poetry & tsismis: emily's blog

May 2, 2011

Remembering Al Robles (1930-2009)


Al Robles at UCLA 1996. Photo by Tony Osumi.

Today is the two-year death anniversary of the incredible poet Al Robles (February 16, 1930 – May 2, 2009). Manong Al and many of our ancestors who have gone before us have largely influenced my poetry and oral history work. As the people’s recorder and founding member of the Kearny Street Writers Workshop,  Manong Al was like a ninong (godfather) to all of us Filipina/o Americans who are spoken word performance poets, oral historians, cultural artists, and/or activists. When I was just a teen, I was blessed to have been able to read his poetry and to learn about how he fought to save the International Hotel in San Francisco’s Manilatown, through my elder cousin, his good friend and fellow Kearny Street poet, Oscar Peñaranda. Many years later, when I was in graduate school and when I started teaching Filipino American Studies, I would see Manong Al at various conferences and community events. He would always give me a hug or slap on the back and say, “Hey sistah, what’s shakin’?” Then a crowd would gather in a circle around him while he cracked jokes or played piano, talking story late into the night.

L.A. Poets with Jessica Hagedorn & Al Robles at Pilipino Studies Symposium at UCLA, 1997. Photo by Carlo Medina CDM Foto.

Throughout the 1990s, long before “Poetry Slam” competitions became  popular, we had Filipino American spoken word poetry and open mic nights all over Los Angeles (and beyond), often organized by Wendell Pascual, Irene Suico Soriano, or the Balagtasan Collective. Following in Manong Al’s footsteps, we knew we couldn’t just study how Filipinos came from an oral tradition, we embraced it and embodied it. In 1996, when my alma mater UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center Press published Manong Al’s book of poetry, many of us poets were ecstatic and honored to be able to perform with and for the legendary Al Robles. During the 90-minute drive from West L.A. to one book launch that Theo Gonzalves had organized at UC Irvine, I wrote this letter to my cousin Oscar to tell him that Manong Al was in town. It turned into this poem (below). I performed it later that night and it was published several years later in disOrient Journalzine.  Afterwards, Manong Al said that we have to keep writing about the streets because we have all walked down them, no matter what the city. We recognize them as Pinoys: streets like Kearny, El Dorado, Temple, and Jackson, because for generations, that’s where “cats would hang out”, talking story late into the night.

The week that Manong Al passed away in 2009, I was living in Boston, and I performed a modified version of this poem at the East Meets West Bookstore in Cambridge, with the Boston Progress Arts Collective’s (BPAC) house band: Charles Kim on guitar, Nate Bae Kupel on drums, and Pedro Magni on keyboards.  I had said that night that Manong Al would have loved that space, which hosts the country’s only year-round monthly Asian American open mic series, like Kearney Street did in the early 1970s. As a call to the ancestors, I played a little bit of kubing (Philippine mouth harp), swayed to BPAC’s jazz, then looked up at the younger generation overflowing onto Massachusetts Ave, and felt Manong Al’s warm spirit talking story with us, late into the night.

I love and miss you, Manong Al. Thank you for being our voice. Rest In Poetry.

Al Robles and Emily Lawsin at UCLA 1996

Oscar Peñaranda, T, and me 2006

Dear Kuya Oscar   

© by Emily P. Lawsin   

On the book launching of Al Robles’ book 

Rappin’ With Ten Thousand Carabaos in The Dark

Irvine, California, May 17, 1996.

______________________________________

Manong Al visits the Southland today,  

bringing us fish heads and carabaos

together to jam.

Our Pinoy Luck Club barkada

skips its regular meeting of

Friday night “X-Files and Tiles,”

saving lost quarters for lonely bus rides

and smoggy lattes;

how could we ever fill your shoes?

Our Doc Martens and Birkenstocks

are no match for Mama’s boomerang bakyas and tsinelas.

We’re fortunate though, this new Flip generAsian,

tempted by you Kearny Street tamaraws:

we shout via E-mail, reclaiming reclámo.

Irene’s Babaye Productions started

our call, herding us to greez in brown fields

of Temple, Melrose, and Westwood,

where Wendell’s Downright Pinoy self,

more than just a t-shirt man,

throws us props, rappin’, producin’,

dekonstruktin’ all our funk-shuns.

With Dawn and Allyson,

sistahs fightin’ in struggle,

brewin hungry champorrado dreams;

the Villaraza and Parreñas clans

and Allan’s gothic poetry

blowin our freakin’ minds, and

nappy flip Nap Napoleon

swingin his sharp bolo smile, scars,

and Zig-Zag-wrapped cigarettes.

 We’re fortunate, yes, tonight,

the Liwanag 2 crew lassoing our ranks,

sistah Darlene’s multiple tongues searing our plates,

brotha Theo’s jazz as loud as his psychedelic zebra tie, —

a noose left by you, Al, the Belales, and others —

oh, da man wishes that you’d quit pumpin him up as the

doctoral candidate/professor/cultural critic/musical genius/taxi-dancing/PCN god

that he is

and return to the SF State days when you once peddled

a crushed box of black-and-white Liwanag books

fading from sun stroke in your beat-up, unwaxed coche.

I wonder, was it the same car you

used to push up to Seattle?

Bringing Nanay and Tatay an endless supply

of canned salmon and me diaper tales of

your wayward Alaskan ways.

Decades later, your AIIIEEEEE!

buddy Shawn gave me an A,

not knowing I was your

cousin/niece/wanna-be hija poet,

the only student in his class of 200

raising her hand when he asked,

        “Who has ever read Carlos Bulosan?”

          Never thanked you for those days.

Another decade later,

Manong Sam Tagatac, with his sleepy eye,

Ifugao tales, and Ilocano twang

returned with me to the UCLA campus,

left his Manila Cafe apron on Santa Barbara’s beach

to add a hint of bagoong to our new stew,

blamed your teaching-ass self for it all:

poets perpetrating as professors,

thinking this is how carabaos

will crush coconuts in the Ivory Tower.

