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