Bayanihan

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I’ve been building with our Midwest fil am community since I was 18. I was mildly terrified when I walked into that first PSA meeting, but the fear was so worth it. I never thought I would join a Filipino cultural organization, and I certainly never thought I’d end up running one, but it was probably one of the most transformative experiences of my college career. I made a lot of mistakes, I fell flat on my face a few times, but every time there was someone who reminded me that every failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. There’s a lot of growing I still have to do, and so many things I have to learn and unlearn, but I’m so grateful to have the space to do so. 

Sure, college gave me an expensive piece of paper that fools people into thinking I’m “educated,” but the real education I got was through this community. They taught me how to build something from the ground up, how to unite people, how to be creative. They showed me over and over that you can and should lead with love, and that you have to take care of your people first, or whatever it is you’re working on won’t go anywhere. This community, particularly this unique Midwestern community, reminds me again and again that you HAVE to meet people where they’re at and make space in the movement for people who are at all different levels of their activism. Like,  not everyone is ready to do Hero mode on their first play through. 

This community has led me to the greatest people I’ve ever met. They so quickly became the family that I needed, when I was over 8000 miles from home. Kaibigans for life. Soulmates. The ninangs and ninongs of my future kids. It’s given me more love than I know what to do with, and enough heartbreak to match. 

It’s not always rainbows though. It’s exhausting to try to develop leaders, to put together community events, to educate, to outreach, to build real relationships. Your time, your energy, every part of your soul that you pour into a project or a person can feel like a thankless task on a checklist that never seems to end. 

I feel that all the time. I lose sight of what all this is for. I think of the end goal and forget about the process. I wonder if any of this work means anything, when it feels like our world is about to implode at any second. Then something will happen to remind me what’s real. Like Sammy Dayon’s grad cap (shoutout to Sailor Moon!), that reminds me of the bayanihan spirit that lives in this community. We’re all working towards a shared goal, we don’t do this work alone. Sometimes it’s hard to keep focused, but you stay on course because there’s always someone walking beside you.

You really have to build community, brick by fucking brick. Your hands will bleed, your knees will shake, but you keep building because you have to. We build together or we all fall apart. 

We have to take care of each other. We have to check in in ways that go beyond the task at hand. If you look around at your team and you don’t know what makes them laugh, or what makes them cry, you need to take a minute to re-evaluate what you’re doing. 

We don’t thank each other enough. To all my Ates, Kuyas, teachers, mentors, friends, family, all my loves: salamat kaayo. Your time, your effort, your heart does not go unnoticed. Your work is worth it. We see you. Nakikita kita. If you’re reading this, know that I love you. Iniibig kita, from the brightest part of my soul. Always. 

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Freedom day

Wrote this yesterday in one sitting off a Juneteenth prompt. First draft. 

Kalayaan means freedom in my mother tongue 

It’s a word that I should have known long ago but only learned as an adult 

Because assimilation cuts our tongues out of us too young

We teach our children to fit in, don’t make waves, kid, keep your head down, look the other way, we teach our children to forget, teach them to obey

So when the revolution comes knocking on our doors

we lock them 

No matter that the fist raised might be brown as our own, no matter that the colonizers look at us all the same way: 

Dogeaters and savages and less than them, less than human 

How quickly we forget why we even came here: 

How we fled tyrants who made our cousins disappear for their dissent 

How quickly we forget 

The curfews that kept our resistance underground

How quickly we forget

How we marched in front of military tanks how we shut the streets down

How quickly we forget 

That there’s parts of this country

That look just like the third world we fought so hard to free ourselves from 

So we teach our children to think white and act white cos whites right

But white lies and white smiles while it lets us believe that we’re free 

On Filipino Boys: I

Unearthed this poem for a show tonight. I wrote it in college after my mother warned me to “be careful” around Filipino boys. I mean, she was right, but did I listen though? College is a time for learning, after all.

Currently writing “On Filipino Boys: II” as a follow up to this. 