Now he’s vanished, his ailing wife calling,

his film cans fading, and we young bucks

fry his tuyo not knowing where it came from.

We never thanked your barkada for those days,   

for adding light to our fire,

for excavating ghosts from the mountain tops,

for bringing us the songs of the Syquias,

Jundis’ jingles, Cachapero’s cacophony,

Cerenio’s seriousness, Tamayo’s teasings,

Tagami’s Tobera teachings, Ancheta’s anitos,

Robles’ rallies, and even Hagedorn’s hell-bent heresies.

So, Kuya Oscar, as we Kababayans

kick back, chillin amongst jasmine vines,

Southern Cali’s substitute for the sampaguita flower,

with Manong Al’s smoky white hair jammin’,

and Russell, our adopted Chinese cousin, taping — always pullin’ for us Pinoys —

I scribble on this bending bamboo,

throwing you our shout-outs, our salamats,

for dodging the draft, for pushing our pens,

for publishing Pinoys and Pinays before

anyone knew what that was, is, and

always will be,

and for plowin’ the fields,

for plowin’ these fields,

for plowing the fields

before us. 

*   *   *

Angel Velasco Shaw, Jessica Hagedorn, Curtis Choy, Al Robles, Norman Jayo at UCLA Pilipino Studies Symposium 1997. Photo by Carlo Medina CDM Foto.

Dedicated to Oscar Peñaranda, Al Robles, Sam Tagatac, Shawn Wong, Russell Leong,

 the Kearny Street Writers’ Workshop,

Wendell Pascual, Dawn Mabalon, Allyson Tintiangco, Napoleon Lustre,

Irene Soriano, Darlene Rodrigues, and Theo Gonzalves.

   

Al Robles reads poetry with Theo Gonzalves on piano at Royal Morales' retirement at UCLA 1996. Photo by Tony Osumi.

 Performed live at UC Irvine by Emily Lawsin with Theo Gonzalves on keyboards, May 17, 1996.

Originally published in DisOrient Journalzine, Volume 9: 2001.

www.emilylawsin.com

 

March 18, 2011

Remembering Auntie Helen Brown, 1915-2011

UCLA Pilipino Graduation 1993. Standing L-R: Enrique de la Cruz, Helen Brown, Philip Vera Cruz, Debbie Vollmer, Steffi San Buenaventura, Tania Azores, Royal Morales. Seated L-R: Emma, Emily, and Vincent A. Lawsin.

I feel deeply blessed to have been taught and mentored by amazing pioneers in Filipino American Studies. Many of them appear in photos and other entries on this blog. On January 25, 2011, we lost one of the most dedicated and inspiring Pinay elders: Helen Agcaoili Summers Brown, founder of the Filipino American Library (FAL) in Los Angeles. She was 95. Tomorrow, March 19, at 2PM, FAL will host a Community Tribute to “Auntie” Helen at the Filipino Disciples Christian Church and I wish I could be there.

Auntie Helen taught me (and everyone she met) the importance of preserving our Philippine and Filipino American history. I met Auntie Helen at the very first conference of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) in Seattle, in 1987. Auntie Helen had traveled all the way from Los Angeles for the conference.  As a young student at the time, I remember being awestruck by her claim to have been the first-known Filipina woman to graduate from UCLA in 1937. As a member of the FANHS Board of Trustees, Auntie Helen attended every conference after that, for several years, all over the U.S. (often with her cousin Helen Ward).

In 1990, Auntie Helen organized the first meeting to establish what is now known as the Los Angeles Chapter of FANHS. When we officially chartered the FANHS-LA Chapter in 1993, Auntie Helen was a founding member and staunch supporter, with all sorts of ideas for co-sponsored events and co-curricular programs.

August Espiritu, Meg Thornton and I helped Auntie Helen sell US-Philippine Friendship Flag pins as a fundraiser for PARRAL, along with Philip Vera Cruz's autobiography, which August helped edit when he was a student. FANHS Conference, Chicago, 1992.

When I moved from Seattle to attend graduate school in Asian American Studies at UCLA, Auntie Helen was one of the first community leaders to embrace me and teach me about Filipina/os in Los Angeles. She invited me to PARRAL, the Pilipino American Reading Room and Library (the precursor to what is now known as FAL), which she founded in Los Angeles in 1985. I remember entering PARRAL, which back then, in 1991, was just a small room in the basement of the Filipino Christian Church on Union St. I think I was with Cathy (Pet) Choy and August Espiritu, who were also Filipino American graduate students at UCLA (and who are now tenured professors at UC Berkeley and University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, respectively). As eager student researchers, we sorted through hundreds of Auntie Helen’s books, pamphlets, event programs, newsletters, and photos. I honestly felt giddy and overwhelmed, like I had just struck gold! I also felt like I was “back home”, in Seattle, because PARRAL, with its haphazard overflowing stacks of ephemera, looked eerily similar to the FANHS National Pinoy Archives, where I had volunteered as an undergraduate intern.

Auntie Helen generously gave me the missing issues for the research that I did on the Filipino Student Bulletin, which was published in the U.S. from the early 1920s-1940. I had started cataloguing that newsletter at FANHS in Seattle and finished it my first semester at UCLA, with the help of Prof. Don Nakanishi and Auntie Helen. (My research was published many years later in the 1996 FANHS Journal.)

So many of us who research and teach Filipino American Studies owe a great deal to Auntie Helen. She was not only a teacher and librarian, she was like a Lola, a grandmother, who gave birth to several generations of Pin@y students and community activists. In her early years as a teacher, she organized for bilingual education in the Los Angeles public schools. In her retirement, she helped with the early movement for the official designation of what is now known as “Historic Filipino Town” in Los Angeles.

CSUN Filipino American Experience Class visits the Filipino American Library at its old location in Luzon Plaza 1995.

