Power of Pinays

Last work trip of the semester took me back to Montreal to the Pinay Power II Conference. It was my honor to learn from contribute to the conversation about the power of Pinays. Here are some snaps of the amazing Pinay scholar-activists, kasamas and artists I was in conversation with.

Circle of Filipinos talking about organizing in the US

Jojo Guan from the Center for Women’s Resources speaking about the role of Filipinas in struggle

Jhem and Leah from Pinay Quebec talking about recent changes in immigration policy

Activists and scholar-activists from Filipino communities all over Canada and US

Cat from UC Davis learning about political prisoners in the Philippines

Jojo Guan giving a lecture on Filipino women’s situation

Kasama selfie

Kay Nasol facilitating an icebreaker

Dr. Robyn Rodriguez giving a keynote speech on dissident friendships

March was a quiet month for this last semester on book tour but there were other types of amazing buzz circulating about The Labor of Care. Two of which are written by Filipina graduate students and scholars–check them out below:

Giselle Dejamco Cunanan writes a book review for Ethnic Racial Studies alongside Jan Padios’ amazing work A Nation on the Line.

Xenia Rochelle Jones writes a book review from the Open University in the UK.


Labor of Care in Toronto

So excited to be back in Toronto!

York-Fransico-Menchavez Poster

I was in Toronto for a workshop in 2014 and haven’t been back since. Still, I have been in conversation with Filipino-Canadian scholars and community members for quite some time and I’m thrilled to be back in the city to share insights from the book and learn about the community there!


SFSU Labor of Care Book Salon

The Labor of Care_Book Salon

In one week, I’ll be in conversation with brilliant SFSU scholars, Dr. Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales and Dr. Celine Parreñas Shimizu, about the ideas, theories and methods of The Labor of Care!

When I go on book talks, it’s usually me talking about the book and my arguments in it. Most folks come without having read the book, coming to hear what it’s all about. It’s a great experience to share the key findings with folks.

But this event is formatted quite differently. Instead of me rehearsing the book’s interventions, Dr. Tintiangco-Cubales and Dr. Parreñas Shimizu will share their comments and thoughts on the work. Then we’ll have an opportunity to pick up interesting points in a salon-style discussion. It will undoubtedly be a humbling and learning experience for me and I feel so privileged to have this opportunity.

It will be bittersweet. In my vision of this on-campus celebration back in the summer of 2018, Dr. Dawn Bohulano Mabalon would’ve joined us, delivered her thoughts on the book and, surely, offered brilliance and laughter to the salon. I’m trying my very best to honor her during the event. I hope she’ll be proud.

The book salon will be on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 from 6:00-8:00 PM at LIB 121. The flyer for the event is attached and the event page is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/2051410071620697/

There will be light refreshments served. Books will be on sale. This is an alumni event is held in recognition of Dr. Rachel Kahn-Hut, former Professor of Sociology at San Francisco State University.


Little FaceTime with my littles

Leaving for book talks all over the nation and across national borders is a lot of work. And keeping in touch while away also has its sets of labor. Should I FaceTime the kids, and risk them getting upset about seeing my face but not being able to cuddle up next to me? Should I disrupt the routine the their Papa has set when I’m away with a phone call? Is it possible to be on screen for a bit and then get off without them losing their sh*t?

In my privileged world as a documented person in the US and as a scholar who gets financial support for travel and lodging for book talks, these questions reign supreme. In The Labor of Care, I write about these decision-making processes and the actual work it takes to muster up the time and coordination to make these communication habits regular. Now as a traveling, working mother, these theories have come to life.


Montreal and Irvine, Snow and Sun

The first month of the year hasn’t ended yet and I’ve been to three universities, delivered a handful of talks from classrooms, speaker series events, seminars and community centers! I love that touring The Labor of Care allows me to talk about transnational families, possibilities of organizing with migrants, emotions and youth, technology and solidarity and resistance. I’ve been humbled to be able to have an audience with brand new youth and student organizers, long-time activists, students starting a master’s program and advanced doctoral students, everyday folks/organic intellectuals.

Amidst subzero snowy weather in Montreal, I was welcomed by Anakbayan Montreal, a group of young Filipino-Canadian students from McGill University and Concordia University who arrived in Canada as children or were born in different provinces like Ottawa and Québéc. They narrated their experiences of organizing and finding the progressive youth and students organization with painful experiences of loss, discrimination and, dare I say, double or triple exclusion from the French-speaking, Canadian society that often reads their bodies and communities as low-wage workers. Still, the power in the room was their unity. Many of them were Toronto bound for the Bayan Canada congress where progressive Filipino organizations across Canada would unite on the coming political goals of Filipino communities for the years to come.

After my talks at McGill and Concordia, I had the immense privilege of sharing about immigrant workers’ organizing at the Immigrant Workers Centre with board members Aziz Choudry and Jill Hanley and various activists and volunteers at the IWC. In these community sharings, I’ve learned that across borders, rising fascism and insecure labor regimes have criminalized immigrants and victimized their families and communities. Despite these conditions, the resilient spirit of immigrants finds its ways into centers, in organizations, in rallies and mass mobilizations.

