poetry & tsismis: emily's blog

October 24, 2013

THANK YOU 18 Million Rising!

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

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

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

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

“Emily Lawsin, professor, poet, and force of nature, is today‚Äôs 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‚Äôre highlighting Fil-Ams who are carrying on a proud legacy of activism & organizing. Who‚Äôs your hero?”

*

*

*

February 29, 2012

HAIKU for Strong Sistahfriends

Here’s yesterday’s seventeen syllables/haiku:

* 

For the Strong Sistahs  

© by Emily P. Lawsin

* 

love and shout-outs to

all the sistahfriends who build

this bridge called my back.

 

February 28, 2012

Detroit

www.emilylawsin.com

* * *

July 29, 2011

POEM: In Memory of David Blair (1967-2011)

Blair, 2005

Blair. 2005 David Lewinski Photo.

Dear Blair

© by Emily P. Lawsin

In Memory of David Blair (September 19, 1967 Р July 23, 2011)

Like all the poets you’ve linked as kin, I want to write that epic poem for you,

With your favorite Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Prince, and Tracy Chapman songs

Crooning between the lines,

Where strangers pour out beneath the lamplights of Crowded Houses like

Bittersweet, Xhedos, Urban Break, and Circa Saloon,

Clapping and clamoring to buy you a beer

If you belt out a song or poem or both, again, just one more time.

As your biggest fans, we want the never-ending encore, my friend.

I want to show the world

The brilliant light that shines from your pensive eyelids

As you strum your beloved guitar.

How you would hug it with your arms and knees

In the front seat of our car,

Skipping dinner if it meant leaving it out in the open:

Never wanting your livelihood stolen.

I want all performers to learn your level of humility and grace,

Replay for them our long discussions about how

All talented artists need patrons,

How we should all put our money behind healthcare for indie artists

How maybe that would give you a crown for your missing tooth,

And an EKG to detect any suspected heart irregularities

From your days at the Cry-slur plant or the racial tauntings of your childhood in Jersey.

Given this, I want to film you walking down Woodward,

Where all the shopkeepers, the bus drivers, and

Even the bag ladies pushing stolen shopping carts know you by name.

I want to eat dinner with you at Union Street again,

Watch the manager admonish the host for not seating you sooner again,

Take a sip of the draft he just poured you, on the house, again.

Ask him why he’s not piping your music or poetry overhead

And whip out seven or eight of your albums to stop his stuttering.

I want to watch your fans come up to shake your hand again,

Talk to you like they’ve known you forever,

Have you nod at me with one twitch of your lip, which was code for:

“Tell them your name so they will tell you theirs; I’ve forgotten. Please help!”

I know this because for years, I was one of those same fans.

At our age, our minds start to slip, but at least we know our routines.

We want the never-ending encore, my friend.

I want to fly to Berlin, Copenhagen, South Africa, and Siberia with you,

Take you to Hawai’i, Japan, Jamaica, and the Philippines too,

Not just for the adventure and stardom,

But to be able to hold your calloused hands

On the transcontinental flights that only your closest friends know scares you,

You, a denizen of Greyhound and Amtrak.

I want to always remember how one time,

I bought you a train ticket to speak to a class in Ann Arbor

And you showed me the brand-spanking new kicks you bought by the station

During a train delay.

I laughed when you told me you left your old funky shoes with worn holes in them

On the train, under the seat, in a box for someone else to discover.

“Do you think I should’ve taken them home?” You asked.

That sounds like a poem-in-the-making, I laughed:

“Even if the air hangs like your dirty dogs hummin’ on the train, I still miss you.”

We want the never-ending encore, my friend.

I want to paint a chocolate picture of you

Taking photographs in the Cass Corridor

With the second camera that you’ve lost this year,

Highlight how bumper stickers Emerging from stop signs could move you,

How graffiti that told an ironic story never needed any captions,

How on one recent day, on Second Avenue in Cass Park,

Some young punks yelled at you to put away your camera,

Patting their baggy pants by their crotch like they had a pistol in their pocket,

And you tried to talk them out of it, tell them a story and listen to theirs like you always did.

You told me it was the first time that you ever felt even an ounce of fear in this hood,

In 15 years of living here. That’s when I should’ve started to worry about you, shaken.

For all your humble, gifted talent, I want to put your name in lights at the Fox,

Have you sing “I Rise” with Maya Angelou on Oprah,

Cheer when Burying the Evidence wins a Tony Award on Broadway,

Uncover your star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, next to Aretha or Paul Robeson.

