Me, Mike and Manny circa 1966

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Love Letter to you, Mom (Mahal na mahal kita!)

58 years ago, when we first celebrated Mother’s Day, did you think you would have six of us? Did you know you would become a US citizen? That you would not only be our mom, dad’s wife, a teacher, but also the community leader and organizer in Milwaukee, Saskatchewan, and Peoria, Illinois?

Did you think you’d build a house set in the middle of the woods, designing open concept spaces in the 1970’s, not because it was a trend, but because it was a practical way to do your work and keep an eye on us? Did you, the daughter of a Chinese businessman and a Filipina  countrywoman, dream that you would stretch your husband’s pay checks and create a beautiful home on a Singer sewing machine? That your practice of cooking for eight would make you a master chef? I can’t believe you only cooked your first meal when you were twenty-eight.

People say dad was the storyteller. But you were the maker of things. You were the one who taught me to think outside cultural expectations. Who said, I never stopped to think about being a feminist.  I was too busy doing what needed to be done (too busy being a feminist).

From your example, all things have become possible.  All things realized. 


I know Mother’s Day is harder today because it is the first one without Dad.  But I also know we are who we are because of the two of you. That your strength is what made you two create our beautiful life (with 15 apo!).

Maraming Salamat, Mommy! ♥️

Did you know all these things would come to pass back then? I was not even a month old. Dad was a young physician. We were in Harrisburg. Did you know you would do all this?

Mahal na mahal kita. Happy Mother’s Day.

Monday, May 6, 2019


I practice yoga this morning in a gym with 400 people.  My teacher from India, is the son of the founder of Ashtanga yoga.  After chanting, I dedicate my practice to you and think about you. One time, I practiced yoga on the slate floor in our foyer when you walked through on your way to the kitchen.  I was bending forward. “Oh! I wish I could do that!” you said, walking past me. “Good for the back!”

Today is Sunday and 400 of us are saluting the sun. The still dark sun.

“Breathe with sound,” the teacher says.  Everyone inhales deeply and it’s as if we are gathering all the air. The exhale rushes out of each of us, low and guttural, the way wind swirls through a forest before a storm.

I focus on you, Dad. I focus on the breathing. I think about how much I miss your voice, loud and strong, sailing through our house. You were the storm. You were the breath. Your footsteps steady as the heart. Your presence everywhere.

Five months and we are doing our best to move forward, to push through this desire to sit on the couch, not moving, not thinking, not being.

It has changed, but it’s not better. It’s different.

My teacher tells us breath purifies body. “You breathe in positive energy. You exhale negativity. In this way you cleanse the body.” He tells us breathing is good for healing respiratory infection, allergies and stress. “If you have boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse who stress you, breathe.”

Is this stress?

I am back in the world, a little less awkward, a little more present. I have returned to the body. I am eating healthy and I’ve come back to my yoga mat.

We have practiced four days so far, waking at 4:45, preparing to be on this mat at 6:30.

Some mornings it is so difficult to wake up. To move. The body so heavy. I want to close my eyes.

I inhale long and slow.  I imagine positive energy entering my body, coursing through my limbs.  I exhale and squeeze all that is bad out of me. Breathing is easy in some poses.  But there are others where I am twisted like a pretzel and the breathing is a chore.  I shortchange the inhale. I push out air during the exhale. Rid myself of all this malaise.

The teacher catches us not paying attention when we move before he speaks. When we inhale rather than exhale. When stillness is just a word.

So I breathe. And then I remember you, Dad. How during those last nine days, your breathing was labored. How there were moments when you stopped. Just stopped. When stillness meant you were tempting death to come.The last day when breathing was not the steady internal whirlwind we take for granted, your breathing sounded painful.  You hiccuped air. You spat wind. You held your breath. And when the time came, how easy it was, how quiet the breath, the letting go. Five months, Daddio. How I miss you. How I dedicate today’s practice to you.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Every Grain of Rice: A retelling of a Galang Family Tale

During World War II, my father's family had a house in Macabebe, Pampanga.  My lolo was a councilman and also the town dentist.  And while they were not rich, they were able to keep a supply of rice stored on the floor of a raised hut.

