Friday, November 30, 2012

Leng's Bangka Journey

The sea is calling.

I have watched her dream unfold for years on the sidelines. I've known Leng Leng for many years. I have watched her shape-shift over the decades as she followed her sariling duwende. Always, I sensed she was following a storyline. Sometimes she would drop a clue but wouldn't say anything more. It was as if she was tracking the footprints of an ancestral spirit.

She dropped her public health career and started to walk the open road which led her to many return trips to the Philippines, to the Northwest where she connected with Indopinos who were part of a canoe  ritual ceremony. She met Turtle Island canoe builders who gifted a log to her.

Now she is making an open call. If you hear the sea calling, if you hear the call of your ancestors to connect the earth and sky, if the ancient stories are calling you Home -- would you build this canoe?

Thank you, Leng, for this invitation. There are lessons for me here...and they are Beautiful. Thank you for following your vision and your dream.

To healing community. To healing Earth and Sky.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


I need a song to mourn the passing of the sister-self who has served me well. She is self-righteous. She is in control at all times. She is strong. She is unemotional. She is organized. She is elegant in her civilized manners.  She has served me well. I have loved her for how she has helped me survive this flatline culture. This culture that is full of hungry ghosts. I mourn for them now but for so long I have thought that they were real and that I should try to be like them.

I need a song to mourn the passing of the sister-self who had the certainty of purpose. Now the purpose is changing and she knows it and she is trying to hang onto the burning embers of the old fire. She doesn't know that there is a sacred fire that is calling her. Maybe she knows but she is afraid to let go.

I loved this old self. How can a love affair end? Why can't we stay together longer? When you are gone how will I navigate my way in the still unfamiliar realm of shadow and light, of spirit familiars and spirit guides? I have always been fearful of shadows. When I was a child I was told that there are aswangs and tikbalangs in the trees outside the window. In the dark, I can imagine them being there still.

Oh, my heart, listen to the longings of your soul, to the lament of your Kapwa; watch the river of tears flowing. Where and how can you keep hiding behind the curtain of rationality and stoicism? I know you feel deeply and you often carry your grief inside your pocket. Why the fear of your own vulnerability?

Say goodbye. Let go. Let her leave. Let this sister leave. You have been in her underworld for so long. Your ancestors have already sent you so many messengers in the past two decades. Tune in more closely to what they are saying. Tune in more loudly to their plea.

She said: I can die now. My time is up. My service days are over. I have indeed served you well.
I long to rest now and let you, my sister, to emerge as the keeper of dreams, the keeper of stories, the keeper of memories. Do you remember your dreams about lahar threatening to wipe off your home off the map and you said you will never let it happen? Well, the work is before you now.

Remember your dreams of coming home and you couldn't get home because you have too much baggage and too many other people's business to take care of? You can leave those bags at the airport now. Remember your dreams of wanting to save your family from drowning? Remember the lucid dream you had of leading them out on a bamboo raft you built? You flowed down the river towards the mouth of the ocean. As soon as you reached the ocean, the whales and dolphins welcomed you and the birds in the air dropped fruits on your raft. You survived. You are alive. You are safe.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kapihan with Kidlat Tahimik

Just taking a break from cooking: vegetarian lumpia, vegetarian munggo, pork spareribs in blackbean sauce, chicken adobo, black rice salad, kale salad, pineapple, buko with pandan gelatin, lemon grass tea with yerbabuena, broccoli and romanesco. It's going to be a feast!

When asked why I cook everything from scratch when Costco has all kinds of convenient ready-to-eat dinners, I said that I cook to honor what my mother has taught me. Because I love the people I'm feeding. Because I love the reason for our gathering.

And the reason is Kidlat Tahimik! An excerpt:

Tahimik’s postcollege sojourn in Germany resulted in a friendship with Werner Herzog (who cast him in The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser), a marriage, and a deceptively ramshackle debut film, Perfumed Nightmare (1977), whose easygoing interrogation of neocolonial identity, Philippine culture, and global economies turned it into a surprise international “hit.” Praised as “the joyful discovery of blasé film buffs from Berlin to Belgrade and beyond” (SF Chronicle, 1980) and “likely to become some sort of classic” (Village Voice, 1980), the film is now heralded as a key text of both Third World Cinema and the personal essay film, offering a pairing of politics and pleasure that has continued throughout Tahimik’s oeuvre. Never shying away from embracing a proud, postcolonial identity, yet always grounded in personal observation and a quiet, understated humor, Tahimik’s works take special joy in highlighting the indigenous cultures and history of the Philippines and beyond, whether honoring Tahimik’s beloved bahag loincloth, profiling local craftsmen and women, or recounting tales of Magellan’s Filipino navigator/slave. Assembled from countless hours of filming, drawn from months and years worth of work, “my footages are like tiles in a mosaic,” he writes. “You shuffle them, change them around. In my process, nothing is permanent.”

I'm glad to see the visibility of Kidlat's body of work today. Many Fil Ams have not heard of him. When I showed his film, Perfumed Nightmare, in my Asian Am course a few years ago, the students didn't quite know how to take it in. Many of them have never been to the Philippines and the cultural references in the film are unfamiliar to them. Secondly, many of them have never taken a course on the Phil-US colonial relationship and have never encountered the concept of colonial mentality prior to taking the class.  Even after discussing the film as a form of critique of colonialism, the students seemed to struggle with the idea that  assimilation is not the only way. 

Fast forward. The decolonization and indigenization movement in the Bay Area has been gaining momentum and visibility. The Center for Babaylan Studies is not the only organization that is contributing to this movement but I think it's safe to say that we are the only that is articulating this: 

In an email to a friend, I wrote:

We, at CFBS, have decided to organize the Second International Babaylan Conference in 2013.  Our theme will focus on the relevance of indigenous paradigms in the age of globalization. Questions like: What does it mean to reclaim our Filipino indigenous identity in the diaspora? How do we connect with our ancestral roots in the homeland? Why is it significant to do so? We raise these questions because we feel that we are riding a wave of transformation of consciousness as everyday we see signs of crises facing our planet. The modern world system is unraveling in front of our eyes and our political and economic systems seem unable to solve our precarious dilemma. On the other hand, we know that indigenous peoples around the planet have survived to the present because for thousands of years they lived sustainably and in deep relationship with the places they belonged to. The movement, Another World is Possible, drafted at the World Social Forum, and similar  social justice movements worldwide recognize the importance of reclaiming and renewing our indigenous consciousness and indigenous paradigms. 

As far as I can tell, within the Filipino American community, CFBS is the only organization that is articulating this. In the Philippines it is articulated by the Heritage and Arts Academies of the Philippines led by Kidlat Tahimik and Katrin de Guia and,  together with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, have organized the KAPWA conferences. 

So this Kapihan with Kidlat Tahimik tonight is part of our ongoing conversation on how we can connect the work that we do in the homeland and in the diaspora. May we all find our sariling duwende and the indigenius in each one of us.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

today an 80year old white woman accosted me at the Petaluma Market.
"oh, you are so exotic! where are you from?"
"dahil sa iyo?"
and with that intro, she latched on to me, unmindful of my discomfort.
she was born in Manila in 1932. her father, of French and Basque descent, was in the US Navy. he was beheaded by the Japanese in 1946. never did know the details.
she had promised her father she would go to America to go to school.
then she said:
"i should have married Pocholo Razon. he was in love with me. but i knew that Filipino men had mistresses and so I didn't marry him. he was a business men; he passed his business to his son."
"you have quite a story to tell." i told her. "what is your name?"
"chuchi. suzie. suzanne."
i didn't quite get her last name. it sounded hispanic. she said it's basque.
she could speak Tagalog alright.
i feel bad now that i didn't write her name down.

on FB i posted this encounter and soon friends were saying that there is a Pocholo Razon and his son Ricky Razon, now runs the family business. someone posted a link to the fortunes of this man: he is the third wealthiest billionaire in the Philippines. worth $4.6B.

so this woman has been following the story of the man she could have married.
 if i hadn't felt intruded upon, i could have engaged her a bit more. i could have listened.
but i was impatient.

now a story eludes me....

Saturday, November 3, 2012

wow, i haven't posted here in a month!! 
someone asked me today if i am writing and i said "on facebook!"
a little embarrassed, you bet.
someday i will write again.
for now am just gathering stories
living my life
tending the hearth
tending the wild