Flames of Consciousness

Since there are two authors, Ben Menor and Lorna Lardizabal Dietz, who wrote this lyrical essay about the evolving empowerment of Filipinos in America, the essay and the accompanying “Perspective of Filipino Consciousness” are also found at http://BenMenor.wordpress.com.

A Lyrical Essay

By Ben Menor, Jr. and Lorna Lardizabal Dietz

Filipinos in America, we’ve come a long way.
Take a look at who we were 30 years ago…

There was a time when we were just “doing our own thing”
to survive in the so-called land of opportunity.
We identified who we were according to where we lived.
We said, “I am a Filipino” because we lived in a vast Filipino community,
ate Filipino food, sang and danced to Filipino music, and practiced Filipino customs.
Whatever population dominated our world, we became it. We lived it.
We became Caucasian American, African American, or Mexican American.

We asked others like ourselves, “Who am I? What is my Filipino identity?
Or, am I suffering from an identity crisis?”
It made sense at that time to question our Filipino Identity.
It felt right to question, to probe, to acknowledge our fears,
and to build new dreams of hope.
It was the right time to start a movement for change.

We invited change.

Look at us now.

We have more community leaders and business executives.
More Filipino doctors, scientists, and inventors are household names.
We have the movie stars and sports celebrities,
Writers and speakers who radiate depth and passion in the written and spoken word.
We have whatever it takes to build our Filipino Identity in an American Society.

We scoff, unsure of our views about invoking change in our lives.
We insist, “We still have an identity crisis.”
We’ve heard all the comments, we’ve seen what seems real to us.
“Are you Filipino? You don’t speak Tagalog or Bisaya or Ilokano or Kapampangan.”
“Are you Filipino? You’re half-white, half-Filipino. What are you?”

Filipinos in America,
Look at the other communities around us,
the ones who immigrated after we had long staked our claim
to being old-timers in American cities and towns.
While we were busy questioning our Filipino identity, these newcomers made a decision
to accelerate their consciousness so they could rapidly achieve milestones
of success and accomplishments.

Filipinos in America, we’ve come a long way.

Our crisis is not about the Filipino Identity.
The Filipino Identity is about “I,” the individual.
The crisis is in our consciousness as a community,
Filipino Consciousness.

Our history in the Americas explains where the foundations of consciousness came from,
Each experience cemented with pride, bravery, courage, and fulfillment,
Preserved by passed-along stories, songs, letters, poetry, and artwork.

A thriving Galleon Trade encouraged Filipino seamen to jump ship in 1763
and settle as the “Manilamen” of Saint Malou in the Louisiana bayous,
A group of Filipinos, belatedly recognized, also fought in the American Civil War.

Our history in the Americas shows that Filipinos in America
defended the freedoms and rights of Americans,
that our Filipino veterans from the 20th century wars fought with dignity and valor.

New immigrants arrived by ship in the early 1900’s after a month at sea,
relieved to see daylight in the ports of Honolulu, Seattle, and San Francisco.
Filipinos became farm workers, laborers, and “pensionados,”
living as American nationals in the United States of America,
existing as aliens after the Philippines celebrated its independence from the Americans.

There were “manongs” in Hawaiian plantations who became the inspiration
of asparagus-picking and lettuce-harvesting laborers in the fields of Salinas, California,
The “manongs,” together with their Japanese co-workers in 1919, who organized
a 3,000-person strike to demand for better working conditions, benefits, and wages.

There were heroes whose names were articulated with honor in the “Little Manilas,”
enclaves of Filipino influence in the coastal cities of the West,
Filipino heroes from the fields who became union organizers:
Carlos Bulosan, Philip Vera Cruz, and Larry Dulay Itliong, to name a few.
The first grape strike of 1965 in Delano, California organized by Filipinos in America
was a remarkable achievement that caught the attention of another legend,
a man named Cesar Chavez — and the rest is found in American history books.

Our women in history worked on nurturing the Filipinos’ self-esteem.
From homemakers to nurses, from factory workers to cultural archivists,
Filipino women in America were models of self-confidence at home and at work,
Incarnations of dignity and self-respect — qualities found in today’s woman warriors.

They also looked beyond America for their heroines — and observed.
If mothers could become leaders of nations, like Cory Aquino of the Philippines,
then humanity offered never-ending opportunities for women.

They admired the courage of Gloria Steinem who understood
that feminism extolled personal and political attributes.
Expressing their message, exposing their talents and skills,
The likes of Vicki Manalo Draves, Dorothy Cordova, Velma Veloria, and Irene Natividad
inspired other Asian and Pacific women in America to take bolder steps
toward their future of personal power in a professional context.

Filipinos in America, we’ve come a long way.

Filipino Consciousness,
An instrument of change.
It has always been there,
It emerges from within us.
Acknowledge its presence and its power.
Accept that it can take us before a mirror
and show the reflections of ourselves as we truly are.

Consciousness is a process of ever-changing movement,
Like the pounding resonance of bamboos swaying in rhythm
to opposing wind currents, replicating the effortless motions of a dance.
Consciousness is always evolving, always morphing,
Endless and limitless,
Like the flames of a torch,
The Flames of Consciousness.

