poetry & tsismis: emily's blog

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 –  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 – all week, really – 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

May 2, 2011

Remembering Al Robles (1930-2009)


Al Robles at UCLA 1996. Photo by Tony Osumi.

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

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

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

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

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

Al Robles and Emily Lawsin at UCLA 1996

Oscar Peñaranda, T, and me 2006

Dear Kuya Oscar   

© by Emily P. Lawsin   

On the book launching of Al Robles’ book 

Rappin’ With Ten Thousand Carabaos in The Dark

Irvine, California, May 17, 1996.

______________________________________

Manong Al visits the Southland today,  

bringing us fish heads and carabaos

together to jam.

Our Pinoy Luck Club barkada

skips its regular meeting of

Friday night “X-Files and Tiles,”

saving lost quarters for lonely bus rides

and smoggy lattes;

how could we ever fill your shoes?

Our Doc Martens and Birkenstocks

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

We’re fortunate though, this new Flip generAsian,

tempted by you Kearny Street tamaraws:

we shout via E-mail, reclaiming reclámo.

Irene’s Babaye Productions started

our call, herding us to greez in brown fields

of Temple, Melrose, and Westwood,

where Wendell’s Downright Pinoy self,

more than just a t-shirt man,

throws us props, rappin’, producin’,

dekonstruktin’ all our funk-shuns.

With Dawn and Allyson,

sistahs fightin’ in struggle,

brewin hungry champorrado dreams;

the Villaraza and Parreñas clans

and Allan’s gothic poetry

blowin our freakin’ minds, and

nappy flip Nap Napoleon

swingin his sharp bolo smile, scars,

and Zig-Zag-wrapped cigarettes.

 We’re fortunate, yes, tonight,

the Liwanag 2 crew lassoing our ranks,

sistah Darlene’s multiple tongues searing our plates,

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

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

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

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

that he is

and return to the SF State days when you once peddled

a crushed box of black-and-white Liwanag books

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

I wonder, was it the same car you

used to push up to Seattle?

Bringing Nanay and Tatay an endless supply

of canned salmon and me diaper tales of

your wayward Alaskan ways.

Decades later, your AIIIEEEEE!

buddy Shawn gave me an A,

not knowing I was your

cousin/niece/wanna-be hija poet,

the only student in his class of 200

raising her hand when he asked,

        “Who has ever read Carlos Bulosan?”

          Never thanked you for those days.

Another decade later,

Manong Sam Tagatac, with his sleepy eye,

Ifugao tales, and Ilocano twang

returned with me to the UCLA campus,

left his Manila Cafe apron on Santa Barbara’s beach

to add a hint of bagoong to our new stew,

blamed your teaching-ass self for it all:

poets perpetrating as professors,

thinking this is how carabaos

will crush coconuts in the Ivory Tower.

Now he’s vanished, his ailing wife calling,

his film cans fading, and we young bucks

fry his tuyo not knowing where it came from.

We never thanked your barkada for those days,   

for adding light to our fire,

for excavating ghosts from the mountain tops,

for bringing us the songs of the Syquias,

Jundis’ jingles, Cachapero’s cacophony,

Cerenio’s seriousness, Tamayo’s teasings,

Tagami’s Tobera teachings, Ancheta’s anitos,

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

So, Kuya Oscar, as we Kababayans

kick back, chillin amongst jasmine vines,

Southern Cali’s substitute for the sampaguita flower,

with Manong Al’s smoky white hair jammin’,

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

I scribble on this bending bamboo,

throwing you our shout-outs, our salamats,

for dodging the draft, for pushing our pens,

for publishing Pinoys and Pinays before

anyone knew what that was, is, and

always will be,

and for plowin’ the fields,

for plowin’ these fields,

for plowing the fields

before us. 

*   *   *

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

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

 the Kearny Street Writers’ Workshop,

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

Irene Soriano, Darlene Rodrigues, and Theo Gonzalves.

   

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

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

Originally published in DisOrient Journalzine, Volume 9: 2001.

www.emilylawsin.com

 

March 18, 2011

Remembering Auntie Helen Brown, 1915-2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

© Emily P. Lawsin

Trustee, Filipino American National Historical Society

Detroit, Michigan

www.emilylawsin.com

HELEN BROWN DOCUMENTARY ON YouTube!

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

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

 

June 20, 2010

POEM for Papa


Vincent & Emily Lawsin at FANHS Manila Conference 1998

Papa and me at FANHS Conference in Manila 1998

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

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

Vincent Avestruz Lawsin 1995 Papa’s Two Worlds

© by Emily P. Lawsin

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

A shelled seaside village near Tacloban, Leyte,

A city whose two great claims to fame became:

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

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

Two claims Papa would feverishly explain to mga puti

In his adopted land of America.


My proud Papa would explain to his engine-room mates

That his roots lie in the heart of the islands,

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

On any available napkin or newspaper or oiled rag,

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

Even though Imelda is five years his junior.