My dad tells a story about that house of rice.  There was a hole, he says, and the grains of rice fell from that hole.  Little bit by little bit, the rice was disappearing.  During wartime this was bad because food was scarce and there were so many mouths to feed.  There was my lolo, lola, my dad and his sister and brothers.

When my lolo found out about the hole in the floor, he also discovered the neighbors had placed baskets underneath the falling rice.

My dad loved the ending of this story.  Did my lolo confront his neighbors?

Let them have it, he said.  We have plenty.

This story that we grew up on, influenced my dad and the way he lived.  He had a supply of rice in his big heart.  And there was also a little hole.  And so many baskets catching every grain of rice.

Three months today we lost you, Daddio.  I offer this little bowl of rice to you.  Maraming salamat, po.  Mahal na mahal kita.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Pamana: The Lolas' Legacy

Yesterday, I stood before a group of 150 SFSU students—Asian American mostly—but diverse. I shared Lola Pilar Frias’ testimony.  I stood before them and I read her words (translated of course).  I played my book trailer where every woman’s face and name appears on the screen.   I answered these questions from the students:

1.     How did you feel when you heard their stories?
2.     How did you use your tools as a fiction writer to write this book?
3.     How did you get the stories to leave your body?
4.     Did writing the book hurt you? In what ways?
5.     Is my lola one of them?

At the end of the day, the first student who came up to me did not have a book in her hand, but she had the saddest eyes.  “Can I please give you a hug,” she asked me.

Another student, a young woman, tried to keep herself from crying.  Held her breath.  Scrunched her face up and said, “I was afraid to come talk to you.  I was afraid I’d see my lola’s face on the cover of your book.”

Two boys approached me.  One Filipino American and the other Vietnamese.  They each said they were moved.  They wondered if these stories were their grandmothers’ stories too.  “I’m going to read the book tonight,” said the Pinoy.  “Then I’m going to give my mom the book, can you sign it to her?”

“Me too,” said the other boy.  “I’m from Vietnam and I think we have war stories too.  Could you sign it for my mother?”

I think the lolas would be pleased.  So many young people told me they were going to go home and ask their parents and grandparents to tell them their family’s stories of war. 

Isn’t this the first step?  To discover the stories.  To listen to the elders.  To listen.  To breathe with them.  Hold onto them. 

That’s the first step.  Then, write them down.  Put them in some historical context.  And if you see the need for justice, fight.  Push. Make sure these tales will never happen again.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

#Irma: Why You Gotta Rain On My Parade?

My book, Lolas' House: Filipino Women Living with War (Curbstone Books), was supposed to be launched on September 15, 2017 at my hometown bookstore, Books & Books in Miami.  We were going to throw a party for the nearly twenty years in the making of this document housing the testimonies of sixteen surviving Filipina "Comfort Women" of WWII.  This date is also the death anniversary of my Lolo Miguel, my grandfather who appears like a ghost in my first published short story, "Our Fathers." The date had significance for me.

But who had time to think of these seemingly trivial markers when a cat 5 storm was ravaging the Caribbean, spinning like a wild beast, spitting vitriol, breaking everything--and everyone--in sight?  Who could think of anything but the matter at hand: we have been told three days before the storm to close up shop, batten down hatches, leave South Florida?

My husband and I talked about it.  I have been living in Miami since 2002.  I was on campus and a residential faculty master in a freshmen building during Rita, Wilma, and Katrina.  I was a veteran hurricane survivor.  But then, we had never seen a cat 5 cone covering the entire state of Florida before.

We left.  We took one day to ready the house, clean out our pet carriers, pack one suitcase.  It didn't occur to me to bring my papers.  I thought we'd be back in a few days.  We drove a fourteen hour ride to my Virginia in-laws for twenty hours.

On what was supposed to be my pub date, I sat at a restaurant with my husband and his sister and her husband, thinking about the book.  My heart was heavy for so many reasons.

