thoughts

Aloha, Anak

The Sariling Gawa Youth State Council is hosting its 38th Annual Youth State Conference. This year’s theme is “R.I.S.E. – Recognize, Involve, Strengthen, Empower”. It is a three-day, two-night event that ran from Friday, March 23rd through to Sunday, March 25th. It is annually held at the YMCA Camp Harold Erdman in Waialua, Oahu, Hawaii.

To be honest, I had no expectations of this event itself. There wasn’t much information on it online besides the theme and the organization’s philosophy for me to formulate some sort of opinion on the conference. However, I already had my fears and assumptions of this conference before stepping foot at its doors. Prior to attending the conference, the Toronto youth delegation had a briefing about our Filipino experiences as a whole (since we hadn’t bonded as of that moment – we literally all met at the airport) and had the opportunity to speak about why we wanted to attend in the first place.

About two years ago, I made a goal for myself to learn more about my cultural roots (hence my choice of placement). I had written a poetry book last year as my final project for my Midwifery elective. My original concept for it was to learn about the cultural practices of pregnancy and childbirth. My plan for this was to interview my mother and aunts about their experiences of pregnancy, childbirth, and thoughts on motherhood (which I still ended up doing). The research aspect of my project is what flipped my concept from learning about these cultural practices to an act of representation. In doing research for the essay portion of this project, I basically found no peer-reviewed articles pertaining to my subject matter – this is why I made my poetry book into an act of representation. I wanted my book to start/carry this conversation. In realizing this, I grew a stronger need to dig deeper into my cultural background as our knowledge has been erased and also taken from us.

It took me about 21 years for me to hit this point of self-discovery because I grew up dissociating myself from my Filipino identity. Of course, I knew the importance of food and family and understood Tagalog (my mom made sure that my sister and I can understand at least one language from the Philippines), but never wanted to delve into the actual substance of Filipino culture. After having gone through the writing process for my project, I soon realized the importance for me to be connected to my roots (“Rooted” is the title of my book). With all of this in mind, I also had to face the fact that I would be surrounded by those who are so confident and proud of their Filipino-ness (or, so I had assumed). I was nervous and definitely scared to be among other youth with such knowledge because I was afraid of having nothing to contribute in regard to my Filipino experience. This is because I only knew my culture within the boundaries of both my direct and extended family. However, prior to having this fear, I was slowly coming into terms with the validity of my own Filipino experience. I sometimes forget that I have my own narrative in the grander story of Filipino experiences. I am a part of the generation that lost touch with their culture, I am a part of the generation that is relearning their culture and learning to love it, I am a part of the generation that is reclaiming their culture.

I specifically stated: I’m here for the Filipinos that never identified as “Filipino” while growing up. I’m here for the Filipinos that don’t know what it means to be Filipino. I’m here for the Filipinos that are making an identity for themselves. I’m here for the Filipinos that were the token Asian friend. I’m here for the Filipinos that got lost along the way but are trying to find their way back home.

This trip is another substantial part in my journey of self-discovery and self-actualization. I hit a point where I had to ask myself, How much more can I grow without knowing about my roots?

I had many fears coming into this conference – meeting with the other Toronto youth being one of them. I didn’t personally know or meet any of the other Toronto youth prior to the trip. I had met one of them for a fundraising event we did beforehand, but it was only small talk. As I had previously mentioned, we literally met for the first time at the airport in Hawaii. I didn’t know what to expect from them other than what I had read from their bios for our gofundme page. I didn’t know what I expected from them, either. I just hoped that we would all get along for the sake of the larger project at hand – which is the Toronto camp for Filipino youth. We had bonded over the days before the conference, but I think what really hit us is when we had the short briefing prior to leaving for the conference. I had to take it up with myself and the other Toronto youth delegates to address my fears and assumptions. I admitted that I was initially scared to even attend the trip as a whole because I was so unfamiliar with being surrounded by a group of Filipino youth outside of my group of cousins. My context changes once I step out of familiarity – in this case, outside of my family. I also had to address the fact that I was already having thoughts about how the youth are like there in comparison to the Filipino youth in Toronto. After having had the conversation with our group, which included me addressing my thoughts and assumptions and unravelling the complexity of my Filipina identity and essentially telling a group of Toronto Filipino youth my story, we were able to deconstruct not only mine but our assumptions. We were able to deconstruct our stories to discover why we feel the way we do, think the way we do, and are the way we are. In knowing this, we were able to shift the way we think about ourselves and how we see ourselves within and among others of our culture. This alleviated my worries because I initially thought I wouldn’t be able to contribute to any conversation – forgetting that my experiences of my own culture are just as valid.

