I grew up just a few cities down from Moraga and knew many friends that headed there for university after high school. Tonight, I’ll be sharing a bit about The Labor of Care and growing up in the East Bay at St. Mary’s!
I grew up just a few cities down from Moraga and knew many friends that headed there for university after high school. Tonight, I’ll be sharing a bit about The Labor of Care and growing up in the East Bay at St. Mary’s!
Shoutout to FASA sa UP and the amazing Yuri Hernandez, the Diversity and Inclusion Program Coordinator at the University of Portland for hosting my book talk. Coming back to Portland to celebrate FAHM and come back to FASA which was just getting off the ground when I taught at UP, was pretty awesome. It was great to see UP alumni who were students in my past courses and see how far they have all come. It was my privilege to remind these young leaders that our Filipino American history is in their hands. I trust that they’ll make us proud!
I’ll be back in Portland today, at the University of Portland to talk about the connections between The Labor of Care and Filipino American History Month! I’ll be paying tribute to Dr. Dawn Bohulano Mabalon and her work to champion Filipino American History Month in all corners of the nation.
I’ve been a longtime fan of Rocky Rivera, SF-native, Oakland-based Filipina American rapper, activist, & mother. Her newest effort entitled “Rocky’s Revenge” came out last week while I was traveling with my family so I put off listening the the album until I was home in the Bay, perhaps taking a drive to the very SF streets that raised her. All symbolic-like. So I waited until I got back. Almost a week after people have been posting, sharing and copping the album. I feel behind.
But, I wanted to honor her work in that way so leave me alone in my symbolism and lateness.
Anyway, I dropped my kids off yesterday and drove my mom-car around the Excelsior and the Mission with it on full blast. And boy did she take me on a ride.
The work was beautiful. Honest and vulnerable. Painful and creative. The textures and tempo of the songs across the album was fascinating. Hooking you into the next track like a page turner. Her cadence and wordplay was on point and as always, the imagery in her concepts and stories were so sharp.
The first song titled after the album was a helluva introduction to Rocky’s newest musical effort. My favorite lines traced lineage of maternal and matriarchal magic connecting a mystical past through the violence of patriarchy and misogyny (past and present) all the way to the Pinay futurity where Rocky claims, “I’m Mother Nature so respect me/You all my sons.” I loved this track because it was infused with a militant maternalism that invoked images of womb, baby carrying, the mystic power of womanhood and motherhood. In this iteration of her artistry, I could hella relate to Rocky as a mother, realizing the universe existing in my many states and potentialities. She echoed what I’ve felt in my bones.
Across the album, Rocky gives me the right mix of gangsta, mama, militancy, Filipiniana and Bay. She sounds authentically Bay Area-bred with roots in the Philippines, music reflective of our Filipino American struggles. It’s a special and unique experience: being raised Filipino in the Bay Area. Wherever I’ve lived in the US, Bay Area Filipinos often find one another and stick together. Often because I think there’s something about it that only applies to us. Rocky sounds like that feeling. She sounds like how it feels to be home in the Bay, be with ya peoples.
It brings me to my favorite song: it has to be the penultimate track “Like You”, an emotional tribute to the late great Bay Area legend, The Jacka. When I first met Rocky, I remember connecting on the Bay Area rap tip. We were in college and because I was raised in the FAR East Bay, I felt a bit out of place in terms of music and FilAm culture in SF. We listened to the likes of RBL Posse, Andre Nickatina and The Jacka where I came from. And Rocky knew exactly who I was talkimbout. She not only listened to Jacka’s music but interviewed him for her journalistic endeavors and befriended him–no, be-familied him. When Jacka passed away from gun violence, I was heart broken so listening to this track, I really felt Rocky as she laid bare the shattered pieces of her heart. J.O.A.L. Or Mr. Vargas to his students, rapper and righteous Westmoor high teacher, noted that the opening line, “I’ll probably never feel the same about the Bay again,” was Rocky’s reflection about losing a beloved friend but it could also be about how the Bay has transformed with gentrification, racialized capitalism, and so much more. As someone who has experienced loss more recently, Rocky’s tribute to Jacka gave me the opportunity to stay in my pain and feel it shamelessly. In this way, her track transcended their relationship, inviting us listeners to take part in grief: hers and our own.
I’m no music journalist. Just a sociologist and a fan of Rocky’s. But if you’re out there reading this blog: do yourself a favor, buy Rocky Rivera’s album. Better yet go to her album release party on Thursday.
