In Pinoy Capital a book about Filipinos in Daly City, Benito “Sonny” Vergara Jr. discuss the act of “re-turn” as an alternative to assimilation for this community. He writes:
“repeated turning…through political activism, assertions of ethnic pride, nostalgia, consumerism or just vague remembering. Re-turn is obliquely opposed to the narrative of assimilation. The tension between this remembrance and the demands of citizenship in the new homeland, the obligations in different directions, constitute a predicament for the Philippine immigrant.”
I find this idea of re-turn useful, as I actually take myself, my children and partner back to the Philippines for the summer, because it reminds me that being a diasporic subject of the Philippines means that I have many re-turns in relation to my homeland.
On the heels of the massive disenfranchisement and disinformation that elected the descendants of fascists in the Philippines, I have re-turned to my commitment to genuine democracy in the Philippines in different ways. Organizing with Filipinx American and Filipinx Canadian scholars, the Critical Filipinx Studies Collective and the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies at UC Davis, we’ve written a collective statement to offer analysis on the current conditions. We have organized a Martial Law syllabus and will subsequently hold a “summer school” wherein we tackle the archival, scholarly and intellectual scholarship on the Marcos administration and Martial Law. A re-turn to organizing and intellectual work to support building movements of opposition and resistance.
As I prepare my children to have their first visit to the land where I was born and raised, I have been singing songs, reading books and creating art about fruit and plants that we may see and experience. All of which are supported by amazing Filipino American educators here in Daly City. The Language Pathways program in SFUSD at Longfellow Elementary School has fostered an environment where children (one of my kids finished up 1st grade, and my second going into kinder in the Fall) can learn and feel celebrated for their Filipino identity–a far cry from the kind of elementary education I received when I immigrated here.
As we set off to our summer adventure in the Philippines, as a family, I hold the idea of “re-turn”–repeated turning to the Philippines–as a way to think about the many ways we return to our motherland, to ourselves.