Growing up in the Bay Area, I always fetishized the East Bay, the 510, the nickel and dime (as was referred to in voicemail intros back in the day), as the center of Filipinos in the Bay. In contrast to what was then a very homogenous (read: white) city of Concord, the East Bay was teeming with Filipino culture! My high school friends and I would drive to Newpark Mall and get our sepia toned pictures done–baby hairs combed down with gel with matching racer stripe maxi skirts. We’d run into other Filipino/a youth at the studio and all I could do was be jealous that they had more Filipinos in their neck of the woods than I had in mine.
Coming to CSU East Bay to talk about transnational families, I didn’t know what to expect. Maybe the students there were 2nd and 3rd generation? Maybe they couldn’t relate?
Oh was I wrong. This group of students that so generously organized time, space and resources to host me and The Labor of Care, did so to learn more about family separation in our community. They were, themselves, members of transnational families–separated from parents then brought over. And if they didn’t relate, they sat together to listen about our community’s issues.
After an exchange about the book’s ideas and their own experiences, these gracious students of PASA who were in the midst of PCN season related their current theme to my work. They offered me dance in return and I was so happy to bare witness.
All these years later, the East Bay is still a geography of Filipino America that is quite under organized, underrated, understudied and underrepresented. I hope one day soon, someone will organize with and write about the brilliance of its Filipino youth and the deep histories of Filipinos there. There’s definitely more to it that sepia pictures and malls.