Thoughts of a Raised Pinay

For women, the need and desire to nurture each other is not pathological but redemptive, and it is within that knowledge that our real power is rediscovered. […] Interdependency between women is the way to a freedom which allows the ‘I’ to ‘be’, not in order to be used, but in order to be creative. This is a difference between the passive ‘be’ and the active ‘being’. — Audre Lorde, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House”

It has been two years since RAISED PINAY premiered at the Philippine Consulate General and at NYU in New York City. (As of the publication of this post, a second iteration of Raised Pinay, featuring a new all-Pinay cast, premiered this year at St. John’s University in Queens and at MayDay Space in Brooklyn.)

I intended to write this post after the shows ended, as a reflection on the process leading up to that point. But then time passed and many things came up that kept me from writing about it. Coming back to this, I decided to discuss what has happened since Raised Pinay and how much I have changed. It is fitting to discuss Raised Pinay this way, not just from a performer’s standpoint, but from an actual “raised Pinay” standpoint; this was more than just a “show” but a necessary healing process and a turning point in my life.

Raised Pinay was a rite of passage into my womanhood, in the context of ‘the Filipino’.

Continue reading Thoughts of a Raised Pinay

RAISED PINAY: My Matrilineal Heritage in Dresses

The featured image for this post is the RAISED PINAY logo, beautifully designed by Gigi and Grace Bio. The logo features Baybayin-style lettering and Kali sticks–representing Philippine ancestral roots, history, and intergenerational power.

I would like to announce that I am part of an all-Pinay cast in the production of RAISED PINAY, directed by Jana Lynn Umipig and produced by Justine Fonte & Rachelle Ocampo. Artwork for the show are created by Gigi Bio and Grace Bio.

This is a benefit show, meaning that the proceeds will go to a non-profit organization called Roots of Health (Ugat Ng Kalusugan), providing clinical and educational services to wom*n, girls, and families in Puetro Princesa, Palawan. Tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite.

Show Dates, all in NYC
Thursday March 31st @ 7PM – Philippine Consulate
(no tickets sold at the door)
Saturday April 2nd @ 2PM – NYU Palladium Hall
Saturday APril 2nd @ 7PM -NYU Palladium Hall

What is this show about, exactly? It is not your typical play with fictional characters, dramatic scenes, or musical numbers. This is about 13 Pilipina American wom*n sharing their stories about what it is like to be “raised Pinay”–the intergenerational condition and inheritance of Pilipina values, teachings, trauma, and expectations, combated with modern ideas of feminism, social justice, identity, and wom*nhood.

What makes this production unique is that it focuses on the Pilipino/Pilipino American experience, through a wom*n’s perspective. Stories about intersectional experiences (in terms of nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and heritage) are rarely told. To be a part of this production has given me the opportunity to reveal and explore myself as who I really am–a raised Pinay in the 21st century.

My story is about the matrilineal heritage of mother-daughter through dresses. The dress is a symbol of femininity, the thing that mainly identifies womenhood. Attached to the dress are gendered values and expectations of being a “woman”–to be a daughter, a mother, a wife, a respectable and well-mannered lady, a beautiful “woman”. As much as the dress symbolizes the positive aspects of its form and meaning, it also carries the struggles of wom*n in trying to meet those high expectations, in a society that badgers wom*n to sacrifice their own (physical/mental/emotional) health and well-being for the sake of vanity and acceptance.

But the dress can also be a symbol of reclaiming the wom*n identity, for the empowered person wearing it. By changing the meaning of the symbol into something that advocates self-love, inner beauty, compassion, and sisterhood, the dress becomes a weapon against the violent society that disadvantages wom*n and a tool for the uplift and empowerment of wom*n. The dress will be passed down to future generations that will inherit that power and be encouraged to transform the society that will treat everyone with love and respect.

I hope that many of you will be able to attend the show. Remember that this is for a good cause that will also give support to wom*n, girls, and families that need the resources that we, in a developed country, often take for granted. For me, this is one step into my career path as a storyteller.

"RAISED PINAY" in Baybayin language. Designed by Gigi and Grace Bio.
“RAISED PINAY” in Baybayin language. Designed by Gigi and Grace Bio.

When a Fil-Am Wants To Fight For A Cause But Is Not Sure How To Do It

“Was it possible that, coming to America with certain illusions of equality, I had slowly succumbed to the hypnotic effects of racial fear?”
– Carlos Bulosan, America is in the Heart

As much as I want to participate in a #BlackLivesMatter march or any other forms of civic engagement, I cannot bring myself to do it because I am torn between showing solidarity in my frustrations over systemic injustices, and staying at home with my family that finds these kinds of things chaotic and irrelevant to us. The latter stems from the effects of the model minority myth—why should Asian Americans get involved in racial politics? Have we not achieved success through hard work and sacrifice, even if it meant immigrating to a different (foreign) country for a better life? As a second-generation Filipino American, raised by immigrant parents who came to the United States during the People Power Revolution in the Philippines, I feel that I am part of a generation that is beginning to see its first revolution that calls for more active voices from all different social groups. And yet, I cannot bring myself to (actively) take part in the movement or know where to begin. (It seems like I am just trying to rationalize my lack of involvement, but in light of current events, I have been thinking about how critical things are becoming now.)

Every news article and op-ed piece that comes across my newsfeed on multiple social media outlets, I feel frustrated, scared, and confused. I can read all I can about uprisings, police brutality, violence against Black people, systemic racism, etc. But I am never sure of how to enter into the conversation. I see online threads of people arguing over a certain issue, and I want to participate and give my opinion or correct someone’s ignorant statement. But I cannot bring myself to do it, for fear of being called out for not educating myself enough to actually give a valid point. Maybe this is a condition of being instructed to “speak when spoken to” or “keep quiet and continue working” so that I can avoid getting into trouble or dishonoring my family’s reputation. I notice a gap between my parents’ ideologies and my own ideologies—their political and social views derive from the Reagan era while mine derive from taking liberal studies at a four-year American college. So there is always a clash in our discussions that involve the Baltimore uprisings or the Obama administration. I try to refrain from sounding too preachy or too liberal at home, for the satisfaction of my parents because they worked hard to provide for us. Who wants to listen to a young woman who has the privilege to get a higher education and live comfortably at home?

But here’s the thing: I am a young woman of color who had the privilege to receive higher education and live in a middle class, suburban neighborhood. My parents did everything they could to provide my brother and I with food, clothing, and shelter. We could even afford to eat at restaurants, go shopping, and have a gym membership. All these things, and I can be content with my life. But these things are temporary and privileged. If I were to be stripped from this kind of lifestyle, what would I have left? I refuse to let these things define me as a person because, despite having these privileges, not everyone will recognize that I am the type of person who can have them. Bottom line: I am not White, but I am also not Black. No matter which way I shift on the color spectrum, no one will be satisfied with my privileges, my opinions, my existence.

The best I can do, in my position, is to write. Writing and storytelling are powerful tools that can help the silenced find or be given their voice and be heard. In the words of an incredible professor, who teaches a course called Black Women Writers, “Black love is revolutionary.” Love is not limited to a romantic partner or a family; it reaches out to a community, a lineage, a womanhood, and most importantly, a self. Through the novels I read in her class, such as Paule Marshall’s Praisesong for the Widow and Edwidge Danticat’s Krik? Krak!, I learned how to understand my own lineage and heritage and appreciate all that my ancestors have done for me and other Fil-Ams to ensure that we can get a higher education and make a change—from the native tribes in precolonial Philippines to the manongs in America to my parents in New York.

The best way I can give gratitude to my lineage is to write. I can write about my views on the antagonization of people of color in mainstream media. I can write about why #BlackLivesMatter is also an issue for Asian Americans, since both groups have been disenfranchised by white supremacy and patriarchal society that enforced interracial and intraracial tensions. For now, I am sharing my experience as an Asian American millennial woman through blogging. But I know that I cannot limit myself to written words. Some day, I hope to help young people understand why these issues should matter to them and how they can become active participants in the movement. My way of reaching out to them is through writing and eventually through social action and interaction.