Birthright


--driven to 

tears over a simple question--

the mask slipped again

--the mask 

broke--

couldn’t you have waited another hour like the perfect mouthpiece

you are

so. fucking. easy.

is this what your titos and ates had pride in--

a little girl who outgrew her immigrant story

locking herself up in a bathroom stall,

wishing she was back home

on the other side of the ocean.

really? 

you’d rather be another statistic of a

vigilante regime that’s been

bastardized by corporate hurricane machines--

How dare you--

this small, private liberal arts college in a big city

is your home now--you have a life 

because of me you have

importance 

because of me you have

money for your so-called ‘balikbayan boxes’

because of me you have

a living father 

because of me you have

everything you could never imagine

I granted your independence. I gave you back your freedom.

You owe me everything.

Your mind, your body, 

your heritage--is just a doorstep for the victors,

a growing kill count of apologies

well-hidden in the salvation of ideology

--Even ideas need some form of sustenance--

Sure things are different now

with all these marches and banners and the Global North’s feel-good movements

but history loves to repeat itself a little too much, doesn’t it?

Your existence is proof of that.

So pick up the pieces like

the good student you are

Because even if you leave,

the white man will never leave you behind. 


Finding reprieve in 

dimly lit corners of a bathroom stall,

the mask shatters into 

f r a g m e n t s and becomes

one with my tears.

I broke down like I finally wanted to.

For once, I don’t spend hours picking up

the pieces, instead I let them relive

gunshots and doctrines and graveyards

from a white man’s burden

--all in a thousand Haiyans that 

keeps flooding 

and flooding 

and flooding

and--

before I knew it, 

the mask lay sunken among

histories of invisible tombs,

yet trauma desperately 

stitches pieces of myself indiscriminately--

not caring which piece had come from where,

just so I can pretend that empire hadn’t already repurposed

my body to fit into a gilded American Nightmare 

or a modern colonial success story;

contradictions were never meant to define their own narratives.

contradictions were meant to create new narratives instead;

an alternative success story reimagined for

an island woman’s birthright to live in a body 

she can call home, to be born in a world where her

children and grandchildren are free

to be whole, to be themselves

let history salvage

unvisited tombs,

and lessons well learned

let each storm

destroy--

and create--

and destroy--

and create

a world where Filipinos take pride

  in the privilege of being born a Filipino,

of our brown skin and our 7,641 islands, 

of our interconnecting communities and traditions, 

of our 500 years of resilience and survival

Let us rise like we finally wanted to.

Let the f r a g m e n t s coalesce

with my tears

As I leave the dimly lit corners of the bathroom stall 

Finding reprieve in a reflection I haven't seen in twelve years: 

A young girl with nothing 

but a suitcase and pigtails

waving goodbye to home 

for the last time.

Thumbnail artwork by Yangchen Lhamo ‘23.