*If anyone happens to have a copy of Paul Gilroy’s “It ain’t where you’re from, It’s where you’re At,” please holler atcha girl. My blog title is more or less inspired by all the things I’ve read about his influential paper, although I haven never read it.
Now that that is out of the way, here’s a little more about me. I grew up in California to Filipino immigrant parents. That makes me second-generation Filipino American, I suppose. When I was a kid, I would live for family gatherings and yearned for the moment we all sat around exchanging family history stories. Attentive to a different way of life both temporally and culturally, I always wondered what that world looked like.
Well, I grew up – and am still growing up – and went into learning history through material culture, visual studies, and art history. Being exposed to history through my heritage and family lineage has had the most profound impact on me, so much so that I became extremely passionate about identity politics and cultural interventions/intersections. During my college career, I encountered two influential professors whose focuses I blended together. My adviser, Stacy Kamehiro, opened up a beautiful world of Native Pacific cultural studies, and more importantly set me in the direction of researching native/indigenous societies and their transformations through the actions and reactions of colonialism to post-colonialism and contemporary struggles.
You can probably tell where this is going–eventually she encouraged me to explore my own heritage. She shoved research scholarship applications under my nose and I came out with around $2000 from the UC to research and write a paper about the Philippines. I love her. My other huge influence was a UCSC grad-student turned professor, who is now the Contemporary Art History and Theory Chair at SFAI, Nicole Archer. She became a sort of role model to me in various art history classes. While studying for her Ph.D. in History of Consciousness, she dissected textiles and fashion and how it functions in a given society, culture, or subculture. I love her also. Taking my cues from both Stacy and Nicole, I created my senior thesis topic around changes from native, colonial, and post-colonial identities through textiles, clothing, and fashion. Seeing these stark contrasts–from bark cloths, woven materials and natural elements adorning the body, to pressed white, bleached and starched linens–highlights a dynamic shift in how a society defines themselves as ‘insiders’, and how ‘outsiders’ may define them as well. So, I’m all about native textile and clothing forms, colonialist photography, and cultural revival/activism/awareness.
I hit a two-year period where I tried making it in the mundane work force but eventually admitted I was just dicking around. I had to motivate myself somehow, so I went back to school for a MA in Museum Studies. I am currently finishing my thesis to defend in December. In the year it took to finish my coursework, I have presented papers at a two international conferences, and networked myself with artists, curators, scholars, culture-bearers and healers at others. I have been invited to guest-lecture at University-level undergraduate courses in Anthropology and History of Art/Visual Culture departments – in Italy and California. I have a forthcoming publication for review (fingers crossed). I suppose you can say my growth has been explosive in just a year, but I know this is just the start. This is a very pivotal time for me, as I believe we are on the brink of a Fil/FilAm artistic and cultural revolution. After having felt sidelined at all of the Pacific arts goings-on that I have followed for the past several years, I can finally say I belong on the Filipino wave that’s starting to break. So from the storytelling during my childhood, to inspiring my reach for higher education, to now learning and unlearning my identity, this is where I’m at.