NOTES: End of year updates (2014)

Hey everyone, thanks for coming by.  Hope you are closing out the old year well, just as I am. It’s been eventful, and I feel like a much different writer compared to when I started.  I have a number of projects in the works, and I am looking forward to catching up on reading and writing over the holidays.

Some links to other places:

Working on a lot of different things right now, and I can’t wait to update you all with the next project! Looking forward to sharing more with you in the new year…

and don’t forget, #BlackLivesMatter . Let’s shut down the system that continues to oppress people.

jennifer laude

Reflection on the Murder of Jennifer Laude


October 17th is the Global Day of Action for Jennifer Laude, a Filipina who was murdered by visiting U.S. military forces in the Philippines.

Jennifer was a 26-year-old transgendered woman was killed by U.S. Marine, Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton on Oct. 11 in Olongapo City.  Mainstream media outlets immediately pulled out old slurs to create sensationalist headlines dehumanizing and blaming Jennifer for her own death.  The exhibition of transmisogyny is easily captured in the vault of any internet news search on Jennifer’s death.

It was evident while reading and watching the coverage that these reporters were still working with style guides referring to Jennifer as “he,” or printing her chosen name in quotes – as secondary. I was wrung dry when still footage of her paled, gray body slumped over a toilet bowl was shown on the evening news, as if she were a marvel to gawk at, her head blurred in a weak attempt to make it more palatable for the viewer. Jennifer’s body (whether slumped over in death, or in an orange bikini) was promptly displayed as tabloid fodder. In contrast, there was a noticeable lag in the release of Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton’s name and image in the media.

Judging from the internet, many thought Jennifer deserved to die. Comments bounced between the immediate transmisogynist hatelines, and the illogical justification of her death as the mere by-product of “economy boosting” U.S. military occupation in poorer nations, like the Philippines. There were also attempts to defend Pemberton as a marine, urging other readers to trust the system in place, and that Pemberton will “get what he deserves.”

Recalling the 2005 Subic rape case of “Nicole”, members of the U.S. military committing crimes in the Philippines with impunity is not new.  Nicole’s rapist, Daniel Smith, remains a free man. History has shown Filipinos that American military responsible for various atrocities against Filipinos and Filipinas are simply excused due their American citizenship or military status.  Knowing this immediately made me question my role as an American citizen in this process, and I became hyperaware the privileges I carry even as I became part of a public outpouring of grief.

Much of the public saw the grief as unnecessary and trusted whatever process was already in place to seek justice for Jennifer’s murderer. Not many saw that the apprehension was due to the possibility that Pemberton may get away with murder.   As a participant in joint-military exercises between the U.S. and the Philippines through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) Permberton is shielded from the punishment of his crime through the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).  The legal system, mired with racism and sexism (at minimum) views Jennifer as subordinate to her murderer’s status – Pemberton, a cis-male, white, a U.S. citizen, and a marine.  This is where the outrage lies in Jennifer Laude’s death.

Not many of us notice the ways these policies, discussed and signed behind closed doors in meeting rooms between politicians and ambassadors, threaten the lives of women and transgendered people on a daily basis. . Jennifer’s murder is a prime example of how bilateral agreements that live on paper, like the EDCA and VFA, damage the lives of citizens in the Philippines.  One death is already too many. There have been others before Jennifer and Nicole, whose stories aren’t deemed newsworthy, but whose narratives are testimony to the violent dynamic between the Philippines and the United States.  Coupled with Western media’s propensity to overlook casualties with brown bodies, it’s no surprise that there is a strong attempt to minimize Jennifer’s death.

The most offensive perspective on Jennifer’s murder is one that compares the loss of her life,  as the mere effect to the gains of economic benefits the U.S. military injects into the local economy during their station.  It is wildly immoral.

We revictimize Jennifer Laude by insisting she was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time, and by considering her death an individual act of happenstance. Her murder is the direct result of the EDCA and VFA, without which she would still be alive.  The attacks on her character is a result of the violence of transmisogyny. Jennifer’s murder goes beyond an isolated squabble between a U.S. marine and a transwoman, it is the residual effect of the relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines where U.S. military elements can act as they will on Philippine soil, without accountability.  As a Filipina living in the United States, I know this is a relationship that endangers all transgendered people and also women.  This is worrisome when U.S. military forces are stationed in hundreds of bases all across the the Philippines.

Until Scott Pemberton is handed to the Philippine legal system for his crime, we cannot assume justice will be served for Jennifer’s murder.  Especially for transgendered people living in the Philippines, the situation is more dire as they face the frequent discrimination of a largely Roman Catholic country.   As a U.S. citizen, Jennifer’s death emboldens me to challenge the way my government continues to endanger transgendered people and women all over the world.  It is vital to to hold the government accountable for creating pacts that subject communities of transgendered folks and women to abject violence.

With a heavy heart and being thousands of miles away, this is the only way I can help seek justice in Jennifer’s name.  I can hope that this never happens to any transgendered person again, and I surrender myself to the fact that Jennifer’s death is not the last.





**I am an outsider of the transgender community. I will never face the violence all transgendered people encounter on a daily basis due to transmisogyny.  I stand in solidarity with the trans community to end violence and work toward the genuine liberation of all oppressed people.


jennifer laude


#SHAMEONAQUINO: In defense of activists fighting for National Democracy in the Philippines

SHAME ON AQUINO: In defense of activists fighting for National Democracy in the Philippines

My name is Hanalei. I am a Filipina woman born in Jersey City, NJ. I am writing this entry because I am deeply moved by the actions carried out by activists during President Aquino’s speaking engagement at Columbia University’s Low Memorial Library for the World Leaders Forum on September 23, 2014. (Video above)

Much of the anonymous internet public has attacked the three people who were present at the forum for “disrespecting” Aquino on a very visible world platform. The same people have made a number of assumptions about who these protestors are. As a fellow community organizer in the New York City area, I can say many of us are the children of emigrated Filipinos who settled in the region between the 1970s-1990s. Some of us were born in the U.S., and others were not.   Some of us are students, workers in various industries, parents, children, and spouses. All of us firmly believe in achieving National Democracy (ND) in the Philippines by fighting for a government genuinely run by the Filipino people: peasant farmers, workers, professionals, and local business owners. We envision a Philippines free from foreign domination, and as migrants and the children of migrants, we embody the results of ongoing labor export policies at the height of their popularity during the Marcos era.

Many of us remain dedicated to the cause of achieving National Democracy because we are proud to have inherited the history of resistance of the Filipino people. By that standard alone, we have earned tremendous international respect, which outweighs the attention we’ve garnered on televised talent shows, historical ties to the yo-yo, and the possibility that any celebrity might be half Filipino.

Instead of labeling the latter as credible accomplishments, let’s celebrate the path to achieving justice in the Philippines. Let us celebrate that there are Filipinos who are born outside of the Philippines, deeply engaged in the welfare of the other country we love, the country of our parents, rather than be indifferent, apathetic, or disconnected from it. Let us celebrate that there is a vibrant Filipino community of ND activists that spans across the globe, ensuring that our people are protected from exploitation and can assert their basic human rights.

In this process, what is actually the most offensive display of Filipino attitudes is the stream of vitriol attempting to shame the group of activists who were present that evening. The comments attached to the press coverage in the media can be boiled down to self-hating remarks falling under these overarching themes: mocking undocumented Filipinos living in the United States; red-baiting activists who work for immigrant and workers rights ; statements that are both veiled and overtly racist, attacking other ethnic groups; and the reinforcement of cultural  subserviency through the denial of free speech. The rampant trolling is infinitely more appalling than any behavior exhibited by any protestor I’ve come across. It takes courage to confront (particularly the President of the Philippines), it takes nothing to simply agree. You have done nothing by liking a Facebook post, or by making anonymously offensive remarks on the internet.  These are acts of cowardice.

Should Aquino be seen in a different light on the world stage due to this incident, it is not because he was challenged and questioned by individuals in a public forum; it is because the President of the Filipino people did not have the ability to provide sufficient  answers to the questions posed.

In a functioning democracy, the people have a voice in how their government is run. If this were the case for the Philippines, Filipinos would not desperately seek every minuscule opportunity simply to be heard. Filipino community organizers wouldn’t exist if the issues were actually resolved. Until then, we will continue to oppose the administration responsible for the inequality faced by Filipinos all over the world.  We will be cowed neither into submission nor acceptance of the inadequate policies posed by Aquino’s administration. We will not ask for justice politely. We will continue to demand for change at the top of our lungs, and ND activists in the U.S. will be present at every Aquino speaking engagement, in every city.

Shame on Aquino for being the President with the highest recorded number of human rights violations and extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, and his inaction on past occurrences. (link: Human Rights Watch)

Shame on Aquino for denying the distribution of Hacienda Luisita, owned by the Conjuanco-Aquinos, to local peasant farmers (its rightful owners) even after Supreme Court rulings.  (link: Youtube, GMA Network)

Shame on Aquino for his inadequate response during Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) the largest landfall tropical storm, resulting in thousands either dead or displaced. (link: Manila Times)

Shame on Aquino for his administration’s continued corruption and the Pork Barrel scandal (link: Forbes)

Shame on Aquino for disregarding the basic needs and rights of the Filipino people, both inside and outside of the Philippines.

To learn more about what National Democracy for the Philippines looks like in the U.S., visit these sites:

Hanalei Ramos taken by AnnaMarie Vu

To My Girls

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and National Poetry Month.  For those two very important markers, I’m offering an old poem that I wrote back in undergrad.  I still revisit it from time to time.


To My Girls.

sometimes, we pick scabs
and are surprised they still bleed,

spouting oceans of crushed
pomegranate and shame.

we forget until we
hear that voice,
thick as paste down our throats

[whispering hot breath on
young necks.]

i want him to taste the
color of this pain; plant

needles in his lower lip like
the lies breathing, rooted in

our chests; plunge revenge
into his forehead because

our mothers accused us of
being liars or pretended to

be blind. cleaving hearts.
leaving our palms empty. loathing

every clear day
ruined by his thrust. love,

survival is more important
than innocence. i am here to

remind you, the shriveled part
of you that hides, how beautiful

it is and you are, despite these
memories. despite this loss.

[how watching every sunset and sunrise is a
testimony to your struggle.]

let us beat down
those spoiled summer

suns with our smiles, for to
laugh is to live and love again.

KONY 2012 Supporters Have Been Duped

I wrote an article on Kony and Uganda, and as of this writing, its received 400 shares and 17,000 views!  Thank you so much for making this piece viral!!!!  SAY NO TO U.S. intervention in Uganda! #stopkony #kony2012

KONY 2012 Supporters Have Been Duped @ PolicyMic


For more articles about the Ugandan oil strike, China’s growing influence in the region, and the U.S. troop deployment to Uganda click the following links: