poetry & tsismis: emily's blog

April 12, 2013

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

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April 11, 2013

POEM: Mud [NaPoWriMo Day 11]

Filed under: Pinays,Poetry — EL @ 11:46 am
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April 10, 2013

POEM: Anting-Anting [NaPoWriMo Day 10]

April 8, 2013

POEMS + Excerpts from Miscarriage V: Lost in Translation, 2003. [NaPoWriMo Day 8]

2003

July 27, 2012

Memories of Auntie Isabel Navarro (November 19, 1928 – July 18, 2012)

3 Sisters: Isabel, Emma, & Nora, 1991.

 

Memories of Auntie Isabel Navarro (November 19, 1928 – July 18, 2012)

  © by Emily P. Lawsin

 

My mother’s last remaining sister, Isabel Navarro, passed away peacefully in Seattle last week at the age of 83.  After a short hospitalization, she died from a sudden blood infection. Auntie Isabel, or “Auntie Chebeng”, as my cousins called her, was the feistiest Pinay I have ever known. Born on November, 19, 1928, in Tondo, a tough town in Manila, Philippines, she came of age at the onset of World War II. She was the pioneer Pinay, the first woman of our family to immigrate to Seattle in November of 1948. She spent the next 30 years bringing her parents, two sisters, two brothers, and their children to Seattle. For that, and so much more, we are eternally grateful.

 

In 1991, when I was doing research on Filipina American women, Auntie Isabel was kind enough to drive to my parents’ house in the south end of Seattle so I could interview her. I emphasize the driving part because she was also the first Pinay I knew who actually did drive, as my mother, their other sister, and my grandmother did not. Any student who has taken my Oral History Interviewing Methods class has heard of my Auntie Isabel. She is one of the examples I use when I recommend interviewing women in a quiet, private room, without men around. I often retell how Auntie Isabel told me her story in our living room, as my father, who NEVER lifted a finger when it came to chores, was all of a sudden banging dishes around in the adjoining kitchen, yelling answers like, “Tell her, tell her! You know, your Auntie was the one who taught the war brides how to make lumpia wrappers from scratch so they could sell it as a fundraiser! Tell her!” I adored Auntie Isabel because she was the only woman I knew who could stand up to my sometimes-belligerent (and hard-of-hearing) father. “Ah, yeah, yeah, yeah, shut up already!” she yelled back at him. Imagine trying to transcribe all of that.

 

In the interview, Auntie Isabel told me about growing up in Tondo during World War II. She said, “I was like the ‘achay’ of the family. You know what ‘achay’ is? Like maid. . . My eldest sister was working at the cigar factory, my other sister got married and left home at 16, my two brothers were still young, so I had to take care of them and then have lunch and dinner ready when my parents came home.”

 

When I asked Auntie Isabel how she met Juan Ordonia, an Ilocano manong from Seattle, who was a Master Sergeant in the U.S. Army, she said,

 

“Well, actually when I was 16 years old, in 1945. . . my responsibility was going to the market and buying the food. . . no means of refrigeration, so. . . Nora, my older sister, went with me at that time we went to the market.  The market is at least about three. . .or two miles from our place. . . . To go to the market, we had to pass [my old] school. . . Rizal Elementary School.  And then we cross the bridge, [to] the Pritil Market. . . coming back, I met my future husband. . . He was attached to the P-CAU they call it, capital P, capital C, capital A, capital U. I don’t know what it stands for, but. . . he was stationed out there.  They took Rizal Elementary School to be their headquarters.  And he was on guard at the time.  So we passed him by. . . [almost everyday]. . .”

 

Indeed, many Filipino American soldiers served in the PCAU, Philippine Civil Affairs Units, which were stationed in 30 provinces for “mop-up operations” during World War II.

 

When I asked Auntie Isabel about their wedding, she continued,

 

“[He] proposed to my mom and my dad that he wants to marry me, then all this process. . . it’s a big meeting, you know. . . They agreed, so they set up the wedding.  At the time, Manila was just recovering from the war and there’s no clothes to be had. And so my wedding dress was made out of a parachute. It’s a white parachute.  I had a short dress and I was married at Santa Monica Church, June 10th, 1945.”

 

Meanwhile, one population study showed that before the war, males comprised an overwhelming 95 percent of all Filipinos in the State of Washington. By 1935, exclusion laws and immigration quotas had limited Filipino migration to the U.S. to only 50 per year. However, this all changed with the passage of the War Brides Act of 1945, which temporarily waived quota restrictions for alien spouses and dependents of servicemen. Auntie Isabel was one of these war brides that helped the Filipino population of Seattle triple in size in the post-war period.

 

  After giving birth to her first child, Josie, and completing rounds of exams and applications through the American Red Cross, Auntie Isabel landed in Seattle aboard a military transport ship in November, 1948. They lived among other Filipinos and veterans in the Central District of Seattle. She and Uncle Johnny eventually bought a house on Capitol Hill, where the Gene Lynn School of Nursing at Seattle University currently stands. In 1949, Auntie Isabel became a founding member of the Philippine War Brides Association of Seattle, an organization that is still in existence. She claimed that the organization was conceived of and founded in her house, during a party, of course.

 

Auntie Isabel gave birth to three more children in Seattle: Elizabeth, John, and Carmen. When I asked Auntie how she managed to survive with all these kids and none of her family around, she said that it was hard to do at first. She said, “I had to perfect my English. So you know what I did? I used to turn the radio on and listen to country music on the radio. I would imitate and repeat everything they said. That’s right, that’s how I did it.” I laughed, finally realizing why she had such a twang to her voice and why she always spoke English instead of her native Tagalog to us.

 

Still, Auntie was lonesome and used to write her parents in the Philippines of how homesick she was. After ten years, she convinced her elder sister, Nora Español, to move to Seattle with her army husband and children. A few years later, my mother Emma, decided to visit. Auntie Isabel introduced her to Uncle Johnny’s cousin, Leandro Floresca; they fell in love and my mother stayed. In the 1960s and 1970s, after a change in immigration laws, Auntie Isabel successfully petitioned her parents, her brothers Junior and Felipe, and their wives and children, to all move to Seattle.

 

Auntie Isabel and Uncle Johnny, who was 20 years her senior, eventually divorced and she later remarried; this was another way that Auntie was ahead of her time, as divorce was largely frowned upon in the Filipino community. In her interview, she said that she and Uncle Johnny were better friends after they split and that she was there when he died. She joked, “That son-of-a-gun got me back by dying on my birthday. I will never forget it.”

 

Auntie Isabel said she had originally intended to go to school to become a nurse, even at one point working as a nurse’s aid. She worked many different jobs, moved to West Seattle, and eventually retired from a successful career at the Seattle branch of HUD (Housing Urban Development), where she got my sister a job. In the early days of her retirement, Auntie loved to travel to California, Reno, and Vegas. All of us cousins remember how Auntie Isabel loved to dance and show off her “sexy legs”. She would drink whiskey on the rocks with the fellas and laugh loud, slapping her leg like a cowgirl. The fellas would all show their legs too. Then she would laugh and lecture them in her Taglish: half Tagalog, half English, with a twang.

 

When she first got a mobile phone (with free long distance), Auntie Isabel would call me in Detroit to check on me. We would tsismis about recipes, celebrities, and the latest fashions. She would tell me the latest local news, as she read the Seattle Times religiously. In her later years, she slowed down and became more of a hermit, but she still loved spending time with her eight grand children, nine great-grandchildren, and her most recent great-great grandchild, taking our family now into its 5th generation.

 

When my mother was in a coma four years ago, my cousins kept vigil with us at the hospital for three weeks. On the night before my mother passed, the staff let us stay in a room with recliners set up for our family across from my mom’s room. That night, Auntie Isabel stayed up with us, talking story about my mom late into the night. She said she hated seeing her sister go like this. Then she shook her finger at us and said, “Hey, when it’s my time, I don’t want none of this gud damn sheeit. And if you don’t listen, I will come back and pull on your toe, you hear? I want you all to stick together and have a party.” Then she leaned back and started snoring. We were so cramped in that little room, Auntie Isabel’s big toe was in my cousin Carmen Espanol’s face. Carmen took a photo – two actually, one with flash – and we all slapped our legs, laughing. Auntie did too.

