Friday, October 5, 2012

Makibaka

Hi folks, Maria here! I'd like to share a poem with y'all that I performed at a CalSLAM event called "Home is Where The Art Is." This piece is about the many struggles going on in the Philippines and what I hope to achieve as a poet and activist. I titled it, "Makibaka" which means "dare to struggle" in Tagalog. Hope y'all like!

I.
Pi-li-pi-na
Sharp “p”
Soft “i”s
And a long, distinct “a”
That rolls out from the back of your throat
Click, click
You type “Pilipina” into Google and what do you get?
Mail order brides
“Sexy Pinays!”
“Pilipinas Seeking Foreign Men!”
Dating sites
Eroticized images
Scantily clad
Posing for the foreign men
Who desire the ideal, submissive bride


I look at the photographs
I look at my mama
I look at my grandma
And I look at me
We have the same black hair
The brown skin
The almond eyes
And a face that takes you to
7,000 tropical islands
175 diverse dialects
And 2 cycles of colonialism
That have produced
Poverty
Landlessness
Corruption
Violence
A damaged country

II.
My hair is short and brittle
Like the children who live in squatter communities
Running around with just one slipper
And rummaging in mountains of garbage
For their midday meal
They may be young
But they are already breadwinners
Trying to feed, clothe, and sustain their families
Because their own country cannot sustain them

My eyes are dark and wide
Like the capital becomes
When the sun disappears
Below the Metro Manila skyscrapers
A city so large and bright
But the lights don’t stay on
For the people who need them most
They flicker for the single mother
Trying to raise her daughter in a tiny, windowless room
And the family
That escaped the poverty in their province
Found just a pinprick of light
Even though this city
Is full of bougie businessmen, politicians, and celebrities

My skin is dry and rough
Like the rivers that have stopped flowing
And the crops that are no longer growing
They say life is hard
Because we don’t try hard enough
Even though my Papa works two jobs
From 7 a.m. – 11 p.m.
And my Mama raised three daughters
Practically by herself
They like to blame us for our problems
Even though none of this would have transpired
If they weren’t just greedy, capitalist bastards

Gold
Silver
Cooper
Bananas
Coconuts
Mangoes

How can a country so rich
Be unable to feed its people?
How can 7,000 islands
Not really belong to a Pilipino?

III.
I asked my mama why they left
The Philippines, and she said
“Mahirap ang buhay”, Life was hard
But isn’t life hard here too?
She said when she was my age
She was beautiful
I am the splitting image of my mother
It’s scary to gaze at a yellowing photograph
And see the same face
Staring back at me

She told me my grandma had to work hard too
She had ten children to raise
So she washed clothes, sold food, and did odd jobs
Just to add some meat to the table
She’s says I’m lucky that I don’t have to go through
What they went through
And that I should be happy growing up in America
The land of opportunity
I can’t tell my mama
That I am not happy
Especially with my colonized body
A body that used to wish she was taller
Lighter
Fairer
And blue-eyed
A body that thought life might have been easier
If I had been born white

An awkward body
That doesn’t really fit into
The archipelago
Nor does it fit
Into the fifty United States
Of baseball, Uncle Sam, and apple pie

I no longer want to have
A colonized body
I no longer want to hate
What my mama and grandma have given me
And I longer want to remain naïve and apathetic
To the suffering and the fighting taking place
In my country

They say the first revolution
Should be within yourself
Awareness struck inside me
Like lightning
And I woke up
Feeling the movement of
Peasants
Farmers
Women
Overseas Workers
Like a splash of cool water

My mama and grandma both believed
That a Pilipina’s place should not be in the background,
The sidelines,
Or behind a crowd of people
Rather, a Pilipina’s place
Is at the head of the struggle

Like Gabriela
Lorena
Ninotchka
And Melissa
I am reclaiming my place
At the head of the Philippines’s struggle
To end imperialism
Feudalism
And bureaucratic capitalism

I will not stop until
The land turns into a real home
That will feed, clothe, and sustain its people
And when the government
Finally starts to spread love
Instead of lining the pockets
Of the rich and powerful

Until you type Pilipina
On Google
And get revolutionary
Instead of the ideal wife
I will continue to fight
With the strength of 7,000 islands
And the poetry of 175 dialects

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