Category Archives: Power



I just finished watching this really heartbreakingly real documentary called Motherland  on POV/PBS. I started and stopped and started it again about 5 times because I was crying my eyes out.

I’m not exactly sure what to write about but I am feeling compelled to think through writing.

There’s no context or interviews or voiceover. Throughout the documentary we see the labor and delivery room in the hospital where, at times, three Filipinas are laboring on one gurney at a time. Birthing mothers are rushed off to give birth right at the moment of pushing, no sooner. There’s just not enough tables. The postpartum main hall shows two recovering mothers with premature babies (2 or 3) per bed. Many of the mothers practice “KMC” or Kangaroo Mother Care where premature babies are supposed to be skin to skin 24/7. There’s anywhere between 140-150 mothers with their babies at any given time.

The images of Filipinas shown as birthing bodies are overwhelming. Many of them are on their 4th, 5th, 6th or 7th child. As you are overhearing the intake interview with hospital staff, you learn that many of the women have barely a secondary education. None of them have jobs. Neither do most of their husbands. They don’t know how they’ll be paying for the cost of their hospital bill (some of them choosing to leave early because they can’t pay). Some live in urban poor dwellings or “squatters”.

There’s no real discussion of the dereliction of the state. Instead the social workers and nursing are convincing many mothers and fathers to engage in family planning or get tubal ligation or an IUD. Over mounds of paper work, social workers say that the government has “no money”. Into the blank stares of parents, “no money” goes into one ear and out of the other.

Ok, so what’s bothering me?

I think the documentary is compelling. It is a glimpse into what the lives and plight of Filipino women in the Philippines. It gives a clear basis for a disruptive change in Philippine society.

What they need is structural family planning. What they need is more public assistance. What they need is jobs to pay their bills. What they need is prenatal care. What they need are public institutions that work to their benefit and not at the expense of them and their children.

But there’s none of that in the film. You could walk away and think, “Those Filipinas are just irresponsible birthing bodies.” And perhaps from a Westernized gaze, people could see these mothers as unloving and not nurturing. In their eyes, postpartum, isn’t a warm fuzzy gaze of a mother in love with a newborn. Rather, they have a vision of a future that is laden with struggle and want.

Filipino women’s lives are mired in the contradictions of feudalism, bureaucrat capitalist greed and US imperialism. I think this documentary demonstrates that. It just needs a little help in terms of naming the larger societal evils so that people don’t blame the women in the documentary.



4 Reasons Why Filipinas/os Should Support Black Lives Matter

I have been struggling the past few days. Here, I’ve put my words down again to implore my community to join in solidarity and support the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

4. Anti-Black racism has plagued our community.

As a young darker-skinned Filipina, I was often taunted as “Black Beauty” and told never to go under the sun so that I wouldn’t get darker. What that meant was dark = not good, black = bad. My grandfather always warned me about watching the show, Martin, and having Black friends because they were no good. Instead of seeing the commonalities between our communities, our elders and families have bought into the American racial order before they even got to the US. They swallowed the pill that white was good and Black was bad. Colorism is just a small part of the consequences of this type of internalized racism.

Much more toxic is our rejection of mixed race Filipinos/as in our community. Much more dangerous is that Filipinos/as think that our histories are completely separate and that the consequences of anti-Black racism can not touch Filipinos/as. But it does. Everyday it does. White supremacy recasts Black and Brown bodies (I consider Filipinos/as as Brown) as lesser than white, in very different and relative ways. But my point is that we will never be assimilated into whiteness. And as long as we continue to front like we can be white by rejecting Blackness, we are part of the problem.

3. Black and Filipino solidarity is historical.

David Fagen deserted the American imperialist forces to join the Filipino independence forces at the turn of the 20th century. One journalist stated, “the negro soldiers were in closer sympathy with the aims of the native population than they were with those of their white leaders and the policy of the United States.” Filipinos were openly called the n-word and caricatured as “little brown brothers”. Well, it was Black people who stood up for us against US empire. It was Black soldiers that took up our mantle, put it on their backs and fought for our freedom. Our liberation was bound together then, and it is even more so now.

david fagen

2. US empire in the Philippines relied on anti-Black racism at home.

The encroachment of US empire in the Philippines was imbued with anti-Black racism. Imperialist cartoons show Filipinos as dark skinned savages in need of saving. This was set in the backdrop of increasing racial repression against Black people in the US via Jim Crow laws and segregation, not to mention continuing settler colonialism and cultural genocide of indigenous people in the US. The American colonial project got its fire from the racialized oppression of Black people. It gave them moral logic and the state-sanctioned practices to go abroad and subjugate Filipinos. Caricatured and racialized as Black people in SE Asia, Filipinos were made to swallow this racial ideology even before we were being exported for profit.


