What do you write after a 2-year blog silence?

I haven’t published anything on this blog for a while now. And mostly, it’s kinda like when you had beef with your friend in high school and then you just don’t talk for a long time and then it becomes real awkward to even think about talking and then the distance just grows so you give up on talking. Yes, I likened my relationship to this blog as I would a real person. That’s where I’m at y’all.

So I thought, I’d post an update on my life or what not: baby, tenure-track mothering, sociologizing, organizing but instead I decided I’m gonna write something about teaching to begin with. As summer is gearing up, I’ll try to write more on the other things.


Background: I am teaching a class of sometimes 90 students at a CSU and many of these students are first generation students, working class, immigrant, working full-time and full-time students. Many are having a hard time keeping up with their classes. Baaasically, many of them don’t get to the reading.

In the past couple of semesters, I have been learning about “active learning strategies” (which I got wind of from Dr. Valerie Futch Ehrlich and was always talking to Dr. Alice Gates about how to do it) and I’ve tried to incorporate it in my classes. For 3 reasons: (1) I want students to engage with the text, (2) research has established that lecture style isn’t really working for students, and (3) politically, I want students to know that they are knowledge-producers in our classroom. It ain’t all about me.

Before I had such impacted classrooms, I relied on a problem-posing pedagogy (a la Freire) with some remix of a Socratic method. But that seems so long ago when I had the privilege of teaching smaller classrooms. Back in grad school, we weren’t really trained in developing our teaching skills and I’ve always felt like I’ve been trying to get a hold of what my pedagogy is as I grow as an educator and scholar. So my objective for this post is to help folks who is googling “active learning strategies” in “large college classroom”, as I was furiously searching on teaching prep days.

Here’s a list of ways that I think students really responded to active learning methods in my class:

(Disclaimer: I’m not formally trained in this method, so these might not even be active learning strategies, they’re just my active learning strategies)

1. Keyword Scavenger Hunt: In the beginning of class, choose 3-4 key words in the reading. Have the class bring text(s) to class and in small groups have them find the key words and discuss what it means in the context of the material.

2. Question Map: To begin the class, write or post a set of questions or just one and ask students to answer that question using phrases and pages from the text(s). You could even do a more directed activity by giving them page numbers.

3. Time After Time: If you’re teaching a text where a chronology or a timeline is key, print out slips of paper with the different moments. Ask the whole class, or in small groups, to organize the slips of paper in the right order. Then ask students to post up their chronology order in the front of the room for discussion.

Okay, so those are a few that worked really well. When I teach my 75 minute class, I like to break up the time into 2 or 3 segments to keep students’ attention. So what’s really key to these activities is that I use them for the time where I’m going over the content that they’ve just worked with.

So for example:

1. For Keyword Scavenger Hunt: the keywords they work with in the beginning, end up on the slides of my PPT. I ask for their definitions and sharpen it by asking other students to share and then proposing my analysis.


2. I often ask students for the phrases they found to answer the question presented in the beginning. I usually pair their answers with phrases that I find important. And sometimes, when the goddesses hear my prayers, the phrases on my PPT and their phrases match!

3. Dedicated to Cyndi Lauper, this activity works because often students “go slow” (since they aint’ done none of the reading, ‘cept them ones who’s your ride or dies) and you follow behind. As you go through each group, you’ll find that some of them got it wrong so you’ll use that as a teaching moment and ask the next group who has gotten it correct to explain why.

What I’m tryna say is that the active learning strategies help students touch, read, discuss some part of the text. And I feel like that’s half the battle!

What active learning strategies do you do in class?


Teaching about Transnational Families


(Photo in New York Magazine, 2007)

Teaching about Transnational Families

In my global sociology class, I teach a unit on migration and mobility, both of capital and people. The unit covers the multinational corporation and flexible labor, export processing zones and zones of sovereignty, constraints on people over capital and ends with the transnational family as a permutation of transnational life engendered by increasing global migration.

The teaching objective of the last class on transnational families is to give students a chance to connect global processes and larger social institutions to the intimate micro relations of the family. Often I assign Hondagneu-Sotelo and Avila‘s canonical piece on transnational motherhood, Parrenas’ piece on long-distance intimacy and my piece on the use of Skype and Facebook in Filipino transnational families. But I could also see assigning any number of chapters from Baldassar and Merla’s new volume on circulation of care in transnational families or Joanna Dreby’s article on children and power in transnational arrangements.

