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!


Labor of Care in Montreal


I’ll be in Montreal in January to talk about The Labor of Care and the possibilities for building migrant worker power with the theories and stories in it!

Such an amazing honor also accompanied by the book landing in the 2018 McGill Reads Holiday Book List! Can’t wait to come back to Montreal!


Labor of Care on tour in 2018

Fact: writing and getting a book published is hard work.

But on the flip side of publication, promoting the book and getting to go on book tour has been so exciting! It has been such a privilege to (1) tell my community’s stories in so many different places all over the U.S. and (2) engage with brilliant students, faculty, scholars, colleagues, and activists about the work.

After the publication of The Labor of Care in March, I’ve been to over 10 universities in the U.S. At times upon the invitation of Filipino student groups who organize forums and events for their members to learn about my work. Other times, I’m invited by past students or colleagues who are amazing at figuring out resources and time to lift up me and my work. All in all, I am often humbled and then so ecstatic to be traveling to talk about the lives of Filipina migrants and their transnational families.

As we close out 2018, this post is to thank you all for supporting The Labor of Care, and my scholarship. From buying the book, organizing events, participating in panels, making space, attending the talks, taking me out to eat afterwards, and taking photos (pics or it didn’t happen). I’m so thankful for all of you; for being on this journey with me. It has been my deepest honor to do this work and share it with the world.

Labor of Care 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!


FAHM in Portland

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!

Labor of Care back in PDX

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.


Listening to Rocky’s Revenge

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.


Manong Larry for the Kids

“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.



4 Reasons Why FAHM Is Important for Kidss

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.

In simple terms, as the late, prolific historian Dawn Bohulano Mabalon once said about Filipinos in America, “WE MADE HISTORY. WE HELPED BUILD THIS NATION.”


Aya in front of the SFSU Filipino American mural celebrating FilAm history and heroes.

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.


Cover art for Lakas and the Makibaka Hotel book by Tony Robles

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.


Girl holding the Beautiful Eyes book by Gayle Romasanta

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.


Cover art of Journey for Justice by Dawn Mabalon and Gayle Romasanta and art by Andre Sibayan

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.


Photo of Filipino parents marching with strollers holding signs that say “Filipinos for Black Resistance”

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?


Labor of Care across the Pacific

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!


Labor of Care Fall Book Tour

LoC Fall Book Tour-2

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!)