COVID-19 controls have resulted in various events being cancelled or postponed indefinitely. However, the passion of people for singing, acting, dancing, poetry readings and holding cultural, religious and sporting events overcomes these restrictions through the use of technology. We have enjoyed concerts, singing and dance competitions, musicals and poetry reading livestreamed globally into our lounge rooms.
A poetry reading held recently showcased poets from the mainstream and multicultural communities. One of these creatives was Eunice Andrada who is a Filipina poet, performer and educator based in Sydney, Australia.
Eunice was born in Quezon City and raised across Iloilo and Quezon City. She is the youngest of five children, having three sisters and one brother. At the age of 15 years, she migrated to Australia in 2012 to join members of her family who were already in Sydney. She shared that she turned to poetry and writing immediately after their arrival as part of her processing aspects of being a migrant and not having relations around, with the poetry community becoming her new extended family.
She completed her high school in the Philippines but could not do university immediately after migrating because her high school diploma was not recognised, so she did TAFE courses before she attended university. Later on she completed a Bachelor of Arts - Anthropology from Sydney University.
Eunice's first poetry collection Flood Damages (2018) won the Anne Elder Award for the best debut poetry book of the year. It was also shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards (2019) and the Dame Mary Gilmore Award (2019). Her individual works have won the John Marsden and Hachette Australia Prize (2015) and have been shortlisted for the Fair Australia Prize (2018).
From 2015, she has performed her poetry in many events and diverse local and international stages, including the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, Sydney Opera House, Parliament House of New South Wales, Museum of Contemporary Art, the Blanco Renaissance Museum in Indonesia, Richesse des langues Festival, Montreal, Canada and Puente de Britanico Bridge in Iloilo, Philippines, to name a few.
The Australian Filipina is glad to share the Q&A below to give a personal insight into this talented artist and educator who has a burning passion for raising the profile of the Filipinos in her second home and beyond,
What would you consider fondly to be your achievements?
I try not to think of “achievement” through the capitalist lens of the awards I’ve received or the number books I’ve written. At the moment, I’m happiest about my relationships with my family and friends. My friends and I have still been able to connect meaningfully through this wild time, which I think is a huge mutual achievement in itself. I’ve also been more devoted in my relationships with my family, especially with my grandmother, for whom I currently act as an in-house nurse/cook/cleaner/hairdresser, etc. She’s currently recovering from a broken wrist while doing chemo so it’s been really tough. But this moment has also been quite wonderful for the both of us. We haven’t been able to be together every day since the time she was raising me in the Philippines while my mom worked as an OFW overseas.
Beyond that, I think there’s an achievement in being able to move readers—especially young women of colour—with my poems. I feel so much joy whenever I get messages from young women of colour who tell me my poetry and my public presence have helped them arrive at a place of self-acceptance.
What challenges have you faced and overcome from when you migrated to Australia and possibly to the present?
Coming to Australia in 2012, reckoning with the sudden absence of community was difficult. I was raised by the women in my family and a community of women in our neighbourhood. My home was always full of cousins, titas, titos, friends from school. It was hard to suddenly not be able to just call my cousins and ask them to hang out whenever I wanted. Thankfully, I no longer struggle with a lack of community. Since migrating, I’ve built new communities with other Filipinos, artists, activists, and women of colour.
Of course, I still grapple with the challenges of racism and white supremacy. My communities share the burden of facing and dismantling these problems. I’m so thankful for their strength and allyship.
What was your first poetry collection titled "Flood Damages based on or what it was about; what inspired you to write them?
Flood Damages is based on the experience of my family as survivors of domestic violence, our migration to Australia, and the ways we continue to survive relentless state violence and ecological traumas, coming from a country that has been named the most vulnerable to climate change (Global Peace Index 2019).
Another poem you wrote that caught our attention is "Inglesera". can you also share what it was based on or what it was about; what inspired you to write it.
“Inglesera” is inspired by my mother’s story about her Filipina friend who now lives in Australia. That friend would often go back to the Philippines and no longer be able to stomach the food or even drink the local bottled water without getting diarrhoea. Sorry for the mental image.
Through that poem, I wanted to explore the ways migration changes our bodies. It’s also one of the poems where I examine the privilege of social and economic mobility that some Filipinos have more of, compared to others.
What else do you wish to achieve in your passion of poetry and writing?
I hope my poems can help survivors feel seen and necessary. I hope my poems inspire other young women of colour, especially Filipino women, to write and to speak bravely. I hope I hope I hope.
What else do you want to achieve in life?
I want to devote my life to the struggle of decolonization in the Philippines and beyond. In my lifetime, I want to witness the abolition of white supremacy and the end of imperialism. I want to come to a point where I can truly be in touch with my ancestral joy and break the cycle of intergenerational trauma.
Please share a poem or excerpt of a story you wrote.
One of my new poems is featured in the University of Queensland Press: https://www.uqp.com.au/podcasts/episode-1-ellen-van-neerven-and-eunice-andrada
The Sydney-based poetry organisation Red Room Poetry has also commissioned me to write a suite of poems on water. These poems will soon be published on their website and aboard ferries travelling around Sydney: https://redroomcompany.org/projects/writing-water-rain-river-reef/
Lastly, how do you define 'success'?
Success means justice for my kin and my communities.
Catch Eunice in the Digital Sala's event which she is producing and hosting. - "Decolonial Poetics", panel conversation via Facebook Live on 18 August - 6 PM Pacific Daylight Time / 19 August - 11AM Australia Standard Time. This will feature Rick Barot (USA) and Merlinda Bobis (Australia).
Eunice has produced a series of events for The Digital Sala: (1) a Black Lives Matter Solidarity Reading with Filipinx Poets, (2) An Interview with Poet Ivy Alvarez, and (3) Kwentong COVID-19. More events will be announced this August. Keep tab of he upcoming events through her Instagram account: @eunice.andrada.
[Photo credits: Eme Talastas-Dela Rosa]