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Labor of Care on HellaPinay’s #GetLit

The Labor of Care is on HELLAPINAY, y’all! In May’s book review roundup from the brilliant Pia Cortez, my book is sandwiched among some pretty awesome titles in their series, #GetLit!

I’ve been following hellapinay on Instagram for a while now because its Pinay-centric content gives me my whole life. And when the infamous book-reviewer and homie, Pia Cortez aka the brains and beauty behind Libromance offered to review my book, I was over the moon. My hopes for my book was that people outside of the academy would read it and relate to it or find it interesting or see themselves in it. And when I read Cortez’s words, “In many ways, reading brought me closer to my mom. She spoke to me through the stories I read, as I understood her own pain. I saw my mom not just as my mother, but as a fellow immigrant, a Filipina, a woman of color trying to survive and thrive in this world.” At that moment, I wasn’t just hella pinay, I was hella crying.

Having Pia, a powerful Pinay writer, feature my book on her list on this amazing Pinay platform alongside so many bad-ass writers like Arundhati Roy and poet, Aja Monet, makes my heart so happy.

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Bridge City

Often, when I deliver a talk about The Labor of Care, I can’t help but get choked up about the lives and sacrifices of the women in the book. And during my last stop on this semester’s book tour in Portland, it was no different. More so because I began with the story of my own mother, Mama Irma, and her journey to the US with three young kids in tow. I’ve dragged Cy to almost every book talk so I know the logistics entailed in traveling with an infant. So to think about my own mother’s bravery, audacity and tenacity to schlep all three of us across the Pacific Ocean, I give her HELLA props.

I think sharing my own biography and reflecting on the stories in the book allowed people to connect to the book in different ways. Whether it was their own migration story, their own epistemological truths, their own journey to seek out new knowledge production, the Portland crowd seemed to engage with my work in so many different ways.

Photo credit: Patrick Villaflores Image description: Copy of the evening’s paper program in the foreground and VFM speaking in the background

It was important to me to know that the book could relate to people who are non-Filipino, non-migrant. And many of the attendees were just that. Still they connected in some way.

More importantly though, a great showing of Filipino community and organizations came: GABRIELA PDX, Anakbayan PDX, Portland Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Kaibigan at PSU. And also colleagues and grinds too! I was so proud to share this work with them and because of them–they whose stories are parallel with the ones in the book. Especially told Center stage as a keynote in a city that often invisibilizes Filipinos.

For the Filipino community in Portland (yes, they’re there) and the comrades who helped watch Cy during my academic talks, I was so honored to represent their experiences.

Now, time to grade and sprint to the finish line of the semester!

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Honoring mothering

On Mother’s Day, I’d like to honor those who are doing the work of mothering:

  • Migrant mother’s caring from afar
  • Mothers who are red fighters
  • Single mothers
  • Queer mothers
  • Nannies, domestic workers, childcare providers
  • Teachers
  • Single fathers
  • Aunties and Titas
  • Ates and older sisters
  • Mothers who have lost a child or children
  • Best friends of mothers
  • Godmothers
  • Mothers-to-be
  • Fictive mothers or Nanay-nanayan
  • Community mothers and kasama mamas

This is not an exhaustive list but it’s who I think about doing the WORK of mothering. The work is not always caring and loving, often it is difficult and we may not come to it fully but many people do it. So with my most grateful heart, thank you.

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Nickel and Dime

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.

Photo credit: John Tolang Image description: VFM standing and addressing group of students

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. Photo credit: John Tolang Image Description: VFM sitting listening to group of students

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.

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Today, in the East Bay!

CSU East Bay has always had a soft place in my heart, mostly because of my student organizing days with PACE, PASA and Akbayan, and the formation of Tri-Force back in the day. I’ll be back on the CSU East Bay campus after a decade to talk about my journey and how it informed my writing of the Labor of Care!

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Portland, get ready!

A huge part of The Labor of Care was finalized in cafes, restaurants and community meetings in Portland. Organizations like Portland Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, GABRIELA PDX, and Anakbayan PDX were political homes for my book and developing the manuscript. I’m so happy to be coming back to the PNW to share the book!

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Patience and Fortitude

Did you know those lions in front of 42nd St library are called Patience and Fortitude? In grad school, I’d walk the few blocks from The Graduate Center and set myself on those steps to eat lunch and read my seminar’s assigned readings. I never knew they had names. Until so many years later, someone told me that finishing a book took both patience and fortitude.