Gwapo calls your mother Tita like he’s known her
all his life,
he cracks jokes with your dad, and relishes
every dish your Lola places in front of him
Gwapo knows to raise your Lolo’s hand to his forehead –
Gwapo knows about respect

He speaks Tagalog fluently, and you hope maybe
one day he’ll teach you it
The language rolls off his tongue like dew on the leaves
in the morning, oh, and when you hear it…you hear
the ocean, you hear
the vastness of possibility, you hear
the future

Gwapo is so Filipino

Gwapo goes to mass every weekend, even though
you don’t
He was an altar boy at his neighbourhood church and he can make up for all the faith
that you don’t have
Gwapo was in the top ten of his graduating class
Gwapo was valedictorian
And now he studies biochemistry… but he writes poetry on the side
Gwapo is going to be a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer
Gwapo is going to provide
because that is what a good Filipino son does
He studies hard, he will graduate magna cum laude
with honors research distinction
Gwapo plays basketball in his spare time and he used to
be on the school team until everyone…shot past him
but he can still jump, and for sure he can still dunk on them
He can dance, and I don’t mean awkward
school dancing, I’m talking
breaking, popping, locking, tutting, jerking, whacking
Gwapo can rock a snapback
or a five panel, a suit and a bowtie
He’s taller than you
but you’d be taller if you were in heels
Gwapo’s got tattoos on his upper arms, and shoulderblades inked with stars
Gwapo is proud
of where he comes from, he is all about his roots
Gwapo will serenade you
with his voice, with his guitar.
He plays the piano
or the violin
he is all about music
Gwapo is a pro at fast Tinikling, he was the Prince in Singkil
And he treats you like
his princess

He opens every door for you, and he pulls out your chair, and you always have to fight him to pay for your half of the check
Gwapo has been taught that this is just the way
He is always
polite, he is always
so nice
He has a million watt smile and when he’s talking to you it feels like you’re the only person in the world
Gwapo is so perfect
Gwapo is a good Filipino boy, he is the boy
of your dreams
And if you’re not careful, Gwapo
will break your heart

Burn

First draft. Possibly not yet finished? Maybe there’s a part two to follow? Or maybe this is all there is?


he coaxes the flames out of me
lithe fingers of flint strike at my edges
I am dizzy as I watch the sparks fly 

he wants to know what my fire feels like

how its tongue will lick at his skin
and cauterize
his wounds

to him, it is as medicinal as it is rapturous

it crackles against his palms
sears into
his flesh
it is white hot and blisters
against his lips
he kisses the fire
as if it will cure him

he ripens in my blaze
comes alive
in my warmth
he wants to be made new again
and again and again

he sets himself alight at the apex of my thighs
I let my flames dance
across his limbs
light the inside of his wrists, the backs of his knees, the space between his ribs

I plant a fire at the base
of his throat, let the flames embrace
his torso and spread
down his spine

I let him bathe in my golden heat
I let the glare of my spirit blind him
and still

he needs to see the core for himself
he wants go where the heat is most intense
where his twisted metal will melt down
so he reaches for my incandescent heart 

he wants so badly to burn

I let him 

I drench his body with all the kerosene that I have left
I pluck the last dying ember from behind my sternum
I place it in the empty cavity of his chest

I watch his body writhe
I watch his body ignite
I watch his body burn

he flares into an inferno
scorches through me
welds his suffering
to my bones

he burns himself into me
over and over and over
he needs my light to drive out his shadows
wants me to burn brighter
so his darkness will dissipate

now he knows what my fire feels like
but he doesn’t understand
that I can’t burn for much longer
if he won’t give me any fuel

Ode to Bangkok Tinder

Here’s a list poem, another #singpowrimo scrap

  1. There is always a let’s-get-shitfaced type of photo. Typically neon tank top. Typically FULL MOON PARTY. Island and fire in the background. This is to show they are heaps fun.
  1. They are also deep thinkers. So there is one of them looking into the distance. Rice field. Jungle. Ocean. Choose tropical scene that doesn’t exist where they come from.
  1. Now we come to the photo of man and tiger. How cute, it’s asleep! Resist urge to point out it is sedated. Let them have there man and beast moment.
  2. Ah, here are the lads. They are trying to show you they have enough friends for all your friends. He looks more attractive by comparison. It’s a cheerleader effect.
  3. #humanitarianbonus Expect a photo of him with some children. Probably brownish. Probably third world. They are all smiling. 
  4. #hippiebonus He’s doing yoga on a mountain or a forest or somewhere outdoors. There are no Asian people in the photo. 
  5. #unicornbonus There’s a woman in all the above photos. They want a Yelow Fever threesome.
  6. #bilingualbonus His entire bio is written in Thai. Probably bad Thai. Improper use of slang terms. 
  7. #sexpatbonus He messages you to ask how much you charge. 

