Award Assembly, then and now

Baby Val

When my family arrived to the U.S. in 1992, our whole lives were upended. The only thing, ya girl Val, could hold onto for some stability was school. At Fair Oaks Elementary in Concord, CA, the monthly (?) awards assembly was always a treat for me. I always waited with bated breath to see if I would get an award.

Would it be student of the month? I was super helpful and polite and did all my homework this month!

Would it be excellence in language arts? I barely got anything wrong on my spelling tests!

Would it me excellence in mathematics? I did try my best to show my work on all of my equations!

Some months I’d get none, some I’d get one award, other months I’d get two (weird flex).

But the best part of the awards assembly was taking my award home to Nanay and Mama. They’d be so proud of me.

I can almost see Nanay Reme’s face as I pulled out my paper certificate with the purple ornate framing around the cursive lettering and at the center, my name. “Good job, Val,” was what she’d say and it made all the hard work during the month and the anxiety sitting through the awards assembly worth it. Amidst all of the changes in our family’s lives, I felt like this was the one thing I could control and contribute to my family’s well-being.

Fast forward to today: if it wasn’t for the global pandemic we are going through at the moment, today, I’d be at another awards ceremony. This year, at what would’ve been theAssociation for Asian American Studies (AAAS) annual conference in Washington D.C., I would’ve accepted the Early Career Award which recognizes scholars who:

has made valuable contributions to the field in the early stage of their career (no more than seven years from the date the PhD was awarded). Nominees should show outstanding and innovative research in Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies. Preference will be given to those who also exemplify excellence in teaching and demonstrate a commitment to campus, community, and/or professional service.

On top of that, I would’ve accepted an Honorable Mention in the Social Sciences Category for Best Book Award for The Labor of Care. I am in good company of friends and colleagues who won AAAS book awards: Jan Padios’ A Nation on the Line and Kawika Guillermo’s Stampedamong other brilliant scholars.

The AAAS is the premiere academic professional organization in Asian American Studies. Its conferences has always been a source of great insight, political inspiration, and importantly, a community of scholars that have encouraged me, lifted me up and made space for the work that I felt was important to me. That my peers in this organization deemed me worthy enough of not one but two types of recognition is deeply humbling. I am overwhelmed by what it means and, most importantly, I am deeply grateful.

Its often said that scholars that come from underrepresented and marginalized communities don’t celebrate their victories enough. So today, I’ll be raising a glass up to AAAS, the honors bestowed on me by the organization, my hard work and to Nanay Reme and Mama Irma, whom I know are still so proud of me.



The Power (or PAR) of Migrant Workers

Ethel Tungohan and I wrote an article on PAR and building migrant worker power and it is out now in the link below and downloads are free until the end of April! Our article “Mula Sa Masa, Tungo Sa Masa, From the People, To the People: Building Migrant Worker Power through Participatory Action Research” would be great to assign to an Intro to Methods class or a grad seminar on Participatory Action Research!


With my Filipina-Canadian collaborator, kasama-mama, sister in the struggle, Ethel Tungohan at York University, we wrote across borders, across the Filipina diaspora, to reflect on how PAR has operated in our organizing work with migrant workers in Alberta and San Francisco/Bay Area. As Ethel gestated and took home her second newborn, we wrote and edited and Zoom’ed and talked about how important this work is and how crucial that we were getting to reflect on it!


Ethel and I are sandwiched with 2 brilliant scholars: Eileen Boris and Conely De Leon

PAR is an acronym for Participatory Action Research–many scholars have explained it in great detail and in far more eloquent terms, but for me, PAR is a method of conducting social investigation that prioritizes the participation and action for change that matters for people normally “studied” as objects in sociological research.

PAR has been one of the research methodologies that I’ve been able to wield so I can craft projects that align with people’s organizations for social justice, towards the general rights and welfare of Filipino migrants and that contributes to the types of movement-building strategies that is needed in this world right now.




Care in the Time of Corona

Two full weeks has passed since the “shelter in place” mandate was passed in the San Francisco/Bay Area. And we are all learning. My partner and I are working from home and have full-time work expectations that we must carry out while we juggle the care and learning of our 5 and 3 year old children. Some days are/were smooth and some days were not.


I’m 100% sure that many working parents and families relate to this. (Hit me in the comments about your smooth and rocky days!)

And many parents who are at home and doing this juggling trick. Ali Wong’s famous words about motherhood never rang truer:

Yes, it’s very unlikable and unpopular to broadcast that because not everybody can afford a nanny, it’s super-expensive. Both me and my husband have to hustle. We have to work very hard to not take care of our child ourselves. 

Ok, no, but for real.

Many of us work really hard to pay our daycare providers and teachers to educate our children. And now we find ourselves in the position to, not only ensure that our children our dressed, fed and rested, but that we are meeting some type of educational marks while they are with us for god knows how long. Skills that we are not necessarily trained on. Even the high-powered creative and executive producer of everything, Shonda Rhimes, weighed in.


My point is that we all should consider how the care that we are so lacking right now, is the domestic work that makes all other work possible as the National Domestic Workers Alliance has argued for years.

When we are frustrated with a child that is itching to go outside, may we thank the preschool teachers that build open play time for our kids daily.

When our children ask us to draw yet another monster, may we value the early childhood educator, nannies, home day care providers that have drawn countless of imaginary creatures to assist our children’s stories.

When we are cooking up meals wishing we could just go to a restaurant, may we tip more generously the next time we are able to go out and eat, may we choose a local restaurant owned by families who are maybe temporarily closing down.

When we are staring down the mountain of dirty clothes from a week of staying in (how did it grow so big??), may we thank the dry cleaning service workers and laundry workers that take care of our dirty laundry.

When we are picking up the many toys and sweeping up the floor of chips, may we thank housecleaners and janitors that clean up after us.

When we get the next package of essential food and home goods, may we think of the important work of farmworkers, food packagers, food production, food retail workers, and delivery workers who are still working so we can cook up our meals for our children.

When we are cleaning up the next scratch on a child’s scraped knee in the driveway, may we think of the amazing healthcare workers, nurses, doctors, all of those in the frontline of this pandemic.

Bottomline: care and domestic work has and will  continue to be an essential part of our lives beyond COVID-19.

I hope that we can all revisit how we view and value this work, today and all days in the future.

Sign this petition by Hand in Hand, an organization of domestic worker employers that push legislation to:

will extend protections like minimum wage, safety and health, anti-discrimination and the right to organize to over 2 million domestic workers across the country, who work in individual homes serving millions as caretakers for seniors, people with disabilities, children, and our homes.



Together But Apart: Virtual Connection in the time of Corona

A centerpiece of my book The Labor of Care is the chapter called “Skype Mothers and Facebook Children”. In it, I look at how care work and intimacy between transnational family members is shaped by information communication technologies (ICTs), specifically, Skype and Facebook during the time I was collecting research in the 2000s.

FB Mothers Day 2

In the chapter, I argue that new care providers, patterns of care work and forms of care emerge from families building relationships and intimacy through technology. Different types too. Skype with its visual register will engender a different type of intimate relationship than Facebook with its up-to-the-minute updates of where children and migrant mothers are. And although, technology brings new possibilities of supporting relationships over long distances, it also sometimes hinders relationships through an “all seeing eye” specter.

I say all of this because as I see people post their Zoom calls on gallery view and create virtual runs and virtual watch parties. I think about how this chapter in my book resonates with how we’re all trying our best to stay connected and together even while apart. Just like the migrant mothers and their families in the Philippines in my book, we have increasingly seen innovative strategies in which people are doing their very best to link up even if our mandate is “shelter in place”. I’m doing it too! Below you’ll see a few of my friends and I at a virtual tea party!

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In the book, I wanted to highlight the ways that transnational family members craft these impressive abilities to stay connected through long distances and long periods of time. And yet, these strategies are only possible in fact because they are necessary in a world where families are forced to be separated to sustain their livelihoods. It was important to me to write about this version of motherhood during a historical moment where the conduit of migrant mothering and daughtering, son-ning and husbanding from the Philippines was technology.

I pause here to note that we are also innovating under these dire circumstances. We are in no way under the same conditions as migrant women who are forced to migrate to sustain their family’s livelihoods in the Philippines. No way. But it is so clear to me that our social interactions are so shaped by our political, economic and social conditions and that technology is crucial in that.

Lastly, being on lock down and creating these virtual social spaces reminds me that the public health crisis in COVID-19 is also framed by the crisis of scarcity in a time of monopoly capitalism. That’s a big leap, I know.

Here’s why I’m ending with this: the toilet paper crisis, the economic impact on small business owners (many of them people of color, immigrants, like my family members), the crisis in accessible health, the rent and mortgage crisis, the education and childcare crisis. All of which are already ruptures in a capitalist world, and are now agape as the clock in and grind schedules come to a halt.

I know people are feeling isolated and alone and scared and precarious. The reality is that we were already feeling that way and it took COVID-19 to confirm that, and to remind us that we are part of something way bigger. That perhaps, we should fight to change that something.


The Power of the Collective

During these days of social isolation, I’ve been at awe at the power of collective support and solidarity.

The photo here is of my chosen family, people whom I love and share a flat with in the Bay Area. Usually, we’re all busy bodies, ships in the night. But since “shelter in place”, we have had time to slow down and plan the domestic work in our collective home. The grown ups take turns with cooking and cleaning. The children take turns with toys (sometimes). We’re all balancing work from home responsibilities, so we’re all taking turns being morning and afternoon teachers for our young children.

The teachers at my children’s schools have organized take home curriculum complete with bags with instructions on how to actually facilitate an art project with children and hot glue guns. Worksheets and pre-K curriculum are sent out weekly to continue our 5-year old’s fascination with pencils and worksheets. (I know, I know the worksheets aren’t the best way to teach a preschooler, but that’s where I’m at.)

Friends and community members have offered to collectivize shopping and buy in bulk to share across many families, to reduce the times folks head out for groceries and also to save a little.

Comrades and friends have checked in and set up video chats to see how we are all doing in during these times.

My colleagues have started a text thread that is simultaneously trading strategies on how to translate our curriculum online but also to commiserate around how to teach our own kids while teaching our students from afar.

We are truly living in strange times. But I don’t want to let go of the kindness and compassion people have for one another during this time.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be trying to write more here. I’d be so happy to hear from you about how you’re doing. And if there’s something you think I should weigh in on, I want to hear from you!


Phoenix, here I come!

Professor Mary Margaret Fonow has invited an amazing set of scholars to talk about gender, labor and migration at Arizona State University’s School of Social Transformation. And I couldn’t be more excited to speak and participate about Filipina migrant activism and its connections to the vibrant national liberation movement in the Philippines.

I’m looking forward to learning from the scholars and students at the symposium!

I’ve never been to Arizona before but I’ll be there at the end of the week! If you’re in the area, let’s connect. Below is a snapshot of the Friday program, but there’s a Thursday program too!




Filipino San Francisco

In Filipino, kapwa refers to a cultural value of a collective well-being or togetherness in which Filipinos construct their selfhood, families and communities. In my work with conducting research about Filipino American lives with Filipino American undergraduate students at San Francisco State University, kapwa has been a driving force in uncovering Filipino immigrant and Fil-Am stories as intellectual resources towards producing knowledge.

Together with Jessa delos Reyes, Tiff Mendoza, Katrina Liwanag, Stephanie Ancheta, Jeannel Poyaoan, my experience of building kapwa with undergraduate students is an ongoing experience of democratizing the research process. These folks helped to recruit staff members working in community-based orgs in San Francisco serving Filipino community members. We all interviewed staff members, transcribed and analyzed their narratives. And we came up with different products!


As a group, my team and I were able to write one co-authored academic publication, “Claiming Kapwa: Filipino Immigrants, Community Based Organizations and Community Citizenship in San Francisco” in New Political Science. My collaborators assisted in proofreading a needs assessment I wrote for the city of San Francisco’s Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs entitled, “Speaking Up, Speaking Out: Filipino Language Access in San Francisco.”

A few weeks ago, Filipino organizations in San Francisco, community workers and city advocates including Supervisor Matt Haney and Sandra Fewer came together for the release of a report about the lack of language access Filipinos have to basic services in the city of San Francisco. In the report, I argue that if Filipinos in San Francisco do not receive information, applications and materials in language (which the city is mandated by under the Language Access Ordinance), they are not only excluded from the basic services they need, they are also excluded from the political life of San Francisco.


The truth of the matter is San Francisco has been a geography of Filipino American and Filipino immigrant life for well over a century. And its about time that Filipinos are seen as part of San Francisco, especially through language access. When students, community members and academics collaborate, we demonstrate that immigrants, the folks that work tirelessly to serve them, the young people that come from those families, those neighborhoods belong in San Francisco.



The Need for Caregivers Collective Resistance

The basis for organizing Filipino caregivers in the US is so astoundingly apparent. Stories about caregivers being overworked and underpaid are commonplace in Filipino communities. Many family members, community organizers, even popular films, understand that even if care homes are ways to get work, people gamble with the work being hard and the pay might not come through.

A recent LA Times article called, “An 87-hour work week for $4” recounts the horrible abuses Filipino caregivers and the victory that 66 workers achieved in their $1.1 million settlement. The protracted struggle of a 3 year legal battle has and was backed with supportive officials in the CA Department of Labor, who have issued rightful citations to wrongful carehome owners.

