Multitudes, with Gordon Parks

Art + Creativity, Soul + Spirit

This week’s inspiration: fashion, lifestyle and (most importantly) movement photographer, Gordon Parks.

It wasn’t until I started poring over Volume 26 of the Kinfolk magazine that I found about him, in spite of his magnanimous work behind the lens. Moved by the same current of wanting to document and expose what his own eyes saw, he taught himself how to use a camera he bought from a pawn shop.

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Source: The Gordon Parks Foundation

Years, decades later, Parks would be known for his body of work that documented the grit and beauty of black life that reflected his commitment to racial justice. He captured fleeting moments on camera, each a universe on its own. He documented poverty, rural and urban life, revealing the herculean efforts it took to complete seemingly menial tasks.

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Source: The Gordon Parks Foundation

At the same time, he also did many portraits and fashion shoots, a testament to his versatility in the craft. Throughout his career, he photographed Muhammad Ali, the Black Panthers, Ralph Ellison, Marilyn Monroe and many more.

I gravitated towards Parks because I found his work as a movement photographer and a fashion photographer compelling. In a time when most of us are encouraged to do one big thing, what he chose to do gave me so much hope. What I loved about him is that he believed in capturing beauty, that beauty is essential to everyday life.

I love that he was engaged in making that happen, and that it didn’t stop him from continuing his work no matter what he was engaged in — whether out in the streets or in a fashion studio.

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I can’t say that I am a former activist at the moment, just because my level of participation isn’t what it used to be. I’m at a point where my activism is constantly evolving, and it is looking more and more different each day. At the same time, I’ve never felt so invigorated in expressing myself through fashion, something I’ve considered superficial for a long time.

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Source: The Gordon Parks Foundation

What I’m slowly realizing is that I’m engaged in a double-sided effort: a spiritual transformation through reading, and constant visual transformation of my body as a means for growth. Thus, my renewed vigor for books and looks or concurrently: #booklook.

These two efforts — literature and fashion, have long been intertwined in my system from a young age. My love for reading books started early on, never forced, a natural inclination.

Fashion, on the other hand was a different story, something that grew out of being a morena in a country where colorism runs deep, a story between my mother and I.

Being the bookish kid with a flair for fashion was hard, because I felt like I was constantly being pulled in opposite directions. Whereas I cherished the world books built for me within, I was also giddy with experimenting with different looks to express my creativity. Eventually, I dismissed the latter and decided to focus on literature.

These days though, I find myself exploring these things again. Both pursuits require money, so I’m eternally grateful for used bookstores (like Green Apple Books in San Francisco) and consignment stores all over the city (Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads). Material considerations aside, I’m grateful to Parks for showing me that it is possible, that we don’t have to compartmentalize the ways we choose to express ourselves.

In the meantime, you can find a combination of these loves on my Instagram account. I’d love to know what you think: have you ever felt like you embrace contradicting things? How’d you struggle with them? 

What I’m Reading / Thinking / Feeling this February

#GetLit, Soul + Spirit

Fresh off of a trip from New York City and I’m feeling all sorts of inspired + excited for this year’s opportunities and gifts!

I just wrote a piece on Hella Pinay about making 2018 the year of emergence, along with a couple of book recommendations that I hope can guide and enlighten. You can check out the full piece here, and share with a friend or two.

February is probably one of my favorite months, in anticipation of March (my birth month) where for the past couple of years, a lot of life-changing things have been happening. It’s also usually Chinese New Year (I’m not Chinese but have reverence for the occasion), Black History Month and duh, Valentines Day (which is always a good time to challenge/recreate/celebrate the different ways we love).

I know we’re almost halfway into the month already, but I’ve got a few more literary-ish things I’m hoping to publish in addition to weekly book reviews. I’m reading a bit slower than usual though, and usually I would berate myself for not keeping on track with my reading/publishing schedule but I learned a lot of good but hard lessons last year.

A few things coming up your way is a V-day special, books to celebrate Black History month and this month’s reading of course! I just finished Tom Hanks’s book of short stories An Unncommon Type and unexpectedly loved it. I’m about to dive into another set of short stories by Susan Sontag, so watch out for reviews of both of these. This week also, my review for Ana Simo’s Heartland will be out!

