Monday, October 31, 2005

Day of the Dead

I love Halloween and Day of the Dead. It wasn't a holiday I recall celebrating when I was growing up, although I've heard that a lot of Filipinos do celebrate it--probably by calling it 'All Souls Day' more likely than not. But I'm glad that--mostly through my friendships with Latinos and other conscious people of color--I've begun to incorporate the celebration of this holiday into my life. Among those I want to remember and honor this day...

My Mama Hely--if she had been born a man and white, the woman would've been a gourmet, 5-star restaurant chef, hands-down. The best flan-maker in the universe. A couple years after her death in 2000, I attended a Filipino party where they served a flan that brought tears to my eyes; it was the first I had tasted since Mama passed away that was even close to being as good as hers. She was my spiritual mother in many ways who raised me as her own from the time I was 2 months old when my Mom was off at work, workin' hard as so many single moms must do. I still miss you, Mama. Every day.

Khalil Abdus-Samad--funny, warm, generous, righteous. Khalil was an organizer with POWER in San Francisco, a radical organization of low-wage workers. My most vivid memory of Khalil was on a CFJ retreat, which he attended as a rep from POWER. We got to chop it up a bit, just hang out, which activists don't get to do enough because we're often too damned busy. I remember telling him that his walking stick--a yellow-beige bamboo pole--was nice, which prompted him to look at it thoughtfully, and then hand it to me. "Take it, it's yours," he said.

Rosa Parks, the Civil Rights Movement icon who sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. I've helped tell the 'real' story of Rosa Parks countless times in organizing trainings, reminding people that Ms. Parks was not a random, lone protester that was just too tired to get up after a long day of work, but that she was involved in her local NAACP and acted as part of a larger organized effort to desegregate the Montgomery bus system. Rest in Power, Rosa.

Yesterday, H. and I went to the Fruitvale Dia de los Muertos festival, saw the beautiful and varied altars there, including one from Grupo Maya, a Guatemalan solidarity group, and another that showed off on a circular, tiered concrete display, dozens of painted skulls that represented famous ancestors, such as Che Guevara and others. Daniel Sanchez and his Nopal Apparel T-shirts were there, representin' with beautiful new designs on posters and T-shirts of classic Sade and Marvin Gaye images. I'm glad I ran into D. and Nopal at the festival because now I know where I can stock up on Christmas/Winter Solstice gifts!

This is one of my favorite poems in honor of the dead. Thanks to Luisa Teish for the inspiration and connection:

Those who are dead are never gone;
they are there in the thickening shadow.
The dead are not under the earth:
they are in the tree that rustles,
they are in the wood that groans,
they are in the water that sleeps,
they are in the hut, they are in the crowd,
the dead are not dead.

Those who are dead are never gone,
they are in the breast of the woman,
they are in the child who is wailing
and in the firebrand that flames.
The dead are not under the earth:
they are in the fire that is dying,
they are in the grasses that weep,
they are in the whimpering rocks,
they are int he forest, they are in the house,
the dead are not dead.

--Birago Diop

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Two Thousand

So, the mark's been reached: 2,000 U.S. military deaths in Iraq.

On the one hand, this is a terrible sign of the utter failure of this 'War on Terror' to do anything but produce more death and destruction for not only 'Americans' but for all the other peoples that have lost sons and daughters in this war. It makes me extremely sad to know that my government is wreaking so much havoc, wasting so many lives and precious resources, for the sake of profit and imperialism (also known as 'democracy' by some).

On the other hand, I find hope in the literally dozens of small to large events/protests/candlelight vigils that are being organized in response to these 2,000 deaths. These events aren't just happening in the usual places like San Francisco or Berkeley, but also in small towns and cities like Laguna Hills and Palm Springs and San Diego--not the kind of places where you find large progressive organizations, but where people are obviously feeling the effects of this war and wanting to build a world that's more peaceful.

And no matter how jaded and cynical I get as a now-semi-veteran activist, these small flickers of light in the darkness make me realize that all is not lost.

Keepin' Hope Alive,

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Generic Jedi, Boba or Janga Fett, or a Sith?

I'm searching for the perfect Halloween costume and bemoaning my lack of sewing skills (and machine, although my kumare/comadre has one that she's always said I can borrow). Found some cheap Jedi robes, but they're all made of polyester. Polyester! Can you imagine Qui-Gon Ginn or Obi-Wan Kenobi wearing polyester? I think not.

The one character I know I'm not interested in being is Queen Amidala/Padme. Too elaborate, too girly. And I ain't pale enough neither.

But I did find some surprisingly cool-looking Darth Maul costume, which made me wonder whether I could be seduced to the Dark Side? Hmmmm....

Too bad Gura didn't nab a bunch of extra Jedi robes and light sabers during her time as a Jedi. Sniff.

Wish me luck,

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Not So Serious, After All

People are often surprised--and sometimes I am too--that my favorite TV show (not counting the Sopranos which I can only watch on DVD after the season's over) is Tyra Banks' runaway hit America's Next Top Model on UPN.

I've never been much of a fashionista, but in recent years--thanks in large part to H.'s 'high street'-fab fashionista ways--I've spent much more time figuring out what my personal style is, what colors I look good in, shopping for makeup, etc. Now, don't get me wrong, I still leave the house most days with nothing on my face but my Rachel Perry lip gloss and some moisturizer (I thank my Moms for my good skin), but there ain't nothing wrong with a girl rockin' some peace lip gloss, mauve blush, black mascara, or even violet-hued eyeliner (which I wore at Rhett and Michelle's wedding. (I was shocked at how so little color could make my eyes pop so much).

I think it's telling that most of the referrals I get from Google are for people looking for pictures of Eva the Diva, the winner of Cycle 3. I also get the random searches for 'Toccara Jones naked"--Toccara was the gorgeous plus-size model that got eliminated half-way through the same season that Eva won the grand prize.

So if ya ever see me on the street with a less-than-smile on my face, lookin' dour, or if you ever think my political/social/cultural rants on this blog are a bit too serious, just remember that on 8pm every Wednesday, I join the masses and fixate for an hour on wanna-be supermodels taking photo challenges and walking down runways.

Because you can't be serious all the time.


Saturday, October 15, 2005


Today I remember Helen Toribio (perdon for the formatting, but it surmises well what Helen brought to all of us), who passed through the veil last year today. I echo Gura's wise words about remembering, respecting and letting go.

I also remember that death is only one part of the cycle of life, and what better time to remember this than Fall? And as I picked out my pumpkins at the Pumpkin Festival in Half Moon Bay today, I was reminded of how much I love fall--love to watch leaves turn color, to feel the air turn crisp and cool, to take out my winter coats, to clothe myself in autumn's hues, crimson, orange, brown. Funny, since I'm also someone who has experienced loss in a profound way in my life, not just through the physical death of people I care about, but through the loss of old friends whom I have outgrown, or who have outgrown me.

And although I don't regret letting those people go--because surely, no friendship is worth one's own dignity, creativity or mental health--even the death of the most unhealthy of relationships is a loss. And loss must be mourned. I am reminded today, for some reason, that perhaps I haven't mourned those losses enough, and that I still have to be gentle with myself as I try to move through and beyond that loss.

But I'll be looking forward to spring next year (and my much-anticipated, first-ever trip to Europe!), because the season for death and mourning does pass, as always.


Sunday, October 09, 2005

Double (Wedding) Happiness

This year was a big wedding year for me and H. Earlier this fall, our two good friends A. and N. held their commitment ceremony on the shores of the Pacific Ocean at the Marin Headlands Institute. And yesterday, Gura M. and Tatang Retong, and my co-worker D. and his woman V., tied the knot. No, it wasn't a double wedding, but both events happened on the same day, which made my Saturday a busy one.

First, went to Gura and Tatang's ceremony at St. Joseph's Basilica in Alameda. I grew up going to this church; I was baptized there and received my first communion and confession there. My sister also went to the adjoining high school (also the bride's alma mater), so there were lots of flashbacks and deja vus for me. It was a lovely, fairly traditional Catholic wedding, but Father Rich made it more interesting by doing a kind of interactive, almost talk-show like homily (sermon), while the traditional malongs worn by the sponsors andMaster Kalanduyan and his Panabuniyan Ensemble's kulintang performance gave the ceremony a more tribal-regal air.

After that ceremony we dashed over to the Oakland Museum for D. and V.'s wedding. We missed the actual wedding ceremony (I'd told them about this ahead of time), but arrived in time to see the happy couple posing for post-ceremony photos. V.'s dress was gorgeous, a slim, cream-colored silken slip of a dress, and D. looked dashing in his updated tux. The Museum's a surprisingly beautiful place to have an outdoor wedding; on the far side of the building there is an enclosed terrace and grassy courtyard. The only drawbacks were the infrequent siren or helicopter sounds floating over the otherwise bucolic setting; this is still Oakland, after all!

After eating and chilling for a little bit at the Museum wedding, H. and I dashed off again to pick up my Mom, who wanted to go with us to Gura and Tatang's reception, which was at a nice hotel out in San Ramon. We got to hang out with my kumare and kumpare, my ina-anak and his brother, and a bunch of other folks at the party--including fellow blogistas Jean Vengua and Eileen Tabios. And of course, this being a Filipino wedding and all, we got to cha-cha to our heart's content (H. was a trooper and kept up pretty well; Filipinos are notorious cha-cha lovers). There was a sweet slide show of M. and R.'s childhoods and courtship, and of course, the money dance.

But the highlight of the reception was definitely seeing the bride--in full, floor-length white wedding dress and veil, no less!--doing an impromptu kali demonstration during the halad (offering) section of the program. The bride said it wasn't planned, and knowing Tuhan Joe, that doesn't surprise me, but she stepped up to the challenge with her usual panache and grace, and wowed the wedding crowd with some beautiful stick- and knife- (yes, I said knife, but it was a butter knife) play, taking on two other guros (teachers) as well as Tuhan (Master) Joe himself.

I had wanted to try and go to D. and V.'s wedding 'after-party' back in Oaktown after the reception, but it was past 11 p.m. when we left, bamboo plant wedding favors in hand. But we had a great day celebrating the joinings of two beautiful couples, and I send them much love and many blessings as they embark on their lives together.