 

Maraming salamat po, thank you so much, Auntie Chebeng, for a lifetime of love and laughter. Thank you for all you did to bring and keep our family together. Minamahal kita. We love you and will miss you very much.

 

———–

 Obituary, Published in The Seattle Times on July 25, 2012:

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/seattletimes/obituary.aspx?n=isabel-porcincula-navarro-chebeng&pid=158742446

 

 

 Isabel P. Navarro

 November 19, 1928 – July 18, 2012

 

Isabel passed away peacefully at the age of 83. She was born on 11/19/1928 in Tondo, Manila, Philippines and is survived by her four children, Josie Whitehead (Stephen Banks), Elizabeth (Paul) Trias, John (Laurie) Ordonia and Carmen Ordonia-Lindal (Martin Lindal). She is also survived by a brother, Sergio Porcincula Jr. along with 8 grandchildren, 9 great grandchildren and one great-great grandchild as well as numerous nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her sisters Nora Espanol, Emma Lawsin and her brother Felipe Porcincula.

 

Funeral Information

At her request, there will be no viewing. Funeral services will be held at Evergreen Washelli, 11111 Aurora Ave. North, Seattle, WA. A Rosary will be held on Friday, July 27, 2012 at 7:00 PM with a Mass of the Christian burial to be held in the Chapel on Saturday, 7/28/2012 at 12:30 PM followed by entombment at the Washelli Mausoleum.

 

* * * 

July 27, 2012

www.emilylawsin.com

 

December 15, 2011

Tomasa Parinasan Balberona (1923-2011), Filipina Pioneer of Detroit

Remembering Tomasa Parinasan Balberona, Filipina Pioneer of Detroit

(December 29, 1923 – December 8, 2011)

© by Emily P. Lawsin with Joseph A. Galura


    It is with deep sadness that we share the news that Tomasa Parinasan Balberona, one of the three women narrators of our book Filipino Women in Detroit: 1945-1955, died last Thursday, December 8, at the age of 87. As one of the first Filipinas to immigrate to Detroit in 1947 under the Fiancées Act, which temporarily waived immigration quota restrictions for alien fiancées or fiancés of armed forces personnel, she was a pioneer in the local Filipino American community.

Tomasa, or “Aunt Masy” (pronounced “MAH-see”), as she was affectionately known, was born on December 29, 1923, in a rural area of Cebu City, Philippines. The eldest daughter of seven, her father was a farmer and carpenter, who, with her mother, protected their family when World War II erupted in their hometown. After the war ended, Aunt Masy took shorthand and typing classes, and one day accompanied her sister to the nearby camp to do laundry for American servicemen stationed near their province. There, she met Homer Sheppard, who had just arrived in the Philippines after serving in New Guinea. Homer courted Masy, slipping letters to her in his shirt pockets via her sister. After a year, Masy moved to the barrio of Esperanza, on Camotes Island, to finish school and worked as a first grade teacher. Meanwhile, Homer continued mailing letters to her two or three times a week, even after he was discharged and had returned to his previous job at Ford Motor Company in Dearborn. He asked her to marry him and move to Michigan and after much contemplation, she agreed.

In a 2001 interview with University of Michigan undergraduate Elizabeth Varas, Aunt Masy recounted her immigration story by saying, 

My parents were in Cebu. I did not tell them [that I was leaving]. . . because I know they are not going to let me go.  And I cried, because it is not the right way to do it.  But (laughs) I wanted to go to the United States, to be with my husband-to-be.  So, I left.  I was so brave, traveling alone.  I had all my papers ready because the Philippine Red Cross help me and the American Red Cross, also. . .  I took the Pan American World Airways.  It’s a big plane but it is propeller type. . . It takes a long time.  We stopped on almost every island from Guam to Wake Island to Midway to Honolulu to San Francisco. . .  It’s a long trip, it’s a long trip, honey.  I slept in San Francisco at the YWCA, free.  I did not have any money.  Well, I had money but I didn’t want to spend it.  Then I arrived in Willow Run Airport.  It is not Romulus, it is not big Metro Airport, it is Willow Run, close to Ann Arbor.  So I was there and I called my husband-to-be to pick me up. He didn’t know whether I was Downtown. . . or at the airport, so he went Downtown. That is quite a ways from Dearborn and then he went to Willow Run. . .  I arrived at his brother’s house in Royal Oak. . . early morning, about five o’clock. I stayed with his sister, his brother and family for two weeks, while our papers were being processed so we could get married. And, July 25, 1947, we got married at Most Holy Trinity Church, Sixth and Porter, Downtown [Detroit].

A patriotic person, Aunt Masy never wanted to admit that racism existed in America, even as she remembered tales of being questioned of her ethnic identity when she first arrived. “They thought I was from Hawai’i because of my brown skin,” she said. Instead, Aunt Masy found happiness in making new friends and creating community. When new Filipina/o immigrants would arrive in the area, she and her husband would pick them up, drive them around, and host them in their home in Detroit. They lovingly connected local Filipina/os together in the post-World War II period, when there were few families in the area.

In 1952, Tomasa and five of her friends founded the Filipino Women’s Club of Detroit, a mutual aid, social-civic organization that provided scholarships to students and promoted Filipino and Asian American culture. Tomasa was elected President twice of the Filipino Women’s Club, proudly co-sponsoring events like Rizal Day Banquets in the 1950s, Christmas parties with folk dancing at the International Institute in the 1960s, and the annual Far Eastern Festival on Detroit’s riverfront in the 1970s.

In our book, Filipino Women in Detroit: 1945-1955, Joseph Galura remembers fond memories of his childhood in a photo spread titled “I Saw Masy Kissing Santa Claus,” as Masy’s husband always dressed up as Santa for the Club’s annual Christmas party. Joseph states, “As a young child, I remember asking Aunt Masy why she and Uncle Homer didn’t have any children.”

“You are all my children,” she replied, “the children of the Filipino American community.”

Indeed, Aunt Masy was the “ninang”, godmother, to two-dozen Filipino American children. Moreover, as a housewife, she would raise money by sewing wedding gowns and tailoring ternos – intricate Philippine ball gowns with butterfly sleeves – for Detroit area relatives and friends, then send the money back to the Philippines so her niece could go to school.

After Homer Sheppard died in May of 1974, Masy remarried a widower, Victor Goloyugo, a year later in 1975. Victor was a Filipino American commercial artist in Detroit, whose painting of Jose Rizal now graces the main hall of the Philippine American Community Center of Michigan. Masy and Vic were married 18 years until his death in 1993.

Tired of being lonesome, Masy traveled the world. In 1994, on a visit to Singapore and the Philippines, her god-niece introduced her to Lolito Balberona, who had been working for the Central Bank in the Philippines. Masy remembered, “When I meet him, I said, ‘Oh my goodness, you are such a young man, what are you trying to do, tease me?'”

“Age doesn’t matter,” Lito replied, smitten. Lito courted her, called, and wrote letters to Masy, even from Australia. On another one of Masy’s visits to the Philippines, she married Lito in a small ceremony in November, 1998, and she brought him to Detroit. (They just celebrated their 13th Wedding Anniversary this past Thanksgiving.)

Aunt Masy was disgnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2006, yet she insisted to Lito that they continue to travel, returning often to the Philippines to see her relatives. Lito fondly states, “She was petite, but strong, proud, and independent, even in her last few months. I loved her so much.”

When we launched our book in 2002, Aunt Masy and  Lito  traveled with us and the other narrators of the book, her longtime friends Rosalina Regala and Isabel Galura, to the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) Conference in Los Angeles, with over 500 people in attendance. As audience members posed with them in pictures and asked for their autographs, Aunt Masy said, “Thank you for this. I feel like a rock star.”

We thank you, Aunt Masy, for sharing your journeys and paving the way for future generations of Filipino Americans in Michigan.

