napoleon lustre

Conditions (an unrestricted list) by Napoleon Lustre.

You are Pilipino 
if your mother is Pilipina
if your father is Pilipino
if you are from ‘pinas
if you have one drop of Pilipino blood

You are Pilipino
If you’re Chinese but are from the Philippines
or if you’re only ½ or 1/3 or any 1/fraction
and your last name is Tan, Ong, or Chua
and you constitute the less-than 1% of the native population
who control more-than 50% of the national commerce. 

You are Pilipino
even if you deny it
because your parents, or theirs, or theirs
are Espanol, mga Kastila
who settled in las islas Filipinas
names after your king once.
My father, too, is named Felipe
from tall, bug-eyed Malays
with high noses and wavy hair.
I don’t know how many generations they have been 
On these arbitrary islands that define us
maybe before Biak-na-bato broke in half 
at least before Bernard Carpio pushed his handprints
deep in the flat surfaces to separate the broken boulder.
The jungle has grown into the hollows.

You are Pilipino
if you are descended from the children 
of the Spanish friars, priests, and other unholy men.

You are Pilipino
if your mother was an American base hostess
and your eyes are green 
or any shade lighter than black, really
and your last name is Murphy, Sullivan 
or even Brown.

You are Pilipino
it doesn’t matter if you’ve been whitewashed by blood or culture
so bleached out you don’t think twice about blue contact lenses,
affirmative action, 
or ski trips to Utah
and you sleep well at nights
with all the alien consonants in your mouth.

You are Pilipino
if you are Black
because your mother 
or your father
[or both]
is from America
of African ancestry
or your mother
or your father
[or both]
is Negrito
or your mother
or your father
[or both]
is from America 
of Negrito Ancestry.

You are Pilipino
If you are part Japanese
Even though your father
Was the fruit of betrayal
Less than human, they called him
And your grandmother killed herself
After a lifetime as the local loka
Since the execution of her soldier/invader/lover.
Unless you are from Hawaii
where your grandfather joined your grandmother
against the white plantation owners.
Some say that’s what the wars were always about anyway.

You are Pilipino
if you are ½ Mexican, ½ Flip
that west coast Catholic mix
like the Irish-Italians back east.
My friend Tony’s folks are both Mexipinos
met and married in Oxnard.
Tony always says he has two reasons 
to boycott grapes.

You are Pilipino
if you know 
that history docked on our islands
long before any pale giants’ boats ever got close
and history docked there
made home there 
ever since.
Yes, if you know that
and if you know
that history has been leaving
ever since
for the next boomtown
in Papua New Guinea
Saudi Arabia
Hong Kong
Maybe even Ho Chi Minh City
or Los Angeles
to dock there and stay
wondering about those islands
that once had no name.

You are Pilipino
if you left
and have never made it back
and you think you will die
with only a child’s memory 
of how the air smells
the 1st day
after the typhoon has passed
and in a week the mud
will still squeeze between your toes, red
but smooth and heavy
like the Duncan Hines frosting
for a dollar thirty-nine
at the Korean store
down the block
from the Rampart Police Station 
in P-Town.


I found Lustre’s poem way back when I was doing some research and was digging through Amerasia journals in the Asian Am library.