Political Content Writing Workshop:

"P.H." for Paradise Hills,
for the Philippines

Love for the Land

Kay Cuajunco

"P.H." for Paradise Hills, for the Philippines

Growing up in San Diego, the neighborhood of Paradise Hills, affectionately referred to as “P.H.” beyond the abbreviation to mean “P.H.” fo the Philippines too. Many of my peers growing up were in Filipino navy families like myself that I never knew when a friend would need to move away when their family would get stationed elsewhere.

Paradise Hills for that reason was filled with this sense of transience. It’s like when you don’t want to plant a fruit tree in your backyard of the house you’re renting since you never know if you’ll live there long enough to enjoy its fruits.

If Paradise Hills were a lover they would be seductive yet subtle; taking you in like a warm picturesque place but with those reminders that you may not be around for very long and that moments should be captured to be put on postcards to remember that special getaway to paradise.

Away from the beachside landscape of salty shores, the concrete navy base in South East San Diego leaves a taste of dryness, a third for flavor beyond the starchyness of freshly ironed uniforms and American flags.

As a lover, Paradise Hills leaves you wanting more, like a too short summer fling.

Love for the Land

From my grandparents, I was passed on a love for the land. Any particular farm or garden, a reverence for all the elements that make up a landscape. My grandpa was a rice farmer in the Philippines. I love the smell of dense wet soil after the rain, the crisp of a gentle breeze making the abundant harvest dance, the feeling of swimming in deep waters.

I have always been drawn to my Filipino brothers and sisters, as well as other Asian Pacific Islanders who hold on to these same memories of their grandparents working the land, working to preserve and care for it, working to sustain themselves and their families. This affinity lends itself to fear of displacement, being tied to a sense of place.

Recently my own geography due to work has been very food-centric and I see sense of place tied to the body, the land, and food. Growing up I would refer to the color purple as ube since it would convey that sweetness to me in a way tied to my ancestral cuisine that sometimes felt like my only outlet to reconnect and share with my distant relatives at the family party where we would find that mutual respect, that shared love of the land, despite the passing of time and distance.

Kay Cuajunco is an organizer, educator, and media-maker based in Oakland, California. Her film, Roots of Struggle, about queer pin@ys navigating the contradictions of their military upbringing and finding home in Filipino-American anti-imperialist organizing premiered at the Queer Women of Color Film Festival in summer 2013. She is a proud member of Anakbayan East Bay.