Poetry

drive out

She is long gone from these ends
but I remember what she used to taste like
The way her hair flowed as she moved with the wind,
How her eyes lit up in the darkest of nights
you can feel her love when she walked in the room

Now I just feel her footsteps
the beat of each step fit a pattern that deafened me
each step filled with hunger
because she was always empty
her steps meant for something more
for something bigger than herself
her footsteps much bigger than herself
yet she was never going anywhere
just lost in the pattern continuously leading her to
familiarity

the song that never ends
the constant boom-tick of the drumline
beating against the record scratch
the needle stuck in the grooves
but you can find her if you read between the lines
or so she says
or so she says

or so she says

Follow me

I promise this is a new pattern

the trail that ever ends
and she continues to walk the line
unknowingly striding into darkness
hoping to one day chase the light she once saw in her eyes
but there is no looking back

her gaze [only] focused on the end
wherever that may take her.

I still remember what she used to taste like
the way her hair flowed when she moved with the wind
how her eyes shone in broad daylight
but the love is gone from her footsteps

She is long gone from these ends

 

 

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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

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

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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Poetry

enough (performance edit)

Curves full of body and soul,
are your hands whole enough to hold her?

Are they strong enough to not let her slip through the cracks of your fingers?
Do you see how much she carries between them?
How much power she holds in just the spaces?

She leaves them open
for you

But are your hands ready?
Are you willing to have knuckles crack at the expense of freedom,
willing to get your fingernails dirty,
willing to risk breaking bones
Are you willing?

Are you enough?

Are your hands delicate enough to cradle her heart
letting it pulse in your palms
transferring energy through your fingertips

Can you feel her pain?

Can you feel the number of times it has broken before you
its tears still in the process of healing
can you feel them too?
its beat emulating the syllables of lies she has heard before you
following a basic algorithm

Are you the one to solve this calculation?

Can you process her through a multitude of equations
or is she just another addition to your problem solving
and if she is,
are you smart enough to subtract her before she further divides you from your formule of manhood?

Are you?

Are you smart enough to decode her locks?

Maybe you can unlock her walls
revealing the bareness of something real

But will she let you?

Unknowing of the weight of it all
are you ready to catch her when she falls?

Are your hands bold enough to hold her back when she wants to chase danger?

What if she wanted to chase you?

What if she wanted to keep chasing you into tomorrow,
making each tomorrow better
so it feels like you’re forever living
today

Do you still want to hold her then?

What if forever is not enough for her
what if she wanted yesterday

So how about now?

Will you still be there to hold her tomorrow?

If she brings a tsunami will you offer your hand
or do you watch her drown in her own faults

But what if she brings the sun?
Do you hide yourself from chances at burning
or embrace her radiance

Can you handle it?

Endless possibilities with predictable reason
her energy fed with passion unlike another

She will always be more,
never empty
a continuous refill of might

A woman with such power holds the nerve
has the audacity to make a man question if he is
enough
to hold
her

This power held not with her words
nor actions
but with a simple glare
that gleam in her eyes that asks,

Are you scared yet?
Are you enough?
Are you love?

But are you man enough
to let her know,

You are
You are not
You…

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Poetry

waves

wavy like the moon
I make you ride the earth’s plates

forces waving hello
leaving goodbyes from under my feet
I sink deeper as she pulls back, dragging the ground beneath me
But my feet stay firmly planted though

the winds dare shake me, attempting to brush over my thick skin
The final masterpiece showcasing a blank canvas and missing the point of absolute destruction
they barely kiss the atmosphere in which I am breathing
but my chest never caves in

My chest pushes out with pride
I remain satisfied with my stance,
both feet firmly planted

I take on this newfound power and ride with it
I rolled until I crashed onto different shores, caressing new lands until I learned each callus and each crack, hole and misfigure
I figure one day I will fill each void
my droplets seeping to the very bottom comforting the grains above me
keeping them grounded in the land I planted myself in

I am rooted in my surroundings under the circumstance that I will continue to grow through every living thing

You cannot escape my oxygen
you are breathing in my words, messages rushing through each artery
soon turning into muscle memory

Can you feel your blood warming up?

