Monday, December 31, 2012

When Choosing Among Little Black Dresses

Some of my concerns run deeper than others. For instance, right now I am contemplating which of three black dresses to where. It's a consideration of body-consciousness, sparkle or bare shoulders. You see, I'm getting ready to ring in the new year and my girls and I have decided to glam it up this round.

In truth, such musings reflect deeper explorations in feminism, liberation and freedom of expression. I have had the fortune (and along with it the responsibility) of always being able to choose for myself.  

On the brink of a new year in which this millennium becomes a teen-ager, many other women are living in societies which continue to suppress their voice and impede their rights. There still are women who can't decide what to wear, which school to go to, which bus to take. 

Well aware of this, my girls and don't take any of these freedoms for granted. We give voice and fight and platform to the many women who don't have the good fortune we have.

We wear our stilettos with pride, we choose our black dresses with mindfulness and we move forward into 2013 we welcome the sunrise of better days for women everywhere. Happy New Year, you look gorgeous!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Fortune Cookie Wisdom du Jour

Friday, November 16, 2012

America's Broken Heart

Love makes room. When tested, love reveals true character.

My love affair with America is complicated and rewarding. It lives deep within me, the visceral fiery part where fist and buck and growl live. It lives on my bosom, where it is soft and warm and dizzy.  It sits in my hands that work and hold and move.

Because a big enough part of America feels heart-broken these days, the heart of America is breaking. Because so many of us love America, we all feel this heartbreak in varying ways. And because this is OUR beloved America, we must make room. We must calm the buck and relax the fist. We must reach out and open up. 

We love America, and as America's heart is breaking the only way forward is for us to make room for different views so we can let America do what it has always done. America makes room.

America loves us, so she makes room for all of us.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Virtuous Cycle

Last week, I started an Indiegogo fund-raiser for a dear friend who is facing a serious disease, and just a week later we are 55% on our way to our target! I continue to be amazed at the generosity of people. I continue to marvel at how, when you start a ripple waves immediately come.

We all have the capacity to start a virtuous cycle, to question what is wrong and move towards what is fair and just.

It is truly amazing what we can do together.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New Season, New Digs

The awesome window in the new digs

 A couple of weeks ago, I was walking around Brooklyn with my poetry family and we were counting the number of times we had moved in our lives.  I counted 12 in the past 12 years (including 4 1/2 countries). 

As New York finds herself in the early days of her same-time-next-year romance with Autumn, I find myself in the early days of a new romance with an space that I could really love. And this space, I think it knows the kind of loving I need. It's bright and airy, with giant windows of blue sky and moon. Buzzing in the daytime and smooth at night, this space gets it so right.

I occupy myself and my spaces with newfound confidence as my focus and energy are clearer and fuller than ever before. I am strong in my body, in my heart and in my mind. I am blossoming with creativity and purpose.  

Could I be entering Act 3 in the story of Tish? Oh hell, yeah!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

War Poem (August 23rd Revision)

Sadly this is a poem that continues to unravel, and those of us with voice and rage and open hearts must keep the story front and center. Stronger and stronger, our voices togeher.

There’s a war going on just underneath my skin
a quiet, harrowing war of the unspeakable
a war unsought. Never lost, never won.

A mole under my left eye, eternal tear
weeping for a flock of American soldiers
who killed all the husbands but spared my skin.

The space between my legs burns of
blunt blades, pointed fingers, savage laws of 
men in loin cloths, sacred robes and tailored suits. 

Under my knee, a gash from the weary fall of grandmothers
whose solider husbands marched to their deaths leaving
widows and orphans to see their liberation from the Japanese

Dynasties of fabric seeking the perfect lotus
feet bend my arches into breaking, making
each step excruciating.

On my left cheek, a disapproving brother’s signature
marked in acid, proud announcement to the world
little sister is a dirty girl not worthy of dowry.

Beneath my breasts, lungs damaged in the fall
down the well in the woods when fathers
wanted only Chinese baby boys.

