poetry & tsismis: emily's blog

October 3, 2012

Day 3 of Filipino American History Month: Screen a Film! Filipino Americans: Discovering their Past for the Future

October is Filipino American History Month! I’ve accepted Kevin Nadal’s (fellow FANHS Trustee) challenge of posting a photo of something Filipino American every day. (If you accept the challenge too, on Instagram or Twitter, use the hashtag #fahm2012.) Today is October 3rd, so here’s my 3rd FAHM installment:

On our revamped Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) website, there is a list of ways you can observe Filipino American History Month, here: http://fanhs-national.org/fahm2012.html

The easiest thing to do — for all ages — is to screen a film. You can watch it by yourself, but it’s more fun to watch with others, then have a discussion. Our FANHS chapters throughout the country have done this for many years, often partnering with another organization, or a local school or community center. In the 21 years since FANHS started observing Filipino American History Month, many more films have been made by or about Filipino Americans. (There have even been Filipino Americans who have won Academy Awards for production and design.) Here is a great FANHS film that you can use for starters.

Filipino Americans: Discovering their Past for the Future 

Produced by Filipino American National Historical Society
and JF Wehman & Associates/MoonRae Productions, National Video Profiles, Inc. (54 minutes, 1994)

“THREE STARS!” – Video Rating Guide for Libraries

Winner of CINE Golden Eagle Award in History, and Bronze Award, Houston International Film Festival/Worldfest

Film description:

This fascinating documentary explores hidden pages in American history and delves into the 400-year-old chronicle of one of the largest ethnic groups in the United States. Interviews with historians, readings from historical letters and transcriptions, combined with more than 300 archival photos reveal Filipino Americans in Hawai’ian plantations, California migrant farms, Alaskan fish canneries and Louisiana shrimp fishing.

FILIPINO AMERICANS: DISCOVERING THEIR PAST FOR THE FUTURE documents their involvement during World War II and their contributions to the advancement of labor organizations. Family units and strong social bonds helped them survive while dealing with discrimination and hard economic times. This video illustrates how Filipino American history has contributed to the American way of life and is an essential component of United States history.

“It is rich United States history and it’s a story that should be told…Filipino Americans have been a quiet voice in promoting their contributions to American society. This video will hopefully open America’s eyes to what Filipino Americans have gone through and contributed.”

– Fred Cordova, Author/Historian and Founding President Emeritus of FANHS

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Currently, the film is only available on VHS video cassette, for purchase through the FANHS National Office in Seattle, on Ebay, or through the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), here. When it was produced in 1994, AT&T agreed to sponsor it to help fund its distribution; they ended up giving videos to their customers who had Philippine international calling plans (so ask your relatives, they might have it). Some university and public libraries have it too; if your local library doesn’t carry it, ask them to purchase one from CAAM. The film later aired on PBS and someone I don’t know posted that in 4 parts on YouTube, here. (Yeah, I don’t know if that person has the copyright permission to post it, but bahala na. And just so you know: FANHS is a totally volunteer-run organization, with an office and archives, and no salaried staff and no regular source of funding, so when you purchase products from the national office or one of the 30 FANHS Chapters, you are helping preserve even more of Filipino American history. All donations are tax-deductible too.)

So, have you seen the film? What are your thoughts about it? Please leave comments below. Mabuhay and salamat.

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#FilipinoAmericanHistoryMonth  #fahm2012  #fahm

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To read my other posts on Filipino American History Month, click here:

https://divadiba.wordpress.com/tag/filipino-american-history-month/

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www.emilylawsin.com

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July 5, 2011

POEM: Ode to Pinoy Hill: On the Centennial of Seward Park, Seattle

I was feeling a bit homesick yesterday, so I wrote this poem about our family’s favorite picnic spot, Pinoy Hill, located in Seward Park, in the southend of Seattle. Please post comments below. Salamat/Thanks.

Ode to Pinoy Hill: On the Centennial of Seward Park, “Shatil”

 © by Emily P. Lawsin

Oh, Pinoy Hill:

As little brown kids growing up in the Central District and the Rainier Valley,

We looked up to you.

Uncle Fred made our FYA Drill Team march five miles around your waist to build stamina,

Keeping in step with congas and cut bamboo canes tapping at your feet.

Afterwards, waves of forbidden boyfriends blasted beats

In bouncing low-riders, kissing Lake Washington’s shores.

Every Fourth of July,

Marveling  at the Magnificent Forest of conifers and Madrona trees

And ignoring the poison oaks and ivy that embrace your bluffs,

Our Filipino Community of Seattle partied and danced with you, Pinoy Hill,

With the grace and style of our social box queens,

Long before the August moons and the pageantry of Pista sa Nayon of SeaFair.

Oh, how we remember, Pinoy Hill, every Fourth of July, when

Auntie Mercy threaded beef inihaw skewers between your bedrock boulders

And Uncle Eddie butchered and barbecued fifty pounds of Acme chicken

Next to a roast pig clenching a Wenatchee Red Delicious in its mouth.

