I never thought that as a Pilipina-American, my Pilipina identity would feel foreign to me.

I grew up at a small American Naval Base in Yokosuka, Japan and was encased in an American bubble. My mom did not speak a Pilipino dialect, so I grew up in an English-speaking household and did not understand when other Pilipinos would talk to me in Tagalog. I was more accustomed to eating chicken tenders, spaghetti, pb&j, and Japanese foods instead of traditional Pilipino dishes like pancit and adobo.

When my family moved back to the Bay Area in a predominantly Pilipinx community, I experienced a culture shock. For the first time in my life, I felt truly separate from my Pilipina identity.

I went to school and was clueless when my classmates talked about Pilipino games and dances. Most of my friends were “way more” Pilipino than I was. They would make fun of me for pronouncing Pilipino words with an American accent, which was embarrassing. It’s a feeling that has never quite shaken away, even as I’m starting college. I felt especially uncomfortable when my friends would ask me what my favorite foods were and I would answer with Japanese cuisine, then they would bombard me with questions wondering if I liked Pilipino foods I had never heard of.

While school life made me feel ashamed of not knowing what being a Pilipina meant, my new situation at home living with my grandparents made me feel differently. My grandparents regularly spoke Ilocano, so I couldn’t understand them, but it was exciting to be introduced to a new language inside my household. I had never heard of The Filipino Channel (TFC), which was a huge part of my grandparents’ day. My grandma would watch her teleseryes and translate for me, and I would sit with my great-grandma on Sundays and watch Pilipinx celebrities sing and dance on ASAP.

Through my grandparents, I finally had the chance to explore my Pilipina identity. Once I was introduced to it, I couldn’t wait to learn more about who I am and where my people come from.

I began to appreciate how family-oriented and community-oriented my people are. When I visited the Philippines a couple years ago, I met more of my family members who all lived in their own little complex, and they welcomed my sister and I with open arms. Having family gatherings where my elders tell stories about when they were young in the Philippines and we all eat yummy Pilipino food, enjoying each other’s company, makes me feel connected to my Pilipina culture in a way that I hadn’t felt growing up.

I cherish being a Pilipina because my culture is so rich and authentic. I went to the Pistahan Parade & Festival in San Francisco and watched Pilipinx’s from all around celebrate our culture through food, dance, and activities. The more I learned about the colonialism my ancestors faced and social issues such as skin brightening, the more I valued being informed on the struggles that my community faces and having the chance to discuss these problems with friends.

Being able to explore a part of my identity that I had previously ignored is one of the most enriching experiences because I have opened doors that will continuously let me learn more about myself and my Pilipinx community.

On Friday, October 27 at Kerckhoff Patio from 12-3PM, the UCLA External Vice President’s Office (EVP) held a phone banking event, which is a political campaign where students can call their Senator or Congress Representative to express their support for, in this case, the continuation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and for the support of the 2017 DREAM Act.

UCLA has the largest number of undocumented students in the University of California system, and around 1,100 undocumented students study at UCLA and UC Berkeley combined.

DACA, signed by President Obama in June 2012, allowed undocumented immigrants, who had come to the U.S. as a minor and usually know no other home, to legally stay, work, and even receive an education in the U.S. without fear of deportation.

This was tremendous progress for the human rights and civil liberties of undocumented immigrants. Prior to the policy, undocumented immigrants were vulnerable to crimes such as violence and exploitation from employers because they feared that law reinforcements would report the undocumented immigrants for deportation instead of helping.

However, on September 2017, the Trump administration rescinded DACA, claiming that the way Obama installed the policy, which was by Executive Order, was an abuse of power and promised that the current administration will do things the “right way” by passing a bill through Congress.

October 5, 2017 was the last day for undocumented immigrants to renew their DACA and many now face a very uncertain future where they may lose their job, be detained, and even deported because there are no federal legislation that protects them after DACA expires. Moreover, economists commented that the rescission of DACA would actually harm the U.S. economy because most undocumented immigrants today are pursuing a higher education and actively working.

Julio Mendez, a 3rd year Political Science major and Legislative Advocate at the EVP Office, said that this phone banking event’s purpose is to keep the Trump administration accountable for its promise on passing the DREAM Act, which will grant undocumented immigrants “8 years of provisional residency and pathway to citizenship.”

There also will be phone banking events every Friday, from 12-3PM at Kerckhoff Patio. Each week will focus on a different state or federal legislative issue, including Title IX protections and immigration policies.

