Photo by Jess Woods

I was born in Cebu but my family is not originally from the Philippines. During the American colonization, the Spanish not only went West, but East, too, into far Eastern Asia. Indigenous lands comprised of thousands of islands, a multicultural, diverse pocket in the Pacific that was ripe for the taking. Catholicism swept in, and hundreds of years later, I, a by-product of Spanish, Chinese, and Portuguese conquistadors, have made it to the land of the free. And I have seen the truth of the New World.

I am a writer at heart, I always have been, and I choose to see the world for what it really is. There is wonder and power and magic on this Earth — as well as death, despair, and fear. I choose to respond with love and kindness. Fairness and empathy. And above all, forgiveness for your enemies. Because what’s a life without sympathy? What is life without love?

— Claire Lardizabal