I really should do better about jotting stuff down as they pop into my head. I get the most craziest ideas at the most inopportune times and by the time I’m ready to sit and type stuff up, I can’t remember them anymore. Yesterday, I had an idea of what I may want to focus a dissertation on in the event I want to pursue a PhD. I thought it was brilliant and I got all excited about it. Then I got distracted and now I can’t remember what it was exactly. I’m sure it’ll come back to me and it’ll probably happen again at another inopportune time. I know I want to look into colonial mentality, cultural identity, mental health and indigenous/cultural healing. I still need to do some heavy literature review before I can even begin to hone in on a focus. This is all in a premature stage right now which means that this may all change.
Yesterday, I worked on an assignment about trauma and Indigenous Healing. Naturally, I looked into Filipino Indigenous Healing as it is the journey that I am still on. My instructor showed us a documentary, Carved from the Heart, the day that she assigned this to us. She said that she has seen it over 6 times and she still cries every time that she sees it. I cried and so did many people in the class. I literally felt heartache in response to the stories of cultural loss and the maladaptive behaviors that ensued to cope. It was painfully moving and painfully identifiable.
For those who have been keeping tabs on my blogs, it is no secret that I am in search of my own cultural identity while trying to understand what this means to me. I have been trying to connect with my parents on a deeper level but I feel like I keep hitting this wall. The problem is, I don’t know who this wall is meant to protect. My parents are very different from each other and in all honesty, I don’t know how they have managed to live together for this long. My childhood was a little nuts and judging from what I know now, quite unhealthy. I am grateful though that each parent and I have finally reached a place where there is a relationship. This was something that I did not have until only a handful of years ago.
I talked to my dad yesterday and he told me that after visiting me here for graduation, he was going to go to the Philippines for probably three months to handle some business. I expressed to him that I was worried about him being there for that long. He will be turning 72 this year. He is a survivor of a quadruple heart bypass and is on a regimen of meds to basically keep him alive. I was actually more concerned about his safety because he is in the midst of a land battle with a company who was illegally sold the property. My brother in law has been dealing with his own similar case and one of his attorneys was “coincidentally” found dead. My dad is still a G though talking about “anak, ip I want a can buy a gun with a license to carry. It is por selp depense”. Yup. That is my pops. Still down with his shit. I told him that I want him to tell me all his crazy stories of when he was growing up because until now, he has never ever talked about his childhood or his life for that matter. The plan is if and when all this land stuff works out in my dad’s favor, he will take me and my youngest sister to the Philippines so we can finally get our learn on.
As a kid, I knew that it was one of those unspoken rules that I was never to ask my dad about his life, especially events that took place before my sisters and I were born. The same with my mom. I don’t know how my parents met or when they met. I don’t know the name of any of the schools they attended or what their hopes and aspirations were when they were younger. I am not even sure how much college each were able to complete. This begs to question how much do I really know my parents? Sad to say, I don’t feel like I really do.
I felt like I needed to get a perspective of what “wellness” means from a Filipino perspective so I decided to call my auntie. She is a breast cancer survivor and has been in remission for about five years now. I did not have a relationship with her during the time she was diagnosed and did not have one with her from the time I was in middle school or so. I shut her out because of some family drama. It was not until 2008 that we pulled together as a family when my Lolo was sick. When my Lolo died later that week, it is as if he took my ill feelings towards my auntie with him.
My auntie and I were on the phone for over 2 hours. She did most of the talking while I listened. She shared with me her stories of perseverance as a college student and her determination to do what was right for her even though she knew that it would anger her mother. She illustrated what I believe to be the Filipino spirit and the belief that all things can be accomplished through inventiveness and hard work. My auntie was so focused on reaching her goal that she did not realize that she had enough credits to graduate until the dean called her in his office to ask her why she registered for classes for the next term. After college, she continued with “odd jobs” and was thrilled when she received a job offer, even though it was outside of her field. Shortly thereafter, she landed a substitute teacher job and within weeks was appointed the guidance counselor position which until this day, she attributes as one of the most important jobs that she has ever had. She did all of this by taking chances and reaching out for help. She used the skills that she had from home and found herself work as a labandera by asking the students in the dorms who were studying nursing because she knew that they had money. My auntie loves to talk. I love to listen.
I thought I was going to hear about what she found to be therapeutic during her battle with cancer. I thought she was going to make reference to Filipino Indigenous Healing but instead what helped move her towards wellness was prayer and her firm belief in God. Instead, I was the one who found therapeutic value because the conversation left me feeling connected to her. I know this because I was brought to tears several times. When people share stories with one another, there is more said than the words that are being spoken. This is the power of kuwento.