Monday, August 30, 2010

CA grand prize letter writing contest - New America Media & Philippine News

I won $1,000 and had my writing published in the Philippine News back in 2005.  Keep writing and creating people!

Submitted to Philippine News

Posted: Mar 31, 2005

Dear Uncle Marty,

The day begins at 5:30 AM. My family now participates in the daily mourning rush of commuter culture. We’re on the road at 6AM to beat gridlock, carpooling 40 miles from Vallejo to San Francisco. At times I grow sick of waking up so early but when I see my parents overjoyed by the fact that they finally have their own home, I wash off all doubts in the shower. My complaints continue in bumper to bumper traffic, I can’t stand the sight of an endless array of cars. To coupe with the frustrations we all often discuss the most random conversations. My mother often reflects on living in the Mission district of SF, paying $580/month for a three bedroom home. The effects of urban gentrification ended our 15 year occupancy in 1998. “It’s a blessing in disguise,” my father responds to my mother’s memory. He points out the downward spiral of places we lived in just to get by which included a 1-bedroom apartment for $1,500/month and then a basement in-law for $600/month. My complaints soon diminish as I realize that since April, 2004 we have broken the cycle of paying a lifetime of rent by struggling together for the investment of our own home. 

Our commuter van is a priceless modern time capsule where work stress is vented, jokes add humor and family troubles are confided. The radio is an outside voice from society that often triggers our discussion. Once we were listening to 94.1 KPFA (free speech radio), the controversial issue of gay marriages arose. I wasn’t sure if I should change the station because my parents are traditional Filipino Catholics. They automatically expressed their disapproval. I knew then that it would be difficult for my parents to accept my two gay brothers who recently revealed their homosexuality to me. When speculations began to spread I observed my parents going through a process of denial, shock, anger and misunderstanding. Their traditional Filipino values were in transition. On top of that there was no communication from my brothers to help my parents understand different sexual preferences and that though they are gay, they are still my parent’s sons. 

As the middle child, I was being used by both sides to pass indirect messages. I didn’t choose any sides, rather my strategy was to encourage a direct dialogue and to help process an understanding of different generational experiences. My parents had to reevaluate their values in order to accept there 2 sons new lifestyle. And my brothers had to confront their fears of being rejected from the family in order to tell my parents of their homosexuality. My parents and brothers finally had a serious conversation together. The outcomes were very positive because my parents realized that they wanted to preserve a close family structure. I can honestly say that my family is very progressive as result of this experience. This topic is still very new to my family and it will be interesting to see how it matures in the future.

As conversations grow low I try to be productive in the commute. I’m a college counselor at a public high school in San Francisco. I often bring work home especially during application season. My 9 year old sister constantly distracts me when I’m either editing college essays or planning a workshop because she would rather have me playing with her. I’m extremely privileged to work with a population that reflects California’s ethnic diversity. The most rewarding part of my job is watching students take ownership over their futures. I have realized how important it is for me to be within the public school setting based on the need for more men of color to serve as role models. I’m only 25 years old with a long way to go before I have full confidence to claim myself as a role model but my passions for youth development place me in this position, I couldn’t imagine otherwise. 

As the first person in my family to attend an American university, I have a personal vindication to provide educational opportunities for all youth. It’s an interesting moment in American education nationwide because President Bush is proposing to cut federally funded ‘Trio’ programs. This decision could leave me unemployed but more importantly, services for low income and first generation college bound students will be decreased. Social justice within public education is a long haul struggle, one in which I am firmly committed.

Outside of the day time commute I am a writer, a performance poet and a theater artist. At the moment, I am working on an independent book of creative writing and a CD of hip hop poetry with a live band. Filipinos in America are undergoing a cultural renaissance that blends traditional values with the contemporary predicament of living in the Diaspora. An evolutionary identity brews itself in the art that keeps me human in this crazy world. I meet the love of my life at a cultural event that I was featured in. We went on to perform in theater productions together in college. And now I am blessed to live with a strong Chicana who balances my peace and war. Despite lack of sleep or mental and physical bruises from the day, I push myself with my families struggle and the commitments to my dreams to do it all over again. 

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