It’s about damn time that we reject these two interlinked racial ideologies. And its about time that we step up to acknowledge that both are not the same in egregiousness but they work together to divide and subjugate

1. It is the right thing to do.

In the past 3 days, two men (and perhaps more (men, women, trans people) who are under the media radar), Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were murdered by police officers. Sadly, they were not the first nor the last Black people whose lives will be taken by police. These men were complying. These men were simply living their lives. They were doing nothing that deserved death. Their humanity was sacrificed in the name of institutionalized racism, the internalization of Black criminality and acceptance of Black death by police officers.

Filipinos/as cannot stand by while Black people and the Black community are clamoring for a stop to these killings; this crisis in human rights violations. Our community has been fed the idea that if we work hard enough, we could buy into the institution of whiteness. Well guess what, y’all? We can’t. We  will never be part of that institution. So if you are standing still, silent and inactive during this epidemic of Black death by police, then you are finishing the project of white supremacy. You are holding up white supremacy.

Instead of being silent because its not happening to the Filipino community, we have to gather our resources, our organizing experience and join in the national and international movement to value Black lives by holding police accountable and demanding a STOP to the killings. We must challenge white supremacy as it continues its centuries-long reign and attack on Black lives.

We have to stand on the right side of history here, ya’ll. We can not be silent. We must act with and under the leadership of Black people. Its the right thing to do. Its the only thing to do.

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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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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Talking to my Immigrant Parents about Trayvon Martin

On Saturday, in the midst of celebrating my cousin’s freshly pressed MBA, I received a text message from a comrade informing me that George Zimmerman was acquitted for murdering 15-year old Trayvon Martin. My heart felt heavy and light–heavy in despair for Trayvon’s lost life, his parents, his family and his friends; and light as my family of immigrants who strove to thrive in a new country celebrated my cousin’s accomplishments. The contradictions of America were all too certain in that moment.

Trayvon Martin

On the car ride home, my husband and I were talking about the sadness we felt about the injustice done to the Martin family, the injustice done to all of us who know that Zimmerman is guilty; and perhaps the injustice done to us who thought justice could be feasible in the American judicial system. We felt betrayed. We felt played. Like we played ourselves. We know that Lady Justice is not blind nor colorblind. She is and has been built on racist ideologies and white supremacy. Native people and people of color in this country have never been “created equal.” But in some fog of hope, we though that Trayvon and his family could at least get some semblance of peace through this legal battle. We were wrong.

My father asked me, “What are you guys talking about?” I was careful to address my immigrant father from the Philippines (who is sometimes progressive, other times conservative–somewhat typical of Filipino immigrant fathers). I told him that we found out that Zimmerman was found not guilty. Surprisingly, he knew details about Trayvon’s case and life and death. I asked him what he thought about the acquittal. He replied, “Zimmerman killed that boy because his black. Just like why Oscar Grant was killed. No good.” My mother, a hard-working and often, apolitical person, chimed in, “Its too bad that the court doesn’t see how racism killed the boy.” These two, the ones I love the most, are also people who have internalized racist ideologies, repeated racist rhetoric about other communities of color and swallowed a whole pill about the American racial order even before they left the Philippines. These two, the ones I love the most, are certainly part of the contradiction of race relations in the US. They understood the wrong that happened to Trayvon Martin while also inculcated in the “distancing” that has happened between other racial and ethnic groups and Black Americans in the US.

In this moment, our whole car sent out a vibration of mourning and strength to the Martin family, what in Tagalog we call, “nakikiramay.” Honoring someone who has passed, even if that person was a stranger, even if that person was miles away.

But more importantly, my immigrant parents articulated more clearly than I could, the staunchly racist ideology of America. They found Zimmerman guilty. They found America’s racism, its white supremacy guilty. As immigrants in the US, they often cannot articulate how racism affects them. Both of my immigrant parents only see “hard work” in their success in the US. They don’t identify race or racism as a salient part of their daily life. This is something I’ve always been irritated about when talking to them about race in the US. I thought they had no “race analysis”. But here, they so accurately depicted what went wrong. They identified contemporary individual and institutional racism as the culprit and they despised it. “There will be a rally, Val,” said Papa (a generally anti-rally kind of dude), “they should rally.”

