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Man shares his Filipino culture through photographs and cookies

Photographs & cookies: One man’s journey to share his culture

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — “Being Filipino American, naturally we gravitate toward a law or medical field or being a doctor or engineer,” Mike Francis Williams II said.

With just a click, Williams traded his engineering career for a chance to capture still images. Taking photos reminds him of his childhood with his first point-and-shoot camera.

“I felt like I was called to shoot and capture ever since I was young.”

He says setting up lighting or a photo shoot reminds him of his dad who died in 2017. “Anytime I get creative and do certain lighting techniques and use gels and production, it gets me excited because that’s what he taught me and that’s what he was doing in Indy.”

Then COVID hit.

“It’s crazy being a photographer being laid off, then my mom being in a restaurant industry and those two worlds coming together.”

That’s when Williams discovered baking. He and his mother, Mama Odie, started a cookie business called SALAMAT Cookies! in 2020.

“‘Salamat’ means ‘thank you,’ of course, in Filipino. It’s rooted in gratitude during COVID.”

 As someone who is half Black and half Filipino, Williams says he was often labeled a different culture. But, he’s proud of who he is and wants others kids to be proud, too, especially when they pick up a camera or eat his cookies. “Like kids who see ube and pandan and mango on cookies, and then whoooo, that’s my culture.”

It’s about making Filipino flavors accessible to people in Indianapolis.

He and his mother started in her kitchen. Now, they bake at a church.

His cookies have been delivered to 49 of the 50 states, and five countries. 

“For us being rooted in Christianity here in Indy and baking out of a church, there’s something special with each cookie going out the door.”

Indiana-born Williams balances both his photography and his cookie business: a blend of the two things he loves.