poetry & tsismis: emily's blog

July 11, 2015

In Memory of ISABEL A. GALURA (June 5, 1932 – July 10, 2015)

Isabel Galura w FWD Nov 2012

Remembering Tita Belle

by Emily P. Lawsin

With immense sadness, we mourn the passing of Filipina American pioneer, Isabel A. Galura, who was one of the three narrators featured in the book that her son, Joseph, and I co-authored, entitled, Filipino Women in Detroit: 1945-1955, Oral Histories from the Filipino American Oral History Project of Michigan.

“Belle”, as she was affectionately known, died on Friday, July 10, 2015, after a courageous battle with cancer.

Isabel was born on June 5, 1932, in Bangar, La Union, Philippines, and immigrated to the United States on July 4, 1954, as the first Filipina accepted to the post-graduate internship in clinical dietetics at Detroit’s Harper Hospital. The few Filipina American women in the area befriended her and eventually introduced her to the man who would become her husband, Atilano Galura.galura wedding photo

When I first met Tita Belle almost 15 years ago, she and Joe invited me to her home for a delicious meal of Filipino food and then asked if I was interested in seeing some of her late husband’s photographs. She brought out several boxes that had letters and material artifacts, all neatly preserved in file folders, dating from the 1920s-90s. I peeked inside a crisp envelope and my hands began shaking when I found her husband’s boat ticket to America, dated 1929! Later, Tita Belle became the driving force behind our Filipino American Oral History Project, as she would open up her address book and call her friends from the Filipino Women’s Club of Detroit (founded in 1952), encouraging them to be interviewed for our project.

In 2004, Tita Belle became a founding member of the Filipino American National Historical Society Michigan Chapter (FANHS-MI) and was appointed Assistant Treasurer. She actively participated and regularly attended FANHS-MI’s intergenerational Filipino Youth Initiative classes every Sunday at the Philippine American Community Center of Michigan (PACCM).

Memorial services will be held this Sunday and Monday, July 12-13, in Westland, Michigan (see below).

Maraming salamat po / many thanks, Tita Belle, for being a mother/Lola-figure for me and so many others. We are eternally grateful for all that you did for us and for our community. Mahal kita / I love you and miss you.




June 5, 1932 – July 10, 2015

Isabel A. Galura, a resident of Westland, Michigan, passed away on July 10, 2015 at the age of 83.

Isabel was the beloved wife of the late Atilano; the loving mother of Joseph (Catherine) Galura, Anna (Louis) Smutek and the late Peter; the dear sister of Georgia (Cirilo) Leoncio; and the cherished grandmother of David and Genevra Galura and Christiana and Andrew Smutek.

Isabel will be resting at the L.J. Griffin Funeral Home in Westland (7707 Middlebelt Road at Ann Arbor Trail) on Sunday, July 12, from 3-9 p.m. There will be a Rosary at 6:30 p.m.

She will be Instate at 11:30 a.m. on Monday, July 13, at St. Damian Catholic Church, 30055 Joy Road (West of Middlebelt) until the time of her Funeral Mass at 12 p.m.

Her final resting place will be Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations in her memory to either the University of Michigan Cancer Center, or the Philippine American Community Center of Michigan (17356 Northland Park Ct., Southfield, MI 48075).


Sign the guestbook online:




December 28, 2013

When A Loved One Dies: A Salaam Alaikum

A salaam alaikum / Peace be unto you. . .





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November 3, 2013

2 POEMS: Daylight Savings Time

I found these two poems that I wrote almost exactly ten years ago, but never published. As we “Fall Back”, it seems like as good a day as any to share these. Ah, the nostalgia; I must have been in a melancholic state. It seems like a whole life time ago. As my poetry professor used to say, Onward!

Please leave comments below. Salamat/Thanks.


Layover, Chicago O’Hare International Airport

© by Emily P. Lawsin


I confess: walking

through airports, I always look

for you, wandering.


Sometimes I spot you:

in a mother’s long embrace

of her son going off to college


Sometimes I see you

in a young couple’s face: streams

of mascara kissing their nose


Sometimes I feel you

in the tunnel breeze: that bridge

of ocean blue flickering, mimicking sky.


Yesterday I followed you,

the scent of sunflower petals

and salty seeds drifting in the wind.


Tonight I saw you,

in a moonlit corner of a terminal bar,

nursing a Tom Collins alone.


Tomorrow I’ll find

you at your corner bookstore

reading The Celestine Prophecy,

leaving no energy for words.