Only a few days later with sun and warmth, I arrived in Irvine, CA where doctoral candidate in History, Pinay scholar-activist, Stefanie Lira, invited me to share my findings about migrant worker organizing with the students and faculty at UC Irvine. Alongside my book talk, I was lucky to be able to sit in a meeting for Gabriela South Bay where they were planning a Diwang Pinay cultural production, just like the one covered in the book.  This group of progressive Filipinas and Filipina Americans have worked with survivors of trafficking and caregivers created a program last year and are embarking on a new project.

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks and tomorrow Spring semester begins! More book events to come as well!



Labor of Care at UC Irvine tomorrow

It’ll be my first time in Irvine! I’m looking forward to sharing ideas about care work among Filipina migrants and possibilities for solidarity in the book. This is my favorite chapter in the book to discuss!

More importantly, I’ll be engaging with the work of Filipina American historian and doctoral candidate, Stefanie Lira. Stefanie’s work on reading colonial archive to examine “formations of race and masculinity in early colonial Philippines” (Lira, forthcoming) is an exciting endeavor and I am excited to learn from her and her colleagues at UC Irvine.

valerie francisco-menchavez poster

The Labor of Leaving

Being a working mama isn’t easy. That guilt and sadness–that one that really gets ya when you’re on your way to work (to workplace, work trips, international and national, etc.)? It is brutal. Then, making sure things are set up at home to ensure family members have what they need to live their best lives while you’re gone is a lot of work. Between my partner and I, getting ready to leave for a 4-day trip to Montreal for my book talk, is a lot of tedious work and logistics. 

It takes a lot of labor to leave. My partner and I try to make it as easy as possible to take care of two young children while I’m gone. We’ve got quite a handful with kids at 4 and 1. With a parent down, we try to make sure the other’s presence is there by preparing the logistics before the trip. We set out clothes for the children’s wear daily, usually they correspond to stickers so that our kids know when Mama will be back. We shop for food and cook meals beforehand. We organize schedules to make sure both children are where you need to be for events, learning and childcare. We pack bags for lunches, snacks and diapers in advance so its easy to grab and go. We even put a Google doc together to make sure we’re literally on the same “page”.

I recount these details to demonstrate that it takes a lot to leave a family behind to be on this book tour. The work of keeping a family up and running is tedious whether you’re in proximity or not. It’s actually the very thing that I write about in The Labor of Care. That decisions to leave children and family behind isn’t an easy decision, emotionally, mentally, spritually, but its actually not easy to do it logistically either. That “mental load” that mothers carry, follows them transnationally and binds them to their family. If you’re a migrant mother, you are still organizing the little details of children’s lives and family members’ in your head. It doesn’t go away.

Funny, I understand that fact now, even more, as a mother. As a researcher, I got an inkling of what it meant to leave but I didn’t quite understand the gravity of it, until I had to leave my own children to work. Of course, my privilege and position as a professor touring a book around, is completely different from a migrant mother leaving her family for an indefinite amount of time. But the iota of recognition from my experience convinces me more than ever that family separation (through forced migration) should be resolved.

Work and holding down a family isn’t contradictory. But it sure ain’t easy either. For migrant parents, for single parents, for parents who don’t have the support of their partners, while working, a big shoutout to you. Much respect for holding down your homes on all fronts. What is in your labor of leaving?



Tiffany Mendoza, Jessa Delos Reyes, Stephanie Ancheta, Jeannel Poyaoan and Katrina Liwanag were amazing co-researchers in a study about Filipino language access in San Francisco. A team of undergraduate, graduate and recent alums, we co-authored a paper about the key role Filipino community-based organizations (CBO) play to help Filipinos/as in San Francisco.


Recently, our work was featured in SFSU news and I’m still so lucky to have had amazing collaborators in these amazing Pinay sociologists!




Labor of Care Book Tour Spring 2019

And I’m off again! For the Spring 2019 book tour, I’ll be making my way out to Montreal (McGill University and Concordia University), UC Irvine, UC Davis and University of Toronto and, there’s even a special book salon event at my alma mater and home institution San Francisco State University in honor of Dr. Dawn Bohulano Mabalon! I’m so excited to continue to share the stories of Filipina migrants working as domestic workers in New York City and their families in the Philippines!

LoC Spring Book Tour.jpg

Below are the flyers for various book talks for the tour!

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Lessons from Sabbatical, Part 2: Mothering on Tenure Track

Even before my sabbatical started, I was really obsessed with “doing it right”. I asked a group of scholars and they advised me: never to go on campus, put an away message in my inbox, set clear goals. So I did that, and then life stepped in.

When I started sabbatical, Cy was just 18 months old. Really still a baby. He was just getting his legs under him, walking like a drunk man. Still nursing. Still babbling, trying to grasp sign language and even string syllables together. Trying his best to figure out how to sleep through the night. He was growing but he was still just so little.

