About

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.

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