When I started teaching Filipino American Experience classes at UCLA and California State University, Northridge, Auntie Helen was our favorite guest speaker. She would blow the students away (especially the young Bruins) when she would tell them that she was THE FIRST Pinay Bruin to graduate from UCLA. She always generously opened the doors of PARRAL when Uncle Roy Morales and I would lead class tours of Filipino Town. The CSUN students were one of the first to visit when PARRAL renamed itself and moved to its former and much larger location at Luzon Plaza on Temple Street in 1994.  We had many events there and I even taught a series of Oral History classes in that space. We were all mesmerized by Auntie Helen’s stories of being “mestiza” in L.A, as she was the daughter of a Filipino mother and a white father, during the era of anti-miscegenation laws. She was like a walking history book.

Now, as I teach Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, I think of Auntie Helen often, wishing that this new generation of students would be so blessed to hear her unique laugh, to hear her shaky voice, and to touch the pages of history that she always generously shared. In our academic and community work, we do our best to honor Auntie Helen’s legacy.

Maraming salamat po, Auntie Helen, for everything you did for me and everything you did for Filipinos worldwide. Thank you to your pamilya for sharing you with us too. Mahal kita.

 

© Emily P. Lawsin

Trustee, Filipino American National Historical Society

Detroit, Michigan

www.emilylawsin.com

HELEN BROWN DOCUMENTARY ON YouTube!

Here is a FANHStastic Documentary on Helen Summers Brown,entitled “Got Book: Auntie Helen’s Gift of Book”, produced by the phenomenal Florante Peter Ibañez in 2005. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5gGQh3E9BQ

I love watching this film, which includes a lot of my mentors, friends, and kababayans from L.A. (and a photo of us FANHS Pinays with Auntie Helen at the Rock in Morro Bay).  MARAMING SALAMAT, Florante!

 

October 28, 2010

Day 28 of Filipino American History Month: Uncle Roy Morales in Chevy Ad During World Series

Filed under: FANHS,History Month,Los Angeles,Memorials,Pinoys — EL @ 10:03 am
Tags:

Day 28 of Filipino American History Month:

Uncle Roy Morales in Chevy Ad Aired During World Series

Did you watch 3rd-generation Filipino American Tim Lincecum, Cy Young Award winner and star pitcher of the San Francisco Giants, WIN his first game in the World Series against the Texas Rangers last night? If so, I hope you didn’t skip the commercials, or at least the “My First Chevy” ad: it includes a photo of Uncle Roy Morales!

Royal Morales in Lake Tahoe, 1952. Courtesy of Kathy Morales

Yes, that’s right, another double achievement for Filipino American History Month. This is why I love our FANHS family and the power of the coconut wire: community activist/FANHS-LA member/educator/librarian Florante Ibañez, co-author of Filipinos in Carson and the South Bay, forwarded an email yesterday from Kathy Morales, the daughter of the late Royal F. Morales, better known to us proud UCLA alumni as “Uncle Roy”. Kathy said:

> I was waiting to hear confirmation and now that I have, I just wanted to share something really awesome!! The attached picture is of my dad Roy Morales from 1952 when he was in Lake Tahoe. It will be used in a Chevrolet commercial!! And this commercial will be aired during the World Series!!  . . . please share this with everyone who you think would like to know.  I think that this is quite amazing….after almost ten years of he being absent from us physically, he will be seen throughout the whole nation! Isn’t that just so incredibly cool? And as his 20-year old self….WOW!<

If you missed the commercial, you can watch it on YouTube here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsILAyAqMFQ

Uncle Roy’s photo goes by really quickly, but if you pause the commercial at the 0:04 seconds mark, you’ll see him, smiling broadly in this black and white photo. General Motors announced that the ads will air throughout the World Series and maybe even during the SuperBowl.

So how did Chevy get the photo? I had to ask Kathy. She told me that the photo was taken by one of Uncle Roy’s friends when they both worked at the Cal Neva club in Lake Tahoe in 1952. A resource company contacted their family after they found the photo in the Los Angeles Public Library’s collection. Ah, yes, the power of the coconut wire and the FANHS family again: in the mid 1990s, our FANHS-LA Chapter helped the brilliant photographer Carolyn Kozo Cole and my old UCLA classmate Sojin Kim gather Filipino community photos for their “Shades of L.A.” photo archive project. They collected 10,000 photos from many communities of color, setting up cameras in church basements and community centers, and then asked us volunteers to help catalogue and write down people’s memories.  I was blessed to be able to sit down with Uncle Roy (and Uncle Sam Balucas) as they talked story about literally hundreds of photos. As my comadre Meg Thornton says, it was one of the FANHS-LA projects of which I am most proud. Many photos have made it as covers of books and now, commercials.

You can read more about our beloved Uncle Roy or donate to his Memorial Scholarship funds at UCLA and USC here:

http://web.me.com/uclapaa/UCLAPAA/uncle_roy.html

http://articles.latimes.com/2001/jan/27/local/me-17817

http://filipinoamericanlibrary.org/roy.html

http://alumnigroups.usc.edu/apaa/pdf/APAA_Scholarship_App_2010-2011.pdf

http://www.socialworkhallofdistinction.org/honorees/item.php?id=39

As I have written before, I feel truly blessed to have been mentored by many of the pioneers in Filipino American Studies like Uncle Roy. Another photograph of him – singing with a Manong at one of our FANHS-LA events – hangs on my office wall, reminding me daily of his legacy of teaching and community service that we must all carry on to younger generations.  Ironically, now, a Chevy ad with Buzz Lightyear’s voice is a reminder too, even for just a split second, as I sit here in Detroit, a few miles from the GM plant where Uncle Roy’s Chevy was probably made.

Maraming salamat to Kathy and Florante for sharing!

* * *

© Emily P. Lawsin teaches Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan.

www.emilylawsin.com

June 20, 2010

POEM for Papa


Vincent & Emily Lawsin at FANHS Manila Conference 1998

Papa and me at FANHS Conference in Manila 1998

As I wrote in my previous post, this is a particularly poignant Father’s Day for my family and me, since it is not only the first Father’s Day since my Papa passed away (last March), but it is also my mother’s 2-year-death anniversary, and my Auntie Pacing’s one-year death anniversary. My father, Vincent A. Lawsin, even up to his death at 85 years old, was a fighter, with a strong will and unique character, that is sometimes hard to describe. I wrote this poem for Papa 12 years ago, in 1998, before he and I went to visit the Philippines together. I printed an earlier version and mailed it to him for Father’s Day that year. He told me he brought it to the Community Center and showed it to everyone because he liked it so much. I performed it at Ohio State University last month, for the first time since Papa passed away, and an African Amerian woman in the audience came up to me afterwards and told me that it made her cry, as she remembered her own parents and their struggles in the South. Please feel free to leave comments here too.

