Pumapatak ang ulan sa semento.
Coloring it darker than it was before.
As the intensity increases,
I peek my hand outside my umbrella.
Allowing water to kiss my skin.
Eventually lowering the divide,
I allow it to engulf me.
Memories of home flood my mind.
Murky waters seeping into my belongings.
Cold droplets suddenly become
Warm welcome embraces.
Swift winds turn stagnant and sticky
As rain mixes with sweat.
I hear the roaring of motors,
Whispered chatters of tsismis,
A symphony of honking horns,
Bells of sorbeteros,
And Kuya yelling “TAHOOO!”
I smell the grease of fried fishballs in the air,
Swirling around with the scents
Of fresh pandesal and isaw-isaw.
My mouth begins to water,
Until stifling smog hits me.
I see the tiny tin houses crowded together.
Colorful clothes hung up high.
I feel the rough, callous hands of kapwa,
Who have had to work everyday of their lives.
I hear the laughs of those who remain resilient
After many typhoons have torn them down.
I smell the piles of trash; its stench diluted by the rain.
As the Pacific Ocean connects our coasts,
The rain connects our hearts.
Rainfall never fully dissipating
Between home and homeland.
Our stories unfold.
Hangang sa muli
They told me I’m made in the image of God
But why do they tell me, “Stay out of the sun Janelle”
“Make sure you put on sunblock Janelle”
“Use papaya soap Janelle”
What kind of kingdom is this? It feels like hell
Scrubbing my skin
Pinching my nose
What hurts more
Is my deeply rooted self-hatred
I can’t shake it
Pinoy pride on our shirts
But underneath, white is all we strive to be
Home in the land of the free
Pinanganak sa Pilipinas
Lumaki sa America
Sino ka ba?
Ako? I’m proud to live in a place that
Stands for liberty & justice for all
I’m proud to be light-skinned
I’m proud to not sound like a FOB
I’m proud to live in such diversity
But turns out, I live in this hegemony
Sino ka ba?
Ako? I’m free
Free to play the game
My colonizers created
Free to assimilate
Assimilate to eradicate
My Filipina identity
Then Jesus swoops in to save me
Not like my colonizer, no
But as a Father who knows
And loves every part of me as I am, Fil-Am
Sino ka ba?
Ako? Ako ay anak ng Diyos
Binuhos niyang biyaya para sa akin
Para dumating ako sa puntong ito na
Maganda ako kasi Pilipina ako
Now I can see
The image of God
Redeemed in me
This was the first poem that I ever wrote. I had just returned from a six week mission trip in the Philippines where I had begun to further understand the lasting effects of U.S. imperialism and specifically, how it affects our perception of self. I was inspired by Ruby Ibarra’s work and I wanted to convey my process in fully accepting my Filipina American identity. Even in the midst of brokenness, I saw and continue to see the beauty of God’s healing and redemption in me and in the Filipino people.
— The End —