Celebrating Cesar Chavez Day, University of CA, Office of the President

On Wednesday, March 29th, I was the guest speaker at a lunchtime event sponsored by the Latino Staff Association/Asian Pacific Islander Association affinity groups at the University of California, Office of the President (UCOP). The event, entitled, “When Mexicans and Filipinos Join Together: The Farmworker Movement and Unity in the Making,” was in celebration of Cesar Chavez Day. After reading an excerpt from my novel, A Village in the Fields, I sat down with Belinda Vea, Policy and Program Analyst in Student Affairs for UCOP who did her graduate work on Filipino literature, in an “in conversation” question-and-answer session. Belinda is also co-chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Association.

Among other topics, Belinda asked me about the research process and my family’s story within the novel. The floor was opened up to questions from the audience, which numbered between 45 and 50, which was really nice to see. It was gratifying not only to respond to such thoughtful questions, but to see the interest in people’s faces. In addition to UCOP employees, the event was also advertised to employees from Kaiser Permanente, whose building was across the street in downtown Oakland.

I’m posting photos taken of the event, with gratitude to the photographers, Juliann Martinez, Employee Relations Specialist and chair of the Latino Staff Association, who kindly extended the invitation to speak, Alina Tejera, Pamela Palpallatoc, and Ben Tsai, co-chair with Belinda of the APIA.

The flyer advertising the event.

A wonderful poster welcoming the audience.

A nice spread of Filipino and Mexican cuisine.

A very nice slide show of Filipino and Mexican farm workers was shown before the event.

Reading an excerpt from my novel.

A close-up of my reading.

Belinda Vea “in conversation” with me after my reading.

Belinda at the ready with her questions.

One of the things I talked about was the value taking Asian American Studies classes at UC Davis both in my personal life and in my writing.

An animated me answering a questions while the audience leans in.

A beautiful basket of vegetables and two of my books were raffle prizes at the end of the event.

Me with Pamela Palpallatoc, who works for UCOP and is a UC Davis alumna.

Talking beyond the lunch hour about Filipino American history.

My hosts – Belinda Vea, Ben Tsai, and Juliann Martinez.

Top 10 reasons to attend the extra-special LUNAFEST 2017

I can see myself in all things and all people around me.
– Sanskrit phrase

We’re almost a month out from LUNAFEST East Bay’s annual LUNAFEST film festival – “by, for, about women” – which means it’s time for my annual Top 10 reasons to attend. This year is extra special, as you’ll see as you go down the list.

One of our perky ECHS ITA students serving at our VIP event last year.

10. VIP event
If you’re attending the VIP event, which precedes the film screening, you’re in for a real treat. First of all, you’ll be served fantastic food created by J. Gourmet Catering. The flavorful fare will be paired with an assortment of spirits – wine donated by Clif Family Winery and Folsom & Associates (Robert Mondavi and Franciscan) and beer donated by Lagunitas Brewing Company and Trumer Pils. You will get to meet our two guest filmmakers whose short films were selected for LUNAFEST this year. Listen to great music performed by El Cerrito High School student musicians while mingling with other VIP attendees who love film and raising funds for worthy causes. This year, we’ll all be raising a glass of champagne for a toast – but I won’t let on why until further down the list. Intrigued? Sounds like your kind of event? You can get VIP tickets here. But hurry, number of tickets are limited and they are selling quickly!

Head straight for the raffle tables in the lobby to choose what you’ll be buying tickets for.

9. Raffle prizes
Every year, LUNAFEST East Bay raffles off fabulous prizes, and this year is no different. Among the LUNAFEST 2017 prizes are a $100 certificate to Chez Panisse and $100 cash. Check out the raffle board at the VIP event and in the lobby of the El Cerrito High School (ECHS) Performing Arts Theater to peruse the themed basket of prizes, and then nab an ECHS Information Technology Academy (ITA) student who will be selling raffle tickets. $1 a ticket, 12 tickets for $10, and 25 tickets for $20.

Anna Schumacher (photo credit: Talia J Phorography).

8. ECHS alumna Anna Schumacher
Master of ceremony duties belongs to Anna Schumacher, whose short film, “Finding June,” was a LUNAFEST 2016 selection. Anna, who grew up in Kensington, Calif., is a local alumna of Portola Middle School (now Fred T. Korematsu Middle School) and El Cerrito High School. If you went to school with Anna, come on out and reconnect.

7. LUNAFEST filmmakers Lara Everly and Diane Weipert
This year we are lucky to have two filmmakers join us – both at the VIP event and in an on-stage interview. Diane Weipert, who lives in San Francisco, will be showing her short film, “Niñera,” “a story that looks at the bitter irony many nannies face: raising the children of strangers for a living while their own children are virtually left to raise themselves.”

