Where is 2016 gone?


Jetlag has stopped lingering and disappeared finally.
Now its just the heat that zapping my energy

The boxes have arrived
It only took them nearly 2 months

And the pauses in the processing
Have gone, now internalizing the lessons from all

Remembering the all to familiar feelings
Of reverse culture shock and embracing them

There are task to do, sharing to prepare, and meetings to attend to. There is traffic to deal with thats no where as bad as Manila, quiet reminders of simple living, and challenges to take us further. There are one-on-ones scheduled, check-ins as part of the day to day, and a moment to just be thankful for kasamas.

In the coming weeks, the Peace Talks resume and education needs to happen so more can know whats going on. Report backs are coming from all the missions sharing about our experiences. There are churches to share with, relationships to flourish, and solidarity in action.

Lifes not slowing down, instead with each blink 2016 is flying by.
Taking advantage of the time at hand before its gone.

So as September comes to an end, and October is just over the “hump” of this week. Thankful for relationships growing deeper, and check-ins that come naturally. Here’s to closing 2016 full steam ahead for a true and lasting peace in the Philippines.

She Cries


She Cries

Tear by tear releasing emotions she had almost forgot she had.
Recounting the moment when the guns went off.
Digging deep she overcomes the hunger pains
Stay focused on the reality, one day again it will rain
Deep breath, she dug deep moving in finding her inner strength
Knowing that she had to find, her family. Get her community to safety
If something happened, what was the briefing??
In the moment everyone just fleeing
For now, she’s got to check-in on her community
Whose missing? Is everyone where they were supposed to be?
Weeks later as she recounts that day, finally the tears fall

And she Cries

“I’m Bracing for it”


The comment came so almost normally as we headed back the Conference center for lunch in the official start of the ICHRP  General Assembly. Some of us had gone to express our Solidarity with the Lumad and people’s organizations who were protesting the killing of one of their leaders just days earlier in Davao City. The last speaker a local organizer had joined us in the jeepney as he was coming back to join us for the conference and events. Others shared how he had come into his current position and he chimed in giving more context and information. As he finished “I’m bracing for it” finished his thoughts. Bracing for the possibility of his governments harassment or worse for him doing peace with justice work and in speaking out for human rights.

As the scene replayed in my head over the following weeks, and especially now that I’ve returned. The following I wrote over my last few days in Mindanao with the students of CTCSMI as I sat late and night and in the afternoon rest time trying to beat the heat.

Just Peace

“I’m Bracing for it”
He shared quickly following
“But I know I have to do it, para sa masa.”

Not new to Human Rights work
But the regional he’d only been for a few months
His next question catching me by surprise “Why do you do it?”

Through the streets of Davao
in the light of the jeepney I shared stories of OFW’s surviving
of learning their rights and becoming SURVIVORS not victims of trafficking

Of sitting & Listening as Lumad leaders brought real time up dates
Through tears, and smiles from on the ground back home
and the laughter of creating hashtag reminders #fastenseeatbelt #walanagseatbelt and the moment LAKAD! became a challenge to step up our organizing.

Now the question echoes each day
The response growing, a simple answer
How do meet the people, and not doing it?

One the journey down the beach
When he broke the silence
“Do they have trees like this in your place Ate?”

We shared stories about life, family, as youth
Moments of Struggles of organizing
Finding victories accomplished along the way

A mutual understanding must stay
Serving the people, is the calling
His young age, willingness to share, to serve, for family

That’s why, for a better future para sa mga bata
Why I organize for peacee and justice
For a Just Peace

The nanay who lit the candles
Through the flickering light
Sharing how the Dole Plantation has impacted her life

Having built her house
4 grandchildren later, she no longer farms
But does what she can for all to survive

Each night, her house full of laughter
Safe space, a roof, a room for high schoolers
Who can’t afford to go home daily, if they want to stay in school

Her compassion, welcoming spirit, sharing all she had
That’s why, why I organize for peace and justice
For a Just Peace

The Indigenous Lumad and Moro youth
Opening their lives, sharing experiences
Not afraid to share the challenges

