guest-edited by barbara jane reyes

Special Issue Pinay Cover: Trinidad Niki Escobar

All Pinay Everything

Barbara Jane Reyes


It’s a “no brainer” for me. I am a Pinay author and educator. I learned how to be a poet in the San Francisco Bay Area Filipino American artist and activist community. I have been at this for over 20 years now. It’s a male dominated scene, and normally I am chastised or made to apologize for saying such things in public places.

The fiercest of feminists among us, gifted educators and artists, dedicate ourselves to forwarding the narratives of our Manongs, our labor leaders, and our Veteranos. They deserve our respect and our activism. We authors and educators do have a responsibility to forward their narratives.

The women in our communities though—daughters, sisters, brides, mothers, grandmothers, Manangs, women workers, hustlers, homemakers—their narratives have been grossly deprioritized, such that if we were told these narratives did not exist, there would be little cause not to believe it.

There is an oft-cited statistic: in the 1920s, the gender ratio in California was 14 Pinoys to one Pinay. Given this gender ratio, how challenging then was life for the Pinay in the USA, as a minority in her own minority community, surviving American political and social volatility, institutional racism, and white supremacy, still bound by community expectations of reproductive labor, to keep the home, nurture, to provide sustenance and emotional support.

Existing in a man’s world, what few Pinay narratives that were committed to paper, have succumbed to obscurity, just as Filipino/a American activists championed Carlos Bulosan’s America is in the Heart, and ensured its ongoing publication and course adoption into the new century.  

Given our century-long insistence upon the Pinoy narrative, flickers of brave Pinay voices have been diminished, and even extinguished. At the internet-based Commonwealth Cafe, Pinay author and scholar Jean Vengua has recently unearthed in the Salinas based The Philippines Mail, the 1934 and 1935 Op Eds of Helen Rillera, who was then a spirited adolescent Pinay. She wrote boldly to her Filipino brothers and comrades, to support her rather than to mistreat, to abuse, to be injurious. She communicated a need and desire for a mutually supportive relationship, what we today consider very ahead of her time.


In 2009, Pinay scholar Denise Cruz reintroduced The Crucible, the autobiographical writings of Yay Panlilio Marking, a strong willed, Colorado-born, mestiza Pinay journalist, who became a guerrilla colonel during WWII. Originally published in 1950, and out of print for half a century, The Crucible may likely be the first full length book authored by a Pinay in the USA.

As knowledge of our foremothers’ writings disintegrates, we come to believe we are starting from scratch, that no such writing exists about us. The absence of their writings leads us to believe that we were always silent, and that we have always accepted being silent.

Then in 1990, Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters explodes on the scene, and we come to believe she is the first and only one. We want to be just like her, to be so bold, so brave. We start to understand there are many of us, Pinays writing, creating community through our works, reclaiming our humanity through the act of writing. If only all of us together could do this!

Leaping forward, as Pinay scholars unearth these important, foundational Pinay narratives, as more and more Pinay authors make themselves known—M. Evelina Galang, Marianne Villanueva, Michelle Cruz Skinner, Eileen Tabios, Catalina Cariaga, Gina Apostol—we are still bound by expectations of reproductive labor. In the streets, on the internet, in our own families and communities, our bodies are viewed and handled as reproductive labor commodities.

The Pinay has no champion but herself.

Pedagogist Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales has conceptualized Pinayism, a critical space where Pinays, their global, local, and individual experiences are the center of the discourse. My work, my interest has been in applying Pinayism to the production, teaching, and proliferation of our literature.

I teach Pinay Lit at the university level and Pinay writing workshop in the community. These are incubation spaces, growing spaces, populated by few, but eager, hungry folks, who value and prioritize Pinay space, in which we may reexamine the values we have inherited, in which we may determine our own complex ways of seeing, reading, writing ourselves. This issue of TAYO is one of a many such Pinay spaces. I continue this work, enouraged and emboldened by my Ates and Manangs, my colleagues, my students and mentees. My goal is to continue creating, enlarging, elevating these spaces. My most sincere gratitude to Melissa Sipin and the editors of TAYO, for the opportunity.










Melissa R. Sipin

amalia bueno


Visual Artists in this issue

Trinidad Niki Escobar, Eliseo Art Silva, Cristopher Nolasco, Jay Santa Cruz, Rodney Cajudo, Zivile Zablackaite, Jan Christian Bernabe, Jun-Jun Sta. Ana, Gina Sipin, and Rachel Sipin Espanola.


Barbara Jane Reyes is the author of Diwata (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2010), winner of the Global Filipino Literary Award for Poetry and a finalist for the California Book Award. She was born in Manila, Philippines, raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is the author of two previous collections of poetry, Gravities of Center (Arkipelago Books, 2003) and Poeta en San Francisco (Tinfish Press, 2005), which received the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets. She is also the author of the chapbooks Easter Sunday (Ypolita Press, 2008) Cherry (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, 2008), and For the City that Nearly Broke Me (Aztlan Libre Press, 2012).

An Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow, she received her B.A. in Ethnic Studies at U.C. Berkeley and her M.F.A. at San Francisco State University. She is an adjunct professor at University of San Francisco’s Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program, where she teaches Filipino/a Literature in Diaspora, and Filipina Lives and Voices in Literature. She has also taught Filipino American Literature at San Francisco State University, and graduate poetry workshop at Mills College, and currently serves on the board of Philippine American Writers and Artists (PAWA). She lives with her husband, poet Oscar Bermeo, in Oakland, where she is co-editor of Doveglion Press.