Diane Weipert.

Diane Weipert has worked in film for over a decade. Her screenwriting debut premiered at the World Cinema Competition at Sundance in 2006 (Solo Dios Sabe – Diego Luna, Alica Braga). Her award-winning radio piece, “The Living Room,” was named best story of 2015 by Wired and The Atlantic, and is being developed as a feature film. Weipert is a two-time resident of the San Francisco Film Society’s Film House, where she is in development on her feature, Boyle Heights. Read my profile of Diane here. Then get to know her in person and ask her about her feature film!

Our second guest filmmaker, Lara Everly, hails from Los Angeles. Her short film, “Free to laugh,” is “a documentary that explores the power of comedy after prison.” Lara is a director, actress, and writer championing women in comedy – both in front and behind the camera. Her directorial debut, “Me, You, A Bag & Bamboo,” was awarded Best Family Film at the Canada International Film Festival and won the Viewer’s Choice award at the Ovation Short Film Contest, which led to a televised screening of the film. Lara’s short films have played the film festival circuit, won awards and procured distribution through Shorts HD, Snag Films and Oprah.com.

Lara Everly (photo credit: John Sutton).

Lara loves directing comedy, partnering with companies like FunnyorDie, Comediva, Hello Giggles, and College Humor. Web Series work includes “Love Handles” for FunnyorDie and a music-video web series called “The Queue” for PopularTV.  She most recently directed a musical comedy pilot called “Patriettes” about a mock government summer camp for teenage girls. Read my profile of Lara here. Be sure to meet Lara at either the VIP event or at the film screening – she’s as funny as her short films!

6. The Breast Cancer Fund and ECHS ITA benefit
When you attend a fundraiser, you want to ensure that it’s working to make the world a better place. LUNAFEST East Bay is supporting both a local organization and the Breast Cancer Fund. The Breast Cancer Fund “works to prevent breast cancer by eliminating our exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation linked to the disease.”

The nonprofit organization translates the “growing body of scientific evidence linking breast cancer and environmental exposures into public education and advocacy campaigns that protect our health and reduce breast cancer risk.” The Breast Cancer Fund also helps to “transform how our society thinks about and uses chemicals and radiation, with the goal of preventing breast cancer and sustaining health and life,” and finds “practical solutions so that our children, grandchildren and planet can thrive.”

ECHS’s ITA students – volunteering for LUNAFEST and gaining invaluable IT experience.

ECHS’s ITA is our local beneficiary. ITA is a small learning community supported by TechFutures, a nonprofit organization started by Mr. and Mrs. Ron Whittier. Their objective is “to give the underserved WCCUSD students an opportunity to have career focused courses in digital art and computer systems management.” From the funds raised by LUNAFEST East Bay, ITA has purchased, among other things such as art supplies, a three-dimensional printer, which is serving tens of hundreds of students. The students have created short films that will be shown at the film festival, which is paving the way for future filmmakers.

A great way to spend an evening with your women friends! Our LUNAFEST East Bay committee members raise a glass to another successful event!

5. Women’s Night Out
Historically, women have had to fight for too many things – the right to vote, protection of their reproductive rights, equal pay, and the list goes on and on. And we’re still fighting on many of these issues! Just as Black Lives Matter, there’s a reason why a film festival “for, by, about women” exists. It’s not meant to be exclusive. Rather, it highlights the fact that women have not had equality or equity in the film industry. Especially during these times, let’s celebrate the accomplishments of women. Let’s be right beside them when they dream big and make good on their vision. Let’s celebrate their artistic vision. If you went to one of the women’s marches around the Bay Area, gather your friends again and celebrate LUNAFEST by making it a Women’s Night Out.

My friend Wendy and her daughter, Lindsay, enjoy their evening out.

4. Mom/daughter night out
Following on the theme of the recent women’s march and Women’s Night Out, it’s important to think of our daughters, as they are the future of our world and what happens now affects their future. Taking our daughters to LUNAFEST is a way to introduce them to films with a woman’s perspective, to other cultures, to other ways of thinking and seeing. It’s a way of expanding their world and connecting them with people outside of our community. My daughter, Isabella, will be attending her third LUNAFEST. Technically, we’re not together in the audience since I’m in and out, behind the scenes, so she sits with a good friend of hers, who also comes with her mother. It’s a tradition that I’m thrilled to share with her, but it’s also something that she’ll take with her when she’s an adult – appreciating and supporting women filmmakers, raising awareness of the environmental impact on breast cancer, and raising funds for worthy causes.

A family of friends have some fun at the LUNAFEST photo booth last year.