Passion moves it.
Passion, like the heat of a huge bonfire,
The warmth that keeps us together,
that keeps us going toward the Flames of Consciousness.

Flames of Consciousness.
Its brilliance safely guided vessels to their destinations.
Whether the goal was to unearth hidden treasures or find water,
seek a sanctuary or realize a dream,
the flames of consciousness were aroused by our passions.

Imagine our Filipino Consciousness as the nucleus of everything we are,
Visualize the lines of connectivity and activity emerging from its center,
Lines that change shape, form, or direction,
transforming as the Filipino Consciousness evolves.

Imagine the Filipino Consciousness as a huge bonfire,
Bold, beautiful, radiant, and sustaining.
This is a beautiful vision of metamorphosis.
Changing our thoughts from Filipino Identity to Filipino Consciousness,
Shifting our perceptions, our aspirations, and our mind-set,
Understanding that everything starts with the embers of consciousness.

Embers of consciousness.
Whether embers live or die, it’s up to us.
Embers mature into flames if the causes and conditions are perfect,
When a spark becomes the fuel to fan a cluster of embers into a bonfire.

The Filipino in America is like an ember.
Each of us hopes to be a Flame of Consciousness,
the “element of change” in the communities we choose to serve.

Before the true emergence of Filipino Consciousness appears,
Before the Flames of Consciousness brightly color the evening sky of enlightenment,
The Filipino in America transforms its embers of discontent to embers of consciousness.

We acknowledge that the embers of consciousness need fuel — our people.
The fuel that defines our leadership potential is raw and unrefined,
yet willing to undergo the process of consciousness with rigor,
instilling the right combination of causes, action, effort, and commitment.

We are leaders, whether we are neophytes or mentors of experience.
Leaders without bias to age, gender, professional or economic status.
We have the passion.
We need the tools to catapult our changes from within and around us.
We are capable of building and developing our Flames of Consciousness.

We are the Filipino Community with a Filipino Consciousness.
We are the changing force.
We choose to be the Flames of Consciousness.
We are responsible and accountable for our evolution.

We are the Filipino Community who develops its leaders with purpose and pride.
From concepts to strategic plans and implementation plans,
we fuel bold Flames of Consciousness.
We build more bonfires of courage and honor with confidence,
We are the Filipino Community with a Filipino Consciousness.

We are a Filipino Community with a legacy to uphold.
We, too, are a product of other people’s consciousness movements,
Where Martin Luther King’s consciousness movement
paved the way for a Civil Rights Act that brought
more Filipino immigrants to the United States of America.
We benefit from the consciousness movements of the African Americans,
Asian and Pacific Islanders, and the Mexican Americans,
Intertwined with the aspirations of Filipinos in the Philippines, without boundaries.

We are a Filipino Community inspired to empower ourselves with
the Filipino Consciousness sparked by a “people power” movement.
We acknowledge our regionalism, colonialism, or Americanism,
We accept that “bahala na,” “hiya,” and “chismis” exist.
We embrace everything that is a part of us because it is our “people’s power,”
Rising above our limitations means we can learn from other consciousness movements.

We can be activators of personal, political, or socio-cultural change,
with compassion and loving-kindness motivating our growth as true human beings.
We can choose to use our Filipino Consciousness as the catalyst of empowerment,
Getting what we want and being answerable to the outcome of our efforts.

We are one with our Filipino Consciousness,
We are one with all Filipino Communities that stimulate continual growth,
We are one with every community that hasn’t acknowledged its own consciousness,
We are one with every human being who survives indescribable humiliation,
We are one with every person who seeks answers to the purpose of life,
We are one.

Filipinos in America, we’ve come a long way.

If we ask ourselves, “can we do it?”
Yes, we can!

© Ben Menor, Jr. & Lorna Dietz, August 2002. This was an oral presentation staged during the closing ceremonies the National Federation of Filipino American Associations’ 5th Empowerment Conference on August 30, 2002 by 12 youth representatives.







5 responses to “Flames of Consciousness”

  1. […] also want to thank Ben Menor, who — in 1997 — began the campaign to close the “digital divide” gap in […]

  2. […] also want to thank Ben Menor, who — in 1997 — began the campaign to close the “digital divide” gap in […]

  3. […] Ben Menor, one of the top Filipino leaders in community development and service in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, is currently going through the final phase of proceedings on alleged charges thrown at him 2-1/2 years ago. According to court documents, an agreement between the District Attorney and defendant was reached. Out of the three charges, two counts will be dismissed — charges related to theft and embezzlement. Ben pleaded “no contest” to one count. […]

  4. […] am writing here today is a continuation of my PERSONAL INSIGHTS AND THOUGHTS which started with the Flames of Consciousness and A Perspective on Filipino Consciousness at the NaFFAA Y2K2 Empowerment Conference in 2002. I had […]

  5. patjobs hiring Avatar

    Corazon Aquino is really a woman with extremely humble soul, that people from the philippines really loves her and also adored her significantly. Her legacy will almost always be in each filipino’s heart and soul!

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