Saturday, December 29, 2007

Why i love PEP teachers. What is PEP? Get this.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Why I Love Poets...
Dear Leny,
I bring everything that touches me to every poem, which includes you, so consider yourself in mind when this poem was written.

We were talking
when the lights came on
about the odds
for an act of grace
in a world
governed by the inexplicable
and beset by
inexhaustible suffering
with understanding
compassion and love
the only reputable
revolutionary capacities
opposing our readiness
to destroy
what annoys us
while she skips
down the street
in Manhattan
singing aloud
openly refuting those
deaf to life
the musical
a true story
precipitating the decision
to pursue
what captures my attention
at the baseline
of regeneration
and at about 9:30
on September 17
while chopping wood
and carrying water
knowing anything for certain
not with a bang
or word of farewell
and for a brief time
went unreported
the absence
when discovered
at first disturbing
cause and effect suspected
whether forever
or a while
now saturates everything
effervescentand warm blooded.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Maligayang Pasko!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

2007 – The Year That Was

Time is an illusion. Still we mark our lives with time. We write holiday letters to tell our loved ones of the highlights of the year. I appreciate this gesture from friends who have continued the tradition of writing letters (now also by email); it brings us news of friends from long ago when our lives were more closely intertwined, as well as friends with whom we share our current journeys. So – thank you! I return the gesture in this blogpost. It is long but you have the option of moving on if you get bored.

2007 marks our silver wedding anniversary. Plus: Cal turned 65, I turned 55, and Dustin, 35. Noah is 3 and a half. It’s been 10 years since the car accident that nearly killed me. Cal and I have many ideas on how best to celebrate this momentous year but as the year is almost over (our anniversary is December 28) and we still haven’t come up with a plan, we will have to fill you in at a future date. For now, I feel overwhelmed with a sense of awe, gratitude, and contentment for the life we’ve shared together. I am thankful that we still feel the warmth of fire’s embers that continue to propel us in our together-but-separate sojourns in this lifetime.

This year, I got tenured and promoted to Associate Professor and named "Innovative and Thought Leader" by the Filipina Women’s Network’s "100 Most Influential Filipinas in the US." Mid-year, with my friend and co-director, Miriam Hutchins, we brought Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ, to Sonoma State University, to keynote the KAPWA conference last June. This year ends with another collaboration with Perla Daly, who designed "the little book that could" – a commemorative project of my high school class’ 40th year reunion. This year, as project director of the Oral History Project documenting the history of Filipinos in Sonoma County, we received a California Council for the Humanities grant. We are producing a documentary and this will be premiered in Fall 2008. Thanks to the crew of Delia Rapolla, president of FANHS Sonoma County.

My father died in June. I wrote about what his death means to me here. We also now know that as my father was dying, my two nieces became pregnant and the clan expands by two in early 2008. Death and births – literal and symbolic – we celebrate them all.

Cal’s landscapes - in pastel, water color, and oils - are beautiful. One day as I drove into the garage, a small painting of a bare street scene in orange and brown hues greeted me and it made me instantly happy. What is it about this painting that could evoke such happiness? There are no words. For 25 years, Cal has, off and on, reminded me that words fail us when they are most needed. Thankfully, one can rely on colors and images.

Early this year, Cal took up biking and joined local cycling clubs. I’ve always worried about him falling and scraping himself and he’s done so a few times. But on one of his solo runs this Fall, he was sideswiped by a car making an illegal turn and he ended up in the emergency with a broken hand and dislocated shoulder. A good samaritan took him to the hospital and I didn’t hear about it until I got home. He thinks he could get back on the bike by January.

Noah and his parents are still in California. We are glad that they were able to avoid the sub-prime mortgage bubble that tempted many young families to buy first homes they could ill-afford. Now we know that many families are facing foreclosures because of this scheme. (I still feel someone must be criminally charged for such reckless schemes)! In the meantime, Noah has enjoyed daycare and his provider, a Muslim Indian woman, has been exemplary. We are glad that Fairfax, Ca is getting to be a community of choice for them – it is small, diverse, counterculture, organic, sustainable, and all that makes it interesting, quirky, and fun.

