University of the Philippines, Diliman

UPD flyer

On July 2, 2014, I have the honor of sharing my multi-sited research project about Filipino transnational families that have migrant members living in New York City and families in Metro-Manila at a round table discussion hosted by scholars and faculty with the Department of Women and Development Studies at the University of the Philippines. I hope to articulate my arguments about the shifts in the Filipino family form vis-a-vis the Philippine’s Labor Export Policy and forced (and feminized) migration. I’m critical of the Philippine state’s over-reliance on its migration and remittance industry and my aim is to show that, behind its faulty political economics, that families are bearing the brunt of these neoliberal immigration policies.

This opportunity means so much to me because it is so important to me that I can share my work, analysis and theories in the Philippines, where the families in my research study can attend and hear about how I’ve been interpreting their lives in the past years. I am and will continue to be accountable to those who have shared the intimate parts of their lives with me. Moreover, I feel so honored to be in dialogue with the nation’s leading scholars on women and gender studies and development studies.

But of course, I’m excited to be coming home and participating in this round table discussion for other reasons too.

==== Flashback Mode ====

The first time I stepped into the University of the Philippines, Diliman, I felt honored to see the oblation at the entrance, walk the halls of Vinson’s that housed (currently housing and will house) important revolutionary youth and student movements, and see the classrooms of such significant scholars and professors who take seriously the character of “Serve the People”. In 2008, I was just a kid–in my second year of grad school, first time back to the Philippines, first time on an integration trip with the League of Filipino Students (LFS)–and UP Diliman was my first stop. The picture below is of the first UP Diliman friends I made, after a we all marched the streets all day for the People’s SONA. It was not only UP’s educational prestige that took my breath away, it was the way the students and organic intellectuals (such as the Anakbayan chapters organizing in communities on the UP campus, workers and teachers organizing within the UP system, etc.) acted on their knowledge. It was their organizing. It was their commitment to genuine social change that made me a fan of UP. They breathed life into what scholarship looked like and meant for me.

Add sauce to that: my Mama, favorite aunt, cousins (all of whom are in education at some point or another in their careers) are all alumni of the UP system. And I’m such a big fan of these women, to say the least.

In short, I was on that UP hype.

==== Back to reality ====

So yes, if you or your fam or your scholar homie are in the Philippines on July 2, tell them to come check on me at UP Diliman. Ya heard?

The Luxury of Reproducing Inequality Sociologically

chosen family

On a long drive from Portland to the Bay Area the other day, I was flipping through some news articles and noticed Olga Khazan’s article entitled, “The Luxury of Waiting for Marriage to Have Kids” on The Atlantic. As a sociologist thinking about families and marriage, the titled piqued my interest and I began to read.

In the article, Khazan cites famous sociologist of the family Andrew Cherlin in arguing some not-so-new ideas about having children and marriage which kinda sounded like this: college-educated people because they’re college-educated plan their lives and wait to marry and wait to have kids. Implicitly, the article is arguing that because college-educated people are more educated they are able to think in the long-term, plan their lives and live happily ever after.

It’s sociology like this that I find problematic. Sure, these might be objective arguments backed by statistics but what this article does (and normative sociology like this does) is to normalize a theory of the culture of poverty (See Moynihan 1965, O. Lewis 1966) when it has long been defunct and criticized (See Stack 1974, H. Lewis 1971)  It explains poverty or lack of access to education as a constraint of the “cultures” of the poor, as in their culture of having children early or not marrying at all. This kind of rhetoric crops up to fails to help a collective social imagination connect structural inequality, instead it leaves the burden of non-normative families to families themselves.

What frustrates me even more about these types of “the poor is poor because their poor” narratives is that it fails to incorporate any type of race analysis into its explanation of who is getting married and why. Sociologists have long showed that families of color have used so many different types of family formations to thrive (See Dill, Coontz, Stack, Nakano Glenn) under conditions of racism, discrimination, migration and poverty.

Further, this article upholds a heternomative view that the nuclear, pair marriage family is the gold standard that can be the only type of family that can produce good people in this world. The consequences for proliferating this type of argument is not only dangerous but limiting and harmful to millions of family that operate and thrive with chosen families, adoptive families, fictive and extended kin, non-married families, etc.

Sociologists who forward and popularize these normative narratives and arguments don’t quite understand that from their university institutions, behind their glossy computer screens, in interviews with writers from big-time national magazines, the luxury of reproducing inequality considerably invisibilizes millions of people who are creatively “doing family” and raising beautiful families.

Filipinos in Costa Rica

While in Costa Rica last week, me and my crew took an excursion to the Manuel Antonio national park to take in the beautiful, lush greenery that is Costa Rica and follow a trail to a popular local beach. When we were walking towards the entrance of the park, we wandered into a souvenir shop. As we thumbed through Costa Rican tank tops, beach towels and locally made crafts, one of the shop workers, Kuya Rudy, walked towards me and asked, “Pilipino?” And at that moment, we began a fantastic conversation with these Filipino migrants who live and work in a small town in Costa Rica called Manuel Antonio. They invited us back to lunch after our short hike and stint at the beach and here’s what I learned about them.


Ate Gina is the woman to the left of Kuya Rey. She is his wife but she clearly ran the whole show. The storefront, the kitchen and the finances were all under the reign of this Pinay. She told me her story of migrating to Costa Rica and that her business sense migrated with her too. She hopes that in two years, if they work hard enough, they’d like to buy this building to expand their store, restaurant and bed and breakfast. She gave us all discounts and told us there was no other kind of beauty in the world than Filipina beauty.

Gina and Rey

This is Kuya Reynaldo, the cook, the anchor in this family’s chain migration. He came to Costa Rica as a key cutter and then graduated to be a cook at a bed and breakfast. When his employer abandoned him at his workplace, he decided to pick up the work and run the place himself. He brought his wife and family members. Now, he owns this small souvenir shop and restaurant in Manuel Antonio. He cooked and served us Pork Adobo with plantains.



Ate Edna was one of the first to greet us. She gave us a warm smile and invited us to have lunch in their karinderia as she promised us pansit and adobo. She is also the cook of the restaurant and does the books. When I thanked her for our delicious food, she told me how nice it is to speak Tagalog again.



This is Kuya Rudy, a salesman of salesmen, charming and funny, fluent in Spanish, Bisaya, Tagalog and English. He could probably sell ketchup to a man dressed in white. Here he’s pictured with his merchandise mostly manufactured in Costa Rica and some in the Philippines. His humor was typically Filipino, silly and punchy. He made sure he converted all our colones to dollars and all the shoe sizes from 39’s to size 7’s (or something). He told me to come back with my asawa and kids in the future.

Kuya Rudy


#migrante #diaspora #globalFilipino #centralFilipinoAmerica #costarica


Week of Action for the Philippines at University of Portland

When I arrived at University of Portland, it was one of my hopes to bring the Filipino/a and Filipino/a American experience to the forefront of campus life. I didn’t know exactly how I would do this but I knew it was my responsibility.

After the mega-typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda, the University of Portland responded by organizing a week of action for the Philippines to raise awareness about rehabilitation in the Philippines but also about the Filipino American experience. I’m so honored to have helped organize some of these events and even more proud that this is the university’s response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Philippines.

Some events to highlight are:

Tuesday’s panel with Kenneth Crebillo from Portland Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines talking about his family’s experience with the Typhoon as they are from Dulag, Leyet, one of the most affected areas, and his recent trip back on relief mission. Additionally, faculty members of UP will be discussing climate change and disaster relief more generally.

Friday night’s concert with Power Struggle as the main act for the night!

Philippines Week

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Critical Filipino/Filipina Studies Collective in SF!

Critical Filipino/Filipina Studies Collective in SF!

In about a month, the annual Association of Asian American Studies conference will be held in San Francisco. For many intellectuals (organic and non, ala Gramsci) in Asian American Studies, this conference is not only a location for cutting edge scholarship but also a safe haven for community building and political engagement.

This year, AAAS will be extra-special because the national assembly of the Critical Filipino/Filipina Studies Collective (CFFSC) will also be happening. The project of the collective is to explore how scholars are already transforming the university through social justice and how to advance oppositional politics to empire and oppression.



PDX Relief General Meeting

Relief and long-term rehabilitation in the Philippines is still sorely needed!

How can we continue to support meaningful rehabilitation from a grassroots perspective? Share you thoughts with us!

PDX Relief Meeting

Thursday March 13 


Center for Intercultural Organizing located at 700 N Killingsworth St. 

