A class with Tony Robles – “The People’s Poet”

Today, I had another great opportunity to take a virtual writing class with Tony Robles,”The People’s Poet”, the author of the poetry and short story collections, Cool Don’t Live Here No More–A letter to San Francisco and Fingerprints of a Hunger Strike. He is the current writer in residence at the Carl Sandburg Historic Home in Flat Rock North Carolina.” More information taken from his website states that “his works have been widely published in anthologies and journals including, Where are you From?, Endangered Species, Your Golden Sun Still Shines, Born and Raised in Frisco and Growing up Filipino Volume II. He was shortlist nominated for Poet Laureate of San Francisco in 2018 and a recipient of the San Francisco Arts Commission Individual Literary Artist Grant in 2018. He is a housing justice advocate and the nephew of the late Filipino-American poet and historian Al Robles.

This is my second class with Tony, and I have to say his classes are life changing. He holds space and provides craft talk while providing ample time to write, share and receive encouragement and feedback. It was a two hour class but because it was so engaging, it felt like 30 minutes.

I’m not a poet; I’m more of a prose writer but, here is one piece I wrote today during class:

Christmas smelled like sizzling garlic and roasted pig

A white ceramic place greeted me – filled with bright greens leaves

cold orange wedges

noodles shaped like the letter S

soft and sinewy, salted with soy and ginger.

Your feet worked in this kitchen

Your belly rested above the plaid waist apron

You pushed the meaty flesh of your skin against the counter,

Pushing the rolling pin covered in white speckled dust like new fallen snow

October: I did my best!

October was a busy month for me; it was evident in the decline of posts on my blog. In the previous months, I went from 4-5 posts a week, yet this past October, I was lucky if I had at least 1-2 posts a week. Things probably will remain busy for me because I am taking on-line classes to fulfill a TESOL certificate. It’s something I have always wanted to earn and leverage a position as a ESL instructor for community college. I have always wanted to teach at the post-secondary level, and having a TESOL and a Master’s Degree will help me accomplish this goal.

When I think back at all the tasks I wanted to accomplish in October, I immediately feel a sense of disappointment. My biggest goals were to PR my 3 mile run and to be more active on my blog. I did not accomplish either one. I went for a 3 mile run yesterday and added 5 minutes to my PR time and I only posted nine times last month.

Yet, October was also a milestone month for me, even though I didn’t accomplish what I had originally intended. My biggest take-away for the month was realizing that it was Filipino American History month and to be honest, I had never really celebrated it in the past, but this year the experience was very different for me. I started off the month by attending Pinayista– a weekend gathering of pinays in the hustle filled with speakers, panels, lightning talks, interactive workshops, music, sporadic dancing, and meaningful connections. Then the next weekend I attended UndiscoveredX, an online exposition of artists, change-makers, and entrepreneurs accelerating Filipino culture. I learned so much about OPM (original Pilipino music), authors and book talks. And to top it all off, I read for PAWA for their emerging Filipinx writers’ panel. Also, I accomplished many work related tasks like giving two presentations and finishing all the state-mandated tests. All the while, I learned to cook new vegan recipes and spend quality time with my niece Aiza.

Sure I didn’t accomplish my fitness and writing goals, but I learned so much about my culture and was able to read a couple stories about my life to a digital audience comprised of family and friends. All is not lost for October. I may have not run the fastest this month. Nor did I write the most this month. But I became closer to my roots, my craft and my family and friends while eating well and helping teachers. In this turbulent time in life, we have to appreciate the our goals, even if we never meant to accomplish them.

Enjoy some pictures from October…

notes from a session in Pinayista
notes from a session in Pinayista

BIG announcement!!!

I’m excited to share that I will be a guest reader next Tuesday, October 27 at 5:00 PM PST for PAWA/ The Digital SALA event: Filipinx Emerging Writers.

I’m thankful for the opportunity provided by Philippine American Writers and Artists (PAWA) and The Digital Sala.

I’ll be reading along side very talented writers and friends, who I’m honored to share space with.

Here’s the link to the PAWA/The Digital Sala event on Tues 10/27 at 5 pm PDT. https://www.facebook.com/events/974395152970574

If you can please share widely, I’d appreciate it. The event is free and the Zoom link will go up on the day of the event.

bay area’s orange sky

For the past few days, when you step outside, the entire bay area has smelled like a camp fire– coal, smoke, and wood. It’s as if everyone has decided to chop wood and set them all on fire, letting it flare up and blaze. Today, not only did it smell like fire, but the whole bay area looked like fire– the entire sky was deep red and burnt orange. I have never seen anything this mysterious in my life.

For the entire month it’s been one mystery after the other. Lightning in August. Fires the following week. And now a red and orange sky in September. Maybe it’ll snow tomorrow. Better yet, how about a sand storm. I know I shouldn’t make light of the situation; Mother Earth probably needs deep healing right now, and the way we’re taking care of Her and each other is nothing to laugh and joke about. Honestly ya’ll I try to keep the vibe on my blog positive, but lately it’s been so hard to keep it together. I’m really struggling with all these changes, and I’m starting to feel my positivity slowly fade away. Everyday, I’m putting more and more effort to remain loving and positive because I know there’s no room for negativity, especially when the state of the world needs lifting, not sinking.

