August 16, 2008

New American Pop Entry: Accents.

Called Accents, because I couldn't think of a title: mother tongues, Tagalog, from sea to shining sea, forming words in my head, dismay at "losing" my accent, and (I'll stop with the Journey references at some point, honestly) yet another little mention of Arnel Pineda towards the end. And no mention of "tongues like parrots" either, how about that!

Posted by the wily filipino at 07:27 PM

July 21, 2008

New American Pop Entry: It's Steve, And It's Not Steve.

The third and last part of a series of related posts on Journey's new lead singer, Arnel Pineda, called "It's Steve, and It's Not Steve", on American Pop.

Posted by the wily filipino at 10:55 PM

July 12, 2008

Style Sheet.

In most matters of style, the Press follows the Chicago Manual of Style... unless the author has used an alternative style that is reasonable and consistent.
The alternative style sheet, as provided by my copyeditor, which is an oddly accurate snapshot of what's inside my forthcoming book, though I hesitated for a minute about "Q-Bert" versus "QBert":

Adobe PageMaker

balikbayan (ital. at 1st appearance, not afterward)


DJ Q-Bert


family-reunification as adj. before noun
family-reunification preference as adj. before noun
The Filipino Channel
Financial District
first-preference as adj. before noun

Hiphop Nation

Invisibl Skratch Piklz

Jefferson High School District


national origin as adj. before noun

occupational-preference as adj. before noun

PhilNews Network


Second Wave open as adj before noun
Serramonte district
St. Francis district
Sunset District

Tenderloin district
Third Wave open as adj before noun
third- and sixth-preference as adj. before noun
third-preference as adj. before noun
Top of the Hill district


Westlake district

Posted by the wily filipino at 12:38 PM

July 09, 2008

New American Pop Post: "The Man Can Sing Anything."

The answer: someone was hot enough -- Arnel Pineda, that's who. Following a previous entry on Filipino overseas musicians, a new entry on Pineda as "the ultimate OFW", called "The Man Can Sing Anything".

(Image swiped from the WFMU blog.)

Posted by the wily filipino at 08:10 PM

June 16, 2008

And Where I Was The Afternoon Before.

Posted by the wily filipino at 04:56 PM

June 15, 2008

Where I'll Be This Afternoon.

From the University of the Philippines Centennial Recognition Rites -- check out that last guy on the National Scientists list! (Galing talaga nang erpats ko!*)

2008 UP Parangal Sentenyal: The University fetes past former UP Presidents and National Scientists and Artists from the University in a fitting ceremony June 16, 6 p.m., at the University Theater.

UP Presidents: Murray Simpson Bartlett (1911-1915), Ignacio Borbon Villamor (1950-1920), Guy Potter Wharton Benton (1921-1923), Rafael Velasquez Palma (1923-1933), Jorge Cleofas Bocobo (1934-1939), Bienvenido Ma. Sioco Gonzalez (1939-1943; 1945-1951), Antonio Guillermo Sison (1943-1945), Vidal Arceo Tan (1951-1956), Vicente de Guzman Sinco (1958-1962), Carlos Peña Romulo (1962-1968), Salvador Ponce López (1969-1975), Onofre Dizon Corpuz (1975-1979), Emanuel Valdez Soriano (1979-1981), Edgardo Javier Angara (1981-1987), José Veloso Abueva (1987-1993), Emil Quinto Javier (1993-1999) and Francisco Nemenzo Jr. (1999-2005).

National Scientists: Encarnacion A. Alzona (1985), Teodoro A. Agoncillo (1985), Clare R. Baltazar (2001), Julian A. Banzon (1986), Paulo C. Campos (1989), Gelia T. Castillo (1999), Onofre D. Corpuz (2004), Lourdes J. Cruz (2006), Geminiano T. De Ocampo (1982), Fe Del Mundo (1980), Casimiro Del Rosario (1982), José Encarnacion Jr. (1987), Pedro B. Escuro (1994), Francisco M. Foronda (1983), Bienvenido O. Juliano (2000), Alfredo V. Lagmay (1988), Ricardo M. Lantican (2005), Hilardo D.G. Lara (1985), Clara Y. Lim-Sylianco (1994), Luz Oliveros-Belardo (1987), Eduardo A. Quisumbing (1980), Dolores A. Ramirez (1998), Juan S. Salcedo Jr. (1978), Alfredo C. Santos (1978), Francisco O. Santos (1983), Dioscoro L. Umali (1986), José R. Velasco (1998), Carmen C. Velasquez (1983), Gregorio T. Velasquez (1982) and Benito S. Vergara (2001).

National Artists: Napoleon V. Abueva (1976), Virgilio S. Almario (2003), Fernando Amorsolo (1972), Francisco Arcellana (1990), Francisca R. Aquino (1973), Daisy Avellana (1999), Ishmael Bernal (2001), Lino Brocka (1997), Antonio R. Buenaventura (1988), Benedicto Cabrera (2006), Levi Celerio (1997), Felipe D. de Leon (1997), Carlos V. Francisco (1973), Jovita Fuentes (1976), N.V.M. Gonzalez (1997), Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero (1997), Amado V. Hernandez (1973), Abdulmari Asia Imao (2006), F. Sionil José (2001), José T. Joya (2001), Cesar Legaspi (1990), Leandro V. Locsin (1990), Bienvenido Lumbera (2006), José Maceda (1997), Vicente Manansala (1981), Antonio J. Molina (1973), Severino Montano (2001), Ramón Obusan (2006), Carlos P. Romulo (1982), Lucio D. San Pedro (1991), Ildefonso P. Santos (2006), Guillermo Tolentino (1973), Andrea Veneración (1999) and José García Villa (1973).

*Someone asked me to translate this into English. How about: "My dad rocks!")

Posted by the wily filipino at 07:03 PM

June 10, 2008

The Joys of Dislocation.

I read the first half of uncommonly prolific scholar Patricio N. (Jojo) Abinales' new collection of essays on a Philippine Airlines flight from San Francisco to Manila. Unlike myself – I only had a 90-minute ride to the foothills of Mt. Makiling once I arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport – some of my fellow passengers had to take dusty jeepney rides to the provinces, to places driven past on the way to Baguio.

The second half of Jojo's book I read on yet another plane – one from Manila to Tagbilaran (a place I know close to nothing about) and back – and then I'm typing this up in my childhood home in Los Banos, a town from whose everyday life I’ve been long detached.

There's a reason I'm sharing these particular bits of information, even if it likely comes across as indulgent hand-wringing on my part. But to the Tagalog-speaking, Laguna-educated reader like myself, whose knowledge of the Philippines is embarrassingly parochial and severely restricted to Manila's egregiously narrow cultural production, the book, as a whole, comes as a sharp and necessary rebuke. I suspect that Jojo would certainly have meant it to be one.

Entitled The Joys of Dislocation: Mindanao, Nation and Region (Anvil, 2008), these uniformly intelligent, wide-ranging essays – laced with bitingly honest wit – are superb illustrations of Jojo's life as a scholar and a public intellectual. A collection of columns from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Newsbreak, and UP Forum, among others, the book spans a little over ten years of Philippine political upheaval, and Jojo – both as perpetual and peripatetic outsider and uncomfortable insider – was there to chronicle the events. If anything, this compendium serves as a correction, even (or especially) to academics who generalize about the country as a whole from the Diliman Republic. (Though Jojo may sometimes need to be gently poked in the side and be reminded that UP does not equal Diliman.)

What the book is most concerned about is Mindanao, as should be clear from the book's subtitle. (An inversion of the traditional "Luzon-Visayas-Mindanao" arrangement would have worked as well, but Jojo, himself happily afflicted by "el demonio de las comparaciones", instead writes perceptively about Southeast Asia as a region. Abdurrahman Wahid and Lee Kuan Yew probably figure more in this book than do the miscreants in Malacañang.)

One of his primary arguments is about Mindanao's centrality in the formation of the Filipino nation, forced into both benign and malicious neglect by Manila and its Western enablers by the middle of the 19th century. He writes, pace Warren and Reid, on the incipient "transnationalism" (my words) in Sulu and Zamboanga’s historical role as a Southeast Asian entrepôt. There is a certain repetitiveness in this initial section – the neutralization of Nur Misuari, for instance, is discussed about half a dozen times – but nevertheless the essays display a remarkable breadth.

A column on wild boar meat, for instance, becomes an opportunity for culinary nostalgia and a reflection on business relationships between Christians and Muslims. Reminiscing about his days as a nicotine fiend, Jojo writes (in a gem of an essay, "Smoking and the Pulang Silangan") about how smoking was de rigueur for members of the kilusan – at least until he discovered that Mao actually preferred British cigarettes and not Chinese peasant cigars. But by then, his diminished lung capacity made outrunning riot policemen a little more difficult anyway.