3. Family night out – LUNAFEST is for everybody
So I’ve been advocating Women’s Night Out and Mother/Daughter Night Out, but I believe in inclusivity, so if you feel inclined, bring your whole family and make it a Family Night Out. In fact, my husband, David, and my son, Jacob, who is in the ECHS ITA, also attend LUNAFEST. I feel that it’s important for everyone – not just women and not just for preaching to the choir – to see films made by women filmmakers. Let your sons and husbands be exposed to and appreciate short films that speak to a woman’s view. It’s a great way to expand their capacity for compassion.

At last year’s LUNAFEST, the East Bay committee gets a little crazy at the close of the event.

2. 10th anniversary of LUNAFEST East Bay and 100th anniversary of City of El Cerrito!
It’s our 10th anniversary of bringing this fundraising film festival to the San Francisco East Bay. Sure, more than 175 cities across the country have been showing this year’s films, including local communities in the area. But we’re special: to date, in nine years, LUNAFEST East Bay has raised more than $27,000 for the Breast Cancer Fund, a distinction that has been recognized by both the nonprofit organization and LUNAFEST. We have also been supporting ECHS ITA for the last six years, raising nearly $11,000 for the learning community. We look forward to adding to those amazing totals with our 10th film screening. So come on out and celebrate this banner year! Our LUNAFEST film festival is also one of the official events recognizing the 100th anniversary of the City of El Cerrito. So, if you’re a resident of El Cerrito, join us in celebrating our host city’s centennial!

Still from this year’s LUNAFEST selection, “Another Kind of Girl.”

1. LUNAFEST films are fantastic
If you’ve been to LUNAFEST film festivals in the past, then you know how wonderful the films are. Quiet, rebellious, thoughtful, laugh-out-loud funny, sad, biting, gentle, animated, innovative, traditional – for the past 15 years, LUNAFEST has honored a broad spectrum of short films. If you’ve never been, join us and see why our event keeps growing in attendance every year, and many attendees return and make the event a tradition. We support excellence in short filmmaking. Be entertained. Be awed. Become full of wonder. Expand your world and your love and compassion. Get to know your neighbor in the theater and talk about which short film was your favorite and why. Connect and share. Walk away changed by the vision of these talented women filmmakers.

Note: For more information on LUNAFEST East Bay’s LUNAFEST screening, click here.

Alumni Journal Q&A in Syracuse University Magazine

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
– Maya Angelou, American poet, memoirist, actress, and American Civil Rights Movement leader, from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I received my fall/winter 2016, vol. 33, number 3 issue of the Syracuse University Magazine in the mail today. In late summer I was interviewed by associate editor Amy Speach for a Q&A in the Alumni Journal section of the magazine. The Q&A is in the current issue.

Fall/Winter 2016, Vol. 33,no. 3.

Fall/Winter 2016, Vol. 33,no. 3.

The full-page Q&A.

The full-page Q&A.

You can access the online version here. Thanks to Amy for a great interview. And thanks to my alma mater, the Creative Writing Program, and mostly to my amazing classmates and writers. One day, I shall return.

#GivingTuesday poem

Today was a long day. I’ve yet to participate in #GivingTuesday. Until then, here is a poem for us all.

Isabella and me at the Holding Hands around Lake Merritt event, November 13th, Oakland, Calif. (with Kelly, Kara, Lisa, Kim, Estella, and Ethan) (photo credit: Kelly Whitney).

Isabella and me at the Holding Hands around Lake Merritt event, November 13th, Oakland, Calif. (with Kelly, Kara, Lisa, Kim, Estella, and Ethan) (photo credit: Kelly Whitney).

When Giving is All We Have

By Alberto Rios, inaugural state poet laureate of Arizona

One river gives
Its journey to the next. [epitaph]

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give – together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

Seattle book tour in review: Part 3, Yakima Valley

The origin of the name remains unknown, though there are legends that describe the derivation of the city’s name. The most popular legend explains that the daughter of a Native American chief from Moxie ran away breaking tribal rules and settled on the Yakima River. In this legend the name Yakima means “runaway.” Another derivation of the name is what the Native Americans used to refer to Yakima as, “Beginning of Life, Big Belly, and Bountiful.”
– Yakima Valley Museum

The last leg of my Seattle book tour, along with Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Marissa Aroy, was in Yakima Valley. Our tour was sponsored by numerous generous organizations, including Pinoy Words Expressed Kultura Arts (KWEKA), Alaskero Foundation, El Centro de la Raza, the Meaningful Movies Project, Filipino American Students Association (FASA) of the University of Washington, 4 Culture, Office of Arts & Culture (Seattle), Filipino American Community of Greater Yakima Valley, Imperial Gardens, Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) Chapter 26, and the FANHS National Office.

The perfect time to be visiting Yakima Valley.

