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.


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