I am blessed to have many friends and communities in cyberspace (and in this Sonoma County corner) – writers, poets, cultural advocates, activists, high school classmates, educators. Many of you are in the US, Philippines, Europe, Australia and elsewhere. There are even blog lurkers who are in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. I also notice that my blog comes up when someone is searching for "pinay porn" sites (ack!) or when someone is doing a research paper on "kapwa" and related topics. Interesting.

Many of you are my dear sisters in the babaylan-inspired tradition. Over the years and especially this summer you walked alongside me as I wrote about the organic process of thinking and meditating on what this Filipino indigenous woman means to us today. Online and offline we talked about related concepts like Eros, shamanism, body-mind-spirit integration, feminist subjectivity under patriarchy, decolonization, indigenization, etc. You challenged me to think about sexuality and how it might be related to colonial trauma and to the work of healing that we, as descendants of babaylans, are called to do.

Thank you. Now am praying that my sabbatical request be granted so next year I can devote time to writing these reflections and perhaps move forward in the planning for a babaylan conference in 2009.

I would like to write about the work of Memory. One of my friends said: I don’t want to spend time reconnecting with my former selves. Is it a waste of time to reconnect with the past? What does it mean for the present when the past irrupts into the present and insists on taking up psychic space? Is there something from the past that I have forgotten to bring forward into the present with me? What did I choose to leave behind, repress, deny, or negate as I made my way in this life? What is the role of History in the choices that I made? Is it possible to rewrite and re-imagine History? How does this History locate me – Filipina, woman, diasporic, exile, non-white, middle class, suburban, academic, writer, teacher-mentor? – identities that are attached to my body – what does it mean and how do I make sense of it? And when our dreams become part of the work of Memory, how do we pay attention? More importantly – is this work relevant in a larger context (beyond self-reflection)? How so?

I am thankful for writers like Linda Hogan, Coetzee, Irigaray, et al, and Fil Am writers/poets like Gamalinda, Tabios, Vengua, Bautista, Reyes, Realuyo, Igloria, Al Robles, Tony Robles, Jacinto, Galang, Grefalda, and many more –who have written about these questions and their works provide clues as to how I might want to contribute to this conversation. My sister, Lily, has been a special partner in this work. I rely on her for the theoretical grounding of such work. She will provide the footnotes. Haha.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen to these blog archives should blogger suddenly disappear or if my computer crashed. These machines have become repositories for the work of Memory and lend their importance in that way. But if time is an illusion then none of this is relevant in the boundless scheme of an expanding universe. Hmm… I haven’t even began to write here about my fascination with the work of astrophysicist, Dr. Neil Tyson, and science fiction writer, Octavia Butler. Next time.

I’ll end this letter here. If you’ve read this far, THANK YOU, for being a dear friend. May our paths cross over and over again – in time and beyond time.

I love to you.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

today is the birthday of the little book that could...i was going to upload an image of the cover design but decided 'not yet'...hold breath. wait to exhale...

Good news today:

Carolyn Brewer has sent word that she will contribute a chapter to the babaylan book!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My favorite lines from the movie version of The Kite Runner :

there is a way to be good again...

for you, a thousand times over...

these lines are dedicated to the holder of dead koans.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

in a holiday mood...

Hosted the FANHS Sonoma County holiday party last Sunday. Since this is a new chapter organized by mostly 2nd and 3rd generation Fil Ams, there were a lot of new faces for me, the relatively recent arrival. Some interesting folks:

1. There's the humble Marce Becerra, Filipino Pomo and long time cultural activist, who says she doesn't know how she got an academy named after her. She's still alive, after all, and most naming rights are given posthumously.

2. Jeannette Anglin and her mom, Lee Tipon. Jeannette is also Filipino Pomo and is on the tribal board of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.

3. Bob Issel, jazz pianist and singer. He said my piano is out of tune but I said only to his fine-tuned ear. We had a great time singing along.

4. The officers of FANHS who are on top of the Oral History Project -- Delia, Alicia, Pat, Flori, Priscilla, Noemi, Lee, and many more. Our project will be completed in Fall 08.

5. Frida Macam, from Mabalacat, Pampanga, came with a cassava cake which we auctioned off and it fetched $50 with proceeds going to FANHS.