Diwang Pinay for academics

In 2009, I had the privilege of being part of a dynamic group of people that did research, wrote and acted in a play and built very strong basis for community-building and migrant worker organizing in New York City. That year, Diwang Pinay as a theatrical production was the first and most impactful way we shared our process. Years later, as the play continues to stay with me, I’ve written about it for academics. The article will be free for 30 days and you can peep what it’s about on Action Research Journal’s blog.

If that doesn’t work, the link is here:

DPBackgroundlong v1.1

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Sit Here

Sit Here

Last night, you were in my dreams.
Much like in real life,
In the real time of our friendship
In the real struggles of our relationship,
We were awkward,
We didn’t look each other in the eyes.
When I saw your downcast eyes,
I banished my gaze to the concrete as well.

We were traveling somewhere,
You chose not to sit next to me,
The empty bus seat next to me screamed at its own vastness.
It yawned with unabashed boredom.

And no one sat there.
Not even me.


This is a poem I wrote. Today, Friday.


Honoring Carlos Bulosan


(Design by Nicole Ramirez)

I’ve been re-reading Bulosan’s America Is In The Heart lately. Perhaps its my recent move to the Pacific Northwest, the Fall colors in Oregon, the beginning of the rainy season, or perhaps it because I just need to see these region of the U.S. through different eyes, not mine.

My heart skips a beat when the words “Yakima Valley” or “Portland” jumps out of the page at me. But even more powerful than before, I am more excited about reading Bulosan’s thick description of the danger of being “Filipino in America” in the 20th century. I am in awe of the train rides, the roles of hotels, or free meals by a migrant stranger in Bulosan’s writing.

The awe comes from the persistence of these transient aspects of his writing in contemporary Filipino America. For Filipino domestic workers in New York, train rides are a moving geography, an exercise in intelligibility. A train ride could result in a serendipitous meeting with a fellow Filipino who might have a part time opportunity in mind. For Filipino caregivers in San Francisco, hotels are the familiar geographies of home for migrants living in the Tenderloin and the SoMa. There they are cooking adobo, pancit and spaghetti out of rice cookers, because after all food needs to be made, with or without a stove. Lastly, the free meals from a stranger, the pakikisama that has persisted throughout the years, I believe has something to do with the conditions under which migrant Filipinos are brought to the U.S. and then (mis)treated when they’re here.

I’m not saying its all the same. Its absolutely different. But clutching Bulosan under my arm these days, I feel closer to the migrant workers whom I’ve had the privilege to share meals with.

This Saturday in Seattle, Carlos’ final resting place, I’ll consider the questions below with some esteemed comrades:

  1. How has the political economy of Filipino labor export changed from Bulosan’s time to today?
  2. How can Bulosan’s writing expose the racialized labor order in the post-industrialized American economy of today?
  3. What does Bulosan’s history of Filipino migration and Filipino labor teach us about the the sexuality of Filipino migration?
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The Presentation of Dave in Everyday Life



Two nights ago, R and I, along with some friends in Portland, went to go see Dave Chappelle on his new comedy tour. It was my first time seeing a comedy show live. I’d followed Dave’s career from The Chappelle Show and was always inspired by the way he kept it real about race and racism. This show, probably reflective Dave’s whole tour and definitely reflective of Portland’s demographic, was sold out with lots of seats taken up by white folks. At some moments, I felt awkward about white folks laughing at Dave’s racialized experiences (especially went he went IN on Hartford, Connecticut). Then, I felt relieved that Dave was talking about whiteness to white people. I started to relax with the thought that perhaps, Dave way of talking about race, could be subversive. What does it mean for white folks to consume Black culture and Black lives? What does it mean for me, as a Filipino American woman, to be in the same audience? What does it mean to Dave?

He’d probably retort, “I just want a pool, man.”

I’m cool with that.

Pedagogy corner:

As I wrap up my lessons on symbolic interaction and Goffman’s dramaturgical model with my 101 students, I appreciated seeing/laughing with Dave at the front stage/back stage dynamics for all the world to see. For my lesson on social interaction I use The Chappelle Show skit on Vernon Franklin to talk about front and back stage, but also to make clear that those dynamics are mitigated by race, class, gender, sexuality and citizenship.

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