Fil-Am tattoo artist makes it big in US

Posted at 02/04/2013 5:52 PM | Updated as of 02/04/2013 5:52 PM

RENO, Nevada – The tattoo on the arms of one of the players of the San Francisco 49ers during the Superbowl game against the Baltimore Raven was an artwork of a Filipino American artist.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick smiles as he answers questions during a press conference on January 29, 2013. Photo by Jeff Haynes, Reuters

Several years ago, a college quarterback in Nevada looked for Filipino tattoo artist Nes Adrion.

“Pagpasok ang laki, ang tangkad. Kako mukhang seryoso, marami kong mata-tattoo dito,” said Andrion.

The athlete introduced himself as “Kap” to Andrion and the two got along well, finding common ground in a dream.

“One day kako, itong taong ito sisikat,” said Andrion.

That was six years ago.

Fast forward to 2013, on Superbowl Sunday, Adrion’s artwork was on display before a global audience of over a hundred million on the arms of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

It was a long way from the doodles he made as a kid growing up in the Philippines.

“Mahirap na mahirap lang kami talaga sa Pilipinas. Nasubukan ko lumaki na walang kama. Yung tinutulugan ko sahig na fresh na ano lang, lupa,” he said.

Adrion was less than a year old when his mother left him in Olongapo. Raised by relatives, he said he knew so well what hunger felt like.

When he was 10, his mother returned and took him to the United States. Back then, he had promised himself that he would use his art to change his life.

“Ang ginawa ko sinulid saka yung karayom ng mommy ko. Kinukuha ko sa tahian niya. dini-dip sa ink, so gumana. So gumawa ako ng marami pa tapos tinawagan ko yung mga kaibigan ko. Yun tusok tusok. Sobrang tagal nga. Pero pinagtiyagaan ko yun,” he said.

He now owns Endless Ink, a studio in Reno that employs a team of artists and two apprentices.

His schedule is so full one would have to wait three months to get an appointment.

They say his is a classic story of a fulfilled American dream. But Adrion would be the first to say that it's not all about the money.

“Yung ginagawa kong trabaho talagang di ko tinitingnan siyang trabaho eh. Talagang yun ang paborito kong gawin eh,” he said.