Birthplace, home, and passport,
ethnicity, blood, and family;
I am just another export.
But not really.
There are thousands of miles
between me and my countrymen.
Thousands of miles
keep me sheltered from slaughter.
I do not smell the dry blood
pave the streets,
or hear loved ones wail in defeat.
I do not cry at funerals
or propose alternate solutions.
But are they even mine?
I don’t know.
I know no slave to the lords of cocaine;
I did not grow up on the same block
or drive in the same lane.
I was abroad,
I am abroad
seeing headlines in the Times
of the bastard’s foul crimes
on the other side of the world
do I do?
How do you push the man pushing the pushers
literally out of helicopters? If it’s
any consolation my family
keeps me up to date. My family
tries to participate, but my family
is fourteen thousand kilometers
I’m now registered to vote,
but I don’t know what to vote for.
To my lola
The words “Kumain ka na?” were the same as “Mahal kita”
The words she would greet you with after opening the door
Before ushering you to table laden with banana leaves
In a house redolent of fresh fish from the palengke, lumpia, pancit
Of all the fruits and vegetables born of the dirt behind their bahay kubo
Raised in the run, kissed by the rain, and embraced by Mother Earth
Then taken lovingly into the arms of my lolos to be
Washed in the kitchen sink like newborn babies
And then fondly prepared for the kamayan
My lolos worked hard to infuse the food with love, trying to put their love directly inside of me
Believing that the best way to the heart was through the stomach
Before I learned how to take the food in my own fingers,
Lola would skillfully hand-feed me, taking the ulam with the tips of her fingers,
Pushing it into my mouth with her thumb
When I got bigger, Lolo told me that we eat with our hands
Because it connects us with the homeland and ancestors, humbles us,
And makes us more appreciative of the kind family member
Who pulled the ingredients from the ground so that we could push it into our mouths
Passionately, he would explain how the metal utensils tainted the flavors of the food the same
way they tainted our cultural history
“So,” he would say, “When we eat this meal, eat well, and eat as a proud Filipino”
Long after the sun had set, the feast would be over, but the food would not be all gone
After every kamayan, there was always enough food to feed a village
Since Lola habitually makes more than enough in case of unexpected guests
While we sat around the table with full, warm bellies, Lolo still telling golden stories, mga pinsan
still quarrelling over the last piece of kalamay, Tita still trying to get bunso to say ‘iná’
Lola would already have the containers out to send the baon home with guests
Her way of ensuring that you would eat well the next day
And even if your refrigerator and pantries were full,
You know it would be rude to refuse the her sweet command
Besides, its impossible to leave a lola’s house without taking a bag of baon
The rest of the leftovers would be left out so that
Lola could run next door to the neighbors and ask,
“Have you eaten?”