In addition to her husband (Lolito Balberona of Detroit), Tomasa is survived by her sister, Vicenta Laurito, of the Philippines, her nieces Dolores Ramia of Maryland, and Milagros Lictawa of St. Clair Shores, grandnieces Charissa Ramia of Maryland, Naimi McAndrew of Louisiana, and Rey (Tess) Parinasan of St. Clair Shores, and several great-grandnephews/nieces and relatives all over the world.

A Funeral Mass will be held for Tomasa Balberona at 10:00 AM this Saturday, December 17, 2011, at St. Clement Catholic Church, 5275 Kenilworth, Dearborn, Michigan.

* * *

Emily P. Lawsin and Joseph A. Galura teach at the University of Michigan and are the co-authors of Filipino Women in Detroit:  1945-1955, Oral Histories from the Filipino American Oral History Project of Michigan. Emily is a Trustee of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) and Joseph is the President of the FANHS Michigan Chapter.   

OralHistoryProject (at) umich (dot) edu 

www.emilylawsin.com

May 26, 2011

‘Queen of Jazzipino’ Charmaine Clamor Performs in Michigan thru Saturday

Last night, I took our kindergartener to see Charmaine Clamor perform at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café in Grosse Pointe Farms and of course, we both loved it. The 5 ½ year old loves to sing and is proud of being a “Pinay” = Filipina American female, so she was really excited to meet the “Queen of Jazzipino”. She swayed and sang along through Charmaine’s 60-minute set, which included “Doodlin’ in Taglish” (half Tagalog, half English), a traditional harana (Filipino serenade), a Duke Ellington song, a cover of U2’s With or Without You”, and so appropriate for Motown: “Feelin’ Stevie” (a tribute to Stevie Wonder). My favorite song of the night was when her musical director Abe Lagrimas (yes, Pinoy from Hawai’i) broke out the ukulele with Charmaine singing the classic Tagalog love ballad “Minamahal Kita”. Even if you are not fluent in Filipino, you should learn that title, which means: “I love you very much”. I surprised my American-born-self by being able to translate most of the Filipino verses for our daughter and our non-Filipino sistahfriend Deborah, who joined us for “Girls Night Out”.

The Dirty Dog Jazz Café is an intimate, classy restaurant, with white linens and candle lanterns adorning each table. (Being from Seattle and the daughter of an Alaskera [salmon cannery worker], I am pretty picky about my salmon: theirs didn’t need the seafood velouté sauce, but it was pan-grilled perfect, and their bread pudding with cherry port reduction was divine.) It was fun for our daughter to get gussied up and practice her table manners, since she has taken a liking to reading all of the Fancy Nancy books (about a young girl who loves all that is French and fancy). As we do for all entertainment outings, I prepped her for the show by letting her watch some of Charmaine’s videos that are on her website and YouTube. Her favorite videos are “My Funny Brown Pinay (a spoof on “My Funny Valentine” with a good message to be proud of our brown skin and flat noses. “Hey, I have a flat nose too!” she said) and Charmaine’s latest video “Flow” (about the need for potable water and how it affects women). In “Flow”, our daughter loves seeing other children singing along in the studio clips. During the live show last night, she said, “I don’t think all of those kids will be performing with her like on the computer.” And then later, “Are YOU going to perform a poem, Mom? I could sing my songs from my recital.”  I shook my head and wondered if other performance poets who are also parents get similar questions from their precocious kids. 🙂  Now, I’m not recommending that every parent take their little kid to a jazz club, but hey, it’s not every day that a little Asian American girl is able to see talented role models who look like her, especially in Detroit/Grosse Pointe, where Asians make up far less than 2% of the population.

After the show, we bought CDs and a cute “Funny Brown Pinay” tote bag. The 5 ½ year old greeted Charmaine with a hug and the traditional “mano po” blessing of the hand; she was so happy to meet her and get her autograph. During our conversation, we realized we have many mutual friends in Los Angeles (Pinay extraordinaire Prosy de la Cruz is the one who connected us prior to the show). I was really surprised to discover that Charmaine attended California State University Northridge the same years that I taught there – and she said she minored in Asian American Studies (my home department)! Do any of you CSUN FASA alumni remember her from back then? Of course, she said she was in PCN (Pilipino Cultural Night), but I forgot to ask her if she sang in it, because how could I have forgotten her voice if she did?