One might think that, amidst such somber topics as the breakdown of peace talks in Mindanao, or environmental degradation, or an open letter to Hashim Salamat, that the "joys" of the title are meant sarcastically. This couldn't be farther from the truth, as Jojo's well-chosen zingers and bon mots alone are worth the price of admission, give or take a belly laugh or two. Abinales pulls no punches: Jose Ma. Sison, the "Filipino Ayatollah" (his words), is singled out to hilarious but deadly serious effect. In fact, one of the collection’s many pleasures is its sometimes subtly scabrous humor. (Full disclosure: I experienced Jojo's humor first-hand, as we braved the below-zero winters and tinikling-at-gunpoint of upstate New York together. I consider him a mentor and a slightly elder brother, though he would no doubt bristle at being called "Kuya" or worse, "Tito".)

This very frankness makes the collection a constantly stimulating read, as Jojo, in essay after essay, takes a stand and defends it. He argues, for instance, for the abolition of UP Diliman's "intellectually deficient" Institute of Islamic Studies – arguing, rightly, for its establishment in Mindanao as it should be – and promptly kicks to the curb a reader who wrote in response, daring to defend the Institute. On the arguments about the burial of Marcos' "putrid cadaver" in Philippine soil in 1998, Jojo writes about how over 43 percent of military salvaging in a ten-year period were from Mindanao and asks, rhetorically, "How can people ever forget what Marcos did to Filipinos, especially those far from the national center? If there is one reason to oppose Marcos' burial in the cemetery of dead heroes, it should be the viciousness with which he unleashed state power on us."

A lingering bitterness (nay, sorrow) at the failures of the radical Left if not its stunning lack of foresight to claim a stake in the EDSA Uprising, then its murderous purges of anti-Sison cadres in the early '90s – is the topic of many a column. His scholarly knowledge, for instance, of different peace negotiations between communist organizations and the state throughout Southeast Asia underpins an essay called "Peace Negotiations and Peace Processes" and very likely puts Satur Ocampo and Roilo Golez (the putative subjects of his column) to shame.

For all his concern about dislocation, one wonders why there aren’t more essays about migration, or – given his current position as Professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University – at least about his fellow Filipino countrywomen condemned to pouring drinks for Japanese businessmen. I can only hope that he is saving those essays for another volume, but this intelligent collection fits the bill for now. May it shake you out of your provincial complacency as it did mine.

Posted by the wily filipino at 05:50 AM

June 03, 2008


We learn to trust maps for their indexical, authoritative quality, for their capacity to be the arbiters of truth. Out comes the map from the glove compartment when we are lost. We put our faith in the soothing robotic voice of the GPS computer to tell us where to go. Maps ground us; they give us direction; they help us find our way. It is a lot to ask from a sheet of paper.

The artist Lordy Rodriguez makes maps, and it was a map of his that stopped me in my tracks, the first time I came across his work at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum, when it was still in Golden Gate Park, back in 1998. The piece was called State of Quezon, near-obsessive in its hand-drawn detail, looking very much like a Rand McNally-style highway map, with different-colored freeways, airports, parks, and a legend in the upper-left corner.

This was, however, no "real" map of Quezon: the outlines resembled the Philippine province, but on it, San Francisco was the capital, a few cities southeast of Iloilo City. Across Laguna Lake, one could find Missouri City, Houston, and Brooklyn, the latter further north from Tacloban City and Davao City. Up Highway 15, past Rizal State Park in Zambales County, Baton Rouge and Dipolog City formed the gateway to the Basilan Sound.

Rodriguez's maps, I thought, were perfect visual representations of how Filipinos, in their dispersal throughout the American continent, brought something of themselves from their homelands. Baggage in tow, Pinoys were reconfiguring their relationships to places, and were simultaneously remaking their destinations, in the same ways that many migrants live their lives across borders. A metaphorical defiance, perhaps, of the map's authority, with migrants dissolving frontiers in their wake.

His next series of maps -- pastel renderings of every state in the union, and a few more besides -- also illustrated the symbolic aspect of place, how memory shapes personal geographies. There's no reason, you might say, why Quezon City and Palo Alto shouldn’t be located a few freeway exits away from each other, in Texas. But this series is more deeply haunted by history, with additional states like Disney, Internet, and Territory, the latter rudely forcing together Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. But instead of the utopian feel at play in his late ’90s maps, spilling over with the freedom of creating his own private Idaho, Rodriguez’s newer maps seem more like dislocations, throwbacks to pre-Industrial Revolution mapping technologies.

His new series, currently on exhibit at the Hosfelt Gallery in San Francisco, plays with our notions of what maps ought to look like. Dispensing with words altogether, Rodriguez has drawn not maps, exactly, but abstractions of maps -- two hundred and one, to be exact -- turning the gallery into something looking more like a colonial surveyor’s office. The map grids are still there, but his cartographer’s eye has settled instead upon peacock tails, gray axons of barbed wire, cores of onion skin, Doppler patterns, cobblestones, and the Great Lakes looking like beached whales. Meandering rivers flow next to salmon-colored blobs. Electrified shards of olive green border tessellated peninsulas. Crumbling suburbias share space with seaweed poking out from an ocean bed.

The effect is both beautiful and jarring: they can be rivers seen from above, or they can be cells seen under a microscope. The maps foreground the interplay of landscapes and interiors being mapped, muddling our sense of recognition. What is most interesting about these maps are their precisely somatic quality, leading viewers to think not just of the land as a body, but of our insides being relentlessly explored by science as well. It’s a twenty-first century take on the old-fashioned method of cartography: re-imagining everything familiar as terra incognita, and finding dragons everywhere.

Posted by the wily filipino at 08:15 PM

March 22, 2008

Pinoy Academic Porn.

The list below -- "dusted with glitter, sparkles and fairy dust" -- comes from an unnamed Pinay university professor from the Northeast United States. (I suspect the title of her unnamed forthcoming book would be a perfect candidate for this list, but she didn't want to jinx it.)

A mini-list of factoids:

1. I'm not posting the other companion list (Anacleto's Structurally Queer Siblings, or A List of Drag Queen Names of Some Filipino Academics in Random Order of Fabulousness), simply because there were too many in-jokes to interest the general reader. I can't even remember who "Anacleto" was supposed to be.

But let's just say that "Martina Navratilova Manalansan" had a wonderful ring to it. (It's also the oldest in terms of provenance, I think.) "Li'l Kim Alidio" sounded great too.

2. A particularly filthy (and bad) pun on, um, a seminal Filipino American text -- let's just say it involved Carlos Bulosan and a boner -- was originally on the list, but Neferti asked everyone, "Let's not go there," so we didn't.

3. People cheated on three titles by adding new subtitles, or changing them around, in the grand tradition of Shaving Ryan's Privates. But that's absolutely fine. It was nice to discover that Displaying Filipinos actually allowed for many variations ("displaying", "splaying", "playing", and "laying"), but obviously its porn-title possibilities were completely accidental. No, really.

4. I can't categorically say I wasn't involved in this, but I was mostly a spectator in the back seat while this was all happening. The list was further refined in the hotel lobby. The chardonnay helped.

5. The order is not mine, though Dylan was upset. "How could I not be Number One??" he asked.

And this is how it all went down:

The Top Ten Porn-Sounding Philippine and Filipino American Studies Book Titles:

1. White Love
2. Forced Passages
3. Splaying Filipinos
4. Fantasy Production
5. American Tropics 14: Sequel to Forced Passages ("It's a compilation," Allan said, by way of explanation.)
6. Creating Masculinity: Behind the Scenes of White Love
7. Five Faces of Sexile
8. Passion and Revolution (Soft)
9. The Gangster of Love
10. The Philippine Temptation

Posted by the wily filipino at 01:43 AM

March 10, 2008

This Weekend's Conference.

My fantastic weekend just came to a close, and tomorrow I return to my 9-to-5 "exit strategy / escape route" job. I can't say enough about the intellectual energy of the roundtables, and the superior quality of the circulated papers (which I devoured -- you have no idea how much exciting stuff is out there, and about to be published), and just the overwhelming sense of fun.

(Can I add as well that the late-night discussions -- actually, they started at dinner -- in the hotel lobby were just transgressively, hilariously filthy? Readers will see some sanitized examples shortly, but I don't think I'll be reproducing the Pinoy Academic Drag Queen Names list here, partly because mine just doesn't sound sexy enough. I expect it to be sent by email from the northeast pretty soon.)