A thousand bastard mongrel babies fathered by friars
cysts in my left ovary now severed by a doctor
marking forever the female parts of my childless body.

The cries trapped in the voiceless throats 
Of my kin forced into sex slavery in Syria
form a lump on my forearm, my wartime purple heart.

My left pinky finger bends at at point 
where the blade barely missed the lawbreaking 
painted nails offending Taliban sensibility.

In the dead of night, even today you still hear, “Magdalene, 
Asking for It, Virgin, Puta, Illegitimate Rape Victim,
Slut." There, just there. There's a war going on.

Monday, July 23, 2012

How Do You Show Up, and Why?

Mama and her first born.
(that would be me)
Being a first born has trained me to to be reliable, people know they can count on me to show up. From as early as I can remember, my parents instilled in me a sense of responsibility which has played a foundational role in the values that calibrate my journey.

I know this is not unique to first borns. We all show up to work, to meetings, to dates, to appointments, to commitments. This starts fairly early in life. We show up to breakfast, then we show up to school and if you're raised following any kind of religious practice you show up to services. There is a lot of showing up ingrained in our systems that we hardly even think about anymore. When my family calls on me, I show up to the best of my ability. It's something I am compelled to do, it comes from a deeply rooted sense of purpose and connectedness.

Me again, showing up as flower girl.
I have a distinct memory of how I learned to show up in my early days as a student. I am told that I started reading fairly early, so my parents decided that I was ready for pre-school at the age of 3. What they didn't count on was my emotional total unpreparedness. Apparently, mornings began as a wrestling match struggle involving tantrums and tears. This is now what I remember. What I remember is that my teacher made me the weather girl and it was my job to inform the class whether it was sunny, cloudy, rainy or stormy. Because of this, not only did I show up to my weather-girl duties, I also showed up and thoroughly enjoyed school.

Stepping into the spotlight,
showing up for me.
Over time, my reasons for showing up have been a combination of having to do things out of a more external sense of duty and a doing things out of a deeper sense of purpose. The different roles we play in life, the many callings we heed - they compel us in different ways. And as much as we show up for our job, our people, our promises - this is as much as we should show up for ourselves. What fights, causes and meanings do we have most heart for? What themes and topics get our fire going?

So I ask you what I often find myself asking myself: Are you showing up for you? Are you stepping into your own spotlight and heeding the calls that matter most to you?  And every time I find reasons not to, I remind myself of what it was like to grow up in the dictatorial 80's of the Philippines, surrounded by injustices beyond imagining. And I sound out the words spoken by a subversive nun of the 80's indie film, Sister Stella L. in all the languages of my heart: Kung hindi tayo ang kikilos, sino ang kikilos? Kung hindi ngayon, kailan pa? If not us, then who will move? If not now, when?

My friends, the stage is set. The audience is waiting. And your heart, it burns bright and beats strong. And your heart is beautiful. And every time you show up for you, you are beautiful.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Sun Rises at 40

I think I get it now. I think I finally get what they mean when they say that life begins at 40. As a newbie forty-something, I have found myself revisiting life's bigger questions and callings. Like a planet on its course, I have come to the question about my purpose, about what lights up my heart and fills me with joy.  Having turned 40 a year and a half ago, I find myself face-to-face with the very questions that confronted me half of my lifetime ago.

And while I do not think that life actually begins at forty, I have come to see my turning forty as the sunrise in my life. Which is to say, I am going to a new vision of life for myself. The sunlight is only just beginning to come through, so I am seeing an urgency of heart more than a clear picture. I am remembering the things that matter most to me. I am remembering the kind of work that revs me up. And in this remembering, the picture of where I come from blurs with the picture of where I am going.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Poem 8/30: Your Are Not Five or Fifteen

