3/28/2006

Fingertips

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.

3/17/2006

Proud Mama

Bein' a writer mom makes for crazy. No other way to describe the awful choices presented daily, the mental and emotional tumbling that happens when romancing the muse and showing your children they matter. Negotiation and Compromise are words too abstract to depict the clumsy juggling of tender hearts and intentions. There is never enough time, never enough energy, never enough, except that sinking, pervading sense that I am never enough. An exercise in futility? Sometimes. Often.

Life conspires to hope, though, and brings grace unlooked for.

From L.'s third grade report card

L is an absolute amazing writer. Her voice and ability to grasp the reader's attention in remarkable.

She breathes and loves story so much. Her willingness to take risks with her work and get the job done is incredibly inspiring to me. I told her this once and she blinked at me, then ducked her head shyly and gave me a hug.

Then this, by A, who starts kindergarten in the Fall, as dictated to Hubby. Her current passion is Curious George.

Monkey Toy

Once upon a time, there was a little monkey who could not do everything. The Mama and Papa were worried because the little monkey had no toys.

Then the little monkey went for a walk with Mama and Papa in the woods to look for something interesting to play with.

They make a toy and see if it is interesting.

They find a broken hat and a slipper that no one else finds interesting.

They also found an old broken kite.

The End.

There's tension here, the presence of Whether or Not? plus some nice visual/textual detail. Just needs a bit of dialogue...*chuckle*

3/14/2006

White Culture with a Side of Fries

When faced with issues of race and gender, I try to remember a moment in the Fall of 2000 when I realized I had lived my life, up until that moment, as a white man.

I was sitting in the backseat of a car tooling its way around Vancouver Harbor from the UBC where I had attended the first day of an International Women of Color conference. Driving the car was my mentor's husband and next to him was my mentor, Rosanne Kanhai for whom I was a TA for her postcolonial literatures class. I watched the grey afternoon melt in it's distinctly NW fashion from day to night, wet, cold and familiar, and thought about all the women I had seen at the conference. All brown faces of varying hues from cream tinted coffee to deep espresso. I heard speakers from the Gabriela Network for the first time and found myself stunned and awed by the number of academics in attendence. PhDs and MAs, MDs and JDs, all women of color.

And then it hit me. I'm a woman of color too. At the time I was in grad school for my MA in English. Within a few months I would also be a woman of color with an advanced degree. In my own extended family which numbers easily in the 100s I would be the first, and once my cousin received her law degree, there would be only two of us to date. Then I turned the observation into a question back to myself as my mentor had taught us to do. I asked myself "Why don't you see yourself as a woman of color?" to which I answered "I went to mostly white schools in the 'burbs and to be considered a success, I set myself in competition with the white boys in class. If I could do as they did, then I knew I could succeed."

The melting process was a matter of perspective. I only saw white kids. They were my friends and my competitors. There were kids of color in my classes, but never my friends. The kids of color never seemed very interested in me and I never saw myself as part of them. The white kids weren't white to me, they were Mary, Scott, Tom, Ginger, Stephanie. Some were faster on the playground or more clever in the arts, but I could outstrip most in math and science. And when it came to math and science, it was all about white men in white coats doing work in white labs. Clean rooms. I was aware of women scientists but they were historic anomolies when it came to the science books. The men did the real work. Carl Sagan was on TV.

So as we passed those tree lined streets and the afternoon mist turned to rain, I thought, the colonization process is complete in me. I had fully adopted the dominant paradigm as my own. I had come to a point where I realized that I had completely 'Othered' myself. Racism was about what my parents had experienced - racist remarks and actions toward myself were just misunderstandings. Misogyny was about other women, mail order brides, rape victims, low paid workers, sexually harassed employees - misogynist remarks and actionst toward myself were just my own oversensitivity.

Since that Fall (Fall from Eden in a sense?) I've tried to reframe myself as a woman of color, to open my eyes to the racism and misogyny suffered by other women of color and myself, to search out spaces of activism and change. It's a long, ongoing process that has touched on everything from motherhood to faith to writing.

Recently Gene Tagaban, a Tlingit Filipino storyteller, challenged me to not only continue honoring the self that is a Woman of Color, a Pinay, but to also honor the White Man Within, to see how Being White helped make me who I am today. It would not be the first time I was challenged to integrate my experience, to bring all of myself forward to the moment, and not compromise anything that has made me who I am today.