But with a confidence in their voice
Knowing their education is their right
Refusing to quit, to give up, to take no as answer

It’s a struggle not just for their future
But their families, tribes, and communities
For all their lives through protecting their ancestral lands

Their strength their willing never quiet
Inspiring us around the world
Teaching us true meanings of Solidarity

From tribes around Mindanao they come
Learning about each other, each step of the way
Overcoming differences, to work toward a united future

The laughter sounding through the corn field
Like the flickering light of fireflies at night
Grounding us, reminding that the future is bright

Their stories, teachings of real Solidarity
That is why, why I organize for peace and justice
For a just peace

No matter what they news reports say
Its the first hands accounts, the friendship
Real experiences to challenge us

That us forward each day
The question of only 4 weeks ago
Has so many answers ngayon

I organize para sa mga masa
For my heart found a place, our freedoms linked
In deep solidarity, i continue to organize

Organize for Just Peace
Until both justice and peace
Are the reality in Philippines and people everywhere

Therefore Go…to Mindanao (and bring the stories back)


These words of UMC Davao Episcopal Area Bishop Cerrie Francisco echoed in my mind as I boarded the plane bound for Davao last July. It had been a few years since I had traveled internationally but as I took off the familiar feelings came back and I found my rhythm. Bound for a month-long travel visiting Mindanao twice, spending time in Manila, and getting to go reunite with Hong Kong kasamas and friends, the number of flights i had lying a head was a bit overwhelming but like every ticket I was taking them one at a time. There were logistics that needed to be finalized for a couple of the stops but at least all my flights were confirmed and I pretty much had housing and knew everything else would come. A few deep breaths and I settled in for the long flight to Asia.

It was somewhere over the Pacific Ocean that my soul began to feel full and I began to feel complete like something I hadn’t realized was missing had returned.

Fast forward a month later, as I was settling in to the international airport in Manila. Exchanging a few last text with the organizers I had met over the past month, simple exchanges “take care, Ingat and Amping” “send our regards to folks back in US.” “For the people!”. As i sent the last texts, my heart full of love, my soul on fire as quietly promised to myself to hold on to that “missing” part as I headed back.

Now back for over a week, I’m trying to figure out how to put words to my thoughts and experiences that make since to others.. For four weeks it was experience begin to process, PAUSE, begin new experience begin to process, PAUSE and repeat. Now that the pauses are removed, needless to say the processing has come in waves full of emotions. And with each passing day, things are coming together and my calling & commitment to Serving the People is becoming stronger. With time, i know there will be more blogs and poems and cultural work to come.

For now, as Bishop Franciso challenged, I have brought the stories back and want to share them with you. I just have to find the right words so keep an eye out for my report backs or future blogs.

Hope these photos give you a small glimpse of the heaven on earth i was blessed to experience. For these faces are not the future they are living the future in the present and living my calling means continuing to struggle with them for food, land, and justice.IMG_5277 IMG_5627 IMG_5923 IMG_5102 IMG_5577 IMG_5306

Picking up white responsibility, the time is NOW


Been doing a lot of reflecting and journaling this week, following the murders of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. One of my white friends shared an article on Facebook titled “From White guilt to White responsibility” which spoke to me and helped me figure out how to say things I’ve been struggling with articulating. The article and recent conversations with kasamas have also reminded me that sometimes it’s not about having the perfect thing to say but its being willing to say something. This is a blog I’ve been working on for quite some time and this week I realized, its time I finish and publish it because I can’t (and my community holding me accountable can’t) wait any longer.

As a white American, I’ve become increasingly aware of my privilege and the challenge to not just feel guilty or stop there but instead to have the challenging conversations to learn how I can support people of color to dismantle the racism that my ancestors created but I couldn’t figure out how to put that into words.

The article starts off by talking about the “backpack” of privilege that we as white people carry just by the fact we are white but the ties in the backpack our not ours alone. They belong to the community and its up to the community to decide on how to use them. The author explains it:

“It is not simply unfair that we have certain unearned advantages; and the appropriate response is not simply to feel guilty about it. Rather it is unjust that we possess things taken through theft, and the appropriate response is to take responsibility and take action.