Braving the rainstorms on a school night, we went to the early show so I could get the kindergartener back home in time for bed, even though I wanted to stay for the next set. I highly recommend everyone go see Charmaine Clamor while she is in town; it is a rare treat to have a Filipina artist – all the way from Los Angeles —  perform in Michigan!

Charmaine Clamor and her trio (Andy Langham [piano], Dominic Thiroux [bass], and Abe Lagrimas, Jr. [drums and ukulele]) will be performing two shows a night — 6PM and 8:30PM — at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café, 97 Kercheval in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, tonight through Saturday, May 28, 2011. Thursday shows are only $15, Friday and Saturday shows are $30. www.dirtydogjazz.com Call for availability: (313) 882-5299.  www.charmaineclamor.com  

 

Charmaine also appeared on Detroit’s Fox2 Morning Show on Wednesday. You can watch the video here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqAbktvaBhc 

 

 www.emilylawsin.com 

 

Emily P. Lawsin is a poet, lecturer, and co-author of Filipino Women in Detroit: 1945-1955.

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!

 

June 15, 2010

NEW Publication! My Poem in Walang Hiya Anthology

http://www.walanghiyaanthology.com/

Walang Hiya Anthology: Literature Taking Risks Toward Liberatory Practice Just released in time for Philippine Independence Day, is a brand new anthology, featuring one of my poems! I am honored to be one of the 32 Filipino and Filipino American authors published in Walang Hiya… Literature Taking Risks for Liberatory Practice, edited by Lolan Buhain Sevilla and Roseli Ilano, and published by Carayan Press. Available for direct order at www.walanghiyaanthology.com,  www.carayanpress.org, and independent booksellers near you beginning June 12, 2010.

This is a bittersweet accomplishment for me, since it is the first poem that I’ve had published about my father, entitled “Holes”. I submitted it over a year ago, but as you know, publications take a while to see print. Given the serious content of the poem, I am a bit glad that it is being released after my father’s death. I have written others about him since then and will try to post them soon.

Copies of Walang Hiya anthology should be available for sale at the FANHS Conference in Seattle: http://fanhsis25.blogspot.com and maybe I’ll even read the poem there… Stay tuned to my website: emilylawsin.com for other upcoming reading events!

May 9, 2010

Poem for Mom: My Pinay Nanay!

 

 

In honor of Mother’s Day, I decided to reprint my mother’s favorite poem entitled “My Pinay Nanay”, that I wrote in 1998 for her and all Filipina American mothers. It was published (with three of my other pieces) in the anthology InvAsian: Growing Up Asian & Female in the United States, by Asian Women United of California (San Francisco: Study Center Press, 2003). You can watch me perform and explain excerpts of the poem on Jay Sanchez’s Fil-Am Television in Virginia Beach on WHRO by clicking HERE, or on YouTube, by clicking HERE.  You can also listen to a live recording of the full poem and some of my other popular spoken word poems on Boston Progress Arts Collective’s radio blog HERE: http://www.bprlive.org/2008/09/23/recap-emily-lawsin-graces-east-meets-words/.

 

I wrote the first draft of the “My Pinay Nanay” poem in the car, on the way to another phenomenal spoken word poetry event that was curated by the incredible Irene Suico Soriano in downtown Los Angeles. I needed a new, fun poem to read because Irene was helping to christen the Aratani Courtyard: a new, outdoor public performance space (which is still being used to this day for the monthly Tuesday Night Café, produced by Traci Kato-Kiriyama and TNKat Productions). Irene’s mother had cooked all day for the event. It was November, 1998, and I wrote on the bottom of the “My Pinay Nanay” poem:

Chillin’ under the Mikasa empire’s patio heat-lamp, amidst candle-lit trays of Irene’s mom’s pancit and empanadas, ten bottles of wine, and seventeen spoken word instigators firing up pre-war spirits in L.A.’s old “Lil’ Manila”, once “Bronzeville”, now “Little Tokyo, the new Union Center for the Arts: tonight, our “Safehouse”.