I want to name you the Poet Laureate of the United States of America,

Or a Macarthur Genius Award Winner,

Or a Resident Artist as the Langston Hughes or Jimmy Boggs Endowed Chair,

Give you all the Kresge, NEH, Sorros, and Fulbright fellowships you could possibly need

So you don’t ever go hungry again, living from paycheck to paycheck,

So you don’t ever sit in a cold empty apartment reading with roaches and flashlights again,

So you don’t ever get so thirsty or so hot that you find some sleazebag motel

In the heat of the night to find peace in, just because it has air conditioning.

You deserve so much, so much better, my friend.

I hope somehow, in your short life, you realized that.

* * *

 I love you, Blair.

Thank you for all that you did for Detroit, for our world, and for my family.

Rest in Peace and Poetry. 

More poems to come.

www.emilylawsin.com

* * *

For information on Memorial Services and how to donate to the memorial fund for David Blair, please see:  www.dblair.org   Every bit helps. Thank you.

* * * * * 

Update 7/30/11: 

To Read 5 More of my Poems – on 5 Year Old’s Uncle Blair, click here:

https://divadiba.wordpress.com/2011/07/30/blair/  

 

May 8, 2011

Building Community: Papa and Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao won his boxing match last night against Shane Mosley, which allows the boxer-turned-Philippine Congressman to retain his Welterweight World Champion title. Pacquiao is¬†the only fighter to ever win eight different titles in various weight divisions too. While today is Mother’s Day, I know that my father is also smiling in heaven about the “Pac-Man” win.

The last time I watched a whole Pacquiao fight was in March 2010, on the night of my father’s funeral. After the church and burial services, the Filipino Community of Seattle, Inc, graciously hosted the wake at their Community Center, where my father spent most of his free time. He had served as President of the FCS during one of its most controversial moments in history. After he retired from the ferries, he later hung out at the FCC weekly, for their Senior Lunch Program, which my late mother used to run.

When Papa died and we were trying to schedule the funeral, the one concern FCS President Alma Kern had was for us to not have it too late in the evening because everyone would want to go home early to watch the Pacquiao fight.¬† I said, “I know, my father would have been the first one rushing home or to a bar to watch it!”

Then it struck me: Papa loved sports, especially boxing, what more when his fellow kababayan/countryman was fighting, so why don’t we just all watch it together? I asked Tita Alma if the Community Center had cable television.

She said yes.

And a big screen?

Yes, with the new remodel, of course!

“Can we get Pay-Per-View? We’ll pay for it!” I said.

“Oh, don’t you worry about that. We will look into it and take care of it. This was your mother and father’s second home. That is the least we could do,” Tita Alma said.

Papa would’ve loved watching the boxing match with all of his friends, especially at the Center for which he fought so hard to save from debt and the light-rail wrecking ball.

On that Saturday, after the funeral services, the FCS board members and family friends laid out a spread of all of my father’s favorite food for the wake. Board members and the building manager also set up chairs in the FCC’s new vestibule and lobby. There, a flat-screen TV hangs on the wall, between the Restrooms and the Board Room, where my father’s picture hangs above the Board Room’s head of the table, with all of the other past FCS Presidents. Many of the folks who had been with us all day ‚Äď all week, really ‚Äď did go home, but about 70 of Papa’s friends and family actually stayed to watch the fight. Folks even paid a small donation to the FCC for the pleasure.

That night, I sat next to my best friend’s father, Larry (who I grew up really just calling “Dad”). When I was a kid, Larry and his wife Edie owned a house on the corner of Juneau Street, right behind the FCC. At the wake, their daughter Andi explained to the crowd that is how we actually met as young kids, playing outside the FCC. Larry used to always talk sports with Papa, both of them loving Muhammad Ali. And just like when we were kids, Dad Larry narrated the whole Pacquiao fight, sitting on my right.

Sitting behind me was one of my father’s closest compadres/friends, Uncle Rick Beltran, a past FCS President too. Earlier that day, at the cemetery, Uncle Rick was one of the last ones to place a rose in my father’s grave, saying, “Goodbye, old, dear friend. I will miss you.” After Pacquiao won the fight, I thanked everyone at the FCS for everything. Uncle Rick placed his hand on my shoulder and said, “Look at all these people. Your Papa would have really loved this.” Yes, I know.

And here’s another Pac-Man win for you Papa!

*    *   *

© by Emily P. Lawsin

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.

>

June 20, 2009

End of Mourning: Observing Babang Luksa

June 20, 2009¬† “She-attle” (Seattle), Washington

EmmaColor Today is exactly one year since my mother passed away. In a few hours, my cousins are hosting my mom’s “Babang Luksa”, what Filipino Catholics call the gathering to mark the end of a mourning period.¬† Yet how does one really stop mourning one’s mother?¬† It is really tough. In our clan, we do it the way our mother lived: with family and food.

