Hampas-lupa

When we moved to this part 
of the country, some of the first
kababayans we met sounded concerned
we'd found an apartment in Norfolk,
and not in Virginia Beach. Perhaps
they meant well, even when they said
things like You should move 
as soon as you can so you don't have 
to live in the ghetto, where there are 
a lot of blacks. Then there are those
who caution their daughters and sons 
when they begin to date: Anyone 
really of any race, except 
yellow or black. So it shouldn’t 
have been surprising to hear those
same daughters and sons say Our parents
are not like those Filipinos on the west 
coast or in Hawaii— they came here 
as professionals. Perhaps they don’t know 
what they’re saying; perhaps they can't 
hear what those words really mean, having 
been raised in a culture of skin bleaching 
products where white is held up as right, 
and the fair-skinned mestizo will always get 
the office or the acting job over the dark-
skinned ones who look like maids or peasants: 
hampas-lupa, those who crawl like worms
along the earth— mud-dwellers, clay
compared to the haughty figures
whose marble floors and shoes they buff
until they shine and won’t acknowledge
that the brown reflections they see
every day in the mirror are their own.   

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