Saturday, December 20, 2014

Interview with Molly Arthur

Molly Arthur of ECO-BIRTH/Birthkeepers conducted this interview in September. I met Molly at a Bioneers' Cultivating WOmen's Leadership Retreat.

Friday, December 12, 2014

a deep and dazzling darkness

i am borrowing the words of David Whyte because mine are still marinating in the silence and darkness of winter.

when i close my eyes and listen i only hear the sound of crickets, the faint ambient music from the other room, the tapping of keys on my laptop, the croaking of frogs in a faraway creek.

i am grateful for the silence. for the space of reverie. for this time of waiting for who- knows-what's-next?

all i know is that i am learning to let go of being in control.

i have done enough of it now.

i want to mellow out.

to go softer.



Sunday, October 26, 2014

This post is for Reverie

You don't hear this word often these days. REVERIE. But I've been mostly relishing this pleasure recently. In Tagalog we say "holy tunganga" - a time of gestation, a going within, a deep silence, a solitude.  But why? And why not?

Last night I was reviewing my journal and noted that in early 2013 I was taking down notes on the books I was reading about myths, about dwelling in place, about the importance of ritual and ceremony. In between my note-taking, I was making lists of the projects on my plate at that time. And then this:

how to recover the writing hand that has lost its ability to think fluidly with pen in hand? what is this world going to be about when technology seems to be transforming everything: from the process of sharing knowledge to creating movement and action that is visionary. Memes abound. Social media is saturated with pundits and all kinds of information. is it knowledge?

i wrote (and published) during the early stages of listserves, blogs, yahoogroups when people had sustained conversations over time in these modules. i wrote because i needed to find my way into freedom of Being. being immersed in identity politics for a time was necessary.

at what point did identity politics become narrow and limiting?

when did i start longing for experiences that weren't always about transcending something? when did i start longing for immanence? and how can we experience immanence unless we already believe in the sacredness of this Now? this Earth? 

these days i feel the need to write for Noah. for the future. for seven generations hence. the world will be different but maybe the wisdom of the ancients will be eternally true. 

in this multiverse cosmos, radical participation and presence is the work of the healer/shaman.

i will have to live with this koan for a while.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

This post is for a Tree

I should know what kind it is. A fir tree? Douglas? Sitka spruce? I will find out soon.
Every morning I step out of my bedroom to the deck and look north. There against the blue sky is this Tree. It is no. 1 on my list of "things that took me too long to learn to love".  I have lived in this house for 30 years and I've seen the Tree before but I have never really stopped to thank the Tree for being there. I have not thanked the homeowners who haven't chopped it down. 

I am learning to cultivate a relationship with the Tree so these days, first thing in the morning, I say my silent offering of gratitude for its Being. My gaze this morning turned from the Tree to the contour of the hills surrounding our valley. The hills are still tree-lined and thank goodness, can't see houses on the ridge. Bringing my attention back to my Tree, I wonder if it feels too alone without siblings nearby. Sure there are other trees in the neighborhood. In fact, an overgrown pepper tree to the east of the deck covers the house right behind us. And next to it is a bay laurel tree.

But my Tree is majestic as it stands alone against the wide blue sky. I imagine that it would make the best Christmas tree if there was a ladder tall enough to reach the top and hang lights on it. But there isn't because this tree is just too tall. I don't know. Maybe 300 feet? Anyway, it doesn't need lights. She is grand just as she is.

I wonder how many crickets, birds, and other insects my Tree gives shelter to. In the quiet of the night I hear the crickets and their psst psst psst.

How to translate this awe and wonder in my classroom? Last week a student said "Sure, I'd like to have a relationship with other living species like animals, fish, bears...but a mountain or stone? Nah. A pleasure to look at maybe but I don't think they are animate." Well, the acknowledgment is the beginning of a new way of seeing. I have 6 more weeks to work with them.

I will ask the Tree what to do with student T.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

This post is for Penguins

I must have watched the PBS program on penguins three or four times now. There is something about seeing creatures in a landscape where there are no other inhabitants. There is only the ice, the ocean, and the bare mountain. No human beings. No buildings. Well, of course, there is a camera crew doing the filming. They even have penguin robots loaded with camera that is why we can see them up close.
We watch them cradle their eggs. We watch their courtship and mating rituals.

In one scene, a penguin whose wife hasn't arrived yet from her migratory journey, starts pecking at the penguin robot and makes flirtatious gestures. Then the wife arrives and becomes jealous and so she starts pecking at the robot until it topples over.

But why this fascination? After all, all I'm looking at is a flat screen. There is no depth perception. No reciprocity between myself and the penguins. I turn off the sound of the male narrator and I notice that now the the distance between me and the penguins is even greater. But I can close my eyes and visualize myself being in the Antartic with the penguins. There is a quickening of the pulse as the cold air touches my skin. The tense shoulders loosen up and I let their penguin sounds sooth me.

I long for this sensuous connection to the other beings of the Earth: the air, the sun, the penguins, the terrain, the mountains...

Every morning, I walk out of my second floor bedroom to the deck overlooking a tall fir tree standing alone against the blue sky. I am so grateful that the neighbors that hosts this giant have tended to it.
On the railing of the patio is a twenty-five year old honeysuckle vine that we planted to honor my grandmother. I greet her every morning.

All these meandering thoughts....I hope the penguins know that I am thinking of them and I praise them for being.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

This post is for Lauren

I am paying attention to your fb posts. I am taking notes of your smart questions. I appreciate the seriousness of your quest to have some good answers to wrestle with.

How can a young second-generation Fil Am who has never been to the homeland decolonize and re-indigenize? ...Whose connection with Filipino culture is tenuous and fraught with questions and the answers can only be glimpsed in fragments and very incoherent most times. . . How to appreciate or claim a culture vicariously?  How to ask permission to appropriate? Can we create our own culture with what is borrowed from the bits and pieces of the homeland culture that we are able to access?

These are the same questions I had when I started this journey.  The research methodology of pakapakapa (literally groping your way around for the answer) is quite ingenius (and indigenous!), you see. We are natural researchers in that we  know how to ask questions, we know who to ask, we know where to look, where to show up, who to listen to, who not to bother with.  We trust our instincts - our pakikiramdam - and we are intuitively guided from all directions by our dreams, signposts, metaphors, stories, and yes, tsismis. We know how to lean into or keen into something when our synesthesia kicks in. This fusion of the senses is a quality of Pakikipamdam - a very sophisticated sensing instrument that is honed by a participatory sense of self and a practice of radical presence.

So this is what I see you doing, Lauren. You are asking the right questions. You are showing up. You are building community. You are creating culture along with other kapwa on the same path.

What does this Land ask of us? those of us who are settlers? And how is this Land connected to the homeland across the Pacific Ocean? How do we stay connected? How does our life here impact the lives over there?

The Earth is alive and it is dreaming us. What are we to make of this dream...assuming we even know and feel that we are being dreamed?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

This post is for Lily

A traditional Buddhist prayer:
For all the harm I have done to others
Knowingly or unknowingly
Through ignorance and confusion
I ask for forgiveness.

For all the harm others have done to me
Knowingly or unknowingly
Through ignorance and confusion
I offer forgiveness

For all the harm I have done to myself
Knowingly or unknowingly
Through ignorance and confusion
I heal these wounds with forgiveness.

Like I said in our circle, I didn't realize how much I needed to be with you at this time so that we may transform our siblinghood into even deeper and richer dimensions. The last six weeks are almost miraculous in the way that I have been tested, reassured, loved, forgiven, nourished, and healed by your presence at this time.

I marvel at you:
    your light heart and bursts of laughter
    the seriousness of your intellect
    the color and splash of your wardrobe
    the intensity of your workout
    your compassion for others
    your courage and fighting spirit

For these gifts, I thank You. I love you.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

This post is for Will who misses my posts

You are on my mind often even though the whispered moments of intimate story-sharing have been few. I say few only because I can never get enough of the stories and I keep longing to hear more. And yet I also feel as if we need not speak too many words to know what is below the surface of the stories. We read and love the same authors and that has been a comfort and a reassurance that we do not always need words to understand another.

You have been to places I've been hesitant (or afraid?) to enter and it makes me wonder why I am not as able to dive deep into the Mysteries. Although I'm drawn to those places intellectually, my feet haven't taken me those portals. A part of me is longing to do so and a part of me is satisfied in knowing that there are many paths we can take.

What is this path? After being on this path for so long, the question comes up again: what is this about really? The answer seems to be: It is still about coming Home and staying Home. They say Home is in the Heart; Home is the homeland; Home is the earth; Home is the cosmos. It is all of these, of course, but there are just too many memes and cliches (esp. on social media) that renders it bland and flat sometimes.

Maybe I'm just getting old and moving on and letting go. In letting go, I delight in young folks like you. You are wise beyond your years. Your journey from grief to love has been a gift to me.  There is a lot of grief in letting go but, like you, I am learning that it is not about Me at all. It is about the goddess trapped in the human body in need of liberation. What a gift it is to see someone thru that lens of the Sacred!

I am sitting under the apricot tree in the garden as I write this. The breeze is gentle and the cicadas are singing, the crows are cawing. Someone is hammering at a log in the distance. The frogs in the creek delight in the small pool of water after last night's little rain. An aphid just landed on this keyboard and before I could think twice, I had already wiped it off. Sorry.

This morning I walked barefoot as I cleared the autumn leaves in the garden. The Buddha sits under the dogwood tree watching over our house.The gardenia and sampaguita blossom that I placed on the Buddha's lap have dried up.  Another smaller Buddha sits atop our water reservoir by the front door cradled by dried twigs and leaves. Some say this is called earthing - the act of drawing in the energy of the earth thru the soles of our feet.  Whatever name it goes by, I just know it feels good and peaceful to appreciate this dwelling place.

The last time you were here you said something like this: "someday we will all live indigenously as the people who have lived in this valley have done before." This is why you like Ursula Guin's Always Coming Home because this is literally the valley she refers to in her fiction. I think this will be my new home work: to learn how to live as if that indigenous future is here already.

Robin Kimmerer (Braiding Sweetgrass), Potawatomi author, calls it the shkitagen that would kindle the seventh fire that might still save us if enough of us find this way of being today. You are one of those folks, Will, and I feel so grateful for knowing this about you.

So you see, I am glad that my heart skipped a beat and scared me. The heart is calling me to a place of quiet now so that I may learn to let go of what has worked (or hasn't) before and to learn how to live small and beautiful while the Stories we have shared take on a life of their own - like trickster stories perhaps, or as sagely ways of knowing.

This post is for you, Will.


Sunday, July 27, 2014


looked up at the sky to watch the clouds and then the stars
they were moving faster than usual
soon i began to feel the movement, too.
oh, the earth is tilting on its axis!
i held you closely and we started to float
above the landscape of the tilting earth
saw fissures opening up below us
i didn't know when the spinning would stop
but i started to wonder
how we would start all over again.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Reading Thomas King's The Inconvenient Indian

Of Dead Indians
Living Indians
and Legal Indians
which of them does North America want? and why?

what do we, decolonizing and re-indigenizing, settlers/postcolonials want from Indians?

may we become wise and discerning
may we be humble learners
may we be generous givers
of our own indigenous giftings

may we know in our hearts
what these are even as they remain
as fragments of memory that
kindle our hearts and souls
our silence is its language

but not for long
for we are finding our song
our rhythm, our chant
our rituals

we remake some of them
with deep honor and respect
for the Source

Friday, April 4, 2014

I think of You tonight and of the 30 years you've given me as a gift. How I could have been a different person than the one I am today if I didn't feel the freedom to Be. MArriage is hard work anyway and when you add cultural and ethnic differences, it makes it all the more challenging.
You have always walked 10 paces ahead of me and so I've learned from your wisdom and sense of clarity about issues that are confounding and discombabulating when I think about this world.  I remember the years of agonizing over the rightness and wrongness of decisions made until slowly these gave way to something else... a lightening of the load by simply whittling down your wants and needs. The ego surrendered to the call of the Deep and from then on, you made it possible to just stand and be a witness to my own coming-full-circle. I used to wonder about this surrender - whether it's what you really wanted to do for yourself. Now, many years later, it just feels like the flow of water meandering as it will and where it will. It feels good.

When the mind is not trying to think too much of big and complicated messes, I can settle in the joy of just being here now with you and the dwelling place we have made. This place that is a refuge for others in search of calm and peace. This place is a heart and hearth for the small community of wanderers who have been drawn to the words I have sent out to the world.

But this too shall pass one day and a new generation will take over. They will find their own peace, their own sense of self and place. They will write their own words. Make their own communities. MAybe they will remember us. Or maybe not.

I am building a House of Origins, I tell myself. Everything in this house will contain a story, a seed that has sprouted and given sustenance to those who come here. I want Noah to know these stories. I want Dustin to tell him these stories.

Noah will know  and carry the story of how a small prairie town in Montana carved itself into your soul and made you as gentle as the breeze, as open as the big sky, and as strong and rugged as the badlands. The land gave you its stillness and silence and it whispered the wisdom that you carry with you. And the day I met you I knew that  I would grow to love your story, even its shadows, and that we would move forward together writing a new story.

Noah will know and carry the story of an island girl whose spirit couldn't be silenced by centuries of colonial madness. He will carry the story of how the tropical winds that blew me into this continent also carried with it the seeds that will come to bloom in due time. All the blooming that his father nurtures in him comes from that place of sun and sand as well as the place of the big sky that he has yet to see.

So this year, I celebrate You. You as Stone Cloud. You as Saint Maximus. You as chicken whisperer. You as lover of the Great Mother.

What a Gift you are to me!
Typhoon Haiyan, The Pasta King, and the Operation Typhoon Haiyan Committee: A Post-Event Post

When Art Ibleto, aka The Pasta King of Sonoma County, heard about the devastation from Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda last year, he called his friend, Chris Smith, at the local paper, The Press Democrat, and asked him to help him connect with the Filipino community in Sonoma County. There are many Filipino organizations in Sonoma County but only the Filipino American Community of Sonoma County, Inc (FACSCI) has its own physical location in Fulton and is the oldest organization in the county. Chris Smith contacted FACSCI and a meeting with Mr. Ibleto was set up.

Art Ibleto is probably the most generous community donor who helps organizations of all kinds raise funds for causes via his Pasta and Polenta Feeds.  When the Japanese tsunami hit three years ago, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and the folks at Enmanji Temple in Sebastopol were also supported by Mr. Ibleto. When JACL and Enmanji Temple members heard that Mr. Ibleto wants to host a fundraiser for Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts, they offered the Temple as the venue for a Typhoon Haiyan fundraiser.

In this coming together between Mr. Ibleto and the Japanese American community, the Operation Typhoon Haiyan Committee (OTHC) - an alliance of various Fil Am organizations and individuals - went to work to organize the event.

But alas, it only takes one person to throw a curve ball to get plans off-track. And the Pasta feed almost didn't happen because of one individual's confusion or misperceptions. Internal ethnic community politics shouldn't even figure in this event but it did. Fortunately, Mr. Ibleto and Chris Smith were able to see through this temporary set-back and the fundraiser finally happened on March 30th; but it did cost us almost three months of planning time.

With one month planning time to work with, the core team and the OTHC volunteers went to work like efficient and productive busy bees working on making honey. We told ourselves that our Kapwa back home need all kinds of support and that we should be able to rise above the community politics that threaten always to undo the best of our intentions. We told ourselves "no drama, please" and we promised ourselves to have fun, to spread the word, and raise a lot of money for the Yellow Boat of Hope FOundation and the Panay Bukidnon communities.

We prepared an FAQ to answer all the questions about our protocols and questions about the two beneficiaries. We made sure that all transactions are transparent and accountability is a priority.

But most of all, what all of us demonstrated are the Filipino core values of pakikipag-kapwa tao (shared Self), and kagandahang loob (beauty of Spirit). Indeed the event turned out to be colorful, joyful, and delicious! Mr. Ibleto was in his element; he stepped away from the kitchen to greet the event-goers and posed for photos with his new and old fans in the Filipino community. Chris Smith brought his two Japanese exchange students who helped serve the dinner and he enjoyed posing for photos as well. For what is a Filipino event without kodakan?

Enmanji Temple was transformed momentarily into a Filipino cultural hub -- with kulintang/kulintronica music by Ron Quesada, a big table full of bibingka, leche flan, maja blanca, a long table of raffle prizes, and vendor tables of beautiful ethnic textiles, woven banigs/mats, Tiboli jewelry, kimonas, malongs, books, and others.

People opened their hearts and purses and together we raised more than $7000. Donations continue to arrive in the mail.

Thank you, Mr. Ibleto and Chris Smith. Thank you, Sonoma County!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

At the California Academy of Sciences' Planetarium there is a new show called "Dark Universe" and it's narrated by Neil DeGrasse Tyson - my favorite astrophysicist! We had two nine-year old boys with us and I think the academic language just went above their heads as it did for us adults. I think I dozed off once or twice because the narrative was so...flat. Later on I realized that it was because the language of science is so "disenchanting" and it takes away the experience of awe and grandeur that I had come to expect in a place like the planetarium. When Neil was discussing the dark matter- the space between the galaxies- I was reminded of a Kapampangan myth of the Weaver of Heaven --she who is making/weaving a net and the stars that we see are the nodes or knots in the net. How wonderful it would have been to connect science with the language of myth so that we can impress young minds of the power of imagination, curiosity, and love when they look up at the stars at night.

We did enjoy the Philippine Reef again. This time Noah said he would love to go to the Philippines and go diving! ... One of these days, I hope.

The rainforest reminded me of why I keep dreaming of Costa Rica.

Still there is a part of me that feels saddened by this place. Of creatures behind glass cramped in such small spaces and so alone in their separate habitats.

I can hold contradictions but not for long. Maybe 4hours is long enough.
Elsewhere, at the Presidio, we looked for the Andy GOldsworthy installations and found only Spire. Couldn't find Tree Fall and Woodline. The latter I realized was right by the very place where we gave up looking. Had we gotten out of the car and walked down a trail, we would have been right there. But we were hungry and the boys wanted to get to the Academy...

Sunday, January 26, 2014

This weekend, I didn't schedule any "work" and so I had time to be quiet, to work in the garden and clean up after the chickens, to cook, to read. We also went for a hike at the Laguna de Santa Rosa trail. It is midwinter yet it was in the mid-70s and everything is tinder dry. Saw only small birds (jays) and none of the bigger ones we saw on the last hike months ago. There is still a bit of water in a lagoon but it could dry up anytime soon.

At home, I've started to use a basin in the sink to catch water that would otherwise drain down.  Every little bit of water saved will help keep the trees and shrubs moist.

Interestingly, I started reading this book about the old ways of the First People who later came to be known as Bushmen of the Kalahari - which they are not. These were labels that were imposed on them much later. Their way of life - of hunting and gathering - is no longer and yet traces remain today in their descendants and in all of us. That is why I am remembering my Dad's digging stick. When he was still with us, he found a way to pick up leaves in the yard by attaching a 3inch nail to the end of a digging stick. I do something similar when I insist on using my walis tingting rather than the vacuum to rid the yard of leaves. We think we are so smart for having invented those noisy garden vacuum cleaners but when I watch the neighbors crank theirs up, they just blow the leaves down the drain or to the next door neighbor's yard. I digress. I meander.

Also reading a book about finding Beauty in a broken world. It starts with mosaic art...

In Sebastopol, we went to the Barlow - a new urban hip gathering place. Some spaces remain vacant but the brew house, the ice cream shop, a tasting room, a community market, and a restaurant were filled with locals and tourists. The line was too long for the high-priced organic ice cream and yogurt so we walked over to Screamin Mimi's which is still the best ice cream place in town anyhow. As for the grub at the brew house, the food was pricey for the quality, me thinks.

I make better and healthy food at home. Last night I cooked jasmine rice and topped it with a Indian style melange of garbanzo beans, tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini sauteed in garlic, onion, and ginger and lots of turmeric, cumin and curry powder. Yum. Today, found some frozen veggie lumpia and had it with leftovers from last night.

On tv, switched back and forth between the Grammy's and the Pinay's wedding/Bachelor. But I was also prepping for my classes and IM'ing with friends about community work and also doing research online.  No wonder I am now feeling the need to quiet down and get this post over.

One of these days, I really need to look at the accumulation of academic books, journals, magazines, papers, files, etc....what to do...

Friday, January 24, 2014

When picking up a book, I usually read the author's Acknowledgement to see who is being thanked and if any of the names are familiar to me. This time, in the book I'm currently reading, I do not recognize any names. Well, I haven't read anything by this author before so maybe that's it.

This author has traveled near and far. Her essays traipse all over the world. No, it's not Elizabeth Gilbert. Someone just as famous but not in that Gilbert sort of way, you know. This author talks about her life but not in a self-absorbed way. I sense her deep connection to issues, events, places, history, politics, ecology. This is why I picked up her book.

What is transparent in some of her essays is her inner angst about the mother-daughter relationship. When I was reading about this, all I could think of is how 'white' this experience seems to be. Maybe that's the only way I could describe something that I couldn't relate to. Her mother was someone who grew up privileged and yet was never happy. Raising a daughter only made her competitive and their unhappiness spread over many decades, nowhere to settle into peace until after her death.

[Normative dissociation. This is what academics call the modern dis-ease of disconnection to everything that matters. The author's mother's inability to connect with her daughter is rooted deeply in the history of the modern western psyche's attempts at self-mastery all of which which come up short because it had uprooted itself from what matters most. I imagine the uprooting of this family's European ancestors and what they had to discard on their way to settle a new continent. Masterful and boundaried self...yet what became of these American Dreamers]. 

I find myself admiring this writer's ability to put into beautiful words what is miserable and painful. I appreciate the distance she creates in her writing between herself and her own experiences. To be able to write about one's mother (who is monstrous in so many ways) and still find a way to make her seem human is admirable;  perhaps a reflection of a writer's ability to bracket parts of one's life and hold them to the light.

It makes me believe that in the deepest core of our selves, we can never be truly damaged. That there is always something whole inside of us capable of containing all the shredded pieces of our personal histories and put us back together again.

It takes time, this putting-back-together process.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

2014 Greetings from CFBS

Grateful for the gifts that we give to each other thru events like this.
May we continue to be blessed.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Highlights of my week:

Call from a philanthropist.
Lunch with a mentor.
Possible proposal for a new course.
Healing Ritual at the ocean.
New book.

Do  not be fooled by these short lines. Each one is pregnant. Gestating. Percolating. Brewing. Marinating.
Each line is a map to a larger geography. I am to track these things. I am to pray over them. I am to follow through on the promise behind each one.
There is always an asking price. There is always a gift.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

I wonder why what who when where
Why people enter my life
What could it mean
Where do I take it next
How will I
Who will go with me

this last weekend before the semester --
Ryan Higa, Kevjumbo, wong fu - courtesy of Noah
F and F in Napa
Victor, Victoria
Monteverde, CR

what is the impact of holding others' secrets?
strung like beads on a rosary
i am to pray
but a wise man said
let them be; it is their journey.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Rain, Jan. 11, 2014

It is raining!!
Because we are about 20 inches behind in rainfall this time of year, we have started to feel nervous. So this morning's gentle rain is delightful!
Will we have enough water to irrigate the yard? Will we be able to grow vegetables? Will the farmers be able to grow food for the country?
The water levels have been so low that lakes are drying up.

They say that the next world war is going to be over Water resources.
Fracking is already contaminating ground water.
We may face water rationing.

Those are my Big Thoughts this morning and it shouldn't eclipse my delight over Noah's overnite here with his Dad. On the way up, his Dad asked: do you think we will eat out or Lola will cook? And Noah says: I hope Lola is cooking.

I did make lutung toyo, baked beer battered cod, fried rice, achara, carrots, steamed bok choy from the garden. For breakfast I cooked my homemade chicken tocino, scrambled eggs (from our chickens), fried rice. Noah asked to take home the leftover fried rice and tocino! Kid just knows how to delight me...or he really loves Filipino food!

They left right after breakfast as he has baseball assessment today. He tells me has a new best friend - a Japanese boy who just moved here from Japan "to play baseball" but also to get away from Fukushima. Dad is white, mother is Japanese.

I went back to bed after they left. Pulled back the curtains to watch and listen to the rain.

Oh, and I finished responding to EIleen's prompt.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ruminations and Reverie

There have been postings on FB about the increasing dangers of Fukushima. Some say that these are unsubstantiated and others like David Suzuki cite seemingly credible sources about the devastation that the US West Coast is facing. We are beginning to see it in the massive deaths of species of seals, star fish, contamination of salmon and other fishes. Someone with a geiger counter even posted a youtube video of radiation readings above normal levels taken on a beach in LA. And it hasn't rained here while the east coast is in deep freeze.

In the Philippines, I try to keep up with the recovery efforts after typhoon Haiyan but it is very sad to read. Sometimes there are human stories of hope and incredible courage. But mostly it is just too deep for words.

Suddenly tonight I am gripped by despair and I am on the verge of tears but it won't fall. I am holding back. I am groping for words. I turn to music -- sufi, specifically. I light sage. I make myself dance. But I want to write and capture my feelings here. I used to be good at this. It used to come more easily. Facebook has changed all this. I am not sure I like this social media self. I miss my blog entries. I miss the long periods of rumination, the lingering of feelings that are not held back but are invited and teased out of hiding. I miss the old me.

I want 2014 to be the year of opening up, of becoming more courageous, of becoming more vulnerable.

Today we went for a drive because it was sunny and too perfect to be indoors. We stopped at Safari West to check out the animals that you can see without having to pay a fee. There were leopards, turtles, flamingos, monkeys, lemurs, and many more types of fowl that I didn't know the names of. In one of the cages, a blue and green fowl with a red bonnet and orange beak came close to the fence where I stood and it started talking. And for a minute we chatted. I imagine he was telling me that he or she was glad to see me and was glad to be acknowledged and not just gawked at. This is what love is.

We drove by vineyards and hills that are brown and crisp due to the drought. We talked about the cattle that have nothing much to graze on; of ranchers having to buy water and hay. Hay suppliers can sell for about 45-day but after that who knows? The snow pack is also low and Los Angeles depends on this for their water.

Sometimes I think we are really screwed.  I see all the mothers pushing strollers and I wonder what they are thinking?. Or I hear news of the Iglesia ni Cristo building the biggest stadium in the world in Bocaue, Bulacan that can seat 50,000 and I wonder what their leader Manalo is thinking. They boast about the stadium as earthquake proof and there is a Discovery Channel crew that is already making a documentary about it. What are they thinking? And right here, my friends comment loudly about the new casino and say "what are they thinking?" Indeed.

I try not to dwell too much on the macro. After all, I have a life to live -- locally, organically, sustainably, I hope. I have students to teach but what I teach depends so much on understanding the macro and how it is all connected and related. I want to stimulate creative imagination of a possible future given what they will be inheriting from the older generation: contamination of ground water from fracking, stronger tornatoes, typhoons, salination and erosion of soil, bee die-off, overfishing the ocean, Fukushima, overpopulation. The list goes on.

Sometimes I wish I am not this old and I wish I do not see and know all these. Wouldn't it be better to just focus on raising a family, making a middle class income, a middle class suburban life, taking vacations once a year, donating to charity, eating healthy, recycling my garbage? Oh. I do that already.

At the posh restaurant today in Sonoma, we sat to three 20-somethings. They were talking about their favorite places. One said Copenhagen. One said Spain. I smelled their white privilege - there I said it. I also noticed that the waiter brought them a plate of olives as soon as they sat down. I looked around and everyone around my table had their olives. We didn't get any. Hhmm. What am I doing here??

I long for a quiet and non-conflicted life. Cal has cultivated this and I am 10 years behind. To him, the chickens, the garden, the church, sudoku, and football -- keep him grounded. I vicariously pick up on this and work on getting better. I do not spend as much time with the chickens but I do get out there to pick the lemons, pull the weeds, pick herbs. And cooking grounds me. I cooked so much this past holiday season that I realized I needed new anti-fatigue kitchen mats! Imagine that, all these years I could have been standing on cushioned mats and not suffer aching feet and back after long hours of standing over the sink.

Anyway, how to live a life of active hope as we face the sustainability crisis of our times.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

November 24, 2013

An Open Letter to my Filipino Community,

I have lived in Santa Rosa for 30 years now. When I arrived in 1983, the first thing I did was to look for a Filipino Center in the phone book (there were still phone books then). I was introduced to the community leaders like Cora Powers, Betty Wychocki, Faye Torralva, Mrs. Asuelo, Mrs. Tabor, the Manongs and many more. I became a correspondent for Philippine News and was able to write lengthy articles about the history of FACSCI; wrote about the story of the Asuelo family; covered many local events for the newspaper. This involvement was what inspired me to go back to school and study Filipino American culture and history, undoing colonial mentality, and indigenization.

As I pursued graduate studies and started teaching at Sonoma State University, I was no longer able to be as engaged in the daily life of the community as I would have wanted. However, I continued to watch from the sidelines as someone who is now writing and publishing about Filipino and Filipino American culture and identity.

Even though my attention shifted to academic work, I still relished the limited activities I was able to be part of. There was a time when Mary Anne Tabor and I dreamt of a writing circle. Nora Valle, when she got hold of my first book, Coming Full Circle: The Process of Decolonization Among Post-1965 Filipino Americans, organized and hosted a local book reading and signing at FACSCI. When former president Edmund Rivera asked me to emcee a dinner dance or join a fashion show or lend my Filipino furniture and artifacts to be displayed at a storefront in Healdsburg, I happily obliged.  I will always be appreciative of Oping Villafuerte and Christie Hao for teaching Filipino songs and dances. I also remember bringing Professor Jaime Veneracion from UP to FACSCI and the first thing he said was “Wow, you should have an ethnographic museum here!” I also brought Virgilio Enriquez, the father of Filipino Indigenous Psychology, to do a talk on Sikolohiyang Pilipino at FACSCI.

I am grateful for this local history that now also includes the local chapter of FANHS (of which I am national member long before there was a local chapter). With Remembering our Manongs, I was glad to have helped in the proposal writing and in securing a California Council for the Humanities grant. With Singgalot, I was glad to have participated in the local events in support of the exhibit at the Sonoma County Museum.

In 2008, as I returned from a Fulbright-Hays in the Philippines carrying back the deep trauma and grief of losing one of the teachers I brought with me, one of the community members who helped in my healing is Noemi Issel. In my many trips to acupuncture appointments with Noemi, we became good friends and had lengthy conversations about community, identity, culture, politics, indigenous values, decolonization, etc. I was able to share with her my dream and vision for the Center for Babaylan Studies (CfBS). CfBS finally came into being in 2009 and in 2010 we organized the first International Babaylan Conference at SSU, a symposium in 2011, and the second Babaylan conference in 2013. In between these big conferences were smaller and local CFBS events: grief retreats, healing concerns, ritual-making and ceremony at Bay Area and Los Angeles festivals. I was able to introduce Noemi and other local friends to the Bay Area volunteers of CfBS. The circle expanded as Noemi introduced the Bay Area folks to the local Sonoma County volunteers.

Where does a community organization begin and end?

I am now a part of FACSCI, FANHS, CFBS.

For the past three years, what I have witnessed locally is the melding of desires of individuals who would like to enrich their community experiences thru the widening circle of activities that makes the Filipino indigenous values of Kapwa, Pakikiramdam, and Kagandahang Loob come alive. This is manifesting itself thru the fiesta, thru typhoon relief efforts, thru annual Thanksgiving and Christmas pot-lucks, social services, educational programming, or just folks meeting at a winery to play croquet and celebrate birthdays – all these create a synergy that is beautiful to watch.

The community is hungry for the experience of coming alive and feeling inspired by the beauty of the Filipino spirit. As one friend told me, “when I come home from a Filipino event, I want to feel inspired. I don’t like the feeling of coming home tired and wondering what that was all about. Sometimes community events leave me feeling unsatisfied.”

As with all organizations that aim to sustain the structure and container for the community, there will always be tension. The dream of the Manongs and Manangs to have a place of their own has been manifested and to them we owe a debt of gratitude for having the center at Fulton. To their direct descendants who continue to protect this legacy, we owe them praise and gratitude.

The community has grown with the influx of newly arrived immigrants, mixed families, and folks moving to Sonoma County from elsewhere.  Newcomers bring with them their own set of experiences and expectations, dreams, and ideas about community. They are enthusiastic to share these.

We have also experienced more recently that the Bay Area is much closer to us than we think. Many of the CfBS folks from the Bay Area love coming to Sonoma County and with them they have brought kulintang, baybayin, Bangka project, small healing circles and retreats, ritual-making, food, films, and many more. Sonoma County folks also travel everywhere to attend concerts, events, and festivals in the Bay Area. Such exposure to progressive Bay Area community organizing is inspiring and motivating folks to create the same energy locally.

With this fusion of creativity we are seeing the potential of how we might expand the meaning of “community” so that it is creative, transformative, inclusive and expansive. However, organizations must still deal with the logistics required by state and local agencies to maintain a legal status. Established protocols, Robert’s rule of order, administrative policies can be challenging in the face of change.

The value of Pakikipag-kapwa is difficult to practice in a culture where we are conditioned to think in terms of either-or, us versus them, up or down, in and out. This thinking in binaries is also hierarchical and implies “I am better than you; I know better than you.” Whereas in Kapwa, as Manny Pacquiao so graciously said last night, “in the end we are all brothers and sisters.”

Differences based on personality, class, race, language-ability, sex and gender, nationality, and religion also abound in our community. It is sometimes difficult to draw boundaries and it is hard to impose the rule of law or organizational protocols.

I remember Manang Faye Torralva telling me, “Leny, the community has always been here regardless of who is fighting whom; we will always be here.” I sensed in this statement her faith in the ability of her Kapwa to mend fences, to understand, to give way to others who have new and better ideas, to dream big and to dream well. In her spirit and in Manang Betty’s and Manang Cora’s, I feel the wisdom of elders who have seen the ebb and flow of history and politics within community organizations. They trust the next generation to become wise and discerning as well.

I am thankful that I could spend my Sunday morning writing this letter to you, my beloved community. At the back of my mind, I am thinking of Tacloban, Cebu, Guian, Panay and all the places where our families and friends are struggling (and will struggle for a long time) to rebuild lives. I am inspired by the local folks who sent home 55 balikbayan boxes yesterday but saddened that they couldn’t use the center at Fulton as staging area for the relief efforts. 

Yesterday I was interviewed by American Indian Radio about the impact of Typhoon Yolanda on indigenous communities in the Philippines. I was also asked if connection has been made with local Indian tribes in Sonoma County. I proudly said that we have many community members involved in relief efforts who are Indopino/Pilipino and Pomo but sadly, I had to say that there has been no organized effort to reach out to the local tribes. (In Los Angeles, the San Manuel tribe has already donated $10M; the Chumash has donated $10,000 and so on).

Clearly, there is much that can be done. Let us ask our Ancestors for guidance as we learn the lessons of small and big things and as we learn to connect the threads that bind us. If there is fear, suspicion, envy, jealousy, or any unkind thought towards one of our Kapwa, may we learn to look deep in our hearts and ask that the gold hidden in our Loob shine forth instead. 

If you have read this far, Maraming Salamat.

Leny Strobel