The perfect time to be visiting Yakima Valley.

Amazing blue sky with cirrus clouds, fog in the hills, and fall across the valley floor.

Amazing blue sky with cirrus clouds, fog in the hills, and fall across the valley floor.

Not bad for taking photos through the window of a moving car! I wish I had time to stop and enjoy the scenery. Next time.

Not bad for taking photos through the window of a moving car! I wish I had time to stop and enjoy the scenery. Next time.

Maria Batayola served as our wonderful host for our book tour. She showed me a side of Seattle I had never seen (see my two previous news posts “Seattle book tour in review: Parts 1 and 2”), and for that, I am deeply grateful. On Saturday morning, October 22nd, my good friend John, who, along with his partner Kris, had welcomed me into their home for my stay in Seattle, dropped me off in Factoria, Wash., where I met up with Maria and Marissa, and away we drove to eastern Washington.

Layers of sky, cirrus clouds, foothills in fog, and forest.

Layers of sky, cirrus clouds, foothills in fog, and forest.

Just another photo of the spectacular sky.

Just another photo of the spectacular sky.

And mountains that will soon be covered with snow.

And mountains that will soon be covered with snow.

I’ve visited Seattle a number of times, but I’ve never been to the eastern part of the state. I had read David Guterson’s 1999 novel, East of the Mountains, and understood that where Seattle was lush, the eastern part of the state was arid. However, I was also told that the region would remind me of California’s Central Valley because it was rural farming land dotted with small communities.

Huge trees in Ellensburg, Wash.

Huge trees in Ellensburg, Wash.

Close-up of the blazing leaves.

Close-up of the blazing leaves.

The drive took some two and a half hours. Along the way, we saw some amazing landscape – clear streams meandering through different varieties of trees in spectacular gold, orange, and red. Bodies of water were low enough to reveal stumps of trees. And then we entered vast farmlands and signs for Honeycrisp apples. While Yakima Valley is the bread basket for numerous fruits and vegetables, the region is well known for its apples. Eastern Washington is home to more than 175,000 acres of apple orchards, with Yakima Valley being the largest apple-producing region in the state.

If you find yourself in Ellensburg, Wash., eating a meal at the Yellow Church Cafe is a must-do.

If you find yourself in Ellensburg, Wash., eating a meal at the Yellow Church Cafe is a must-do.

The interior of the restaurant.

The interior of the restaurant.

One of the best BLTs. Ever. Hands. Down.

One of the best BLTs. Ever. Hands. Down.

We stopped for lunch at this charming and popular restaurant called The Yellow Church Cafe (111 S. Pearl Street, Ellensburg, Wash. 98926, 509.933.2233), which, as you can guess, is a converted church. The food is heavenly, no pun intended. Whenever a BLT appears on the menu, that’s what I order. What was special about this BLT is that it made with their special bread, which tastes like a fluffy asiago cheese bagel, and instead of the tired mayonnaise, it had an aioli sauce. The chai latte was not overly sweet. The place was hopping. Afterwards, we wandered over to a brightly decorated house a few blocks down inhabited by happy artists. Ellensburg proved to be a quaint and beautiful town.

Entrance to the colorful and cheerful house at 101 N. Pearl Street.

Entrance to the colorful and cheerful house at 101 N. Pearl Street.

Beyond the colorful fence is a yard full of mischievous characters, including this runaway bear.

Beyond the colorful fence is a yard full of mischievous characters, including this runaway bear.

Art lives - indeed - and it also nourishes, brings beauty, gives hope, empowers, enables dreams, and so much more.

Art lives – indeed – and it also nourishes, brings beauty, gives hope, empowers, enables dreams, and so much more.

Key details and a hand waving hello and goodbye.

Key details and a hand waving hello and goodbye.

Found art of bicycle wheels makes a lovely tree.

Found art of bicycle wheels makes a lovely tree.

When we arrived in the town of Wapato, we were first met by Kuya Ray Pasqua, president of the Filipino American Community of Yakima Valley (FACYV). Kuya Ray is a leader in the community, but he also worked with Filipino American labor leader Larry Itliong during the years of the Delano Grape Strike and the United Farm Workers Union. It was an honor to meet him and to hear his stories of those difficult but very important times. FACYV’s Filipino Hall in Wapato, Wash., is the first Filipino Hall built in the United States. FACYV was preparing for its 60th anniversary the following evening, which is a big event that was anticipated to feed some 600 members of the community. It was too bad that Marissa and I would be leaving for home the following morning.

The first Filipino Community Hall in the country.

The first Filipino Community Hall in the country.

Let the 60th anniversary celebration begin!

Let the 60th anniversary celebration begin!

The Filipino Community Hall had a nice display of FACYV achievements through the years.