Happy Father’s Day, Papa. I love you and miss you much.

Vincent Avestruz Lawsin 1995 Papa’s Two Worlds

© by Emily P. Lawsin

His mama nicknamed him “Teting”, back home in his Babatngon province,

A shelled seaside village near Tacloban, Leyte,

A city whose two great claims to fame became:

1) The infamous landing of General Douglas MacArthur’s bloody “I Shall Return” and

2) The birthplace of the Queen of Shoes, the Dictator’s dictator, Imelda Marcos.

Two claims Papa would feverishly explain to mga puti

In his adopted land of America.


My proud Papa would explain to his engine-room mates

That his roots lie in the heart of the islands,

Penciling a map of the Visayas in the center of the archipelago

On any available napkin or newspaper or oiled rag,

Sometimes telling dirty white lies of going to high school with the First Lady,

Even though Imelda is five years his junior.

Any poor listener who seemed even remotely intrigued

Would get a faster tale of how he

Could have dated her,

Could have married her,

Couldhave—

Then “Just imagine where we would all be now,” he’d say.


So I wonder, what would have happened if my father had married Imelda?


Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have joined the Philippine Guerillas in 1942,

Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have a scar of shrapnel poking his lower left back.

Perhaps then

Papa would have kept editing his high school newspaper

Instead of enlisting in the U.S. Merchant Marines.

Perhaps then

Papa would’ve stayed in engineering college

Instead of fighting MacArthur’s war.


Perhaps then                                                    

Papa wouldn’t have migrated from port to port:

Korea, Japan, Guam, New Guinea, Germany, Vietnam, Africa, and Arabia,

Or from dock to dock:

San Francisco, New Orleans, Texas, Norfolk, New York, and eventually Seattle.

Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have been so segregated from his family

Like when his captain wouldn’t even allow him to sail home from New Guinea

For his poor mother’s funeral,

A faded black and white photograph of her coffin, his only remembrance.

Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have remained a bachelor until after his mother’s death,

Leaving me with a father the age of my classmates’ grandfathers.

Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have lost his hearing

After being relegated to the confines of two too many ships’ boiler rooms.

Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have kept his seafaring union’s news clippings,

Where in the 1950s, his beer-drinking shipmates

Nicknamed him “Chico”, meaning “Small”,

Because they couldn’t pronounce “Vicente”, much less “Teting”.


Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have the memories of the 1980s either,

When Washington State Ferry workers nicknamed him “E.T.”,

After the shriveled up alien from the movies,

Even circulated a glossy cut-out from a magazine of the Extra Terrestrial:

With Papa’s name scrawled beneath it.

Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have faked laughs at it in front of them,

Wouldn’t have secretly crumpled the clipping,

Shoving it into the pocket of his grease-stained overalls.

Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have brought the insult home for our mother to find

As she washed laundry,

Taping it to their bedroom mirror,

Giving us kids a quick lesson in “workplace diversity”.


Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have gambled at finding the American Dream,

Wouldn’t have clung so tightly to his faith.

Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have sought a haven in local politics,

Wouldn’t have become President of Seattle’s Filipino Community,

At the height of martial law,

Heading the Reform Slate, with anti-Marcos activists engineering his victory

and his infamy.


Yes, I often wonder

Which world, perhaps then,

Would have been better or worse for my father,

Ang Papa Ko, Teting, Vicente,

Legally: “Vince”, or “Vincent”.

Which world, perhaps then?

The Iron Butterfly’s world of lies and corruption,

Or, Papa’s corrupted world of white lies?


North Hills, California, 1998.

www.emilylawsin.com

Click HERE to read my previous post: “Babang Luksa II: Memories of Auntie Pacing”


Babang Luksa II – Memories of Auntie Pacing

Filed under: Memorials,Pamilya,Seattle,Tributes — EL @ 3:38 pm
Tags: ,

© by Emily Porcincula Lawsin

Today, June 20, 2010, is Father’s Day in America. It is an especially poignant day for my family and me, since not only is it our first Father’s Day without my Papa, but it is also my mother’s 2nd year death anniversary. In an ironic twist of fate, today, my cousins are also commemorating the “Babang Luksa” death anniversary of their mother, my beloved Auntie Pacing Porcincula.

Last year, I wrote here on this blog about returning to Seattle for my mom’s “Babang Luksa” and our large Family Reunion. What I didn’t mention was that on June 20, 2009, in the early morning hours, as my brother and I were getting ready to leave the house for our mother’s one-year memorial, the phone rang.  I knew it had to be bad news. Auntie Pacing had just passed away, only one week after she had returned to the Philippines with her eldest children. That day, we dedicated the rosary to our mother and her sister-in-law, my Auntie Pacing.

Only two weeks prior to that, Auntie Pacing had just discovered that she had Stage 4 cancer. Our entire family was shocked and devastated. She then decided that she wanted to leave Seattle and return to her native Philippines to live the last days of her life. Although it was sad news, I was proud of her children who had the courage and dignity to support her last wishes.  A couple of days before she left, my cousins held an impromptu “despidida” farewell for her to celebrate her life with her while she was still living. I wished I could have been there. Instead, I offered these fond memories and humble words as my delayed and long-distance tribute. The following are edited excerpts of what I wrote for Auntie, her children, and grandchildren, while I was in New York City:

I have so many fond memories of growing up in Seattle’s Rainier Valley because of Auntie Pacing, who was married to my mother’s youngest brother. My siblings and I are the closest in age to their children: Teresita, Alan, Arnel, and Rene. Our childhood homes were exactly one mile apart, so we would walk to and from each other’s houses for family parties, and, as Arnel reminded us last year, to do chores like mowing the lawn to earn money for candy.  They lived across the street from Brighton Elementary School, so we would always go there with their neighbor, Harry, and play on the jungle gym, despite the hard concrete. Then we would go buy Slurpees down at the old 7-11 on Rainier.