Aya was starting preschool. At a co-op, no less. Our friend circle went from 5 at her home daycare setting, to 25 children at her new preschool. We were both transitioning into a new social space and,  for me, a different type of workload: integrating into the preschool meant I had to learn how to teach and be with 3-4 year olds. And more importantly, how to step back so AYA could learn how to be with 3-4 year olds.

Not exactly what I dreamed of when I envisioned sabbatical during my grad school years. I imagined myself with a rigorous writing schedule, only taking breaks for healthful meals or physical activity. I saw myself cafe hopping, churning out an outline for my second book. Working endlessly at a huge writing project that connects workers struggles to academic thinking. Actually, in my successful sabbatical application, I proposed to collect x number of surveys from Filipino caregivers assessing their physical and mental health, I’d finish an article manuscript, setting me up for a stronger grant proposal in the future.

In my actual sabbatical, I didn’t pump out my new book. I didn’t get to cozy up to cool new cafes in San Francisco. I only hit a little over 50% of my goal in terms of research collection. I wasn’t as productive in the writing and research vision that I had.

But I was so productive in so many other ways: I weaned Cy and my partner sleep trained him while I was away on a book talk in Singapore. I’ve been able to volunteer at Cy’s daycare and see him really grow in his interests: building and stacking, mixing colors and running–really running. I’ve gotten to get to know Aya in another element: her fearless attitude interacting with other children, her ability to take and not take rejection from other kids, her curiosity to learn.

I chose to be present in these ways on my sabbatical. I chose to be with my children in their spaces instead of writing my new book. I figured I’m still gonna write that book, but when else will I have the time to be so present to watch my small children discover such new things: rain, ballet, kicking a ball for the first time, snow.

Don’t get me wrong. I did a bunch of good things too.

But I also cherished my time and privilege in mothering my children during this sabbatical. So I think I did it right.


Lessons from Sabbatical, Part 1: Baking cakes and ideas

I took my very first sabbatical in the Fall of 2018. A part of my plan during my time off was to take up a new hobby: baking. I didn’t know that it would teach me so many things about my scholarship, grieving and joy.

The art of mise en place in the baking process threw me into a loop. I’m the kind of cook that abides by the cooking logic of “maskipaps” or in Tagalog, maski papaano, which means throw everything in a pot however you like it. I often remember that my stir-fry needs oil just as the pan is heating up and am chopping up vegetables right before I throw it all together. So, mise en place kind of baking really slowed me down; really setting aside the things I need for a recipe beforehand made baking all that easier and enjoyable.

In this way, my sabbatical’s scholarly production was also about lining up my work before just throwing it all in an article. Mise en place taught me that perhaps drafting a paper, presenting it and then coming back to work on it has its benefits. Although, I was juggling a few writing projects during my sabbatical, I tried my best to organize the different segments of a project before I started and stared at the screen, all scared about its emptiness. When I had free writes on literature review or a data section worked out, putting all the pieces together became easier, more enjoyable.

With baking a cake, after ingredients are all mixed in together and put in the oven, there’s no guarantee that the cake will bake in the estimated time of 23-25 minutes. Sometimes, you’ve gotta go in, poke a hole in the middle of that cake and find it undercooked, and then make your best guess on how many more minutes to put on the timer.

Well, that felt like all of my research and writing efforts during this sabbatical. I’m currently conducting a survey on Filipino caregivers’ health and I’ve failed many times to collect surveys. Each try, under baked. Each try, a better estimate on a different way to collect surveys. With the help of intrepid students, and ideas from family members and community, I’ve been making those best guesses, trying and making errors until I was finally able to get a good number of surveys! I’m far from done, but I’m definitely making way.

I took up baking primarily because I wanted to be able to bake a cake for my children’s birthdays and special occasions. My Mama was adamant about having cake during birthdays, even through really lean times for our family growing up, we could count on a sweet treat and a candle to blow out on our birthdays. I wanted the same for Aya and Cy. Aya’s birthday was my first run at birthday cake joy and her pride of the cakes that “Mama made” was worth all of the fails and victories of these cakes. I was always so happy to share my add-and-mix processes with her and eating cake with her was even better!

But as I started the process, I learned that baking was also about doing something that I knew, a friend and mentor of mine, Dr. Dawn Bohulano Mabalon loved to do. In fact, when my book came out in March of 2018, Dawn baked beautiful cupcakes to bring to my book party. Her famous Ube cupcakes were gone in an instant and if it wasn’t for my sister who held on to one, I would’ve missed the whole batch. In the throes of cake flour and vanilla extract, I often think about how much Dawn loved (and was so good at) baking. And maybe, in the whirls of my stand up mixer and in the middle of complex recipes, we’re together.

This sabbatical has done me so much good in slowing down the pace of this super-frenetic life as an academic, a mother and activist. I loved that it taught me that good ideas and good cakes take time; to savor the process and to create isn’t about what comes of it but what you learn along the way. Here’s to more bakes: both intellectual and cakes in 2019!