I've been struck, then by the appearance of White Culture in my life, conversations or offhand comments. Gura recently wrote about her fascination with White Culture and when I mentioned this to a white friend, she replied "But there is no White Culture. We have no culture." To which I blinked and reassured her. "Yes, you do have culture." And I don't mean the stuff we see on TV or the groups we fear as White Supremacist. These are distilled cultural moments and movements, separated from reality.

Gura wrote: White people disassociate easily being white - When you ask a white person, "what's up with white people?" They will readily answer, "Don't ask me. I'm not a typical white person.". And I wondered, is it a disassociation with the culture or with the markers of the Dominant Paradigm, ie. White Priviledge?

In my postcolonial lit class, on the first day, I had them list the markers of the Dominant Paradigm in the US - that is, who carries the power and who are the ones being targeted in marketing. The list would run something like: Male, mid-thirties, bachelor degree, middle income, Christian, heterosexual, moderate debt ratio, married, 1-2 children, fair to good health, employed in a white collar job. I would then look around the room and ask "Who here is a member of this paradigm?" and "Have you ever felt disenfranchised by this image of the Dominant?" To which usually all the young white men and women would look very confused and realize, much like I did back in Vancouver, that they were not who they thought they were. They were not in 'power' and for a moment, they glimpsed the possibility that if they didn't fit the ideal then for every 'difference' a minority possessed dropped them further and further away from the power structures that were shaping their environment.

We'd have to practice this several times during the quarter before they got that what they knew as Dominant was simply a structure, that White Priviledge, though powerful and pervasive, was not reality. It had real consequences, but was a construction. And all that is constructed can be changed.

I wouldn't wish alignment with White Priviledge on anyone. It's an ideal that no one, not even the "Male, mid-thirties, bachelor degree, middle income, Christian, heterosexual, moderate debt ratio, married, 1-2 children, fair to good health, employed in a white collar job" could live up to. I think that's why 'they' all seem crazy. But it is a paradigm that structures our media and advertising, so we're constantly bombarded with images of who we are not, whether EuroAmerican, AfricanAmerican, AsianAmerican, or NativeAmerican.

White Culture, though, is something to be looked for, something to be identified for the sheer fact that perhaps then, 'they' would stop needing 'our' culture to have culture. We need to hear the stories of Irish slavers and Euro immigrants forced to give up name and language at the shores of Ellis Island. We need to see beyond the simple rituals of St. Patricks day or Fat Tuesday or March Madness to a deeper sense of cultural significance, to be unsatisfied with the culture handed to us with a side of fries and a coke. What do these things mean? Why are they markers at all?

I also think that White Culture is more about time than space - generational differences seem to mark better than regional, but that may be because of the movement of US EuroAmericans across the country. We move easily without conscious sense of diaspora within the States. We're more likely to hear about the good old days rather than about the Alabama gal who is completely lost East LA. Although given the lament that you can't get good BBQ outside (fill in favorite southern state) there's argument otherwise.

Gura also noted: And I wonder how many people started studying their own culture, because a white person asked them about it.

White folk are no different. Ask about their stories. See what they know of themselves. That's when we can create kapwa, a sense of community while reinforcing a sense of loob, a sense self-worth. This is a powerful, healing gift that can change the world.

3/13/2006

Connections

My writing here has been difficult mainly because I've been shifting away from the focus I had earlier in 2005, namely, keep in contact with and be part of the Filipino American writer's community.

Midway through 2005, I became increasingly interested in the Babaylan path and how it relates to modern society. I saw the potential in the path to provide a map to creating positive changes and healing during this particularly difficult moment in history. My creative writing effectively stopped as I gathered all I could about babaylan and all the spaces I thought the path would touch. Once such space was this idea of Cultural Sustainability.

Not writing rigorously has been difficult, as my energy poured more and more into developing my ideas on cultural sustainability. This blog became more of a quiet space for me to jot down notes to myself that I wasn't sure were touching on any one else's experience.

Until today.

Today someone from my own county commented on my blog and told me about her project Sound Essence and in tracking down her email, I found A World Institute for a Sustainable Humanity (A-WISH), whose major players are all in Washington State. It's been around over 10 years doing what I only imagined was possible.

Spirituality. Healing. Writing. Storytelling. Activism.

Living, breathing, examples of what the babaylan path maps.

And my soul sings YES!

Gakked from Okir

The name of the rose
Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose. You are a

mystery novel dealing with theology,

especially with catholic vs liberal issues.

You search wisdom and knowledge endlessly,

feeling that learning is essential in life.


