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  • Writer's pictureJavier Omar Meléndez-Vega, LCSW

Roots and Resilience

Updated: Jan 19

Welcome to my blog: Roots and Resilience!


As a mental health therapist on a journey to deepen my connection with my cultural roots, my recent vacation to the Philippines offered profound insights into the nature of identity and healing.


I've just returned from a transformative 3-week journey in the Philippines, spanning from December 25 to January 13. Traveling with my boyfriend, who was born in the Philippines but raised in New Zealand, offered a unique perspective on reconnecting with one's cultural heritage. While there in his homeland, we met up with his immediate and extended family. This trip allowed me to witness the places where his parents grew up and to delve into the rich history of the Philippines.


Our visit to the breathtaking landscapes of the Philippines contrasted with the vibrant city life of BGC and Manila. However, it was our time at Puning Hot Springs, located on the ancestral lands of the Aeta people, that left a significant impact on me. Learning about the Aeta community's loss of their home due to the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, and seeing the subsequent development of a spa by Koreans, raised complex feelings and lot of cognitive dissonance for me. It highlighted issues of self-determination and the often-limited benefits indigenous communities receive from such developments.


During a visit to the National Museum of Anthropology, I encountered the term "Indio-Genius," coined by Lopes Na-Uyac, mentor of Kidlat Tahimik. This concept, celebrating the wisdom of the Philippines' indigenous peoples, resonated with me as a powerful testament to the broader indigenous world's rich and often overlooked knowledge systems.


Interacting with my boyfriend's family and reflecting on my Puerto Rican/Taíno roots led to profound contemplations on connecting with our origins and healing from familial trauma. This trip deepened my thoughts on colonization and its impact on identity. Both the Philippines and Puerto Rico have experienced the harsh effects of colonialism, leading to generational and historical trauma in families like ours.


Lapu-Lapu was a 16th-century ruler of Mactan in the Philippines, renowned as the first native hero to resist Spanish colonization. He is celebrated for his leadership and bravery in the Battle of Mactan in 1521, where he successfully defended his land against the forces of the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, marking a significant moment of resistance against colonial forces in Philippine history.


Inspired by stories of resilience worldwide, I'm creating this new blog, "Roots and Resilience" to explore my journey of reconnecting with my Puerto Rican and Taíno roots and to delve into themes of family, trauma, decolonization and reindigenization. My role as a licensed clinical social worker and mental health practitioner will also inform this exploration. In this space, I aim to bring a unique blend of professional expertise, personal insight, and a wholistic* approach to well-being that refuses to look at mental health in isolation. Instead we will come to an understanding of how our identities, histories, and connections to the land and community shape our overall wellness.


If you find this journey and themes resonate with you, I warmly invite you to join me. Together we'll navigate the pathways of resilience, reconnection, and healing.


 

Do you have your own stories of resilience and reconnection to share? I encourage you to join the conversation and help us build a community grounded in understanding and support.


 

*Note on Language: In this blog, I use the spelling "wholistic" with a "W" to describe an all-encompassing perspective on wellness. This choice is inspired by the work of Renee Linklater and Alice Olsen Williams of Curve Lake First Nation. They highlight that "wholistic" better represents the concept of wholeness and inclusivity, reflective of Indigenous cultural philosophy. This spelling intentionally moves away from associations with the word "holy," which can imply masculinity, patriarchal power, and specific religious connotations. In our journey together, it's vital to embrace language that truly encapsulates our shared exploration of identity, resilience, and healing within a broader, more inclusive context.



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