Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Marissa Borst?
I was born Marissa Sumaljag Lanticse, the 13th child born to my biological parents. My mother died giving birth to me, and I ended up one of eight children who survived the tragedies that come with being born into a 3rd world country. Eight months after being born, I was on the verge of death with the measles, parasitic and respiratory infections. Though I survived, I completely lost vision in my right eye as a parting gift from the measles. Since no one came to claim me for fear of not being able to cover the medical expenses, a metal crib in the pediatric ward was my home for six months.
I was able to stay in the hospital while nurses took turns caring for me. Fortunately, International Alliance for Children (IAC) decided to take responsibility for me after I was signed over as a ward of the state. Then nine months and two orphanages later, I was on my way to the United States to meet my new parents, Stephen and Marilynn Borst, and their sons Scott, Chris and Jeff. Fast forward to present day. I currently spend my days working fulltime at Architecture + Design Associates, Inc. in Fairfax, VA. I help design small tenant buildouts, corporate offices, medical offices, senior living spaces and hotels. I am on the board for NEWH (The Hospitality Industry Network), DC Chapter, as the Director of Programming.
Still feeling the need for more creative outlets, I officially created All’s Well That Ends Well Designs (AWTEW Designs) in 2010 for another outlet for my designs. I also teach weekly piano lessons, and I freelance my dance skills to teach competitive dances and host dance birthday parties. Though there is not enough time in the day, nor enough energy to do everything I want to do, the best part of me is always reserved for my daughter Eve Autumn.
What drew you to the arts?
My mother helped develop and blossom my love for the arts. From an early age she reinforced the use of my imagination, the ability to create something from scraps and to see beauty in everything. I think my passion for the arts truly developed when I was in high school at Notre Dame Academy (Worcester, MA). At that school, we acted out Shakespearean plays and memorized sonnets, embraced multiple languages by learning Yesterday in sign language and Ode to Joy in German, and showcased musical, acting and dance talents with Chamber Orchestra, Traveling Acting Troupe & Travelling Dance Team.
You are also a dancer. Could you tell us about how you got into dancing?
I am actually a dancer and a pianist. When I was five, my mother enrolled me in both. Great teachers with the support and encouragement from my parents helped me to grow my passions for dance and piano.
Who in art inspires you? Who is your a favorite artist or designer?
I have a very eclectic taste in art and music. I love everything from Monet’s French Impressionism and Salvador Dali’s Surrealism, to Kandinsky’s Abstract Style and Picasso’s Cubism. I play and love everything from Bach, Beethoven and Mozart on the piano, and dance to Katy Perry, Sara Bareilles and, yes, Justin Beiber. When I was at New England School of Art & Design | Suffolk University (Boston, MA), I based a project off of a designer who inspired me, Todd Oldham. I loved that he designs everything − interiors, graphics, furniture − and he opened my eyes to see that you don’t need to limit yourself.
Tell us about All’s Well that Ends Well.
At Becker College (Worcester, MA) and New England School of Art & Design | Suffolk University (Boston, MA) where I received my AOS and BFA with concentrations in Interior Design, we were required to learn a multitude of different programs that graphic designers also used. When I was hired for a marketing company, I had the opportunity to use these programs for graphic design. After I realized I didn’t need to set limitations on what I design − much like Todd Oldham − I worked more and more on graphics. Originally, my newfound obsession began with making gifts for my family and friends because I couldn’t afford to buy gifts. (Life of a college student.) I realized after awhile, “Why not sell my creations?” AWTEW offers everything from custom cards and calendars to custom artwork.
You found your biological family on Facebook. Could you shed some light on that experience?
I am still surprised that I was actually able to find family members through Facebook. It first began with looking for other adoptees who were adopted through the same agency I was adopted through. Once I found them, I was linked to more adoptees nationwide through FAN, the Filipino Adoptees Network, and then it snowballed from there. I am fortunate to have in my possession my adoption story.
So, I know all of the names of my sisters and their children, as it was in 1989. I realized that my family was poverty stricken, so the chances of finding my brothers and sisters were slim-to-none, so I started looking for my nephews and nieces. One day I got lucky and found one of my nephews, who then put me in touch with one of my nieces. We arranged a video conference last summer with two of my sisters, who are their mothers, and then with two of my brothers, my father and their spouses this past October. Since there is the obvious language barrier, we would type our messages to each other while we saw a live image of each other. It turns out they had been looking for me for years, but because they could not aff ord much, their resources were limited. Technological advances finally reaching the Philippines, and with the social media websites reaching all ends of the earth, a family was able to reunite after 30 years. Not only did I find my family, but I tracked down my social worker, the doctor responsible for my pediatric care, Dr. & Mrs. Manzanares (the Director of the Hospital and his wife who was Head of Nursing,) who took me on as a charity case, and some of the family members of the nurses who watched over me, including a nurse who breastfed me because she had just had a child of her own, and she knew I wasn’t getting the necessary nutrients from supplements.
Have you been back to the Philippines to meet your biological family?
I have not had the chance. Money is always spoken for, and it’s difficult to save even for my daughter’s education. I want nothing more than to have a reunion in the Philippines. Ideally, my adoptive mother, my daughter and I will be able to go one day. It would be an amazing experience to meet my biological father, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, the caretakers at the hospital, and visit the village I was born in and the orphanages where I spent nine months.
How has your adoptive family reacted to your desire to make contact with your family in the Philippines?
My family is very supportive of my longing to fi nd more about my past. This past October, my mother and I had a very fortunate meeting with Dr. Elizabeth Derla, the doctor who was responsible for my pediatric care when in the hospital. My father and I are hoping to write a book one day documenting my journey.
What is your personal philosophy? Find beauty in something unexpected, whether it’s an object, a place, or a person. What’s next for Marissa?
I am trying to figure out a way that I will be able to visit the Philippines with my mother and my daughter. For this summer, I have created, and will implement, an art program for FACETS Cares (Fairfax, VA). My hopes are for this program to be a creative outlet for those who attend to help forget about the hardships they are facing. Eventually, I hope to become a Principal with Architecture + Design Associates, Inc. and will continue to help grow the company. I will also continue to teach piano and dance, mostly because I want to teach my daughter the importance of keeping your passions alive.