But right now, I set my watch back,

as Daylight Savings Time ends:

I wait


For this delayed connection home.


Sunday, October 26, 2003

to Detroit


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Father Time: Daylight Savings

© by Emily P. Lawsin



her glassy eyes burn

stares down the eclipsed tunnel


holding the ticking clock’s arms in her wrinkled hands,

remembering the crimson maple leaves and lady bugs


that kissed their bare shoulders

like tears falling from the sky


searching and finding more time

in the dusk of the arboretum.


remembering now

the back of his un-starched shirt


as he walked out the side door.

the crick in his neck


as he balanced his  brief     case,


the ring of keys on his belt loop not jangling,

despite his swift stride.


he never looked back,

just left her sitting at their hilltop café


to pay the bill.


plastic honey bears empty and toppled

at their unstable table.


each year she still sits there watching the time,

waiting for him to finish his rotten meal


or at least leave the waitress a tip

so she can go home.


Sunday, October 31, 2004

3:45 PM EST





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October 24, 2013

THANK YOU 18 Million Rising!

MARAMING SALAMAT/MANY THANKS to 18 Million Rising for this Filipino American History Month honor! 🙂

I am so humbled: http://18mr.tumblr.com/post/64986501646/emily-lawsin-professor-poet-and-force-of

Emily Lawsin is today’s Filipino American History Month Hero


From: http://18mr.tumblr.com/post/64986501646/emily-lawsin-professor-poet-and-force-of

“Emily Lawsin, professor, poet, and force of nature, is today’s Filipino American History Month Hero! To say that Emily is a powerhouse is to understate her value to Detroit, the University of Michigan, and the Filipino American community. In addition to teaching in A/PIA Studies, she is a cofounder of the Detroit Asian Youth Project and serves on the Board of Trustees of the Filipino American National Historical Society. Her writing can be found online at emilylawsin.com

For Filipino American History Month, we’re highlighting Fil-Ams who are carrying on a proud legacy of activism & organizing. Who’s your hero?”




July 15, 2013

POEMS: Litany, In Memory of Aiyana Jones & Trayvon Martin

Here are two spoken word poems: the first one is a draft that I wrote the morning after the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, the second one I wrote two years ago.


Litany VIII, In Memory of Aiyana Jones and Trayvon Martin

© by Emily P. Lawsin


A fellow writer once said that

poems should not just be a list

re-telling events, because that

treads on the territory of

journalism, or gossip rags.

But when you live in a place where

bulldozers routinely tear down

homes with elderly crouched inside,


mass destruction is considered

normal, and Black children are shot

after reality TV

crews and SWAT teams ignore dolls and

tricycles in the yard and hurl

flash-bang grenades through front windows,

you search for news reports, hoping

none of your suspicions bear truth.


You pause to pray and remember:


1929: Fermin Tobera (Watsonville, California).

1955: Emmett Till (Money, Mississippi).

1963: Medgar Evers (Jackson, Mississippi).

1982: Vincent Chin (Highland Park, Michigan).

2006: Fong Lee (Minneapolis, Minnesota).

2006: Chon Buri Xiong (Warren, Michigan).

2009: Oscar Grant (Oakland, California).

2010: Aiyana Jones (Detroit, Michigan).

2010: John T. Williams (Seattle, Washington).

2012: Trayvon Martin (Sanford, Florida).

2013: Rodrigo Abad Diaz (Lilburn, Georgia).


These names: just a fraction of a

list of lament. What do they share

in common? Their killers walked free,

only one convicted, but not

until 31 years later.

The story of our nation, stained

by the brown blood of our children,

shot or beaten to death as they


rode their bike home, or as they laid

cradled in their beds fast asleep,

or simply walking down the street,

ambushed by bullets, baseball bats,

buried, but never forgotten.

As mothers, what do we say to

our children facing these assaults?

How do we protect them before


History repeats itself




July 14, 2013

Emily P. Lawsin lives in the metro Detroit area.

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A Litany, To Little White Liars

© by Emily P. Lawsin


are you not aware that

our ancestors won revolutions

against centuries of colonial rule

do you not realize that

your people cut our tongues

erased our languages and burned our villages

are you not aware that

we descend from warriors

who fought for this country’s freedom in their sacred homelands

do you not realize that

our parents were held captive as innocent citizens

separated for years in horse stables then behind barbed wire

are you not aware that

our mothers stuffed pillows up their skirts

fleeing to charred hills so your army would not rape them

do you not realize that

our fathers suffered beatings and delirium

in death marches through deserts, yet still survived?




we know what revolution is

because our ancestors gave birth to it.


we taste it in the scars in our mouths

every time we swallow.


the poison you bombed our homelands with

seeps out of our blood as daily reminders


and we will not rest until the nightmares of sirens

echoed in your voice stops ringing in our ears.


Ann Arbor, May 12, 2011


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June 27, 2013


Happy 98th Birthday to Grace Lee Boggs! To see why I’ve lived in the Detroit area for most of the past 13 years, see the NEW documentary, American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs: www.americanrevolutionaryfilm.com The film just won the AUDIENCE AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE at the Los Angeles Film Festival. AND there is an excellent review in Variety. Get on the mailing list, Like the film on Facebook, and/or Follow @GLBoggsFilm or @GraceLeeBoggs on Twitter to see when the film is coming to your town (or organize a screening)! The film is directed by the incredible Grace Lee (of the Grace Lee Project). And yes, if you’re paying attention, I have brief cameo shots in both films. 🙂

Join us this Saturday, June 29, 2013, for a FREE film screening at the Detroit Film Theatre inside the DIA, followed by a reception in the DIA’s beautiful Rivera Court (where the Diego Rivera murals are). Peep the flyer and help spread the word:


May 6, 2013

Quote for the day

Filed under: Poetry — EL @ 10:10 am
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April 29, 2013

POEM: lying in my bed: april 29, 1992

Filed under: Los Angeles,Poetry — EL @ 4:29 pm
Tags: ,

April is National Poetry Writing Month #NaPoWriMo. Here is a poem/diary/memoir I started years ago and edited last year, on the 20th anniversary of Sa-i-Gu. Follow me on Twitter for more poetry, tsismis, and daily updates: @emilylawsin

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lying in my bed: april 29, 1992

© by emily p. lawsin


i remember living in Hershey Hall, at UCLA, trying to call our loved ones,

hugging Joyce, my Korean American roommate,


who crouched, praying, glued to the tube,

as the revolution was, indeed, being televised.


she bit her nails, wound her long ebony hair up tight in a bun,

worried about her mom and pop.


despite the miles of jammed phone lines, we learned that their store

stood strong, shielded by the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains.


we stayed on the edge of Westwood, but could still hear the helicopters whirring

and smell the fires burning, the weight of a heavier smog choking our chests.


i had just finished reading “A Fire in Fontana” by Hisaye Yamamoto, for a grad class

in Asian American history: its black type fading under strays of yellow highlighter.


i don’t remember having or going to any classes that day,

but i knew that my comrades and classmates would gather


to start teach-ins outside Campbell Hall,

if not caravanning to clean up Koreatown.


as i headed out the door, my elderly Mama and Papa called, saying in Taglish that

they didn’t want to see their anak on CNN patrolling the L.A. streets with a BB gun


(as if i had brought mine when i moved from Seattle the previous August)

and for the first time ever, they told me that i should just skip class.


i didn’t completely comprehend all of the conversations, or the impending transgressions,

or the necessary healing that would follow until years later,


but time slow-dragged, marched, and rallied on that smoke-filled day.

as the fires smoldered and the sun set, my long-distance-but-soon-to-be-ex boyfriend finally called me


after seeing the crumpled faces of the rest of his newspaper’s staff,

their eyebrows arching as high as the Kingdome’s cloud over Chinatown.


when he returned to his desk after lobbing tennis balls with his assistant

(the sway of her hips and the name on her racquet a cheap imitation of mine),


he found mounds of my phone messages on pink “While You Were Out” slips,

stabbed in the back by the spear of a tarnished paper weight, imported from Hong Kong.


hours after the melee on Florence and Normandie had quelled, perhaps afraid that i would cause my

own riot over his alleged tennis game, he had the nerve to ask me to write a column on the uprisings.


i wrote it; he edited it: our last collaboration,

right at the moment when rodney king pleaded to the press, “can we all just get along?”


twenty years later, i realize that everything that happened that day gave us all room to grow,

and my first front page story which began, “Welcome to Los Angeles”.


april 29, 2012






April 12, 2013

POEM: “Salmon Run” (in 6 incomplete Tweets) #NaPoWriMo Day 12

April 11, 2013

POEM: Mud [NaPoWriMo Day 11]

Filed under: Pinays,Poetry — EL @ 11:46 am
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