Oh, Pinoy Hill, in the bend of your elbow, just beneath your silver clouds,       My sister and mom on Pinoy Hill, July 4, 1964

The puttering burr of the cotton candy machine twirled your skirts:

With me always dropping my jaw at how the old-timers rigged that one.

Propped up on your back slid a towering block of ice for halo-halo,

All of us begging to shave it and flip open the metal scraper housing summer’s snow.

Before the dawn of Pambihira and Beacon Market,

Nanay soaked her own red azuki beans in syrup so we could slurp the island treat,

While Auntie Isabel taught the other war brides

How to make rice-paper-thin lumpia wrappers from scratch,

Their sales helped pay off the mortgage

Of our old bowling-alley-turned-Community Center,

Just a mile jog down your neighboring Juneau Street.

Oh, Pinoy Hill,

Waltzing in the willows of your wilderness, we won coins at watermelon-eating contests,

Spitting black seeds into your singed hairs of grass to see if they would take root.

Did any of us ever win the annual Seward Park pie-eating contests down by the beach,

Pinoys ever getting even one piece of the elusive American pie?

As we grew older, one of the manangs who worked at Dairigold off Genessee

Would burp you with a caravan of carved flat spoons atop Creamsicle cups

To prevent us from getting run over by the melodies of your ice cream trucks.

Oh, Pinoy Hill,

We can still hear the cha-cha-cha laughter of the manangs’ mah-jong table,

The silent shuffle of the manongs’ five-card stud,

See the puffs of Winstons and Marlboros scored from the Commissary,

Rings of smoke signals:  pinching your lips with the nod of your flat nose.

And who among us never emerged from the bosom of your blackberry bushes

Only to be met by our mamas beating the fingers of your branches across our bottoms?

Oh, to wander lost in your woods again.

Between ballets of tackle football with no borders or boundaries,

We raced relays in rice sacks from Uwaji’s,

Or potato sacks that the manongs carried home from the fields,

Knowing, except for maybe one solo summer working at canneries in Alaska,

They would never let us follow in their footsteps,

Their fedoras and worn shoes too big to fill.

At dusk, renegade cousins would tickle your ears with

Firecrackers pirated from the Yakima Indian reservation,

Their elderly fathers baptizing the widows peak of your forehead

With holy water that Uncle Junior forklifted right off the line from Rainier Brewery

And flasks of whiskey pulled from purple felt bags:

Their liquid medicine to forget the double shift they have to pull tomorrow.

Oh, Pinoy Hill, we still salute you, especially on America’s Independence Day,

Reclaiming the colors of a colonial era

That once dubbed July 4th as “Philippine-American Friendship Day”,

When your heart gave us shade: the only open space where Pinoys could play freely.

Oh, Pinoy Hill, our memories run deep as the soils of your brown soul.

Does the post-65 generation still love you like we did?

Do they still park down by your tennis courts to make out,

Pray at the pagoda statues beneath your sakura cherry blossoms,

Swim into the shining streams off your shoulders,

Leap frog to your landing pad to sun themselves,

Then stomach your winding hill to stoke the fires in your belly?

For a century now, you stand tall: the roots of our family tree.

Oh, Pinoy Hill,

What I would give to tango and swing in your arms again,

Despite the scars from my youth,

Salted with salmonberries and wearing your evergreen firs,

Itching to savor and breathe in the scents of those days long ago.

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July 4, 2011

Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan

With thanks to Allan Bergano, Carmen Español, Carmelita Floresca Bridges, Harry Rivera, and Vanessa Ventura Valencia for their input.

Emily P. Lawsin grew up in Seward Park and teaches at the University of Michigan.

www.emilylawsin.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 Khórdobah 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

 

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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

 

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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.

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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/

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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

October 7, 2008

Remembering Uncle Sam + Poem

Remembering Uncle Sam + Poem

I lost a lot of important people in my life this last year, including my mother, who I will definitely write more about, here or elsewhere, at another time. And today, as always, I’m remembering my “Northridge/FANHS-L.A. Dad”, Uncle Sam.

It’s been exactly one year since I received the phone call from Uncle Fred Cordova about his brother, Sam Balucas, who passed away October 7, 2007, in Southern California, at the age of 75. “Uncle Sam”, as many of us called him, was a fellow Trustee and National Treasurer of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) and President of the FANHS-L.A. Chapter.

I would have never survived the nine years that I lived in Los Angeles without Sam. By way of background: I had the good fortune of being raised in “SHE-attle”, Washington, a major port of entry for thousands of Filipino immigrants since the early 1900s. I grew up on the Filipino Youth Activities (FYA) Khórdobah Drill Team, the only one of its kind in the nation. The FYA Cabataán Folk Dancers started in 1957, and the FYA Drill Team followed in 1959. In the form of what I call a pioneering cultural/freedom school, the FYA was founded by Fred and Dorothy Laigo Cordova with other Seattle families. They wanted to teach their children pride in our cultural heritage at a time when racism and discrimination made it not so popular to do so. The FYA later became a United Way social service agency. As many Seattle Pinoys are, I am actually related to Auntie Dorothy by marriage (through my Floresca sisters and Ordonia cousins). Ever since I was 12 years old, Uncle Fred and Auntie Dorothy have been my mentors, then my college professors at the University of Washington, and then the officiant and godparents at my wedding. With the FYA drill team, we traveled everywhere, including Washington DC and California, where as Maharani/Team Leader, I must have briefly met Fred’s brothers, Phil Ventura and Sam Balucas.

