May 24, 2019

Families, Reimagined: excerpt from: [ first fruits ] by Jake Vermaas

In celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we present our "Families, Reimagined" art series! Organizations like APANO have long recognized the diversity of families and have been working to expand definitions of family in legislative policy. To explore this expansive notion further, we commissioned six artists to create original artwork responding to changing definitions of home, family, and community. Today's piece of original writing comes from artist Jake Vermaas. Read on and join us in celebrating Asian and Pacific Islander artists.




excerpt from: [ first fruits ]
for Exequiel Verry 1921-2007




Consular Report of Birth Abroad1:



//



you didn't

even need papers

the first time you almost

went stateside they needed

coolies from an Orient

more like the East

Indies2



//



//



it was

either Alta California

or Hawaii or Mindanao no

difference between them empire

ically so you chose

the latter



//



//



you were

not a ward of the

State but later became

one of two childless Americans

the Verrys you took their

name after another em

pire took every

thing else



//



no longer

a Nunag or Pineda

your family tried to make

you their slave3 after your

parents passed so

you ran



//



//



the resist

ance came calling

but you would have fought

without the offer of citizenship4

which was good since

they took it away

anyway



//



//



soon after

the bodies were cold you

had to look up what “rescission”5

meant your education ended

at ten forget about

benefits6



//



//



you had

nothing to inherit in the

ruins no papers your folks claimed

you with7 no reparations paid

to anyone that looked

like you



//



//



one spring

break a college

friend joked about seeing

the server's immigration papers

& i ghosted her after but

regret not calling

it out



//



//



your boy

R—- and his wife went

TnT8 in the 80s cause my cousin had

epilepsy so bad it might kill him

but it shouldn’t have

mattered



//



//



when we

flew back what was

left when you left to the banks of

the Rio Grande de Pampanga was

it home? what did it

look like?



//



//



on my

trips back to your

town later i couldn’t help

but see other selves: half asians9

whose first world dads

didn’t care to

file papers



//



//



when i

hear ppl rail about “illegals”

i think of you and how you had

nothing

how you always made sure

my cousins and i knew we

were citizens of

your nation.



//



Notes:

  1. My father happened to file the correct paperwork (CRBA or Form FS-240) as a US Citizen when I was born, so my birthright American citizenship was actually recognized, unlike the estimated 250,000 Amerasians left in the Philippines. The pure products of America go crazy, indeed; see erased Boriuca, Williams.
  2. See Manong Generation. See plantation laborers at US owned (Dole, Del Monte, etc) fruit plantations, since the legal status of Filipinos as US territorial nationals was the same as Hawaiians and Puerto Ricans at the time.
  3. See Tizon, Alex, “My Family’s Slave.” Forget Alex Tizon.
  4. See Filipino WW2 Vets (est. ~400,000). See Pimentel, Kevin, “To Yick Wo, Thanks for Nothing!: Citizenship for Filipino Veterans,” 4 Mich. J. Race & L. 459 (1999) at https://repository.law.umich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1238&context=mjrl
  5. See Rescission Act of 1946.
  6. Despite his lack of education my lolo Quiel never gave up on trying to get justice for his wartime service, and late in life, qualified for 5,000 pesos a month (~$100) veterans benefits from the Philippine Government. But he was never recognized by the US Military that he fought with as a guerilla.
  7. After many records were destroyed during the war, my grandfather’s adoption was never recognized by our government, and no paperwork was filed for him to get US citizenship, like many of the Korean adoptees or Cambodian refugees that are being deported almost daily.
  8. See Tago ng Tago (Tagalog), “always hiding”. Every family or friend group knows someone who is living in fear due to our byzantine immigration bureaucracy and colonial history.
  9. Unlike the Amerasians born in Vietnam, Korea, Thailand, Laos, or Cambodia, half-Filipino and half-Japanese children must be claimed by their American parent to get U.S. citizenship. It was reported in 1993 that prostitutes are increasingly Amerasian, children of prostitutes caught in a cycle that transcends generations. http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/blog/explainer-how-can-you-be-half-american-and-still-not-a-citizen/








Jake Vermaas is a poet and engineer in Portland, OR, and the co-founder of the Whitenoise Project, a reading and discussion series aiming to center writers of color and underrepresented voices. A 2018 Oregon Literary Fellow in poetry and Jade-Midway Placemaking Grant recipient, his work has appeared in Anthem, Tayo Literary Magazine, Gramma Poetry, and Capitalism Nature Socialism.

Artwork by Ameya Marie

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