pretty hula

Ever since Michelle told me about the Merrie Monarch Festival I’ve had a burgeoning fascination with hula.  This is 2009’s Miss Aloha Hula.

Pidgin da movie


I got an email invite from the Bamboo Ridge list to check out Pidgin: The Voice of Hawaii at UH Manoa.  It was a premiere screening and the attendance definitely reflected that.  The place was packed.


You can’t see it in this photo but the floor in front of the screen and the back of the auditorium were filled.  One of the filmmakers, Kanalu Young, passed away last year.  From the introductions, invocations, and songs before the screening you could feel how loved and missed Kanalu is.

When he finally showed up on screen, it felt like I knew him.  He seemed to be a very lovely, magnetic man.


It’s rare that I come across strictly pidgin speakers.  I think it’s because of where we live and who lives here.  But I understand now that it’s an aspect of some people’s lives that they don’t necessarily want to share with non-Pidgin speakers.  The filmmaker Marlene Booth said in the Q & A that it was very hard to get people to speak Pidgin on camera much less express strong feelings as an advocate or detractor.

I really enjoyed the film and feel that it, like Noho Hewa, has strongly informed how I experience living here.  I’m Filipino American and I’ve spent most of my adult life exploring Asian American issues and identifying as such.  Coming to Hawaii and learning about the culture here and all the issues surrounding it has given me a totally different way of looking at being American. It’s hard to explain.  It’s a work in progress.  But basically there’s a big part of me that feels like I’ve found a home here that I didn’t know I was looking for.



We went to a party for K’s friend’s new restaurant over the weekend.  At the end of the night, as things were slowing down, he gave K one of the many leis from around his neck. It’s one of the prettiest leis I’ve ever seen!

The next day I met with writers I’m reading with at the end of the month.  They asked me what my plans were here in Hawaii.  I told them about the film  Noho Hewa, and how it sparked my curiosity in Hawaiian issues like affordable housing. Michelle said that my interests might eventually lead to studying hula as some forms are a way of telling Hawaii’s ancient history.

I asked her about it in an email later and she broke down the different hula hulaus and said there would be performances at the I Love Kailua! town party.   She thought I could get a sense of what I wanted to study from being able to  see the different styles. I find it tres cool. 

Is he the one?

I asked Scott Cambell ( who did two of my tattoos if he could recommend someone in Hawaii.  He did.  And he is amazing.

What yelp user ‘Love S.’ said in part about Mike Ledger:

Call Mike’s secretary to schedule a consult if……….

you like his artistry
you play nicely with others
you’re patient
you got cash
you seriously want the best tattoo on your body for the rest of your life



Ugh.  I have to write new stuff.  The conference co-chairs gave us the date of the panel reading.  It’s called Pilipino Kahit Saan, Kahit Kaila.   Which roughly  means you’re Filipino wherever you are no matter what.

I found  my former teacher Kurt on the web the other day.  I need a pep talk from him…wish I could find him.  K suggested I write ‘for’ Kurt to make up for not being able to talk to him.  I think what helps is writing for Ruth.

Robin was going through Ruth’s writings and he said my poems were mixed in with hers.  He’s going to send them to me in case I want to use some in April.  He said there was one about Long Island that was quite good. I’d written it on the LIRR.  The last line was something like ‘it doesn’t get worse than this’.  I started laughing when Robin brought it up because when Ruth read it she said ‘oh it does’.

I miss her

I miss her

I miss her

Lei munh ngaw, ngaw munh biin gaw?


So little and yet so much happens here in Hawaii.  Last night we went to a ‘Januaries’ birthday party thrown by K’s coworkers/friends at La Mariana Sailing Club.  Touchingly they included me on the birthday cake.  I met Annie there who has been living in Kailua for 2 years with her husband who works with Ken.  She was breathtakingly warm and full of kindness.  It was really really nice.  She stopped us as we were leaving the party and we ended up talking for an hour standing at the exit.  It was a small relief to hear her stories of settling in Hawaii and leaving a life and career behind.  Two thoughts that I shared with her that I don’t feel anybody else can really understand :  how is it when there’s really not anything that you have to do that the day goes by so quickly anyway; and how do you answer the question ‘what do you DO all day?’  when it’s a combination of so much and so little.  I like Annie.  If nothing else she made me briefly feel like we weren’t alone.