“Safehouse” alludes to the title of Irene’s chapbook, but also to the fact that the building that now houses the Union Center for the Arts (including East West Players Theatre and Visual Communications) was once a church:  a safehouse for immigrants, refugees, internees, and other outcasts of all races and generations. It was an historic night outdoors, at an historic place: who knew that it would lead to one of my most-requested poems?

The version below is what I read two years ago at my mother’s Rosary/Community Memorial, which had another standing-room-only crowd, in the newly refurbished Filipino Community Center of Seattle. Sadly, since then (and since my last blog entry), my father has passed away too, so watch for more on him in the near future.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy: I miss you and Papa very much. Happy Mother’s day, everyone.


MY PINAY NANAY

© by Emily P. Lawsin

Revised for Emma Floresca Lawsin’s Community Memorial at the Filipino Community Center of Seattle, June 27, 2008


My mother had many names:

“Mama”, “Mommy”, “Lola”, “Grandma”,

“Tia”, “Chang”, “Manang”, “Emma”, “Emang”,

But I just called her:  My “PINAY NANAY.”

MY PINAY NANAY,

She could speak Ifugao, Ilongo, Ilocano, Cebuano, Waray-Waray, Kampampangan,

Spanish, Tagalog, AND English,

Thanks to the THREE Pinoy men she married,

And the thousands of U.S. troops stationed in her island province.

MY PINAY NANAY,

She could whip up a dozen lumpias — vegetable and shanghai,

Roll it, paste it, fry it, see you joke with it like a cigar or boto/penis,

And whirl a boomerang bakya/slipper at you all-in-one-breath.

MY PINAY NANAY,

She could cook a feast for seven in as many minutes,

Spread the table with fresh mongo beans, seafood, pinakbet,

Chicken/pork/beef adobo plus tokwa/tofu chicharron sizzling on the side,

Lasagna trays of pancit noodles:  Bihon, Canton, Lug-lug, AND Malabon,

Vats of tomato-pasty Menudo, Machado, peanut Karé-karé, and

Dinaguan (“chocolate meat” — ha-ha!)

AND for dessert: platters of steamed Puto, Suman, Kutsinta cakes,

Maja Blanca/corn pudding, baked Bibingka, Biko, Deep-fried Cascaron/donut holes,

And bowls of steaming, sweet coconut-y Ginataan, with ping-pong-ball-sized-bilo-bilo dumplings,

Just like you like them,

And STILL asked you,

“ARE YOU HUNGRY?

YOU BETTER EAT!”

MY PINAY NANAY,

She could, with one hand, twirl a hundred-pound lechon

Over a fiery roast pig spit,

While smoking a Marlboro – BACKWARDS.

Guess a Mah-jong tile’s face with one finger — always her middle —

Sliding underneath. (“Ay, Mah-jong!”)

Filled the house with smells of fried garlic rice, longanisa sausage,

Sliced red tomatoes, and eggs,

So the Pusoy poker players would come back

With much “tong” to help pay for your 18th birthday debut.

MY PINAY NANAY,

She could sew First Communion dresses and Eddie Bauer jackets

Without a McCall’s pattern;

Net, pierce, gut, chop, and can Alaskan King salmon with a blind eye,

Write round-trip tickets to the Philippines,

And cuss-out the neighbor Jones kids

For throwing firecrackers down her white stone chimney,

All with her Tondo accent and ninth grade education.

MY PINAY NANAY,

She stood with a 100-member army (of all of you) in the Mayor’s office,

Demanding in nine different languages

That he give Seattle its historic Jose Rizal Bridge and Park,

Its Pista sa Ngayon, and save the Filipino Community Center

From the light rail wrecking ball and everything else in between.

Then acted like she didn’t speak a lick of English on a Metro Bus

So a greedy seat hog would scoot on over.

MY PINAY NANAY,

She had more power – more PINAY POWER –

Than all of our childhood role models put together.

My Pinay Nanay,

She was down,

She was brown,

She was the Pinay

SUPER-FLY.


An earlier version of this poem was written in Los Angeles, in 1998
and published in
InvAsian: Growing Up Asian & Female in the U.S, 2003.
Revised, 2008.

www.emilylawsin.com

divadiba.wordpress.com

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