As I continue to open myself up to new experiences and things that make me want to cower in bed and hide, I find myself feeling lighter and expansive at the same time, each day a wave of goodness (even on the bad days). I can say that for the first time in my existence, I feel at peace with what I have, what I’m doing, what I’m feeling. Is this what being in your 30s feel like?!

Navigating a tumultuous political and economic reality can wear even the strongest spirit down, so for the past few months, I’ve been focused on nourishing my mental, emotional and physical health. And it’s worked wonders! Apart from living within the books I devour, I’ve also learned how to truly live in this world–to be ever present. At the end of the day, knowing that everything I chose to say yes and no to feels good in my heart (and gut!) gives me a sense of power and agency I’ve never really felt before.

This, in spite of continued attacks on women from heads of state (Trump & Duterte) — u got a domestic violence apologist/misogynist for your adoptive country with a macho-fascist for your homeland. Talk about being a Filipino-American queer woman at this time!

Still, we resist. We create. We thrive and continue to exist. I am grateful to feel rooted, grounded and centered like never before and it is my wish that every single one feels the same way. We need all of our strength and resilience as we fight to make our way in this planet, as we make room for many more. I love how I’ve been able to connect with so many folks through this Libromance and as always, thank you for supporting me and my blog! 🖤

Filipina in México: Drug Wars & Duterte

Sunday Spotlight

It felt good to say peace out to the U.S. for about a week, as I flew across and past the southern border of the country.

México was the closest thing to home for a Filipina who grew up in the tropics, transplanted in the foggy coast of the Bay Area. I yearned to be away from the toxic rhetoric that Trump spewed 24/7, and I wanted to put as much distance as I could between white supremacists and my queer, brown body.

As the plane made its way to the Yucatán Peninsula, I couldn’t help but shake my head at the irony. Just a few days before I left the Bay was when I first found out about Kian Loyd Delos Santos. The 17-year old from Caloocan City in the Philippines was murdered by the police, on accounts of being a drug pusher/courier/runner. President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal “War on Drugs” has claimed 12,000 lives, with the number of extrajudicial killings rising every day.

So there I was, heading to a country whose people Trump and his supporters have vowed to build a wall against, a country which has also been fighting its own drug war.

What’s a Filipino living in America to do?

The sun was high up as I stepped out of the airport. The heat and humidity felt familiar. On a ferry to Isla Mujeres, I sought to shake Trump off my mind as my senses drank in the beauty of the ocean, a glistening blue that lulled you. Surprisingly, that sentiment was affirmed by souvenirs and wares sold on sidewalk stalls: trucker hats with the words “F*ck Trump” on them, the ultimate anti-MAGA dad hats.

While Trump was fading in my mind, Kian was becoming more and more prominent. I was physically away from the States but my social media feeds and timelines weren’t.   There were many stories and articles about Kian’s death, whose mother was an overseas Filipino worker forced to come home to his son’s funeral. There were many speculations, as many as the number of Duterte’s opposition who kept showing up at Kian’s wake.

I found it interesting that just about a year ago, I read a story online that featured two books Duterte was reading: a nonfiction title about Southeast Asia and what do you know — El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency (Amazon | Indiebound) by Ioan Grillo. I don’t know much about the book, but I hope he realizes that the drug war he’s created and the level of impunity he’s unleashed is not the solution.

Whenever I think of the Mexican drug war, I remember what former President Vicente Fox said when I met him back in 2010: aren’t the customers from up north, the Americans? While the situations aren’t entirely similar, the viewpoint of crushing drug peddlers — usually poor people and worse, minors, women and children — does little to end the toxic industry. 

A Brief, Personal History with Food

Sunday Spotlight

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

I gifted Michael Pollan’s Food Rules (Amazon | Indiebound) to all my aunts and uncles one Christmas, along with a plant. The slim volume just came out a few months before that and I thought of it as the best manifesto for eating, the perfect holiday present. Since reading In Defense of Food (Amazon | Indiebound), I’ve become a huge Michael Pollan fan. I loved how he dissected the most mundane things like grocery shopping, and turned them into such internally provocative gestures which revealed a lot more about ourselves and the world we live in that we initially thought of. (I’m not sure how well the books were received though — we are a family of carnivorous folks with a penchant for rich and salty food).

 This time around, I’m back to another one of Pollan’s book: The Botany of Desire (Amazon | Indiebound). I’ll save all the details of the book for the review later this week but reading it touched on something I’ve been thinking about for a while now.

As I get older (and as what older folks used to tell me), my body is not just as receptive as it was before to food. Sure, I’ve gained a few pounds and it’s been a lot harder to shed most of it than when I was 25 (I have a really high metabolism which is a curse and a blessing at the same time, if you ask me). I’ve also never been into sweets before (even as a young kid)  but these days, a week can’t go by without a cup of milk tea with tapioca. I tend to bobafy myself pretty consistently, just check my Instagram story.

I know which food is good for me, and I know which food will make me feel like crap. After a recent trip to the Philippines, I was jet lagged and depressed for days. After waking up at 2 on a Thursday morning feeling like I need to pack my bags and move back to the homeland, I decided to make myself some food. I fried some SPAM and eggs, ate it with rice and crawled back to bed, feeling a lot more at peace. I slept like a baby.

My own trips to the grocery store (Trader Joe’s to be exact) got me coming home with a bag full of the following things: eggs, chicken sausages, spinach, kale or arugula, ground turkey or chicken, chile dried mangoes and a bag of nacho cheese chips. By the end of the week, only the eggs, chicken sausages and the bag of chips would be fully consumed. There are weeks where I end up wasting so much food that it deters me from even going to the grocery store to begin with.

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Saturday brunch at Berkeley Social Club, featuring the tastiest and crunchiest Yukon potatoes ever.

So what do I eat? I tend to go to the cafe at my workplace which is relatively healthy and cheap (with some extremely processed options) or order food for delivery which has become quite an expensive habit. I also love to eat out, another drain in my bank account. At home, the rice cooker is usually brimming with cooked, white rice. The cupboard is stocked with many, many cans of processed food and bags of chicharron (fried pork rinds). Living with my family has been incredibly nourishing but alas, also fattening.

It’s quite apparent: I have a hard-to-break predilection towards processed food. SPAM, hotdogs, sausages, corned beef. I want them all, any time, any day. All of these things tell me one thing: that food is largely emotional for me. It was only in the past few weeks that I realized I was just mimicking what I grew up with back in the Philippines: an abundance of salty, processed food (we lived about an hour away from a U.S. military base) and the instantaneous presentation of meals (I grew up with Ate Marie, our nanny and cook). All of it finally made sense.

Reading The Botany of Desire (Amazon | Indiebound) then was something special because instead of just analyzing man’s relationship with food, Pollan went deeper into man and society’s relationship with plants instead, correlated to our different desires.

This perspective just turned my head around, because it gave me an appreciation of how plants can also possibly view the world around them. Affirming the life inherent in each morsel I bite does something to me, turning what I thought I already knew into an expanded version of reality, rife with biodiversity.

As I challenge my salty and processed food-seeking tastebuds, I’ll be keeping Pollan in mind, along with the philosophy, history and politics of food, of plants.

A Message of Love and Pain, with Frida Kahlo

Sunday Spotlight

I used to work at Borders Books & Music in San Francisco, attached to a mall and close to a university. Having just come back from a trip to the Philippines where I tried to hold and maybe rekindle the type of young love you read about, I was more than happy to be buried and surrounded by books.

It was here where I first discovered Frida Kahlo. I don’t remember the first time I started learning about her, but I do remember buying a book of all her paintings. I didn’t know much about Frida, but her work resonated with me immediately even before I knew her story or the stories behind her paintings.

A decade later, I was standing in front of La Casa Azul in the beautiful neighborhood of Coyoacán, about half an hour away from Mexico City. I’ve wanted to visit Frida Kahlo’s home-turned-museum for a long time and standing there, in the middle of the lush foliage and blue walls of the compound I felt like I’ve truly achieved something.

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La Casa Azul, June 2017

Stepping into La Casa Azul felt a lot like stepping into a dream, into the world of Frida. It took me a while to believe that I was really there and I wanted to see everything and do nothing at the same time, for the sheer joy of being in the space. It felt sacred.

There were people in the courtyard, sitting on benches and talking, people milling about, people taking photos. There was also an area off to the side where there was a film showing, as more folks trickled in and out of the space. We headed straight to the museum which led to what became Frida and Diego’s home for awhile.