Things for Lolas' House turned out better than I could have imagined, though.  First of all, the actual book party happened the next weekend at Asian American Writers Workshop in New York.  I shared the stage with activist and Gabriela New York's Jennine Ventura.

Why is that special?  When I first began my journey in search of the lolas, I asked New York activist and novelist, Ninotchka Rosca, to point me in the right direction.  She sent me to Liza Maza, one of the New York leadership of Gabriela National Alliance of Women.  It was Liza Maza who introduced me to the women of Liga ng mga Lolang Pilipina, Gabriela, aka LILA Pilipina.

Gabriela has been one of my strongest and best resources.  I like to think of them as the foundation layers of Lolas' House.

Jennine Ventura gave a true activist presentation that supported and gave context to the book.  She gave the night an energy that truly supported the spirit of Lolas' House and with her, the women of Gabriela.

Here's what I learned the night of our launch:

1.  Even though I felt guilty for wanting to celebrate my book during the hurricane week of Irma, I realize it was okay to feel that sadness.  To resent not being able to welcome the book into the world on its publication date.  This book deserves our attention.  Not because it's my book, but because it is the Lolas' book.  It is the house that holds the testimonies to what happens to women living in war.  It is the document that questions why we allow our women to be treated without any regard for their bodies, their minds, their spirits.  It is a book that demands us to hear the women.  It is a call to action to stop war on women.

2.  Lolas' House was meant to be introduced to the world with Gabriela at our side.

3.  It's funny how Irma's path directed even this.  And look how well things turned out.

I have rescheduled the book launch in Miami for Sunday, October 29th.  This night will be special too, for my Miami literary community will come together, and they will welcome the Lolas one by one into our bookstore, our home.  6:30PM.  Books & Books.  See you there.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Love Letter to Our Nation

Dear Immigrant Nation,

My name is M. Evelina Galang.  I am the daughter of Miguel T. Galang and Gloria Lopez-Tan Galang, two immigrants who met in an auditorium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the late 1950’s, just as the third wave of Filipinos arrived in the United States (

As a child I have watched their struggles.  I have seen the discrimination and the disappointment in their faces.  I have heard their voices late at night, making sense of this so-called dream.

I know firsthand what courage it takes to leave everything you know, your family, your land, your people, to make this American dream a reality.

It doesn’t always feel like a dream.

Know I am with you.  I know you.  I am one of you.  This nation is nothing without you.   

The hypocrisy of those Senators and Congressmen and women who do not stand up to this 45th President will be the undoing of all of us.

Stand up, Senator Rubio.

Louder, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen. 

Thank you, Senator Nelson.

And shame, shame, shame on you Mayor Carlos Gimenez.  Have you forgotten? 

I write this letter on the day after Valentine’s Day, my love letter to you, my people, my nation of first, second, third and twenty-seventh born generations of Americans. 

Let us stand up on the streets, holding our signs.

Let us sit in the offices of our Congresswomen and Senators.

Let us write our love letters to our brother and sisters, to ourselves.

Let us not forget.

We are a sanctuary nation.  

With love and in solidarity,

M. Evelina Galang

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

My Important Vote of Our Lifetime

I Voted Early. Because I am a woman, the first born of an immigrant family from the Philippines, the wife of a man from the hills of Virginia, the auntie of children born of sons and daughters of various ethnic backgrounds, the cousin to husbands of same sex marriage, the cousin to documented and undocumented immigrants, the teacher of writing students I encourage to speak their truth and be who they are without apology, the stepmom of liberal and progressive and beautiful daughters, the lola of Jaiden, newborn of all things good. I am the sister of five other Catholic siblings, and a citizen of a free nation, a democracy, a gateway for many nations calling this land home. 

I voted for Hillary Clinton because she will uphold the lives my families have built, she will encourage the education of my students, she will protect my right to think differently.

I voted for Hillary Clinton because I know that life is also about making changes slowly, reasonably and with the support of those around us. It is not always obvious. It is not always to our liking. There will be compromise. But then again, that comes with having so many people with different perspectives and making it a practice to respect and honor the people around us.

Just saying. #imwithher