Hey there!

Thank you for stopping by.

My name is Justine.

I was raised in Bukidnon, Philippines. I am the third child of Julieta Li from Cagayan de Oro City and Ernesto Villanueva, fifth child of Filemon Villanueva and Felipa Okit Apoong, a descendant of Apu Mansaliwa of the Bukidnon tribe in Kalasungay, Bukidnon. 

I live with my husband, Mike, and two young sons, Charlie and Jack, in the unceded Wintun-Patwin territory known as Davis, California.

I am on my life-long journey to heal from the harm brought on by colonization, live my life in gratitude for the gifts I have, and serve my kapwa, my human and non-human kin. I am learning to dwell on the land where I now live.

I do many things, all of which vary on the same themes: stories, liberation, and belonging.

I write adult fiction and nonfiction particularly regarding the experiences of Filipinos in the United States. I often use Filipino folklore, indigenous worldview, and relationships with the land as foundations for my story telling. I also write children’s stories and strongly believe in the need for those that tell of the Filipino-American children’s experiences in the diaspora. My writing is my contribution to our collective effort to belong.

Aside from writing children’s stories, I also publish children’s picture books. I created and run a nonprofit press, Sawaga River Press, which published my first two books, Mama, Mama, Do You Know What I Like?  and the award winning Jack & Agyu through community supported campaigns. Running this press is my form of prayer for our collective healing and liberation.

I maintain a blog of letters to my sons about their ginikanan (Bisaya-Cebuano word for parents/origin/ancestors and which can also mean the place where one is from, in my case, Bukidnon, Philippines). I write to tell them how it is like to parent them with their/our liberation in mind and while keeping alive their/our childhood stories. I write to keep our legacies alive.

I also love to tell stories through dance. During the school year, I teach jazz and hip-hop at the Woodland Opera House, and, in the summer, at the Cazadero Performing Arts Family Camp while my kids kids run barefoot and free under the redwood trees.

I run a small practice in immigration and bankruptcy law and also broker real estate transactions. The stories I hear from my clients are incredible and I feel grateful to be bearing witness to their joys and struggles and to be part of their own journey towards healing and belonging.

Please feel free to send me a message if anything here moves you.

2 thoughts on “About

  1. hi. musta?

    i have a feeling that you are related to the Villanueva of Butuan. The Villanueva’s is a huge clan!!! I’m related to them through marriage. I’m glad that you’re in telling stories of PI- pre colonial, during and beyond. I, too, am healing brought on by years of the Western World harms but also their goodness that came out from those harms. Isn’t that the human narratives, intentional or otherwise?

    Maybe, we will get to meet someday. I’m also involve with the Native-American Wellness Centers of the SFBayArea. I’m living in the City of Richmond and we have a wellness center here. The pandemic suspended our meet ups. Our members are of many Tribes.

    I’m formerly from Binalonan, Pangasinan. I’m related to Carlos Bulosan.




    1. Hi, Edgar!
      So sorry it’s taken me a while to get back to you! I very rarely check my messages through the site. Please email me at LibroPST@gmail.com or tell me your email. I would love to be in touch! I’m in the Bay Area and Sacramento area, as well, and yes, my grandparents lived in Butuan for a while! I’d love to connect. Please email me back at the above email address.
      Looking forward to it!!!


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