Isabel Bagsik and Zoe Biala are the two organizers of the first “In Bloom” retreat, a 3 day / 2 night event dedicated as a space for Filipinas / Filipinx beyond cis-terhood, explore various outlets for self-healing and personal growth, and bind creativity with radical consciousness. The retreat will take place on June 21st – 23rd in San Jose, California featuring workshops, guest speakers, discussions and community building. We interviewed them to share their personal creative journeys and how it brought them in to create “In Bloom”.
Isabel: I’m Isabel Bagsik, a designer and community organizer from the Bay Area, CA and can’t seem to sit still. I find my mind going on sprints so often, that it takes a while to pause and breathe. To channel this energy into something productive, I involve myself in organizations with missions I align with and create projects that I wish I had when I was younger. I studied Design and Technocultural Studies (aka Digital Media) from UC Davis and graduated in 2016. I was highly involved with the Filipinx community in college, which established my passion for community organizing and exploring my cultural identity. My studies opened up my eyes to the potential and social impact that design and digital media can have on a community. Design is solving a problem in an innovative way. With that in mind, I get excited by the possibilities of connecting with local communities in the form of a community magazine, interviews, or even a retreat. Aside from my creative and community organizing passions, I love connecting with other creatives and picking their brain about their experiences and career journeys. And when I find a moment to myself, I enjoy exploring local creative events and experimenting with different vegan dessert recipes!
Zoe: My name is Izoebella (Zoe) Biala and I am a proud 22 year old / 2nd generation self-identifying queer pinxy from San Jose, CA. I’m a writer and creative whose work is centered around themes such as mental health, sex + body positivity, and cultural testimonies. My outlets of personal self-expression include poetry, fashion, and art to advocate the importance of resistance, as well as reclaiming and reshaping what POC/femme existence looks like.
Isabel: The Brown Papaya magazine was born out of creative stagnancy and a distance from community. I always wanted to develop a passion project of my own, but college classes and extracurriculars kept me occupied. I finally had the time and resources to jump start a project, but the focus eluded me. Then I reflected and knew the project I would take on would have to be something I would still find myself passionate about if it were to be completed after a long period of time. I also started with what I know. I realized I missed intimate brave spaces that encouraged vulnerable conversations, and a lot of those spaces I found myself in during college centered around my cultural identity, as well as the Filipina womxn experience specifically. I also wanted to design freely on my own terms, and eventually decided on a magazine format as the final product. My vision for intimate conversations transformed into photoshoots, with the conversations as the initial activity to ensure the participants would embody the message of the project.
Isabel: The first few days I posted a call-out for participants, I received such an outpour of support and interest in the project. It was overwhelmingly beautiful and validating to receive messages from people from other states and even countries wishing that they had the opportunity in their own hometown. Since the initial post on social media in October 2017, there has been interest for future magazine issues with different topics such as a focus for the Filipino male narrative and a Filipinx LGBTQIA+ experience.
Isabel: Zoe Biala is the second half of the In Bloom retreat planning team! I worked with her before, when she was one of the Brown Papaya Babe participants. Back in December 2018, she posted on her Instagram story a call-out to any creatives that were interested in collaborating on a project. She listed her values and ideas, which I highly resonated with. It had been a few months since the launch of the Brown Papaya magazine, so I was ready to jump back into a project. I messaged her, and we started planning at the beginning of 2019.
Our first meeting was an open conversation of our values and what we wished to see in our community. I can’t remember who, but one of us half-jokingly threw out the word “retreat”. The word hung in the air for a few seconds, and I thought, wait, I’m actually down for that. The format of a retreat seemed to work well to house the other topics that came up: mental health, divine femininity, cultural identity, creativity. I realized that to provide the best content for our attendees, we should reach out to the experts in their fields. We were blessed to connect with four incredible Pinay creatives and healers who were open to share their knowledge and gifts with us: Adelina Tancioco, Anna Salumbides, Chichai Mateo, and Kim Davalos. As I learned more about the importance of taking care of your mental health, therapy, and the hard internal work it takes to take care of yourself, I thought that it would be amazing to learn other ways of healing. When I heard about Anna Salumbides and Adelina Tancioco’s work in energy and spiritual healing, I thought how relevant their gifts are to what our attendees are seeking guidance in (based on their applications).