And now for more random non-intellectual musings. I must confess that, despite my excitement (and temperatures in the teens notwithstanding), I was worried and fearful about being the lone, unaffiliated non-academic interloper presenting at the conference. I honestly didn't feel particularly worthy to be included with all these luminaries. It had already taken me about a year of difficult readjustment to get used to the idea that I was now an Ex-Professor. (Any resemblance to "ex-parrot" is deliberate.) Amazing, really, how the academic life seems to be the perfect breeding ground for ontological insecurity -- but then I really know of no other career.

These anxieties (mostly) melted away once I got there -- not necessarily because my feelings of self-worth magically increased, but because I suddenly felt like I belonged somewhere. It helped that I personally knew probably a good five-sixths of the participants (and of course met and talked with the other one-sixth later). But there was also a keen historical sense on my part -- mostly engendered by Rey Ileto's fascinating keynote address on scrapbooks -- of how these linkages and networks were forged throughout the years in classrooms, in conferences, in libraries, in hotel lobby bars, in textual exchanges. After all, these were folks whose books I had taught, or had read, looked up to, informed my own work, been on panels with, e-mailed, gotten drunk with, and so on, throughout my relatively long adventures in higher education. Half my life -- essentially, my life outside of the Philippines -- has been spent in that arena, and these were most of the people who were present, both physically and symbolically, in that journey.

There's a lot of negative talk about "the Filipino community" -- the general hollowness of the concept, the way it's used as an anti-intellectualish cudgel to beat the recalcitrant into submission (and ha! I contribute to that discussion as well), or as the amorphous, blobby mass to which Filipino American scholars and activists must pay obeisance (and not dare criticize). But the genuine intellectual acuity and emotional warmth of this particular Filipino community cannot be denied.

And as much as the word "family" can be abused in a heteronormative fashion (and honest to god, some people have to learn that the social sciences really aren't that heteronormative), I have come to see, especially in recent years, this group of intellectuals as members of my extended family. (We Filipinos are supposed to be expert practitioners of fictive kinship after all.) And yes, families can be fucked up, and sibling rivalries will always exist, but such networks can also be the basis of enduring intellectual and affective solidarities, from which more political work and critique (both of the self and others) can be done. I honestly can't think of a more generous, supportive, wonderful (and good-looking!) group of scholars anywhere as the ones I hung out with this weekend, for whom I will be forever thankful.

So -- thanks and congratulations to the organizers, August Espiritu and Martin Manalansan (who's currently Acting Director of Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), for an amazing, unforgettable conference. (And curse you too for making me radically rethink my career trajectory! Again!)

Posted by the wily filipino at 12:35 AM | Comments (372)

February 22, 2008

Three Pinoy Books.

1. As my current employer would say, Whoo hoo! Dawn Mabalon's book for Arcadia Publishing, Filipinos in Stockton, is available for ordering on, with a book launching on February 24. But all proceeds go to the Stockton chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society and the Little Manila Foundation if you get it at the Stockton launch. (I'm sure there will be more California signings on the way!)

2. So is Carina Montoya's Filipinos in Hollywood. The photos alone should be great.

3. Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan's Memories of Philippine Kitchens has been out a while, but I only discovered it a couple of weeks ago at Barb and Oscar's. The photographs by Neal Oshima are gorgeous.

Besa and Dorotan are the folks behind the fantastic Cendrillon in SoHo, a restaurant I was lucky to visit twice -- the second time, hobnobbing with the luminaries from Vestiges of War. The dozen of us walked from NYU to Mercer & Broome and happened to be walking behind this guy for a few blocks, and who ended up going to the same restaurant as well. (Apparently he fell in love with Philippine cuisine when he filmed this and this -- the latter film, shot in my hometown, during my high school graduation weekend. Some old high school classmates are still tickled by the fact that a 23-year old Johnny Depp was wandering around our little town in the boondocks before he was Johnny Depp.)

Posted by the wily filipino at 02:04 PM | Comments (8)

January 31, 2008

Jim Zwick, 51.

[Obituary and Guestbook at the Hartford Courant.]

Jim Zwick, 51, an American Studies scholar whose specialties included Mark Twain, political history, and the educational usages of the internet died Thursday (January 24, 2008) at his home outside of Syracuse, New York. Zwick was the author of numerous noted books and articles on Twain, anti-imperialism and other topics. Major publications included the books Mark Twain's Weapons of Satire, Inuit Entertainers in the United States, and Confronting Imperialism: Essays on Mark Twain and the Anti-Imperialist League. He was a frequent contributor to a wide range of journals and anthologies. Zwick began creating websites in 1994. He created and ran the Mark Twain site at, later consolidating his many writings into the widely cited, which was included in the reading list of Mark Twain courses at universities worldwide. In 2000, he ran the author's posthumous online campaign for the Presidency, MSNB's top-ranked campaign website. With his unique perspective, he provided consultation and commentary for documentary films including Ken Burns' Mark Twain. Living in Hong Kong during the 1970's, his language skills allowed him to travel extensively in the Peoples' Republic of China in 1979, long before the current openness. He later traveled in the Philippines, and was long active with the Friends of the Filipino People. Zwick also served on the Executive Committee of the Mark Twain Circle. Zwick received his BA at Earlham College in 1981 and his MA in Comparative Politics and World History at Syracuse University where he continued to do post-graduate work and teach for some time. He attended Wethersfield High School and the Shanti School in Hartford. Zwick is survived by his father and step-mother Frank and Lynn Zwick of Myrtle Beach, SC, his sister Joan Zwick of Tolland, brothers David of Old Saybrook, Douglas of Los Angeles, and their families. He is predeceased by his mother Joan Jenkins Zwick, and sister, Susan Laurie Zwick. Memorial contributions may be made to Human Rights Watch, 350 5th Avenue, 34th Floor, New York, NY 10118 (

Published in the Hartford Courant on 1/30/2008.

Posted by the wily filipino at 08:10 AM | Comments (4)

December 09, 2007

Items May Have Shifted During Flight.

(The photo of kare-kare above is actually taken from Kamayan sa Palaisdaan, in Los Banos, Laguna; it's the yummy mess in the upper left-hand corner that's under discussion below.)

It's been a great week for me in terms of Filipino food. Last week I was the lucky beneficiary of a delicious estofado a la poeta (props to the guinataan too), which was accompanied not only by late, if minor, Kurosawa (with analysis both high and low, the latter to which I mostly contributed) but a conversation about Filipino cuisine.

(I actually have the transcript of a lunch conversation I had at Market Market, somewhere in my files around here, which I should really post some time, with Tita Cely Kalaw, the proprietor of the legendary Bamboo Grove, and the naming of Bicol Express, and her dream of restaurants specializing in quickly-disappearing provincial cuisine, using only ingredients from those provinces.)

But all this was preceded by a dinner earlier that week with my new friend The Llawyer at Palencia, a relatively new Filipino restaurant in San Francisco (in the Castro) that friends have been raving about. Funny, though, how the food -- and this "review", for that matter -- ended up revolving around the bagoong, which was served with the kare-kare.

Bagoong, for those of you not familiar with it, is what happens when you take ground-up shrimp or krill and let it rot and dry it out in the sun, then you take the whole salty mess, and mash or grind it until it's smooth. It smells exactly as it sounds; needless to say, the taste is absolutely unique (and no, belacan and terasi just don't quite cut it).

The kare-kare arrived, but the bagoong -- we shrimp-allergic eaters very gingerly scooped the bagoong onto the side of the plate, then realized we were being too careful -- was, to put it mildly, off. It just wasn't right. But it was off in an interesting way: it wasn't that it was bland, but that there was something else, something added (anise?) or subtracted. We couldn't tell what it was, but something was clear: a substitution had been made.

This was doubtless a concession to the western palate, unused to the unsettling alien pungency redolent of deep churning fathoms and sundried decay. But that was the whole point of bagoong: You were supposed to be able to smell it once Mom opens the jar from the fridge. No, to hell with that -- before you take it out of the fridge. (Thus accounting for the greater consumption of baking soda in Southeast Asian households in the United States. I'm just kidding about that last bit.) No active sniffing was required; bagoong needed a precise calibration of stink, a concoction of funk and ferment that could only be accurately confirmed by comparison with what Nanay or Lola or Tita used, even it was from a glass jar.

And this is, I suppose, the problem with first-generation immigrant cuisine, as the standards will always be impossibly high. These criteria are so inextricable from the exacting standards of sentiment and memory, that any restaurant-created Filipino meal almost demands nothing less but absolute fidelity to the food made by the older maternal women in our lives. That makes us -- those of the first and second immigrant generations -- the hardest to please. No chef in a white apron could stand against the might of an elder woman in a frayed housedress.