White guilt paralyzes us and maintains the norm. White responsibility motivates us and disrupts the norm.

I was recently asked whether it was acceptable to use white privilege for good. My response was that it is not ours to use; once we know that, we can never use it alone again. We must first gather around the table with those who do not carry white privilege, who we trust to hold us accountable. We must then empty the backpack onto the table, and ask the community how we will use what is rightfully communal property.”

Further in the article, the author gets real about where our backpack of privilege came and that we have to both be willing to accept the history AND take action to stop the cycle of crime that continues to add items to our backpacks at the expense of others.

“…Until we dismantle systems of injustice and white supremacy, the backpack will be ours to carry; attached to us regardless of how we feel about it, because it clings to us as tightly as the skin we are in. Yet, it will become increasingly more heavy as we come to a deeper understanding of why it contains what it contains. Once you realize and accept that what is in your backpack was acquired through blood and death and rape and cruelty; through slavery and the massacre of indigenous peoples; through the theft of bodies and the theft of land; what we were once told was an inheritance we will come to know as an inheritance of others, stolen through the blood of their ancestors.

No, we were not the ones to steal it. Yet, we make ourselves accomplices to the crime if we choose to keep it after knowing how it became ours. That is why we must pick up white responsibility rather than white guilt if we are ever to stop the cycle of this crime.”

As I read and reflected on the whole article, I couldn’t help up also think about my own journey from feeling guilty to realizing the need to take responsibility and action toward dismantling the system. A journey that I continue on today for I know, there is still a long way to go

In my time as a missionary, white privilege was something I struggled with. Feeling guilty about the basic things I could access. Living in Asia where white meant door opened for you, being able to travel, accessing building and spaces my friends and community were forbidden from or had to have special access to and having learned my ancestral history in school. My community abroad worked with me to process these struggles as I also learned what it meant to live collectively. Sometimes there weren’t words in other times they sat patiently explaining what I did with my privilege was the most important thing because I couldn’t change the color of my skin.

Learning the most important thing is listening to my community, working with them to identify how I can best use my voice in solidarity and speaking up and out. My backpack became collective as I sat and listened learning of their experiences, learned more about the history of colonialism, racism, and human rights violations that my ancestors committed to gain my privilege, listening to their demands, and learning how to articulate them when people wanted to talk to me.

The struggle grew even more when it came time to return back to the USA. I better understood the history of what I was walking into but the realities were going to be something I needed to learn on the ground.

As I’ve learned, listened and been reminded that sometimes explaining why I am present to learn is the first step that has to happen. Challenges have arisen, I have made mistakes, mistakes that with the accountability of kasamas and my community I’m working to fix.

In this past week, reading a mixture of reactions to the violence on my Facebook news feeds, I’ve also realized I’ve been silent for too long and in the sharing and quoting of articles isn’t enough. The current mainstream media approach of investigating the victims isn’t ok, these aren’t isolated incidents. The oppression of black people and people of color isn’t isolated, it’s the system that we built to protect our white selves. It is the day-to-day reality that we has white people can either actively work to dismantle the system and replace it with one that is truly balanced OR in staying silent we can continue to support and oppress our neighbors.

Yes God loves all people, yet Jesus says loved the least and the last. Care for the oppressed. Right now in our world that means “Black Lives Matter.” and being the Good Samaritan.

We don’t live in the America of our ancestors, but we live in the America that the actions of our ancestors built. Yes my ancestors included. The time is NOW (or more like yesterday) to start listening, unpacking your backpack of privilege in community accountability with people of color, and taking the actions they request to work toward repenting of the sins of our ancestors and ending racism and the uneven system once and for all. Silence is not an option for silence reinforces racism, oppression, and the killings of our neighbors of color.

#ISurvivedtheMethodist (btr late then never


That hashtag, a friend used following General Conference, and is something I feel like I can identify quite strongly with.

The following letter is my reflections/reactions to my time at General Conference and moving forward as someone who identifies as United Methodist.

Dear United Methodist Church,

I just called to say I love your people, ALL of your people and the people that you are trying to keep outside. Because “y’all come in now” really means ALL come in and many people are living that out in their daily lives.

But church, I’m getting a bit dismayed on why your so set on making “y’all” mean those who look like, identify like, and act like us.

And church, I even love your connectionalism (and the fact that’s a word that only Methodist understand). I love how we send missionaries from everywhere to everywhere to learn from communities and support communities to uplift themselves. That we’re no longer sending missionaries in to place to tell them how to fix their problem instead are reclaiming the word for what God meant for it to be. And that we as the United Methodist Church know first hand what’s going on in Africa, Philippines, and throughout Europe, from fellow United Methodist.

But church, I’m upset and beyond dismayed, that you continue to hear the stories of militarization, of occupation, of war, of extreme poverty, of destruction of God’s creation, of the health consquenses of the years of human right violations, environmental racism, and war. And continue to justify United Methodist dollars being invested into supporting these activities because we need ‘a strong Methodist voice at the table’. Oh church, “strong voice” has NOT worked yet so what makes you think that it will work some how magically in the future. Even more, that we ignore the people’s request from the communities to stop investing in the companies and machines that are harming them and the facts that the missionaries we send are reporting to us. What DOES works is listening to the cries of the people and taking the actions along side them that they themselves are requesting.

And I can even say church, it makes me proud to worship in a denomintation that ordains women. It was the United Methodist Women who were like my second mothers growing up, taught me what it meant to live my faith in action, and empowered me to follow my call into mission work when many people thought I was crazy. It’s United Methodist Women who supported me into my mission work and continue to support me now even though the “official title” has changed. The one’s who have prayed with me and helped me better understand my women’s health issues of these past few years.

But just to be clear, NONE of my women’s health issues have anything to do with abortions. In the words of my southern grandma “Bless your soul church” for somehow thinking women’s health and abortion mean the same thing. While, I’m thankful that our church still supports women’s access to good and safe reproductive health especially the UMW focus on Maternal and child health care. So I’m not worried that the United Methodist Women will continue to work to ensure women’s and children health are taken care of around the globe. But I am concerned that to many of you church view women’s reproductive health to equal abortion.

I’m most thankful for the warm welcome and reception the Lumad (indigenous Filipinos) received during the week they attended General Conference. From flash tabernacles to concert performances and vigils, the people truly opened their arms, listening to their struggles and committing to journeying with them in their struggle for food, land, and justice. For me, they were the daily reminder that for many people including our United Methodist brothers and sisters, the daily struggle is for life and survival.

The Lumad kept me grounded during my time at General Conference and rooted in why I organize, why I’m still United Methodist in a denomination that calls for the resumption of peace takes in the Philippines, what my calling is to live in ministry on the margins for peace and justice. I know church that many of our fellow United Methodist in Africa, throughout Asia, and even yes in the Middle East and Europe are too focused on ministry in their communities to keep people alive from diseases, militarization, extreme poverty and wars.

Oh church, as the conversations played out about the splitting of the church over one issue. My mind couldn’t help but wonder, do both sides of the conversation here in the United States realize that the one issue which is their main focus, is much different to many others who are trying to keep their community members alive to be able to even have a church. That yes All truly means ALL.

Yet, when our Black brothers and sisters are dying one every 28 hours from being shot by police or vigilante groups, what are we doing to speak for justice to stand along side the Black communities in living out the words of “Black Lives Matter” through our actions? Are we even ready to admit that yes racism still exist and if we don’t do something to end it, it will continue?

When war and militarization of communities are the norm from Africa to Philippines, and communities are devastated from years of war-torn lives, what are we doing to keep them alive, to equip them to minister to each other, to live out our call for peace and justice through actions?

