poetry & tsismis: emily's blog

May 2, 2011

Remembering Al Robles (1930-2009)


Al Robles at UCLA 1996. Photo by Tony Osumi.

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

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

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

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

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

Al Robles and Emily Lawsin at UCLA 1996

Oscar Peñaranda, T, and me 2006

Dear Kuya Oscar   

© by Emily P. Lawsin   

On the book launching of Al Robles’ book 

Rappin’ With Ten Thousand Carabaos in The Dark

Irvine, California, May 17, 1996.

______________________________________

Manong Al visits the Southland today,  

bringing us fish heads and carabaos

together to jam.

Our Pinoy Luck Club barkada

skips its regular meeting of

Friday night “X-Files and Tiles,”

saving lost quarters for lonely bus rides

and smoggy lattes;

how could we ever fill your shoes?

Our Doc Martens and Birkenstocks

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

We’re fortunate though, this new Flip generAsian,

tempted by you Kearny Street tamaraws:

we shout via E-mail, reclaiming reclámo.

Irene’s Babaye Productions started

our call, herding us to greez in brown fields

of Temple, Melrose, and Westwood,

where Wendell’s Downright Pinoy self,

more than just a t-shirt man,

throws us props, rappin’, producin’,

dekonstruktin’ all our funk-shuns.

With Dawn and Allyson,

sistahs fightin’ in struggle,

brewin hungry champorrado dreams;

the Villaraza and Parreñas clans

and Allan’s gothic poetry

blowin our freakin’ minds, and

nappy flip Nap Napoleon

swingin his sharp bolo smile, scars,

and Zig-Zag-wrapped cigarettes.

 We’re fortunate, yes, tonight,

the Liwanag 2 crew lassoing our ranks,

sistah Darlene’s multiple tongues searing our plates,

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

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

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

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

that he is

and return to the SF State days when you once peddled

a crushed box of black-and-white Liwanag books

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

I wonder, was it the same car you

used to push up to Seattle?

Bringing Nanay and Tatay an endless supply

of canned salmon and me diaper tales of

your wayward Alaskan ways.

Decades later, your AIIIEEEEE!

buddy Shawn gave me an A,

not knowing I was your

cousin/niece/wanna-be hija poet,

the only student in his class of 200

raising her hand when he asked,

        “Who has ever read Carlos Bulosan?”

          Never thanked you for those days.

Another decade later,

Manong Sam Tagatac, with his sleepy eye,

Ifugao tales, and Ilocano twang

returned with me to the UCLA campus,

left his Manila Cafe apron on Santa Barbara’s beach

to add a hint of bagoong to our new stew,

blamed your teaching-ass self for it all:

poets perpetrating as professors,

thinking this is how carabaos

will crush coconuts in the Ivory Tower.

Now he’s vanished, his ailing wife calling,

his film cans fading, and we young bucks

fry his tuyo not knowing where it came from.

We never thanked your barkada for those days,   

for adding light to our fire,

for excavating ghosts from the mountain tops,

for bringing us the songs of the Syquias,

Jundis’ jingles, Cachapero’s cacophony,

Cerenio’s seriousness, Tamayo’s teasings,

Tagami’s Tobera teachings, Ancheta’s anitos,

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

So, Kuya Oscar, as we Kababayans

kick back, chillin amongst jasmine vines,

Southern Cali’s substitute for the sampaguita flower,

with Manong Al’s smoky white hair jammin’,

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

I scribble on this bending bamboo,

throwing you our shout-outs, our salamats,

for dodging the draft, for pushing our pens,

for publishing Pinoys and Pinays before

anyone knew what that was, is, and

always will be,

and for plowin’ the fields,

for plowin’ these fields,

for plowing the fields

before us. 

*   *   *

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

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

 the Kearny Street Writers’ Workshop,

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

Irene Soriano, Darlene Rodrigues, and Theo Gonzalves.

   

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

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

Originally published in DisOrient Journalzine, Volume 9: 2001.

www.emilylawsin.com

 

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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!


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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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/

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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

 

 

Click HERE to Read My Previous Blog Post: Podcast of Spoken Word Performance at East Meets West Show

 

 

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