Now, fast forward to the conference after having these conversations, I was able to go into the conference with an open mind, ready for what the youth have to teach me (us). But this is easier said than done because I started to worry about what the youth would think of me. My worries led me to think of any possible assumptions they had of me, of us, as we’re coming from a completely different city and context.

Though we got a different experience from the rest of the youth delegates (who are all high school students), we were still able to interact with and be among the youth. Joining us were two university students from The Big Island and together, we were Barangay 8 aka Maganda Forever. We were in a separate group as we are all in post-secondary education. The purpose of this was to teach us a more advanced set of leadership and facilitation tools and frameworks to take back to our communities. The leaders felt it didn’t make sense for us to join the high school youth as we would just be shadowing the leaders there and not fully grasp the learning aspect behind the lessons. This was great for us because we had many fruitful discussions on practice on and off the field. This is where I intersected my Social Work learning to the lessons of this conference. Although AOP is heavily instilled into our learning, I had to remember that AOP is not prescribed medicine – it may not always work in every setting – so I took off my AOP hat and allowed for my environment to teach me.

It was during this activity in day 2 where we hit the pinnacle of the conference – all of us ended up in tears while articulating our individual stories. It was at this moment where we got our struggles off our shoulders and onto the table. This is where we realized, maybe we’re not as different as we thought. In doing this, we were also able to see how many obstacles we have to get through in order to reach our goals, or in order to make that step. In hearing out everyone’s experiences throughout this activity, I realized that our work starts with us. There is a lot of work to be done and many battles to fight, but now that we have uncovered our pain together, we now have each other for that support. But the work starts with us, in understanding our struggles and deconstructing them to see how we can fight against them, or work alongside them to move towards a better [collective] future.

There was another activity that same night where we had to make a skit of a value that is important to us. We had another discussion which led us to have less than 10 minutes to prepare for this bigger group activity and we ended up presenting on the topic of consent. To me, our skit wasn’t that impactful, it was our participation. But our skit wasn’t even my highlight because being there and sitting through everyone else’s skits was what really hit me. They touched upon topics of family, loss of culture, discrimination, trust. I was shook (for a lack of a better time). By the end of the skits, they leaders asked if anybody had any thoughts. I shot my hand up because I was truly amazed at what the youth put together. I remember saying something along the lines of noting the similarities between our struggles despite the difference of where we come from (me being from Canada, and them in Hawaii) and acknowledging them and thanking them because I didn’t feel alone.

I think that was one of the biggest pieces for me that I learned on this trip – the fact that I’m not alone, or, we’re not alone. Despite our geographic differences, we were able to see that what we experience is mirrored. With that being said, it made me think about how I view myself within the community in Toronto considering I didn’t even see myself as part of the community until this year. I’m still being introduced to many members of the community at this point in my life. I’m no longer embarrassed by it as I take it as part of my journey.

I get it now. There was a lot of talk within our group about why folks come back every year as VOLUNTEERS for this conference, and I think I get it now. There is something that was always brewing in the SG air and I even felt it when I got on that bus to get to the camp. It was like there was an overarching force field of warmth and welcome that protected us from negativity. There are very few spaces that I can walk into without feeling any type of judgement and this is one of them. I mean, yeah, perhaps we got a different experience because we were older but even in our interactions with the youth, we were included. It was like we have already been there and with them prior to the conference. Not only that, but the leaders ensured that the youth were engaged in a positive and comfortable light. So, I get it. It’s like one big family that’s been having a reunion for 38 and counting years. Even in hearing the youth delegates’ conversations, I noticed that a lot of them want to come back next year which makes me want to come back (The Universe needs to give me a [monetary] sign, if we’re being frank about this). There is something more that’s brewing there alongside instilling Filipino pride within the youth and educating them on a bit of cultural history. I left the conference feeling stronger about myself, feeling confident in another goal I want to achieve, and I left the conference with three new friends.

