likha diwa

i find myself a corner to sit in an old sidestreet cafe named Likha Diwa.
“to create meaning”, the name of the place says.
i take my shoes off, and barefoot, squat on its handpainted floors, so close again to the earth.

just a day ago i celebrated spring time with loved ones in cool northwestern coastal rainforests. tonight i am back in warm tropical rains, with the city’s tricycles buzzing by.

surrendering to the warmth of the night, i extend both legs in front. i ground my seat down, and begin to sit tall. breathing slowly, gently, fully. lengthening my spine with an easy grace.

20130604-081531.jpgi quickly remember the curve at my lower back – how my body lazily sags towards the right side when not given attention. breathing in i gently draw my tummy in, tugging to straighten the lower spine, as the muscles around it begin to lengthen up.

the spine cannot grow with grace if the muscles supporting it are not strong,
not firm. both strength and tenderness, together. it is hard to enjoy the comforts of contentment, of patience, of peace, without an equal amount of courage to face and to struggle.

my body is not stretching on a rubber mat, but it remains rested, fully present, sitting in the corner of a cafe. not anymore on a vacation abroad, but back in the heart of difficult work. it doesn’t seem that i have to pick one over the other – it is in joining both rest and struggle, both strength and tenderness, that a graceful power begins to breathe.
Likha Diwa. where meaning is created.


grief, remembering


Image“To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”

-Arundhati Roy
grief carves deep into me. and it holds me close to dexter, my beautiful Ati brother. the bullets shot into his body could not possibly, could never ever possibly, kill his enormous light.
with him laughter would rise bubbling up from our bellies. his long kinky hair always caught by the sea winds. yellow polish on his nails, i would tease him for. the mounds of rice we shamelessly ate, giggling, after a long day’s work. i loved being near him. he was sweet lightness, but also a felt and very respected presence. happiness was so so easy for dexter, even if long years of backbreaking and heartaching work have been set on him. as he helped bring his people together many years ago, the Atis of Boracay Island for the first time dared to dream that they can, and rightfully so, live on their ancestors’ land.
my grief is not for dexter: i know, i know he is oh so alive!
this grief is instead for the unspeakable violence that breathes all around us. how corporate greed and economics have turned into power, hoping to kill the strength of cultural wisdom and the human spirit. dexter knew of injustice very well; he and the Atis live it every day. but he never could accept it. and i too promise to never look away.
to stand in dexter’s light, and to be in solidarity with the Atis, join the Boracay Ati Community page, and share it!

fractured and whole

a circle bounds this overcongested city. it keeps the smog in, and wraps our eyes closed. an invincible line of billboards and shopping centres walls the metropolis in from remembering the miseries created by this same madness in the rest of the islands. it only takes me a flight out to remember that worlds exist beyond this bubble.

outside of manila we continue, deliriously, to draw lines on our maps. we continue to break the earth into fractured bits. Lupa. she is to be to divided, cut up, and taken over. peoples too are fractioned into “us” and “them”. even bodies are mapped apart from the ground that feeds them.

ImageTayo ang bubuhayin ng lupa,” Tatay Emok reminds us in the island of boracay, “It is us that the land allows to live.” our arrogance has made us forget.

there is a shameful scramble to own every square inch of the island. even where the waves roll in, winds and waters cannot be left alone by commercial marketing schemes. the turquoise blue ocean is policed against those who are of darker skin and kinkier hair –those who have long since sung and danced in awe of all this creation. as palaces keep rising on hilltops and restaurants choke the shore, old burial grounds are dug up and living people shoved back behind new ghettos.

i come back to manila, again unable to forget the pains caused by fractured lands, and fractured peoples. how can we come back whole? somewhere in silence we know that all our borders, all our imagined geographies, lose their reality. boundary lines become just scribbles in the sand. land titles turn into paper play. and we remember that there is nothing natural about injustice.

when i read Tatay Emok’s words on the papers piled on my desk, hundreds of miles of waters apart, i hear of a truer way to live. a way of life where we can come back more whole.

{join the Boracay Ati Community and share their story!}

the right to dream

i remember watching this with papi, our heads huddled over a handheld screen, ears straining to hear eduardo galeano’s voice. our eyes moistened as we listened on to a voice we very well recognised — truly unafraid and of brilliant passion. a 60-year old salvadoreño, a 24-year old filipina. our hearts pounded, glowed and sighed. we understood the same truth.

¿Qué tal si deliramos por un ratito?
Shall we be delirious for a moment?

¿Qué tal si clavamos los ojos más allá de la infamia para adivinar otro mundo posible?
What if we fix our eyes beyond infamy, in order to divine another possible world?

El aire estará limpio de todo veneno que no provenga de los miedos humanos y de las humanas pasiones.
The air will be clean from all the poisons that do not originate from human fears and human passions.

En las calles los automóviles serán aplastados por los perros.
In the streets the automobiles will be run over by the dogs.

La gente no será manejada por el automóvil, ni será programada por el ordenador, ni será comprada por el supermercado, ni será tampoco mirada por el televisor.
People will not be driven by the car, nor will they be programmed by the computer, nor will they be bought by the supermarket, nor will they be watched by the television.

El televisor dejará de ser el miembro más importante de la familia y será tratado como la plancha o el lavarropas.
The television will no longer be the most important member of the family, and instead will be treated just like the iron or the washing machine.

