It has taken me some time to write my thoughts on Alex Tizon’s posthumous memoir that was published in The Atlantic last week. As a Fil-Am, I was thrilled to hear about a Fil-Am story being published in a nationally-recognized magazine. But the excitement was short-lived, when I read the entire memoir about the Tizon family and their “katulong,” Eudocia Tomas Pulido. In the beautifully written narrative that depicted a certain aspect of Filipino life and culture, I felt unnerved and triggered by its contents.
Here is a person coming to grips with all that she is: a child, a sensitive being, a Raised Pinay, a culture-bearer, a seeker, a naturally curious mind, a whisper among many voices, and another link to a long chain of steel.
Many like me are trying to find root, to understand who we are and where we come from, to affirm ourselves as descendants of strong people who have been resilient throughout our colonized history of trauma, displacement, and migration. We are writers of a narrative that has long been at the hands of outsiders, but now we hold the pen like an Eskrimadora, ready to strike truth into the earth.
I have yet to accept this power from within. But I know that this is not a lonely battle. I have community, I have Sisterhood, I have ancestors, I have breath that extends all the way from the motherland to here.
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.
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.