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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 PAHM Mural SFSU

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.

lakas

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.

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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.

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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.

Forward

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?

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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!

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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!)

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Queenila

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.

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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 vfm@sfsu.edu

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The Labor of Care on the New Books Network Podcast

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.

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A Remedy for Remedios

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.

Duterte’s Kiss is a Kiss of Death

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!

Image description: Collage of Filipina scholars in the US sand Canada for #BabaeAko

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Labor of Care on HellaPinay’s #GetLit

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

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

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

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Bridge City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Honoring mothering

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

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

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

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Nickel and Dime

Growing up in the Bay Area, I always fetishized the East Bay, the 510, the nickel and dime (as was referred to in voicemail intros back in the day), as the center of Filipinos in the Bay. In contrast to what was then a very homogenous (read: white) city of Concord, the East Bay was teeming with Filipino culture! My high school friends and I would drive to Newpark Mall and get our sepia toned pictures done–baby hairs combed down with gel with matching racer stripe maxi skirts. We’d run into other Filipino/a youth at the studio and all I could do was be jealous that they had more Filipinos in their neck of the woods than I had in mine.

Coming to CSU East Bay to talk about transnational families, I didn’t know what to expect. Maybe the students there were 2nd and 3rd generation? Maybe they couldn’t relate?

Oh was I wrong. This group of students that so generously organized time, space and resources to host me and The Labor of Care, did so to learn more about family separation in our community. They were, themselves, members of transnational families–separated from parents then brought over. And if they didn’t relate, they sat together to listen about our community’s issues.

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

After an exchange about the book’s ideas and their own experiences, these gracious students of PASA who were in the midst of PCN season related their current theme to my work. They offered me dance in return and I was so happy to bare witness. Photo credit: John Tolang Image Description: VFM sitting listening to group of students

All these years later, the East Bay is still a geography of Filipino America that is quite under organized, underrated, understudied and underrepresented. I hope one day soon, someone will organize with and write about the brilliance of its Filipino youth and the deep histories of Filipinos there. There’s definitely more to it that sepia pictures and malls.

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Today, in the East Bay!

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