One summer day, when the rice lay golden in the sun, startling rumors came to Mangusmana: the peasants in a province to the south of us had revolted against their landlords. There the peasants had been the victims of ruthless exploitation for years, dating back to the 18th century when Spanish colonizers instituted severe restrictive measures in order to impoverish the natives. So from then on the peasants became poorer each year and the landlords became richer at every harvest time.

–Carlos Bulosan, America is in the Heart

I just published my book review for Bulosan’s America is in the Heart at the same time that #OccupyLuisita in the Philippines is happening. The struggle of farmers and peasants has always been an issue, even a century later.

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Militant farmers break down a portion of the wall of the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita Monday in their own version of “Occupy”, citing a Supreme Court ruling that mandated the distribution of the land. (PHOTO BY DAX SIMBOL, INTERAKSYON)

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If there was anything that I was reminded the most of this week, it’s that repression and oppression only breeds resistance and struggle. That the peace that we truly want is a just one, a peace that is genuine and lasting.

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And if peace could ever come in the form of hip hop music, I’d have to give it to Chance the Rapper for giving me an out-of-body-ethereal-spiritual experience Wednesday night.

I left the Oracle Arena in Oakland feeling at peace with who I am and what I have. Maybe it’s the gratitude, messages of healing and hope he imparted that had me feeling all the feels, but I know that if we were to ever create lasting movements of struggle, music can be another language of resistance.

“Are you ready for your blessings? Are you ready for your miracles?”

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Gratuitous self-portrait. 

 

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April 29 is Independent Bookstore Day!

Independent Bookstore Day is a one-day national party that takes place at indie bookstores across the country on the last Saturday in April. Every store is unique and independent, and every party is different. But in addition to authors, live music, cupcakes, scavenger hunts, kids events, art tables, readings, barbecues, contests, and other fun stuff, there are exclusive books and literary items that you can only get on that day. Not before. Not after. Not online.

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Celebrate this day by supporting your local bookstores — find your local bookstore here.

#GetLit: Carlos Bulosan, Chance the Rapper & Peace

#GetLit

To Break the Wall Between Self and the Future, with Carlos Bulosan

Book Reviews, Fil/Lit

“I will be a writer and make all of you live again in my words.”
–Carlos Bulosan

My introduction to Carlos Bulosan, perhaps one of the greatest Filipino-American writers to have ever lived, is a little late. While most of my peers learned about Bulosan and read his work in college, I finished the book just a little over a week ago.

It is the year 2017, the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency. As the month of April nears its end, many of the preparations in the community are geared towards May 1st, International Workers Day.

I think about Bulosan and his words, and the significance of May Day as I write this. How a book that was written in the 30s of the last century — which detailed the simultaneous heartbreaking and back-breaking struggle of Filipino farmworkers in the Northwest, and Bulosan’s first encounter with fascism — is still relevant to this day.

America is in the Heart (Indiebound) is presented as the autobiography of Carlos Bulosan, a Filipino peasant migrant from the Philippines to the U.S. While many facts in the book are refuted, it nonetheless stands as a testimony and a witness to the early experiences of Filipinos in the country.

The book is a sweeping account of his life, from growing up poor in the Philippines, in a small village in the northern islands. Allos, as he was referred to initially, grew up helping his father farm and his mother vend small goods. At an early age, Allos was becoming more and more aware of the conditions of people like him, which made up the majority of the Philippines — the peasantry.

Most of those who were young and able-bodied, specifically men, knew that in order for their families to survive, they had to get out and look for jobs elsewhere.

In the provinces where the poor peasants lived and toiled for the rich hacienderos, or landlords, the young men were stirring and rebelling against their heritage. Those who could no longer tolerate existing conditions adventured into the new land, for the opening of the United States to them was one of the gratifying provisions of the peace treaty that culminated the Spanish-American war.

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Early Filipino American farm workers, as in this 1936 picture of a musical get-together at Estalio’s labor camp. (Photo courtesy of Rosalie Marquez)

America became a dream for young Allos, and as soon as he was given the opportunity to board one of the ships that could potentially change his life forever, he immediately hopped on.