I loved going to Auntie Pacing’s because there was always lots of food and music, luau barbecues in the back yard, and late-night parties in their basement bar. In our younger years, our Lola and Lolo (grandparents) went between living with us and them, so that made their house even extra special. We would all roll lumpias with Auntie Pacing on the vinyl tablecloth in her kitchen, listening to the elders laugh and tsismis late into the night. One Christmas, the entire clan all piled into Auntie Pacing and Uncle Junior’s house. Lolo was passing out silver dollars in the sunken back room, the one that had a few steps going down into it, and we all raced back there, tripping over those steps. Auntie Pacing simultaneously yelled and laughed at us, telling us to slow down, while we all cracked up.

When I was in elementary school, my parents never let me spend the night at my classmates’ houses, unless they were Filipino. The only place I could stay was at my cousins’. She probably doesn’t even know this, but one of the earliest sleepovers I remember was at Auntie Pacing’s. I think she, Lola, and Tessie were baby-sitting me one night. I remember Auntie gave me a bath and then set my hair in rollers because I wanted to look like her. She told me that old Filipino superstition in her Kampampangan accent, “Hoy, you’re not supposed to go to sleep with your hair wet because you will go crazy or get sick.” This was before blow-dryers, so I was scared to go to sleep. She tucked me in, rubbed my back, and told me it was going to be ok. The next morning, I woke up and she made us champorrado, chocolate rice, to eat for breakfast: yum. I can’t remember if I did get sick, but I will always remember how much fun that was.

One summer, years later, when I was in college, I worked as a temporary office worker, and was placed in various offices around Seattle, sometimes for one day, other times for a few weeks, depending on the need. One of my longest and most favorite assignments was as a medical transcriber at Harborview’s Medical Building. I will never forget how on the first day at work, my boss was showing me around the premises, and she took me across the street to the cafeteria for lunch. She said to the cashier, “Hi Pat.”  I turned around and lo and behold, it was my Auntie Pacing! Everyone knew her on a first-name basis (granted, it was the Americanized nick-name version of her Pacita).

“What are you doing here?” Auntie said to me.

My boss said, “Oh, you two know each other?”

Auntie and I both said at the same time, “She is my niece!” “She is my aunt!”  I smiled from ear-to-ear. When my boss walked away, Auntie winked and whispered to me in Taglish, “You come here on your breaks and lunch and I will take care of you.”  And took care of me, she did!  I ate well during that month there, with Auntie sneaking me apples and pastries. I looked forward to my breaks so I could go see her across the street. After that first day, I told my mom about seeing Auntie Pacing, and she said, “Oh, you are so lucky,” in that tone like she already knew. The coconut tsismis wire had probably already told her before I even got home.

I didn’t even realize that Auntie Pacing had worked there, because when you’re a child, you just love your aunties in the context that you see them: their homes or yours. Now I wonder if my own daughter knows where her favorite aunties work.

Last year, as we gathered for my mother’s Babang Luksa and our Family Reunion, everyone said, “Isn’t it ironic that Auntie Pacing died on the same date as Auntie Emma?”

My eldest cousin said, “They were like sisters, the oldest of friends.” Indeed, these are the moments that bond the several generations of our family together.

Maraming salamat po, Auntie Pacing, for always taking such good care of me and all of our extended family. We love you and miss you very much.

June 20, 2010

Detroit

www.emilylawsin.com

June 15, 2010

Update: Public Memorial Service for John Delloro on Saturday June 19

Filed under: Los Angeles,Memorials — EL @ 8:36 am
Tags: , ,

From our friends at UCLA’s Asian American Studies Department…  I wish I could be there:

http://www.asianam.ucla.edu/delloromemorial.html

————————————————————

Update: Memorial Service for John Delloro

Please join us for a public memorial to remember and celebrate the life of John Delloro.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

10 am to 12 noon

East Los Angeles College

1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez in Monterey Park.

We encourage you to bring a photo or message about John Delloro to share as part of a poster collage that will be assembled before and after the ceremony, and presented to his family.

The memorial will be held at the auditorium at East Los Angeles College, which is located at:

1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez
Monterey Park, CA 91754-6099

For a campus map, please go here:http://www.elac.edu/collegeservices/campusmaps/docs/2008/EasternPedestrianAccessMap_08_05_08.pdf

Parking will be free in Parking Structure #3. The entrance is on Avenida Cesar Chavez. East Los Angeles College can also be accessed via public transportation:

Metro Line 68 stops east-west at the main entrance on Cesar Chavez Avenue
Metro Line 260 stops south-north on Atlantic Blvd.
Montebello Line 30 stops north-south at the side entrance of the campus.

(More information about public transportation options is available on http://www.metro.net/)

If you would like to make a donation or contribution in terms of funeral services or other needs, please make checks payable to “John Delloro Memorial Fund” and drop-off or mail to either:

Los Angeles Trade Technical College
Dolores Huerta Labor Institute
400 West Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90015
http://college.lattc.edu/laborcenter/

UCLA Asian American Studies Department
Attention: Stacey Hirose
3336 Rolfe Hall, Box 957225
Los Angeles, CA 90095-7225
http://www.asianam.ucla.edu/

This memorial is hosted by the Dolores Huerta Labor Institute, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Los Angeles Trade Technical College Labor Center, UCLA Asian American Studies Department and Center, UCLA Labor Center, Pilipino Workers Center, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, American Federation of Teachers #1521, and the Service Employees International Union.

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Facebook Event Invite: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=131360043557185

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CLICK HERE to read my previous post for a poem I wrote about John: http://tinyurl.com/PoemForDelloro

Presente!


June 8, 2010

John Delloro Funeral Arrangements

Filed under: Brothafriends,Los Angeles,Memorials — EL @ 11:53 pm
Tags: ,
John Delloro leads a rally at UCLA, 1995. Photo by Dawn Bohulano Mabalon.