Which literature classic are you?
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Anticipation

Leny writes tantalizingly about KAPWA: The Self in Others by Katrin De Guia.

I've got this book on order now, and I hope I have it in my hands today. My fingers itch with anticipation for I sense it will help me deepen my understanding of the Sikolohiyang Pilipino terms I've been struggling to understand and apply to the writing process.

The workshop remains lumpy, parts in two different journals and photos spread over email, the web, and on my hard drive. I bought several small, painted Slinky's, though, on Saturday, prizes for writer's willing to share work or ask questions. I need to clarify travel plans and compose handouts too.

Less than two weeks to go.

3/10/2006

QOTDs

One tries to cure the signs of growth, to exorcise them, as if they were devils, when really they might be angels of annunciation.

-Anne Morrow Lindbergh,
"Gift From the Sea"

Saints have always said the same thing: Pray, be humble, accept the cross, love and forgive. --Saint of the Day

3/09/2006

Definitions

On the docket for the CAPTIVATE APAW conference where I'm giving a writing workshop is a workshop on Spoken Word.

Thinking about it, I realized, I have no idea what Spoken Word is. And in turning my paths more and more toward the Babaylan, I've come across and learned from healer and storytellers both, these being two of the primary babaylan tasks. But I realized that I can't assume Spoken Word and Storytelling (the performance kind, yah know Gerrison Keiller and the like) are the same thing.

*and the crowd yelled GOOGLE*

which revealed:

The definitions of a 16 year old APAW poet who says:

"SPOKEN WORD: Most younger people don't know what that is. It's like a mix of poetic words, music and hiphop. It's a movement and state of mind. "

while Wikipedia reveals:

"Spoken word is a form of literary art or artistic performance in which lyrics, poetry, or stories are spoken rather than sung. Spoken-word is often done with a musical background, but emphasis is kept on the speaker."

So there it is...Spoken Word is like the chanting of the babaylan, another form of storytelling. It's got the rhythm and the music.

That's really cool. Somehow I'm learning about babaylan without realizing it...

Time of the Snows

Snow. Big fat sloppy flakes of snow. Falling. Everywhere. Feels like Christmas more than NearlySpring. Good thing too, since I never did get our Christmas letter done last year. Kids going nuts over the stuff and today I'll get enough stuff done at work in case of a snow day tomorrow.

Hubby bought me a peppermint mocha today to help drive away the fatigue that's come from pushing too hard again. As we drove up the hill toward the University through the snow and foggy air, there, looking for all the world like a forestry sign with it's half cream, half mocha paint were the words:

Follow your bliss.
Watch for signs.

Ever see Steve Martin's LA Story? Where the freeway signs talk to Steve about love and hope?

Follow your bliss.
Watch for signs.

Because it's not enough just to follow your bliss, as if that willingness to follow will provide enough of a map so a traveler will know they are on the right track. Because Bliss is like a dragonfly, a butterfly, or even a sea creature who does not know terrain, defies gravity, exists in four dimensions, and its easy to lose track of Bliss when it moves toward the Sun or deep into the Earth.

That's why we have to watch for signs. Trail markers. Changes in terrain. Moss on the tree trunk. Water flowing downhill. Then we can make choices, our best guess as to where the Bliss is taking us next.

The thing is, we can't stop forgetting that the signs are just /signs/ they are not Bliss, they are not the journey, and that what we're all about is the Journey, the placement of our feet upon the path and the people we share the journey with.

Because we are built for community, built to journey together, built to cheer and encourage each other on, even when we stumble, make bad choices, or simply give up.

Follow your bliss.
Watch for signs.
Share the journey.

3/07/2006

QOTD

Gura Michelle recently wrote...

"Art is a struggle but not in the ways we think struggle should be. The struggle is in the creation of the art, not in the struggle of living."

*blink*

Like an arrow through the brain; this woman is /smart/.

3/06/2006

Just for Today

Life has been tumultuous of late, globally, nationally, locally, and personally. It's been hard to keep positive, hard to keep on top of projects and life in general. The workshop is coming along, though a bit more slowly than I'm comfortable with. T-minus 19 days and counting. Keeping balanced among all the aspects is proving difficult, so I thought I'd leave a reminder to myself here:

Reiki Principles by Dr. Mikao Usui

Just for today, I will live an attitude of gratitude.
Just for today, I will be free of worry.
Just for today, I will be free of anger.
Just for today, I will live honestly.
Just for today, I will show love and respect for every living thing.