As I’ve continued talk to my immigrant parents about Trayvon Martin, I talk about how the legal system in the US has always upheld and maintain white supremacy–a set of ideologies that needs to “occasionally” kill Black men in order to keep the rest of us safe. It requires Black women to lose their sons, brothers and friends. It normalizes the murder and disappearance of Black people.

I talk to them about how Trayvon’s case also matters because the racism that allowed Zimmerman to murder Trayvon with impunity is also linked to the shrinking set of rights of native people, people of color, queer folks, women, poor folks and immigrants have in this country (i.e. Voting Rights Act, Affirmative Action, abortion rights, immigration reform).

But I also talk to them about how Trayvon’s life is not in vain as so many people are taking to the streets, starting conversations with their immigrant families about race relations in the US, getting out and doing something to honor Trayvon’s life, indicting Zimmerman the people’s way.

And although, some immigrant parents, like mine, aren’t always race-conscious, they still understand that there’s something wrong with this verdict. We all experience race and racism in different ways, but as my parents taught me, it is still real. Real enough for two immigrant parents to know what happened to Trayvon’s family is “no good”.

As I try to understand what really happened, here are some articles that have helped:


CARE Project Launch

Caregiver Research (CARE) Project Launch 
Wednesday APRIL 4, 2012
35 San Juan Ave. SF CA 94112 (Old FCC Space)

Join the Filipino Community Center (FCC) to launch The CARE Project!
Filipino caregivers, youth, students and community members have completed an intensive research training to conduct research on the conditions of Filipino caregivers in the San Francisco/ Bay Area. 

Join us to learn about the CARE Project and our exciting plans for the coming year, and to
congratulate our trained community researchers for the CARE Project.  
For more information contact:
Mario de Mira
Filipino Community Center
4681 Mission St. SF CA 94112
(415) 333-6267

Who Cares for Caregivers?

One Sunday afternoon when I was 15 years old, I went to visit my father who was working as a caregiver. He was a live-in caregiver with 5 elderly patients, one of them non-ambulatory. He worked 6 days a week, and because he lived in the facility, I can only imagine, he worked 24 hours a day.

He’d been in the US for over a year and this is the only work he could find, and he was happy to take it. He knew that the paycheck would help my mother put food on the table and help with our household expenses. I was just happy he was in the US with us finally, after 6 years of separation. My weekly trip to his work site was a source of joy for me.

On those Sundays, I’d take him to the bank to deposit his check, get deodorant, etc. And this Sunday, my heart sank a little as my father wobbled his way out of the care home doors. He said his back hurt because he lifted a patient the wrong way. “Its okay, Val. Kaya ko to,” he said. When we got to the bank, he opened up his paycheck envelope, and his eyes got a little watery. He asked me to deposit the check for him because his back was hurting. And as I fought to keep my tears back, I said, “Sure, Papa.”

When I got to the teller, I could tell my father wasn’t tearing up about his back. His paycheck for 2 weeks of work was only $500. That day, I wished all my wishes away.

I wished that my father’s back would heal.

I wished that he could get a fair wage.

I wished that he could have better work conditions.

I wished that people, especially his employer, could see his work as dignified and valuable.

If you know a caregiver, your parent was a caregiver, if you grew up in a care home, you’ll want to do this.

Caregivers and domestic workers are one of few American workforces who do not receive standardized labor rights.

The US Department of Labor is taking comments about proposed regulations to standardize their rights.

Follow the steps below and tell the DOL that you support home care workers.


Comments on Department of Labor ‘s Proposed Regulations for MW and OT for Home Care Workers

All comments need to be submitted on-line by February 27, 2012.


1. Go to .

2. On the “SEARCH” LINE, please type or paste: Application of the Fair Labor Standards Act to Domestic Service

3. You will be taken to a site that has different Titles of Documents. Look for the Application of the Fair Labor Standards Act to Domestic Service. Click on Submit a Comment (which is on the RIGHT HAND side) and

4. Enter your contact information and Type in a comment of up to 2,000 characters OR attach a word or PDF file. You only have 20 minutes, so if you plan to have it typed up beforehand so you can paste it in.

5. Your document should refer to Dept of Labor and RIN 1235-AA05,

NOTE: All comments will be posted unedited, so don’t disclose any information that you don’t feel comfortable sharing publicly. Include as much relevant personal information as you are comfortable sharing. The more specific you are about why you care about this issue and what the new rule would mean to you, the better.


