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  • Hannah Balba

Origin Story

Photo by Austin Nicomedez on Unsplash

I come from a grandmother who survived two wars The one written in history books and the one she kept to herself I come from a grandfather who never said ‘I love you’

Because it was the kind of love that was met with sacrifice

Love that never spoke, but one that lived, unforgettably

I come from a mother and father Who loved me so much that they broke through continents Who, after asking: “what would it cost?” didn’t hesitate to tear through bodies of water even when the ocean told them that the only currency it accepted for them to cross

was their dreams

I am a product of the stories passed down

From the ancestral whispers To the meal at the dinner table that can only begin at the mention of a memory of the motherland

I come from the twinkle in my mother’s eye when she looks at me and says: “you look just like her”

So please, Ask me where I’m from,



Hannah Balba is a writer who resides in Richmond, British Columbia, on Coast Salish territory. She was born in the Philippines, and moved to what is currently called Canada in 2001 with her mother, father, sister, and brother. She is currently a full-time undergraduate student studying Modern History and Critical Race Studies at the University of British Columbia, where she plans on graduating in the Spring of 2021. She writes poetry as a way to express her experiences as a Filipina living in the diaspora, in hopes that others can see their own experiences in her work. You can find her on Instagram at @missbalba where she showcases all of her written work.

Explanation of poem: “Origin Story” is everything I want to say back to every person who has asked me: “where are you from?”—as if my life story, or where I began, can be reduced to a group of coordinates, a spot on a map—limited to what is contained inside a geographical border. I wrote this poem as a way to redefine one’s “origins”—that it can exist as a place, a memory, within a personal history passed down, or as a product of the sacrifices made by people who only want a better life for those they love. I hope this poem serves as a reminder that you are the sole and only authority when it comes to defining your life story, that to redefine “origin” is to act in resistance to what is preconceived of us based on the colour of our skin, and to remember the people we are descended from—those that have made everything possible for us.

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