This conference has shown me that what I feel is bigger than me. What I feel is supposed to feed our purpose for tomorrow. There is so much work that needs to be done and it overwhelms me to think about it, but we now have a stronger network of likeminded folks that want to work at this together. It all starts with us.

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thoughts

#BellLetsTalk

about silence.

About why I’ve been silent for all of these months.


Let’s talk about the absence of my love and presence of hatred. Because I’ve not only forgotten but chosen to forget what it was like to feel love. This absence of love has destructed my ability to feel love and feel empathy, compassion, sympathy. Though I had been feeling this non-feeling, I was completely aware of it. I never gave myself the time or space to truly feel all that has happened to me, even though I reflect on these events everyday. Even though I was and am completely aware of the fact that I still held on to hate.

And it was only one week ago where I had stood in my room and cried for ten minutes. That was when I felt it. In that short period of time, I felt the hatred dissolve and I felt one step closer to the love I used to hold for not myself but for those around me. There was still something missing, though. I knew what it was but it was entirely my fault as to why I was where I was… My fault as to why I am where I am – mentally and emotionally.

It’s been a lonely, dark road that I built for myself. I was tired. I needed to stray away to figure out what was going on inside of me. But in doing so, I became too comfortable with my solitude. I became too comfortable with my independence. I feel like I’ve built this road while destroying my path in the process. There was no intention behind this, behind the construction of this path off-road, away from the people I love.

I’m still here, but I haven’t looked back… and because of that I feel like I’ve lost so many people that I love. I feel truly alone and I have nobody to blame but myself for this.


My loneliness is a cause of my actions and I so desperately try to look back, to reach back, but I feel as if it’s too late.

Because it is.


Though I feel like I have emotionally grown from this past year alone, I think that I often blur the lines between numbness and being emotionally aware of myself and how I feel – in other words, I stop myself from feeling.

I preach the book of self love and loving yourself wherever I go, however, I never speak these words to myself. I feel like I have conditioned myself to (as my friend puts it) react differently. As opposed to feeling things so deeply and allowing myself to do so, I don’t. Instead, I fill up my schedule so that I will continue to keep my mind off of what my actual problem is. This has become my way of “coping”. I know it’s counterproductive. I know it continues to push me further away from the people I love… I know this… So why does it not register to me that I need love again? That I need to allow myself to love the rough parts without forcing them to be smooth so soon? Is it because I have conditioned myself for so long?


I’m sitting at my desk in my office as I type all of these words and I wonder when it will hit me. When my old heart will make its appearance. But do I really want to allow that side of me again? I’ve learned to love and I’ve learned to let it in but I’ve also learned to be choosy. To be picky. To not exert my love to things that don’t water me…

Maybe I have grown and realized that I cannot be fully logical without compassion, without love.

I sit and I wait and it hits me but I let it fall.

I sit and I wait and it hits me but I let it fall.


There are moments where I do catch the signs but don’t apply them to me. I just store them and I now carry a collection of inspiration but it hasn’t spoken to me yet. Perhaps the words don’t fully mean something to me yet.


How much more can someone wait until they fall into complete isolation?


How much more can someone do until they realize their actions do not fulfill their void feelings?


I miss having a best friend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Poetry

mother nature

Moving in synchronicity with my mothers past
I feel at one with the way the world revolves

The speed at which water paces
forcing its presence into new homes
into places it does not belong

But I am here

As existent as the winds during a storm
there is no telling where I will land but

I am here

As vicious as a raging fire
once born a meek flame
I make it known that I am here
yet you manage to walk over me
and I am still here
absorbing your very steps
all while guiding you to your next destination
where I will be

There
Here

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thoughts

wy[h]a

It’s been three months since my last blog post. I have chosen not to write as I am not in the same place as I was before. I needed the time to myself to get things off my chest – I needed to clear my mind, and most importantly, I needed to clear my heart.

I did most of that all while deconstructing myself (once again) to get to the root of my bittersweet feelings. The wait was intentional because I wanted my heart to be back where my pen was. However, no matter the number of times I tried to get back to it, the feeling was no longer there, or the words didn’t flow as easily as they used to. Excuse or not, I took one of the longest hiatuses from my pen game which is why I’m not able to produce as well as I used to. I’ve turned to other means to release any feelings of discomfort and negativity which could be another reason as to why I haven’t been back at the pen. My pen seems to be missing my heart but I will keep [my attempts at] writing until they meet again.


In getting to know myself and feel myself grow, I have prioritized doing everything else instead of allowing myself to feel through whatever I am going through. I am not sure if I have grown into this or if this is just another one of my coping mechanisms but I feel like I have become wiser with my emotions (if that makes sense) and more realistic with how I feel as an emotional being.

Control is something that I have lost before my hiatus and I took the time to train myself into gaining more control over my emotions and mental space. I took the time to really hone my feelings so that I  won’t lose my shit again, but even more so that I won’t lose myself again.

Getting back into the other hobbies I like doing has also helped to restore some kind of balance in my life that I have been missing for a while. It was almost as if it was a reminder that there is not one formula to reach self love. Though I spend my time delving into other side projects, I’ve also been dedicating a lot of my time to my job. (Who doesn’t need money in this economy?)

I’ve become more focused on my larger goals and dreams that I pushed all else aside so that I can work within a tunnel vision. As great as that sounds, having tunnel vision made me miss the importance of things outside of the view, such as my health, my friends, family, etc.


Not even gonna lie, my mind is all over the place because I have yet to start this paper, but I made a promise to myself to start writing again because I’ve lost touch with something that I’m actually good at.

And after spending time reading through my old poems and watching old performances, I can already feel the disappointment from the writer side of me.

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thoughts

missing

Do you see how much power she holds in just the spaces?
She leaves them open
for you


Do you see how much force weighs in the just bones of her fingers?
How much strength she holds back because she knows what she is truly capable of?

 

I haven’t been myself lately and it’s evident. I was merely living in between the lines and not outside of the box I love to shield myself in.

But I have found my peace. Or so, I thought.

She no longer lives here. Serenity only filled the oxygen I was breathing for one fucking day. Now I feel sick and full of pollution.

I didn’t know how quickly my heart could be filled with such burning anger and hatred… It’s scary how it terrorized the love I struggled to but successfully build.

She doesn’t live here anymore.

And I’m scared.

My space has never been filled with such blistering negativity. If it had in the past, I made sure to rid of it before it encapsulates my entire being but I’m afraid it is too late.

My chest now rests in the pit of my stomach and I no longer have an appetite for anything.

I was told by many that my glow and happiness have inspired them to start/strengthen/continue their journey of self-discovery and self-love. I was told that my glow was so bright and beautiful…

To my friends reading this, to my friends that still care about me, to my friends that still love me despite this [temporary] storm, to those who looked up to me, to those who came to me for love and light and wisdom, to those who came to me for solace, to those that saw me as a “Queen”, to my cousins, to my sister…

I am sorry for disappointing you.

I’m never one to drag others down with me, so I ask that you respect my space. I won’t be here but I’ll still be around.

I know I’m going to look back at this post a few/several months from now and cringe at how I allowed this to happen to myself [again]. But I also know that I’m going to look back and be proud of how much I have grown from this bludgeoning moment and how much more I have loved myself.

But for now, I’ll keep fighting this losing battle.


I miss her. If anyone sees her, tell her that home is waiting for her return.

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Poetry

between

stuck in between the lines
I cannot be read
merely skimmed over as these letters no longer make sense
words formulated out of the simple act of writing
these sentences feel like sentences as my grip tightens around my pen
I write apology after apology but my ink never dries
it only tells white lies
and I’m back where I started
stuck in between the lines

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Poetry

phoenix (performance edit)

I have burned myself to the core for the sole purpose of my renewal
and resurrected from the burdens of my past mistakes and decisions

From these ashes I rise brand new
shedding any remnant of a past me you once knew
She no longer lives here
but her memories serve as lessons for as long as these wings pick up the winds beneath them

Her journey is as far as the edges of the horizon and as deep as her soul allows
though the depths of this distance may frighten her
she knows she will never be lost or drown

After creating homes in places I have never known
I feel familiarity within the ways the winds blow
its routes reassuring the power of my wings
I let my history weigh in
slowly but delicately
my legs have been waiting for this moment

And I take off once more

Reclaiming a newfound strength that is untouchable
unbreakable
feeding the stomach of her new being
she is nourished with knowledge, love, and light

Soaring to new heights, I am no longer afraid to fall
knowing I will rise once again

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