Still, this group of workers are often isolated. Working in care homes owned and visited frequently by the owners. Where camaraderie with one another is often facilitated by owners in the veil of benevolence. Where contact with one another is limited to the shift your on. Where families in the Philippines are quite dependent on whatever wages one makes.

Yet, the workers are in need of collective power. The CA DoL is apparently paying attention. And if the crisis of elder care in this country is not resolved (it won’t be in the next few years), this group of workers will be come essential to caring for your/our loved ones in their golden years. The need is obvious.


A Play Date and a Protest


As I watch my children play and laugh, I can’t help but think of the thousands of children suffering in detention at the US-Mexico border. In their days, do they have a chance to run and jump? Do they chuckle and laugh? Do they play?

For the motivating logic of deterring unauthorized crossing of the US-Mexico border, the current US administration has been trying to lift the “Flores Agreement” that limits the time children can spend in detention and upholds standards for migrant families in holding facilities. The repeal of the agreement would make detention for migrant children and families indefinite. The children held in subhuman detention facilities would grow up without room to run, without a possibility to play, without a possibility to reunite with their family members. The vilification of migrants, children and parents, erases the systems of power that induced forced migration from Central and Latin America and the broken immigration system in the US.

In the wake of youth leading global strikes to bring the world’s climate crisis to an end and a landmark lawsuit that follows, I’ve been racking my brain on how to include my kids, my friends’ kids, my friends who don’t have kids towards organizing and actions that connect us to a common experience of familial relations, both biological and chosen.

In response to continued migrant family separation, the Bay Area Families Solidarity Network initiated playdate protests to bring attention to this issue and, specifically to demand Amazon and Whole Foods to stop storing information to aid the detention and deportation of immigrant families.

Connie, the care provider and educator at Carabao Kids, a social-justice oriented daycare, which both my children have been and are enrolled in, was inspired to gather parents, families and community members to create solidarity around this issue. Over the span of a month, we planned and organized a child-focused, family-friendly action.

In an effort to connect the humanity of children and families separated by ICE to our own families, and also to explain this urgent issue to our children, Connie crafted songs and a puppet show to explain the issue of detention and separation to children and families. Katrina and Isabella played guitars and sang remixed lyrics to nursery rhymes. Volunteers puppeteer hand crafted puppets that featured a orange-haired dinosaur, Amazon alien and an ICE penguin.

We asked amazing speakers to offer speeches in poem and story to address the children and their families. Irman Arcibal, a local high school teacher, shared a beautiful poem about brown skins and the types of exclusion brown people experience. Joan Salvador from GABRIELA Philippines shared a story about the ICE monster and its connection to the Imperialism Monster that has taken the lands and rivers of indigenous peoples in the Philippines forcing them to be separated from their ancestral lands and families.

After our circle time, we held a Children’s Parade to deliver a letter to the Whole Foods store we organized a play date protest around informing them of the collusion of Amazon/Whole Foods with Palantir to profile immigrants for deportation. Youth and students from SFSU helped with providing a community safety plan for our play date and chaperoning us on our parade.

At the end of our play date, we sang songs, colored posters, parading and chanting, in hopes that our solidarity, be heard in the neighborhood we were in, and perhaps across the border.

I often wonder how to explain this complicated situation to my young children. I know and understand that parents wonder that too. This action, this form, this insistence on centering our children is one way to do it. And I’m so proud to have been part of it.


It behooves us all to think about increasing the opportunities for our children, and families, to be involved in inspiring future generations to make this world better. This play date brought together our families in play and also in protest. It is the beginning of dreaming up and envisioning new ways to organize with families and children!

Photos by La Raine Gonzalez


Final Project Round-Up 2019

A month out from the Spring semester and academic year, I’ve been reflecting on the amazing final projects my students created as a part of our learning communities. For most of my upper division classes, I offer a final project menu. I developed this menu after years of offering group, creative project (often in video form). Students asked for more options: option to do something individually (most SFSU students work full time, meeting with groups became too hard), option to do something with creative writing (children’s books, prose, blog reflections), option to do something that aligns with their creative passions (many SFSU students are already practicing or working in their creative forms).

I developed the menu with the logic that when students get to pick their creative project form, they are more committed to it, they can commit to learning the form, and thereby, process the content they are putting into their projects.

