“Fire inside my bones
And a heart built like a steel cage”

Ammiel Koi Holder small

Security Guard, Chronicle Building
Bar back, End Up
Rapper/ Hip-hop Artist /Lyricist
Metal Vocalist

“I am 2nd generation born and raised in the City. I lived in the Mission/Bernal Heights area, then Ocean near City College, and I now live in the Excelsior. My maternal great grandparents migrated to the US in the early 1950s, and my mother’s family followed in the 1960s. My paternal grandmother migrated from Cebu in the 1950s after marrying my grandfather from Wenatchee, WA, while he was stationed in the Philippines with the US Navy.

“I identify myself as an American. That’s the only way that I can, because that’s all I know. I grew up here, I went to school here, I got in trouble here, I got in fights here, I’ve fallen in love here, and I have fallen in hatred here. My experience has been within this City. The world that I grew up in is in America which happens to be San Francisco.


“I free-style, I rap, I write… all that goodness. More than anything, I feel I’m an artist more than just a rapper or just a vocalist, because my art is in my lyrics. A visual artist paints with colors. I paint my pictures with words.

“Singing metal is more melodic than hip-hop. Metal rides on the beat and emotion is conveyed through melody, through hitting a note, singing or screaming. While in hip-hop, I drive the beat. I do these syncopations, but I still lead and on top of the beat like ‘Yo! Ey!’

“In metal, my screaming and words are condensed to a few phrases and stanzas. In comparison to hip-hop, there can be a whole verse with different punch lines and different analogies. I feel greater freedom with hip-hop because I can describe something in greater detail and really hit the syllables and verses. Metal is more like a haiku. I hold the notes so than it fits within the instrumentation.


“Music is imaginative and beyond skin color. When we listen to a song, we naturally try to relate to it, even if it’s just ‘cuz you can shake your ass to the beat… right? Then you listen to something more deeply and you hear someone talking about their father leaving ‘em, and how they have nothing, and how they came from the bottom and worked their way to where they are… and there’s connectivity at a deeper level. That story is also the listener’s story. I value this connectivity with people who may not have a voice, to let them know that whatever hardships they are going through, they are not alone.

“Music gets me through whatever difficulties I’m going through. At the end of the day when I clock out, I’m tired and I wanna go to sleep, I still want to write. Because if I don’t I write, it’s quite possible I might kill myself.  There’s too many things in this world dampening our personal well-being, our health, a lot of craziness out there that weigh us down. Music doesn’t hurt; it doesn’t judge but allows me to say what I want to say. Through music, I can tell stories from my perspective.

“What’s beautiful about music is once it’s recorded and it’s out there, it becomes eternal. I think about people who still listen to Bach, Tupac, Beethoven. People may not have ever listened to their sonatas, but people know of Bach and Beethoven.


“When I was growing up in SF, the mainstream culture was hip-hop. Yeah, I like all that, hip hop and R&B, but I was also listening to gangster rap, and then folks would think I was trying to be black. When I got older, I started playing guitar and singing. The moment I started listening to alternative music, people started saying I’m trying to be white. It didn’t make sense to me because I just like music for music. I just wanted to wear what I’m wearing and listen to what I’m listening without being put in a category or somebody’s box or label. It does not do anything except create limitations and boundaries. The reality is the world is vast. If there’s anything I want to say to anybody, it’s go ahead and be eclectic. Gain knowledge; listen to as much variety of music as possible.


“What makes me Pilipino is my genetics. Simple as that. I don’t wake up and decide ‘I’m Pilipino.’ I just am.

“Growing up Filipino was confusing, so I learned to tell myself that I am an American whose ancestry is both from the Philippines and Europe. From elementary to middle school, there were very few Filipinos in my class. In the 1990s, I wanted to belong to a group and tried to identify as “true Pinoy.” With my mixed European ancestry but not looking “white” enough to be accepted by whites in my class, belonging proved difficult.  So I gravitated more to mainstream African-American urban culture. Nowadays, I try to simply remember that I am human first before I am an ethnicity.

“The times that I’m reminded by others that I’m a Pilipino is when they want to get under my skin by throwing racist slurs at me. I’m not only lumped with Pilipinos but also with Asians. They crack stereotypical jokes about small dicks. But they’re just ignorant. I’m the same as them. I’m American except I have a different skin color and different heritage.

The other times my Pilipino heritage is brought up is when someone wants to make a deal. Like when I was working retail, Pilipinos would ask me for a discount just because they know I’m Pilipino.

“I first became conscious that I’m Pilipino when I went to the Philippines. They didn’t refer to me as Pilipino but as Fil-Am. I was not treated as a foreigner or different from them. That’s when it made me think yeah, I’m just like them, but I’m not like them.  I’m able to relate to the Pilipinos in the Philippines on some level but I’m not exactly like them, so what’s my group? Where do I belong? That’s when I became conscious that there is a variance. There may be different types, but we are still all Pilipinos.”

Kodakan explores the many “faces” of the San Francisco Pilipino community, both past and present. But each individual also has many “faces” both literal and figurative. Along the atrium, we profile four individuals with complex and multi-layered public personas. Pictures for this panel were taken by Wilfred Galila and Peggy Peralta.


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