Those words made so much sense as I finished up these two book talks in New York City. This place, a home to the words and ideas in The Labor of Care, often seemed chaotic and unruly. During research, I couldn’t figure out how all the pieces would fit together, if the work would every yield anything important, and even, if I’d get a job after all was said and done. Walking NYC streets and taking trains reminded me of the very visceral sensibilities that first formed the theories in my book.

And although there were times, I didn’t think I’d finish my PhD, much less transform the ideas into a book, it was patience and fortitude, the names of these lions roaring encouraging words to me, that got me to publication and back to New York. But instead of static statues atop a national monument, the roaring lions were the domestic workers whose stories I was telling, the community organizations that deemed the work important enough to invest time and effort, friends, mentors and family who believed I could turn the work into something important. I’m so grateful for them.

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Image Description: Crowd standing next to one another with author for a post-event photo. 

Going to New York City to give this book back to those who gave me the responsibility of telling their stories was an absolute gift. Being in the Skylight Room at the Graduate Center talking the book’s ideas over with Premilla Nadasen and Michelle Saulon Luat of MIGRANTE NYC was delightful. We built out the ideas of scholar-activism and the importance of care work in community organizing. We recognized the neoliberal moment/crisis that forces so many families to be separated. And at the end, I felt so honored to have two amazing women, committed to the very same social justice values I hold dear, to discuss the work.

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Image Description: Michelle Luat, Valerie Francisco-Menchavez, Premilla Nadasen sit next to each other discussing the book, The Labor of Care. Photo Credit: James Flores

Lastly, it was such a thrill to bring my children and partner, Raul, to NYC for this momentous occasion. We walked to road as a family of four carving out new roads and ways for our families to make sense of the city. Patience and fortitude was needed it that as well!

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Labor of Care NYC launch

It is my great honor and pleasure to come back to CUNY, The Graduate Center to launch The Labor of Care in New York City!

When I first came to the Graduate Center to begin my doctoral program, I remember going to a lecture in the Skylight Room and knowing that one day, I’ll come back to this very room to share my work. More importantly, I get to share this launch in conversation with two brilliant women: Lorena McRae-Sanchez, a MIGRANTE NYC organizer and a pivotal figure in the book, and, Premilla Nadasen, an accomplished scholar and writer of Household Workers Unite: The Untold Story of African American Women Who Built a MovementBoth were super important in shaping this project and my current thinking!

I’ll be documenting my return to NYC in this blog!

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Sukli: Children Repaying Migrant Mothers

During my fieldwork, the children of migrant mothers (both adults and young people) used this Filipino word, “sukli”, to talk about how they understood the ways they gave back to their mothers abroad.

As someone who left the Philippines as a 3rd grader, my Tagalog is sort of stunted there. I’d always known sukli has the change you received when you paid for something. But as these folks in the Philippines, members of transnational families, showed me, there was also a symbolic interpretation of this word. Something that couldn’t be measured in monetary remittance or economic measure.

Sukli ,for many children left behind, meant that they were doing what they could from this place left behind, the Philippines, to repay the sacrifice that their mothers made when they migrated. Sukli was anything from getting good grades or consistent attendance at school, or making sure that the new house was bought and paid for with remittances, or even taking care of Lolo and Lola left behind.

This idea of sukli, and how folks were using it, made so much sense. There’s care work in the transnational family that isn’t and can’t be counted via the GDP. Just like the material definition of this word, its often looked as what you get back when pay for something. But its often considered lesser, rather than a part that makes a whole.

I write about this idea a bit in The Labor of Care but I expound on it in this peer-reviewed article in Children’s GeographiesFirst 50 downloads are free! Grab it if you’re interested!

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Queenila next week!

Next week, I get to go back to New York City to do an East coast book launch at my alma mater, The Graduate Center, hosted by the Center for the Study of Women in Society. And I’m so honored to have Premilla Nadasen, author of  Household Workers Unite and professor of History at Barnard College, and Lorena Sanchez-McRae, organizer with MIGRANTE NYC and inspiration for much of my writing, discuss the book.

Years ago, the migrant women in The Labor of Care were joking that they didn’t live in Queens–actually, they lived in a place called “Queenila”. Their feet on the sidewalk of Queens, New York but their hearts always in Manila with their families. I loved the concept of Queenila because it demonstrated so accurately the transnationality of the lives of migrant Filipinas.

But truthfully, it also reminded me of how much I lived in the in-between. Back then in grad school, I felt like my life was in between many places too.

I’m thrilled to go back to NYC and see family, friends and comrades there and I’ll have my whole family in tow so I hope to see you there!

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