The Filipino Community Hall had a nice display of FACYV achievements through the years.

The Saturday evening event comprised a short reading from my novel, the screening of Marissa’s documentary, Delano Manongs: The Forgotten Heroes of the United Farm Workers Movement, and a panel discussion with Kuya Ray, Marissa, Maria and me, moderated by local reporter Ryan Yadao. Although attendance was light, the community members who showed up were very engaged in the subject and some had been involved in the farm labor movement, which was great to learn about and to meet them after the event. I can’t say it enough: It was an honor for me to hear of their sacrifices in the fields and across the country in the name of social justice for farm workers.

Group photo of some of the wonderful community members in Yakima Valley.

Group photo of some of the wonderful community members in Yakima Valley.

After the Q&A and book and DVD signing, we were invited to the home of FACYV members Fred Fontanilla, who is a retired chemist, and Bob Plummer, retired professor at Heritage University, for a wonderful dinner, which included great conversation among the 12 of us. And then FANHS Chapter 26 members Dori Peralta Baker and her husband Geoff Baker hosted us for the night. In the morning, we were treated to gorgeous views of Yakima Valley. Dori related the activity of casually counting the bald eagles and salmon in the streams, and how the hills are covered in snow in the wintertime. Dori had put together a display of local Filipino Americans who served in the Vietnam War. She told us the sobering news that Yakima Valley bearing the burden of being the region in the country with the most soldiers of color who fought in the Vietnam War. I should not be surprised, but I was still shocked by the fact that the high school counselors advised the Native American, Filipino American, and Mexican American boys to join the armed forces and serve in Vietnam War because they were not college material. I’m sure this practice was rampant across high schools in America at the time and to this day, but to have your home region bear that awful distinction is heartbreaking.

The beautiful view from our host's backyard.

The beautiful view from our host’s backyard.

Beautiful morning, looking for bald eagles.

Beautiful morning, looking for bald eagles. The hills in the background will be white with snow in the wintertime.

The canal feeds into the river, which I am assuming is the Yakima Valley River. Stunning.

The canal feeds into the river, which I am assuming is the Yakima Valley River. Stunning.

We left Yakima Valley early Sunday morning to return home. I learned so much while on this book tour and I met so many wonderful, giving people. And I saw another beautiful part of Washington State. I hope to return to Seattle and Yakima Valley in the near future – to this wonderful community that I now claim as part of my Filipino American home.

Heading back to Seattle and its fall foilage.

Heading back to Seattle and its fall foilage.

Mt. Rainier bids adieu.

Mt. Rainier bids adieu.

Seattle book tour in review: Part 2

The sky in Seattle is so low, it felt like God had lowered a silk parachute on us.
– Maria Semple, American novelist and screenwriter

As part of Filipino American History Month, I embarked on a book tour in Seattle and Yakima Valley. Here is Part 2 of my chronicles of my time there.

Breakfast crepe and mocha at the Eastern Cafe in the International District.

Breakfast crepe and mocha at the Eastern Cafe in the International District.

While in Seattle, I stayed with my good friends, John and Kris. My husband, David, and John have known each other since pre-school. John was one of our groomsmen, and he is also the godfather of our son, Jacob. Friday morning, October 21st, John dropped me off at the Eastern Cafe in the International District, where I would later meet up with Marissa Aroy and our tour host Maria Batayola. a few doors down from the Eastern Cafe was the Eastern Hotel, which has a small Carlos Bulosan exhibit. It’s no longer a hotel, but apartments. I was able to get in and take pictures when one of the residents was leaving the building.

The Alps Hotel is now an apartment building, but the sign remains as a historical marker for being one of the hotels where immigrants stayed when they first arrived in Seattle.

The Alps Hotel is now an apartment building, but the sign remains as a historical marker for being one of the hotels where immigrants stayed when they first arrived in Seattle.

The historic Eastern Hotel.

The historic Eastern Hotel.

The modest sign at the Eastern Hotel, with my reflection.

The modest sign at the Eastern Hotel, with my reflection.

I was excited to see that the Carlos Bulosan quote on the wall of the Eastern Hotel is the quote that opens my novel.

I was excited to see that the Carlos Bulosan quote on the wall of the Eastern Hotel is the quote that opens my novel.

More historic photos in the Carlos Bulosan Museum Exhibit at the Eastern Hotel.

More historic photos in the Carlos Bulosan Museum Exhibit at the Eastern Hotel.

Eliseo Silva's Carlos Bulosan mural at the Eastern Hotel, 1999.

Eliseo Silva’s Carlos Bulosan mural at the Eastern Hotel, 1999.

