Still buzzing from the CAPTIVATE conference this last weekend where I presented a writing workshop with a view to using Sikolohiyang Pilipino terms. The conference was lightly attended by a group of strong, up-and-coming APAWs who I'm confident possess the strength to change their corners of the world.
So many things struck me, of course, as these things do - I love conferences with their pressure-cooker sense of compressed time and space. Intensity of meeting women of like mind hungry for tools and forums of expression.
But when I read Lesliann Hobayan's post on being home sick for a land that was never really home I remembered all the moments when I met or heard of someone in the group who felt 'outside' - outside themselves, outside their communities, outside their gender - because they did not fit in the perfect "Asian" box. For second generation Asians it can be hard to identify as either being part of their parent's cultural heritage when their upbringing has been solidly in the US, or as American when there is a deep undercurrent, echoing of that ancestral heritage.
How much more then of hapa-children, halo-halo children who's features appear 'white' or have dark skin but blue green eyes? How much more 'outside' can a person feel when they are the only one in their 'mixed blood' family who looks 'white?'
Then there is my new friend K. who I learned is a Pinay born in Manila, but raised in a white Jewish-Christian household in Montana. She was adopted as a baby, her mother a 17 year old 'working girl' her father an unknown, likely a soldier, but ethnicity she may never know. She has been told that she acts "Filipina" sometimes, but she can't figure out how, since she never actually lived in the Philippines and Montana isn't known for it's great enclaves of Filipinos. She wants to know more about herself, but its a hard thing to navigate on one's own. I can give her what I can, but the journey will be her own.
I never used to ask about other people's ethnicity if I suspected Filipino-ness. I've been 'targeted' of course, asked if I was Filipino. Those were always moments of hesitation for me, because if I answered yes, they would know by my lack of accent, my lack of enthusiasm to launch into the usual battery of questions, that I was not their sort of Filipino, not a 1 or 1.5, but one of those lost children, a 2, someone who likely lacks the ability to deeply understand what comes naturally to those with stronger ties to 'back home.'
I changed my tack last year, I began allowing my attention to follow instinct and instinct has lead me to other 2s and 3s, halo-halo's, ones who brush with fingertips their heritage, but still feel the longing to belong, to know, to be a part of, to have a sense of Kapwa, to connect with their Loob, and gently settle into Pagkatao. We are shy with each other, too many times burned by the fire of preset expectations, but longing, deeply longing to find a home.
Our land is here, our feet deeply set into this soil sickened by imperialism, but not so much that we cannot find sustenance from it, cannot reach deeply beneath to tap rootwaters of an indigenous spirit which sustains. Our arms like branches reach outward and blow in the winds generated across the seas, and our faces turn to a sun beyond our own land, push our way past clouds and vast wafts of pollution, but we are searching, we are searching for a bridge, a connection to ourselves accessible through blood and sinew.
I am mapmaking as I go along and look for other mapmakers along the way. We are too many lost. And often feel forgotten. The forgotten of the Invisible Forgotten. Worse than ghosts, but also better, because we are Astig, strong, hold Fire within. Our light will carry us, when we see we are Tao. Human Beings.