Video storyteller Marlo Custodio’s childhood was at times terrifying. Yet through the angst of his upbringing, Custodio discovered his future.
Custodio’s parents immigrated from the Phillipines to the United States. When Custodio was five, his father left. When he was in second grade, the family became homeless. His mother, who had suffered years of spousal abuse, found herself alone with four sons, including five-year-old Marlo, and nowhere to turn.
“That was my childhood,” Custodio said. “This not knowing where we’re going to be, are we going to be okay. That was the trauma I dealt with and what I would later channel as a way for me to have empathy, work hard and have a work ethic.”
Custodio turned his struggles into strengths, sharing stories about those who have contributed to San Jose’s rich multicultural history as a way to build bridges between communities.
From a Filipino tattoo artist to a Vietnamese eatery owner, the 32-year-old brings the people and cultures portrayed in his video documentary series “This is San Jose” to life. In sharing these untold stories, he strives to educate as well as entertain.
“I believe storytelling can change the world,” Custodio told San Jose Spotlight. “If I can increase empathy, maybe people wouldn’t see us as others, but as their neighbors.”
Custodio considers it his responsibility to teach others about the contributions of Asian Americans and other ethnicities in San Jose, as well as the racism and discrimination they’ve experienced, especially after COVID and the rise of Asian American hate crimes.
Raj Jayadev, founder of Silicon Valley De-Bug, sees Custodio as a change-agent with a vision to uplift the community.
“Having people who have been through struggles themselves and faced the hardships of inequity… for them to share the beauty of their community, that’s what is really powerful,” Jayadev said. “It’s not only the story he tells, but that he’s born from these stories. What he’s been through with his life and family gives him an inside perspective in communities that are struggling and whose stories need to be told.”
Overlaid with music and dynamic editing, each episode of “This is San Jose” focuses on a local business owner or leader. The viewer learns about Humble Beginnings Tattoo owner Orly Locquiao, who immigrated with his family to the United States from the Philippines when he was two years old. Locquiao grew up in East San Jose and named his tattoo business Humble Beginnings because he never wants to forget where he came from. Another video features Victor Le, owner of On a Roll, who has a passion for Vietnamese cooking and a desire to continue the traditions his mother taught him.
Real life behind the lens
Custodio’s video journalism first ignited in 2003 as a freshman at Evergreen Valley High School …….