Interestingly K mentioned to Annie that I’m doing yoga and the first three words out of her mouth were ‘ my friend Murti’.  –which was pretty shocking because of all the teachers I’ve tried so far in Hawaii (6), Murti is the only one who has made a big impact.  From what I gathered he used to do classes here in Kailua.  Annie said she would find out if he still did.

I’ve learned and keep being reminded that in Hawaii everyone is someone’s cousin so don’t talk stink.  Being from New York, my second language is stink.  But not usually for malicious reasons.  It’s just a habit of saying something’s weird if its weird or saying someone’s annoying if they’re annoying.  That generally doesn’t happen here.  People here either live by an Aloha spirit; generally don’t have malicious things to say about one another; OR they know better than to say something openly critical or judgmental about someone else.  This is opposite my personality but I’m pretty sure I haven’t really said anything bad about anyone since I’ve gotten here.  Except for Alvin at Servco.  I yelled my brains out at him when our battery died the day after we bought the car.  I do feel bad about that.


Lunar New Year festivities started on Friday.  It was pretty neat–lots and lots of lions, very organized and not terribly crowded.  Ken said that the feeling could be called iit nao in Cantonese or festive crowded-ness.  Wing Tek had a special dinner and lion dance at his office.  We weren’t able to go.  But it was really nice to see them briefly and wish them Gung Hay Fat Choy!

There was a phenomenon that we encountered that I don’t think really would have happened in NY Chinatown:


That is white people dressed in Chinese costume.  This person is not the only one we saw and certainly not the most intricate.  You can’t see in the picture but he has a fake queue hanging from his hat.  These people seemed oblivious to the fact that it might be weird…much less offensive.  K said it would be like white people walking around with an Afro for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.   I would’ve taken a picture of the weirdest example but I was too engrossed in shooting them dirty looks–which had no effect on them whatsoever. Ah, me.


We picked up take out from a restaurant on Nuuanu called Little Village.  It was so crowded.  People waiting for at least an hour to be seated.  It seemed like a very nice place and most of the food we got was very good.  Much better than Mini Garden just a few feet away.  My favorite was the Taro Duck which I’m eating as leftovers two days later.


A centipede ran over my foot the other day and didn’t bite me.  I’ve been told that it’s so painful if you do get bit that you have to stay in bed for three days!  We scooped it up in a bowl and let it go in the dirt.

Every week here I miss New York in a different way.  This past week spending so much time with Sarah was great– spending time with her transcends geography or circumstance.  I would like Sarah for a friend whatever city I met her in.  But in a way it makes me feel the loneliness a little more.

My friends Calvin and Deanne are coming in a few days.  It’ll be nice to see them.

Parents in Blue Hawaii

I’ve been on break from blogging because my parents arrived about a week ago and today is our first day without them here.  It wasn’t easy showing people around Hawaii when I still don’t really know my way around.  I think we did alright but it was stressful.  It rained 75% of the time they were here so my fallback plan (the beach) was totally down the toilet.  We had a couple of days at Kailua and Lanikai Beach which they  loved but other than that we improvised moment to moment.

We didn’t end up going to a luau but in my search for the perfect one (apparently Lahaina on Maui) I found an interesting non-luau luau called Feast at Lele.  Most notably you’re served courses rather than buffet style and I read one review on Yelp that said the dancers were a bit more engaged and professional.  I also found an interesting user generated travel site call Go Planit.

We took them to Chinatown and had lunch at Mabuhay Cafe.  I’m not a fan of this place.  The atmosphere is comfortable and cozy but the food gave me a stomach ache.  The crispy pata was pretty gross.  And they don’t serve Lechon.  In Chinatown we picked up some glutinous rice flour and my mom and I made ginataan with sago (glutinous rice and tapioca balls with coconut milk).  It was delicious.