You now know what I know
another capacity achieved while your brain is retaining the way that I speak
the frequency of my voice rocking the waters of your mind

They say waves don’t die
and neither will I

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Chasing Dopamine: LA

I’ve purposely avoided writing this for the simple fact that I did not want to write this at all. There were a lot of things that I wish I could have re-done, so many more places I wish I could have visited, and most importantly, things that I wanted to do by myself.

I’ve avoided writing this because I knew that it would bring back feelings of regret and disappointment.

It still stings to write this NOW – after having landed back in Toronto over a month ago… But I do realize that these are the things that have happened and that I absolutely cannot change. Therefore, they have become lessons for myself for the next time.

I definitely realized I still fall back into bad habits… I got distracted in LA. That is the perfect description of what had happened to me in my time here. I got distracted. Maybe it was the “glitz and glam” of the city, maybe it was because I devoted parts of me and my time into someone – maybe it was both. I got lost in the land of dreams, forgetting that you get lost in yourself too.

LA is so beautiful but it certainly does not wash over the fact that it is still nitty and gritty underneath the surface – (perhaps I am wrong, but this is my outsider view of the city). I’ve heard one too many stories of the city being so fake and it really made me wary of the people I would meet out there. Though I hadn’t met as many people out in LA, the very few I did meet, highlighted a lot of things about myself that I am still trying to work on/develop.

My “distraction” showed me that I still harbour trust issues. He could see it in the ways that I interacted with him, in the ways that I would question a lot, in my tone of voice… Well, of course, meeting someone in a completely different city has you cautious but he felt I was overly cautious (which I did see). Of course I had to be, however, I did see his intentions and he really did look out for me even though we had a short amount of time together. Though our interaction was not “deep”, I was grateful for the moments where we shared our art, shared our experiences, and shared laughter. After having told him the real reason why I left Toronto, he was very humbled (I’m crying as I type this) and told me that he was happy to be the one to put a smile on my face after having gone through what I did. There were a lot of little things that he did and said that made me feel (dare I say it) beautiful – that word included. It may not have meant much to him, but I appreciated it.

I missed out on an open mic in the city (ugh) HOWEVER, I was able to sit in on a book reading and Q&A from this poet that I follow on Twitter. You already know that THIS sole event put me back on my frequency and it was exactly what I needed and wanted to experience. From these few hours, I learned a lot about digging deep into the self to find the root of my issues and also learned (am still learning) about letting go. I was more than humbled to get to share a few words with the poet himself (and maybe I bought his book and got it signed too). My heart and soul were full. And yes I left the event in tears. Being in this space among other writers reminded me of the balance I was looking for – it reminded me that my heart stays replenishing itself of love and fullness.

Though I got to experience the few things I wanted to truly do, I will say that feeling the waves in motion, feeling the waves of the water, and most importantly, feeling the waves of emotion got me to to appreciate these rare opportunities of new environments. The one thing I truly wanted out of both trips was the space to breathe – the space to escape whatever I was feeling in Toronto. With LA, I felt the strength of the waves, the calmness of the breezes, and the vastness of the scenery. I don’t know what it is about LA that has me hooked but I managed to remain inspired by my surroundings at every waking second.

I left LA with new poems and a greater understanding of myself and how my heart operates with others that may need my love. I left LA with a greater understanding of my selflessness – although I would say that I am becoming more selfish, I feel like I need to dedicate my entire essence into myself when times of selfishness arise. I left LA with a greater understanding of my purpose – I am a source of light and healing. I left LA with a greater understanding of my time – I tend to give it to those who are unsure of it and don’t know what to do with it. I left LA with a greater understanding of my sense of direction – I may not know where I am going, and I know I may get lost on the way, but I will always find my path. I left LA with a greater understanding of my relationship with the universe.

I came back with a stronger heart, a more understanding mind, and a more balanced spirit.

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