“We seldom realize, for example that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.”
― Alan W. Watts
It is fitting that this set of photos follows the photos that I took of Saleah, because PJ, like Saleah, is someone who believes in me and the work that I do. I met PJ at an event earlier this year, Worldwide Woodside, where I did a reading of Si Malakas at Si Maganda for a group of children. PJ showed me the coloring book that he had created, and it is that coloring book that I traded him for with this set of photos.
PJ's latest venture is a mobile Filipino Library, a growing collection of Filipino-authored books that he is bringing around Queens, a borough with a dense Filipino and Filipino-American population. This is a project that followed a book festival PJ hosted earlier this year in collaboration with the Queens Museum, where I got to read my book out loud again, and I got to meet incredible authors and listen to them read their works. some of their books are featured in these photos! PJ wanted photos of this project more than he wanted photos of himself, and so when we met on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn, I did my best to do a bit of both.
This past year, I did a lot of reading about the Philippines, about Filipino culture and about Filipino-American culture. I learned more about my cultural identity here in New York than I ever did in a classroom throughout all my schooling. I learned that there are experiences I have in my family that mirror many experiences other Filipino-Americans have in their families. Something really beautiful about culture is realizing that you and your experiences are not isolated, but are interwoven in a larger picture. Learning about culture--whether it be my cultural identity in terms of race, geographic location, religion, etc., is a beautiful reminder that I am not small. Rather, I am interwoven with the experiences of so many others, and my story is an integral piece of that tapestry. PJ, among many others, was a reminder to me this year of how large and dynamic that tapestry is when it comes to Filipino-America. I look forward to learning more and hopefully weaving more colors and patterns in that big piece of art along the way.
Enjoy the photos of PJ below. I will also take some photos of his coloring book that he traded me with and add it to this blog when I get a chance!
"The opposite of war isn't peace. It's creation." ~Rent