Statement from our alma mater, UCLA. Rest in Peace, John. We love you, brothafriend.

http://www.aasc.ucla.edu/archives/johndelloro.asp

John Delloro: UCLA Scholar Activist and Asian Pacific American Labor Leader Passes (1971-2010)
It is with deep sadness that the faculty, staff, and students of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and Department and the UCLA Labor Center join with countless others in mourning the loss of John Delloro, an extraordinary labor and community leader, teacher, and activist. He passed away in the early morning of Saturday, June 5, 2010 from a heart attack. Delloro was a courageous, articulate, and passionate advocate for social justice in Los Angeles, the nation, and beyond. A Bruin through and through, John received his Master of Arts degree in Asian American Studies with an interest in Asian Americans and the US labor movement and his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Specialization in Asian American Studies at UCLA. He received his Associate of Arts in Social Science at College of the Canyons.  He worked as a lecturer with the UCLA Asian American Studies Department for nearly three years, where he taught “Asian American and Pacific Islander Leadership Development”; “Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Labor Organizing in Contemporary Society”; “Power of Story: Oral History, Leadership, and AAPI Communities”; “Public Narrative: Community Organizing, Power, and Identity”; and “Contemporary Asian American Communities.”  Lane Hirabayashi, Chair of the Asian American Studies Department recalled, “John was an amazing teacher who inspired many students to major and minor in Asian American Studies and become involved and active with the community.  John was dedicated to his students, and all of us in the Department remember seeing him spend countless hours in and around the office talking to them.”

As a faculty member of the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College Labor Studies Center, he taught classes on “Asian Americans and Affirmative Action,” “Asian Americans and the Garment Industry,” “Labor In America,” “Labor Leadership,” “Politics and Labor,” “Race and Gender in the Workplace,” “Strategic Planning for Labor Unions,” “Building More Effective Unions,” and trainings and seminars on labor history, workplace issues and organizing at various trade unions and community organizations. “As a nationally recognized union leader, labor educator, organizer, teacher and mentor, John Delloro touched the lives of many and will be remembered for his compassion, his generosity of spirit, and for his visionary leadership,” said Kent Wong, Director of the UCLA Labor Center.

In addition to his academic background, he is remembered as a longtime labor and community organizer, who served as manager of the southwest California area of the 90,000 member SEIU Local 1000, the Union of California State Workers and as a staff director for the acute care hospital division of SEIU Local 399, the Healthcare Employees union. He has also worked as an organizer for the Culinary Union (HERE Local 226) in Las Vegas and AFSCME International organizing Los Angeles Superior Court clerical employees.

A Filipino American, his activism within and commitment to Asian, Latino, Black communities was unparalleled, both in the classroom and in the workplace. John Delloro was one of the co-founders of the Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California (PWC), and served as the National President of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO, which is the largest and only national organization of Asian Pacific American working families and union members. He was also the Executive Director of the Dolores Huerta Labor Institute, a member of the Board of Taxicab Commissioners for the City of Los Angeles and served as an appointee on the California Assembly Speaker’s Commission on Labor Education.

“John Delloro had a heart of a champion, with a dedication to social justice, respect, and equality for workers, immigrants, and people of color. His commitment to positive social change was contagious, inspirational, and had an indelible impact on a generation of students and activists across the nation, including myself,” said Melany Dela Cruz-Viesca, Assistant Director of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center. John Delloro is survived by his wife, Dr. Susan Suh, UCLA Sociology Ph.D. Alumna and community activist, and their two young children, Mina and Malcolm. A public viewing will be held the evenings of Thursday, June 10, 2010 and Friday, June 11, 2010, from 5-9pm at the Mission Hills Catholic Mortuary, located at 11160 Stranwood Ave, Mission Hills, CA 91345. Funeral services will be private. Per the wishes of the family, there may be a public memorial at a later date.

If you would like to make a donation or contribution in terms of funeral services or other needs, please make checks payable to “John Delloro Memorial Fund” and drop-off or mail to either:

UCLA Asian American Studies Department
Attention: Stacey Hirose
3336 Rolfe Hall, Box 957225
Los Angeles, CA 90095-7225
www.asianam.ucla.edu

UCLA Asian American Studies Center
Attention: Meg Thornton
3230 Campbell Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1546
www.aasc.ucla.edu

For inquiries, please contact Meg Thornton at (310) 825-2974 or Stacey Hirose at (310) 267-5593. Please visit our websites for further information.

CLICK HERE to read my previous post for a poem I wrote about John: http://tinyurl.com/PoemForDelloro


June 6, 2010

In Memory of John Delloro + Poem

Dearest John,

I logged on to Facebook last night to ask you if you would be joining us here in Detroit this month, for the US Social Forum, since you’re the National President of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance. I was shocked to see my entire homepage covered with news about your sudden heart attack, just a few hours after your last post. I cried in disbelief and called our friends in L.A. to see if it was true (sadly, yes, they said it happened in the dark hours of the morning, Saturday, June 5). My heart goes out to your wife Susan Suh, and children, Mina and Malcolm. I wrote this poem for you to sort through my thoughts. As always, your spirit lifts us, as we search for an explanation, checking for updates and then realizing that you were always the first to tell us such news.

Did I ever thank you for those days, when you always put a smile on my face? Did we ever thank Susan for sharing you with us, as you made this world a better place?  Many will say: Rest in Power, an ode to the Black and Yellow Power Movement that you so epitomized in all that you did. I say Rest in Peace, because I know no one else who deserves it more.

When my father, a life-long union man, died this past March, we chose this as his epitaph, which I now offer as solace, for those who loved you too:

“I go where there are no slaves, hangmen, or oppressors;

where faith does not kill;

where the one who reigns is God.”

~from “Mi Ultimo Adios” by Dr. Jose P. Rizal, on the eve of his execution December 29, 1896

My heart is heavy. I will miss you so much, my friend. Prayers and strength to all of your family. Minamahal kita.