Hiya

I fell off the #napowrimo wagon…but I’m back! And still using #SingPoWriMo prompts. They’re fantastic.


bow
your head, embrace
defeat as it slices
its way through your teeth

quiet
your tongue, swallow
anger until it burns
a hole in your throat

drop
your arms, inhale
sorrow and feel it burst
out of your ribcage

fold
your knees, caress
hiya and let it grow
into every bone


(Pronounced “hee-yah”) Hiya is often translated far too simply as just “shame,” however it is more than a word – hiya is a cultural value. At its very worst, it is oppressive and forces us to adhere to rigid societal norms. At its best, it encourages us to sacrifice our ego/pride and prioritise the well being of others. Though it is a Filipino term, I think it’s pretty similar to the concept of “losing face” in other Asian cultures.


I didn’t make New Year’s resolutions in 2018, but I made some informal promises to myself. One day, I’ll post in detail about what those promises are and the why behind each one…but basically they can be summed up by the following theme “Walang Hiya.” This can loosely be translated as “shameless” and is often used in an accusatory way. For example, your mother may throw this phrase around as she lectures you, lamenting your lack of respect (for societal norms, tradition, conforming) and decency. I’ve repurposed the term – to me it means that I am trying my hardest to love myself. To divorce shame from my perception of my body, my thoughts, my emotions. It also extends beyond the self and into my community, walang hiya is living unapologetically and bringing your whole self into your art and work and activism so that you can uplift others.

The Sunken Place

National Poetry Month Day 5.

Master said, “Careful, this is not a gift. It is a burden.” I placed my hands in the waters of Time so precisely, that familiar feeling of folding a river on itself, and asked him, “How can this not be a gift? To swim between centuries, slipstream into spaces carrying wonders no one has ever seen!”

Master said, “One day you will find yourself drowning in the wrong Time.”

Master, what a fool I have been. When I touched the water this time it did not crease along the lines. I swam against the current and Time has punished me for it. I made the voyage to my Self, 100 years hence, and found a stranger. She did not know me when I stood before her, I do not know myself. She is not fluid like us, she is hard and hurt and heavy.

She does not swim, Master. She cannot hold the water in her hands. She is cracked and dry and has no memory of Time. In the Future I am drowning.


Today’s prompt furnished by SingPoWriMo was speculative fiction! Not entirely happy with what I came up with but this prompt was super fun and creative ahhhh.

THE SPECULATED FICTION PROMPT by Stephanie Chan
Imagine you open up and explain everything about your life today—your biggest fears, hopes, ambitions, habits, the technology– to someone who lived in the past (any time period before the year 2000– you decide!), and they went back in time and wrote a science fiction novel about you. They knew (know?) no one would believe it was fact, so they exaggerated and fictionalised some elements of it. You somehow find the novel and open it to a random page. This could be any page. You find a poem. Write that poem.
#LITERALLYMEOPTION: This ‘someone’ is the version of you who lived 100 years ago, and you are a time traveler. What is it like to see your future self? Are you the same person? Are you disappointed? Are you an evil twin? What do you have in common?
#NOTMEOPTION: The ‘someone’ is your ancestor.
#KIDOPTION: The ‘someone’ is a random child.
#ALLOWMETOINTRODUCEMYSELFBONUS: the poem is on the first page
#GENRENONCONFORMINGBONUS: the poem is a prose poem and introduces you as a character. BUT its ultimately still a poem not a chapter in the book
#WHATTHEACTUALFREAKBONUS: the poem describes the events that led up to you finding the novel and opening it to that page. If you like, you can write about what happens next.