In my interviews with Daly City immigrants, the thing they missed most from the Philippines was, surprisingly, not food. It was the unhurried quality of life in the Philippines, the intimate way in which people could relax with friends or neighbors after work, or have weekends free. (No doubt that for some, this was also facilitated by maids and/or an extended family, but you folks know what I mean.)

But food would always be mentioned next, though qualified almost instantly by "Marami ring Pilipino food dito, pero hindi pareho, eh." [There's lots of Filipino food here, but it's not the same.] And when asked what the difference was, they answered that it wasn't just the way things tasted in restaurants, but some ineffable quality to the food perhaps related to the sentimental reasons described above. I suspect it ultimately had to do with who was doing the cooking.

And because of this, despite the agents of globalization -- importers, the distributors at Ranch 99, your Tita who managed to sneak in that bottle of alamang through customs at SFO -- Filipino immigrant cuisine is perhaps fated to labor, heroically and creatively, as an inexact copy.

The Swiss doctor Johannes Hofer, back in 1688, began to notice a mysterious malady afflicting young Swiss nationals returning from overseas. He called the new disease "nostalgia", using a precise Greek nostos, or "to come home", and algos, or "pain", "to define the sad mood originating from the desire for the return to one's native land".

Hofer's theories didn't quite work; he figured that the source of all the melancholy and insomnia had to do with "the quite continuous vibration of animal spirits through those fibers of the middle brain in which impressed traces of ideas of the Fatherland still cling." (Consequently, the paths through which those animal spirits walk are enlarged through constant use, therefore accounting for daydreams.)

Harebrained, maybe. But I like how nostalgia, despite its ordinary usage nowadays, is, etymologically, a disease at its roots, and so is its companion disorder, homesickness. When it comes to Filipino food, like Proust's shell-shaped cookie, a mere bite collapses time and space in a single act. Perhaps, then, our taste buds are perpetually afflicted with nostalgia and homesickness, an accompanying medical condition of the immigrant experience.

Other than food, music is the other medium most evocative of nostalgia, similarly dissolving temporal and spatial distance. But there is also something similar to food, in the manner in which we listen to "imperfect" music. Like a needle skipping over scratched vinyl, our ears compensate for the gaps of song, filling in what's missing.

Perhaps our palates work the same way. We adjust and readjust, slowly, realizing that things are not quite the same, that something is off, and our tastes learn to shift by themselves, along with the sometimes sorrowful awareness that the flavors will never be quite right, or never be quite like what we remembered, that, despite the attempts at creating something new, like the bagoong at Palencia, or our new lives in new places, imperfect improvisations will simply have to be made.

We have all lost something in the passage, and sometimes we carry with us baggage better left behind. But food, and its memory, is particularly tenacious in its survival; nothing else immediately summons up the rawness of emotions as food does. And this is why the reaction is immediate when the flavor is not quite right, when ingredients are inevitably lost in transit. But we always make do, somehow, and we keep stirring the pot.


(This isn't a restaurant review, obviously -- I leave that to the critics and Yelpers -- but I feel obligated to add some notes about Palencia:

1. There was a banana heart in the kare-kare. Not chunks from a can -- an actual banana heart. And the kare-kare was quite good, but maybe the peanut sauce (clearly made from scratch and not from a jar!) could have been thicker.

2. I do love the fact that knives were pointedly (no pun intended) missing from the table, because Filipinos eat with a fork and spoon, dammit. You ever seen a big wooden knife on a Filipino's wall? Of course not.

3. The ukoy was nice and crunchy and didn't require any oil to be soaked up with a napkin. If I weren't allergic to shrimp I might have fought with the Llawyer for the third piece.

4. White tablecloth? Check. White capiz chandelier? Check. Unfailingly polite white waitstaff? Check. I think they do need more Filipino-looking fixtures, but the blown-up sepia photograph by the bathroom and the giant haunted-house mirror were nice touches. (No, really: remember the scene in Nick Joaquin's short story "May Day Eve"? It was that kind of mirror, a ghostly-woman-in-white-holding-a-candle-materializing-behind-you mirror.)

5. Okay, that was a somewhat unfair dig at the waitstaff, who was very generous with their time (we lingered over our jasmine tea until almost closing time last Sunday night). Thanks.

6. The traditional Filipino music playing in the background was nice, but be a little braver, people: there is a lot of contemporary loungey / folkish stuff coming from the Philippines that would make diners ask, "Who is this? Where can I buy this?" in a way that you won't get with banduria renditions of "Bahay Kubo".

7. The sans rival was off too, alas. Slightly toasted / burnt, which was a nice twist, but the butter... Remember Oprah's horror at discovering the amount of butter that went into French cuisine? That's why sans rival has a French name; don't be afraid to use it! There should be at least a slab of butter cream between each layer. Sans rival = death by butter, and this just didn't have the requisite amount of culinary sin involved.

8. The nilaga was excellent, actually: just the perfect amount of saltiness and delicacy and cloudiness that hinted at a stock pot simmering for hours in the back. Which is the way it should be.

9. I'm returning, anyhow, to sample their upcoming brunch menu. Should be good.

10. The portions are huge, by the way -- not "huge for a nice restaurant in the Castro", but "huge for a Filipino restaurant in the Bay Area". It's the semantic difference between "big" and "big-ass", folks.

11. One rather funny grace note of sorts: towards closing time, we could hear someone, in an American accent, practicing something in Tagalog he had just learned: "Sino ang tatay mo? Sino ang tatay mo?" (This means "Who's your daddy?", a translation of a rhetorical question that could probably be useful in certain contexts.)

Oh, I'm descending into Yelpish snark here, but that Filipino restaurant in Berkeley that opened a few months ago? Terrible. Sorry.

Posted by the wily filipino at 11:41 PM | Comments (3)

December 04, 2007

PokerStars Sunday Million Tourney.

Yes, it's an ad. Yes, I think I get beer money for it courtesy of the folks at Mad Crowd Media. (Actually, my kid brother, who people constantly mistake for my elder brother when we're in the same room, is managing director of the outfit.) Yes, I'm about to totally ramble because I don't know how to make this ad post count.

I've never played poker online myself, and I think I've played Texas hold-'em exactly once, at a graduation party in Milpitas, CA. (The city is 15% Filipino, so: clearly a connection there.) I can't bluff, which is why I'm bad at a) dates; b) telling students I loved their work; c) convincing players to raise their bets. Ah, but the joy of card games. I did use to play Pusoy Dos back in the day, and can happily admit to bringing the game to Ithaca, NY -- okay, to one household in Ithaca, anyway, where its name was met with skepticism. "Pussy Doze? What sort of perverted game are you teaching us, Vergara?"

How these PokerStars folks figure out your Filipino identity is a mystery to me -- a Philippine address? A nickname like Cookie, Bongbong, or Doods? A particularly wily way of bluffing? Do Filipino Americans count? What if you're only a permanent resident alien and have a Philippine passport? Beats me. But check out that phallic stack of chips anyway, and marvel at the wonder of a champion poker player actually named Chris Moneymaker. I'm off to bed.


Can't get enough of poker? Ready to go all in with the pros? PokerStars is looking for the next Filipino millionaire on the PokerStars Sunday Million Tourney. Anyone can qualify for free on Pokerstars.NET, where they have daily freerolls (free tournaments) exclusive to Filipinos starting December 3, 2007 from Monday to Friday at 7:00 pm. The Top 5 winners from each day of the week advances to a 25-player Saturday Tourney. The winner of this Saturday Tourney moves on to the Sunday Million Tourney on and gets a chance to play with the pros and win some serious serious moolah. More details at! Promo ends 6 January 2008!

Posted by the wily filipino at 02:15 AM | Comments (7)

October 16, 2007

The Wily Filipino's Greatest Hits.

Taking a cue from my brother Benito Vergara (not to be confused with the even-cooler Benito Vergara, here's The Wily Filipino's Greatest Hits (i.e., most read and linked-to articles), for folks new to this blog:

On Eating Balut.

Eating, Shopping and Laughing. Oh, and Massages.

Some Random Thoughts on Adobo.

Agapito Flores.

Kahulugan nang Kakonyohan.

My Cousin, the Pornographer.

My Friend R.

Posted by the wily filipino at 02:48 PM | Comments (0)

September 05, 2007

The Sky Is Falling!

