Monday, May 29, 2017

POETRY In Response to Alex Tizon's article, "My Family Slave" as regards Eudocia Tomas Pulido

(click on image to enlarge)

Alex Tizon's article, "My Family Slave" as regards Eudocia Tomas Pulido, in The Atlantic (June 2017) quickly became viral upon its online release earlier this month. It reverberated widely because the story is not just about the Tizon Family but also about, among others, colonialism, imperialism, poverty, immigration, slavery, trafficking, servitude culture, the master-slave dynamic, family, patriarchy, victimization, redemption, and love. Galatea Resurrects presents poetic responses by the following poets below; click on links to their names to read their poems, most of which were written after the article's release. Also featured are links to previously-published poems which speak to the long-standing existence of many other "Lola Pulidos" and their contexts.

After the poems are links to articles that explore the elements and various significances of Mr. Tizon's article which presents how his family had been served by Ms. Pulido ... and vice versa.

Eileen Tabios
Editor, Galatea Resurrects


Jonel Abellanosa: "The Horror Neighborhood"

Jim Pascual Agustin: "Grandmother, Slave?"


Michelle Bautista: "Lola on the cover of The Atlantic"

Aileen Cassinetto  "The Woman Next Door" and "In the Island of Good Boots"

Melinda Luisa de Jesús: "Alternative Endings for Ms. Eudocia Pulido" and "Eudocia Dreams"

Elaine Dolalas: "5.17.2017"

Rose Linda Gonzales: "Mirror-ed"

Maileen Hamto: "56"

Luisa A. Igloria: "Help"

Sean Labrador Y Manzano: "Dugo"

Agnes Marton: "Have You Ever Slapped Someone Transparent?"

D Hideo Maruyama: "No one and everyone is a slave owner" and "Who profited from slavery's past?"

Amy Ray Pabalan: "What is Real"

Aloysiusi Lionel Polintan: "Reverse Longing" and "In Fetal Position"

Barbara Jane Reyes: "The Gospel of Juana de la Cruz"

Tony Robles: "Salamat" and "Stirred"

Irene Suico Soriano: "Lorena Eudocia"

Leny Mendoza Strobel: "Dear Eudocia,"

Eileen R. Tabios : "Witnessed in the Convex Mirror: Avatar" and "Witnessed in the Convex Mirror: Integrity"

Jean Vengua: "Other Worlds"

Alfred A. Yuson: "Andy Warhol Speaks To His Two Filipino Maids"

Related Poetry Elsewhere in the Internet:

Luisa A. Igloria: “Domestic Relations,” Via Negativa, May 26, 2017
I was told: it happens in more 
instances than you could know, 
to more people than you

can imagine

Luisa A. Igloria: “They Say Filipina Is Another Name For Maid," Philippine Free Press, Nov. 21, 1998
…Their hands
the size of their sleeping

Bino A. Realuyo: “Filipineza," The Nation, Feb. 18, 2002
In the modern Greek dictionary, the word ‘Filipineza’ means ‘maid’.”

Eileen R. Tabios: “My City of Bagiuo,” dis*Orient, 1997 and Otoliths, 2006
I let go of one end of the rope to swat the fly. It betrayed me and became a whip that lifted a vase off the table before smashing it onto the floor newly-burnished with halved coconut husks. And I heard my parents hailing, Hal-looo... Maria, the youngest maid, hearing the shattering crystal, had arrived in the dining room mere seconds before my parents. I can still hear the kitchen door squeaking as my mother dragged Maria by her left ear to banish her from the house. It was not the first time Maria took blame for one of my actions; but it was the last time and I remember my eyes were wide but dry as they watched Maria walk out of the door lugging a torn, plastic suitcase.

Eileen R. Tabios: “LETTERS FROM THE BALIKBAYAN BOX," Post Bling Bling (Moria Books, Chicago, 2005)
"When i went to the Philippines 2 yrs ago, we brought 2 big boxes so we could distribute 'gifts' to all kinds of relatives/neighbors. Nail polish: Loreal (for the closer aunties) and Maybelline and Wet n Wild for the 'maids' -- terrible that we gave them so called 'cheaper brands' but there are just so many: gardeners, drivers, lady who irons clothes, lady who washes clothes..."


In Response to Alex Tizon’s article, “My Family Slave,” as regards Eudora Tomas Pulido, The Atlantic, June 2017

"Filipino Women Against Modern Day Slavery,” a GABRIELA USA Press Release, May 18, 2017
The article written by Alex Tizon regarding the story of Eudocia Pulido and her forced migration and exploitation as a modern day slave in the United States highlights the current conditions of Filipino women. Eudocia Pulido’s story cannot be understood outside of the context of the Philippine society and history rooted in U.S. imperialism and neoliberal economic policies that have caused the systemic suffering of many underpaid domestic helpers like Lola.

