In the spring of my junior year in college, I decided to write a poem every single day for an entire year. This project evolved into something much more. I decided to continue writing until Commencement exercises, until the day I had my diploma in hand. Today, my project stands at 390 days, with 391 individual poems; early on in the project I had so much to say, that I ended up writing two pieces for one day. During this journey, I expected my pens to pour out my thoughts and troubles. I wanted to make space in my cluttered mind, and be at peace with myself. So, I kept a paper with me at all times, scribbling in the margins of class notes and my planner. Any emotion that I was feeling, or event I was experiencing, I tried to capture it in a concise handful of words. At the end of the day, I’d sit down for about an hour to piece together my thoughts. Most nights, I’d begin three or four different poems before deciding on a common theme or concept. Then, I’d just go with it. This often meant most of my poems were written between the hours of midnight and 3:00am.
In February of my senior year, I attended the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) conference. I went with a few of my closest friends from William & Mary’s Filipino American Student Association; we embarked on road trip from Williamsburg, VA, down to Duke University in North Carolina. There, we had the opportunity to meet amazing leaders in the Asian American community and participate in various workshops.
As a young writer and poet, I immediately chose to attend the "Spoken Word and Activism" workshop, facilitated by Bao Phi. In the workshop, we watched and discussed 1700% Project: Misaken for Muslim, a piece by Anida Yoeu Ali, which challenges racial profiling and hate crimes against those perceived as Muslim or Arab. Afterwards, Phi shared some of his own pieces. One that stood out was titled You Bring Out the Vietnamese in Me. I connected with the piece instantly, as it inspired me to write my own version as part of my poetry project.
It’s been a year since I wrote this poem. I’ve only performed it a couple times before some close friends, but I’ve been too afraid to share it because it never seemed relevant for any of the open mic events I’ve attended. After my project ended, I started reading through all of my poems, from start to finish. It’s really interesting to see how my writing has evolved over the course of my project.
Originally posted as Day 314, I present it to you now. Maybe I’ll have the courage to perform it on stage one day.
Inspired by: Sandra Cisneros’ “You Bring Out the Mexican in Me” and Bao Phi’s “You Bring Out the Vietnamese in Me”
You bring out the Filipina in me.
The jeepney-riding miracle worker. The island sweetheart of art. The gutom na ako, but not really in me.
You bring out the Filipina in me. The war-stricken tropical paradise, pained by martial law under Marcos, trampled by the feet of Imelda and her closet of over a thousand shoes.
The anti-Colonialist mindset that might set the world on fire. The tainted skin that refuses lightening creams. The Illocano and Kapangpangan and Tagalog and Spanish rolled into a single dictionary in me. The easy to assimilate into American culture because of English-infused classrooms in the motherland.
The Magandang Gabi, lechon-eating, Soon-to-be doctor and lawyer in me. The OFW working in the Middle East, sending remittances back to children, or the daughter of a US Navy officer, for he joined the Americans out of necessity. And yet you still bring out the true Filipina in me.
The young, activist peacemaker, that yearns to clean up corrupt acts that plague the Philippine Sea. The “I want to return to the homeland to give back” because that all I’ve worked for. The wealth of knowledge, once I graduate from college, need to make a difference in me.
You are the one I turn to, and turns to me for love, for my home is built with always-open doors. With it’s plastic-covered couches, fully-stocked pantry piled high with cans of Spam, dried manga, sweet condensed milk walis-swept tiled floors, and sometimes kneeling on piles of kanin for being naughty in me.
You bring out the feisty, ghetto-fabulous wannabe itim in me. Yeah I said it. The lover of all R&B
and jammin’ to old school rap in me.
You are the rays of sun on my very own flag, the guiding stars that surround me.
You have taught me the truth of mahal kita and salamat, for I love to give thanks when it is not required.
Oo : you, have been woven into the mosquito nets that shield me. You are the protector of me.