Last week Beting Dolor officially but quietly announced his taking over of the editorship of Philippine News. His Aug. 29 - Sept. 4 2007 column making the announcement was not online as of this writing; in its stead was a snarky, Dolor-written column (not too subtly entitled "He Asked For It") gloating over Joma Sison's arrest by Dutch authorities.*

This was after a two-month, seemingly rudderless though smooth period when the top of the editorial masthead remained empty after the quiet dismissal of Lito Gutierrez, the former editor in chief. Quiet, because Philippine News was characteristically silent about the transition. Gutierrez's column, "The Inverted Pyramid", simply vanished from its usual position to the right of the readers' letters, and that was that.

At the tail-end of last June, however, the following unsigned email was circulated on the Global Filipinos mailing list, and I reprint it mostly in full (I've excised the email addresses from the rather brutal and terse letter of termination from Francis Espiritu, the President, to Gutierrez with carbon copies to the rest of the Espiritu clan).



Philippine News, the oldest and largest Filipino-American newspaper fires Mr. Lito Gutierrez, its editor in chief. The letter of the newspaper President and the statement of the editor in chief are reprinted below in full.

[email addresses deleted]

Sent: Saturday, June 23, 2007 5:18:46 PM

Subject: termination

June 23, 2007

Mr. Lito Gutierrez

Dear Mr. Gutierrez,

FedEx is trying to deliver your letter and checks but nobody would receive it.

You are hereby advised that your employment with Philippine News is terminated effective immediately.

Your final check, including any accrued vacation is attached with the FedEx package.

You are required to immediately surrender all corporate property in your possession including but not limited to the keys and ID.

You are no longer authorized to access any corporate information in any medium.

You are further advised that any malicious attempts to injure the corporation as a result of this termination will be met by vigorous legal action.

Very truly yours,

Francis Espiritu



PHILIPPINE NEWS has fired its editor in chief after he refused to spike a story as instructed by the paper's management.

Lito Gutierrez, 55, who has been with the oldest and the only nationally circulated Filipino American newspaper for five years, received a call June 22 from the paper's advertising manager who told him he had been terminated.

The story involved the case of Carlos Araneta, head of the San Francisco-based cargo and money remittance facility LBC, who had lost his appeal to have a court ruling against him reversed. He had been ordered to pay $25 million to his partners who accused him of depleting the assets of their partnership in a bank.

LBC is a major advertiser in Philippine News and other Filipino American media.

"The management of Philippine News must have forgotten that we are not in some banana republic, that we are in the United States of America where freedom of the press is a fundamental right," said Gutierrez.

"Can you imagine," he asked, "if it had been the White House or some powerful politician who called?"

Gutierrez said this was not the first time he had been asked to kill a story. Last year, he said PN president Francis Espiritu asked him not to use any story on businessman Rene Medina who had been charged by the Internal Revenue Service of failing to pay taxes.

Medina is the owner of Lucky Chances, a gaming facility in Colma, Calif., which, like LBC, is major advertiser.

He said he was able to avoid a confrontation with Espiritu and use the story on page one after Loida Nicolas Lewis, who then headed the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (Naffaa), issued a statement in support of Medina, saying that the IRS case was politically motivated.

In an email message to Gutierrez, the writer who had been assigned to do the Araneta story, Felix Ilagan said, Espiritu merely put a "hold" on the story so the paper's lawyers could go over the documents.

"I think the guy just wants to smoothen things over," Gutierrez said in response. "But that's just being disingenuous. Given the propensity of Philippine News's management to suck up to advertisers at the expense of serious, honest journalism, that 'hold' order was effectively a 'kill' order. Let's not kid ourselves here."

The public has this perception that media sings to the tune of advertisers, he continued. "Well, not under my watch."

I'm not terribly surprised by the conflict between editorial and management in general. A publicist-engineered article in, say, Vanity Fair (or the Styles section of the New York Times) just happens to be better written than the thinly-veiled, advertising-related press releases in Philippine News (or in Filipinas, especially in the first few issues under new publisher Greg Macabenta, but not anymore, thank goodness).

But for a relatively small ethnic newspaper (though Philippine News is the one with the widest circulation among Filipino American newspapers), advertising revenue is total sink-or-swim money, since a small subscriber's base is hardly enough to keep the funds flowing. The loss of a major advertiser -- which is pretty much all the big companies that have booths at the Filipino American festival near you (airlines, banks, remittance and cargo companies, suburban gated communities outside of Manila, phone companies, certain Filipino restaurants who deny their employees unionization rights, and so forth) -- can cripple a newspaper fatally. And such power can then be passively abused -- in this case, if the details are indeed true, it is particularly egregious since it involves the Filipino American newspaper of record.

It's a real shame, because Lito Gutierrez was very good for the newspaper. (I knew him when he was still the business editor back in the 'mid-'90s, when I was an intern there.) Gutierrez took over from my friend and mentor Cherie Querol-Moreno and steered the paper into something like a junior heavyweight boxer: unapologetically long, full-page articles chock-full of sober analysis; a mostly testosterone-filled op-ed page, featuring people who looked like they smoked unfiltered Marlboros and typed on Underwoods. (And finally Rodel Rodis, probably the most intelligent columnist writing for Philippine News, returned to the main section, where he belongs.)

The Arts section was revamped into "Life &", with large, splashy illustrations and reporters actually sent to cover arts and culture. This was also when the very fine Allen Gaborro was hired for "Book Notes"; considering that there are at least two Filipino American bookstores in the country, not to mention an explosion of publications and bookstores in the Philippines, it was something of a scandal, in my opinion, that no dead-tree publications covered Filipino writers regularly.

(You can see the change in the unsigned main editorials too, with Philippine News weighing in more strongly on non-Filipino issues. Sure, they understandably spilled an awful lot of ink on Cha-Cha and the Global Filipinos campaign -- and not enough on, say, the war on Iraq. But these are relatively minor complaints. I do wish Janet Nepales would publish a bit more trash in her "Dateline: Hollywood" column though.)

But to call Gutierrez's firing the death of Fil-Am press freedom -- well, that's a bit much. It does indeed seem terribly unjust, and I do hope that Lito is back on his feet (and hopefully making more money). But Philippine News, initially almost fatally hesitant but later plunging into the anti-Marcos movement with much fervor -- was itself the victim of various blacklists, passport cancellations, mysterious office break-ins, and loss of revenue after Marcos's minions pressured advertisers into withdrawing from the newspaper. And they survived.

The publishers of Ang Katipunan, being affiliated with the progressive organization Katipunan ng Demokratikong Pilipino -- and alas, constantly redbaited by Philippine News throughout the '70s -- surely felt the heat more strongly, and yet they soldiered on throughout their relatively brief but vital existence. Filipino American press freedom didn't die during those dark days; I can't see it happening anytime soon.

But speaking of freedom (and Joma Sison again), let me draw your attention to a recent blog entry by Ninotchka Rosca. Rosca -- herself the recent victim of GMA's bullying tactics -- exposes the myth of Dutch liberalism, particularly during its colonial empire (though I as a Southeast Asianist by training could understand why Austin Powers hated the Dutch so). But then Rosca drops a stunner of a concluding paragraph:

Joma’s arrest will have long-term impact, not on the revolutionary movement in the Philippines, but on the ability and inclination of Filipinos overseas to self-organize, to work collectively for better job and living conditions, for legalization of their presence and for protection against sexual violence and sexual exploitation. If the Philippine government can buy, with mining and oil exploration licenses, the cooperation of a host country like Holland in its policy of political repression against political dissent, how then can overseas Filipinos struggle against economic abuse, racism, sexual abuse and gender exploitation? The horrendous impact of this arrest is better understood in the context of the fact that 85% of the Filipino community in Europe is female.
Well, I politely beg to differ. Don't get me wrong: I do not mean to belittle the importance of Sison's arrest; I most certainly think he should be freed at once, and that both the Philippine and Dutch governments be held absolutely accountable for their actions (especially considering recent reports that Sison may be undergoing torture). I can also see the question coming -- if they can arrest someone as prominent as Joma, then surely we can be arrested too? -- but the question has already been answered: Joma's prominence was precisely the reason for his arrest. (And I will not rehash here the old, tired and frankly discreditable argument that someone who really wants to serve the Philippines should go back, et cetera, et cetera.)

But Rosca, as an overseas Filipina herself, perhaps overstates Sison's importance to the progressive movement as a whole. Overseas Filipinas and Filipinos have been organizing themselves pretty darn well for decades now without the protection, wisdom, guidance, intervention, or assistance of Joma Sison (or, for that matter, the Philippine government), and I suspect they will be doing so for quite a while, thank you very much.