A Bullhorn for Justice and Peace:

Memories of John Delloro, 1971-2010

© by Emily P. Lawsin


In this union town, monsoon rains

Wash a flood of memories

In this valley of tears

As I remember the El Niño years

In the City of Angels

Almost 20 years ago, with you,

Our comrade and brothafriend.


I remember when we first met at UCLA;

Me, a Pinay grad student and wanna-be poet/professor,

You, a young undergrad, who was taught

Guerrilla theatre by college republicans and Alinksy students,

Thankfully befriended by baby-faced Bong and other Pinoys:

Your Tribung Ligaw

Who were smart enough to talk to you one-one-one, without a bullhorn.

They convinced you to reject

Or at least publicly question

The white-washed education

That one used to learn in the San Fernando Valley,

Riddled with all its racial fault lines,

Despite its acres of farmlands the Manongs had plowed before us.


I remember how you used to tell everyone

The above story of how you became politicized,

With a twinkle in your eye and a wide smile,

Followed by your chuckled laugh that sounded like gasps

Which should have told us, back then, how tender your heart really beats.


I remember our poetry readings before “Slam” even existed:

My trademark “Diva, di ba” poem (written for the Pinays who

Tabled with you to Save Tagalog classes),

Followed by your trademark

“I am SPAM: A Single Pilipino American Male” poem,

You, breaking out your t-shirt with a blue can of Spam on it, like Superman.

All the women (and gay men) would say, “Is he really single?”

While you always thought they were asking, “Is he really Pilipino?”


I remember our Marxist study groups,

Where you were the only one who ever really completed the readings,

And how you still managed to scarf down a plate of potluck

Even after talking so much,

Chopsticks in one hand and a pen in the other,

Taking notes in the margins for the marginalized.


I remember our meetings at KIWA          look closely: that is John, jumping

And rallies against Jessica McClintock

For not paying her Asian American garment workers,

How you would wear one of her pink prom-like dresses

With a red bandana wrapped around your head

Circling in front of the McClintock boutique on Rodeo Drive,

Leading us all in a chant: without a bullhorn.


I remember when you and Jay announced the creation of the

Pilipino Workers Center,

How Uncle Roy said Manong Philip would be so proud:

All three of you now our guardian angels.


I remember when you were writing your Master’s thesis

And spoke to my Asian American Studies class at Northridge,

Just a few miles from where you grew up,

Bonded with all the students who were also born to Pinay nurses,

Then taught them about sweatshop workers

With a pyramid in the shape of a dress.

I told you that you were a good teacher,

You should teach.


But you didn’t listen, for a while at least,

Had to get your feet wet in the Vegas desert,

Organizing the workers,

Fell in love with brilliant Susan, the only person (before Mina and Malcolm)

Who could ever get you to slow down.

The two of you married the same year I did,

All of us reinventing the red diaper brigade.


When Spam became synonymous with junk mail,

You disguised the poetry and became a blogger, then an author,

Teaching our people’s struggles to the masses

In the form of an American Prayer,

Paying homage to our ancestors,

Burning cane fires late into the night.


The last time I saw you in person,

You had organized a mini-reunion of our activist circle,

Carrying a pink box of pastries and your son sleeping on your shoulder,

Told us about teaching at our alma mater and

Directing the Dolores Huerta Labor Institute.

While I noticed your healthier potluck plate,

We admired you for surviving your first heart attack five years ago,

As you stroked Malcolm’s sleeping hair: your priorities, now clear.


With 1700 of your other friends,

I followed all of your travels across the country, my fellow traveler,

Until you finally went home to rest.


Maraming Salamat, ang kapatid ko / Thank You so much, my brother,

My kasama, for all that you did to make this world a better place.

We raise a power fist to you: our bullhorn with the tender heart,

Offering you this poem of peace, we reaffirm your chants:

Makibaka, Huwag Matakot! We will Fight the Struggle, Without Fear,

Just as you did,

With all your heart.


John Delloro: PRESENTE!

June 6, 2010

Detroit 3:07 AM ET

www.emilylawsin.com

UPDATES:

6-7-10: CLICK HERE for Statement from the UCLA Asian American Studies Center & Department, and UCLA Labor Center. Includes info on Public Viewing (Thurs & Fri June 10-11, 5-9 PM at Mission Hills Catholic Mortuary) and How to Send Memorial Donations for the Family. http://www.aasc.ucla.edu/archives/johndelloro.asp


6-8-10 CLICK HERE http://www.buddhahead.org/delloro.htm for a recording of John reciting one of his poems in the 1990s at UCLA, in honor of the visit of Philip Vera Cruz. Thank you to Ryan Yokota for preserving and posting it.

6-8-10: CLICK HERE  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvJWif4WqBc for a video of John at a recent rally at UCLA, just like we used to do almost 20 years ago, except this time he’s in a suit. 🙂 Salamat/Thank you to Derek Mateo for sharing.


Join the Facebook Group “In Memory of John Delloro” for further updates.


April 30, 2010

POEM Against Impunity: For the Victims of the Ampatuan Massacre

Filed under: Memorials,Poetry — EL @ 8:58 am
Tags: ,

These Ruins Remain My Only Gifts

© by Emily Porcincula Lawsin

In Memory of the Victims of the Ampatuan Massacre


 

For you, brown widow, I bring

Your journalist’s tattered notebooks, exploded pens, and spilt ink-wells:

The shape of kneeling railroad spikes with rusted springs.

 

Followed by lost door knockers and burnt iron fence posts,

Cross-bound by Manila hemp and splintered bamboo:

Confiscated garden tools guarded by guilt, but no shame.

 

 

All found objects one comrade collects as art

Mirrored here in the dustbowl’s abandoned fields,

Where a caravan of blood stains the tire-marked grasses

 

And the east wind blows fire into the   seas   that   part     us.

 

Here, we cannot bury our grief in an unmarked coffin!

Shaken by such shallow graves sinking beside us,

Our children scream as the ancestors wake.

 

While we find pebbles, pennies, and partial pesos as poor pacifiers

To string this raging rosary, chanting for justice across sacred lands:

My God, my god, why have you forsaken me?