For my Families and Society class, Serena Matsumoto and Donna Cruz created a zine that reflected on how their families resisted the normative ideas of family. And although, they might’ve grown up thinking their families as aberrant, through the course, they redefined their families’ idiosyncrasies.

Developing a semester-long process around these final projects was key! I gave out the menu on the first day of classes and some individuals and groups chose to create blogs in response to our readings.

Kay Buban, Kristal Osorio, Lilibeth Panigua and Cole Baumeister read Elaine Castillo’s America is Not the Heart and they built this website’s content (the image below is hyperlinked to their site!):

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Jan Michaela Yee or Mykee wrote reflections on growing up Asian American, infusing her posts with Asian American songs, art and fiction:


First Comes School, Then Comes Marriage


Are We Home Yet?

Rainbows and Butterflies

These were some pretty awesome final projects. Just a few here to highlight but there were so many good ones! This menu is inspired by amazing university educators (and contingent faculty) Irene Faye Duller (tenured adjunct at USF and longtime lecturer at SFSU Asian American Studies), Melissa Ann Nievera-Lozano (a future TT professor at Evergreen Valley College in the Fall 2019) and Apryl Berney (longtime lecturer at SJSU Asian American Studies and De Anza College). Further, Florence Emily Castillo, MA, Doctoral Student in Sociology at University of New Mexico’s rubric on her list of final projects informed how I assess these projects.

I also had the pleasure of doing one-on-one independent study with graduating students. One of whom was a CAD major, working at my daughter’s preschool co-op. Ari and I read articles about how to bring Ethnic Studies to the preschool level. We found the concept of “multicultural education” in early childhood development and tried to expand it as social justice pedagogy. Ari introduced lesson plans that could introduce diverse characters and stories to the children–but more importantly, talk through difference as a method of learning.

Pictured below is Aya at the language arts table at Village Nursery School where in February, African American history month, the children learned about George Washing Carver on a card with teachers or co-op parents reading his history to them. The table celebrated him as a scientist and first black agriculturalist from Iowa State.

Another student, Austin Leong, a published and talented photographer graduated from our sociology program this year. We worked together over the semester to think about visual sociology, primarily in a close reading of Mitch Duneier’s Sidewalk and examining the role of the image in that book. Austin donated his photos which are framed and will be installed in our student lounge!

Lastly, it was my very first time participating as a “first reader” on an MA thesis! Tiffany Mendoza conceptualized, researched, wrote and presented a tremendous thesis on Filipina/x queer kinship! Tiff’s work builds on critical Filipino/a/x studies, specifically on Martin Manalansan’s work on “mess”, Robert Diaz’s work on queer migratory identifications. Tiff’s going on an exposure trip to the Philippines to expand her political and academic work, so you could donate to her trip–just hit up @lfssfsu on Instagram!

What amazing students! So honored to be working with such brilliant people!


Worked Over

Caregivers work hard. They work hella hard. And fact is, the caregiving industry is unregulated. Care home owners, often Filipino, relegate caregivers, often Filipina, to  exploitative conditions, and thus, endangering their patients. Not a new fact: Filipino Community Center and MIGRANTE, among many organizations, have been organizing around these issues for years.

For me, its part of my history. When we landed in the US, a care home is what I called home. My grandmother, the matriarch of our family, cared for 6 elderly people. Me and my siblings helped her. I know what the daily grind looks like. I lent my history and my sociological perspective on the story of caregivers starting to get the media spotlight it deserves.

Just this week, Reveal News published a podcast, The Unpaid Cost of Elder Care, and published a story: “Elder care homes rake in profits as legions of workers earn a pittance for long hours of care“. On this podcast, I tried to shed light on the reasons why caregivers like Sonia and Normita might feel bound to their exploitative employer, Rommel Publico. After years of organizing and even living out this story, I’m still trying to make sense of the conditions under which Filipinos exploit other Filipinos, while trying to combat the narrative of migrant workers’ docility.

I’ve been pitching this as my second book.  Just speaking it aloud. Trying to figure out this riddle, sociologically. I’ve started the research but haven’t dug my heels in for the long road of collecting the data, formulating the themes for the chapters and writing it. But I’m trying to manifest it. This podcast and set of articles are pushing me to really solidify a plan to do this research and political work, with organizations, to recover these stories and tell them from our perspective.

Normita Lim

Image: Photo of Normita Lim, subject of Reveal News story from The Washington Post

Reveal News’ investigative journalism on Filipino caregivers is also out on various Associated Press publications around the country such as The Washington PostThe New York Times, and U.S. News and World Report


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