In Chinatown I wandered into Cindy’s Lei Shop which I found so endearing and interesting.  It’s so easy to take something like a lei for granted but the tradition of wearing and sharing them is something I love about Hawaiians.  The woman at Cindy’s was very nice to me and showed me different leis even though she knew I wasn’t there to buy one.  I particularly loved the dense Christina Leis made of orchid petals.  It’s amazing that they range around $20.  If we were in NY they would be at least $75.

We introduced them to all the standard treats: shaved ice at Waiolas and malasadas.  Strangely the mochi balls at Waiolas were so awful.  K didn’t even finish his.  They tasted like feet.  I’m hoping it was an anomaly because Waiolas is one of my favorite sometimes-treats.

We love Leonard’s malasadas but it’s a production to buy them.  There’s always a huge line–a tour bus seems to be unloading everytime we go there.  Also the last time we were there we felt so pressured by the lady behind the counter to clarify our order (when we thought we WERE being clear) that we decided to try a less stressful place. It’s like ordering from the malasada-nazi.  We picked up some plain malasadas from Agnes Portuguese Bakeshop instead here in Kailua.  The place serves breakfast and lunch and seems like a a nice place to meet up or work off of your laptop.  I think they have wi-fi.  The malasadas were very very yummy but ultimately we prefer the gooey haupia, custard and chocolate fillings from Leonards.  So did my parents.

leonard's malasadas--a half empty box
leonard's malasadas--half empty box

My parents are catholic so I had to find a church for them to attend on Sunday.  We attended St Anthony of Padua last Sunday and found it quite nice.  They asked us if we were visitors and gave us seashell leis.  When the mass started we had to stand up and say where we were from.

We only had two days of big touristy style events.  One was visiting the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor which was illuminating.  We probably should have visited the USS Missouri as well but my mom and I were kind of over it.  The most interesting part of the trip for me was the film before the short boat ride to the memorial.  The memorial itself is a touching piece of architecture but K had told me that it was a glass bottom structure so that you can see the wreckage of the Arizona.  In retrospect it makes sense that it’s not but I was pacing around the memorial trying to find a glass bottom to no avail.

Afterwards we drove into Waikiki to eat the sandwiches that I made us for lunch.  We parked ourselves in Kapiolani Park to enjoy a break.

My parents were impressed with Waikiki but my mom has a bad knee so we couldn’t walk around very much.  My mom wanted to go home right after the sandwiches but we dragged her around a little bit more — strolling around one of the hotels on the strip.  There were little tchotchke shops and a breakfast buffet with a giant aquarium backdrop that we hoped to return to but never did.  It looked nice, but that’s probably because I’m a sucker for buffets and aquariums.

On another day we took my parents to the Atlantis submarine adventure at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.  It was pretty cool but definitely the priciest thing we did.  Sarah asked me today if it was a real submarine and it in fact was.  You take a boat out to the submarine site and part of the excitement is watching the sub come up from the previous trip.  Everything is designed to be very smooth for the 40+ passengers.  There’s nothing really jarring or raw about the transition from dock, to boat, to sub.  The only thing was that we seemed to be sitting on the wrong side of the sub (starboard).  Port side got to see everything first and more abundantly.  The guide joked about discount seats but I didn’t really think that was funny.  The Atlantis Company has basically created an underwater Disney-style ride.  The things you see are almost entirely created by the company–man made reefs, a sunken plane, and a sunken ship.  All these were purchased and placed by Atlantis.  The fish life surrounding all these objects is plentiful but not anymore spectacular than fish life you would see snorkeling even though the submersible goes down over 100 ft.  There was a shark but it was teeny tiny (and K wasn’t convinced that it wasn’t plastic).  And there was a sea turtle which I’m fairly certain was real. The tour guide said that the Atlantis ‘structures’ had created 3000 times more fish life in the area–that sounds good, but is it?  Either way it was an experience and I’m glad we did it.

I loved Hawaiian Village.  I think it’s the Long Islander in me.  It’s very mall-like but peaceful and pretty.  After the ride we had dinner at the Hilton Benihana.  It was yummy and fun for all of us but I did get a stomach ache afterwards.