FROM CAREGIVERS: We want to tell the Department of Labor (DOL) to know about caregivers’ experiences of underpay and overwork. Ask caregivers to describe, as specifically as possible, what it feels like to be underpaid and overworked (i.e. they can talk about how difficult it is to live and support their families in SF because their pay is so low; they can talk about how overwork affects their health, they can talk about what they actually do at work that shows that they are more than just “companions” etc). LIMIT THE COMMENT TO 2000 WORDS, OTHERWISE YOU WILL HAVE TO ATTACH YOUR COMMENTS SEPARATELY.

Here are sample questions to ask workers:


Are you a caregiver, child of caregiver, or an employer? For how many years? Is being a caregiver your only job? Do you have family you are supporting? Are you a part of a caregivers organization?


What state do you work in? How many hours do you work? How much are you paid? Do you have to get up when you sleep? What do you do for the people you care for (Shower? Dress? Cook?…)


Bakit sinasuportahan mo ang mga karapatan para Overtime pay & Minimum Wage for Home Care workers? (Halimbawa – it will recognize our important work, it will help us stay at our jobs longer, do our jobs better, care for our families.)

Here is a sample template for answers/comments to post:

· As a caregiver, I strongly support the DOL’s proposed regulations (RIN 1235-AA05) that ensure all home care aides receive minimum wage and overtime protections.

· I have worked in the caregiver field for ___ years.

· Every day, I help my clients with [list what you do for your clients – include any things that you do like turning the patient, changing wound dressing, giving medications, dressing, bathing, feeding , grooming, toileting, laundry, housekeepring, etc].

· I often work ___ hours each work and do not get paid any overtime. Even though I am supposed to get minimum wage in California, I have often work at wages below minimum wage

· [If not getting minimum wage and./or overtime ]- I think it’s unfair that I don’t have the same rights as other workers.

· My work helps my clients stay healthy and independent. I take great pride in my work, which takes skill and compassion. I care deeply about my clients, but I also need to earn a fair wage to support my own family.

REMEMER: only include details the worker is comfortable having posted on a public website)

FROM YOU: As advocates, we want the DOL to know that we support revisions of the regulations.

Here is a sample of what you can submit for yourself:

· I am a concerned individual and I support the proposed regulations (RIN 1235-AA05) to ensure minimum wage and overtime protection for homecare workers whose work is so important. It will help to stabilize this critical workforce that is experiencing high turnover because of low pay and long hours. It will help ensure dignified care for the elderly and people with disabilities so they can stay in their homes and out of institutions.

· I also support requiring employers of live-in domestic workers to make and keep records of domestic workers’ hours worked because live-in workers need this basic protection around their work hours. In addition, employers should ALSO be required to keep other records — like the rate of pay, total wages, or deductions for meals and housing. Deductions from pay are common, and without this additional information, the possible wage and hour violations are impossible to spot. It will not be burdensome for employers to keep such records—because they have home computers, smartphones, and workers can keep such information, which employers can use to keep their records.

· Personally, this issue matters to me because [HERE YOU CAN PERSONALIZE IT]

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RH Bill in the Philippines

The RH Bill has and continues to stir all kinds of frenzy in the Philippines, the only country in the world that still hasn’t made divorce illegal nor has it legislated comprehensive reproductive health education and services. In the 21st century, the resistance of the Philippine government to provide women with access to pap smears, breast and cervical cancer scans, etc. is at best negligent and, at very worst, abhorrent.

Of course we can’t keep the Catholic church’s influence out of this disucssion. A relative of mine, a staunch anti-RH Bill person, has said before its ‘population control’ that we need not birth control or abortion. The problem with that is that  ‘Population control’ attributes a growing population to the unruly behavior of poor people, without taking into consideration the lack of education and health services that is needed for family planning.

Anyway, just recently the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has tried to catch the Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP), one of the co sponsors of the House Bill 4244 otherwise known as the RH Bill, in the snares of the population control debate, claiming that GWP  admits that the bill they themselves are proposing is not “pro-poor and pro-women.” They left out the rest of the sentence that said that the RH Bill can’t be pro-poor and pro-women “as long as it espouses population control.”

Bulatlat has a better written piece on this HERE.

I think we, Filipino Americans, who think we’re thousands of miles away from the islands from this debate need to listen up (or at least READ up), since similar retreats from basic women’s health care and attacks on women’s bodies are happening right here at home too.

Rep. Luz Ilagan, one of my modern day heroines has written a response which I’m quoting below:

21 February 2012


CBCP for Life

470 Gen. Luna St., Intramuros
1002 Manila, Philippines


Dear Editors,


In the interest of fairness and accuracy we hope that the “CBCP for Life” will find space for this clarificatory statement in response to an article which appeared in the “CBCP for Life” website on February 20, 2012. The undersigned was quoted out of context thus making it appear that Gabriela, a primary author and advocate for the RH bill supposedly admits that the RH bill is not pro-poor and pro-women.