Domestic helpers, gays and lesbians, nurses, victims of sex trafficking, jeepney drivers, people with HIV, factory workers, peasant farmers -- and yes, including students who have read and understood Philippine Society and Revolution from cover to cover -- and yes, both in the Philippines and in the United States and elsewhere -- have been and are already doing real, critical, earthmoving work "against economic abuse, racism, sexual abuse and gender exploitation". In terms of "ability and inclination", as Rosca put it above, these people already have it in spades. In terms of the impact of Sison's arrest on this ability and inclination, I'm hoping (actually, guessing) that Rosca's got it wrong.

Surely these folks all owe something to the man in Utrecht, but perhaps only in a larger philosophical sense. The people's struggle will go on without him. It already did.

* Dolor refers to Sison as "this steak commando of the Left"; I am sure that Dolor remembers that this '70s-era epithet ("steak commando") coined by Teodoro Valencia referred specifically to folks like Raul Manglapus, Ninoy Aquino, Charito Planas, and other U.S.-based activists in the, shall we say, more conservative wing of the anti-Marcos movement -- including one of Dolor's predecessors, Alex Esclamado. I hope Dolor was being ironic.

Posted by the wily filipino at 11:55 PM | Comments (2)

July 13, 2007

Pages 1 and 2.

Well, it's done. Three hundred and six pages, on their way via Federal Express to my editor in Philly later today. Just don't ask about how long it took to research and write, because the whole process cost me more than you can ever, ever imagine.

(In comparison, my first book -- I was younger and had more energy, plus it was before I was of drinking age -- came out only a little over four years after I started writing the first paper that led to the whole project. But 90% of it was written during one humid Ithaca summer.)

Despite (or because of) the advance contract, I'm still legitimately fearful of the dreaded "You know, I'm so sorry, but it just doesn't look like what we envisioned" telephone call. I'm still worried about whether it all hangs together. I'm wondering whether I deleted enough of the theory. I'm wondering whether I deleted too much of the theory. And of course there will be more revisions, perhaps even more revisions that I'm prepared for.

But for now, it's done.

(I told my students at City College -- a wonderful bunch of kids, by the way -- that I was going to celebrate by going to Costco and buying myself a new vacuum cleaner, and they laughed. But I was only half-kidding. There really was this nice Electrolux canister vacuum that I saw last time I was there.)

So... if the book ever comes out, and it shows up on, this is what you'll probably see if it has a "Search Inside!" feature. Probably, anyway, if it survives the first round of editing, or if it gets moved somewhere else, and I'm already seeing things I should have changed. Then it's all (hee hee) downhill after the first two pages.


Chapter 1: A Repeated Turning.

One will hear the joke told, eventually, though it hardly ever sounds like one. It's almost always delivered casually, thrown out like an offhand rhetorical question, as a matter of incontestable fact:

You know why it's always foggy in Daly City, right? Because all the Filipinos turn on their rice cookers at the same time.
The particular teller of this joke (Wally, a newspaper photographer) and I (a student of anthropology) are sitting in scuffed plastic chairs in the living room of his cramped apartment in the Filipino capital of the United States. We are both among the 33,000 Filipino residents of Daly City, California, where one out of three people are of Filipino descent.

It is a freezing afternoon in late August, and we are looking through the damp glass of the window that faces out onto the quiet suburban street. Outside the fog swirls, tugged by the wind into gentle twists of cotton, spilling over the roofs and parallel-parked Hondas. But inside, it is warm, as it does not take much time to heat up the small room cluttered with boxes of bulk food purchased from Costco, cassette tapes, photography books, and an open balikbayan box addressed to Wally's parents in Quezon City. Wally, with a half-consumed bottle of beer in one hand, leans back in his chair after delivering the punch line, and waits for my reaction. I grin widely, because it is hard not to. I've always found it really funny.

Wally is not the first person to tell me the joke. Almost every single one of my interviewees inevitably asks me the question about fog and Daly City. There is very little variation in the way the joke is told, whether in English or Tagalog, whether there is a pause between the question mark and the answer. There is nothing here for linguists to savor or puzzle over. In this instance, for the anthropologist, perhaps what counts most is the teller, not the tale; it is in the teller that the kind of cultural difference worth studying lies. The tale is something we all already share.

And yet, despite its silliness, despite its meteorological absurdity, the joke begins to acquire a sense of both political and semi-religious gravity: to envision the peculiarly affecting image of thousands of Filipinos depressing the rice cooker switch simultaneously, about half an hour before dinner is served, in a daily culinary ritual that comes almost as naturally as breathing. And the steam collectively rises up and out, the fog as a unanimous, quiet declaration of ethnic presence.

In this city, you may not always see the Filipinos. They may be hard at work at their jobs; they may be huddled in privacy behind their drawn curtains; they may be inside the warmth of their kitchens. But they are there. The fog proves it.

Posted by the wily filipino at 07:22 AM | Comments (9)

July 09, 2007

Threadless Pinay.

A Pinay from Cagayan de Oro (Kristy Anne Ligones) just had one of her designs picked for a Threadless T-shirt:

Dead Sucker - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

(Her portfolio is linked above, but I think I like her other Threadless submissions better, not to mention this lovely vector illustration of Audrey Tautou.)

Posted by the wily filipino at 10:36 PM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2007

I Can't Believe I Was Just Here.

Posted by the wily filipino at 01:30 AM | Comments (1)

June 13, 2007

The Nacho Libre and Esqueleto Traveling Roadshow Part Two!

This is actually earlier than our Ateneo gig (which is later the same afternoon at 4:30). Seriously though, any readers of this blog in the area are welcome. No cover charge, no one drink minimum!

You are cordially invited to a lecture by visiting scholars
Dr. Benito M. Vergara, Jr. and Dr. Francisco Benitez

June 14, 2007 at 2:30pm (SHARP!)
College of Mass Communication
Plaridel Hall, University of the Philippines, Diliman
Room 201

Same details as below.

Posted by the wily filipino at 01:12 AM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2007


Tagpuan: David's Salon, sa tabihan nang parkingan sa ilalim nang Robinson's sa Los Banos. Alas-onse nang umaga.

Tauhan: Jem, isang batang lalaking walang kibo na taga-shampoo at tagakuha nang sopdrink; Evelyn, isang customer; Sonia, isang maliit at buntis na hairdresser; Jaylord, isa ring hairdresser na puro itim ang suot.

Malakas ang aircon sa loob, sa awa nang diyos. Hindi mo marinig ang ingay nang mga batang naglalaro nang Ragnarok sa tindahan sa harap. Sa loob nang parlor malalanghap mo ang iba't-ibang amoy nang kemikal at shampoo. Pati na rin ang nasusunog na plastik.

"Eh biruin mo ba namang anim na oras yung rebonding. Eh magsasara na, sila na lang ang hinihintay," kuwento ni Sonia. Si Sonia ay buntis at mukhang malapit nang manganak, dahil parang bumagsak na ang batang pababa sa kanyang tiyan.

"Paano kasi iba-iba technique nang tao," paliwanag ni Jaylord. Kasalukuyan niyang ginugupitan si Evelyn. Mukhang malapit nang silang matapos. Hanggang balikat ang buhok ni Jaylord. Naka-itim siya na polo at itim na maong na parang binaston sa may paanan.

"Puede ba naman iyon, anim na oras? E di dinugo nang hindi oras yung customer?" tanong ni Sonia. Ubod nang bilis ang kamay niya sa paggupit sa akin.

"Ikaw ba, anim na oras magrebonding?" tanong ni Evelyn, sabay tingala kay Jaylord.

"Hoy Evelyn, hindi ha?" sagot ni Jaylord. Kinuha niya ang hair dryer. Mas magaling naman ako kay PJ.

Tawa si Evelyn at si Sonia. "Ang galing mong manira, wala lang dito si PJ," sabi ni Sonia. Tawa rin si Jem.

"Hmmph," sabi ni Jaylord habang sumimangot. Binuksan niya ang hair dryer sabay tinikwas ang kanyang buhok. Madalas niyang ginagawa ito.

"Hoy, iyan yung nangangamoy!" sigaw ni Sonia. Unti-unti kaming nakaamoy nang nasusunog na plastik. "Natakot yung isang customer kahapon noong ginamit ko."

"Ginagalaw ninyo kasi," sabi ni Jaylord. Tinigal niya ang pagboblowdry at inilipat niya ito sa ibang outlet. "Ako lang ang hahawak nito," sabi niyang bilang babala sa mga katrabaho niya.

"Sasabog iyan," sabi ni Sonia. "Hindi mo ba naaamoy?" Lumalakas na ang amoy nang nasusunog sa loob nang salon.