“Larry was Filipino like me, Mama?” asked Aya. “Yes he is, Aya,” I answered.
Today, I brought a little Filipino American history lesson in my backpack to teach preschoolers. I didn’t know if they’d get it. Or if they’d like the story. But, I tried. With the help of “Journey for Justice: The Life of Larry Itliong”, published out of the Stockton-based publishing house Bridge + Delta, the first nonfiction illustrated children’s book about Filipino American history and the first book ever written about Larry Itliong, I learned so much about the capacity of children (including my own daughter, Aya) to understand the plight of farmworkers, past and present.
Manong Larry, the oft forgotten United Farm Workers (UFW) cofounder, migrated to the United States, worked in the fields of the Central Valley of California and devoted his life to fight for a farmworkers union. In the above photos, I engaged in a project of watercolors and a coloring page of Larry Itliong’s portrait out of the book as a way to tell the story Manong Larry. What were the conditions under which he led the Delano Grape Strike, united across racial divides in the fields and created national attention to the plight of farmers in the Central Valley? I asked the 3-4 year olds who were painting Manong Larry’s portrait, what they thought farmworkers would need to be healthy and strong. They replied with: “rest”, “food for energy”, “sleep”, and “snacks”. Although, the demands of the Delano Grape Strike was much more complex, much of what the strike was about was the issues of lack of rest and poor working conditions, low wages or the inability of farmworkers to support themselves.
Penned by late San Francisco State University professor and historian, Dr. Dawn Bohulano Mabalon, with Gayle Romasanta and illustrated by Andre Sibayan, this book is a exemplary case of FAHM as it is about, authored and illustrated by Filipino Americans. And as I’ve written in a past post, an exciting opportunity to reveal to younger generations of Filipino Americans that they belong to a proud lineage of trailblazers, risk-takers and rabble rousers.
Through this book, and simple coloring pages like these, families could possibly talk about Larry’s leadership in his community and his courageous cross-cultural partnership with Mexican farmworkers to achieve equity. (Here’s a quick video about Manong Larry and why his story is a part of the American story.) During this Filipino American History Month, with this exciting book soon to be released, we all have another tool in our shelves to ensure that young people, of all backgrounds, can be part of the positive change that Manong Larry was a part of building.
An awesome bonus of this FAHM lesson was the conversations I had with other Filipino American parents and grandparents about who Larry Itliong was and why they never heard of him. It was great to hear that we were all learning together with our kids.
October is Filipino American History Month (FAHM)! The month marks the first time Filipinos landed on the Chumash settlement or now known as Morro Bay, California in October 1587. Filipino American History Month dating back to the 14th century reminds us all that American history did not begin when Europeans settled to this country. This country’s history is embedded in the first nations that was here and the immigration circuits that predated American settler colonialism.
This FAHM is of utmost importance to me this year as my children are growing into consciousness about themselves, their bodies, their communities and, rightfully so, their his/herstories. Aya and Cy, 3.5 and 1.5 years old respectively, are still quite young but actually it’s important to me that we (my partner, Raul, and I) start to talk to them about their proud history as Filipinos and Filipino Americans at this age.
Its also important to note that any and every child living in the United States of America can benefit from learning about Filipino American history during FAHM. Here are 4 reasons why:
1. Young children are astutely aware of themselves and the people they come from.
Yesterday, when my family and I were at a local Filipino restaurant, Aya said to me, “Everyone here has black hair. And I have black hair. We’re all the same in here.” My partner and I are lucky enough to be raising our children where seeing Filipinos is a daily occurrence, where their preschool and daycare rooms are guaranteed to have (many) Filipino children, where we can pick up a Filipino food favorite at a drop of a dime.
Developmentally, young children are anchoring themselves in the social circles of family, friends and community they see day to day. At ages 3-4, children are quickly understanding themselves and their places in the world. The people who they consider part of their circles give them meaning and affirm them. Storytelling is key to this process. Therefore, a conversation (better yet a story) about Filipino American history with Filipino American children can help them feel secure that their social circles have been here and are here to stay.
Filipinos are one of the largest Asian American groups in California (and most of the Western States) and the oldest Asian American group in the US. In times, where many people in this nation argue about who “belongs” here, FAHM can show Filipino American kids that they are part of a larger community and an even longer history. Thus providing them with a positive self-concept while giving them an opportunity to experience their culture, family history and community in a supportive way.
2. Celebrating FAHM invites children to celebrate their own respective cultures too.
Providing a space for children to claim their Filipino history, culture and heritage can be an invitation to other children to talk, celebrate and learn about their own backgrounds. Aya once said, “Our lumpia has yummy thing in it, what do other people’s lumpias have?”
Filipino American children could share their Fil-Am hero, Larry Itliong, while our Mexican American friends can talk about Cesar Chavez, and how both of them worked hard to uphold the lives of Filipino and Mexican farmworkers. What a great way to invite other children of other cultural backgrounds to learn about their own history and share it with their friends!
Studies have long proven over and again that ethnic studies and multicultural education at an early childhood level can not only help children do better in school and learn about difference in a positive manner but, in fact, realize their similarities and view diversity as integral part of being a part of a whole community.
3. Children love stories. Filipino American history is filled with good stories.
Have you heard about Lakas and the Makibaka Hotel? A story of a boy who takes a walk in his neighborhood only to find that a beloved hotel is to be closed in 30 days. A story about fierce resistance in a community facing fast-paced gentrification? Inspired by the fight for the International Hotel, this children’s book was written by Tony Robles, renowned poet and author, son of poet and activist, Al Robles, who was himself involved in the political fight to save the I-hotel.
Have you heard about Beautiful Eyes? A book in English and Tagalog about the popular Filipino game taught to babies about their beautiful body parts. When asked to do “beautiful eyes”, babies blink their eyelashes to the giggles of their Nanays, Tatays, Lolos and Lolas. Written by Gayle Romasanta, founder of Bridge + Delta Publishing, a Stockton-based publishing house, encourages Filipino children to affirm their sense of self through this beautiful book.
Have you heard about Journey for Justice? The first children’s book about Larry Itliong, a leader in the farm worker’s movement , who led the 1965 Delano Grape Strike and co-founded the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez. Written by Dr. Dawn Bohulano Mabalon with Gayle Romansanta, who have roots and history in the very part of California that Larry Itliong lived, worked and fought for.
Filipino American history is chock-full of inspiring stories that children of any age can appreciate. It is rich with extraordinary people who fought for their communities right to stay, who fought for their communities right to live and thrive. It is rich with the hopes of Filipinos to affirm their bodies, their selves, their futures. It is rich with the many intersections of Filipino American and Filipino migrant stories.
These are our stories. They are good stories. This is our history. They deserved to be told to our children. And in fact, our children might love them. And hopefully, they might learn to see themselves in them.
4. Looking back at Filipino American history encourages children to be part of Filipino American futures.
Right now, and in the foreseeable future, we will need young people’s imagination, creativity and courage to forge a society with equity, sustainability and freedom in mind. Filipino American children are bound to contribute to those futures.
As Filipino national hero, Jose Rizal, once wrote, “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan.” “Those who look at where they’ve come from will not reach where they are going.” Teaching Filipino American children where we, as a community, as a people, have been–the struggles we have faced, the trials we survived, the victories we have achieved–is a gift to our children. It is a gift that will enliven them to confront the hardships (and there are many) ahead of them, and hopefully, inspire them to build anew.
What are some of the reasons why you think we should celebrate FAHM with children?
What are your favorite Filipino American stories?
I never thought I’d be able to visit Singapore, much less have my work featured in a workshop at the Multinational Migrations: Onward Migration Patterns and … – (ARI) at the National University of Singapore! In these first few days in SG, I’ve done a great deal of exploring–thanks to my cousin, Jamie and her husband, Jeric, Filipino migrants who have been living in Singapore for 8 years.
I’ve been to the local spots in neighborhoods like Little India, Arab Street, Geylang Serai. It’s been an eye-opening experience because of the diversity of Singapore and at the same time the efficiency of public infrastructure here: the public transportation system, car traffic, urban planning, greening of urban spaces. And although, I’m sure there are ways that the capital here in Singapore has displaced different communities (I mean, what global city hasn’t?), its quite a different experience of Asia.
In the next few days, I’ll be presenting my work on Filipino transnational families and care work to the top experts and scholars of migration and transnational worldwide. I’m deeply humbled to participate in this workshop but also a little nervous.