Gabriela Women’s Party has long advocated for a national reproductive health policy that will guarantee marginalized women’s full access to comprehensive maternal and reproductive healthcare.


The consolidated RH bill currently contains several provisions that will help ensure poor women and children’s access to healthcare, such as the following:


§  Mobile health clinics that will ensure the delivery of health services to far-flung communities and barangays.

§  Improvement and upgrade of equipment available in public health care facilities, including barangay health centers to ensure that they are able to conduct basic reproductive health care procedures such as pap smears.

§  Pro-bono reproductive health care services for indigent women by making it mandatory for all health care workers to provide at least 48 hours annually of reproductive health services free of charge to indigent patients, especially pregnant adolescents.


However, the RH Bill currently contains three provisions pertaining to population control:


§  Section 2, Guiding Principles, (l): The limited resources of the country cannot be suffered to be spread so thinly to service a burgeoning multitude that makes the allocations grossly inadequate and effectively meaningless;

§  Section 12, Integration of Responsible Parenthood and Family Planning Component in Anti-Poverty Programs; and

§  Section 25, Implementing Mechanism, where the Population Commission, rather than the DOH per se, is mandated to serve as the coordinating body in the implementation of this bill.


Gabriela Women’s Party believes the RH bill’s provisions on population control will overshadow its pro-poor provisions and threatens to effectively confine the delivery of reproductive and maternal health care services to the implementation of population control programs, the distribution of contraceptives and population control mechanisms.


Moreover, the population control aspects of the RH bill conveniently blame poverty on women’s bodies, fertility and population while disregarding the impact of social inequities and neo-liberal policies on the country’s growing hunger and poverty.


Gabriela Women’s Party remains firm in its position against population control. It will continue to push for amendments to the bill, including the removal of provisions pertaining to population control.


Gabriela Women’s Party will continue to fight for full women’s access to healthcare and fight not just for the retention of the pro-poor provisions in the RH bill but will also fight for increased budgetary allocation for healthcare as well as the granting of increased maternity benefits for women workers, among others.


Lastly, it is our fervent hope that the Catholic hierarchy, with its preferential option for the poor, will join us in the struggle for genuine reforms to help uplift the lives of poor Filipino women and their families.






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Nawal El-Saadawi

In about half an hour, I’ll be going to hear a long-time Egyptian feminist, activist, sociologist, medical doctor, Nawal El-Saadawi, speak at the Graduate Center. She was present at the recent uprising in Tahrir Square and will share her reflections on women, Egypt and the revolution.

I wanted to make available the readings that were distributed to prepare for her talk today which can be found HERE on the website of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics (CPCP) at the Grad Center. I’d especially like to flag the piece by Omnia El Shakry, “Egypt’s Three Revolutions” in light of the refreshingly awake conversation we had at the Labor, Crisis, Protest seminar today about the relationships between the inspiring and sometimes surprising eruptions of mass protest from the Gaza Flotilla to the French General Strike to the Tahrir Square and now Wisconsin and Milwaukee.

We talked a bit about how we, really, are in a moment were there are these eruptions of mass resistance. And trying to understand how, why and under what conditions they are happening is sort of crucial, both politically and intellectually. Do the changing sets of relations in these revolutionary instances have anything to do with one another? Is asking the question about how they might hold something in common, irrelevant? Should we see each protest as their own, particular, discontinuous phenomena?

El Shakry argues that instead of viewing the 2011 revolution in Egypt as “new” and “spontaneous,” we should see it as a continuation of the revolutions in Egyptian history and the intensification of political contradictions and complex economic conditions.

In the seminar earlier (we had just finished listening to Paul Mason and reading his book), some of the fellows were remarking about how many of revolutions that had erupted in their lifetimes (1968, in particular) really galvanized masses of people from around the world, because it made claims to a universal humanity. People were fighting for humanity, dignity and respect. And they were all coincidentally doing it at the same time. Or were they? Is it about humanity or is it about what El Shakry is talking about, a movement-induced, crisis-embedded eruption? Or are those two sides, really on one coin?




This is an interactive map that shows how many states in the US is copying the Arizona bill.

Yesterday, my co-CPCP fellow, Jen Ridgley, told me that anti-immigrant sentiment doesn’t necessarily correlate with an increase in immigration. That we should denaturalize the correlation because rises in nativism, racism and anti-immigrant sentiments are bound up in other things like economic policy, political conservatism and, what else?