The Philippines is one of the largest labor exporters in the world with 6,000 Filipinos—60% women—leaving the country every single day to work, because of rampant poverty, joblessness, and landlessness.

“She remains singular, even in death. Especially in death, as the author is taken aback by the grief that her return elicits among her relatives. That collective grief exposes his own limits, the lie underneath his philanthropy, the impossibility of reparation. His guilt, if that’s how you want to think about it does little to shore up his authority as the author of this text, or as the benevolent master who did right by his slave.”

Lola's Resistant Dignity (revised version of above) by Vicente Rafael, The Atlantic, May 31, 2017
She remains singular, even in death—especially in death, as the author is taken aback by the grief that her return elicits among her relatives. That collective grief surprises Tizon and exposes the limits of his own understanding of Eudocia’s life. His guilt does little to shore up his authority as the benevolent master who did right by his slave.

Tizon’s essay can be read not simply as an attempt to confess a crime and expatiate his family’s guilt. It is also a testimony to the slave’s ability to deflect the master’s appropriative power. It is as much about Tizon’s shameful secret as it is about Pulido’s resistant dignity.

“It Is Really Important to Humanize Evil” by Jesse Singal, New York Magazine, May 19, 2017
It’s good to normalize evil, in the sense of showing how otherwise “normal” people and institutions can perpetrate evil acts, and every attempt should be made to do so. That’s how you prevent more evil from happening in the future.

There are many more Eudocias in the U.S. who are still suffering silently at the hands of their trafficker abusers, and their stories are hardly ever known. Damayan (“helping each other” in Filipino) has worked with survivors who were trafficked by diplomats, ambassadors, and consular officers (like Francisco Tizon), as well as by wealthy businesspeople, schools, churches, and placement agencies from all around the world. Most Filipino labor trafficking survivors come to the U.S. through different visa programs, and domestic workers for diplomats come through the A3 and G5 visas. Filipinos are one of the most common sources of domestic workers in the homes of diplomats from countries such as Germany, Peru, Japan, Tunisia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Turkey, and the Philippines.

“Women’s servitude blights Philippine society” by Ninotchka Rosca, BBC News, May 20, 2017
I once referred a Filipina American - who was having cash-flow problems - to house cleaning work for another friend. After a week, she quit. The pay was good, the employer was fine, but she "couldn't stand the power dynamics".

One had to be groomed - by culture, by tradition, by authority - into servitude.

“On Alex Tizon’s ‘Lola’” by Emil Guillermo, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, May 19, 2017
The worst aspect of the dehumanization of slavery is when it's based not on race, but class. Anyone is susceptible if they're poor.

“56 Years a Slave” by Caroline Hau, ikangablog, May 20, 2017
we are no longer talking about sixteenth-century or even nineteenth-century slavery. The national liberation struggles, the abolitionist and Civil Rights movements, the workers’ movements, the feminist and other social and political movements from all over the world since then have helped create a world where what happened to Lola Eudocia and the oppression of so many other people all over the world can no longer be condoned, and what is needed is not just understanding and individual initiatives to redress the situation–laudable as Alex Tizon’s efforts to make amends to Lola Eudocia had been–but larger systemic and structural changes such as better enforcement of laws and regulations and better protection of the vulnerable and the poor.

What exactly are the “politics” and “economics” of the utusan question and why is the utusan system so pernicous and long-lasting, despite the progress in our political and social values?

“Slavery in our time” by Jenny Ortuoste, Manila Standard, May 18, 2017
"This is because abject servitude and warped loyalty to benefactors is still a part of our societal mindset. These are repellent and reprehensible attitudes that we must do away with, if we are to aspire to the highest standards of human rights and values."

“Don’t Pretend to Understand Lola Pulido’s Situation” by Mike Ricca, Esquire Philippines, May 18, 2017
There’s a cultural context to Lola’s enslavement that non-Filipinos can never understand.

“We are all Tizons” by Shakira Sison, Rappler, May 19, 2017
I was my yaya's baby, and as an adult I now understand that my love for her was built on the rock of consistency, which was in turn at the expense of her social mobility. Had she been offered another viable opportunity other than mothering me and my siblings, she would have left. I would not be the person I am today if she left me. I realize that I am both indebted to her for her love, but I also benefited from her being trapped to serve me.

“Not moved” by Andrea Malaya M. Ragragio, Davao Today, May 22, 2017
…the US colonial regime actually actively reinforced such exploitative arrangements. Land laws promulgated by the Americans brought no relief and reform but simply consolidated the land ownership of a few rich families. The supposedly democratic legislature set up by the Americans was a landlord-dominated old boys’ club. Peasant revolts were brutally crushed. Aristocratic family values that demanded unquestioning fealty from their vassals were sustained precisely because the same aristocratic families were themselves sustained by the US to be their ruling puppets.

Tizon’s realization of his Lola Eudocia’s slave status then becomes laced with supreme irony. He writes that he had this realization only in contrast to the lifestyle of his American neighbors, and his account shows that he and his family were conscious of this. They were freedom-loving Americans if not for Lola, their slave. They were a poster family for the American dream if not for Lola, their slave. These were framed as points of incompatibility. But the Filipino historical experience (and perhaps the histories of other people of color) will show that they both went hand-in-hand.

We are inhuman and human; we have the capacity to be oppressor and sub-oppressor. The truth is that we have come to believe their white supremacy. We have come to believe that if we bleached our skins as white as snow, if we jet-set across the globe with our pals like Imelda Marcos, if we have household “help” keep our homes and cars and second homes impeccably clean, then thus, we must be superior, must be anointed by God, must be blessed by divinity because of the materialistic things we own (does this not sound familiar? Never mind Jesus said it is easier for a camel to walk through an eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to go to heaven). We admire and love the colonizer, though they poison and kill and rape and ravage our land and our people. Therein lies the difference: the systems of modern-day slavery repeats and lives because Filipinos have come to believe they are superior, especially when it comes to their own.

As a writer, I will say that we back away from writing because it is hard. Stories like this must be told. In my world, Eudocia Tomas Pulido would be able to tell her own story. But also in my world, we come to resent writers for not doing what we expect them to do, make the difficult understandable. We come to resent writers, not knowing exactly how difficult it is to do this. Some writers stop trying; the anticipated backlash already being a deterrent to even getting started. And then some writers try their best.

I believe Tizon tried. Did he fail?  If his reason for writing this story was to humanize Eudocia Tomas Pulido, maybe he failed. In my world, Eudocia Tomas Pulido would be able to tell her own story as a human being with a voice.

But as writers, should we then not attempt to write these stories?

In the piece, Tizon does examine his guilt in Pulido’s enslavement and asks rhetorically whether he could have done better by her: “I could have turned in my parents, I suppose.” But many others picked up on the conciliatory tone of the article’s final sentence, its kicker: “Everybody started filing into the kitchen, puffy-eyed but suddenly lighter and ready to tell stories. I glanced at the empty tote bag on the bench, and knew it was right to bring Lola back to the place where she’d been born.”

This is the tendency toward simplification, toward resolution, that storytelling often seems to demand. As writers we feel a desire to end on a beat: upbeat or downbeat, a kicker either way. There’s an urge to simplify, to deal in dichotomies: Filipino versus American, devotion versus exploitation. The truth with which Tizon wrestled in this story is much messier. Pulido was his Lola, and she was also an enslaved woman named Eudocia. She was his slave and his parent. He loved her and exploited her. They were Filipino and American, and heir to both difficult heritages of slavery. All these things are true at once, and they cannot be collapsed into a tidy epigram. No amount of beautiful writing can disguise this.

“The Slavemaster’s Son” by Sukjong Hong, THE NIB, May 18, 2017
…in America, we are told that slavery is over. Tizon tried to tell us it is not, but he also showed us, inadvertently, how deftly it moves to sustain and exonerate itself.

This is something we need to recognize in order to clear space for Eudocia’s story—and the many others like her who go unnamed.

“Why the obituary for Eudocia Tomas Pulido didn’t tell the story of her life in slavery by Susan Kelleher, Seattle Times, May 17, 2017 (Also interesting Comments section)
In Tizon’s written account, Ms. Pulido wasn’t “asked” to care for his mother. She was “given” to her. And everything that happened to Ms. Pulido from that day forward is tied to that act of inhumanity.

A big factor is also that she didn't send them money. In that way, she wasn't felt.

As bad as it sounds to make it seem that someone is only good for their money, when you can't have deep personal relations – especially before, when there was no internet yet – what you send home is the next best thing.

Your presence is made felt by the money sent door-to-door, or the balikbayan boxes (care packages) that you await eagerly for a whole week, back when there was no way to track a package. Your presence was felt by the contents of that care package: the imported soaps, lotions, canned goods, and the new clothes which served the double purpose of wrapping fragile items like shot glasses and mirrors.

“Lola Wasn’t Alone” by Ai-Jen Poo, The Atlantic, May 19, 2017

Cecilia Brainard’s Reaction to Alex Tizon’s “A Slave in My Family”, May 20, 2017

"Alex Tizon’s final act of courage" by Boying Pimentel, Philippine Inquirer, May 23, 2007
Alex’s essay […] does not try to highlight their earlier attempts to help Eudocia Pulido. “I can only speculate that what he really wanted to draw out was the atrocity,” Albert [Alex’s younger brother] said.

… And because Alex found the courage and strength tell that story, a spirited, meaningful, if sometimes nasty, conversation on slavery and class in Filipino society has begun.

“Eudocia Pulido had hopes, dreams, and fears too” by Lian Buan, Rappler, May 24, 2017
Eudocia, or "Cosiang" to her relatives in Mayantoc, Tarlac, had prepared for her most-awaited and most deserved homecoming, according to her niece 68-year-old Lolita "Ebia" Pulido-Gabertan.

"Impatpatulod na agijay dadduma nga paglutwan tapno nu agawid den, adda paglutwan na, inin-inot nga impatpatulod," Ebia said in Ilocano. (She sent her baking tools one by one so that when she comes home, she can use them to cook.)

After 68 years of labor in America, 56 of which were unpaid, Cosiang was contented to settle in her relatives' simple home in Barangay Carabaoan where she wished to revive the old sari-sari store and sell her specialty, puto, or steamed rice cake.


  1. After this Feature's publication, this article by Eric Francisco was released at The Mary Sue:


    None of my empathy or sympathy can give Lola her life. There’s not enough shouting I can do that can bring Tizon back to give answers. There’s not enough money to offer Lola’s family any relieft. And there’s nowhere I can go where I’m far enough to stop seeing a wordsmith who helped prevent my sense of self from being dragged into the mud. I don’t have all the answers and I don’t think I ever will.

    All I know is that all my heroes are dead.

  2. "Your responses to Lola's Story," The Atlantic at

    From a "Mara":
    "It must be acknowledged that exposing a child to domestic violence is a form of abuse with lifelong effects; Alex witnessed Lola’s mistreatment as a constant presence in his youth, and clearly struggled with that legacy for the rest of his life. Although he did not recognize himself as such in “My Family’s Slave,” he too deserves our sympathy as victim. A child has no choice but to comply with their parents’ abusive behavior—must comply in order to survive. That normalization of and forced complicity with violence creates a sense of self-doubt and helplessness which does not magically vanish in adulthood. The criticisms of Alex’s decisions have not acknowledged this crucial dynamic, and it’s not something easily understood unless one has lived it."

  3. "Lucky" by Rona Fernandez at Medium, May 31, 2017, at

    Excerpt: Mom was my Auntie’s servant. They met because my mom was a maid for my Uncle’s family — her wealthy, distant relations — and after he married my Auntie, my mother was given to them as a gift. Much like Eudocia Pulido was given, as a young woman, to Alex Tizon’s mother. My Mom, who was perhaps fifteen years old at the time, became the yaya of the couple’s young son. And though her life shared similarities with Pulido’s, my Mom’s path was also different. Her new ‘employers’ allowed my mother to continue going to school. She ate dinner with the family but slept on the floor. She became my Auntie’s confidant and was, according to my Mom, treated as a member of the family. A lesser member, but a family member nonetheless.
    Our family arrangement was not something that I ever really discussed or questioned as a child, even though I did not know any other families who lived the way we did. It was just like the air we breathe, something we took for granted. But I would be lying if I said it was all just lovely and pain-free, that there were no problems. My mother and I were not treated like slaves at all, far from it, but there were subtle things, clues that told me that my mother and I were not quite the same as my Auntie and Uncle, or my cousins.

    The hand-me-downs. Dolls and other toys, clothes and shoes. I would eye my girl-cousin’s nicer dolls and prettier dresses, wondering when she would tire of them so I could have them for myself. I didn’t always get the things I wanted, and sometimes got stuff that I thought was ugly or stupid, and didn’t understand why I was still supposed to act thankful for these unwanted cast-offs.

  4. "The Echoes of America's 'Faithful Slave' Trope in Lola's Story" by Micki Mcelya, The Atlantic, May 31, 2017 at


    Tizon’s own essay demands the comparison to American slavery and its legacies. His story joins a tradition that began with what’s known as “the faithful slave narrative,” morphed into the dominant “mammy” ideal by the later 19th century, and has persisted, to the present day, through mainstream popular culture and in stories of black caregivers whose deep love for the white children they cared for transcended the cruelty and coercions of their circumstances.

  5. "A Tale of Modern Slavery Has Horrified America, but in India It's a Familiar Story" by Sandip Roy, HuffPost India, June 5, 2017 at


    It's a family story and a familiar one about the old family retainer, more loyal than the children. It carefully photoshops out the social inequity at the heart of it all. How often have we heard a servant described as not really a servant, practically family? The maid will rarely dare say that about the master's family. It's the master's prerogative to extend that largesse to the maid. As long as she does not sit on the bed. I don't remember Chhor-di ever sitting on any of our sofas. It did not occur to us that there was anything strange about that. That's just the way it was.