My Atchara

Atchara is pickled green papaya relish that my Ima made for special occasions like…at Christmas! It is paired with chicharon/fried pork rind, barbeque pork or chicken, adobo or with any dish, really. Atchara is to Filipinos like kimchi is to Koreans and chutney is to Indians. I think atchara originated among my people — Kapampangans. We are, after all, known for our culinary inventions.

Here’s a quick how-to: Peel the green papaya. Take out the seeds. Grate (I used my food processor). Massage with salt and let sit. While waiting, peel and slice the shallots, garlic, ginger. Peel and slice…

Dear Mungan,

To the people of Bukidnon, you are the first babaylan. You are the true heroine of their beloved epic, Ulaging, even though the honor goes to Agyu and his brothers.

Your husband shunned you because of your leprosy but your brothers-in-law were kind to you.

They took turns carrying you on their backs on the long journey from the sea to the mountain top of Mt. Kitanglad.

Conflict has come to the shore so your people had to flee to the mountains.

One day you told them that you didn’t want to slow them down anymore.

So they…

Noah, at 7, getting an education about Rocks at a local museum

Kulelat: to perform badly; to be last in a competition; to do poorly.

According to a recent “reading literacy assessment” conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) the Philippines is kulelat . The test was given (in English) to over 600,000 15 year old students around the world. This test was administered in mostly non-OECD countries and now also includes Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and other “developing countries”. The Philippines was at the bottom of the list. The Philippines is also kulelat and second to the last in math and science (last is Dominican Republic).

When I…

Indigenous peoples do not believe the world is ending.

The world is changing, they say.

Even before the scientists named climate change

The shamans knew it

When they saw the snow caps melting

The earth quaking and tilting

Animals and birds leaving

The Ocean rising

They say: The Earth is Changing. For the sixth time.


The Inuit ask: When all the ice melts, who will we be?

In Vanuatu they say: We have nowhere to go in this island.

The Kogi says: The Younger Brother is hurting our Mother

The Syrian refugees say: The war is caused by drought.

Review: THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL by Eileen Tabios

Paloma Press, 2019

Somehow it escaped me that the subtitle for this book is “Selected Visual Poetry, 2001–2019”. I was expecting to read a…novel. Lol. Eileen had me again. I should have known she is up to her trickery again. With the image of the red box of chocolates in the garbage plastered with “novel”, I understood the title…after seeing the subtitle on page 3.

This is how the she subverts English. And Poetry.

There are so many forms to Poetry, Autobiography. To Creativity.

The other day I told an Elder/friend about…

Note: I started writing this essay before The Firestorm that visited Sonoma and Napa Counties on October 8, 2017. It is the most devastating catastrophe in California history. We are all still in shock and will feel post-traumatic stress for a long time. We all know people who have lost their homes. We will be telling stories for a long time about how we were roused from sleep that night and fled without knowing where to go. After two weeks of mandatory evacuation, we are home again. But nothing will be the same again.

Fire came and ate until she…

I haven’t been home to see you in five years. I used to go home every summer to conduct research, attend conferences, visit friends and family. On my last visit in 2013, something changed. I came away feeling angry, frustrated, and helpless — the traffic, the environmental degradation, the loss of biodiversity, and the giant billboards along EDSA advertising whitening creams and spa treatments — all these made me question a lot of things. But the main question for myself was: What can I do?

In 2013 my heart also started to give me warning signs of distress. Supraventricular tachycardia…

If the title of this piece hooked you, then I appreciate your curiosity.

If, like me, you are a non-indigenous person living outside of the Philippines and you feel your connection to a homeland is tenuous, how can there be a connection between the plight of Lumads/indigenous peoples and you, right?

This is what I put my faith in: If we understand the Filipino concept of KAPWA as Shared Identity and the Sacred Interconnectedness of ALL, then the Lumads/indigenous peoples are my Kapwa. Therefore, what happens to my Kapwa happens to me as well. …

Note: Thank you to Mila Aguilar, via Prosy dela Cruz, for bringing this topic to my attention. Mila is a critic of President Duterte and in her recent Facebook posts she invokes the figure of the Babaylan, the healer/priestess of Philippine precolonial history and one of the pillars of the indigenous community, to mobilize feminists in solidarity and resistance against Juan Pusong, the evil Trickster personified by Duterte.

I googled Juan Pusong as I have only vague memories of him as a Trickster figure in Philippine folklore. In the stories he also appears as Juan Tamad. In these stories, Juan…

On Ohlone land.

All Mothers honored.

When Lilian Sacun called me a month ago about speaking with you today, I was at my grandson’s baseball game as a weekend chaperone where we watched him play 4 games during the weekend. For that is what Lolas do, isn’t it? We drop everything when we are called to our apo-stolic ministry.

That is also exactly what my Mother used to do when we were growing up. Children always came first. …

Leny Strobel

Leny is Kapampangan. Settler on Pomo and Coast Miwok lands. Founder and Elder at the Center for Babaylan Studies.

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