Why Grow?

Manila is a vibrant, insane and real city.  It can be a struggle to find green spaces to rest the eye and calm the mind.  I started gardening here when I moved into a big house with outside space in 2013.  Gardening is constant and pleasurable work.  It is a respite and a privilege to have a patch of green amid the concrete.  My garden is not perfect and sometimes things die of neglect.  Gardening is a process of manifestation, of reconciling growth with decay.  Growing food is a dream of mine, only marginally manifested, you could say…

This section of the blog tracks my garden, my neighbours’ gardens, land and farmer issues, and the budding community of farmer-eaters in Manila.

Why Islands?

The Philippines is a collection of islands, an archipelago of diverse customs, landscapes and histories.  I have learned SO much from visiting and working in island environments.  I wish to dedicate a section of this blog to island transformations and transitions.

While much can be said about the dire situation of our islands –including tenurial and land use issues, water shortage, improper waste management, poverty and inequality, illegal and destructive fishing, worsening storms and poor tourism planning–  there are also grassroots, people-oriented, and ecologically sustainable initiatives already dreaming and manifesting the world we want to live in.

We need to communicate, to conspire (“breathe together!”) to turn the tide.  After all, an island is not an island without the vast ocean that connects and inspires change.

About my journey

In this blog I share my journey as a Filipina-Canadian living in the Philippines as a yoga teacher, as an environmentalist and as an activist-scholar.  Since I moved to the Philippines in 2011, I have learned and am learning still the complexities of life in the Third World.  It is not simply chaos and poverty.  It is also not simply beaches and beautiful views.  The issues affecting the Philippines are urgent, and also deeply historical, contextual, geographical.

I feel hopeful that many others in the diaspora, are choosing to become involved the Philippines, through exposures with human rights organizations, through fellowship programs like Kaya Collaborative, through fundraising for communities in need, and through the family and community ties that continue to bring us in as tourists and volunteers.

At the same time, I feel there is so much more to do, to really channel this outsider energy for lasting social change.  As the director of TIGRA, I was working on this issue of “diaspora and development” through our project in Bantayan Island after Typhoon Haiyan, and through our involvement at the pre-departure orientation seminars for US-bound Filipinos.  But within TIGRA there has been a slow downshift in the last two years spurred by funding deficits.  I had to shift as well.

I thought about moving back to Canada or the US.  I thought about pursuing a PhD.  I thought about working for another non-profit, non-government organization.  I thought about getting a job that pays good money.

And then I realized that I wanted to stay in the Philippines.  And to stay on my own terms.

I got certified to teach yoga, a passion of mine for more than a decade.  I got by with my savings and started teaching in May 2015.  And then last August I got a Canadian-based research job for the ATE project, in line with my work experience.

I’m still at a crossroads, trying to forge a pathway that makes me happy and supports the work that is mine to do.  This work involves a deep commitment to environmental sustainability, to solidarity with those that are historically marginalized, to principles of equity and shared power, and to what brings me joy.   So far, I feel glad to have made that decision to stay.  And blessed by the community of friends and family that have supported me to go out on a limb!

 

A journey starts and ends with a deep curiosity; It takes us out on a limb, to the islands of the heart, to the seeds sown by our grandmother, to the places that call us stranger and family, both.

In this blog I share my journey as a Filipina-Canadian living in the Philippines as a yoga teacher, as an environmentalist and as an activist-scholar.  Since I moved to the Philippines in 2011, I have learned and am learning still the complexities of life in the Third World.  It is not simply chaos and poverty.  It is also not simply beaches and beautiful views.  The issues affecting the Philippines are urgent, and also deeply historical, contextual, geographical.

As part of my journey, I want to organize my thoughts in a way that connects with others who wish to experience the Philippines in its complexity.  If that’s you, please get in touch!  Thanks for reading. Welcome!