When I Look in the Mirror

Written By Casey Ramós and

 Rosie Reyes

When I look in the mirror


 

I see the dark tapioca eyes My Lolo stared at me with, 

Admiring my wit

 

I see eyes whose corners stretch To Manila and back,

With a quick stop in Rio



 

I see the chiseled calves 

That carried my dad 

Through every marathon he ran

 

I see my grandfather’s lopsided jaw, 

Curved on the left 

And angled on the right

 

I see…


 

Piano hands…


 

“HOY!

HAB YOU PRACTICED YET?”


 

My lola.

I see her in the kitchen, 

Steam puffing over her face, 

Stirring over a pot of caldereta

She’s laughing at my grandfather, 

As always 

But sometimes 

I see her growing somber 

At pictures of family

Who kept their feet in the sand 

As she planted hers in a concrete jungle 

 

I see my grandmommy,

The matriarch of the family,

Tending to her hundreds of

House plants 

Of aloe, jade,

Lilies, spider plants

And bamboo

Simulating

The lush green forest 

Of the Philippines

In her own home

 

I hear their stories 

 

Back in manila, 

When my aunt was sick as a child, 

My great grandfather climbed the stairs

For the first time in years 

To give her something to eat

 

Back in Hagunouy Bulacan, 

My Dad, at the age of 19, 

Worked full-time as a dishwasher

Providing for his parents 

And six brothers and sisters

 

Lola Ida’s lungs filled with water 

The doctors said she’d be fine


 

My mom’s cousin abandoned her

Only daughter,

So my grandmommy took her in

And called her her own

Enduring hardships

And countless setbacks

8500 miles across the Pacific Ocean 

And yet,

We’re here

Born in the City of New York, 

Where music comes in millions of colors 


 

Born in the city of Portland, OR

Where backyard gardens are the norm

 

Where people come in millions of colors

And yet, you’ll never see the same one twice

 

And the odds of a person 

Owning chickens is about 1 in 3


 

Raised in Queens, 

Where I can eat 

Italian, Chinese, Greek, 

Mexican, Thai, and Indian food 

All in the same day

 

In the deep bellows of downtown,

The beer is good, 

The people say thank you to the bus drivers

And food carts are considered fine dining

 

Where the subway lines 

Race through the veins of the city

And this

Does not make us

Less Filipina

Or less American

 

To our black to fair skinned Kapatid 

And every shade in between

 

You are not less Filipino

 

To our kapatid who are out of the closet

Or have yet to be

 

You are not less Filipino

 

To our kapatid who 

Never learned the mother tongue

 

You are not less Filipino 

 

No,

Our mixed identities

Make us walking mosaics

Of our islander ancestry,

Vibrant heritage

Beautiful traditions,

And delicious food

 

So when I look in the mirror

I see more than the miles of brown skin 

That frosts in the winter 

And ambers in the spring.

 

I see more than 

My pin-straight,

Thick black hair

That’s nearly impossible to curl

 

I see the 

Generations

Of passed down beauty

In the slope of our eyes 

And curve of our cheekbones

 

Of hard work of our ancestors 

Who worked on rice farms

In the strength of our calves

 

Of passed down talent

In the hands

That carved wood,

Wove baskets,

And now,

Play piano



 

Over generations,

We have evolved into 

The multi-dimensional beings

Filipinos are

 

And our kids

Have no idea what they’re in for