 

 

April 29, 2010

Ann Arbor, Michigan

For the

Anthology of Rage: 100 Poems. 100 Filipino Poets.

Edited by Joel Salud (on Facebook)


www.emilylawsin.com

January 22, 2010

In Memory of Nancy Abinojar (1957-2010)

Two funerals in one week

Sorry I haven’t kept up this blog. This has been a busy year and an even more difficult week. Last week, one of the pioneers in Michigan’s Filipino American community, Bonifacio Manzano, passed away at the age of 85 (blog post to follow soon). The same day that I had found out that news, my own 85-year-old father in Seattle was rushed by ambulance again to the emergency room for shortness of breath, and is still in the hospital. A few days later, my husband came down with Shingles, but is recovering. The next day, I found out that another Filipino American and former coworker, Nancy Abinojar, passed away at the young age of 52.  Both Mr. Manzano and Ms. Abinojar were remarkable participants in our Filipino American Oral History Project of Michigan.

* * *

Honoring Pinays: Remembering Nancy E. Abinojar

(July 17, 1957 – January 18, 2010)

I met Nancy Abinojar when I first started teaching at the University of Michigan (UM) in the year 2000.  She was, literally, the first fellow second-generation Pinay (Filipina American) that I had met in Ann Arbor, as she worked in Women’s Studies, where I am jointly appointed. It felt comforting to see a sistah’s face the minute I walked in to the office (a rare treat at Michigan). I remember one day, watching Nancy sort out a pile of student applications to the program that had accumulated so high, she had to spread them out on the floor. I would go in her office just to hear her unique laugh. Weeks later, when I told her that I research and write about Filipino Americans, she told me about her father, Alberto Rivera Abinojar, who was born in 1908, graduated from UM, and still lived just down the street in Ann Arbor. “You are all pioneers!” I told her. When I asked if I could interview her and her father, Nancy was guarded at first, as she was understandably protective of her elderly father.

The next year, I performed on stage at UM’s McIntosh Theater for “Tapestry: A Special Presentation of Dance, Music, and Poetry by Selected Filipino and Filipino American Artists”, sponsored by the UM Philippine Study Group. After the show, a Filipino man, not looking a day over the age of 65, walked up to me in the lobby. He introduced himself as an UM alum, asking me to guess how old he was. After a round of him saying, “No, older than that, older,” he pulled out his driver’s license and said, “I just turned 94!”  When I read his name, I said, “Oh my god, you must be Nancy’s father!”  I went into the office the next week to tell Nancy and she laughed.  After that, they both agreed to be interviewed for our Filipino American Oral History Project of Michigan, offering us photographs and stories of their early lives in Ann Arbor.  We are eternally grateful to Nancy for arranging this, as just a few months after we interviewed her father, he passed away at the age of 96.

Nancy was born and raised in Ann Arbor, graduated from UM with a degree in Sociology, and lived in the area her entire life. In a 2003 interview with former UM student Erica Solway, Nancy recalled growing up as one of the only Filipino American families living in the college town in the 1950s and 60s, stating, “Every weekend we would go to Detroit because there is a larger community there and that was where all [my parents’] friends were. . .  Both my parents knew a lot of people in that area.  So we would always go to Detroit on the weekend and they would always socialize.”

In 2003, Nancy received an award for 10 years of service at the UM. A few months later, after a change in leadership in Women’s Studies, Nancy left the office.  I was surprised and sad to see her leave, but she said it was for the best. She called me a few months later when her father passed away; she was sorting through all of his photographs for the memorial and wanted to give us more for our next book. As I’m sure her grown children can tell you, she was so generous, even in her time of grief.

Two years later, Nancy went on to become the Office Manager at the new National Center for Institutional Diversity (NCID)
 at the University of Michigan.  I was so happy to hear that she had found a new home there, with partners in the struggle.

Dr. Phillip Bowman, Founding Director and Professor of NCID, sent the following email about Nancy’s passing the other day:

>>

>Dear NCID Community,

>With great sadness, we are writing to let you know that Nancy  Abinojar passed away yesterday morning, following a courageous battle with cancer.  As the NCID Office Manager since 2006, she provided first-rate administrative support for the NCID that was vital to its successful launch.  Even during the last weeks of her life, she remained deeply invested and involved in her work with us.

>As you can surely attest, she was a very dear colleague and friend, and her passing is a profound loss for all of us.  We look forward to honoring her memory with you in the coming weeks and months.

>For now, here is information about the visitation and memorial service, both of which are open to everyone:

>Friday, January 22nd

>11:00-1:00      Visitation with Family

>1:00                Memorial Service

>Muehlig Funeral Chapel

>403 S. Fourth Avenue

>Ann Arbor, MI  48104

>Phone Number: (734) 663-3375

>

>Regretfully,

>Phil Bowman and NCIDStaff

>>

I am sure Nancy’s family and closer friends who knew her better will have more to share later today at the service. My deepest condolences to the Abinojar family. Thank you for sharing her with us.

Mahal at maraming salamat / love and many thanks, Nancy, for all that you did to make this world a better place.

© Emily P. Lawsin

Lecturer III

Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies, American Culture, and Women’s Studies, University of Michigan www.emilylawsin.com

* * *

Here is Nancy’s profile from the NCID website

http://www.ncid.umich.edu/about/people.shtml

> Nancy E. Abinojar

Secretary

Nancy Abinojar provides secretarial administrative support to the Director and Associate Director of NCID. A lifelong resident of Ann Arbor, she received an A.B. in Sociology from the University of Michigan and has worked at U-M for over ten years, with prior appointments in the departments of Chemistry and Math, as well as the Women’s Studies Program. Nancy was also appointed to a 14-member President’s Task Force on Violence Against Women on Campus during the tenure of U-M President James J. Duderstadt, as part of his Michigan Agenda for Women. Her interests in social justice include domestic violence and child welfare. She has previously served as a volunteer for SafeHouse, a shelter for domestic violence survivors and their families in Washtenaw County. Presently she volunteers as a court-appointed advocate for abused children.

>

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