It might surprise people who know me and know my work that I wasn’t always so proud of my Filipino heritage. Like most Asian Americans, I had to negotiate so much about both identities that I always identified with the American part more than the Asian. Especially since the Asian part essentially Other’d me. It wasn’t until I worked on my first all Filipino show “The Romance of Magno Rubio” in 2004 (I was the ASM) that I felt truly empowered in my heritage and what that looked like in the career I was setting out for myself. One of the most powerful moments in this piece is a song called “Ikaw”. I’d always sort of assumed that it was written specifically for the show since it fit the context so well but one trip back home, I started to hum the melody and my mother sang it back to me. It was a traditional Filipino song and one of her favorites at that. That year, that moment was when I decided to get back in touch with my heritage. It’s no surprise that the scripts I write that get the most traction, the most attention are the ones that are centered around the FilAm experience. The one where it is clear Mom is in the heart of the piece.

When it occurred to me to sing a tribute to Mom for her homecoming, it had to be this song. Little did I know (digging through the video archives of my mother’s life) how appropriate it would be. And how healing it would be for me and (hopefully) my family.

Here are the lyrics in Tagalog with the translation in English.

Ikaw ang aking panaginip
(You are my dream)

Ikaw ang tibuk ng dibidb
(You are the beating of my heart)

Pusong umiibig
(A heart that loves)

Dinggi’t umaawit
(Listen to it sing)

Tinataghoy ay pag-ibig
(Looking for true love)

Ikaw ang ligaya sa buhay
(You are the joy in life)

Sa piling mo’y walang kamatayan
(In your arms there is no death)

Pusong ko’y nangumpisal
(My heart confesses)

Sa Birehng dalanginan
(To the Blessed Virgin)

Na ang panagarap ko’y ikaw
(That you are my dream)

Ikaw ang ligaya sa buhay
Sa piling mo’y walang kamatayan
Pusong ko’y nagumpisal
So Birheng dalanginan
Na ang pangarahp ko’y

You will always be the joy in my life, Mom.

(Amparo Anastacio Bernardo | December 3, 1937-October 14, 2020)

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