Sunday, May 21, 2017


After Alex Tizon’s article "My Family’s Slave" as regards Eudocia Tomas Pulido
(The Atlantic, June 2017)


1. What reasons did I have to protest cousins, old maids, from living with us?
In a Victorian with brown aluminum clapboard siding, who contractually gains? To matter my time and meet me there after school? Will she tutor calculus or tend the bleaching?

2. I cried during the last segment of Anthony Bourdain's "Parts Unknown" Season 7, episode 1. I have cousins and aunts ranked among the nannies of the world. Would they be so old to return home, to know difference between grandchildren? Are they ever forgiven?

3. A cousin once asked me to write the true story of the origin story of her daughter. Would she be surprised that her father did not die in a work place accident abroad? That he lived to see her mother escape from servitude? Or that for his part, the Saudi government lopped his head?

4. Shortly after my parents' divorce, my mother was asked to marry a TNT. I demanded to screen him first. After a white step father for most of my life, I had high expectations for a brown charade.

5. After one failed marriage, my mother wanted a Filipina daughter-in-law who knows the proper respect, the gestures, the tone voice, the table manners, who does not reveal disgust at fish heads floating in sinigang, who bows to owe and to be owned for one's labor, who knows her place.

6. I think of Uncle Tommy's story about what 'could have' after World War 2,  and how he emphasized in front of his wife the lost opportunity to be a U.S. colonel's house boy in Corpus Christi, Texas.

7. Mom was a domestic for married elementary school teachers living on base at Subic Bay. Before that she volunteered as a candy striper flirting between liberty calls.

8. Dad was a commander's family house boy. He learned to drive taking the car he was polishing for a joyride.

9. And I think Mom in the first months of marriage living with her inlaws in San Felipe while Dad was stationed in Pearl Harbor. How his parents made her labor because she was not their choice. How she had to be grateful.

10. Anacleto and how I found Zorro David's letter to Carson McCullers at the Ransome archives at the University of Texas, Austin. He thanked her for fictionalizing a Filipino. How did he succeed on his own?

11. Had we our house in Baguio with servants and how a Navy pension made possible servants to guard against English as revelatory. Then why servants?

Sean Labrador y Manzano lives on the island off the coast of Oakland. He edited Conversations at the Wartime Café; curated the reading series Mixer 2.0.; organized the symposium “From Trauma to Catharsis: Performing the Asian Avant-Garde;” performed as Jose Rizal in the jazz choreo-poem, “Das Kapital- Volume 4: Utang na Loob or the Elimination of the Industrial Phase and the Accumulation of Debt.” His current projects examine graduate student suicide, H.D. and colonialism, and Balikatan.

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