The FilAm. “I have high respect for him and his bravery is beyond compare. He stood his ground for his country and his morals, even if it risked him his life. His works have inspired Filipinos who were second-guessing whether their allegiance is for the Filipino people or the colonizers. His work has shaped and solidified Filipino Nationalism during his time.”

The winning digital art. ‘Jose Rizal is my favorite Filipino hero.’

Sophia is an incoming freshman at Niskayuna High School.  Niskayuna is a suburban town Upstate, a 25-minute drive from Albany. It is known for its excellent school district and its golf courses. She was born in the Philippines, but moved to the U.S. with her family when she was 3 years old.

Her father Sol Kapunan, a financial advisor, is a community leader in Albany. Her mother Mary Ann Kapunan is a registered nurse. Sophia said it was her dad who penned the petition addressed to the City Council, to annually hold the Albany Filipino Day parade and to include the Philippine Independence Day in the city’s annual calendar. She has an elder sister Alexandra who has just graduated from the Albany College of Pharmacy.

The Kapunans, from left, mom Mary Ann, Sophia, sister Alexandra, and dad Sol.

Prominent Philippine lawyer Lorna Kapunan is a relative.

“I am proud of my family’s contributions to the FilAm community (of Albany),” she said. “History was made when we were finally recognized by our city last July.”

While she is learning American history in school, she wanted to know Philippine history as well especially the heroism of its patriotic leaders and fighters.

“I grew up learning American history in class, but hearing stories about Filipino heroism from my family made me want to contribute and do extensive research. This contest gave me the idea to research more on Jose Rizal,” she said. “In that process, my respect for him grew even more as I realized how remarkable his influence has shaped the minds of the Filipinos during his time and the generations that came after he made the ultimate sacrifice.”

The proud father likened her to a “diesel engine” who takes a bit of time before she warms up to people and forms friendships.

“She’s a very warm and sweet person,” said Sol. “She is full of surprises. She is seen as a reserved person in class but always manages to turn in good grades every single year. Full of surprises indeed.”

© The FilAm 2022

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