Traditional Filipinos (and “neo-traditional” Pinays like me) will often wear black for a year when a close family member dies. (I have to say that I did it because that is what my mother did when her mother died, plus it made getting ready in the morning so much easier.) After one year of mourning and wearing black, they “babang luksa”, or “drop the veil”. Some traditionalists (not me) will wear white veils to a Babang Luksa and remove them after the saying of the rosary to don bright-colored clothing.¬† The “padasal” novenas, rosary prayers, and subsequent gatherings (usually around food) are like a rite of passage in our family. When we were children (and well in to our adulthood), my mother demanded that we all have some type of observance for deceased relatives and friends, out of respect. I think it was because she didn’t want their spirits to “visit” us. Then she would enlist all of us — her children and grandchildren — to help prepare huge trays of pancit noodles or majia blanca corn pudding, to bring to the wake. As much as I had protested, those precious moments were when I learned how to cook and when I learned the most about our family’s history.

In modern times, some families mark the “Babang Luksa” after 40 days, like Lent, to symbolize the 40 days that led to the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.¬† My family actually has three+ observances: a nine-day novena/padasal right after one dies, then a rosary on the 40th day, and another on the one-year anniversary.¬† Yup, that’s just how we roll, or pray, I should say.

My cousins have been so generous and kind; they organized a private family observance for today, knowing how most of my siblings and I have been out of town, and my father is too frail to organize one himself.

Last year, when Mom died, the Filipino Community of Seattle, Inc. organized a community memorial in her honor. Since she was the longest-serving FCSI council member, having served more than 35 years, her dying wish was to lie in state among her family and friends at the newly-renovated Filipino Community Center. She missed the ribbon-cutting the month before because she was hospitalized, so when then-Vice President Alma Kern gave a eulogy, she said, “Welcome Home, Manang Emma,” as it truly was her home-away-from home.¬† The community memorial was a standing-room-only crowd; there must have been over 400 people there, so many people I haven’t seen for decades.

Today’s private family gathering will be a slight change of pace, though only a little bit smaller, since my mother’s side of the family alone numbers over 125 people (and counting). Tomorrow, we are also having a family reunion in Seattle, with those of us from as far away as Alaska, Virginia, and Boston attending in full force.¬† Yes, that’s just how we roll. My mother would be happy that she brought us all together two days in a row. Or as my eldest cousin said, “I’m sure she will be smiling down from Heaven.”

Gotta go make the majia blanca. . .

*  *  *

© by Emily P. Lawsin

www.emilylawsin.com

divadiba.wordpress.com

June 12, 2009

Packing Sheets: On Philippine Independence Day

Peace, pamilya and friends. Been on hiatus from this blog during the academic year, but have a computer full of blogs to add after we move. Here’s the latest. ūüôā¬†

Watertown, MA    7:37 AM EDT

800px-Flag_of_the_PhilippinesToday, June 12, 2009, marks the 111th year of Philippine Independence from Spain, which had colonized my parents’ homeland for almost 400 years.¬† My cousin, Oscar Pe√Īaranda, has written about how his grandfather fought in the Philippine Revolution against Spain, while I, with my Filipino American life, always find myself packing sheets around this time of year, literally and figuratively. Now say it like your oldtimer uncle would say it, with a Filipino accent:¬† “packing sheeeiiiiiittttt.” LOL.¬† I always love how they can flip the “p” and “f” sounds, all puns intended.

For a long-time-student-turned-educator, June is a crazy month, usually marked with final exams, submitting/receiving grades, and graduations. With that, comes the annual clean up, and often, the dreaded moving: to a new class, a new apartment, or even a new city. Forget weddings: you’ll hardly ever see any of my educator friends getting married in June. We’re too frazzled.

As I wrote in my last entry, I spent most of June 2008 watching my mother die in a hospital bed in Seattle.¬† On June 12th, I whispered to her how my husband had just called and said we have an offer on our Detroit townhouse that we had just listed for sale.¬† In her comatose state, my mom moved her eyeballs underneath lids, still closed, and shed a tear. “Happy Independence Day,” I said.

I remember when we lived in Los Angeles several years ago, on June 12, 1994, the bodies of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were found fatally stabbed in her Brentwood home.¬† A few days later, I watched the O.J. Simpson car chase on TV. The helicopters and sirens echoed outside my apartment as they sped down the 405 freeway, its overpass just next door. An ex-boyfriend who I hadn’t spoken to in two years called out of the blue at the exact same time, liberating us from some old demons. When I hung up the phone, I whispered to myself, “Happy Independence Day.”

This week, my siblings and cousins have been calling, emailing, and texting me with busy plans of our upcoming family reunion in Seattle.¬† I am just praying that there will be no blow-ups or typical drama during it all:¬† you know, the huffing and puffing, the “pucking sheeiittt” that happens in loud Pinoy hypertension-laden dysfunctional families.¬† Like mine.¬† God love them all.¬† On the day of our last family reunion, that same ex-boyfriend got married just a few miles away, down the road. My cousin attended it.¬† And me?¬† I was a good girl and stayed at the reunion, barbecuing mom’s beef inihaw skewers and unpacking picnic blankets, fighting all urges to crash his wedding, like he had wanted to do at mine, akin to Dustin Hoffman in one of our favorite films, “The Graduate”. [Cue the Simon and Garfunkel music:¬† And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson. Jesus loves you more than you will know (wo, wo, wo).¬† God bless you please, [Mrs. Lawsin].¬† Heaven holds a place for those who pray (hey, hey, hey‚Ķ hey, hey, hey).]

Packing sheit. Ah-hem, I mean, back to packing sheiiit.

This morning, it is pouring down rain here in the Boston-area.  It looks and smells like Seattle, with bus trolleys splashing puddles onto tired office workers waiting outside my front window. Our moving pod and good friends that we have made here will arrive in just a few hours. We are packing up our rental home, which we have loved for the last 10 months, so we can return to our other jobs in Michigan.  And yes, in this recession, to still have a job in Michigan is definitely a blessing.  So I leave with a thankful heart and no regrets, though we will miss our Boston friends.

tula at TLast night, my daughter helped me fold the towels and blankets her grandmother and aunties sewed and knitted for her when she was born. I remembered how last year, my husband got all of our incredible Detroit and Ann Arbor friends to help him pack up our house while I tended to my mom in Seattle. As I separated and folded sheets, wondering how we would get all of this done in time to move next week, my daughter asked, “What are you doing, Mommy?”

“I am packing sheets,” I said. “Again,” a tear coming to my eye.

She gave me a big hug and said, “It’s okay, Mommy. I love you.”

In the end, that is all that really matters. Packing sheeiittt.

Happy Independence Day.

* * *

Postscript:

PVC BookcoverMy Pinoy friend John Delloro, fellow UCLA alum, author, lecturer, and labor activist, just reminded me how on June 12, 1994, Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) and United Farm Workers (UFW) co-founder Philip Vera Cruz passed away in Bakersfield, California. Manong Philip toiled long in the fields and on the picket lines for social justice.¬† I had met him two years earlier, when his oral history was published by my alma mater UCLA Asian American Studies Center’s Press.¬† My comadr√© Meg called to tell me the news and I cried.¬† I helped her make the calls because Manong Philip’s longtime companion, Debbie, had asked her to and she couldn’t do it by herself.¬† It was the end of an era.¬† Leave it to Manong Philip, who broke ranks with Cesar Chavez after the latter accepted an award from Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, to leave this world on Philippine Independence Day‚Ķ¬†

Mabuhay at Ingat.

© by Emily P. Lawsin

www.emilylawsin.com

divadiba.wordpress.com

February 10, 2009

Remembering Uncle Charlie

Uncle Fred just called me. I need to assign a special ring tone to him, because he only calls when it’s really, really urgent, as in life-or-death. Lately, it’s been too much of the latter. He called to tell me about the passing of “Uncle” Charlie Farrell, who, among other accomplishments, was a former Youth Director of the Filipino Youth Activities, Inc. (FYA), and a former Moderator of the FYA Kh√≥rdobah Drill Team. I had already heard the news from FYA friends on Facebook, but didn’t know the details about the services (see below): Funeral Mass, Saturday, February 14, at 10 AM at Immaculate Conception Church.

charliefarrellI am so sad to hear about Uncle Charlie’s death. Even though he was about the age of my eldest sister, I still called him “Uncle” out of respect. Manong Ben Menor, of San Jose, wrote that when he was an FYA intern in Seattle, he admired how Charlie had a certain way with the Drill Team kids, how he could make them listen and stay in line. I feel blessed to have been one of those Drill Team kids. Charlie always took such good care of all of us. When my dad made my brother and me join the FYA, I was so young and pitiful and didn’t really know any of the rest of the kids. Uncle Charlie and Uncle Stan Harris were the first ones to befriend me. They were the only ones who really talked to me at first.

 

On his way to pick up a bunch of other kids in the old FYA van, Uncle Charlie would pick my brother and me up first, and Uncle Stan would drive us home. During my first year on the team, they always let me sit in the front seat. I didn’t realize it until a year later that the back seats were where all the cool, older kids sat. I know now that they really put me up front to protect me from the backseat mischief. I loved sitting up front and being picked up first because Uncle Charlie would tell us all kinds of stories and play Motown music really loud so we could sing along. Then he would let us talk on the CB Radio with Buddah. (Gosh, do any of you remember what was Uncle Charlie’s CB handle?) On the way to parades, if Michael (“LSD”) was on the CB, all of them would start yelling drill team commands for the vans in the caravan to follow down the highway. Charlie would laugh loud, merging in and out, following all the red and white pom-poms tied to the vehicles’ antennas, while us kids would drum the beats on the back of the vinyl seats.

 

When we had the 40th Year Reunion of the Drill Team 10 years ago, a lot of our friends remembered how Charlie lived in that van, had socks and chips everywhere; how we loved to eat with him, how he used to tell ghost stories in the basement of Immaculate so we would hurry up and put the equipment away quickly. I remember his loud laugh, big Santa Claus cheeks and smile. If you ever asked Uncle Charlie for a favor, he would do it if he could.

 

I remember when I tried out for cheerleading in high school (twice) and was required to perform community service. The first

Filipino Youth Activities Khórdobah Drill Team, Seattle, 1985

Filipino Youth Activities Khórdobah Drill Team, Seattle, 1985

time, I thought I could just goof off or pretend to answer phones in the FYA office and get credit, or that I could use the FYA newspaper drive we were already doing to earn hours. No, no, no: Uncle Charlie and Uncle John Ragudos (then Executive Director) put me to work right away, typing the FYA’s mailing labels. We were fundraising for an east coast tour, so there must’ve been more than 200 families on that list. AND Uncle Charlie taught me how to properly answer the office phone. When I asked Uncle Charlie to sign my service form, he said, “No, no, no, we will type a letter, on LETTERHEAD, so they know it’s legit and not just some relative signing off for you. You dig?” Before he said that, I never knew that could be a potential problem, since they were all my “uncles” anyway. When I didn’t make it on the cheer squad, Uncle Charlie gave me a hug and said, “It’s ok. Those people don’t know no better. There’s always next year and besides, you will be busy with the drill team.”

 

He was right. The next year, before I made the squad, when I had to volunteer again, they told me to go file papers for Uncle Fred upstairs in the archives so I could learn something different. (This was before the archives were known as the FANHS National Pinoy Archives.) Uncle Charlie always wanted us to do well, to study, and stay out of trouble, so we did; he told us that if anyone ever messed with us at school, just to tell him and he would take care of it. Although I never had to ask him to fight my battles, I carried all of those lessons with me, when I got teased at school, when I learned how to drive, when I worked various office jobs to pay for college, and when I used the archives for my research in graduate school.  Along the way, whether he knew it or not, he was always there for me, as well as many others.

 

How ironic for Uncle Charlie’s funeral to be on Valentine’s Day, since he was such a loving, giving person. He taught me to love life. He was one of the first Pinoys that I met who wasn’t too “macho” to laugh and talk about romance. I remember when he met Auntie Carmen and how he told us, “I’m in love and I’m getting married!” We cheered. We were so happy because he was so happy. I am sure many others, especially those who are older and who were closer to him, will have a lot more stories to tell than I can. He had that gift of bringing people together and making us all smile.

 

Years later, I lost touch with Uncle Charlie after I moved away from Seattle, but my mother and I would sometimes bump into¬† him at church or at a community function. He would always kiss my mom and say, “Hi Auntie, how are you doing today?” And she would tell him about her gout or her knee pains. He would tell her that he would pray for her and that she should just take it easy. Little did we know years later, he would have those same ailments.

 

Last June, when my mom was dying in the hospital, Uncle Charlie was in that same hospital, on another floor getting kidney dialysis. Folks told me to stay by my mom’s side, that Charlie would pull through it. A few days later, when I was at the FANHS office writing my mother’s eulogy, Uncle Fred got a call from Auntie Carmen and he sped back to the hospital right away to be by Charlie’s side, only to be sent home because Charlie was undergoing more tests and treatments. He pulled through until last Sunday.

 

Charlie was more than our chauffer and self-appointed bodyguard, he was our counselor, one of the few who would really listen to our problems and not belittle them; he was our leader, our teacher, our role model, our minister, our friend, our big brother, our Santa Claus, and that true Pinoy uncle every kid should be lucky enough to have. We were all so lucky to have him, and I just hope that he knew that.

 

Today would’ve been my mother’s 82nd birthday, but I cannot shed any more tears. Instead, I am lighting a candle¬† and saying a prayer for her and for Uncle Charlie, because I know that both of them are tsismising and eating up a storm in heaven, smiling down on all of us. If I could be there for the funeral on Saturday, I would wear my FYA lanyard and be proud to stand with the Drill Team as honor guard, as I hope many of my friends will do.

 

I don’t remember all of the words and I’m sure I’m jumbling it all up here, but as we used to sing on Drill Team at the end of every Jhabandah (usually indoor) performance:

Halina, halina, mga kaliyag. . .

Dios ti agnina, at sa inyong lahat. . .

The FYA thanks you for everything,

Maraming salamat, salamat po, Uncle Charlie.

. . .

 

A salaam alaikum / Peace be unto you …

© by Emily P. Lawsin

Watertown, Massachusetts

February 10, 2009

Emily P. Lawsin was on the FYA Drill Team for seven years and

is a Trustee of the Filipino American National Historical Society.

A spoken word poet and award-winning lecturer, she has taught

Asian American and Filipino American Studies since 1992.

For a full bio, see: http://www.emilylawsin.com

 

* * *

UPDATE 2/11/09 – Read Charles Awit Farrell’s Obituary and Sign the Guest Book at:

http://www.legacy.com/seattletimes/DeathNotices.asp?Page=LifeStory&PersonID=123991911

Charles Awit FARRELL Passed away peacefully with family by his side in Seattle, WA. Feb. 8, 2009. He is survived by his wife, Carmen; two sons, Conrad and Ian; 5 grandchildren; 1 brother, 6 sisters and numerous nieces and nephews. Visitation will be at Columbia Funeral Home, 4567 Rainier Ave. So., Seattle; 12 to 8:00 p.m. Thursday Feb. 12th; Rosary at 6:00 p.m. Vigil service will be held Friday Feb. 13 at 7:00 p.m. with Funeral Mass Saturday Feb. 14, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. both at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 820 18th Ave. Seattle, WA 98122

 

*  *  *

 

Click HERE to read my previous blog post: GIVING HISTORY FOR THE NEXT GENERATION

December 29, 2008

GIVING: History for the Next Generation

Last Thursday was my first Christmas without my mom; she passed away last June at the age of 81. Finances are tight for us this year, not only because of the unexpected hospital and funeral expenses, but also because of our temporary move to the metro Boston area, where the cost of living is three times as much as Detroit. So our Christmas list this year was much shorter than previous years, with us trying to give more meaningful gifts.

Tula picks satsumasInstead of spending the holidays in snowy Seattle or Massachusetts, we’re spending them with my in-laws in Los Angeles, where they grow fruits and vegetables in their tiny backyard. When our toddler saw the tangerine tree in the back, she said, “Wow, satsumas!” and couldn’t wait to pick them fresh from the abundant dwarf tree. As I watched Anak pick the fruit, I remembered how when I was her age, my mom used to go down to Uwajimaya’s in Seattle’s Chinatown and buy crates of satsumas as Christmas gifts for her friends. My brother was allergic to them, so I didn’t really get their appeal. ¬†Tula puts satsumas in boxThen I moved to Boston and saw them selling for four bucks a pound! And those aren’t juicy or organic like Grandma and Grandpa’s! Anak picked about 50 of the satsumas straight from their tree; we washed them off and wrapped them up to give to neighbors and friends. With every juicy, tart bite, I keep thinking how much my mother would have loved for me to ship her a crate too.

Dr. Joan May T. Cordova

Dr. Joan May T. Cordova

Satsumas also remind me of my sistahfriend Dr. Joan May T. Cordova, who often wears the satsuma scent. ¬†She is the President of our Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) and writes a FANHS blog HERE. Today is her birthday, so I kept wondering what I should send her, since she always buys pasalubong/gifts for the whole barrio. “Should we send her satsumas?” Anak asked. Nah, she has plenty of that. Then I was reminded of the appeal letter Joanie sent last week, the first one FANHS has ever issued in its 25-year history:

http://fanhsis25.blogspot.com/2008/12/support-fanhs-for-next-generation.html

Emma Lawsin, 1953

Emma Lawsin, 1953

When I got married, Joanie gave us a 10 Year Membership to FANHS (like she does for many¬†others). When my mother died, Joanie was the first to ask to what organization friends should make remembrances. My mother was the longest-serving council member of the Filipino Community of Seattle, Inc, and¬†belonged to almost every Filipino organization in the city,¬†so it would be difficult to specify just one. Joanie never lets me forget how, when a FANHS delegation flew from Seattle to Manila for a conference, my mother sent a bag of store-bought cookies for everyone to snack on; although I was initially bothered by their weight, during our layover, we were grateful for those cookies because we didn’t have anything else to eat. As a World War II¬†survivor, my mother was frugal, but she always made sure we had plenty of food. And although she never had a chance to earn a college degree, my mother valued education and believed in the importance of knowing and sharing our roots. She may not have understood all that I do in terms of teaching and preserving Filipino American history, but she supported it in the simple ways that she could: through stories and food.

FANHS 810 18th Ave, Room 100

FANHS is housed in 3 old classrooms here, at 810 18th Ave

When my mother died, I had to write the eulogy, but did not have any of my material, so I went to the FANHS National Pinoy Archives in¬†the old, converted Immaculate School in Seattle’s Central District. The archive¬†barely fits in two rooms: one is an old classroom and the other is in the basement. When I was a teenager on the Filipino Youth Activities (FYA) Drill Team, this same basement was where we learned Kulintang (ancient gong music), practiced Arnis/Eskrima (the Filipino martial art), and heard aswang/ghost stories. The National Office of FANHS is upstairs, in what was once, 25 years ago, the FYA Trophy Room, where we had “brown room” meetings and cultural classes. Twenty-five years before that, it was probably my cousin’s classroom. The FYA offices are gone, but FANHS remains. Now cardboard file boxes pile high to the ceiling, with sepia exhibit photos peeling the paint from the century-old walls. A snooty university archivist once asked me if the FANHS office and archives, with its thousands of valuable photos, interview tapes, and material artifacts, had “climate control”. I chuckled and said, “I think there’s a dial that controls the radiator.” Of course, that radiator is covered with papers too.

Fred & Dorothy Cordova

Drs. Fred & Dorothy Cordova

Joanie’s aunt, Dorothy Laigo Cordova, founded FANHS in 1982 and has served as its unsalaried, volunteer Executive Director since then. Auntie Dorothy’s husband, Uncle Fred Cordova, a retired newsman, is the FANHS archivist. When I arrived at the FANHS office (two days after my mother had passed), Auntie Dorothy shared a bowl of curry and rice she had made the night before. Downstairs, Uncle Fred had already pulled my mother’s files for me to see. They had material I didn’t even know existed: a speech my mom had written, a faded newspaper article on her parents’ arrival from the Philippines, a party invitation she had someone make. I still needed more, so I found her sister’s file, some of her organizations’ files, plus a book where part of her oral history is published.

I felt so grateful to have this¬†sanctuary of information, where I could research and write, and still feel at home: the memory of kulintang beats and childhood ghosts dancing in my ears.¬†Before I left the FANHS archives, I whispered a prayer,¬†hoping that when Anak is older, she can touch, read, hear, and smell all of this too. But prayers don’t pay the rising rent (even if Uncle Fred is now an ordained Catholic Deacon)!

Remembering our pledge to give meaningful gifts, I wrote our check to FANHS and put it in the mail today, just in time to honor Joanie’s birthday, my mother’s memory, AND get our tax-deduction (since FANHS is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization). My mother would have wanted that, plus the satsumas, of course.

*  *  *

Please GIVE a gift of history and support FANHS for the next generation:

Click HERE to Download FANHS Donation Form.

And Mail Donations Payable To:

FANHS

810  18th Ave. Room 100

Seattle, WA 98122

UPDATE 2012: You can now donate online [in annual or monthly recurring donations] via PayPal or using a major credit card on the redesigned FANHS Website.

All donations are tax-deductible: http://fanhs-national.org/filam/donate/

* * *

 

Maraming Salamat!

© by Emily P. Lawsin, FANHS Trustee

December 29, 2008 in Los Angeles, CA

Click HERE for my full bio: www.emilylawsin.com


Click HERE to Read My Previous Post: POEM: FOR CORKY PASQUIL’S BIRTHDAY

November 15, 2008

POEM: Padasal: Novena at the Polls, November 4, 2008

Last week, the day after the historic election, someone asked me how it felt to vote. She knew that I had lived in Detroit earlier this year, and Barack Obama’s name was not on the primary ballot in Michigan (damn it), so I never had the chance to vote for him before. Now, I live in Massachusetts: ’nuff said. After she asked me that question, I went home and wrote this poem. I hope you like it; please leave comments below. Peace and salamat/thanks!

Padasal: Novena at the Polls, November 4, 2008

© by Emily P. Lawsin

“I go to prepare a place for you.”

~Harriet Tubman

Yesterday, as I approached the voting booth,

in this bluest of blue states,

where the last senator lost his bid four years ago,

a few miles down from where

another senator — the martyr Benigno Aquino — once lived,

tears streamed down my cheeks,

my hands trembled like my heartbeat

and I took a slow, deep breath,

careful to not close my eyes

in case some fool tried to spoil this dream and my ballot,

and I whispered a prayer,

not just for Barack Obama,

but for our country and our families,

remembering all of our ancestors

who carried us here to the Promised Land

despite centuries of broken promises.

I remember my Lola Carmen,

born nine years after the revolution

and 30 years before women’s suffrage

in the colonial Philippines,

how she birthed six children

yet only five survived;

how, during World War II,

she had to resort to selling socks (not stocks) —

on the black market —

as in insulation for soldiers’ feet,

then fled to the mountainside

with a pillow up her dress

to protect her and her children.

I remember my Lolo Sergio Sr,

the stern patriarch,

how he immigrated to America

to follow his pioneer daughters, right before I was born,

then worked as a low-paid post office guard

while his wife — our grandmother — watched us sleep;

how they mailed all of us grandchildren

crisp $5 Lincolns on our birthdays

with a carefully typewritten note

to “spend it wisely”.

I remember my Auntie Nora,

my mother’s At√©, eldest sister,

how as a teen in Tondo,

she rolled tobacco at the Alhambra Cigar Factory

to help make ends meet;

she never smoked herself,

yet her grandchildren always wondered why

she suffered from lung disease.

I remember her husband, my Uncle Eddie Sr,

who fought in the Philippine Scouts

long enough to re-enlist under the U.S. flag

before the Rescission Act could rescind his benefits;

how one Thanksgiving,

he showed us kids the bites on his leg

from the Bataan Death March,

denied that he had PTSD,

then passed it on to his Vietnam veteran sons,

and we were never the same.

I remember my sister’s father, Leandro,

who, with calloused hands from picking unripe grapes,

cutting asparagus and fields of lettuce,

building bunkhouses and picket lines,

like thousands of immigrant Pinoys,

struggled to put food on our kitchen tables,

moved from crop to crop

from the California Delta to Seattle,

then became a Private

in America’s 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment,

his enlistment papers checked his civil occupation off as

  • "Gardeners and grounds keepers, parks, cemetaries, etc."

as if there were no other words to describe “stoop labor”,

he never lived long enough to explain it to his daughters.

I remember our own mother, Emma,

who on her death bed last June,

when the Critical Care doctors finally

let up on her morphine drip,

allowing her to wake up from a three-week coma,

a breathing tube just removed from her lips an hour before,

mouthed the words,

asking if Obama had won the primaries.

When I said, “Yes he did,”

she closed her eyes and smiled.

I remember my father, Vincent,

the only one who outlives them all,

a merchant marine who followed MacArthur

after the general declared his “I Have Returned” speech

on his hometown of Tacloban’s shores,

in forever pursuit of the American Dream,

how on the day that I turned 18,

lectured me — not on the birds and the bees —

but on the urgent importance of democracy now:

then took me to the public library

to promptly register me to vote;

how a decade later, after 40 years of his U.S. citizenship,

Papa was finally called to Jury Duty,

wore his “JUROR” badge proudly for weeks,

framed his “I Served” certificate to display in our

cracked china cabinet,

volunteered to serve three more times,

proclaiming to the judges that, aside from voting,

this was his highest honor,

to finally feel like a true American.

So yesterday, I stood there (yes I did) and I did not care

if a long line would stretch around the whole block from that polling station,

because Barack told us:

This is our time. This is our moment.

Kaya Natin, Yes We Can.”

So I took my time, savoring the moment.

I stared at my ballot, carefully wiped my cheeks so tears would not smear it,

filled the black hole

with the smoothest black pen I have ever felt,

my hips swaying like I was birthing a newborn child,

standing on the shoulders of these ancestors

and a rainbow of so many more,

who fought for this right, who fought for this night,

thankfully remembering                      thankfully remembering

ang bayan ko:                                       my country,

ang kababayans natin:                         our compatriots,

ang pamilya ko:                                    my family,

ang buhay natin:                                  our lives,

and prayed that our President, our next President will remember them too.


www.filipinosforobama.org

November 5, 2008 – Watertown, Massachusetts

Padasal = Filipino for novena, a prayer session for the respose of the souls of the dead.


“Leadership is only incidental to the movement.

The movement must go beyond its leaders in order to survive.”

~Philip Vera Cruz

For my bio, Click HERE www.emilylawsin.com

 

Click HERE to read my previous blog post:¬†POEM: Seattle / ‚ÄúShe-attle‚ÄĚ / Personified -For Blue¬†Scholars


Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: