ON THE SPOT (ISSUE 4)
An exclusive and extensive interview with Erah Oalind, a Filipino-American poetess with great affinity for Nigerian poetry and poets.
- WHO IS ERAH OALIND?
Erah Oalind is a single mother of two boys from 2 unsuccessful marriages. She was born and raised in the Philippines. Her Spiritual and Moral values are deeply rooted from the soil where she was born. She came to America at the age of 25, to be reunited with her husband then and pursue her dreams in this Land of Milk and Honey. A passionate Poet and an aspiring writer. I was born with a birth name HILARIA NACIONAL ALIDON, the 8th child from my parents. As a little girl, I am that timid but feisty little “Rhea”…RHEA was the nick name given to me by my only god mother. And I grew up with that name. Everyone calls me “RHEA” and I go by that name. I only use my given birth name, on legal matters. No one knows my real name, only very few people. I am a very determined individual. Ambitious and strongly motivated. I am well rounded at the same time. My humble beginnings, helped me to keep my feet on the ground. I’m very open minded, spontaneous, boldly honest/frank, fearless, and genuine-what you see is what you get?
- YOU ARE A FILIPINO-AMERICAN. TELL US ABOUT YOUR BEGINNINGS IN THE PHILIPPINES?
I came from a big family of 11, nine children plus our parents. My father was a High School teacher and my mother was a great business woman doing the “BUY AND SELL” activities in my growing years. When my father lost his license to teach, due to his bad temperament and strictness in disciplining his students. My mother took over the responsibilities, as the sole provider to our family. Our father became jobless until he died. When my parents decided to move to a bigger City for better opportunities. We went to Manila, the Capital City of Philippines. I was 12 yrs old then. But my parents was victimized by a crooked business partner in Manila. The money they were supposed to use for a better and bigger “BUY AND SELL” business was swindled. And they were left penny less. That’s when the course of life for us was changed. We ended up living in the squatters’ area of Del Pan-Tondo, Manila. The most notorious place to live, known as SLUM. Known to be the haven of all outlaws in the big City of Manila. In order for us to survive, I helped my parents sell all kinds of stuff in the Streets. I sold rice and garri cakes, cigarettes, water and candies at the jeepney and Bus stations. Rain or shine. I did this from 12 yrs old until I was 16 yrs old. I walked miles and miles in the Streets of Manila for us to survive. I literally had to wake up early at 5 a.m. to be out in the Streets for a living. Then go back home at 7:30 a.m. and get ready for school. This became my norm life, until I graduated in High School. When I went to College, I worked harder. I left home to continuing the chase of my dreams in finishing my College. I was a self-supporting College Student. I worked all kinds of odd jobs, just to make money for my tuition fees. I became a Restaurant dish washer/service crew, laundry girl for rich students, personal assistant to elder people, baby sitting, personal cook and even a maid. Anything, I can think of to make money the right way. As long as I’m not selling myself for easy money.
- WHAT WAS IT LIKE COMING TO AMERICA AND BECOMING A CITIZEN OF GOD’S OWN COUNTRY?
Coming to America was a Destiny. I met my American husband in the Philippines. It was a whirlwind romance, ended in marriage. To make it short, I became a US Citizen due to my productive life here. I’m a Law abiding Immigrant. Maintained a strong employment history. No violations of anything. Then, in 2005 after 10 yrs of being an Immigrant. I got my Naturalization Citizenship. It was sure reel at first. I did it all by myself. I was a single mother then with my oldest child from my first marriage. Becoming a US Citizen was a dream came true!
- WOULD YOU MIND SHARING WITH US, A LANDMARK EXPERIENCE GROWING UP AS A CITIZEN OF AMERICA?
California is the landmark of my growing years in America. I’d been here for almost 21 yrs now. When I became a US Citizen, I was so proud of myself and at the same time I was humbled too. Realizing that, not all is given a chance to be here, I was a successful dream chaser here. I had no problem finding job after another. The opportunities here was unlimited, before the 2008 US Economy crashed. I am grateful that every time I applied a job. I always get hired on the spot. Just my luck I guess. America has been good to me since day one, I set my feet here. Till this very day!
- YOU FOUND POETRY AND POETRY FOUND YOU. HOW DID IT HAPPEN?
Poetry found me at the most hopeless state of my being. I was in a depression when I found my pen accidentally. I was going through a lot from my 2nd divorce. Emotionally, psychologically tormented and spiritually lost. I was going through an ugly custody battle of my 2nd son from the second/failed marriage. I had no one to turn to. No friends around. No family here to run to for support. I WAS ON MY OWN. Fighting for my son in the Custody battle with his father. Going through financial breakdown. And homeless at the same time. I was overwhelmed with everything I was going through. Whenever I felt so sad and desperately lonely, I would grab a pen and write how I was feeling at the moment? And, I wrote a poem and shared it on Facebook. I was surprised by the number of positive feedbacks from those who read it. From the very first poem I wrote, it birthed hundreds more. Since then, I never stop writing Poetry. I write a poem or two every day!
- WHY POETRY? (State Vivid Reasons)
Why Poetry? Honestly, through Poetry I found my purpose, my calling…through the pieces I’ve shared to my fans all over the globe. I was blessed knowing that my Poetry blessed, inspired, encouraged and uplifted lots of people. POETRY IS LIFE…PASSION…AND PURPOSE. It is very powerful, it can connect bridges from continent to continent/across the globe. It can dissolve any impossibilities!
- YOU ARE ONE POET WITH AN UNMATCHABLE RECORD WRITING POETRY DAILY. WHAT IS THE SECRET BEHIND THIS?
I don’t think there’s a secret. Inspiration more like it is. I am inspired daily to write Poetry. My Muse is one stubborn whisper. She won’t leave me alone, until I finished writing what she whispered me to write? (Laughing)
Honestly, it is my passion for Poetry that gives me that inspiration to write daily. My Muse comes out on almost everything and anything. I could see a flower on the ground, and I could write a poetry about it…or sometimes I can be in a conversation with you. And through our convos, a piece will come out of it. POETRY IS A DAILY INSPIRATION OF EVERYTHING AROUND ME AND AROUND US.
- YOUR POETRY EXPLORES LIVING AND RELATIONSHIPS. SAY SOMETHING ABOUT THIS.
Honestly, love poems and spiritual poems are two of my favorite inspirations to write. Mostly of the pieces I wrote, were about love lost, broken promises, failed relationships etc…and inspirational poems about faith and hope gives me that adrenaline. To write how I became dependent to God? How I clung on to God in my most trying times. During my depression years, I write through my own experiences in this life’s journey. The very reason probably while so many are touched by my Poetry!
9. DO YOU HAVE ANY POEM YOU CONSIDER ONE OF YOUR BEST?
Yes. When I found out that I am a pen holder. I wrote a poem about the 12 STEPS OF PENNING…in this piece I emphasized on writers gift, purpose and responsibilities as to why God has given us the gift of writing. I shared it to all of my Poets/Writers friends on Facebook. It was even featured on many blogs. I forgot already who’s blog I permitted to share that poem I wrote. It opened the eyes of many. That, writing is a gift of calling and purpose.
- WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF POETRY TO SOCIETY?
It can be a common ground to many aspiring writers/Poets in the society. Creating a strong force to come together. Expressing their social concerns, awareness, solutions and man power to create a strong brotherhood. It can create productive events with positive impact to the community. Through Poetry, A THREAD OF UNITY CAN BE ATTAINED IN THE COMMUNITY.
- DO YOU BELONG TO ANY LITERARY GROUP IN YOUR COMMUNITY?
No, I don’t. I have not found any Poetry group that I can be involved with here in Los Angeles, California USA.
- WHAT RELATIONSHIP DO YOU HAVE WITH LITERARY SOCIETIES OUTSIDE THE US?
I’m actively involved with Facebook Poetry page groups only. There are so many of them, that if I name all of them? It will take all my time, trying to remember all of them.
I’m not involve to any Literary Societies outside the US at this time.
- DO YOU HAVE ANY BLOGS OR WEBSITE?
I used to have two blogs/websites; www.erahoalind.com and PoetessErahOalindskyrock.com. Both got infiltrated with viruses. I couldn’t retrieve any of them. So, I was forced to stop my blogging days. At this moment, I don’t have any!
- YOU ARE VERY POPULAR IN NIGERIA AND HAVE FRIENDS IN THAT COUNTRY. WHERE DID IT START?
Wooowww! I didn’t know that I’m popular in Nigeria. (covers face/blushing/chuckling)
That’s very humbling though. My friendship with Nigerians was all started in Facebook. I remember being requested to be a friend by Moses Chibueze Opara, my very first “Nigerian son.” Then, Olayemi Ayo a Poet became my friends too. Next thing I knew, 90% of my friends in Facebook are Nigerians. And they are ever supportive/supporters of my Poetry. And I can honestly say this from the bottom of my heart, I fell in love to all of my Nigerian people. They embraced me like I was born in Nigeria. And that’s when my love affair with Naija became so strong!
- YOU ARE A FAN WITH THOUSANDS OF FAN-POETS ACROSS THE WORLD. WHAT DOES THE ACRONYM FAN STANDS FOR?
FAN to me is an avid supporter and follower on something that makes him/her happy and appreciated. As a fan, I believe in loyalty to the one I’m giving my support and I’m following with at the same time. Ever ready to give moral support! However, as an acronym, Fan stands for Filipino-American-Naija. (Laughing)
- YOU DESCRIBED POETS IN NIGERIA (PIN) AS THE BIGGEST COLLECTIVE OF POETS IN NIGERIA. WHAT INFORMED THIS?
It is the mission and vision behind this Poetry hub that gives me the clarity…this is the best place for all aspiring Poets and writers to get involved with. I personally think, that we as Poets/writers should support PIN all the way. Make some noise about it, stream it in all blog sites, social media spots. Get it out there! This is a Poetry hub that builds, supports and take actions to the greater benefits of Poets in Nigeria and across the globe. The Creative Competitions this poetry hub is dishing out is absolutely commendable. It gives hopes and aspirations to the young Nigerians and poets around the world. I salute and greatly respect the brains behind this!
- WOULD YOU HONOR AN INVITATION BY THIS ORGANIZATION TO NIGERIA IN ANY TIME?
YES! Assuming the organization will shoulder my airfare and accommodations when I get to Nigeria hahahahahahahaha!
Honestly, if I can afford it financially. I will be in Nigeria anyday, anytime they will send me invitation.
- WOULD YOU MIND SUPPORTING PIN’S ACTIVITIES ANY TIME?
It would be a great honor and privilege for me to give and show my support to Poets In Nigeria (PIN) anytime at all times, all the time!
- TELL THE WORLD WHAT YOU INTEND TO DO WITH THOUSANDS OF POEMS YOU HAVE WRITTEN SO FAR?
It is my dream to share it to the world. I was actually thinking of donating them to a trusted Publisher. And published them all, and any of the proceedings (money made out of these) be donated to my choice of Literary Organization in Nigeria. To benefit the young Poets/Writers in Nigeria.
Making money out of Poetry didn’t come across my mind. If my gift of penning can help many students out there to chase their dreams. I would be more than happy to write for them without monetary compensation. And that’s my honest answer.
- YOU WERE ONE OF THOSE WHO HOSTED ERIATA ORIBHABOR, WHEN HE VISITED THE UNITED STATES. WHAT WAS THE EXPERIENCE MEETING HIM PHYSICALLY? WHAT WAS YOUR IMPRESSION PRIOR THEN?
Meeting Eriata Oribhabor was a dream came true. I’d been following him on Facebook for over 2 years now. I’m a fan of him biiiig time. I would follow his updates daily. And seeing all what he is doing for Nigerians young poets/writers, mentoring them and leading them to Literary greatness, gives me more passion to Poetry. I want to follow his footsteps. Guiding all these young Poets/writers to their greatest potentials. I dreamed of meeting him personally. And on April 20, 2016. Meeting him physically was absolutely a gift of a lifetime. It was a beautiful experience. Poetry do connect bridges across the globe.
My impression of Eriata as a humble and down to earth individual was affirmed when I met him face to face. I just loooove his genuine self. The authenticity of his humility blows my mind away. My soul was at peace meeting another soul of genuine purpose and humility!
- WHAT WORDS ARE YOU LEAVING FOR THOUSANDS OF YOUR FANS IN NIGERIA AND BEYOND?
To all my Nigerian family/fans/friends/fellow Poets and writers. I am humbled of your unwavering love and support to my pen. I am indebted of you all…you are the ones who believed in me that I can write and I’m a Poet. Meeting you all face to face, is the ultimate dream of all my dreams. And yes, I believe this with all my heart. That day is soon approaching. It shall come to pass. DREAMS DO COME TRUE!
Regardless of what the others outside Nigeria is seeing in Nigeria, I love Nigeria and Nigerians unconditionally. Nothing can change my utmost love and respect to each and every one of you. When I met Eriata Oribhabor, I felt the heartbeat of my Nigerian people. I AM SO PROUD OF YOU…behind the bleak clouds of what Nigeria is going through, I see hope, the rising of greatness in my beloved Nigeria and Nigerians. My Destiny is one with you. I LOVE YOU ALL…I’ll see you soon. I’m coming home!!!
Thank you so much Poets in Nigeria (PIN) for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime. I’m so grateful of your space that made me felt welcomed and at home.