If you are an undocumented Bruin you can use this link to find more information and support from the university.

If you wish to support the rights of undocumented immigrants, you can call your Senator/Congress Representative or anyone listed here to state your support (sample script included) for the rights of undocumented immigrants.

 

Correction: It was previously stated that the phone banking event every week will focus on different immigration policies. However, the event focuses on a variety of issues such depending on what is occurring state or federal legislature. These corrections have been reflected in the article. 

The controversial Atlantic article “My Family’s Slave” by the late journalist Alex Tizon sparked a range of emotion and discussion. Tizon writes about Eudocia Tomas Pulido, a Filipina domestic worker his family enslaved for 56 years and how he felt about her contested role in the family, even after her death. Reactions ranged from sadness at Pulido’s life, to anger at the Tizon family and Alex Tizon himself. The article raised key questions about modern day slavery, poverty in the Philippines, the power of narratives, and more. Read on to gain perspective on these important questions.

How might slavery arise in a Filipino American family?

In the United States, the word “slave” brings to mind the institution of chattel slavery. Therefore the common understanding of slavery in America is that it only happens within a Black-white racial dynamic. However, slavery can also exist within the same ethnic community. In the case of “My Family’s Slave,” the slaveowners are a working-class, immigrant Filipino family and the slave is a Filipina domestic servant. It is worth explaining the different historical and cultural contexts that Filipino immigrants bring with them, so we can challenge these conditions and the enslavement that often arises from them.

Poverty, imperialism, and joblessness back in the Phillipines forced Pulido into enslavement, which continued in the United States when the Tizon family migrated here. Filipino youth and student organization Anakbayan USA released a statement explaining the structural economic and social conditions of the Philippines that shaped Pulido’s life. This includes feudalism, an agricultural system in which landlords exploit landless farmers and peasants. Imperialist economic influences, including that of the United States, exploits these farmers such that they are unable to provide for their own families. This creates poverty and joblessness resulting in the mass migration of Filipinos abroad. Everyday, around 6,000 Filipinos leave their country in search of work. These overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) often find themselves isolated, indebted, and even undocumented.

Pulido is one of these OFWs, whose enslavement is a consequence of poverty in the Philippines. She was born into a poor family and her choices for survival were to either marry a pig farmer twice her age or to become a servant (katulong) for another family. Marrying a pig farmer would have kept her in poverty as a part of the poor peasant class, while becoming a domestic servant as an already poor woman would have made her easily exploitable. In the U.S., the Tizons forbade her from leaving the house; she could not drive, use ATMs, or speak English; and for a good while, she was undocumented. Considering her circumstances, it is not surprising that Pulido “chose” to stay with the Tizons; she had no other viable options for escape.

Who was Eudocia Tomas Pulido’s life before she became “Lola”?

A common criticism of “My Family’s Slave” is that Alex Tizon focuses too much on his own guilt and struggle rather than centering Pulido’s perspective. Filipina journalist Lian Buan takes us into Pulido’s hometown of Tarlac to gather the perspectives of those who knew her in a different light, outside of the master-slave dynamic: her surviving family. These articles offer insight into Pulido’s life that Tizon, for whatever reason, did not cover himself.

In Tarlac, Pulido goes by another name: Aunt Cosiang, rather than the name “Lola” (grandmother in Tagalog) as the Tizon family knows her. According to her niece Ebia, although she did not wish to marry or have her own family, one thing she wished for was “to stay for good here [Tarlac], to sell what she cooks, because she cooks very well, especially pastries.” Over the years, Pulido had sent back cooking and baking tools in hopes of opening a bakery to sell puto, or steamed rice cakes. In Tizon’s telling of Pulido’s thoughts about moving back to the Philippines, he could only write that she could not go back permanently because she was ashamed about not sending back money or because America was all she knew. This disparity reveals how relying on Tizon’s narrative conceals essential parts of Pulido as a person. “My Family’s Slave” missed many opportunities to let Pulido tell her story from her own perspective. In Buan’s evaluation of the piece, Tizon devoted much of it to describe the good things he had done for Pulido instead of what she must have thought about her circumstances. As someone who was silenced and abused for essentially her entire life, to not offer her a chance to break this lifetime of silence furthers the marginalization of her agency, and the agency of other exploited workers like her.

What can we do now?

