A return and remembrance.

Life occurs in extremes.

The last four years have proven to be challenging, and required all my focus to give the semblance of moving forward. Obligations became more urgent, jobs became more severe, and creative endeavors were, of course, the first to be relegated to the sidelines. My political priorities have been tested, and my heart has shattered several times, only to reconvene in the most interesting formations.

Yet, I am here, returning to my craft. A return is always interesting; there is a hesitation to work through what is awfully familiar and a fear in one’s ability. This is the state in which I am writing this. Possibly the most vulnerable of my posts on this blog.

I am returning to writing because it is what I know and love. It is a commitment I’ve had great difficulty making amidst some self-doubts and trying times. Having had the opportunity to reflect, I’ve come to two understandings:

  1. Someone extremely dear to me engages in his passion on a daily basis. The confidence and joy I see him experience, and the experimentation to test his craft makes him seem so fulfilled. Despite the grueling hours and labor demanded of him as a chef, this is a condition I want to create for myself when I think about writing: if there will be trials and hardship, let it be for something I care about, let it be for something meaningful to me. If I were to lose hours of sleep, let me understand the reasons why. I have never known something as meaningful as writing which allows me to engage in my ideas, to communicate my beliefs and methods.  Therefore, the years have made me realize that content creation, writing, and production is how I want to continue interacting with the world. I hope to maximize this privilege…because I have the opportunity to do so.
  2. A person I know, Amelia, has just passed away over the weekend.  She was a lawyer for years and then gave it up to write. She simply had a gift. Her insights and voice are so clear and present in all the work she’s left behind in the world (and the internet.) Between 2010 and 2012 when I was attempting to eke out a career in writing, she and I had a brief exchange on its pursuit. Amelia suggested a number of places to submit and encouraged me to apply for some local grants. I followed some of her advice, but the demands of the real world tapered off the will to follow-through. I found myself in another job I hated, with people I don’t like, daily. Of course, I wouldn’t be writing during this time, either.  Every now and then, I’d see her at events, and we’d check in briefly about projects — it didn’t take me long to have nothing to say. I hadn’t seen her in years, and thought about her only in context of revisiting my pasttime. Then, I heard of her passing. I went to her Facebook timeline and 2017 consisted of a post regarding an upcoming FB break, a string of birthday wishes on Valentines Day, and then the announcement of her death by family members. It was shocking, and I immediately felt the loss. Losing Amelia is a reminder to be bold in my choices and to honor myself by practicing what I am good at, on a daily basis.

Winter Storm Stella has left me in quite a pensive state. I stay away from the slippery patches of ice on these cold days, despite them being full of sunshine. I am thinking of Amelia and the Chef and myself.

This is a declaration for me, and for you to hold me accountable; a reminder that I don’t have to be perfect to write, only that I must make it a habit.

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.

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:

A Billion Women Dancing, By Rina Jimenez-David, Philippine Daily Inquirer

The 1 Billion Rising Campaign

Videos on GABRIELA’s collaboration with the VDAY org, the 1 Billion Rising Campaign. What a great evolution in campaign work to bring awareness to the issue of violence against women! It is an honor to know the majority of these fierce women organizers from GABRIELA!