Marissa Aroy and I met up at the Luke Wing Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience (719 S. King Street, 206.623.5124) in the International District, upon recommendation by and as guests of Maria Batalyola, with Pinoy Words Expressed Kultura Arts (PWEKA) and the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) National Office, who were also some of our sponsors for the trip.

The Wing Luke Museum in the International District, Seattle.

The Wing Luke Museum in the International District, Seattle.

Looking in from the outside.

Looking in from the outside.

"A Mend: a Local Collection of Scraps from Local Seamstresses and Tailors" by Aram Han Sifuentes, who explores the politics of what she describes as "immigrant sweated labor" in the U.S. "Constructed from denim remnants gathered in recent years from garment workers in the Chicago area, the piece introduces the challenges many women working in such employment face today: low wages, language barriers which limit employment options, tedious hours, and unregulated working conditions without union or collective bargaining protections."

“A Mend: a Local Collection of Scraps from Local Seamstresses and Tailors” by Aram Han Sifuentes, who explores the politics of what she describes as “immigrant sweated labor” in the U.S. “Constructed from denim remnants gathered in recent years from garment workers in the Chicago area, the piece introduces the challenges many women working in such employment face today: low wages, language barriers which limit employment options, tedious hours, and unregulated working conditions without union or collective bargaining protections.”

A close-up: "Sifuentes, who is of Korean origin and the daughter of a seamstress, gathers stories along with these textile scraps, the remnants of blue jeans, a garment inextricably linked to American identity. Calling her final pieces 'quilts,' Sifuentes challenges expectations further. While quilts are typically made by sewing a layer o batting between a top and bottom layer, here Sifuentes uses gaps - perhaps a metaphor for untold stories - as a middle layer."

A close-up: “Sifuentes, who is of Korean origin and the daughter of a seamstress, gathers stories along with these textile scraps, the remnants of blue jeans, a garment inextricably linked to American identity. Calling her final pieces ‘quilts,’ Sifuentes challenges expectations further. While quilts are typically made by sewing a layer o batting between a top and bottom layer, here Sifuentes uses gaps – perhaps a metaphor for untold stories – as a middle layer.”

I’m grateful that such a museum exists. It’s a beautiful building and space, but more importantly it celebrates so many underrepresented and underappreciated ethnic groups who made lasting and continuing contributions to American history and culture. The Wing is “dedicated to immersing you in uniquely American stories of survival, success, conflict, compassion and hope. Through our guided tours and ongoing exhibitions, you can experience real life stories of the Asian Pacific American community.” An exhibit on Bruce Lee and a sobering and harrowing history of Cambodia’s “killing fields” and emigration from the country are currently being shown.

Letter Cloud by Susie Kozawa (b. 1949) and Erin Shie Palmer (b. 1957), 2008. Reproduced archival letters on paper and audio of letters being read: "here is this place of immigrant stories, the view of the sky recalls the expanse of ocean crossed to reach this new home in America, a crossing that must now be made by words o love and longing sent to those back home."

Letter Cloud by Susie Kozawa (b. 1949) and Erin Shie Palmer (b. 1957), 2008. Reproduced archival letters on paper and audio of letters being read: “here is this place of immigrant stories, the view of the sky recalls the expanse of ocean crossed to reach this new home in America, a crossing that must now be made by words o love and longing sent to those back home.”

Me amid "Letter Cloud": "The cloud cover of paper floats these words across tie and space in the form of letters - tegami - hand-written carriers of hope and dreams, stories of daily life and connection between family and friends. And here, amidst sounds of the open sky and sea, are soft voices speaking words that are carried in the letters home."

Me amid “Letter Cloud”: “The cloud cover of paper floats these words across tie and space in the form of letters – tegami – hand-written carriers of hope and dreams, stories of daily life and connection between family and friends. And here, amidst sounds of the open sky and sea, are soft voices speaking words that are carried in the letters home.”

One of the main exhibits honors Asian Pacific Islanders Americans who emigrated from their home countries in search of a better life.

One of the main exhibits honors Asian Pacific Islanders Americans who emigrated from their home countries in search of a better life.

Poster instructing local Japanese Americans of mandatory internment.

Poster instructing local Japanese Americans of mandatory internment.

A miniature bunkhouse in a local internment camp.

A miniature bunkhouse in a local internment camp.

One room is dedicated to Filipino Americans.

One room is dedicated to Filipino Americans.

A Filipino American collage and timeline.

A Filipino American collage and timeline.

In the afternoon, Maria gave us a mini tour of historic sites in the International District. Maria was instrumental in the creation of the Filipino American Historical kiosk, “Honoring Filipino Americans in Chinatown International District, 1911-2010,” at the corner of S. Weller Street and 6th Avenue South. The kiosk will be formally dedicated in early November.

Filipino American Historical kiosk.

Filipino American Historical kiosk.

