I asked my father once if I was Gyopo. He said, "No. I'm Gyopo." Gyopo is a word for Koreans living away from their motherland. My father, a Korean citizen, moved to the Philippines in 1988 to build a life and later on had a family with my mother, a Filipina. My Korean grandmother soon followed and lived with us. She was a doting mother figure throughout my childhood yet much of who she was as a person was always a mystery to me. Korean culture was a constant presence in my life yet I live apart from it.
Her death in 2012 surfaced a lot of buried family grievances, a lot of which I couldn’t understand. I think I’ve moved on but there are times certain objects and people remind me of my unresolved grief. When I started forgetting her voice, looking at her old things in her boxes and suitcases brought comfort. It reminded me of her real presence and impact on my life despite not really knowing her.
When the pandemic hit, I started having recurring dreams of my grandmother as if she was alive. This ongoing project is a way to give form to prolonged grief and complicated feelings towards a mixed identity.