6. Ed Taan and his wife, Doris, a pastry chef at a fancy Healdsburg restaurant, brought a gourmet version of bread-pudding, which disappeared in a flash.

Interesting tidbit:
At this potluck party, no one brought a Filipino main dish. We did have kalamay, which Jeannette said she's been trying to perfect. Frida's cassava cake was yummy. And I served my home-made achara with the ham.

After we got excited about auctioning off the cassava cake, I offered five of my hand-made/crocheted alpaca winter scarves and they went on the auction block as well and FANHS was $150 richer. If I had "made by Leny Strobel" labels, they said we could have fetched more dollars. If I had thought of it sooner, I could have bottled my achara and sold those, too. Obviously, I don't have the business-brain; otherwise, I could have thought of these much sooner.

It is said that it is hard for Pinoys to part with their money unless there's something received in exchange. Perhaps. But with this group, their generous spirit kicked in quickly. Some even apologized for not having cash with them that day. Fun. Fun. Great community spirit across generations and all kinds of differences. Feels good.

Next event: Date with Noah on Friday. We'll ride the Napa Valley Wine Train's Santa Express. Yippee!

Monday, December 17, 2007

the archive of dead koans does not yield answers even while it casts long shadows. the believers keep asking me about your disappearance and refusal. why do they assume i know the answer?

i have a story that i choose not to tell without the promise of lucidity and fecundity.

i am still waiting for the eastwind to bring the story's next chapter to me.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Been thinking of blogging about:

but i need to clean house and cook for this weekend's holiday company. come and join us!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

good report from Michelle on the launch of PRAU! it's true, i seldom make it to events in the bay area anymore except for events that i'd be a fool to pass up...like this one. all these poets are so ma-drama!!

Eileen's performance before Jean's reading was apropos: Poetry can survive the tearing of a book of poems. It made me think of the poems in Prau alluding to the strength that sings in its pages.

That night, as the poets read their work, I felt the fire within and without. Yeah, poetry as fire.

Manong Al whispered to me as we said goodbye: keep the fire burning...otherwise we'd go hungry.

and yes, Michelle, am still singing the sound of music in my head. did i tell you i know the entire soundtrack? yeah, i think most Pinays probably do, too. so let's have a sing-along when your transpositions are ready. can't wait to hear your version of: nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could...but somewhere in my youth or childhood, i must have done something good....

Monday, December 10, 2007

today's gift from an educational administrator writing her MA thesis:

thank you for writing about Fil Am identity formation. i feel now that i can finally forgive my mother...and thank you for writing the way you do.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

omg! this guy rocks! via Michelle, thanks!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Been following Karen's story in the Philippines. Two weeks ago, she skyped me during a moment of sadness but I couldn't talk to her then because the crime next door was unfolding. Sensing her sadness, I called one of my high school classmates in Pampanga (oh, the recent resurrections of former lives!) and requested that she contact Karen and to just - please- check in on her.

The next day Rose called me and she talked of her time with Karen and this is what she said:

Barrio Madapdap is so remote! I thought we'd never find her. But oh my! what is this young Fil Am doing here, living by herself in bare quarters? She doesn't even have a ref! Providing basic health services among the poor using her own money, no funding support from agencies, helping the locals by funding small livelihood projects -- I couldn't stop thinking of her all night after we left her. It made me wonder why someone from the US would leave her comfortable life to come here and do this kind of work. And those of us who live here in comfort, we do not even see this kind of need! Maybe we just get immuned to seeing the poverty and suffering. In fact, I tell my kids to work hard so they can leave this country. And now that I've met Karen, I'm having second thoughts about this message I'm telling my kids. Now I'm really thinking...that when we have our class reunion in February, we should visit Karen. Our classmates need to see what she is doing...

So dear Muki -- finding home for you is also leading others to the home they may not recognize that is beneath their feet. circle. come full circle. again and again.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

classes over. some of the student presentations made me cry. i love these young people who are most at home in their dancing, laughing, singing, and poetic bodies. they may struggle in other modalities required by the academe but the kinds of knowledge they bring to the classroom needs to be acknowledged, theorized, validated.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Cannibal dreams continued...

the cannibal has turned into a friendly, affectionate, corporate manager. he took my hand and led me to a door guarded by bill gates(!). they exchanged banter as if they'd known each other a long time. i joined in and told bill that we actually serve on the same diversity committee but we haven't been introduced. door leads to an upper level courtyard overlooking the city. the cannibal sets up a picnic basket and takes out a large bowl of super-large olives and he starts pouring himself a drink. soon we are surrounded by other strangers and i wanted to get away from them. we walked away and came upon a table but we were told we couldn't take the table as it belonged to the restaurant. so walked away again and just stopped at a lookout. the cannibal said he wouldn't be seeing me for a long time but that during this separation he wants me to remember that he loves me. we said goodbye and my last words were:
okay, when you are no longer a co-dependent, come back and see me.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


Narratives are slippery. Inside the slippage, there’s poetry.

I sat through Moby Dick, the movie, last night (while crocheting scarves for christmas give-aways). Frankly, I don’t remember reading the novel but have heard of it enough to know how it has shaped the cultural imagination of 19th century America.


There is a Prau on my bedside that tells a different sort of journey.

I recall a professor who used to chastise me for using words and concepts out of context. Right now the word ‘bricolage’ comes to mind. Is Prau a bricolage? Jean - a bricoleur?

I am not; I am a fishing woman and so I think of Prau as an ocean to fish from. This is what her abstract poetry offers to me – a water-world full of mystery, stories, and images that gives birth to other creatures and creations.

Question inside the Dream: why don’t you write poetry? Answer: I am afraid of words falling and hurting people.

But this I can do…do a collage on Prau.

There’s always mingling past present tenses. The drowned fluffing and flailing because
the sky is too thin, no tether. Pigafetta’s voyeurism and hunger making history in momentum. Poetics of geodetic control. Migration busting sacredness of the journey.
The body’s tik-tok doesn’t fit. Shifting and aching vicinities -- what did all this traveling mean? Night stammers.
Manong photographers outside the frame. What matters?

On the crossroads I don’t know how to run in place. Catatonia: in this state progress doesn’t exist. California as conveyor of forgetfulness. Crows run flagpoles to the ground. Home is what you choose to forget. This paper house I furnished with loneliness – it became beautiful, a pilgrimage to kool house. A glorious machinery of internal stimuli. In the city and garden, we are angry, indifferent and in love. Like this. Trade.

I’ve lost the connection to holy things. Space once longed for is now repellent. A demon can be your amanuensis. Before going to bed, separate. The great chain of being is a zombie calculus and erotics. I have a crushed heart. I am a story going down, falling forever into universe, eroding my lover down vortics of narrows on Wednesday, August 25, 2004. Dear so and so, why? Frequenting crosswalks, awkwardly we go, but do not linger.

Subject to sentience, the mountains across the bay disappear, framing desire from a distance. I outstrip you through the cracks of fearful foundations revealing the moment. Identities pass by aching for some taste of something to hang along the trembling seams as if it could delete or change the meaning slightly. Promises, promises, promises. Koan – the rest has been disremembered. Empty this boat.

Dear Jean,

I don’t know what I just did above. But your words that I’ve chosen came to me… beckoned by what? I do not know. As I read what I culled afterwards, I felt an affirmation, a gentleness that soothed a sad little corner of my heart that has felt abandoned by a beloved stranger. Having said that, however, what slips through that narrative is the other feeling: a wholeness unto itself.
In Prau (I don’t know why I keep typing ‘pray’) I see glimpses of stories about History: of colonialism crossing the waters, of Manongs on board praus, of their descendants learning to make peace with this crossing. Through music, art, poetry. And then there is that which remains unsaid. Perhaps it cannot be said. Are some truths about this History too horrible for recall? As we have yet to discover what would assuage the safety of recall, those memories will remain at the bottom of the ocean. I pray for the day when our bodies will be strong enough to excavate the depths and bring to the surface the stories waiting to be told. And then perhaps, we can empty the boat of memory and row it to destinies beyond.

What a pleasure and a treasure to know that poets like you can offer this to me, to us.


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