Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The End of One Path

And the beginning of another path--well, really, two. Yes, I'm finally winding down this blog. It's hiccuped and rolled along with me, during good and not-so-good times in my life, helped me get more clarity about the kind of writer, and the kind of person I'd like to be, and most importantly, helped me to communicate with many people that I otherwise would never have met, seen or spoken to over the years. In addition, writing this blog has helped me deepen otherwise casual relationships with people I've met off- and online, and helped us exchange ideas that our normal everyday interactions might not have allowed us to. This blog was my introduction to blogging, and it's done it's job.

And so have you. Thanks for reading, and join me on the next phase of my writing journey, as well as at another blog I'm starting about my process of trying to live more 'green' and sustainable as a woman of color.

Thank you thank you thank you for reading my random rants and reflections. And I hope you'll follow along as I embark on my new adventures!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

'Tis the Season: Reflection

My birthday is this time of year (December 30th for the calendar-slaves among you) and for the last several years, in addition to celebrating by going out dancing, drinking and / or eating with friends, I've also taken time to wind down at the end of a busy year, look back on what I've done and haven't done, and reflect. Being a Capricorn, this time of reflection is important for me, because we are so goal- and achievement-oriented that we can sometimes lose sight of the big picture. Going inwards, ironically, helps me get more clarity on what my external work in the world should be. As this beautiful poem, by Rafael Jesus Gonzalez, accomplished poet and my first creative writing teacher, describes, we Caps are always searching for the inner core, the 'cardinal point' of the earth. We're always searching for deeper meaning and purpose.

I will be winding down this blog soon--this may be my last or very close to last post. I've talked about it before but am definitely doing it this time. After five-plus years of writing this blog, it's time to move on. I will be starting a new blog about the sometimes painful, often confusing, and at times joyful process of be(com)ing a writer, so stay tuned for more details.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rest in Peace: Remedios Fernandez Manuel

(The pic above is from me and H.'s wedding last year. That's my Auntie Remy on the left, my Mom on the right)

Writing is often a way for me to process things, a way for me to express emotions that are confusing, knotty or complicated (or all three!), so it doesn't surprise me that I woke up this morning with this urge to write this remembrance--my eulogy of sorts, I guess--for my Auntie Remedios (Remy) Fernandez Manual, my mother's only sister, who passed away in Los Angeles this past Saturday, October 24, 2009. She had been suffering from complications following triple-bypass surgery several weeks ago. She was 62 years old.

The concrete things first: Auntie Remy was born and raised in the Philippines, wife of Salvador Manuel, mother of twelve children. She immigrated here to the United States two years ago, flying on a Cathay Pacific jumbo jet with myself, her husband and her son, my cousin, Richard. She was illiterate, and grew up very poor and uneducated in a small town in Pangasinan, far to the north of Manila. She worked in the market selling vegetables under the hot sun, in addition to being a 'helper' for rich families--cooking and cleaning for them, in addition to raising her family. She spoke Pangasinan and Tagalog and a tiny bit of English, and had just learned her ABCs so that, ultimately, she could learn how to read.

Of course these salient details don't give a very complete picture of my Auntie Remy. I didn't know her very well, was only with her a handful of times--in the Philippines when I was there for two weeks, in LA a couple times, and then twice when she was here in the Bay Area (for my wedding and then to spend time with my Mom)--but she was the kind of spirit who made an impact on you in a quiet, subtle and profound way. Just a few memories from the short amount of time I knew her:

The first time I met my Auntie Remy was a little over two years ago. I was nervous, hot and sweaty from the smoggy Manila night air, and nearly shaking. I had just arrived for my first trip to the Philippines, and was already completely out of my element--from the language barrier (I speak very little Tagalog and only understand a little bit more, and speak absolutely no Pangasinan, my family's native dialect) to the cultural differences (I couldn't understand how people could be wearing so many clothes when it was so hot out!), I could already tell that this trip would be challenging for me. But when I saw my Auntie Remy come out of the door of the condo, I immediately remembered why I had made this trip. My mother hadn't been back to the Philippines since she left in 1967, and refused to join me on this trip as well, and so I was her proxy, her conduit to all the people back home. None of them had had seen my mom or me except in pictures, and only had talked to us on the phone before this. When she saw me, my Aunty Remy's face broke out into a crooked smile (she was, probably more importantly from her perspective, seeing her son Richard for the first time in nearly six years), and then both of us started to cry. She held me for a brief moment, a slightly awkward, but necessary embrace, both of us knowing without having to say anything that this moment was about the re-discovery of family, about blood knowing blood, about our family bucking the odds to find each other again despite poverty, distance, cultural difference and time.

She looked out for me as much as she could while I was in the Philippines, worriedly placing her brown hands on my face and neck when I told her I felt feverish, saying in Tagalog that I needed to go to the doctor. I reassured her that I just had a cold, but her furrowed brow told me that she took it very seriously that her only sister's eldest daughter was not feeling well. She arranged with her friend to let me stay at their house my last couple nights there, because they had an air conditioned bedroom and spoke English. I think she knew, somehow, in the intuitive way that mothers of large families might know, that I was uncomfortable and lonely in this strange country that was supposed to be my 'homeland'.

It's ironic then, that what was undoubtedly the most important journey of my Auntie Remy's life was undertaken with me nearby--her transPacific flight to Los Angeles, California to live in this even stranger country, the United States. I remember taking pictures of her and her family in front of the house they were staying in--the house of a wealthy family that my cousin Lusita worked for--and how both happy and sad everyone looked. They were happy that they could all be together--we ended up caravaning to Manila so that they could see their mom and dad off--but also sad because their mother was leaving them. Auntie Remy was so clearly loved by all her children and her grandchildren, and I envied their closeness as much as it brought me joy to witness it.

After we flew from Manila to Hong Kong--my Auntie had never been on a plane before, mind you--I remember taking her to the bathroom in Hong Kong, a super-modern, luxurious place with those automated-everything bathroom, and struggling to answer the confused look on her face at all the electronic toilets, faucets, etc. She must have been as baffled by all this modernity as I was by the lack of hot water and technology in the province.

More recent memories I have of my Auntie Remy are more comforting and joyful: watching her dance at my wedding, smiling and happy; her carefree smiles as my Mom, my husband and I took her sightseeing at the Berkeley Marina when she came up for a visit, the way she kept thanking us as if what we had done was such a big deal--me for giving her my frequent flyer miles so that she could fly up from LA, my husband for driving us around; how she proudly demonstrated that she could recognize the letters on a restaurant menu. The few times I saw her in the states were probably some of the few moments of leisure she'd had in her long, work-filled life. Her children--who all seemed to inherit her good, loving nature--all talked about wanting her to rest and relax after taking care of them for so long, and I wanted that for her too.

I try not to think about how tired she looked the last time I saw her, when she'd just been released from LA County Hospital after her surgery, how she kept urging me when she got home, as if on a reflex, to "Eat more, eat more," probably because she knew she couldn't. She never fully recovered from the aftermath of the surgery, but at least now she is going home to the Philippines, where she will be put to rest in the land that she knew and loved the best, with all her children and grandchildren nearby.

Even though I really didn't know my Auntie Remy very well, I loved her. She was probably the most selfless and saintly person I have ever known, and the most peaceful. I'll miss you, Auntie Remy, and I hope you're dancing and smiling in heaven, having a good time, and just relaxing. You deserve it more than anyone else I know.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

For Gadget Geeks and Wanna-Be's

I am a time management junkie. That doesn't mean that I spend endless amounts of time tweaking and re-tweaking my calendar, task list, etc. (ok, I only spend a shitload of time doing those things--but all in the service of being more efficient, I swear!), but it does mean that I require that my time management gadget is effective, easy-to-use, and versatile. The iPhone addicts out there will be laughing at me in a second, but I don't care, because really, the PalmOS offers the most effective time management/calendaring functions of anything, and I mean anything, I've seen out there.

I'm a diehard MacPerson, and my purchased-in-2005-Powerbook-G4 is my most valued piece of property, but I'm sorry, iCal does not help me be productive. It's confusing, doesn't let you make tasks into events (crucial if you are serious about managing your time well), and on and on. Outlook, Entourage--pah. PalmOS' old school calendar, with tasks that you can categorize by color and name, which also match categories for your events (in iCal you have to create different calendars to do this, Jeez!), and which you can sort by date due and priority level, beats them all.

My personal gadgetry is, by modern US standards (especially in the Bay Area where it seems like everyone has a Blackberry, iPhone or other SmartPhone) pretty old school: I have a year-and-a-half-old Palm Handheld Zire (one of the last Palm non-phone PDAs) for my calendar, tasks, and many of my contacts, and a mid-level Samsung phone for Sprint that is good for calling and texting, which is mostly what I do with it. I don't even have an iPod or MP3 player. What a luddite, eh?

Now, I am enough of a technology-geek that I would like to have the all-in-one capability of a SmartPhone, but so far I haven't been able to give up the efficiency and ease of PalmOS for the cool slickness of an iPhone. Lately, though, with my consulting practice ramping up and my related need to be more mobile (conference calls, email from a cafe, not wanting to always have to lug my laptop around with me), I've been craving the convenience of one gadget over two. The frustrating thing is that I haven't been able to find what I really need--time management, WiFi, email capability, a reliable browser, a solid way to sync my contacts--all in one device. If anything, the more reviews I've read about what's out there and what people are using, I've realized some people who are as addicted as I am to efficient gadgetry are STILL using more than one device because the all-in-ones just really aren't that. I personally know at least two people who actually use a SmartPhone and a PAPER calendar! That says something about the time management (in)capability of the SmartPhones out on the market.

My search for the perfect SmartPhone, of course, began with the iPhone, since I am a MacGirl and am devoted to the brand (sick and twisted for a woman who claims to be anti-capitalist, but true). But like I said before, iCal wasn't gonna cut it for me, and even the seemingly powerfuly app OmniFocus didn't seem to be what I wanted. I want tasks+calendar, not tasks in one place, calendar in another. It's the bedrock of how I manage my life!

Blackberries never appealed to me because of the difficulty people I knew seemed to have with syncing it to their Macs. Since I've worked on Macs at home AND at work (I know, lucky me, eh?) for more than a decade now, it really wasn't an option to have a SmartPhone that wasn't Mac-friendly.

So then, I got all excited when the Palm Pre came out earlier this summer. Actually, I got excited about it way back in late 2008 when I first heard about it. Palm's answer to the iPhone, it claimed to take the best of Palm and take it another level with very conceptually coolSynergy, the new WebOS platform, cut-and-paste, 3G and very pretty design to boot. But after playing with it at the Sprint store a few times, I was greatly disappointed that it also didn't have a good calendaring/time management system. And I know I'm not the only one thinking, 'WTF, Palm?'

There may be hope, though, in MotionApps' new PalmOS emulator app. I need to check it out to make a final assessment, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Being that Palm has been my go-to time management device-source for nearly a decade now, I decided to check out the Centro, and although I still need to go play with it a little bit more, I think I my have found what I'm looking for. As the article linked above shows, the PalmOS is indeed soon going to be a thing of the past, but I hope that Palm listens to its loyal, highly-efficient base of customers, and integrates some of the features we loved from the old platform into a new calendaring app for the new WebOS.

When that happens, I will gladly buy a Pre--but only if Apple and Palm kiss and makeup so that Apple will stop blocking iTunes syncing for the Pre, and other such capitalistic, proprietary nonsense.

For now, I'm probably gonna stay closer to the old-school camp and finally get a SmartPhone--a PalmOS-based Centro with email and web capability. At $50 (after rebate, since I'm already a Sprint customer), I really can't go wrong. Or if the PalmOs emulator app works well on the Pre and I can have my PalmOS and WebOS at the same time--that could be the true definition of gadget-geek-joy!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Rest in Peace: Corazon 'Cory' Cojuangco Aquino

Although she was probably never as progressive as her husband, the late Senator Benigno 'Ninoy' Aquino, and disappointed many people with the lack of major reforms during her Presidency, I will always remember Cory Aquino as the first woman President of the Philippines. She was in many ways the epitome of the Filipina ideal (never too forward, unendingly loyal to her dead husband, morally upright and religious, supremely family-oriented). While I don't fit that ideal myself, and don't like its patriarchal constraints, there was something elegant and beautiful about how Cory carried herself in the world, and how she commanded respect and deference from her people as well as world leaders. I would be lying if I didn't say that the fact that Cory became President of my parents' home country didn't inspire me on some level to want to be the first woman President of the United States someday (a hope I've pretty much abandoned, of course, but my mother hasn't forgotten about it!).

She was a truly feminine leader, and paved the way for the next female Philippines President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (or GMA as she is more commonly called), who in many ways is sort of a shadow-Cory: more outwardly brutal in her suppression of 'subversive' elements and violently abusing her own people's human rights, more ruthless in her dealings with the many powerful men in her political sphere, and nowhere near as popular as Cory even during her lowest times.

I remember when I was in junior high and Ninoy Aquino was shot, and later when the People Power revolution on EDSA took the Philippines (and the world media stage) by storm. At the time, being as young and naive as I was, I was a little bit confused but also very proud of my countrymen (even though I had never been to the Philippines). The drama in the Philippines also played out in a different way in my family, as some of our (and wealthier) relatives were on the 'wrong' side of People Power and later needed to flee like the Marcoses did from the righteous wrath of the masses. I, even at my young age, knew that they were on the wrong side and was happy to see Cory and the yellow-clad people on EDSA drive the corrupt politicians and military henchmen out of the Philippines.

Of course, history would show that this glorious time of saying 'No' to corruption wouldn't last long, but Cory and many, many other of the brave leaders and ordinary people who stood up against a brutal dictatorship could celebrate their victory for a little while. And the Philippines got to bask in the glow of the People Power revolution on the international stage, proving that if we pulled together, we could overcome one of the most entrenched and violent US-supported dictatorships in the world.

Rest in Peace, Cory.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Another Blogger Against Racism

So I found out, thanks to this post on the Angry Black Woman blog, about the fourth annual International Blog Against Racism Week (or IBARW, because really any title that has more than two words needs to have an acronym!). And since I see myself as constantly working against racism, internalized, individual as well as external/institutional, I have to post something this week to commemorate this worthy effort.

Since I've been fortunate to work in nonprofits that consider themselves racial justice organizations--although I struggle to discretely define what that term means exactly--I will use my airtime to point you towards a few of my favorite racial justice groups:

The Applied Research Center, which was founded by racial justice extraordinaire Gary Delgado, and is now led by the equally amazing Rinku Sen. ARC is a think tank, communications hub, resource for educational materials on race, and also the publisher of Colorlines magazine, as well as the excellent blog, Racewire.

ARC was instrumental in launching the organization that I spent my formative political years with, Californians for Justice, another brilliant racial justice group that has been organizing in communities of color for the past fourteen years on issues such as affirmative action, bilingual education, lack of resources in California public schools, and youth empowerment.

On the literary side of things, the Carl Brandon Society promotes and supports speculative fiction/science fiction (SF) writers of color. Recently, they put out a thoughtful and practical (aka 'Hey White people, here is how you engage in reasonable discourse on race without totally offending and turning off People of Color') open letter, prompted by the recent online racial brouhaha between/surrounding K. Tempest Bradford and Harlan Ellison.

Also, my favorite writerly organization, the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation, or VONA as its better known, which offers an annual two-week workshop series for writers of color at the University of San Francisco campus. I was there this past year and got to study with one of my favorite writers of all time, Pulitzer-prize winning author, down-to-earth and super-hilarious Jersey homeboy Junot Diaz.

So now it's your turn to get with the program and do your part---write a blog post against racism, launch a new blog, whatever, just do it!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Another Goodbye: RIP E. Lynn Harris

I will admit that I've never cracked open an E. Lynn Harris book--mostly because I didn't feel like I was the 'intended' audience-- but even I knew that this man's contribution to the world(s) of African-American, LGBTQ and people of color fiction is outstanding. He was talking about the 'down low' way before Oprah did, and broke many barriers in literature and in book publishing that should put his name down in the history books.

Rest in peace, fellow writer, dreamer and artist, E. Lynn Harris. Here are a couple links with more information about this remarkable author.

Update: Thanks to my Goodreads friend Wilhelmina for pointing me to this tribute to Mr. Harris.