Dear Jack and Charlie,

You don’t know this yet since you’ve been at your aunt’s for the last few days but you’ll hear about this soon enough. You’ll have a say, don’t worry. It will be a family decision.

Your Papa and I have been thinking about moving! To somewhere closer to the beach, which you both love; or the woods, which I love. It will be temporary. Only as we wait out the sheltering in place during the pandemic. (But, at the same time, we’re open to the possibilities of moving for good.)  Your Papa thinks that this seems like the ideal time to finally move where we’re not hampered so much by schooling and work considerations since for now both are being done virtually.*

For the record, I’d like to note that, for the first time, this impulse/idea to move did not come from me. I am acutely aware that in our family’s history of moving, each one of our 6 moves—from SF to Emeryville to Oakland to El Cerrito to Davis to Woodland and back to Davis again in this house where we have been now for the last 2 years—were all initiated by me. For this potential 7th move, should things go shitty later, I want to be able to say, “It wasn’t me (this time!)!)”

Justine_EmeryvilleCondoBeaudry, Emeryville Condo 2004-2009

Missing here, a picture of our West Oakland Home, 2010-2012; also a post on our move from this home to El Cerrito




Richmond St., El Cerrito Home, 2012-2014


Missing here, a picture of our Lindo Ave., Davis Home, 2014-2017 (a bittersweet move to Woodland chronicled here)

ginikanan_woodlandhomeNewton Dr., Woodland Home 2017-2018

ginikanan_OttowaHomeOttowa Ave., Davis Home 2019-Present (our move back to Davis chronicled here)


I really thought that I was done with moving. I have felt that Davis has claimed me. Since I immigrated here in the US, in all the places I’ve lived—Daly City, San Francisco, and a year in Italy—I had not felt like I belonged to any of them. Only here in Davis have I started to feel this shade of belonging and familiarity–the green spaces and creeks that bear slight resemblance to the green spaces and creeks that I grew up with in the Philippines, the biking, the walking, the warm summer nights, and especially the camaraderie of the women of color claiming spaces for ourselves in this very white dominated city. I really thought I had put away my wanderlust, that I had finally found what I was searching for, that I was ready to set down roots and learn to dwell in this corner of the world and steward the land I’m on. Finally, I thought, I am providing you a place you can call home,  THE place you will write about when you write your American childhood memoir.

If I were a practicing Catholic, I’d be inclined to say that your Papa just may be the devil sitting on my left shoulder, testing my commitment to setting down roots.

But I don’t believe in that kind of devil and I am not a practicing Catholic. What I am is Pilipina, born to a country that has a long history of being colonized and settled on by different displaced and diasporic people looking for something they couldn’t have in their own homeland.

A quick look at my personal history will show you this:

I immigrated to the US when I was 17, sure that it was my destiny to be “American”. Twelve years of American-based schooling had taught me to be english-speaking, “modern”, “liberated”, and individualistic.

My mama and papa left the Philippines and everyone they loved and immigrated here in the US when they were in their early 40s, the same age as I am now.

My mama’s papa left his Chinese homeland when he was a teenager to find a “better” life in Manila. He had the proverbial “itchy feet” of someone who wanders and never stays.

My mama’s mama moved to the South of the Philippines with my Chinese Lolo.

My papa’s papa from the central Philippines went to the southern Philippines, in Bukidnon, after hearing from the federal government that land in the south was free for the taking. This wasn’t true. Land there was the ancestral home of the many indigenous people like my papa’s mama. Ironically, the indigenous people who chose to stay rooted were also displaced and had to move up the mountains after the surge of settlers from the northern and central Philippines started occupying their ancestral lands.

My papa’s mama, though of indigenous roots, was also “educated” and came to believe that the “family who eats together, stays together”. So she uprooted the family to follow her husband’s job assignments all over the country.

As you can see, none of my four grandparents stayed rooted in the land where they were born.

I can no longer ask them now since they’ve all passed away but I’m almost sure that if I could ask my grandparents the reasons for their move, they’d likely tell me it was of their own accord, that it was their decision, spurred by a desire to provide better for their families or to just do better for themselves.

But I suspect that that is not the whole story. I find it hard to believe that anyone would leave if things were going well. They must have been pushed out.

And that brings me back to me. Aren’t things going well enough where I am? I’m inclined to say that they are. So why entertain this idea of once again moving?

Why are my feet still itchy? What explains my inability to dwell, make deep connections to people, to make community, to know the land? Is this how my mom, my dad, my two sets of grandparents manifest in me? In this numbing wound of displacement that festers and resists healing?

Ginikanan_Feet_JackMama(Our Itchy Feet? Jack’s and Mine, as of 8/4/20.)

If I don’t figure this out, if I keep moving, never settling roots, will I be inflicting upon you the same wound I have inherited? Have I already inflicted it upon you? Since Charlie was born, we’ve moved 6 times! 6 houses in his 11 years. For Jack who’s only 8 years old, it’s 5.

I’m not sure where this will end up. Just know that it’s been deeply triggering for me. The one thing I do want to make sure is this: that you will be part of the conversation and process. Unlike the one that brought me here to the US, this one will be a family decision.

* I will acknowledge that to be able to entertain this thought of moving is indicative of some privilege that I have that others, hit hard/er by the pandemic, don’t have. Here lies part of the complexity of the act of moving.