Andre

Andre is a disabled Filipino American student at Western Washington University. He is studying English with an emphasis in creative writing and an endorsement in teaching. He originally attended the University of Washington, Seattle, but later transferred to Western. A fellow writer, he decided to revise his initial poem and went through a second interview to reflect on the revised version.



Bayang Magiliw (first draft)

Where are you from?

Home is a rice cooker, loud voices and being emotionally charged. 

The wonderful rolled concoction that is Morcon, rolled beef with egg and other goodies and a sauce that gives rice life for days. Laughter is like love, and a sense of heritage.

What sparks joy?

Seafood City. 

Talking to my mom in the kitchen.

Her loud voice, making food where you could taste the love in every bite.

Why did you go to college?

Always use the spoon.


First reflection

Andre: Okay, I didn’t write this thinking that I was going to turn it into a poem, and it’s definitely a rough draft, but this could be the start of something. I use the two questions, “Where are you from?” and, “Why did you go to college?” And so, I’m going to kind of read it in the vein of where I want it to go. And maybe talk about the reflection sentences, what kind of stanzas I need to add. I guess I could title this “Filipino.” And it goes like this: [reads the original draft].

And that’s kind of how I formatted what I got. I kind of want to add a bit of reflection on what part of my heritage—or what part of my identity is missing there. I don’t know, maybe a stanza that the lack of, I don’t know, the bit about knowing that your parents aren’t gonna knock on your door [before entering your room] is a really vivid one that I want to put there.

I don’t know about the couplet that I put in the very last stanza: “Why did you go to college? / Always use the spoon.” I feel like it needs a supplemental stanza early in the poem to, you know, make it a better call back. But it kind of makes me think of, you know, when I went to Panda Express in high school with my friends and even now in college—because sometimes things are hard for me to reach, I ask them, like, “Hey, when you’re grabbing utensils, can you grab a spoon?” And they’ll always be like, “Why do you need a spoon, you didn’t order soup,” And I’m like, “Because it’s the superior way to eat rice.” Because when you eat it with a fork, so much rice falls through the fork and it just doesn’t make any sense. And that just kind of, I guess, encompasses the way that being Filipino will always be part of the reason why I make the choices that I make.

But definitely always use the spoon. I hate when I go to an Asian-esque restaurant, or I’m eating rice, and there’s no scoop. Oh, and don’t even get me started about the debacle about eating mashed potatoes with a spoon, because it’s so much easier and you get more with your spoon than with a fork. And you look like less of a barbarian when you eat it with a spoon, because when you’re eating it with a fork you have to poke it, and then while you’re lifting it up to your mouth you got to make sure it doesn’t fall out. At least in a spoon, it’s a little bowl for your mouth. Especially when there’s gravy, you make less of a mess.

Veronica Anne: I understand that you want to like sit with us for a little bit too, but I’d like to know what your initial experience of writing about your answers was or thinking about them and these prompts.

Andre: Well, the thing is, I kind of originally just answered them like a conversational questionnaire. Like, the first one or the second one was to describe home, and I just verbatim wrote “home” as “a rice cooker, loud voices and being emotionally charged.” And when I thought about things that sparked my joy I was like, “Well, Harry Styles sparks my joy,” but, I don’t know, that doesn’t fit in the theme, because even though, technically, you know, if this is a piece about your identity, being a Harry stan is a big part of mine, because I’m known by everyone that I know that I have, like, an obsession with Harry. But I’m big on themes in my writing, and I just felt that Seafood City encompassed a lot more, because, for somebody who doesn’t know what that is, they’d be like, “A thing that sparks you joy is a semi-dirty grocery store?” and I’m like, “Yes, but you need to get all the facets of it to understand why that’s the answer to that question.”

And then, “Why did I go to college?” I mean, it would be the thing that my parents, you know, were always like, “It’s important,” and I knew it was important, and that was a goal that I had for myself. But in a way, that it was, kind of, to bring out my sense of humor, that, “Always use the spoon.” But I could be hella philosophical and make a huge metaphor out of it. And you know, if you were to ask me, like, later in life if you’re interviewing me for some book award or whatever, I will say that I told you it’s a metaphor, but in the spur of the moment, I just thought it would be fun.

[In discussing a revision]

I feel like the two drafts will be very different in the sense of, like, what they do. As of right now, this is just a gut—like, it’s not surface level by any means, but it’s more of an instinctual reaction, whereas the second draft will probably have more metaphor and more symbolism to, like, the traumas that I carry in my life, and how I go through life as an Asian American, Filipino American, American with a Filipino background. I feel like right now it’s not the best poetry that I’ve ever written, but once I take another swing at it, this might be, like, my new baby, as far as poems go, where you’re like, “This is my child. Please be kind to them.”


Bayang Magiliw (revised)

Original formatting was altered to fit WordPress conventions.

Where are you from?

Home is a rice cooker, loud voices and being emotionally charged.

The wonderful rolled concoction that is Morcon, rolled beef with egg and other goodies and a 

sauce that gives rice life for days. Laughter is like love, and a sense of heritage.

I use a spoon to eat

mashed potatoes

my rice

too.

So I lose less

grains.

What sparks joy?

Seafood City

Talking to my mom in the kitchen.

Her loud voice, making food where you could taste the love in every bite.

Where are you actually from?

My backpack filled with

Halls

Vicks

Calamansi juice

cascades from my hydroflask

littered with stickers

labeled a lumpia

lover.

Iced coffee

even on snowy days

I don’t use a payong

Not where I’m from.

Why did you go to college?

Because I’m bad at math.

I’m still not a nurse

But I will

Always use the spoon.


Second reflection

Andre: So, surprisingly, this poem evolved. Like, it’s not long, it’s just a page, but it evolved into a behemoth compared to what it was in the first response.

And it was a lot more . . . It was a lot heavier than I thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to be more of, like, a comedic satire, you know, and a lot more nuanced rather than really explicit. But then when I was kind of reckoning with, you know, what I want to just say, I was like, “You know what? I’m going to be angsty and just say what I mean,” and it kind of worked out great. 

So, what I did was I compiled—thank goodness for Google Docs being able to restore older versions, because I didn’t realize I didn’t save a copy of my draft from when we were working last time. [. . .] So now the draft and what I got the second time is all in one thing. When I was just looking at it, because you told me, “This is the origin of the exercise,” [Peñaloza’s “Q&A” poems] I was trying not to think of it as a poem, because I felt like that was kind of the point—I was just way overthinking it. And then when I got to the end—when I read it, I was like, “There’s so much potential here, I have to finish it.” 

So, for a refresher, why don’t I read to you what I originally got, and then I’ll read the new one, and then I’ll talk about the changes that occurred—some of my thought processes behind some of the things. 

So, I don’t know, it sounded corny the first time I titled it this, but then it kind of stuck. So, I titled it, “Bayang Magiliw.” [Reads original draft]

When we talked the first time, I was like, some of those allusions, I needed to expand on. So, I want to just give you the full picture of the second draft and then I’ll go into talking about it. [Reads revised version]

So, I was thinking that I like the inner dialogue with myself that I had when you were saying, you know, “Where are you from?” And I like the fact that as a stylistic choice I never say I’m Filipino. Your readers are just gonna have to either do the emotional labor to Google the things that they don’t understand, or just know off by whatever collection it gets sent to that it’s relative in that area.

And then, I really wanted to touch on the notion of that question, that when people ask, “Where are you from?” and then you give an answer, but then they’re like, “No, where are you actually from?” And so, I was like, “Okay, my backpack.” I didn’t know whether I wanted to name drop and be like, my North Face, or some Pacific Northwest-ian branded backpack, but I was like, I don’t know, that might distract the reader too much.

And, like, I didn’t write in meter, ‘cause as you [Veronica Anne] remember from my poetry class, I was really bad at the meter unit; I like writing in free verse a lot more.

But I was like, “Okay, I’m going to put in all the stereotypical items that a Filipino person talks about,” like Halls and Vicks. And most, you know, Americans or non-Asian people really don’t know what calamansi is so that’s something that they have to use context clues to figure out. And then I talked about my hydroflask.

And then, you know, one of my biggest creative choices that I have a feeling you’ll probably, like, ask me some follow up questions on, is—I was debating on that couplet where I said, “I don’t use a payong / Not where I’m from.” I was like, that’s kind of a nice way to show the duality of my identity, because, you know, payong is “umbrella” in Tagalog, so that kind of alludes to my heritage; but it’s kind of funny because you say you’re really from the Pacific Northwest when, even when it’s raining, you don’t use an umbrella. And, you know, in the Philippines, everybody either uses a payong or some sort of tarp when it’s raining—granted, rain is different over there. But here you look like a tourist if you use an umbrella, like, “Oh, why’s that person using an umbrella?” Which is why sometimes, even though I want to get one of those cool bubble ones that just encapsulates you, I’m like, “Oh, I’m not going to spend money on an umbrella because I’d be too embarrassed to use it anyway.”

I was really proud of the final stanza, of why I went to college, because even though it didn’t talk about my major, you could kind of figure it out by me writing poetry about it and being super elusive and making use of the metaphors. But I just thought the cadence was really funny: [reads final stanza]

It’s like a call back to the earlier stanza, and commentary on the “Oh, you’re not a nurse”—and obviously if you knew me, it wouldn’t really be realistic for my parents to expect me to be a nurse. They’re like, “Honey, if there’s one thing, you should be glad that we don’t expect you to be in the medical field. Because if you were my doctor, I wouldn’t want you to be operating on me, like, your hands are all shaky.” And I was like, “You got that right.” [Laughs]

I definitely think it’s far from being finished, but this is a good point where, if it was being shown, I’d feel confident in showing it. I feel like it might work better as a series of poems, you know, one of those numbered things with the Roman numerals. But as far as a singular piece, I was really happy with it. 

I was wondering how much I should explain, and I’m kind of glad that I was never explicit, like, you’re gonna have to do some thinking, you know? I don’t end it by saying, “I’m a Filipino American living in the Pacific Northwest.” Like, do the work to figure it out as a reader. And I mean for you [Veronica Anne] and people in our relative social circles, it would be easy to figure out. 

But as a piece as a whole, I was really happy with what it’s doing. And I thought the format was really nice—how it kind of was birthed out of these really loaded questions, you know. And even the non-invasive ones, like, “What sparks joy?” is really loaded. But, like, the three lines in that stanza is . . . something tangible—only tangible with the emotion. Like, if you read, “Seafood City,” you’d be like, “That place in Southcenter Mall?” But to fully grasp it, you need to experience it. And it’s kind of like telling the reader you need—that it’s a gift that I have that you won’t be able to experience because, unless you try to immerse yourself in this experience, you won’t be able to be fortunate enough to experience the beauty of it, the way that, like, you [Veronica Anne] or I could. Which was really nice; a fun theme for me to touch on, which I really enjoyed.

I was super self-conscious [about the poem]. I was like, “What if that was just like super corny?” ‘Cause, you know, as a Filipino, as a people, we’re pretty corny, like, if you’ve seen those films—sometimes I hate to admit that I really loved one of those cheesy, corny films, and sometimes I worry about that in my writing too, that it’s not good. There’s no proper English translation for the word “kilig,” so it’s like that feeling that we get, the butterflies—it is just really corny but it’s a hallmark of what it means to be a Filipino. [. . .]

In a way, I guess it kind of can come across as more vulnerable too, right, because sometimes they really do say, “less is more.” Maybe the first and the third stanza are very concrete, but very lengthy and very explained-to-the-dot things. And then towards the end I’m like, “Yeah, I’m really bad at math and I’m definitely not a nurse, but don’t forget to grab my spoon when you’re at Panda Express,” you know. [. . .]

I had so much fun doing it.

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: