Thursday, September 9th, 2010
“I was born in Manila, Philippines and spent part of my childhood traveling around Asia. My Dad is a corporate banker and went around spreading the gospel of capitalism. When I was six, we moved to Connecticut, and then I went to Chicago for college.
“I recently moved back to D.C. for the third time. In 2001, I first came to D.C. for an internship. It was during 9/11, which was a very challenging time to be in this city. I came back in 2005 to work as an organizer for the U.S. Campaign for Burma. Through work, I had the opportunity to travel to Burma and meet with the leadership of the democracy movement there. Two years later, I left D.C. to move to a cabin in the woods and write a screenplay about Burma. As I was writing, the leaders of the democracy movement were imprisoned, where they remain today. I couldn’t finish the screenplay because it was too difficult to think about all of those people locked away in prison. Emotionally, I have never been able to get back to writing it.
“Six months ago, I moved back to D.C. because my sweetheart got a job with the Department of Energy. I was able to get a job with Global Zero, which is a national movement to eliminate nuclear weapons. It has been interesting to come back to D.C., especially because of the change in administration. I see Washington as a very different city now. When I was here in 2001, there was a strong undercurrent of resistance and anger in the activist community here. I find that constant struggle can lead to toxicity in a movement. Now, there seems to be a sense of optimism in Washington that I have never witnessed before. I see that people want to work together, both within and outside the system, to make change. I love that in Washington there are so many practical, smart and idealistic people working on different causes and trying to do good.
“One of the things that I have been involved in, and I find directly related to trying to do good here, is the Buddhist community in D.C. The first time I really became aware of Buddhism was at the age of 13 when a teacher gave me a book about meditation. When I moved to D.C. the second time, a bunch of friends encouraged me to take a Buddhism workshop with a teacher from Burma. I signed up and it changed my life. The principles are pretty basic, but have served to guide me, and make me realize that all things are impermanent. That seems especially true in D.C.
“This is such a transient community, as I know from my own experience, and a lot of people don’t take the time to invest in the District. Because of that, I think that many of the transient people do not invest in their communities here as well. I think that is a shame. If you look around, you can see the people who have been here for generations and understand the richness of this place. I think that we all would do well to show more respect and courtesy for our city and invest in it. Remember, we are in a southern city. I think that we should all embrace that and simply say good morning to people when we pass them on the street. That would be a nice start to feeling invested in our community here.”