Zoe: I met Isabel two years ago when I participated in her magazine Brown Papaya. I was deeply inspired by her mission to create a space for filipinxs to share their stories and empower each other. Last winter, I uploaded a post onto my Instagram story reaching out to followers who might’ve been interested in collaborating on a passion project or community program. Me and Isabel reconnected after she shot me an email, and when we met up we had a long discussion tossing around potential ideas for event planning. After one day of putting our brains together, we were both set on organizing a pinxy womxn/femme retreat focused on healing and self-love.
Zoe: Mental health is still widely considered a shameful conversation topic, even beyond the filipinx community. As a conscious survivor of abuse and mentally ill individual, I choose to be brave enough to attempt to break the silent cycle of trans-generational trauma. When I openly share my story, I don’t only represent my own voice, but also the many untold narratives among my community. There tends to be a huge issue when it comes to acknowledging the need for collective healing, but in order to get there we must intentionally seek it for ourselves first.
Isabel: From my observations of the Filipinx community in the Bay Area, especially among my peers, I’m seeing a beautiful shift of talking more openly about mental health and the benefits of therapy. It’s great to see that there is work being done to normalize the conversation so that more people can feel more confident and even excited to get the help they need, instead of feeling shame.
Zoe: In Bloom celebrates pinxys perpetual journeys of self-discovery and growth. It’s a reminder to uplift and nurture ourselves despite the ways we’ve been conditioned to resent and tuck away who we are. I pray that our community may benefit from this retreat because we often lack access to safe and supportive spaces. I hope to give attendees the opportunity to engage in sisterhood and expand their capacity to be their best self.
Isabel: My intention for the In Bloom retreat is to provide a space for Filipina/Filipinx womxn to feel comfortable, safe, and brave to engage in conversation and exchange stories with each other. Often, we have a daily routine of work, familial responsibilities, extracurriculars, and little time to take care of ourselves. I also want to break the mold of the traditional sense of how a retreat or conference is structured. Many times, such events give an overload of information and not enough down time to process, reflect, and rest. I hope to break up the days with more physical movement and free period to engage in free creative play. With the addition of our workshop speakers, I am excited to learn with our attendees the different ways we can heal ourselves and how to use our inherent creative powers to explore our identities. I hope they feel more empowered than when they entered, and use that knowledge to uplift others.
Isabel: For those on a journey seeking spiritual guidance and personal growth, I think you’re already on the right path. For you to recognize that you want to learn and better yourself is the first step to gain the tools you need. Once you’ve let go of your ego and realize that you can always work on improving yourself, you can go on and reflect and research. Reflect on what areas you are struggling with, and jot those down. To have a visual list of what you want to work on will bring your needs to reality. Then think about what ways you enjoy consuming information—do you enjoy reading self-help books, listening to podcasts, watching Youtube tutorials, follow an Instagram creator?
Google is your best friend in learning about anything and everything. Some favorites of mine for personal growth include All About Love and Feminism is for Everybody by Bell Hooks, Black Girl in Om podcast, Small Doses podcast, Jesus and Jollof podcast, and Instagram accounts of my local creatives that post content that align with my values. Clean up your social media timeline and unfollow accounts that don’t make you feel good! And journalling allows me to get out of my head and speak with myself. So go ahead, write write write. Take time for yourself. It’s a difficult journey, but how liberating and empowering it is once you’ve learned ways to be more in tune within.
Zoe: Be patient and kind; stay honest and fluid. Understand that getting to “where you want to be” will take time and hard work, but most importantly- know how to appreciate how far you’ve come and embrace the life you have today. Life becomes easier when you consistently practice maintaining a healthy, harmonious balance between being grateful and remaining hungry to evolve. I can’t emphasize enough how essential it is to only tune into what you can control. When you step into your power, nobody/nothing can take that away from you.
Follow Isabel Bagsik at:
Instagram: @unconventionalbliss // @brownpapaya
Follow Zoe Biala at: