Impossible Visions of Intimacy 

I started writing a blog post earlier this year that I still haven’t published to this day. It was about a Filipino teleserye called Forevermore and it was originally titled “Grand Gestures of Love.” Teleserye(s) are television series, television drama or “melodramatic serialized fiction.” My childhood in the Philippines was dotted with them — from Mexican telenovelas like Marimar and Taiwanese dramas like Meteor Garden, I grew up watching these shows with my entire family (usually after dinner).


I forget about these teleseryes until about a year ago, when I subscribed to The Filipino Channel online. My intent was to keep up with Filipino news coverage, and be informed of the political and social events in the country from thousands of miles away.

And then Forevermore happened.

I knew I was hooked after one episode. The drama, the conflict, the characters, the setting… all of it, all at once. Excitement and melancholy upon hearing the first few notes of the show’s opening credits. All the giddiness would come pouring out on the right scenes.

I was, to put it mildly, being hella extra. Continue reading


Radical Movements 

Last month, my partner and I squeezed into a packed Xavier Chapel at the University of San Francisco for a reading and release of the 4th edition of The Bridge Called My Back. Some of the contributors were present and of course, Cherrie Moraga.

Roc got me a copy of the 4th edition and as I held the book (sealed and heavy) close to my chest, I recounted the first time I ever read the anthology. It was after a particularly bad breakup in 2011 and I always, always sought solace from books. I have also been politically conscious throughout my time here in the U.S., but it was through The Bridge that I first felt validated and affirmed as a queer-brown-immigrant woman. The worn out second edition of the book became a visible reminder of my wholeness, in spite of the displacement I constantly felt. The radical women of color writers became mentors, friends.

Moraga came onstage and talked about radical movements. She said that people need not be confused by being part of leftist movements, because one would be surprised at how “on the right” they actually are. The room shared a chuckle. I looked at the room and the people around me, wondered which movements they were all a part of.

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On Bob Ong’s “Stainless Longganisa”

ABNKKBSNPLAko? is the title of one of Bob Ong’s novels and it may look weird to most non-Filipino folks, but Tagalog is very phonetic and those letters constitute a statement. Well actually, a question. This book was popular when I was growing up but I’ve always had a predilection for Western literature, both classical and modern. I even managed to dig out obscure lesbian titles from the now defunct Naiad Press and read about lesbians in Montana, swashbucklers in New York and queer women in San Francisco. My interest with Western lit somehow made me miss Bob Ong’s work, and it wasn’t until I was back in the Philippines last year that I was officially introduced to his work.

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On Remembering the People Power Revolution

This piece was intended for a local radio station’s listener perspective, but it was rejected on accounts of it being too international, in spite of the fact that the Bay Area is home to the most diverse cities in the country. San Francisco alone is home to tens of thousands of Filipinos. What happens internationally is felt, heard, understood locally as we live in increasingly globalized societies. So I’m posting this piece on my blog instead — would love your thoughts!
The EDSA revolution or the People Power Revolution in the Philippines happened 29 years ago on February 25th, a year before I was born. Then dictator Ferdinand Marcos was being ousted by the people, after 20 years of military dictatorship. I remember my mom telling me that she wanted to join the protests but the military blocked roads and highways to the capital as the number of protesters and activists swelled to thousands.

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Love, in Tagalog

Part of it is denial, part of it is too-soon nostalgia. Maybe it’s the beautiful wedding of two queer Pinays two weeks ago. Or the nearly three-week cold that I’m finally healing from, but I wake up each morning with a deep, deep longing to be home.

Whatever it is, there will be posts upon posts of my three-week trip (expo for two weeks, family & friends for the last one) to the Philippines, no details spared. Before I boarded the plane back to SFO, I’ve made the decision to move back home within the next few years and if not permanently, maybe for an extended period of time.

The expo trip with GABRIELA Philippines was nothing short of amazing. The families, the communities, their struggles, their resilience and unending hope for a better society has strengthened my commitment to the movement. I am in the process of writing and collating notes from the trip, of which I will be sharing in this blog and in a community report back in November. Seeing my high school friends after ten years was also heartwarming, and while we’ve all paved our own paths, I am in awe of our friendship and genuine sisterhood. Continue reading

Warsan & For Difficult Women & Love

I almost met Warsan Shire back in 2013 at the Bay Area Arab Women’s Conference, where she did a poetry reading from her book Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth (Mouthmark). After the reading, a friend wanted to introduce me to her but I freaked out for some reason. I told them I had to be at a meeting right after, but I really just ran up to the third floor of the library where the Filipino American Center was. I sat there for a couple of hours, surrounded by books on everything Filipino & Filipino-American – cookbooks, literature, history, fiction to name a few.

That day came back to me last night as I lay in bed restless, desperately wanting sleep. When I first learned of her poem For Women Who Are Difficult to LoveI remember reading it and committing it to memory, to heart (pronouns modified):

you are a horse running alone
and she tries to tame you
compares you to an impossible highway
to a burning house
says you are blinding her
that she could never leave you
forget you
want anything but you
you dizzy her, you are unbearable
every woman before or after you
is doused in your name
you fill her mouth
her teeth ache with memory of taste
her body just a long shadow seeking yours
but you are always too intense
frightening in the way you want her
unashamed and sacrificial
she tells you that no woman can live up to the one who
lives in your head
and you tried to change didn’t you?
closed your mouth more
tried to be softer
less volatile, less awake
but even when sleeping you could feel
her traveling away from you in her dreams
so what did you want to do, love
split her head open?
you can’t make homes out of human beings
someone should have already told you that
and if she wants to leave
then let her leave
you are terrifying 
and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love. 

I let the last three lines linger on my lips. Continue reading

July 15: 5 Things

1Standing in solidarity with all Palestinians resisting Israeli occupation, struggling for their rightful land and lives.  


Photo Credit: Lainerz (via Instagram)

From the International League of People’s Struggle’s statement:

The present Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip since five days ago has already resulted in nearly 200 civilian deaths, hundreds of civilians wounded, houses, mosques, hospitals, schools, the fuel and water systems and other civilian structures destroyed by bombs. A high proportion of those being killed by Israeli bombing and strafing are children. Hundreds of Palestinian are being illegally arrested, detained and tortured.

2Stories of Queer Diaspora

On its third (sold out!) run this year, I was finally able to catch Stories of Queer Diaspora curated by Erika Vivianna Céspedes at La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley. It was an honor to listen to the stories of 1st and 2nd generation immigrants, mirroring my own experience(s) as a queer Pinay in the diaspora. Hella love to Candy, Mitali, Kat and Rani! Also, check out a portion of Yosi‘s piece I recorded here.

3Berkeley Flea Market


Thank you to those who donated, helped and womanned stall 566 in the scorching Berkeley heat with our #expo2014 group. It’s amazing to see flea market economics in action, which as my kasama/sister/ultimate pare Aileen Santos compared with the palengke(s) back home.

– Aileen Santos

Speaking of my pare and fellow writer Ai, I finally got the chance to interview her for this blog and I will be posting it here soon. In the meantime, you can read my interview with Mel here.

5 Lisa by Theophilus London

This, on repeat since Monday. This, the story of my life these days.


You’re not your fault.

During Pride weekend about two weeks ago, I was finally able to visit Spirit Rock Meditation Center for a daylong that was way overdue. I try to go on a personal retreat every three months, which sounds a little too much but I find it extremely helpful to take a step back from the routines and the schedules and the emails and the tweets, and just stop for a moment.

To be silent, to breathe in the present, to reexamine what the mind and heart holds dearly, as you strive to become the best version of yourself.

I woke up early that Saturday morning still thinking about what I wrote the day before, and felt that thing you feel when you’re about to do something you’ve never done before. Specially if you’re doing it by yourself. I stood in the shower and calmed myself, letting precious, precious water fall on my face down the length of my being as I listened to my thoughts.

I went through a list of things that I could be doing instead: packing more things (I was moving that same weekend) and the endless boxing, labeling, marveling, purging, cleaning OR poring over Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State because holy shit, Mireille! OR writing OR revising and editing OR writing some more OR meeting up with a GABRIELA sister for tea and talk about the fucked up-ness of Pres. Noynoy Aquino and oh-how-he-makes-our-blood-boil because of his policies and his family’s legacy and gotdamn give the land back to the people OR maybe I could also just drive down to Stinson Beach and live vicariously through lean-bodied surfers, a plus if they’re of color to try to distract myself for a bit OR this other thing and really, the list was endless. Continue reading


Melissa Reyes: On Longing & the Tragedy of Diaspora

You… see us… and think you know us, but our outward guise is more deceptive than our history.

I think about these words from Carlos Bulosan, Filipino novelist and poet, as I recall my conversation with my #expo2014 co-team lead and GABRIELA SF co-chair Melissa Reyes last week. There is a question of identity, almost an existential question that leads those of us who are part of the diaspora into a disquieting rendering of the self. This is how Mel describes wrestling with her identity as a Filipino growing up in San Diego, along with a longing for the people and the country, that has led to her work and commitment to the global Filipino women’s movement.

It was a sunny Tuesday afternoon, and I picked Mel up at the Filipino Community Center in the Excelsior district in San Francisco. We were on our way to an #expo2014 meeting with GABRIELA SF members in Oakland, and while I was wrestling with the rush hour traffic on the Bay Bridge, I spoke with Mel about our upcoming trip. Continue reading

Creating Our Own Maps

Yesterday, I came across a tweet that prompted me to respond right away:

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile now, not just in terms of what we are all capable of as individuals, but more so as creators of our own maps, as artists. All of us. A huge shout out to Seth Godin who has just transformed the way I see art, artists, people, the kinds of work that we do, and life in general.

So what is art anyways? Continue reading