Filipino American poet Isabella Avila Borgeson, a recent UC Berkeley graduate in ethnic studies, is one of four spoken word artists chosen to perform in conjunction with climate talks now going on in Paris.
She was chosen from among candidates who entered a worldwide contest sponsored by the Global Call for Climate Action, a coalition of more than 400 nonprofit organizations from around the world aimed at mobilizing civil society and the public around climate change. (Story continues below.)
Borgeson’s winning video is “Yolanda Winds,” a piece she wrote in response to supertyphoon Haiyan (also called Yolanda), which devastated much of Southeast Asia, including her mother’s hometown of Tanauan, Leyte, in the Philippines, in November 2013. Her mother barely survived the storm, one of the strongest on record.
“I moved back to Tanauan one month after the typhoon to help my mother rebuild our home, and stayed for the next two years working as a community organizer on relief/rehabilitation projects” throughout the region, she writes in the text accompanying her YouTube video of “Yolanda Winds.”
“Learning about my family’s stories of death and trauma surrounding the ocean was a vivid part of my experience,” she writes. “In my community/family/motherland, climate change means re-learning the ocean. I was always taught that the sea is a sacred place, where I come to speak to my ancestors and find healing in salt waters. With the increased intensity and frequency of natural disasters hitting island countries like the Philippines as a direct result of global warming, my family’s relationship to the sea is changing.
“The ocean is now a mass grave of family members and townsfolk whose bodies were washed away by storm surge waves during the super typhoon.”
She dedicated “Yolanda Winds” to her mother, who survived the typhoon and “struggles to forgive the sea.”
Borgeson was to perform her piece in Paris with the other contest winners. She is a is a community curator for Adobe Systems.
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Read more about Berkeley at the Paris climate conference.