things to write about when you are filipino-american

1.

Sinigang, maybe.
Adobo, sisig, halo-halo.
Fitting food into my mouth
like they hold the key to a language
I’ve never learned.

 

2.

Watching telenovelas in the living room
of some auntie.
My relatives clamoring
over the TV to gasp and
sigh and
yell obscenities.
Tugging on the arms of
Auntie Tess or Des or Flor
to ask what Coco Martin said this time.

 

3.

God.
Knowing that
something is usually about
God.

 

4.

Grandpa.
Grandpa at 17 hiding in holes
while Japanese soldiers
raided his village.
Grandpa at 91 telling his stories
with dirt still
curling underneath his fingertips.

 

5.

Lilting syllables and rolling accents
sequestered behind
my parents’ lips.

 

6.

Going on 19 years,
more equipped to have a
conversation with
the gas station cashier
than my own grandmother.

 

7.

Realizing that I can only speak
the language of my ancestors’ colonizers.

 

8.

Pampanga,
and houses I’ll never visit.
Maybe something about
mango groves.

 

9.

Piecing together
the fragments and memories
of a culture not quite mine.
Trying to wrap my tongue around words
like kamusta and
magandang umaga,
like they’ve
belonged all along.
Being told that I don’t
get to say “we” when I talk
about the Philippines.

 

10.

A generation of brown children
born from immigrants
seeking a freedom that
no longer means
a boat across the Pacific,
a foothold on American soil.
A generation of children
daring to want for more
than the end to the monsoon.

 

0.

My story residing somewhere
in the hyphen
between

Filipino

and

American.

 

This poem is about: 
Me
My family
My community

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