Both Pulido and Alex Tizon have passed. We will never hear Pulido speak for herself nor Tizon’s responses to these discussions. That does not mean that the pursuit of justice for Pulido and those like her is over. We can prevent further injustice by joining the efforts of organizations such as GABRIELA USA and Anakbayan-USA; by treating domestic workers with dignity; by uplifting the stories of survivors; and by learning how to deconstruct narratives such as those advanced in “My Family’s Slave” that unknowingly excuse slavery rather than demand justice.

To keep up with the ongoing reader response to “My Family’s Slave,” check The Atlantic’s Notes column.

South Asian. Lived in East Asia. International student. Daughter of immigrants. South campus major. Where is the “artist” in these labels? Where is the Disney Princess movie being made about my life?

Are the mammoth residential buildings housing hundreds of families in Hong Kong not worthy of Walt Disney’s magic broadcast worldwide?

As a young Indian girl who grew up in Hong Kong, I struggled to find the words I needed to express myself. Silence was easier, except when trying to guess what dinner was from the spices’ aromas in my mom’s kitchen, or trying to guess what my dad brought from the roadside stalls after a long day at work. Having ju cheung fan right before a dinner with paneer tikka masala was not uncommon at home. The intensely different textures and tastes were second nature to my mouth. Yet the defiance of my mom’s cooking or my existence was not ever worthy of celebration in a city where Brownface is prevalent throughout mainstream media. My parent’s murtis and rituals during Diwali were too “foreign” and “weird” for “Asia’s World City”. For that young girl, I threw myself into INDUS at UCLA in hopes for a space to celebrate my messy identities and to find the words that I could never find even amid calligraphy during Chinese New Year, or henna (ha…) patterns adorning my hands.

The United States of America is no better.

The land of opportunities, filled with diversity, was sold to me at a UCLA information session. Yet here, it became even harder to determine my identity. I never expected to be so sharply pigeonholed into the paths of either doctor or engineer. Nor did I expect the persistent, probing question, “but no, where are you really from?”. The competing Cantonese, Hindi, Sindhi and English always leaked a “foreign” accent that can’t be “hella” enough. I was still too “weird” for this place.

What is the purpose of a “cultural melting pot” when all we do is tokenize the members of it and feign representation; it’s really just a chamberpot of lies and further disempowerment.

Whether in predominantly white spaces, or AAPI spaces, I am told that my narrative does not matter; that the narrative of my resilient grandparents, who all fled religious persecution 70 years ago does not matter.

Every day as a South Asian in the diaspora is a struggle that is unacknowledged. Even writing for Pacific Ties Newsmagazine that chose to rebrand itself from AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) to APIDA (Asian Pacific Islander Desi American) is a tip of a hat to that struggle of the expression that we try to bring forth.

I am in awe of the resilience of the artists that are coming to the first ever UCLA South Asian Art Week, and I am in awe of the students I have worked with in the past six months to make this series of events happen in a world where fundings for the arts has decreased even more.

For that young girl in me who was unsure of how to express herself, I will try to wipe her tears when she realized she would have to work thrice as hard to express herself as an Indian, as a girl, as the kid who was labelled the “foreigner” in her Chinese local school.

You finally get to hear from successful authors that look like older versions of you in a publishing panel on May 31st.

Here’s to my best friend Christina, who dragged me to every art gallery as I slowly fell in love with contemporary art created by people of color, who resisted conforming to stereotypes of banality and lack of creativity. She made this happen for me in a city not known to be “cultured enough” for the arts. She made this happen when conversations about diaspora are always America-centric or Euro-centric, and I struggled to find a place for myself.

Come to the artist mixer to meet South Asian artists, performers, actors and create community with them on June 1st.

Here’s to the third culture freshman who was enthusiastic to embrace diversity and was looking for community to bring back expression to her life and the lives of so many of her friends, who forgot it at all as they paved their own ways towards being doctors or engineers. We were never just scientific professionals. Let’s reclaim the arts from the ostentatious monuments created by centuries-dead kings, and breathe life into ourselves to create more art.

We speak now on May 31st during a spoken word night, and we celebrate the films created by our peers in a film festival on June 2nd.

Here’s to fighting the fractures in our own community, to fighting APIDA hierarchies to actually elevate Desis within this strange encompassing label, and to resisting power structures that stamp down on the hands and labour of people of color every day, whether it is on this campus or beyond.

Here’s to the stories that were “too mundane” or “too ethnic” to make the final cut in the galleries, the publishing lists, and the performances.

Here’s to always celebrating the diasporic identities we have found for ourselves, whether temporarily or permanently.

Join us in our journey to create community for generations of the past, present and future.

Join us Week 9 for the inaugural UCLA South Asian Art Week.

Gaginang.

That may not mean much to the average UCLA student. However, Loan Chung, the current Teo-Chew Association (TCA) secretary and incoming internal president, truly appreciates the meaning of the word: ‘Gaginang’ is a common phrase that Teochew people use to connect with each other, wherever they are in the world.

“What I love about being Teochew is that when we say ‘Gaginang’ (‘our people’), we truly mean it,” said Chung. “There is no such thing as strangers in our world.”

What is Teochew?

Teochew is a dialect native to the eastern province of Guangdong, China, that preserves many old Chinese pronunciations and words no longer found among the popular modern dialects, such as Mandarin or Cantonese.

However, Teochew speakers aren’t found just in China. You can also find these dialect speakers in regions like Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and even Los Angeles.

Teo-Chew Association (TCA) has been at UCLA since 2004.

TCA member Qinhao Xu finds the language to be an essential element in unifying members into a family. “One of the most memorable experience is having a language workshop during the weekly meeting, where we practice our native language Teochew,” said Xu. “This is what make this so special because most of us are second generation immigrants.”

Teochew is considered a dying language – it’s difficult for younger generations overseas to practice the language outside of the family since it’s not nearly as popular as Mandarin or Cantonese. Merely finding others who speak the language is a challenge in of itself.

TCA provides an opportunity for people to meet others who share a similar cultural background while also meeting others who speak the language. “We want to keep our language and culture alive while also creating a place where people of our background can find a ‘family’ away from home,” noted co-president Victor Tran.

TCA at UCLA.

Teochew manages to bring multiple campuses together. The TCA associations from UCLA, UCI, and UCSD held their first joint banquet this year. Tran treasures the memories he has made with them.

“My most memorable experience of being [co-]president of TCA would have to be the first joint banquet this year,” he said. “Although it was very hectic, it was a joy to be able to work with the sister organizations from the other UC schools for one big joint banquet. I enjoyed seeing many of the members from all of the campuses interacting together and having fun.”

UCLA TCA, UCSD TCA, UCI TCA, and the main Southern California TCA branch

You don’t have to speak Teochew or be of Teochew background in order to join – TCA welcomes anyone who is interested. Although TCA is a smaller organization on campus, it’s this size that allows such a tight-knit community where everyone can get to know each other. The organization doesn’t have active membership requirements; its members are simply passionate people who care not only about Teochew culture but also about the well-being of the club and its members.

While there won’t be any more meetings this quarter for TCA, check out their Facebook page for regular updates on meetings, socials, and other events. Check out the website for more details as well.

“Only through these personal histories, and personal goals, can we determine the narrative of modern Filipino cuisine.”

Alexandra Cuerdo is a UCLA alumna and director of “ULAM: Main Dish,” a food documentary that screens Saturday at the Million Dollar Theatre as part of the Los Angeles Times’ Los Angeles Food Bowl.

“ULAM: Main Dish” follows the rise of Filipino food in the United States and features interviews with Filipino American chefs. In the film, chefs such as Alvin Cailan and Nicole Ponseca discuss topics ranging from their personal histories to the difficulties of working with food from what is often considered a “third-world country.”

“Many interviews verge beyond the personal,” Cuerdo said. “We discuss crab mentality, the effects of colonialism, the need for support from the Filipino community.”

Through discussing complex and varied topics, Cuerdo hoped to create an honest and compelling depiction of modern Filipino cuisine — one that included faithful narratives of the Filipino American chefs she worked with.

“The chefs behind ​ULAM: Main Dish​ come from all walks of life — from Michelin-starred line cooks to high school dropouts, successful restaurateurs to first time shop owners. All are highly acclaimed by critics and fans alike, all forerunners of the Filipino food movement.”

The idea for a Filipino food documentary was originally conceived by Cuerdo’s father and his friend, although it never came to fruition. The thought stayed with Cuerdo until 2015, when she pitched it to John Floresca, who would become the film’s co-producer and cinematographer, and they began working on “ULAM” together.

Behind the scenes with producer Rey Cuerdo (left) and director Alexandra Cuerdo (right)
from ULAM: Main Dish. Photo courtesy of Kidlat Entertainment.

“Ultimately, we strive to document personal stories,” Cuerdo said, “with greater implications for the way we think about food in the context of our lives.”

“ULAM” screens Saturday at the Million Dollar Theatre, presented by AMBOY and Grand Central Market. For tickets, directions, and further information, visit the event page here.

 

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