While we trap ourselves in work and this thick Manila air, Filipino illustrator and designer Paulina Ortega is busy breathing winds elsewhere.
Months before her move to Sydney, Australia—her current locale—she was walking down her usual streets in Singapore. A product of the homegrown Filipino advertising agency TBWA, Paulina ended up in that little Asian land down South. She was armed with a portfolio, work experience, and an optimistic view of her future. “I thought if it works out, I’d give it my best shot,” she shares.
And it did. Far from familiar comforts and like-blooded colleagues, Paulina joined the design firm Tremendousness, where she worked for two and a half years as a senior designer and art director. She also sneaked in some freelance work despite the packed schedule.
Among her first personal clients was A Juicery, a Singaporean upstart that peddled cold-pressed juices and now carries its watercolor façade courtesy of Paulina herself. What began as a confused and bare-bones project turned into a legit juice store on Airbnb.
“It was great for me as a foreigner to contribute to the local sceneelp make something grow from scratch,” she said, recalling the experience. “To see them grow, do well, and see how the branding plays into that—it’s hard not to feel invested.” Currently, Paulina still works with the company, constantly conceptualizing and designing their product packaging.
Paulina, however, didn’t stop there. Before landing on Aussie grounds, she worked with Manhattan-based Argentinian bakery Sur on their branding as well. “These projects are rewarding because I know it wasn’t personal relationships that helped pushed me along. It was my work, how I presented myself,” she tells.
Despite the globetrotting and adaptive nature of her work, Paulina stays traditional. Her pencil-and-paper approach has not only won clients over, but also grounded her on the aesthetic that best suits her style—which, in this case, was consistently feminine.
Earlier this year, she finally put her feet down on Sydney, where she’s yet to tackle a different creative atmosphere. She’s freelancing full-time, and it’s making her nervous. “It’s a big leap of faith. I mean, am I going to be doing something? Would I get paid?” she ponders.
But hey, Paulina proved us one thing: A small girl can still do big things in a bigger world that expects the biggest sacrifices. This move won’t be any different—only better than what she’s already achieved.
Source: September Grace Mahino for Southern Living, “Shift Shaper,” November 2015.
Photo by Ralph Mendoza