But an assignment that I put together to get students to make the connection between the global and the intimate is to write a reflection paper after the reading and attending class discussion with this prompt:

Write a letter to a child or partner or grandparents left behind in countries like Mexico or the Philippines. Using the complex terms in our class (try to use one or two vocabulary words from this week’s readings or past readings), explain to families left behind the structural forces that produce the phenomena of feminized migration at unprecedented rates and/ or transnational motherhood and families in globalization. Why is there such a huge shift in families under globalization?

I tried this for the first time this past week after teaching this class and this unit for the fourth time. And I have just been overwhelmed by the responses of the students. Perhaps because this is where my research and teaching intersect but the reflections have truly succeeded in meeting my teaching objective for this lesson plan.

I think what’s great about this assignment is that it allows students to connect seemingly abstract, global institutions and processes to the most intimate restructuring and reconfiguration of family life. There might be some ways I’m reifying “family” or “doing family” in this assignment, so chime in on the comment section if there are ways to make it better.

Some letters are excerpted below with the permission of my students. The first is a letter to grandparents, highlighting the multi-generational effect of global migration:

Dear Grandparents of a Migrant Mother,

You probably didn’t expect your life to end up like this. You are getting older, and after years of working hard days and having sleepless nights, you hoped that your work might be easier. After all, you have earned it. Your days of not eating so your children wouldn’t go hungry and staying up to take care of a sick child even though you had an 12 hour work day should be over. After all, your children are grown up.

But here you are. In the house you raised your children in, raising more children. But not your own. Your grandchildren are now in your care. Why? Because their mother is away earning money to support both you and her children. The economy in your country is not creating jobs, especially for hands like yours who have seen centuries of hard labor. Other hands have been creeping into your country, introducing cheaper genetically modified corn and building maquiladoras, desolating your local market while creating impossible choices between poisoning your body or feeding your family.

Contrary to some beliefs, globalization has not given you or your daughter the ability to be in “the drivers seat”. It has given you a bus ticket-you can get off at predetermined destinations. These destinations are your predetermined options that depend on many things-your legal status when traveling to another country, ability to speak another language, and your skill set. For your daughter, her bus ticket has few stops. Because her work visa has long expired and her English is basic, she has options such as housecleaning, washing dishes in a kitchen, or low skilled factory labor.

I’m sure that you will feel some resentment. You raised your daughter to have traditional family values. However, it’s your job now to raise your grandchildren. Sometimes it’s hard, because you can’t chase them down, and they don’t respect you like they should.

Try and understand that your daughter is one of many. One of many mothers torn away from her children because of economic hardship. One of many children leaving their parents and worrying that they will not be able to come to their funeral if they should pass away because of their legal status. One of many women who are scared and vulnerable in a new country where laws and societal norms are often inherently biased against them. Try and remember your daughter as your daughter-the one who you raised, rather than the faceless money order that comes every month. Understand that this is bigger than you or her, a broken hierarchical system entrenched in racism, imperialism, and greed. Raise her children like your own, even though you are tired. Because love has no borders. Family has no borders.



This excerpt is about connecting broken immigration systems and racialized immigration policy in the US:

Maybe your mother is working at a hotel.  She may be changing bed sheets and cleaning bathrooms for people not wealthy by their own country’s standards but with enough money to make it worth it for her.  Maybe she is in a field, picking vegetables so that Americans can have cheap produce.  Either way, she is likely to be earning less than a legal wage in California or wherever else she is.  There’s the curious thing about all of this: here is a woman leaving her home country and family to earn less money than those who grew up there consider suitable, all because this is still thought of as being better than whatever prospects exist at home.

In all likelihood, she is also undocumented.  This means that she is technically in the country illegally and so has little recourse should she be exploited in such a way.  Obviously, you and I both know that she’s done nothing wrong here.  American laws are not written by people like her.  Because of this, she has to contend with avoiding alerting authorities while paying back what she owes for transportation and placement.  She may not even be doing what she figured she would be doing.  Maybe she came to this country thinking that she would be taking care of the sick or elderly and ended up having to do housekeeping work.  This is not uncommon.  The ways the laws are written here allow people like your mother to be exploited.  As is the case with produce especially, much of the American way of life is built on the backs of people like your mother.  We have her to thank, whether she is here legally or not, for the low cost of our luxuries.  The cost is low because it is passed on to her and you.