Any poor listener who seemed even remotely intrigued

Would get a faster tale of how he

Could have dated her,

Could have married her,

Couldhave—

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


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


Perhaps then

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

Perhaps then

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

Perhaps then

Papa would have kept editing his high school newspaper

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

Perhaps then

Papa would’ve stayed in engineering college

Instead of fighting MacArthur’s war.


Perhaps then                                                    

Papa wouldn’t have migrated from port to port:

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

Or from dock to dock:

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

Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have been so segregated from his family

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

For his poor mother’s funeral,

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

Perhaps then

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

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

Perhaps then

Papa wouldn’t have lost his hearing

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

Perhaps then

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

Where in the 1950s, his beer-drinking shipmates

Nicknamed him “Chico”, meaning “Small”,

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


Perhaps then

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

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

After the shriveled up alien from the movies,

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

With Papa’s name scrawled beneath it.

Perhaps then

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

Wouldn’t have secretly crumpled the clipping,

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

Perhaps then

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

As she washed laundry,

Taping it to their bedroom mirror,

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


Perhaps then

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

Wouldn’t have clung so tightly to his faith.

Perhaps then

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

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

At the height of martial law,

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

and his infamy.


Yes, I often wonder

Which world, perhaps then,

Would have been better or worse for my father,

Ang Papa Ko, Teting, Vicente,

Legally: “Vince”, or “Vincent”.

Which world, perhaps then?

The Iron Butterfly’s world of lies and corruption,

Or, Papa’s corrupted world of white lies?


North Hills, California, 1998.

www.emilylawsin.com

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


Babang Luksa II – Memories of Auntie Pacing

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

© by Emily Porcincula Lawsin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 20, 2010

Detroit

www.emilylawsin.com

June 15, 2010

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

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

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

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

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Update: Memorial Service for John Delloro

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

Saturday, June 19, 2010

10 am to 12 noon

East Los Angeles College

1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez in Monterey Park.

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

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

1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez
Monterey Park, CA 91754-6099

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Presente!


June 8, 2010

John Delloro Funeral Arrangements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


June 6, 2010

In Memory of John Delloro + Poem

Dearest John,

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

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

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

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

where faith does not kill;

where the one who reigns is God.”

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

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


A Bullhorn for Justice and Peace:

Memories of John Delloro, 1971-2010

© by Emily P. Lawsin


In this union town, monsoon rains

Wash a flood of memories

In this valley of tears

As I remember the El Niño years

In the City of Angels

Almost 20 years ago, with you,

Our comrade and brothafriend.


I remember when we first met at UCLA;

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

You, a young undergrad, who was taught

Guerrilla theatre by college republicans and Alinksy students,

Thankfully befriended by baby-faced Bong and other Pinoys:

Your Tribung Ligaw

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

They convinced you to reject

Or at least publicly question

The white-washed education

That one used to learn in the San Fernando Valley,

Riddled with all its racial fault lines,

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


I remember how you used to tell everyone

The above story of how you became politicized,

With a twinkle in your eye and a wide smile,

Followed by your chuckled laugh that sounded like gasps

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


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

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

Tabled with you to Save Tagalog classes),

Followed by your trademark

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

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

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

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


I remember our Marxist study groups,

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

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

Even after talking so much,

Chopsticks in one hand and a pen in the other,

Taking notes in the margins for the marginalized.


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

And rallies against Jessica McClintock

For not paying her Asian American garment workers,

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

With a red bandana wrapped around your head

Circling in front of the McClintock boutique on Rodeo Drive,

Leading us all in a chant: without a bullhorn.


I remember when you and Jay announced the creation of the

Pilipino Workers Center,

How Uncle Roy said Manong Philip would be so proud:

All three of you now our guardian angels.


I remember when you were writing your Master’s thesis

And spoke to my Asian American Studies class at Northridge,

Just a few miles from where you grew up,

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

Then taught them about sweatshop workers

With a pyramid in the shape of a dress.

I told you that you were a good teacher,

You should teach.


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

Had to get your feet wet in the Vegas desert,

Organizing the workers,

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

Who could ever get you to slow down.

The two of you married the same year I did,

All of us reinventing the red diaper brigade.


When Spam became synonymous with junk mail,

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

Teaching our people’s struggles to the masses

In the form of an American Prayer,

Paying homage to our ancestors,

Burning cane fires late into the night.


The last time I saw you in person,

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

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

Told us about teaching at our alma mater and

Directing the Dolores Huerta Labor Institute.

While I noticed your healthier potluck plate,

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

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


With 1700 of your other friends,

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

Until you finally went home to rest.


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

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

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

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

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

Just as you did,

With all your heart.


John Delloro: PRESENTE!

June 6, 2010

Detroit 3:07 AM ET

www.emilylawsin.com

UPDATES:

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


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

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


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


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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