Dear Jack and Charlie,

It’s been a while, a long while, since my last letter in February 2019. So much has happened. A big part of me wants to catch you up, tell you about this journey that I have been on for a while now to decolonize my self, reindigenize, and re-claim/discover the spirit of Kapwa (which guides our actions as a collective acting for the collective good because we are all connected). But I don’t quite know how to do that. It feels so big and difficult.

So allow me to briefly tell you about what’s going on right here, right now. And what a strange time it is right now!

We’re in the midst of sheltering in place, aka physical (but hopefully not social or spiritual) distancing due to the COVID-19/Corona virus pandemic. I won’t spend too much time describing the protocols of this shelter in place. I’m sure you can research about it. And I won’t spend too much time agonizing over the disturbing increase in your screen time because that will just put me in a bad mood. 🙂

What I do want to write you about is how we’re dealing with this sheltering in our own home, especially as it relates to our food and eating habits.

When I first started writing this letter, I thought I would explore my history of cooking and food as I was growing up. I thought I would explore my memories of my grandmother who was the only chef/cook that I could think of.

However, I wrote instead of my recess snacks during my elementary years.

Every day, at 10:15, we would all rush out of our class rooms and through the gates of our school to flock to the banana stalls that served all sorts of banana snacks from banana cues (skewered bananas fried with sugar), bananas wrapped in lumpia wrapper and fried with sugar, sliced bananas dipped in batter and fried with sugar, mashed bananas formed in balls and dipped in batter and fried with sugar,….. For .50 cents we could get a stick with two big fat bananas dripping with caramelized sugar if we were lucky to get there just when the banana ladled scooped out the bananas out of the deep fryer.

Ginikanan_BananaCue

And almost always, kids shared a bottle of soft drinks, usually an 8 or 12 coke. Two or three kids would split the cost of the drink and the bottle would be split into plastic cellophane and straw. Because you never knew who was going to buy soft drinks on any given day, you’d have to find your partners the day of.

Ginikanan_SoftDrinksInBags

Thinking about it now, I have two thoughts:

A third of an 8 ounce bottle must have been not a lot. One big sip? Maybe two? How could that have been enough to slake the thirst? How could that have been satisfying? I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t have memories of feeling that it wasn’t. I just remember being satisfied- I looked forward to recess.

Although it now seems uncertain, this whole process of finding a soft drink partner on a daily basis, I don’t remember a day when I was not able to share or that I had a bad day because I didn’t manage to share with someone. How was this seemingly intricate process possible and sustainable?

When I think about how we did this, it occurs to me now that how we shared our soft drinks was also a manifestation of our kapwa spirit. We didn’t hesitate to ask to share because that was the norm and almost always we accommodated when somebody asked or we worked together to find somebody else who has more to share.

So maybe we were just forced to share due to our circumstance. Very few of us could have afforded the bottle on our own so we’ve had to be content with what we got. But I do have a clear memory of my childhood best friend always sharing her coke with me even when she could afford her own bottle.

How did we learn to share? Did it have to do with necessity and the fact that whole community’s practice sustained it? Could the opposite be true? That we learn not to share because there is theoretically no need (we could all afford a bottle on our own) and, on top of that, the community promotes it?

I’d really like to know because it’s been hard getting you both to share. Somehow, when you share, you don’t get enough. How are you learning this? Sometimes I feel that I fail in passing on these lessons. Sometimes I feel so alone (with your papa) in sending this message of having “enough” and sharing. I’d like the whole community’s help to send these messages out.

As I continue on with my journey to re-claim Kapwa, I become more aware of the manifestations of Kapwa (or its absence) in how I live, I hope, my dear ones, that the spirit of kapwa, of sharing what we have because we have enough, will grow and thrive in all of us.

 

(Written in March 2020, before the Black Lives Matter uprising after the murder of George Floyd.)