Maybe, I’ll channel the bay area energy and remain resilient. Even when scarred and burned, she fights through the haze, only to come out changed and transformed, in light and in color.

courtesy of TMZ.com

20 Things About Me

I was inspired from Mr. A’s blog about his “100 Things About Me.”  I couldn’t think of 100, but here’s 20…

  1. My favorite pizza is jalapeno, faux pepperoni (because I’m plant based) with extra pineapples.
  2. I grew up speaking Tagalog but forgot how to speak it growing up in the United States.
  3. I am a huge Janet Jackson fan (see #4).
  4. I have been to nine Janet Jackson concerts (see #3).
  5. I used to have my right nipple pierced. 
  6. Besides water, I like to drink unsweetened ice tea.
  7. I used to be able to recite the alphabet backwards.
  8. I can drive a stick shift.
  9. I always sleep on the right side of my body.
  10. I’m obsessed with teeth (read this blog).
  11. My favorite colors are black, white and purple.
  12. I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism in 2008 but have been in remission since 2017.
  13. I am a middle child.
  14. One day I would love to own my own bookstore and sell stationary and local art. 
  15. I like nails that are shaped like almonds.
  16. My favorite scents are Ellington and Langston from the Harlem Candle Company.
  17. I hold a BA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing
  18. I’m a Napa Valley Writer Conference and Squaw Valley Community of Writers Fellow.
  19. The oddest job I had was when I was a house mom for a gentleman’s club in SF
  20.  I have a youtube video with over 6,000 views. 

 What are 20 things about you? 

 

Parents in the Philippines and COVID

In about a month, my parents will make the long 13 hour flight from Manila, Philippines to San Francisco, CA. They have been in the Philippines since December. They were supposed to return in May, but due to COVID they had to extend their stay. Because of the health precautions, Philippine airlines suspended all their flights to and from San Francisco. The health risks of flying in a plane is still high, and because both my parents and seniors and are health compromised, I know that the flight home has several risks. 

Even if the airline enforces masks and physical distance, these precautions don’t guarantee that it will be safe. Passengers will still be breathing recycled air, and people will need to take off their masks to eat. 

It was a difficult decision for my parents, one that they didn’t make lightly. My parents asked me if it was a good idea, and as much as I wanted to say “no” , I knew it was ultimately their decision. My parents want to come home. They miss their children and their only grandchild, Aiza. They want to be close to us after living far apart, halfway across the world, for eight months, the longest we’ve been apart. 

I used to have very judgmental opinions about people who traveled in the time of COVID. I wondered what was so important that people needed to fly. Yes there are folks who travel for recreational reasons, which is fine for some and unacceptable for others. In the case of my parents, who have been inside for 8 months with no sign of COVID, they simply want to come back home to see me and my siblings. How could I say no?

Thunder, lightning and rain in August

lightning

Lightning in South San Francisco. Photo taken by Mel Ellison

Just yesterday it was a dry and hot day; it almost reached 90 degrees in South San Francisco (see yesterday’s blog).  Twenty four hours later, it was the complete opposite: we woke up to thunder, lightning and heavy rain…all in the middle of August! For the bay area, going from one extreme to another in a matter of a day, is unheard of. Unlike the tropical islands or even the east coast, California rarely experiences such drastic, peculiar weather. 

People on social media jokingly said “it’s earthquake weather”or that “we are in the next level of Jumanji” or more seriously “it’s an effect of climate change.” No matter the cause, the extreme climate left many people perplexed.

Maybe that’s the beauty of mother nature. Things unfold in no particular pattern.  One moment you’re in one situation and then suddenly you’re in an environment completely different. I like this diversity. Ironically, it reminds me of California.

 

Sunsets in San Francisco

It was the hottest day in the summer in the City. For a city usually engulfed in fog, it was rare to see the clear sky, bright sun and experience the heat. At 2:00 PM it reached a rare 89 degrees, which is golden for South City. The temperature  here is normally cool so anything above 65 degrees is considered summer. Reaching 89 is considered uncomfortable, especially since we don’t have AC. I waited till the evening to take a walk. As I reached the Hillside Road and had a clear view of my neighborhood, I noticed the pastel colors in the sky. The glorious sun was setting and as the city was tucking in for the evening, I couldn’t help but capture this unique moment. I don’t know when we’ll get a clear and warm day like this again, but special balmy days are definitely embraced.  

Good night South San Francisco! 

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Top 5 literary landmarks in SF

It was day ____ (I’ve lost count) of sheltering in place in San Francisco, but today was also my birthday. To take advantage of the empty streets and zero traffic, my hubby took me to five literary landmarks in SF. Some were revisits, but it was great to visit a few new places. 

Here they are in the order we visited them: 

  1. John Steinbeck’s apartment  ( 1901 Vallejo Street)

 

 

2) Robert Frost Plaza (1 California Street

 

 

3) Jack Kerouac Alley and City Lights Book Store (Grant and Columbus avenue)

 

 

 

4)  Waverly place (China town in SF)

 

 

5) Maya Angelou’s high school  (George Washington High School 600 32nd Ave)