The other side of the kiosk - a history lesson.

The other side of the kiosk – a history lesson.

Marissa's a pro with selfies.

Marissa’s a pro with selfies.

Later, we crossed the José Rizal Bridge, which “carries 12th Avenue South over South Dearborn Street and Interstate 90 in Seattle, connecting the International District to Beacon Hill.” One of the first permanent steel bridges in the City, the beautiful verdis green bridge was originally called the 12th Avenue South Bridge or the Dearborn Street Bridge before it was renamed in 1974 in honor of the Filipino patriot and national hero José Rizal. The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, however, under its original name. Dr. José Rizal Park, on the west side of Beacon Hill boasts a view of south downtown, Elliott Bay, Safeco Park – home of the Seattle Mariners MLB team – and the Seattle Seahawks’ CenturyLink Field. The 9.6-acre parcel of land was purchased by the Parks Department in 1971 and dedicated in 1979.

Bust of Jose Rizal.

Bust of Jose Rizal.

"East is West" by Val Laigo, 1981: "This tryptich is dedicated to all of Filipino persuasion the residents and denizens of Beacon Hill instead anyone who still enjoys and exercises a sense of humor and good will...." - Val Laigo.

“East is West” by Val Laigo, 1981: “This tryptich is dedicated to all of Filipino persuasion the residents and denizens of Beacon Hill instead anyone who still enjoys and exercises a sense of humor and good will….” – Val Laigo.

Maria also gave us a tour of the historic Panama Hotel, located in the International District. Designed by Japanese-American architect Sabro Ozasa and built in 1910, the Panama Hotel, a National Historic Landmark and National Treasure, housed a Japanese bath house, businesses, restaurants, and sleeping quarters for residents and visitors. Jan Johnson, who is the third owner of the hotel, restored the building to its condition before the Japanese in Seattle were evacuated. From what I understand, a number of Japanese American families stored their belongings in the basement of the Panama Hotel, with the hope of returning home, which many did not. Johnson closed off the basement that holds the belongings of the Japanese families to the public, and has installed a glass panel in the floorboards for visitors to view the artifacts from above. It’s quite moving.

The entrance of the historic Panama Hotel.

The entrance of the historic Panama Hotel.

A very cool retro look at the stairs from the entrance of the hotel.

A very cool retro look at the stairs from the entrance of the hotel.

The National Historic Landmark plaque.

The National Historic Landmark plaque.

The lower level of the Panama Hotel's cafe boasts historic black-and-white photos on the brick walls and comfortable tables for coffee and tea.

The lower level of the Panama Hotel’s cafe boasts historic black-and-white photos on the brick walls and comfortable tables for coffee and tea.

The window to the basement: the contents belonging to interned Japanese-American families have never been touched since they were left there during WWII. A chilling and sad sight.

The window to the basement: the contents belonging to interned Japanese-American families have never been touched since they were left there during WWII. A chilling and sad sight.

Black-and-white photos chronicling the times when Japanese American families thrived in Seattle before WWII.

Black-and-white photos chronicling the times when Japanese American families thrived in Seattle before WWII.

A close-up black-and-white photograph depicting life in Seattle in the Japanese-American community.

A close-up black-and-white photograph depicting life in Seattle in the Japanese-American community.

The inside of the storefront window showcasing artifacts.

The inside of the storefront window showcasing artifacts.

The inside of the storefront window showcasing artifacts.

The other exhibit in the storefront window of the Panama Hotel.

Farewell, Panama Hotel! Next time we will have to stay longer and have a pastry and cup of tea.

Farewell, Panama Hotel! Next time we will have to stay longer and have a pastry and cup of tea.

We made my first trip to the FANHS National Office (810 18th Avenue, #100, 206.322.0204), located within Lake Washington Girls Middle School. Although I saw Dorothy Cordova, Executive Director and Co-founder, with her late husband, of the Filipino American National Historical Society, at the 2016 FANHS Conference in New York City, this meeting represented my first introduction to “Auntie” Dorothy. I presented my novel to Auntie Dorothy as a gift to the FANHS Library.

Auntie Dorothy and me with my novel (photo courtesy of Maria Batayola).

Auntie Dorothy and me with my novel (photo courtesy of Maria Batayola).

Collage with a group picture of Joan May Cordova, Marissa, Auntie Dorothy, Maria, and me.

Collage with a group picture of Joan May Cordova, Marissa, Auntie Dorothy, Maria, and me.

Marissa and I enter the "Catacombs" (photo courtesy of Maria Batayola).

Marissa and I enter the “Catacombs” (photo courtesy of Maria Batayola).

Marissa and I were treated to a visit to the FANHS archives, also known as the “catacombs,” where specially built shelves house hundreds of boxes of files on Filipino Americans. While Marissa looked through her file, I doubted that I had a file on me. To my surprise, I found two files – under Patty Enrado and Patricia Enrado – with correspondences that I had written to FANHS in 2005-2006, among them requesting contact information for a project on the Filipino Manilamen, which I ended up abandoning. I also sent a link to my short story, “We Are Thinking of You,” which had won an award in 2002 from Serpentine e-zine, and a journal that had published one of my other short stories. I didn’t save the online short story as a pdf, which was a shame because at some point this year the site was taken down and the link broken, forever erasing the existence of the story as is (I had various revisions of the story but no final Word version that matched the printed version). I was ecstatic, therefore, to take pictures of the printed story, and now I’ll have to figure out a way to get it up on my author website.

A letter I wrote to FANHS nearly 17 years ago!

A letter I wrote to FANHS nearly 17 years ago!

Boxes and boxes of files in the catacombs.

Boxes and boxes of files in the catacombs.

Political posters of every Filipino American candidate for office in the U.S. on the walls.

Political posters of every Filipino American candidate for office in the U.S. on the walls.

Originally, Maria was going to treat the three of us to dinner at Kusina Filipina (3201 Beacon Avenue S., 206.322.9433), but the place closed just as we walked up. The silver lining, however, was choosing Bar del Corso (3057 Beacon Avenue S., 206.395.2069, www.bardelcorso.com), a pizzeria, restaurant on Beacon Hill, as our backup destination a block away. Maria let us know that the wife who owns the restaurant with her husband, Jeff Corso, who is chef and general manager, is Filipino. Auntie Dorothy pointed out that a framed Filipino family photograph hangs in a hallway in the restaurant. Gina Tolentino Corso, the marketing and creative manager, is a freelance graphic designer, a painter and illustrator, and “lover of good food.” Her artwork – big, bold, and colorful paintings – hangs on the walls of the restaurant. Maria had announced to our waiter Auntie Dorothy’s presence and her title. So it should not have come as a surprise that Gina came to our table and said, “You must be the table of Filipino American women.” She was a delight to meet. When told of my book, she expressed interest in reading it. And although I didn’t ask where she was originally from, she attended UC Davis. Ah, the Aggie connection again in the Pacific Northwest!

Fall in the International District, Seattle.

Fall in the International District, Seattle.

I have to talk about the food because it was phenomenal – simply and deceptively prepared but complex and flavorful in taste. We ordered two salads, one of which had bits of crunchy savory crackers. We also ordered Polpettine (house-made meatballs in tomato sauce), Vongole Alla Marinara (Manila clams, garlic, controne pepper, cherry tomatoes, white wine, extra virgin olive oil, and parsley), Grilled Octopus (with corona beans, lacinato kale, spicy ‘Nduja salame, and extra virgin olive oil), and a pizza – Funghi, with crimini mushrooms, house-made sausage, cherry tomatoes, pecorino, and fontina. Family-style serving enabled us to sample everything. We ate everything and were happily sated. The next time I’m in Seattle, I’m returning to Bar del Corso.

Friday evening, as part of Celebrating 2016 Filipino American History Month, Marissa screened her film and I read a short excerpt at the Centilia Cultural Center at Plaza Roberto Maestas (1660 S. Roberto Maestas Festival Street, Seattle). The center recently opened after restoration of an old school house and the building of affordable housing and community-use buildings. What a beautiful project El Centro de la Raza took on! El Centro de la Raza, “the Center for People of All Races,” is “a voice and a hub for the Latino community” as they “advocate on behalf of” its “people and work to achieve social justice.” The evening’s theme reflected the mission of the nonprofit. Maria and Estela Ortega, executive director of El Centro de la Raza, welcomed the audience. Estela related that she had worked in the fields in Texas and was active in the United Farm Workers union but never knew that the Filipino American farm workers initiated the Great Delano Grape Strike of 1965 and were instrumental in the formation of the UFW. One of the goals of the evening of reading and screening was to highlight Filipino-American contributions to the farm labor movement, strengthen ties among Filipino and Latino workers, and honor Larry Itliong’s Northwest labor leadership and contribution with the local IBU salmon cannery workers.

A panel discussion followed, which included Auntie Dorothy, Marissa, Ray Pascua, farmworker organizer and President of the Greater Yakima Valley Filipino American Community, and Rick Guirtiza, Vice President of the International Boatman’s Union Local, Maritime Division of ILWU. I met the University of Washington students who are members of the Filipino American Student Association (FASA) and a handful of audience members who were interested in my book. Maraming salamat to Alaskero Foundation, 4Culture, Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, FANHS National and PWEKA, who sponsored the Friday evening reading.

(to be continued….)