NEWARK – Doug Baldwin barreled into the collective consciousness of Filipinos with one single act: he entered the CenturyLink Field in Seattle proudly carrying the flag of the Philippines to raise awareness to the recent natural disaster that devastated most of eastern Visayas, a place which his beloved grandmother Pica used to call home.
“My grandmother, she’s Filipino. She’s from the Visayan islands of Tacloban. When the typhoon hit, her family was impacted. Everybody’s safe now. I talked to her before the Vikings game and she was just very distraught about everything going on and I wanted to do something to lift her spirits and lift the spirits of the Philippines in general so I thought carrying the (Philippine) flag would be a nice gesture,” Baldwin told us Tuesday, Jan. 28 at the Media Day for Super Bowl XLVIII held at the Prudential Center.
He’s never been to the Philippines but if and when he does, it will be with his lola.
“My grandmother told me I can’t go until we can go together,” he quipped.
Baldwin—for a good hour or so—responded to questions from media around the world. Questions ranged from his team’s preparations for the Super Bowl to how he was liking New York so far to his pre-game rituals to his days at Stanford.
We were able to squeeze in questions about his Filipino blood, and growing up in a part-Filipino household.
One of the things he mentioned doing prior to Sunday’s big game is his carbo-loading and we jokingly asked if lumpia – a big favorite of his – is part of his diet during this time.
“It’s good, it’s good,” he said smiling “but it’s fried.”
He added though that during off days, lumpia and other Filipino dishes are fair game.
“My grandmother prepares lumpia every time she visits us in Seattle. I cook it on off days,” Baldwin added.
On his Twitter account, where Baldwin gives his followers a peak into his personal life, he shares photos, anecdotes and bible verses.
For his post on New Year’s Eve, he posted a photo which showed him rolling and frying lumpia with his mom. He captioned it – “Turnt up and rollin up… Lumpia that is. S/O to Angry Momma Baldwin in the back. That’s where I get it from #NYE2014”
It is also through Twitter where he engages with his fans and followers and responds to their questions. One follower asked him where he eats in Seattle, and Baldwin replied with “I cook… duh. You saw the lumpia!”
Baldwin was referring to a previous tweet he posted a frying pan with four golden brown lumpia being fried, and used this caption “I know my Filipino peeps know what’s up.”
“My grandma made the lumpia when she was here. So she froze them for me so I can take them out and cook them every once in a while,” Baldwin told King5.com. “Every time she comes here, she wraps some up for me so I can have it whenever I want to.”
On the day that typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines (November 7 in the US), he tweeted “Prayers up for the Philippines. Faith that that the family we will be ok.” In the days that followed after the devastation, he posted links and posters that announced fund-raising efforts in the Seattle area for those devastated by the typhoon, including one from his team, Seattle Seahawks.
Then on November 17, Doug Baldwin stepped onto the field at CenturyLink Field in Seattle carrying a Philippine flag.
“Have faith and everything’s going to work out. It’s a devastating situation but out of every devastating situation, something great can come out of it so just have faith and keep pushing forward,” he said when asked about his message to Haiyan survivors back home who are still struggling to get back on their feet.
Asked how it was growing up with a half- Filipino mom, Baldwin said, “She’s half and half, she exposed me to all the traditions from both my Filipino side and my African American side. It was my grandmother more so who told me more about the traditions and culture (of the Philippines).”
‘Doug Baldwin: Pinoy heart’
In an essay written by Seahawks guest columnist Steve Kelley and posted on the Seahawks website, he traced the Filipino blood running through Baldwin’s veins.
Baldwin’s Lola Pica married his grandfather Junius, who was stationed in the Philippines, and moved to Gulf Breeze, Florida. She kept her native country’s heritage and customs alive by teaching them to her daughter Cindy and then passing them along to her grandson Doug.
The essay asserted that Pica made the Philippines important to Baldwin. “Much of the foundation for his success came from his time, learning about the country from his grandmother,” Kelley wrote.
“She had a hard life,” Baldwin said before leaving on a short bye-week vacation (“I might go to Hawaii. I’ve never been there.”). “She didn’t have a whole lot, growing up in the Philippines. She’s a very intelligent woman, but she wasn’t able to go to school because her family could only afford to pay for her sister to get an education.”
Kelley also found a commonality among the diverse set of players that comprise the Seahawks—that these players had one or more strong family members as role models—mothers, fathers, brothers or sisters—that preached to them the value of perseverance. They were toughened by their environment, but they were given the tools to use that toughness in the right ways.
“When Baldwin’s grandmother would tell Doug about her life growing up, the times she had to do without, she wasn’t self-pitying. She taught him to overcome. When football scholarship offers didn’t come in daily stacks of mail, his mother and grandmother encouraged him to make the most of the opportunities he was given, not dwell on the schools that didn’t want him,” Kelley wrote further.
“They told me about how their lives had been and how they got through those times,” Baldwin said. “They taught me my values growing up.”
Through perseverance and hard work, Baldwin was able to earn a scholarship to Stanford, where he eventually majored in science, technology and society.
In his junior year, he faced a major crossroad. He wasn’t playing as much football as he would have wanted and he realized that school was even harder than the sport.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to play football anymore,” he said. “I was struggling with football and I was struggling with school. I asked my mother if I could come home and find a way to finish my education without playing football.”
His mom, Cindy told him she couldn’t afford to pay for his education. She encouraged Doug to go back to Stanford, to show the same kind of courage and mental toughness his grandmother had when she was growing up. He was told, “Control what you can control and leave the rest up to God.”
It was a lesson that Doug Baldwin carries up to this date.
During this week’s media interviews, one scribe asked if he was ready to play in an extremely cold weather and how this could affect their game.
I distinctly remember his response: “The weather is not within our control, what we can control is the way we have prepared for this battle. We’re ready.”
(NYNJ January 31, 2014 LifeEASTyle Magazine pg.2)