#WalangHiya: Let’s Write New Stories

 (Inspired by an advice column, naturally.)

I am in incredible pain.
And I think I have been for a while now.
And I am ashamed of it.

I have not yet forgiven myself for the things that have happened to me.
I have not yet been able to accept that those things are not my fault.
I have not yet been able to believe that those things are fated to happen again.
I have not yet been able to see that those things have happened because of how much (or how little) I’m worth.

I used to read a lot of stories growing up to understand reality as much as I did to escape it. Stories kept me company, gave me warmth, filled me up at times when I most needed them to. It allowed me to give those things to myself.

But now instead I tell myself all kinds of stories—stories I’ve read, stories I’ve experienced, stories I’ve made up in my head, stories people have told me—all that tell me that I am not worthy. It’s clearer now why I have more difficulty sitting down to read stories that contradict the ones I’ve made up in my head.

This is not about me living without shame.
This is me learning how to go there. Continue reading

Why I Speak English

The idea behind “English” was from an earlier poem I wrote called “Dad,” [comma intended] which was written in June 2013 for a writing workshop and open mic leading up to Queer pride.  The prompt was to write a letter to your dad, in light of father’s day.

In 2010, I was a first year at CUNY Hunter College.  I joined Pilipinos of Hunter (POH), to be part of a Filipino community.  I participated in a workshop called “Personal Migration” which was given by GABRIELA New York to see how our personal stories of migration are actually a part of the larger history of migration from the Philippines to the US.  The workshop made participants reflect on the attitudes, beliefs, and actions that our immigrant families have that are shaped by US imperialism’s domination over the politics, economy, military and culture of our people in the Philippines.

After that workshop, I began my journey to discover more about my roots by having conversations with my parents.  One day, I asked why my siblings and I did not grow up speaking Tagalog.  The question came from my wanting to connect with my dad who  spoke and understood English, but could not express himself as completely as he could in his dialect.  It was then that I found out that my older brother had speech problems at an age where you should already start speaking. It was concerning to my parents because my sister and I were already reading and talking and my brother, being the eldest out of the 3 of us, was not.  At the time, my parents were actually teaching us both English and Tagalog, so there was a short amount of time that I spoke and understood it as a child.  But because my brother was still having trouble speaking, the doctor said to to teach only one language to us so it wouldn’t be confusing. Continue reading

Don’t You, Walang Hiya [Spoken Word]

Writing poetry and spoken has always been a HUGE part of my life and who I am. I was never able to really express my feelings, but when I put pen to paper, everything made sense. With my newest piece “Don’t You, Walang Hiya” I wanted to address and break the stigmas and stereotypes people have about Greek life, especially ethnic-based Greek organizations. This is only my point of view on the social issue, but someone’s gotta say something because I’m tired of being seen as one thing, when I represent something bigger than myself and the Greek letters I wear.

Continue reading

Reclaiming #WalangHiya: Changing Gender Roles from Precolonial Times to the Present

I have never been a dalagang pilipina, the ideal chaste, modest Maria Clara-esque maiden seen as the epitome of womanhood in the Pilipinx popular imagination, and neither has my mother. We’ve both been accused by past lovers of “wanting to wear the pants” and I know that at less-confident post-failed-relationship points in my adult life I’ve questioned my own femininity, wishing to be softer, less strong-willed, to shine more dimly (these thoughts never lasted long because, F*CK THAT). Because my mom’s relationships never worked out. Because I felt doomed to recreate her patterns. She always attributed our proclivity to quick tempers and drama to our “Spanish blood” – when in fact I now know it has nothing to do with the colonizers, and everything to do with the indigenous warrior blood that runs through our veins, giving us fire and a strong sense of justice, a love of freedom, the willingness to stand up and die for our beliefs, unconquerable, without shame, walang hiya. Continue reading

#WalangHiya: Enough

I’ve always been afraid of corners, and being cornered. I’ve never been afraid of small spaces, enclosed places.

I was five years old on my first day of Kindergarten. My mom stood by my side in line with all of the other kids that morning. Every kid had their parents accompanying them that day. It seemed pretty normal.  And then she shook my teacher’s hand and let me go when the bell rang. I felt so excited and scared – I didn’t know what to expect my first day of school.

But that feeling quickly plummeted – as I quickly became every other kid’s emotional punching bag.  Throughout the day, all of the kids kept making fun of me.

Are you Chinese?
Do you speak English?
Why does your name sound like chlorine?
Why does your name sound like fluoride?
Why was your mom alone?
How come your dad wasn’t here?
Your parents are DIVORCED?! Continue reading

© 2015