Luckily, I have grounding reminders of why I did and do this work. Above is a picture of Megs, a friend for almost a decade, we were introduced by her mother, who I lovingly call Nanay Emy. Both women have been instrumental in my personal growth but also at the center of my book. Last night we ate together at a hawker center over looking the Bay, Merlion and the Gardens by the Bay. We laughed, called each other sister and i instantly remembered the many families that people my book, my research, my wish to change the very systems that drive them apart.
So, here’s to Singapore, all that I’ve learned so far and all that I will learn before I leave!
I’m on sabbatical this Fall! Almost 2 weeks after the Fall semester started for my university, I’m only realizing what a gift this time is. I’m slowing it down: reading a YA novel, writing new ideas, running, going to the tot gym with 1-year old Cy, working shifts at Aya’s co-op preschool, me and Raul even went on a double date yesterday to see Sam Smith in concert!
I’m already feeling the forward momentum.
A part of my sabbatical is a continuation of the (world) book tour for The Labor of Care. So, friends and comrades, come to see me if I’m in your neighborhood this Fall. (Not to worry, I’ve got some good (international) stops in the Spring too, so I’ll see you soon!)
A few Filipina migrants in Kabalikat Domestic Workers Support Network (now MIGRANTE New York) would often joke that they lived in a place called, Queenila. Their feet in Queens, their hearts in Manila.
This place in-between, not here, nor there, elsewhere became a sticking point for me in my research for the #LaborofCare. I often wondered what it was like to live in this space, an imagined place in between but two global cities. An imagined geography that had so much materiality.
Turns out Queenila was’t just a space or place. It became the first of many lessons Filipina migrants would teach me about conducting qualitative research with them, not on them. Queenila was an intimate invitation to step into the lives of Filipina migrants and their families. It not only described their social realities but the word, the concept, the worth of Queenila was an insistence on centering their experiences as Filipina migrants and most importantly, always tethered to the experience of the families left behind. A truly transnational dynamic.
In my most recent publication, “Researching Queenila and Living In-Between: Multi-sited Ethnography, Migrant Epistemology and Transnational Families” in the Journal of Migration and Development, I write about how Queenila was at the crux of my research methodology. I insist on engaging migrant epistemology to deepen our understanding of transnationalism. You can find a free e-Print of the article here. And if you can’t access it, feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve been on a podcast tip on car rides home with my partner, Raul, and when there’s a lgood point to be made, I’m always like, “PAUSE THAT. Because if that was me…” So, finally, here I am on a podcast talking about all things #LaborofCare. Its origins story, more extra cuts and stories that I didn’t fold into the book, and some ideas around decolonizing methodology when working with migrant communities.
Christopher Patterson, author of two newly released books, Transitive Cultures published by Rutgers University Press and Stamped: An Anti-Travel Novel under his pen name Kawika Guillermo. I’ve known Chris for a long time as we were coming up through grad school and as junior faculty. I was so excited to hear that he might want to feature my book on his series “New Books in Asian American Studies”. I was a little nervous but he was a generous interviewer giving me a lot of room to digress and talk anecdotally about my research and findings. It was so much fun!
But of course, I didn’t get to say it all. If I were listening to my own podcast (but ew i don’t like the sound of my own recorded voice) I’d probably have some moments where I’d be like, “PAUSE THAT.” So if you have any questions for me about the podcast and interview, please leave it in the comments below.
Lastly, a giant in the field of Asian American Studies, Filipino American Studies specifically, Dawn Bohulano Mabalon has transitioned to be one of our ancestors. I was lucky enough to have Dawn in my life since I was a 16-year old Pinay just trying to find her way. More formally through the years, she became my professor, mentor, and most importantly, my friend. I read her book Little Manila is in the Heart when I got into a rut in my own book writing. She was the one that told me, “Val, I wrote that book 5 times over. You gon’ do the same.” My book wouldn’t have been written if it wasn’t for her sage advice. This one’s for you, Dawn.
After a long day of work at the care home, Nanay–my paternal grandmother, Remedios, or Reme, for short–would sit in the laundry room with a contraption that looked like it was separating her head from her body. After years of working as a caregiver in a care home (or Residential Care Facility for the Elderly/RCFE), she had hurt her back and her neck. But without benefits, she could only afford a clinic visit.
After one fall where she had unbearable pain, Reme went to go get her back looked at. She came home with a contraption that clipped on to the top of the middle of a door, with a long rope hanging down that had a chin rest on the bottom. Reme would scoot a chair over to that door and with her seat back resting on the door, she’d hang her chin on the contraption for 30 minutes. She looked as if she was in a fight with gravity. Chin and face moving downward, only kept up by this neck and back stabilizer.
My 8 year-old self, an adoring fan of Nanay, would sit on the ground across from her, my back resting against the thudding of the dryer and I’d watch her read her prayer book. She’d shoo me away but I’d come back and just watch her. After all, she was pretty immobile stuck in her chin contraption.
Nanay’s day as a caregiver would begin at 5:30 am. Making a delicious breakfast for 6 elderly people, two who were developmentally disabled, and for 3 children (me and my siblings), and her husband. She’d spend all day doing her rotation of chores: cleaning the floors, vacuuming the carpets, dusting, changing linens, disinfecting bathrooms, yard work, tending to her vegetable garden which she then used to cook three square meals and coffee breaks in the middle of the snacks. Of course, she’d clean up her cooking mess, wash the dishes, set up and put away the kitchen. She’d administer medication, keep track of everyone’s medicines, call for refills if needed, make sure doctor’s appointments were set and rides were set for her patients. She would ensure everyone bathed, collected dirty clothes, wash and dry and fold and put away every person’s laundry. She’d make sure they had books and board games to bide the time with, or a TV show. She facilitated daily walks around the neighborhood and some garden time for her patients. She’d end her day at 9:30 pm and be in her chin contraption until 10:00 pm.
Of course, it didn’t end there. Because, Reme, she was a world class act. She’d sew frocks for the womenfolk. She’d sit and joke around with Uncle Joe, whose laugh echoed down the hall. She’d ask Uncle Harry about the new book he was obsessed with. She’d sit with Elizabeth and dust her porcelain collectibles. She was not just a caregiver. She was their friend, their maternal figure, their confidant.
On top of taking care of my siblings and I, Nanay was the ultimate caregiver, devoting so much of herself to her work and her patients. And still, she couldn’t get a medical appointment to help her with her back. Instead, it was the chin contraption 30 minutes a night and a big pill of Ibuprofen twice or three times a day.
This was the beginnings of the CARE Project 2.0, I suppose. I’ve always wondered about the conditions of caregivers: the logics and avenues under which they get their work. But recently, I’ve been more interested in what the occupation does to their body.
Often, Filipino migrants working as caregivers are at elevated risk for various health risks because of their occupation and worries about family in the Philippines. The CARE Project research hopes to understand the experiences of caregivers working in their jobs, physical and mental health outcomes and being a migrant to the US through online surveys and in-person interviews with Filipino researchers.
Are you a Filipino Caregiver or know one living or working in the Bay Area? All Filipino caregivers who participate will receive a $20 Target gift card for their time and participation.
Remedios won’t be able to take this survey, won’t be able to report how the job really affected her health. She passed away in 1995 but if you are a caregiver, please take the survey here: https://bit.ly/CAREproject
Help me find out the effects of this occupation on caregivers’ physical and mental health.
A couple of days ago, President Rodrigo Duterte kisses an overseas foreign worker at a press conference in Korea.
His administration’s spin excuses his behavior stating, “Malacañang sees nothing wrong with President Rodrigo Duterte kissing a married overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Seoul, saying it is ‘very [much] accepted in the culture of Filipinos.'”
The problem with this statement and Duterte’s action(s) against women is that he normalizes Filipino misogyny and patriarchy. When a whole administration covers for a president’s sexist buffoonery and machismo, it condones a whole host of other abuses against women. (Ahem, sounds like everything that a certain “pussy-grabber” does.)
In a macho-fascist state under Duterte, then, an ombudsman prosecutor named, Madonna Joy Ednaco-Tayag, dies in broad daylight, stabbed to death under the cover of the “war on drugs”. She was 5 months pregnant. She was a government employee. She was a fighter for the people investigating graft and corruption. She is slain, her unborn baby is slain, emboldened by the “kisses” of death blesses by Duterte.
Under Duterte, normalizing Filipino patriarchy and misogyny means women’s lives are devalued, consumable and disposable. So as debates go on about how “acceptable” it is for Filipino men to kiss strangers. We must understand these ridiculous excuses for a sexist and misogynistic president as a part of his impunity and tyranny. Women in the Philippines and in the Filipino diaspora have spoken loud and clear, #BabaeAko #LalabanAko!