Monday, June 27, 2011

Made in the Philippines, Born in New York

We had a family home in the north of the Philippines, in the mountains of Baguio. In this home was a master bedroom where my father, his siblings and most likely their cousins honeymooned. Being a honeymoon baby, I suspect I was made in Baguio. The weather is cooler there, the air smells like pine. Baguio was built so the American officers could have a vacation place. There are golf clubs, cottages of western style, they even have an American school there.

Nine months or so after my parents' Baguio honeymoon, I was born in upstate New York on a crisp September day. At least this is how I imagine it. So like most things outsourced, I was made in Asia and managed to be born in the USA.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Dog Days Are Over

The first part of the year was bittersweet for me.

As an artist, I found a thunderous thread in my voice and this fired up my writing like I have not experienced before. In this thunder I also found community, this formed a bridge through which I made deep connections with my New York family and the reason I am here. And though this has happened to me before, I found myself falling in love again with New York so deeply, I knew she was reminding me I was home.

Tish and Nave at a Brooklyn fund-raiser
As a woman, my partner was faced with a health challenge that has altered my life in ways I am only beginning to understand. It was a tough three-month run for me, and I will never know exactly how tough it was for Navé and how he is having to adjust. The good news is that he has been declared cancer-free, the only mark being a scar to remind him of the grace he has received. As only he would, he is using the experience to inform his artistic purpose, starting with writing a poem a day from the first day after surgery until he gets to 100 poems by July 10th.

The groom flanked by his sisters

Then something beautiful happened. I had to go home for our family's first 'proper' wedding. My baby brother (okay, he is 30 years old and may kill me) got married and I got a new sister.  I got to spend two weeks back in the home of my heart, immersed in the simple and so profound gift of family. I got to hang out with the nephews I am crazy about, and soaked up on all that good stuff only family and long-time friends can give you.

A wedding is always a happy event, and for our family this was a first wedding despite the fact that my brother (the groom) is both the only son and the youngest sibling. I don't really think I'm wired up for the traditional approach to marriage, and when my sister and brother-in-law got married in Barcelona, it was a simple affair and not the 'whole hog' celebration Enrique and Isha were having. So for our family, this was THE wedding. And it was exactly the wedding for this family. Upbeat, young-spirited, very modern and lots of fun. As part of the wedding, the couple had asked the entourage to do a campy flash mobesque dance number to kick in the dancing hours at the reception. He chose a song that speaks to what this second half of 2011 means for me. Not only do I get a new sister, Nave has a 'new' clean slate of health, I start a new job and we have a new apartment in Brooklyn. I also acknowledge what we have gone through and keep it in mind as we dance into the summer sunshiney days and embrace the grace and good times ahead. So sing and dance with me, Nave, Enrique, Isha & Florence and the Machine. For real, the dog days are over!

Sunday, June 12, 2011


The parts of me that needed attention mostly sat on my left side. My left eye was legally blind and ridiculously astigmatic, my spine curves in such a way that makes my relaxed stance skew left. Even the aberration in one of my female parts lived on the left until it made its surgical exit (did it use stage left or right?). These musings are making my mental DJ conjure Beyoncè and shimmy 'to the left, to the left..'

Does everything about me lean to the left? When at a crossroads or literally an intersection do I always veer left? When I bowl does my striking spin favor left? Does the slant in my cursive face East or West?

Then the sensible question of what does this all matter? The values and principles that guide all our choices sit squarely at the core of who we are and the space we occupy. We are all guided by our individual sense of what True North is, and this is as specific to each of us as the thumbprint. As for me, you probably know where to find me... to quote another fabulous female singer, "if you what me, you can find me left of center If you want me you can find me, left of center off of the strip."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ink Agimat

With this new semester comes a new chapter in my adventures as an Accidental American. The chapter involves a refinement of the track I tried to get on when I first arrived here, only this time I stomp the track with far more swagger and savvy. And to remind myself to stay true, to not let myself get swallowed by the American (corporate) machine, I armed myself with an ink agimat which I had done while back in the Philippines on a quick vacation. With the help of the inspiring artists at Republic Tatoo, I marked my skin with battlecry, mantra and story, my virgin skin a blank canvas for art to lead so life would follow.

Getting a cherry popped at 40 years-old happens with far more thought and understanding than my memories of my long gone cherry-popping days of youth. I came with a clear understanding of why I wanted the tattoo and what the message was, mainly to myself. And since it is body art which can be shown publicly, I had even thought of the public aspect of how it would work. I wasn't prepared for the magical trip Oman, the artist, and I went on to take the germ of my idea to a place I can righteously call body art.

Fresh ink in front

My brother in-law Paco, adventure, kick-ass photographer and admitted tattoo addict came with me, sweetening the trip even further. This body art-amulet-agimat of ink on my skin sits on the precipice of where I come from and where I am headed. It speaks all the languages of my bloodline and my spirit, taking a Spanish word and rendering it in the visual style of traditonal Filipino tattoo art of our inked warriors from the North, the region my mother's family is from.

I mark my body by saying "Si." Cutting through my heart, I say yes with one part in front, speaking just to me in mirror image and another part on the back, reminder to those who see to say YES to their bliss.

So fresh and still sealed in plastic

Each life tells a story, and everyday is a chance to tell a better story. This Accidental American, this woman of words is enhancing her story with image. I say YES to my heart. My heart says YES. Corporate America look out, this tattooed warrior is coming with her marks and her bliss.

And you know what, I think you're gonna LOVE her.