This excerpt is about the constantly shifting gender ideologies in what RW Connell calls the “world gender order”:

In addition, you may wonder why it is your mom migrating to the US for work and not your father. The best explanation that I can give for this is that larger social constructions of culture see polarize and generalize traditional gender roles between men and women. Women are seen as more submissive and vulnerable, therefore attracting large multinational corporations to favor them as labor workers than men because they may listen more and not resist orders. Because of the “typical nature” of women, they may not form unions as often as men, to fight back these companies as well. Even though your mother has more of a chance here to make money, she is making a sacrifice being away from home and missing family.

Here’s a piece on the history of neoliberal policy in Mexico:

In order to make sense of this I must begin by explaining to you a little bit about your history. Back in the 1990s, the Mexican government agreed to sign NAFTA, and that is an agreement between Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, that would allow for cheaper and easier production and consumption of products and other goods among the three countries. However, NAFTA failed to provide living wages that would allow for families to survive and buy their day-to-day necessities.  NAFTA also undercut social programs like education, health care, and pensions for everyone. As a result many men lost their jobs or were paid so little that the idea of opportunity elsewhere to earn more money, made them risk it all and leave Mexico.

Your mommy then was left behind trying to provide for you and the rest of your family, in the absence of your father. She tried to work at the local companies, but the conditions under which she worked were so terrible, that she could not bear it. Within the local companies, worker’s were paid very little to make tiny things, day after day, without any protection for their well being, knowing that the failure of one worker could easily be replaced by another. Rather than risk getting sick, and not being able to provide for you, your mommy made the difficult decision to find a job in los Estados Unidos.

America Is In the Heart

Empire Bulosan Conference Poster-fullsize

My journey with Carlos Bulosan has been a windy one. I was acquainted with “Allos” (as Bulosan refers to himself in America Is In the Heart) in an undergraduate class called Filipino American literature taught by the indomitable Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales. We had a book a week to read and if my memory serves me correctly, AIH was one of the first books assigned. I remember struggling through the book, just reading it to ensure that I could do the work for class. Not really taking the time to absorb the words, the significance of this man’s writing at the time when he wrote, not losing myself to the history he penned, really, for me–future generations of Filipinos/as in America.

In the past 10 years, since our first meeting, my relationship with Allos has blossomed and withered over and again. Much like the seasons of harvest and planting present in his writing. In the American travels in my heart, from grad school in New York City, post-doc in San Francisco, Allos appeared and disappeared in my classes, in my scholarship, in my imagination. But now, as an assistant professor in Portland, the significance of Allos’ life and words have pushed him to the center of my thinking again as a scholar of Filipinos/as in America and a Filipina American educator working Filipino/a students. Last Monday, at the Filipino American Student Association sa UP screening of the exciting documentary Delano Manongs at the University of Portland, I remembered how powerful it is to connect to Filipino American history and what it meant to me as a 19-something year old to uncover my community’s history as subjugated knowledge, as I learned from the brilliant Dawn Bohulano Mabalon way back when.

In all of this, I reflected about what I’ve been asked to do today at a conference entitled Empire Is In The Heart at the University of Washington, Seattle. I have been asked to reflect back on Allos, his work, his words, and his significance on the centennial anniversary of his birth. What should I say? What could I say about Allos?

Fortunately and unfortunately, I have so much to share. In his short essay called, “The Writer as Worker”, Carlos Bulosan wrote, “…if the writer has any signifiance, it shoudl write about the world in which [s]he lives: interpret [her]his time and evnision the future through his knowledge of historical reality.” Today, I hope to share that the historical reality of migrant farm workers that have their lives and families and communities literally etched into the soil and topography of the West coast of the US, has many parallels to the migrant workers of today who are marking new landscapes of Filipino migrant communities all over the US.

Specifically, the Filipina/o teachers, nurses, hotel workers, and skilled workers  who migrated here in search of stabilizing their families in the Philippines, of a better life for their children and grandchildren. Those who are trafficked into the US, promised one job and then unjustly swapped for another, lower-paid, lower-skilled job. Those who have racked thousands of dollars in debt and are bonded to the obligations to loan sharks, which then gives them no choice but to stay in the US to work in jobs without dignity and become illegalized by the US immigration system.

Allos, this is what I’ll share today. I hope that people will understand that your words, your significance and your writing is still relevant today.

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

Tagged , , ,

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: http://arj-journal.blogspot.com/2014/01/lights-cameraaction-research.html?spref=tw

DPBackgroundlong v1.1

Tagged , , , , , ,