For dessert we headed over to Bubbie’s for ice cream.  It was really hard to find Bubbie’s on University Road.  We had to park and wander around and eventually ask someone to direct us.  We got 2 pints of ice cream and chocolate covered mochi ice creams.  Oh it was really delicious.  Much better than the packages of Bubbie’s in the grocery store.

There was one rainy day that we were driving around Honolulu.  We passed a convention center that advertised a crafts and Hawaiiana fair.  I suggested we stop in and I have to say it was such a bust.  Parking and admission was like $25 for all of us.  I know everyone was being polite  because they knew I was excited about it.  But frankly it was a bunch of stuff that mostly looked worthless.  I’m sure there were plenty of secret treasures to be found but I’m less than a novice at vintage shopping.  There was one table that had interesting toys and knick-knacks like a beautiful head model of a Hawaiian-ish woman but it was over $100.  My main complaint about it is that they charge people to come in.  Maybe that’s standard but it was pretty misleading.

All in all it was a week of hits and misses. K says from my blog it sounds like a week of misses and misses 😀

On the last day we took them to Boots and Kimos for breakfast; took a dip at Lanikai; and then had lunch at Nico’s.  All of this was a huge hit with them.  I think that it might have been their favorite day.  As we drove them to the airport the most gigantic rainbow appeared and followed us all the way to the departure terminal.

Love you Mom and Dad.

da aina

K and I just got back from watching one of the last screening of HIFF 08:  Noho Hewa.  I was deeply moved by this film and feel that any American that has the opportunity to see this should.  I first heard about the Hawaiian ‘sovereignty’ ‘movement’ from my friend over dinner when I first arrived.  He was explaining to me the politics of the island because I had said that I didn’t understand why Asian American issues had no traction here. I was surprised to hear that such an issue exists. I was apt to believe Hawaii was just a happy place with lots of tan relaxed happy people.  The loose strands of politics and culture that I’ve picked up since arriving make more sense after seeing the film.  For example the stalled plans for a badly needed public transportation solution:  rail or no rail ?  The incongruous heavy military presence in stunningly lush sacred land.  Or the perception that Hawaiians don’t like change.

I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to see this film.  I feel rather complicit living in an area that is dominantly haole and that we’re paying rent that most local people wouldn’t be able to afford.  I feel this film has given me the tools to live here more respectfully.  It does what most very good films do:  they leave you feeling like a better person for having seen it.  Visit the website:

We also saw Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story yesterday.  I think everyone should see this film too!  It was so illuminating.  The similarities between this 2008 election and the Bush/Dukakis race in 1988 are astounding.  It’s amazing how easily and quickly we forget our mistakes.  See the movie:

Afterwards we went into Chinatown in search of sang chau sauce which K uses in almost every cantonese dish he makes.  We were under the impression that it would be very hard to find but there it was in the first grocery we walked into:

For lunch we decided to pay a visit to Pho One, one of our favorite regular places to eat in Ala Moana.  Good pho and an added bonus they serve soybean milk drinks.  Yuuuuum.  Reminds me of home.

Unfortunately at the mall afterwards in the parking lot we scratched our car on a a concrete beam.  It’s really bad.  It sounded awful.  Like the car was being crunched.  blech.

recommended : timmerman paint and body shop

Learning about myself

This is what it looks like to sleep in Kailua:

This is different from the city.  And it’s made me realize that I like sleeping with street noise and in a bedroom half lit by streetlights.  I really don’t like the dark quiet.  It’s kind of weird.  It’s what I imagine being dead is like.  I spend most of the night (after K has fallen asleep) reading the news on my phone in the dark and noticing every random noise.  I wonder if that’ll change after being here a few months.

I got an email yesterday from a poet inviting me to be on a Bamboo Ridge panel addressing Filipino diasporic literature.  I get really nervous about these kinds of things but I’m trying to think of this period living in Hawaii as an experiment.  I’m trying to push myself to re-imagine my identity, my path.  So to panels:  Yes!  I’ll do it!