So when I moved to UCLA for graduate school, Uncle Fred, the archivist and information specialist that he is, sent me with a care package and a list of phone numbers. He said, “These are my brothers in L.A, call them, and they will take care of you.” And take care of me, they did.

A couple of years later, when we chartered the FANHS-Los Angeles chapter in 1993, Uncle Sam served as our first chapter Treasurer. He went on to serve two terms as FANHS-LA Chapter President before he became a National Trustee/Treasurer and then was re-elected L.A. Chapter President the year before he died.

If you ever went to a FANHS Conference (held every two years), Sam, a widower, was usually the one counting the money or buying all the ladies drinks (probably so FANHS could make its quota on the bar tab). When my partner and I decided to move to the Valley to be closer to my work (CSUN) and a rental opened up one block away from Sam’s house, we jumped on the chance to live so close to him.

Whenever any students would meet Sam, or his brothers, sisters, or cousins,

Back L-R: Sam Balucas, Emily, Darline & Phil Ventura. Front: Fred & Dorothy Cordova, at FANHS Conference in Honolulu, July 1, 2006

they would be amazed at meeting a Filipino American elder that “didn’t have an accent”, because Sam was SECOND GENERATION. He and his siblings are from what we call the “Bridge Generation”, those Pinoys — Filipino Americans — born in the U.S. to the pioneers of immigrants before 1945. You can read more of Sam’s obituary HERE. Leave it to Sam to pass away during October, which FANHS established as Filipino American History Month, a nationwide observance.

Below is a poem that I wrote amidst a flood of tears on the day that Sam died. It is titled “Tale-Gating” because Uncle Sam was famous for “tail gating” and hosting huge Superbowl parties, as well as telling the funniest tales. I tried to remember all the moments I was blessed to share with him… His daughter, Sami, was kind enough to ask me to read this at the funeral last year. I will always be grateful to her and her family for sharing their dad with us.

Here’s to you, Uncle Sam. I know you’re cookin’ up a storm with my mom, Thelma, and many others in heaven. “Love you darlings.”

 

“Tale-Gating with Sam”

In Memory of Edward Samuel Balucas

August, 1932 – October 7, 2007

© by Emily P. Lawsin

“Social change begins in the kitchen.”

~ Joan May T. Cordova, 1989.

This is a poem for Uncle Sam,

who drove me up and down long and short paths,

crossing highways and building roads

to his Bridge Generation and so many more in the Southland,

the only way a Pinoy ever could: through food.

Half the time we talked about Filipino Americans,

the other half the time, he cracked jokes, or nuts, or ice,

while all the time, we talked about food,

all kinds of food: his nilaga and sinigang, his brother Phil’s mongo, and garlic rice.

Dinuguan became “did not go on”, pusit became “opposite”.

It was like growing up in Seattle again listening to his brother Fred’s jokes.

We shared recipes while driving to meetings,

cooking techniques while flying to conferences,

called each other when we found a yummy new restaurant in the Valley,

jumped in his truck to get a few fresh Tilapia fried at Seafood City market.

He showed me how to poke the eyeballs to test if the fish was still fresh,

then he screamed when its gills moved; he laughed about his fishing trips with Jerry,

asked me if my dad ate the eyeballs too. Who’s doesn’t?

One minute he explained tax forms and financial statements

and the next minute we compared grocery prices and the quality of Albertson’s meats.

We set up booths at festivals and community centers,

just so we could people-watch and tsismis.

A Santa Claus twinkle in his eye lit up his hacking laugh over a cooler at our feet,

with enough sandwiches, water, and sodas for the whole barrio.

While sharing 100 Ways to Tell You’re Filipino

and 100 ways to cook asparagus,

he talked story about growing up brown in the delta,

and the politics of water-cooler trash talk at Hughes Aircraft, many years after he retired.

He spoke proudly of his grandkids and his “girls”,

his daughters, who, whether they know it or not,

through his stories and their actions,

taught me to be a better daughter myself.

Sam was more than our President/Treasurer/Manong/Brother/Uncle/Friend/Cook/Taxman/Fisherman.

He was our Dad too,

who gave birth to a whole new generation

of Los Angeles Pinoys and definitely Pinays

who are proud to share his-story,

who bless the day we first met

in his kitchen.

I love you and will miss you, Uncle Sam,

but I know you’re saving us all a seat at the table.


October 7, 2007 – Detroit

www.emilylawsin.com

 

 

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