Se incorporará a los códigos penales el delito de estupidez que cometen quienes viven por tener o por ganar, en vez de vivir por vivir no más,
The ‘crime of stupidity’ will be added to the penal codes for those who live to have or to gain, instead of living just to live and nothing more,

como canta el pájaro sin saber que canta y como juega el niño sin saber que juega.
like the bird who sings without knowing what it sings, and like the child who plays without knowing what it plays.

En ningún país irán presos los muchachos que se nieguen a cumplir el servicio militar sino los que quieran cumplirlo.
In no country will young men go to prison for refusing to serve in the military, but rather, for wanting to serve in the military.

Nadie vivirá para trabajar pero todos trabajaremos para vivir.
Nobody will live to work, but all of us will work to live.

Los economistas no llamarán nivel de vida al nivel de consumo, ni llamarán calidad de vida a la cantidad de cosas.
Economists will not define the level of development with the level of consumption, nor will they define the quality of life as the quantity of stuff.

Los cocineros no creerán que a las langostas les encanta que las hiervan vivas.
Cooks will not believe that lobsters just love to be boiled alive.

Los historiadores no creerán que a los países les encanta ser invadidos.
Historians will not believe that countries simply love to be invaded.

Los políticos no creerán que a los pobres les encanta comer promesas. Politicians will not believe that the poor simply enjoy eating promises.

La solemnidad se dejará de creer que es una virtud, y nadie nadie tomará en serio a nadie que no sea capaz de tomarse el pelo.
Seriousness will no longer be considered a virtue, and no one will take anyone seriously if they cannot laugh at themselves.

La muerte y el dinero perderán sus mágicos poderes y ni por defunción ni por fortuna se convertirá el canalla en virtuoso caballero.
Death and money will lose their magical powers, and neither by death nor by fortune will a coward be turned into a heroic gentleman.

La comida no será una mercancía ni la comunicación un negocio, porque la comida y la comunicación son derechos humanos.
Food will not be a merchandise, and communication will not be a business, because food and communication are human rights.

Nadie morirá de hambre porque nadie morirá de indigestión.
No one will die of hunger because no one will die of indigestion.

Los niños de la calle no serán tratados como si fueran basura porque no habrá niños de la calle.
Street kids will not be treated like garbage because there will be no street kids.

Los niños ricos no serán tratados como si fueran dinero porque no habrá niños ricos.
Rich kids will not be treated like money because there will be no rich kids.

La educación no será el privilegio de quienes puedan pagarla y la policía no será la maldición de quienes no puedan comprarla.
Education will not be the privilege of those who can pay, and the police will not be a curse for those who cannot buy them.

La justicia y la libertad, hermanas siamesas, condenadas a vivir separadas, volverán a juntarse, bien pegaditas, espalda contra espalda.
Justice and Liberty, Siamese twins, once condemned to live apart, will be reunited, so close together, back to back.

En Argentina las locas de Plaza de Mayo serán un ejemplo de salud mental porque ellas se negaron a olvidar en los tiempos de la amnesia obligatoria.
In Argentina, the crazy women of the Plaza de Mayo will be exemplars of mental health because they refused to forget in times of obligatory amnesia.

La Santa Madre Iglesia corregirá algunas erratas de las tablas de Moisés y el sexto mandamiento ordenará festejar el cuerpo.
The Holy Church will correct some mistakes on the tablets of Moses, and the sixth commandment will order us to celebrate our bodies.

La Iglesia también dictará otro mandamiento que se le había olvidado a Dios, “amarás a la Naturaleza de la que formas parte”.
The Church will also dictate another commandment that God had forgotten, “You will love Mother Nature, of which you are a part of.”

Serán reforestados los desiertos del mundo y los desiertos del alma.
The deserts of the world and the deserts of the soul will be reforested.

Los desesperados serán esperados y los perdidos serán encontrados porque ellos se desesperaron de tanto esperar y ellos se perdieron por tanto buscar.
The desperate will get some rest, and the lost will be found, because they have become restless at being desperate and they have become lost from so much searching.

Seremos compatriotas y contemporáneos de todos los que tengan voluntad de belleza y voluntad de justicia,
We will be compatriots and contemporaries of those who have the will for beauty and justice,

hayan nacido cuando hayan nacido y hayan vivido donde hayan vivido, regardless of where they were born or when they will be born,

sin que importe ni un poquito las fronteras del mapa ni del tiempo. because the borders of maps and time won’t matter a tiny bit.

Seremos imperfectos porque la perfección seguirá siendo el aburrido privilegio de los dioses. We will be imperfect because perfection will continue to be the boring privilege of the gods…

Pero en este mundo, en este mundo chambón y jodido But in this world, in this screwed up and messed up world,

seremos capaces de vivir cada día como si fuera el primero y cada noche como si fuera la última. we will be capable of living each day as if it were our first, and each night as if it were our last.

of this Earth

Image“I feel completely at home in this Universe, which I consider a perfect marvel. When I look around at the Earth I see possibilities: grass, rain, rocks, dust, wind… I can clearly see, appreciate, and anticipate my future face in everything.”

– Alice Walker, The New Internationalist magazine

as i come to take a restful seat, i grow my roots down to find the Earth beneath me. having arrived at this place of rest, She then rises to greet me, blooming with dreams and dances. i too begin to rise on these little feet, dancing and stomping to the pulse of the ground beneath me — Corazón de La Tierra. wearing Her hundred different faces, the Earth and i both awaken.