To be a dog, or a grown up. Or to be
a penguin. Aiden, who is now five,
has this power. To dive in to 
an imagining so real, he becomes
the thing. He is angry at his mother
when he is forced to wear underpants.
Penguins don't wear underpants, Mama.
I told you, I am a penguin today.
He is your nephew, your heart, your moon.
And you are not five or fifteen. You are
not even twenty five, not by miles.
Now, you must dive in. 
To be forty one.
To be a woman, brown woman in
this land uncertain about its new skin.
Brown woman in this world 
the old man is unprepared to see.
What is the power that you hold 
in this new brown world?
Is it your sex? Is it your skin?  
Imagine a Sunday at its best. All
sunshine and blossoms. Imagine
all voices raised, all sights on high. 
Now imagine the pulsing. Your heart. 
Your heart.

7/30: Mama Warned You About Days Like This

You have grown weary of the words,
always the words. So many words, always
talking, always talking. Your mama warned
you about days like this, days when your 
quick with and piercing words would crush.
Only, she never told you they would crush
your own self. Your own heart. Your weary,
wordy heart. You have said enough. Too much.
You were weak. Over here, they call it 
vulnerable. Your heart calls it weak, your
heart knows you went too far. You
showed them where they can hurt you,
you let them in. You told them. Silly
girl, you said here, right here, come 
and touch me right here.  And now 
there is no phone, the internet is down, 
they are are nowhere to be found and 
all you have left is a sorry ditch 
you cannot talk your way out of.

Monday, April 9, 2012

April 6 Poem: How Things Work (6/30)

My father liked to point out
the mechanics of things.
On planes, we would always sit 
near the wings so we could watch
as the pilot maneuvered the
flaps, opening wide to create 
resistance the shutting them tight
for a smooth glide. In airports as
planes landed, we looked out
for the landing gear - those wheels
the pilot released just as the plane 
touched down.  When I was 
learning how to drive, he showed
me the car engine, made me see
how it moved as he hit the gas or 
shifted gears. He  made me 
change a tire, taught
me how to check the oil. 
The heart is an engine and a man is 
an engine and a father is an 
engine. My father showed me 
the mechanics of love. Most nights
till I was twelve, he would tuck
me and my sister in bed,
brush our hair out of our eyes,
kiss us on our foreheads.
I learned what tenderness 
looked like on the face of man
when my father kissed me
goodnight. And later, much 
later, my father taught me
forgiveness. When I broke his
heart, with my angst and my 
words. When he broke my
heart with his struggles
and failings. The heart,
the eyes, the tender eyes,
the forehead kisses. My father
taught me the mechanics of
love. He took me under the hood
so I would know. So I could see.

April 5 Poem: When I Am French (5/30)

Sometimes I imagine I am French.
I picture myself in an a pied-a-tere
overlooking le jardin, sipping cafe au lait.
My voice lowers an octave, suddenly
sophisticated, spoken from luscious lips
that pucker and pout. I have a mole
on my face, a beautiful imperfection
somewhere close to my left eye. 
My brows, always perfect, arch with
more conviction and my deep brown
eyes will be equal parts sadness and sass.
I am always gliding, when I am French 
I gain grace and gait. Accordion 
music trails wherever I go.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

April 4 Poem: The Dance of the Left-Right Sway (4/30)

And each city is a flash,
each citizen a speck
on this train ride between
townships. Strangers sharing
this car, this air, this free wifi,
this conductor, this suspension
between to and from. Behind,
conversations of apparent
importance, spoken on a 
Blackberry with urgency.
"Family emergency... No,
there will be no way to reach
me at the hospital... Yes,
I promise to be on email 
as much as I can..." then
a long silence, not even a sigh.
Across me, a watermelon 
coat outshone by a smile, 
it must be love, a new love
she cannot contain.
She stares out the window,
as if to make a wish and 
then, she is suddenly sad..
Beside me, a logbook,
an iPad, a calendar and
a calculator. It is tax season
in the East Coast and he
is both King and drone,
he leaves his armaments
only once and returns with
his third coffee. 

And the speed of the 
journey is swaddled in
the softest sunlight,
camouflaged by the
left-right sway. And the man 
with the clicker is always
the boss. And the suit
who steps out to take
a call means business,
so does the pearl-wearing
hair flipper he is here with.
The conservative in the
seat next to me reads about
the missionary position, and
the hipster across from him 
is bored. And the argyle 
sweater in the middle is
pensive and the watermelon
coat is smiling again.
And each city is still 
a flash, and each citizen
is less of a speck in the 
sway and the rock from 
New York to Boston today. 

April 3 Poem: When the Body is Angry (3/30)

In my case, it is the belly.
Always. As if my every hope
and fear is held there. As if 
my every nerve winds around
there. It will not be ignored,
cannot be ignored. But sometimes
it is the shoulder. As if all that
I bear leans there. As if all my
struggles wrestle there. 

In my case, it is also the fist,
the lashing tongue, the 
uncontrollable stomp. 
Once it was deeper inside, the
anger. In this case, it was
vindictive. It was plotting.
It was punishing. It required
surgeons and treatments,
It was scarring, irreversible.

When the body is angry, you listen. 
You must listen. Listen 
for the tiny creaks, listen 
for the whispered moans, listen 
for the happy humming, listen
for the fracture, listen
for the break, listen
for the fissure, listen
for the rebellion. Listen
when the clots form. Listen
when the cells conspire. Listen.
When the body is angry, listen.
You must listen.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April 2 Poem: There Never Was Window (2/30)

Sweep all the rooms once
twice, thrice to be sure.
Take out the trash, 
make sure every inch 
is spotless. Shut off 
every light, turn the key.
Never look back.
Your truths and your lies
are in boxes and bags again.
How many boxes and bags
have carried you from way to
way, from bed to bed, from 
movement to movement.
Your face is a stone, 
and your feet are the ocean. 
There is no sand, there are no
cards, there is no house. There is
no more house. There never was 
a house. A door. A window. 
You were  never a Sequoia.
You could never work with straw.
The wind always came, then the rain.
Always the rain.
Always the rain.
Always the rain.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April 1 Poem: Manang Adang (1/30)

Illuminada was always old,
her soft raisin hands
running through my hair
every morning before school,
gingerly and forcefully holding
together my innocence
and endless questions
in a perfect braid
so taught, my head
would ache till recess.

We called her "Manang Adang,"
this woman who took care of me
and my sister, Veronica. She made
our meals, did our hair, mended
our clothes, poured milk
into glasses in the mornings
and evenings. She was
our first lesson that you can
grow your love for another,
so big she becomes family.

Later, she was
also our first lesson in
betrayal and heartbreak.
First the golden spoons
my grandfather squirreled
through the war, concealed
from the Japanese and
corralled against
the bombs. Then, it
was a gold bracelet my
great grandmother
had made especially
for the arrival of her first
great grand daughter.
There, all there hiding
among her things,
the wrinkled handkerchief,
the betel nut, the rosary
she prayed every single day.

* "Manang" is a Filipino term of endermeant and respect for someone older, an older sister or someone you feel sisterly respect for.

April Means Poems Poems Poems!

And here we go again, April is National Poetry Month and poets everywhere will be writing thirty poems in thirty days. Watch this space and follow me on this journey!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

with freedom comes praise, with praise comes prayer (a poem in progress)

you speak your holy words out loud on our
subway and stare your judgement at me. 
if i told you which gods i prayed to
or why, would you respect me any
more or any less? would my 
words roll differently
into your ears? if i 
praised bathala
would you
would you
hiss at the power
of my brown god? would
you scoff at my sungodblessed
golden brown soul? if i blessed you
with my namaste would your heart open
to the abundance? would the core of you unfold?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Synchronize: The Happiness Philiosophy

Ditas Vallés, my gorgeous Nana with my sister
and mom-blogger Rone of


This is a concept my Nana introduced us to. In her specific instance, she used the term in the context of celebrating on pace with another, with a round of beverages usually of the Scotch nature. 

As I think about what happiness means to me, I realize that I am happiest when my Sense of Purpose, Passions and Pursuits are in synch. In contrast, I am least happy when I feel out of synch. And for the most part, being out of synch means that whatever I am pursuing is at odds with my passions and deep sense of purpose.

So as simple as this sounds, it is equally powerful: Synchronize your sense of Purpose, Passions and Pursuits and you stay happy. And of course things this simple and powerful are often easier said than done. But if you follow along over the next few weeks, we'll unpack this discussion and plan our way to happy trails.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Let's Jump!

It's a leap year and today is the 29th of February.

I'm ready to jump, are you? Are you ready to let go of all things holding you back? Are you ready to focus forward, always forward? Can you feel that buzzing at your feet, that tingling of your spine? Even your cells know it.

You're ready. So take my hand, let's do this.

Let's jump.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Drama Experts

Television has been part of my life in various ways. The Philippines is the sole American 'colony' in Southeast Asia and American popular culture has always fascinated Filipinos. My friends and I grew up with (and loving!) Sesame Street and the Electric Company's lessons and entertainment.

As a communications professional, television remains a fascination, a source of insight, a form of education and a diversion. As I watch TV, I find myself shifting between someone engaging in content and someone evaluating what the content is saying about our culture. Why some shows or genres do better than others is telling us something about ourselves. Why certain personalities gain greater traction and recognition than others sheds light on what the population looks up to, even aspires for. The staying power of  'reality TV' and the shift towards a sensationalized approach to presenting the news are telling us something: Drama is here to stay.

Studies say the average person watches 4 hours of television a day. That one half of the work day, one sixth of a 24-hour period. If we apply Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule this means that seven years of consistent TV-watching will make us experts. Experts in what, you might ask? Drama. Consider the way elections are presented, or the nature of popular political discourse. Consider the precocious nature of programs targeting  young audiences. Consider the fact that the Whitehouse crashers were also Reality TV personalities. Consider the inappropriate celebration of toddler beauty programs. Consider the disconcerting displays of excess in housewife and real estate programs. Is this really the best we can give ourselves? Do we really want to raise drama experts who thrive on pettiness and hide behind caricaturization?

Sesame Street and The Electric Company opened my eyes to a world that was inclusive, compassionate, musical, cultured, ethnically diverse, articulate and curious. Words were carefully chosen, stylistic choices were made to enhance the content and not compensate for the lack thereof. There was nothing trashy, there was never dumbing down.  I am not sure when the bar was lowered, or indeed how low it has shifted but I am beginning to see signs of hope. I am seeing an influx of well-written programs, complex characters and compelling plots coming onto the small screen.

Perhaps the TV industry is reclaiming their power once again. Perhaps they found their way back to Sesame Street. Perhaps they are gonna turn it on and bring us the power.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

In Praise of the 140 Character Form Restriction

Verse, rhyme and meter have been among my favorite companions since as far back as I can remember. One might attribute my open-mindedness to verse, rhyme and meter. I always get such a rush when I play by rules of rhyme, form and meter with the unadulterated liberation of language. 

For me, twitter’s je ne sais quoi lies magically in this tension. It’s why I get such a head rush when I dive the endless possibilities that lie in 140 characters or less. 140 characters demand clarity and conviction. They expect a point of view from you. They force you to make choices.

From the fall of 2010 when I followed my mom-blogger sister’s lead and got into twitter in earnest, it’s taken me all this time to figure this out. At the heart of my twitter conviction is a bit of smugness. It’s that part of me that says, "I can be articulate and speak with conviction in 140 characters or less. What have you got for me?"

As the twittersphere expands and the tweeting becomes mainstream, know this: Just because you are tweeting doesn’t mean you are actually saying anything. So whether you’re planning to tweet, shit talk and engage in the space remember this: Speak with conviction, take a stand and enjoy the ride.