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These were some of the first few paintings I saw: an unfinished self-portrait sketch made in Detroit, Frida and the Cesarean (also unfinished) and a painting called “Marxism will bring health to the sick” which features Frida wearing a leather corset and a Tehuana skirt.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of Frida’s paintings in person, so seeing these was an ultimate gift. Most of her paintings are also all over the world — in prestigious institutions like the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, in universities, in private collections and with close friends of hers and Diego’s like Dolores Olmedo. I was planning to visit Olmedo’s museum to check out more of Frida’s work but at the time, the exhibit was under construction.

Throughout her paintings — unfinished or completed — Frida’s lust for life was evident. In spite of her illnesses, the numerous miscarriages she had and the heartaches she’s  had to endure from Diego, she radiated what she painted in the simplest, but also grandest terms: Viva la ida.  Long live life.

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After her (and Diego’s) paintings were also photographs of Frida herself, with eyes that pierced and a stance so bold, so fearless. I stared at one of her photos for some time, one from Lucienne Bloch’s series. In the photo, Frida is looking straight into the camera, her necklace dangling from between her lips. It was evocative, but firm. A quiet, unyielding strength. There’s also photo of her plaiting her hair, naked from the waist up. In another one, she’s on a boat leaning down against the rail, her fingers playing with the water.

Tender, bold and playful at the same time. I thought to myself: How many of us are actually living our lives? How many of us are actually brave enough to stray away from our routines and focus instead on creating our own maps, no matter how arduous?

Eventually, the photos gave way to Frida’s study where her books were (still in their glass shelves), her paint, tools and figurines preserved as if Frida herself would come any minute to paint.

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There were still many people outside in the courtyard even though it was already half past five (the museum closes at 5pm). There were even more people inside the museum still, all of us eager to get a glimpse of the rest of Frida’s house. The line moved an inch and in a few minutes, I was standing in front of her day bed, which was in direct view of the courtyard. I imagined Frida, in her later years, still filled with love, hope and longing, looking out into the sun and the sky.

While I started taking photos of every detail, I realized that she had also put up a series of photos of the most important political theorists of our time: Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong.

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Frida’s political involvement started early as I recalled reading about The Cachucas, children of the revolution that Frida was a part of along with seven boys and one other girl. Their ideological cocktail was composed of Socialism, Romanticism and nationalism although their passion for poetry and literature overshadowed their politics.

In her diary, she wrote an entry dated 4 November 1952:

Today more than ever I feel a sense of companionship. For 20 years, I have been a Communist. I know. I have read conscientiously [crossed out] the principal origins mixed up with ancient roots.

I have read the History of my country and of almost all other nations. I already know their class struggles and their economic struggles. I have a clear understanding of the materialist dialectic of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tse-tsung. I love them because they are the pillars of the new Communist world.

As I walked out of the museum, down the stairs which led to an outdoor hallway of her and Diego’s collection of native artifacts, I was overcome with a thousand emotions. I was sad and excited at the same time. I felt small and grand.

Frida was as big as life itself, and I had mine to live fully.

“Pies para qué los quiero,
si tengo alas pa volar?”

(“Who needs feet
when I’ve got wings to fly?”)

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La Casa Azul – Museo Frida Kahlohttp://www.museofridakahlo.org.mx
Calle Londres # 247, Colonia Del Carmen, Coyoacán Delegation, CP 04100, Mexico City

Which to Keep, Which to Part with: My Story of Books with Marie Kondo 

Sunday Spotlight

“Books are one of three things people find hardest to let go.”
–Marie Kondo

I first read Marie Kondo’s acclaimed book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Amazon | Indiebound) sometime in late 2014, after it started the news cycle rounds. I was also in the process of a lot of transitions, having just started my saturn return and I devoured anything that helped me get the smallest dose of sanity.

As a Pisces, I am an extremely sensitive person. That sensitivity is in all levels: whether it’s in awkward situations where I can’t help but read body language and try to control the urge to alleviate it, or a movie about dogs and their emotions which leaves me with a tear-stricken face after the first five minutes.

I’m attuned to my surroundings in ways I myself find weird and interesting at the same time, like how I dislike going to certain stores if clothes or items on sale are in disarray (online shopping saved me). I’m particularly sensitive to places, atmosphere and surrounding environment, which is why I’m also the happiest in nature or when I’m next to the beach.


I treat my place / room as a sacred sanctuary, which is why reading Kondo’s book helped me a great deal. For the most part, I found it extremely helpful as I began to narrow down the things I owned. Asking the simple question of “does this bring me joy?” while trying to figure out whether to keep a certain belonging or not worked for me. It made me realize how much I can really live with less, even though I was never a materialistic person to begin with.

Kondo’s “KonMari” method relies on making a few lifestyle changes when it comes to the stuff that we buy. What she teaches is mindfulness when it comes to our belongings, and treating them beyond objects. She encourages an emotional bond wiht our belongings, like treating shoes and bags with care and gratitude, as opposed to seeing them as disposable which capitalism would have us rather be doing.

From clothes to old letters to photographs, even birthday cards, the KonMari method helped me narrow things down and really get to the core of what these things conveyed for me. I was happy with what she was teaching.

Except when it came to her method for sorting and discarding books. She instructs the reader by pulling books out of the shelves to “gently wake them up” or bring them to consciousness and lay them out on the floor. If there are too many books, she suggests piling them in categories.

Once you have piled your books, take them in your hand one by one and decide whether you want to keep or discard each one. The criterion is, of course, whether or not it gives you a thrill of pleasure when you touch it. Remember, I said when you touch it. Make sure you don’t start reading it.

[…]

So when deciding which books to keep, forget about whether you think you’ll read it again or whether you’ve mastered what’s inside. Instead, take each book in your hand and decide whether it moves you or not. Keep only those books that will make you happy just to see them on your shelves, the ones that you really love.

I suddenly remembered all the books I would get at book sales which have gathered dust, books I got as gifts that I never cracked open, and other books that I’ve planned to read but haven’t found the time. I was definitely keeping books that I probably don’t even remember. I was grateful to Kondo’s advice for helping me become more intentional about what books to keep. 

I started going through my shelves, doing exactly what she told. By the end of the process, I had about three boxes of books that I was ok parting with. What I realized was that the more we know ourselves, the easier it’ll be. I had so many unread books about political theories acquired over the years that I didn’t even stop to think if those were what I was really seeking. It was ok for me to give those away because I knew exactly where my politics lie at the moment.

If you missed your chance to read a particular book, even if it was recommended to you or is one you have been intending to read for ages, this is your chance to let it go. You may have wanted to read it when you bought it, but if you haven’t read it by now, they book’s purpose was to teach you that you didn’t need it.

I left these boxes out on the street and by the end of the day, only a few titles were left on the sidewalk.


While I resonated with Kondo’s sentiment on timing and purpose of books, I also disagree. I kept some books that I haven’t read by the time I was sorting, books that I eventually read when I felt that it was the “right time.”

bell hooks’s All About Love (Amazon | Indiebound) was sitting on my shelf for a couple of years, but it wasn’t until I was going through a breakup that I reached for it. I was looking for a specific book on my shelf when I came upon it, and it proved to help my healing process tremendously.

Books are essentially paper — sheets of paper printed with letters and bound together. Their true purpose is to be read, to convey the information to their readers. It’s the information they contain that has meaning. Their is no meaning in their jsut being on your shelves.

I had to resist the urge to throw this book across the room when I got to this part. Instead, I smiled. This is Kondo’s lifework — tidying up — so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that she thinks this way. But for a bibliophile like me and many, many others, books aren’t just paper.

They are many things to the reader, beyond just paper. They’re friends, companions, reminders, whole worlds. They represent different things to different people. When I see the spine of a specific book I’ve read before, I am reminded of the book’s lessons, where I was at that specific time of my life, who I was in those moments. And I always feel a wave of gratitude was over me, a spiritual connection almost.

I know that I will not reread many of the books I keep, but they will be there when the time when I’ll need them the most. As a book blogger as well, my bookshelves provide visceral inspiration and ideas for future book blog posts.

While I’m happy and grateful for Kondo’s method, I think of books beyond clutter, beyond paper. For people like me, they could almost amount to everything. Erasmus said it best:

When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.

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This week’s biggest story is The Atlantic‘s My Family’s Slave by Alex Tizon, a piece that that told the story of the writer’s helper or “katulong” which went viral. I first noticed it on Twitter, where so many folks were talking about it. On Facebook, it was being shared over a hundred times. I’m still thinking about Eudocia, what the term “Lola” actually means, and of course, feudalism in the Philippines. As soon as I am able to, I’ll be writing about it in here. In the meantime, check out some responses that I’m really thankful for and appreciate: GABRIELA USA, Bayan USA, Anakbayan USA.

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I’m also thankful for this self-care guide compiled by the Sylvia River Law Project called Self-Care on the Inside which has tips on meditation and mindfulness, grounding techniques and for nurturing creativity.

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When I’m lost in the work, I’m curious. I don’t know if curiosity is a balm, because it often gets me in trouble, but it gives me control. It becomes fuel, and it brings me out of myself and into the world, even if I’ve just been sitting at my desk and thinking about spirals, which is what I’ve been thinking about this morning.

— Ocean Vuong (aka a Libromance favorite) on being generous in your work

* * *

Because not everything in this world can be dampened by Trump,
nor by the fuckedup-ness of situations, things and/or people.

I always have hope.

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Tuesday morning’s trip to the Rose Garden

#GetLit: Lola, Kinship, Feudalism

#GetLit

#GetLit: On Workers & Indie Bookstores

#GetLit

Still reeling from the energy of the May Day mobilization in Oakland, and incredibly inspired and hopeful by the continued global resistance.

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Oakland May Day, holding the flag with Rachel from Third World Resistance and my kasama Irma from GABRIELA USA.

How did folks around the world celebrated May Day? Here’s an article + photos. Last year, I compiled a list of I thought of Carlos Bulosan and the first migrant farmers in the U.S. while I was holding that banner. I guess it was no coincidence that I read Claudia Salazar Jimenez’s Blood of the Dawn right after. Next book on this series: On Tyranny.

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I don’t remember when I signed up for the TUT – Notes from the Universe emails, but they have been really refreshing in the sea of emails in my inbox. Here’s one from May 3rd:

Every burden bears a gift, every challenge brings a treasure, and every setback hides a blessing.

Is it just me, or does time and space sometimes seem far too good to be true?

Hallelujah,
The Universe

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Yesterday, I dropped by Arkipelago Books and one of the owners, Lily Prijoles just came back from the Philippiness which means tons of new books from Filipino publishers, specially titles which have been selling out! Check out my interview with Lily here, and holla if you know of other similar bookstores.

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Latest book recommendation from Lily: “The Kissing” by Merlinda Bobis, a Fil-Aussie writer. 

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If you support places like Arkipelago, consider donating to Duende District, an up and coming bookstore in Washington D.C. owned, operated and managed by a majority of people of color.

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Lastly, the best things come in three’s:

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Ramen Parlor (San Mateo, CA)

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Mangonada from La Torta Sabrosa (South San Francisco, CA) 

#GetLit: A Libromance Round-up 

Muse if You Must

I started this blog in January 2016 and since then, I’ve posted over thirty book reviews, literary features and weekly lists. I’ve learned so much as I continue to devour the most fascinating and enlightening books, and it is my hope that I am able to impart what I learn through Libromance.

I am ever grateful to all my readers and subscribers — for you, for the time, generosity and love you’ve shown my little corner of the world. Thank you so much.

In the coming weeks (and months and years!), you can expect more book reviews, features and weekly musings. If you have any ideas or suggestions, say hello and drop me a line!

Here’s a round-up of the best Libromance reads:

The Rituals and Routines of Creatives A Sunday Spotlight piece featuring the habits of writers like Bob Ong, Stephen King and Annie Dillard.

A Personal Cartography with the Work of Junot Díaz A post on my personal experience reading Junot Díaz’s work — from Drown to This is How You Lose Her.

Can Buddhism & Activism Ever Co-Exist? Reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s book led me to question the possibilities of Buddhism and activism.

A Different Way of Looking with Marcel Proust and Alain de Botton This is a compendium of how I was inspired and influenced by the French author, through the eyes of British philosopher Alain de Botton.

Finding Time to Read An honest-to-goodness list of ways on carving out precious reading time.