When we’re quick to blame the im/migrant for leaving their family behind and ask why are so many coming to our land, shouldn’t they stay home and take care of their families? Are we willing to admit that yes our US government policies are to blame for the gangs, the war, the no farms, and live in ministry with the strangers among us while pressing our governments to take real meaningful responsibility and work for justice for their actions instead of just passing the blame? Can we admit that it was colonism that played a huge roll in the oppression of the people?

My prayer is if you’ve read this far you understand that yes #ISurvivedtheMethodist and you can see that the discussions in Portland were not just about one issue but many that are connected. I also pray especially if you are an American United Methodist that you’ve found some part of this to challenge you to think differently especially if your United Methodist as the fate of our denomination (and the people of the world) depends on us getting outside of our walls and living with the people, for the people, in ministry just like Jesus did.

I’m still Methodist for now and am looking forward to Annual Conference for I’m blessed to live in an Annual Conference where for many Y’all means ALL and we practice Biblical Obedience. Where the people take time to learn more about what’s going on in other countries and how they actively work for peace in justice.

So church, for now, I’m going to go live my faith out in community on the margins in ministry for peace and justice. If you can’t find me, just look a little further out. Its not your people that concern me, it’s you church.


A life long United Methodist (and hope to keep it that way) Living a life for Peace in Justice

Back from Portland-kasama reflections


As many of you likely know, I spent 10 days in Portland with the Portland leg of the Lakbay Lumad USA tour and the UMC General Conference. Now back from a few day’s there’s been time to reflect, get some rest, and begin to get back into the swing of work here. This blog is some of the reflections from the past few days of being back (but not about the UMC General Conference, thats coming later-hopefully). My task in Portland was to assist in the bridging the Lumad delegation with United Methodist. So this blog is reflecting on my time with kasamas.

My time in Portland with kasamas, both from Mindanao on the Lakbay Lumad USA tour and kasamas based in Portland and the Pacific Northwest, was the highlight of my 10 days. Some point along the way, it also turned into almost a “mini-expo” that replenished my energy and refueled my soul for the work ahead. I have so much revolutionary love for the kasamas I got to meet and begin to get to know during my 10 days in Portland. They hosted not only the Lumad delegation but also United Methodist kasamas always seeming to be smiling and have energy, from their leaders to the newest members and allies. Time flew by and it all seemed to so short of a time together. Looking forward to continuing to build with PCHRP and GABRIELA Portland kasamas more in the months and years ahead.

In the 3am doughnut run induced sugar energy, as i was on the plane back, i started to reflect and write down some of the lessons I had learned. What came out over the next few days went from reflections to the following spoken work piece.  I performed this last night at our Justice for Melissa Roxas cultural night.

Google docs, phone calls, and conferences
Can begin to feel mechanical
Even at points the why do we organize
Can seem more over there then what’s right here
Here in the Belly of Beast,
Head on facing the Neoliberal policies

We struggle to remember, keep the fire lit with in
But we fight on, together with our kasamas hand in hand
Single moms finding their voice,
collective support to raise our families
Students learning lessons from history
putting them in practice for todays reality

The why becomes Real
In the masses of the Philippines

Peasants in the country side farming
Dole’s plantation land to survive
Lumad fighting for the ancestoral home
protecting the land, fighting for their lives
Church workers disappearing from communities they serve
Because they dared to give their lives to the people….to care
Doctors and nurses forgoing big contracts overseas
Instead training the people to offer services in their country

We stand united from land to land
Because fighting for human rights is done hand in hand
Building a new culture where we support each other
In the struggle for basic rights for the farmers and the workers
We all fight against shared enemies,
The imperialist governments and companies
Learning to link arm and arm in solidarity

Knowing that the future is bright
From the country sides to the cities
Crying for justice for we’re doing something right
Our fighting spirit running beyond the task at hand but in our souls deep
We fight on for we must not tire
Instead igniting our energy and strength from each other
Collective living, support and accountability
Together we’ll win the revolution, for a Philippines that’s truly free

So to the Kasamas: Maraming Maraming Salamat sa lahat!  Looking forward to seeing many of you more in Mindanao this summer, know your always welcome in SoCal.

(PC: Kasama Pele)