I met with a pilipinx friend yesterday and… it gave me a lot of diaspora feels and a lot of feelings of being disconnected with my family.
My disconnection with my family, sadly, isn’t anything new. For several reasons, I’d already been on the periphery of the family for years before I stopped talking to my dad. And now that I don’t speak with my dad, I’ve lost my primary connection to the family. Sure, I have a facebook account where lots them are my ‘friends’ but they rarely contact me or interact with me. This isn’t just their fault, btw, since I rarely use facebook myself.
Anyway… One of the things that we talked about was how/why I always feel so deeply connected to my identity. One of the things that I can’t really understand about other mixed-with-white experiences is how some of us feel torn between two cultures. On a very personal level, I think this isn’t my case because I was raised in a single parent home. And have had very little contact with my white family (beyond my mom) my entire life.
More than this, though, I feel connected because my ancestors speak to me. I feel them. I might be in the diaspora and far from my homelands, but they speak to me nonetheless. This is the main reason why I rarely get offended when people express some doubt over my claims to be pilipinx. My ancestors know and recognize me and I know who I am. It’s a pretty unshakable foundation for my identity.
In any case, this little essay wasn’t supposed to be about my identity or my family, but I’m trying something new, so bear with me. :P
One of the things I like best about hanging out with this particular pilipinx friend is that he is one of the few people I can really discuss anito with.
Anito, broadly put, is the general collective name for the variety of pre-Spanish colonization, indigenous beliefs on the islands. So it definitely shouldn’t be considered a singular, coherent belief system since there is a lot of diversity on the islands and a lot of different ethnicities.
And various ethnicities have managed to hold onto their indigenous beliefs and practices to varying degrees. My people, unfortunately, due to being ground zero for spanish colonization have not retained much beyond what became incorporated into Catholocism (what is known as ‘folk Catholocism’ since it involves elements that aren’t purely Roman Catholic).
My friend is a different ethnicity than I am, so there isn’t really much direct crossover in terms of dieties and such. But we are able to talk about more general concepts that are cross-ethnic.
I always leave our interactions feeling inspired to explore anito more and figure out how I’m going to incorporate this spiritual stuff.
I’m also realizing that I’ve not talked openly a great deal about this because I still have an internalized bias that makes me feel that people will think I’m new-agey or flaky or whatever when I talk about spirits and ancestors. Its something I really need to get over.
One of the things that my friend and I discussed were lineages, since there are certain kinds of spirits that, for whatever reason, become intertwined with your specific family. And these are usually bargains for gifts (gifts in a bilateral sense, you make offerings to the spirits and they also bless you with certain gifts based on what kind of spirit they are).
I’d never spent much time really thinking about what kind of lineage my family might have…
But. When I reflected on it, I’m pretty sure that my family mainly associates with artistic/creative spirits. For all that my family, being asian immigrants and very much embodying the whole model minority thing, are practical about their careers and making a living, pretty much all of my relatives have some kind of creative or artistic outlet that they spend a great deal of time, energy, and money doing.
From music, photography, painting, drawing, and whatever else, my family is a family of artists and creators. Moreover, many of them despite having ‘sensible’ careers have managed to capitilize on their creative talents in some way.
(Although, one of the things I’m noting at the moment is that this seems to be largely true of the men of my family. I’m straining to think of what the women tend to do. Although, I’m also realizing that my family tends to produce a lot more men than women, lol. From what I can think on, many of the women in my family are involved in healing or teaching. Some are definitely artistic as well.).
One of the things that came up in our discussion is that these spirits can and do interfere in your life. Since you are all my patreon supporters, you already know that I’ve basically turned to writing as a way to put food on my table and keep a roof over my head.
My friend and I started speculating whether or not my ancestors/spirits have been steadily intefering in my life in more and more extreme ways in order to get me onto this path. I’ve resisted the notion of me being a ‘writer’ for many many years.
Interestingly, all my life people have told me that I should write (usually when I’m talking to them, which lol). But english was never one of my great subjects in school. Indeed, I initially wanted to be a microbiologist (which was what I was accepted to do in university when I first applied). And then I switched to english. Lol. Where I proceeded to have a very difficult time figuring out how to get decent grades in the subject.
Writing never came easily to me.
But then I spent 11 years in university being forced to write on a fairly regular basis. Then, while still in university – finishing my last degree – I start blogging. I willingly and purposefully started writing because I wanted to communicate. And now I’ve been blogging and writing for four years on a fairly regular basis. I’ve published two books in print and like four ebooks. I started a fucking publishing company.
Since I really started putting effort in writing as a thing, I think I’m averaging about 2000-4000 words a day? Which fucking blows my mind. The fact that I can crank out one of my longer essays over the course of a morning is literally blowing my mind. Because such a thing would’ve been impossible in my first years of university.
I actually miss writing if I don’t do it for a few days. I crave it. I itch to get to my keyboard. I’m almost compulsive now about writing in some capacity all the time.
But I resisted the idea of writing for a long time.
And now I find myself in a position where writing is pretty much one of the only viable options I have to survive. Because basically there are a lot of burned bridges in my past and over the past year or so, I’ve so magnificently have managed to destroy my irl reputation that its quite possible that I will never find another professional job again (in any field). I might be able to get a minimum wage job somewhere… but then there is still the whole trans thing.
For the first time in over a year, I’m feeling a little hope for the future again. Because just maybe if I’m right about this, it’ll mean that if I really start honouring the gifts of my ancestors (and returning gifts to them) then perhaps I can still have a future of some kind beyond the bleak horror I’ve been imagining for myself.