"Hindi 'to sasabog," sabi ni Jaylord. "Paano kasi, pag tumatama sa kahoy, nag-pipeedback yung init sa loob noong dryer kaya dalawang klaseng init yung nagsasama sa loob. Kailangan patakbuhin muna nang matagal para mawala ang amoy."

Medyo natahimik ang tropa sa loob nang salon. "Nagsalita ang expert," sabi ni Sonia makatapos nang ilang segundo. Umaandar pa rin ang hair dryer.

"Hoy! Dalawa anak ni Eb!" sigaw ni Sonia. Hindi ito narinig ni Jaylord, dahil nakayuko siya sa hair dryer at inaamoy ang likod noong makina.

"Putaragis ka!" sigaw rin ni Ev. Pero nakatawa siya. "Hayaan mo munang manganak si Sonia!"

Nakangiti lang si Jem, pero mukhang kinakabahan siya at katabi lang niya si Jaylord at ang hair dryer.

"Hindi 'to sasabog," inulit ni Jaylord. Nilakasan niya ang setting nang hair dryer. Mas umingay sa loob nang salon.

"Ano ba naman, Jaylord!" Bumunot bigla nang suklay si Sonia sa tabi nang lalagyan malapit sa mga bulaklak na plastik at inihagis kay Jaylord. "Itigil mo na 'yan!"

"Hindi 'to sasabog sinabi, eh." Kalmado si Jaylord na inaamoy-amoy yung hair dryer. Medyo lumayo na si Jem. Ako tumitingin-tingin na rin sa pintuan kung saka-sakaling kailangan akong umisplit bigla.

"O, ayan, wala nang amoy." Matagumpay na pinakita niya ang hair dryer. Baka nga lang nasanay na kami sa amoy nang nasusunog na hair dryer, pero tunay ngang hindi na naming maamoy.

"Oo nga, ano?" Mukhang medyo hanga si Sonia.

"Mga wala kasi kayong tiwala sa akin, eh," sabi ni Jaylord. "Mga walang tiwala."

Tinaas niya ang isang kamay na hawak ang hair dryer. "Trust in Jaylord," sabi niya. Tumalikod siya at umexit.

Posted by the wily filipino at 03:15 AM | Comments (1)

June 11, 2007

The Kiko and Sunny Wrestling Tag Team!

Seriously though -- any readers in the area are all invited (I can personally vouch for the brilliance of Kiko's paper):

Filipino Department
Ateneo de Manila University

invites you

to the lectures of
Dr. Benito Vergara, Jr. and Dr. Francisco Benitez

June 14, Thursday
430 pm
Faura Audio Visual Room

Filipinos can imitate any sound:
Improvisation. Karaoke, and the Labor of Filipino Overseas Musicians

Benito M. Vergara, Jr. , Ph.D
San Francisco State University

In 2003, over 58,000 Filipinos were scattered worldwide in nightclubs and hotel lounges; however, the majority of people who migrate as Overseas Performing Artists (OPA) travel to work in Japan. OPA is, in this instance, a euphemistic, bureaucratic category that denotes the sex trade, and comprises the crucial distinction between Filipinos working in Japan and those elsewhere working as more professional musicians.

Vergara argues that the practices of performance and improvisation, both as musical activities and as metaphors of everyday migrant life link both kinds of OPAs. OPA returnees constantly spoke of a spontaneous and natural Filipino ability to imitate, especially through karaoke. This imitative performance, however, did not allow for musical improvisation; they were limited to learning and mimicking particular idioms from a globally shared musical repertoire. Such practices parallel the relationship between the state and individual. One can see performance and improvisation as strategies utilized to compete with restrictive migration policies , to evade state surveillance, or, more ordinarily, to resist drunken customers. As an economic strategy, migration also exemplifies a kind of adaptability, despite exploitative government policies of migrant labor.

Transnational Desire
in Star Cinema's Kailangan Kita and Milan

Francisco Benitez, Ph.D.
University of Washington

By looking at 2 specific films, this paper attempts an initial exploration into how commercial cinema in the Philippines mediates the affective and emotional labor required to maintain the flows of migration from the Philippines. This exploration suggests that these commercial films imagine a neoliberal mobile subject where the individual is not just the enterprise but the entrepreneur of him or herself, and does so in a manner that sutures desires for social mobility to transnational labor markets.

Francisco Kiko Benitez is assistant professor in Comparative Literature at the University of Washington where he teaches courses on colonial and postcolonial literature and theory, Asian American and diasporic literature, and Southeast Asian Film and Literature. He received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his BA from Cornell University where he graduated with top honors.

Benito M. Vergara, Jr. is an assistant professor in Asian American Studies/Anthropology at San Francisco State University. He obtained his MA and PhD in Anthropology and MA in Asian Studies at Cornell University. He is the author of Displaying Filipinos, published by University of the Philippines Press.

General Programme

Welcome Address
Benilda S. Santos, Ph.D.
Dean, School of Humanities

Rolando B. Tolentino, Ph.D.
Filipino Department

Filipinos can imitate any sound:
Improvisation. Karaoke, and the Labor of Filipino Overseas Musicians
Benito Vergara, Jr., Ph.D.

Transnational Desire in Star Cinema's Kailangan Kita and Milan
Francisco Benitez, Ph.D.

Open Forum

Closing Remarks
Christine Bellen
Acting Chair, Filipino Department

Posted by the wily filipino at 04:22 PM | Comments (2)

August 22, 2006

Open Letter on Bebot.

To, Patricio Ginelsa/KidHeroes, and Xylophone Films:

We, the undersigned, would like to register our deep disappointment at the portrayal of Filipinas and other women in the new music videos for the Black Eyed Peas song, "Bebot." We want to make it clear that we appreciate your efforts to bring Filipina/o Americans into the mainstream and applaud your support of the Little Manila of Stockton. However, as Filipina/o and Filipina/o American artists, academics, and community activists, we are utterly dismayed by the portrayal of hypersexualized Filipina "hoochie-mama" dancers, specifically in the Generation 2 version, the type of representation of women so unfortunately prevalent in today's hip-hop and rap music videos. The depiction of the 1930s "dime dancers" was also cast in an unproblematized light, as these women seem to exist solely for the sexual pleasure of the manongs.

In general, we value's willingness to be so openly and richly Filipino, especially when there are other Filipina/o Americans in positions of visibility who do not do the same, and we appreciate the work that he has done with the folks at Xylophone Films; we like their previous video for "The Apl Song," and we even like the fact that the Generation 1 version of Bebot attempts to provide a "history lesson" about some Filipino men in the 1930s. However, the Generation 2 version truly misses the mark on accurate Filipina/o representation, for the following reasons:

1. The video uses three very limited stereotypes of Filipina women: the virgin, the whore, and the shrill mother. We find a double standard in the depiction of the virgin and whore figures, both of which are highly sexualized. Amidst the crowd of midriff-baring, skinny, light-skinned, peroxided Pinays -- some practically falling out of their halter tops -- there is the little sister played by Jasmine Trias, from whom big brother Apl is constantly fending off Pinoy "playas." The overprotectiveness is strange considering his idealization of the bebot or "hot chick." The mother character was also particularly troublesome, but for very different reasons. She seems to play a dehumanized figure, the perpetual foreigner with her exaggerated accent, but on top of that, she is robbed of her femininity in her embarrassingly indelicate treatment of her son and his friends. She is not like a tough or strong mother, but almost like a coarse asexual mother, and it is telling that she is the only female character in the video with a full figure.

2. We feel that these problematic female representations might have to do with the use of the word "Bebot." We are of course not advocating that Apl change the title of his song, yet we are confused about why a song that has to do with pride in his ethnic/national identity would be titled "Bebot," a word that suggests male ownership of the sexualized woman -- the "hot chick." What does Filipino pride have to do with bebots? The song seems to be about immigrant experience yet the chorus says "ikaw ang aking bebot" (you are my hot chick). It is actually very disturbing that ones ethnic/national identity is determined by ones ownership of women. This system not only turns women into mere symbols but it also excludes women from feeling the same kind of ethnic/national identity. It does not bring down just Filipinas; it brings down all women.

3. Given the unfortunate connection made in this video between Filipino pride and the sexualized female body both lyrically and visually, we cant help but conclude that the video was created strictly for a heterosexual mans pleasure. This straight, masculinist perspective is the link that we find between the Generation 1 and Generation 2 videos. The fact that the Pinoy men are surrounded by "hot chicks" both then and now makes this link plain. Yet such a portrayal not only obscures the "real" message about the Little Manila Foundation; it also reduces Pinoy mens hopes, dreams, and motivations to a single-minded pursuit of sex.

We do understand that Filipino America faces a persistent problem of invisibility in this country. Moreover, as the song is all in Tagalog (a fact that we love, by the way), you face an uphill battle in getting the song and music video(s) into mainstream circulation. However, remedying the invisibility of Filipina/os inthe United States should not come at the cost of the dignity and self-respect of at least half the population of Filipino America. Before deciding to write this letter, we felt an incredible amount of ambivalence about speaking out on this issue because, on the one hand, we recognized that this song and video are a milestone for Filipina/os in mainstream media and American pop culture, but on the other hand, we were deeply disturbed by the images of women the video propagates.

In the end we decided that we could not remain silent while seeing image after image of Pinays portrayed as hypersexual beings or as shrill, dehumanized, asexual mother-figures who embarrass their children with their overblown accents and coarseness. The Filipino American community is made up of women with Filipino pride as well, yet there is little room in these videos for us to share this voice and this commitment; instead, the message we get is that we are expected to stand aside and allow ourselves to be exploited for our sexuality while the men go about making their nationalist statements.

While this may sound quite harsh, we believe it is necessary to point out that such depictions make it seem as if you are selling out Filipina women for the sake of gaining mainstream popularity within the United States. Given the already horrific representations of Filipinas all over the world as willing prostitutes, exotic dancers, or domestic servants who are available for sex with their employers, the representation of Pinays in these particular videos can only feed into such stereotypes. We also find it puzzling, given your apparent commitment to preserving the history and dignity of Filipina/os in the United States, because we assume that you also consider such stereotypes offensive toFilipino men as well as women.

Again, we want to reiterate our appreciation for the positive aspects of these videos -- the history lesson of the 1936 version, the commitment to community, and the effort to foster a larger awareness of Filipino America in the mainstream -- but we ask for your honest attempt to offer more full-spectrum representations of both Filipino men and Filipina women, now and in the future. We would not be writing this letter to you if we did not believe you could make it happen.


Lucy Burns
Assistant Professor
Asian American Studies / World Arts and Cultures, UCLA

Fritzie De Mata
Independent scholar

Diana Halog
UC Berkeley

Luisa A. Igloria
Associate Professor
Creative Writing Program & Department of English
Old Dominion University

Veronica Montes

Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Assistant Professor, English
State University of New York--Fredonia

Gladys Nubla
Doctoral student
English, UC Berkeley

Barbara Jane Reyes
Poet and author

Joanne L. Rondilla
Doctoral candidate
Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley

Rolando B. Tolentino
Visiting Fellow, National University of Singapore
Associate Professor, University of the Philippines Film Institute

Benito Vergara
Assistant Professor
Asian American Studies / Anthropology
San Francisco State University

Posted by the wily filipino at 09:04 AM | Comments (7)

July 31, 2006

Killing Spree.

Thought I'd post an e-mail message from my student Jun, currently in the Philippines for the summer:

717 Extrajudicial Killings Under GMA: A Fil Am Exposurist Perspective

On July 31 at 12pm, our exposure team was scheduled to attend a presentation on the human rights situation in the Philippines. However, the presentation started much earlier that morning.

At 7:45am I received a text stating, "Rie Mon "Ambo" Guran, 21, League of Filipino Students, spokesperson of Aquinas University was shot dead today 6am in Bulan, Sorsogon. Justice for AMBO! End Arroyo's tyranny!

At 9:24am I received another text stating, "Dr. Chandu Claver (Bayan Muna Chair, and Cordillera Peoples Alliance [CPA] member in Kalinga) and his wife (Alice) were shot early this morning in Bulanao, Kalinga. Dr. Chandu is out of danger but his wife is in critical condition." The text did not include that, Sandy, their 11 year old daughter was also hurt in the incident.

At 11:30am, upon arriving at the location of the human rights presentation, I was informed that a news photographer was shot in my family's hometown of Malabon in Manila.

Finally at 1:30pm I received a text from a friend at CPA stating, "We are now in tears for the death of Alice Claver, Bayan Muna Kalinga."

Three people were murdered all in the span of a few hours this morning.Literally, I received several wake up calls to the horrid human rights situation in my homeland.The three deaths bring the extrajudicial killing total under the Arroyo administration to 717.120 of the murders occurred in the first eight months of this year.

One important question to ask is who is responsible for the seven hundred and seventeen extrajudicial killings.Many witnesses as well as organizers from the militant mass organizations such as Bayan Muna and League of Filipino Students point to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

In a documentary entitled "State of War" broadcasted on mainstream Philippine television last week, a reporter asked Major General Jovito Palparan of the AFP, if he was directly responsible for the long list of killings.Palparan replied with a smile, "Not directly, but maybe indirectly."Palparan explained that he trained his men to be agressive and that his training could encourage such killings. Furthermore, the major general openly commented that because the victims were associated with leftist militant organizations, the murders were good for the country.

Ultimately, it is the President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA), who is responsible for the spate of extrajudicial killings.She is either responsible for causing them or at the very least she is responsible for bringing the perpetrators to justice.

It is more likely that GMA is a cause behind the killings based on her open endorsement of Jovito Palparan in her State of the Nation Address (SONA) last week.At SONA, GMA stated, "Jovito Palparan has come to grips with the enemy. He will not let go until the communities in the long night of terror emerge into the light of law and freedom.Placing GMA behind the cause of the murders explains why the perpetrators of all 717 incidents were never brought to justice.

Even further beyond GMA, the United States government is also responsible for the horrid human rights situation in the Philippines.Each year the Philippine Government receives hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid as well as training from the U.S.

The hundreds of millions in military aid to the Philippines from the U.S. explains why GMA openly endorses Major General Jovito Palparan even though he may be "indirectly" responsible for the long list of unjust murders.

The clear target of all the murders are those associated with militant left organizations under the BAYAN or Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance) umbrella.BAYAN is a pro-people, national democratic alliance that opposes foreign domination and exploitation of the Philippines.

BAYAN believes the Philippines suffers from poverty because the government allows multi-national corporations (MNCs) such as Dole Pineapple and Nestle to use the land, resources, and people of this country at extremely low costs without appropriate compensation.The low operational costs generates super profit for the MNCs.In return, the MNCs payoff the government officials for allowing the practice to continue.The result is what we see in the Philippines today-a small rich elite 1% of the population with a majority living in extreme poverty.

The U.S. being home to many of the largest investors of the MNCs is highly supportive and extremely agressive in developing and maintaining such unjust economic practices with third world countries.That is whythe U.S. government allocates hundreds of millions in military aid to the AFP even though the Philippine military is engaged "indirectly" in murdering hundreds of innocent people.

It is also the millions in payoffs the MNCs give to corrupt government officials such as GMA that explains why the Philippine president would be behind the killing of BAYAN organizers.

For the last twenty years BAYAN has been educating, organizing, and mobilizing the Philippine masses against the corrupt government of the Philippines.It is the organizations under BAYAN that are primarily responsible for both People Power I and II.It is clear, based on the efforts of the governent to wipe out BAYAN and both people power uprisings, that the pro-people alliance poses a serious threat to the unjust order.

The Protracted Peoples War carried out by the National Democratic Front, Communist Party of the Philippines, and the New Peoples Army (NDF, CPP, NPA) is also a direct threat to corrupt Philippine government.The NDF, CPP, NPA have been the primary enemy of the AFP for the last forty years.

Now the Philippine government and the AFP have changed its primary target.It is no longer aiming primarily at the NDF, CPP, NPA.The Philippine government and AFP's number one enemy is now the unarmed civilian mass movement led by BAYAN.The government and its military is making the allegation that BAYAN is a front for the NDF, CPP, NPA and therefore is no longer distinguishing between armed combatants and unarmed civilians.Under the Oplan Bantay Laya, the government aims to wipe out all opposition to its corrupt practices by taking away the most basic human right, the right to life.

This statement comes from one of the members of the League of Filipino Students and babae San Francisco Philippine Exposure team. Both organizations are members of BAYAN-USA. For more information on BAYAN USA go to
Below are the articles on the incidents:

Militant student leader slain in Sorsogon
By Bobby Labalan, Thea Alberto
Last updated 04:38pm (Mla time) 07/31/2006
SORSOGON CITY -- (2ND UPDATE) A student leader and member of a left-leaning student group was shot and killed early Monday by two unidentified suspects as he was waiting at a bus terminal here, police said.
Rei Mon Guran, not Reymond or Rie Mon Guran as posted earlier on the website, 21, spokesman of the League of Filipino Students (LFS) and a student of Aquinas University in Legazpi City, succumbed to four gunshot wounds -- two in the head, one in the body, and another in the hand, said Senior Police Officer 3 Eugenio Magno, officer-in-charge of the Bulan Municipal Police Office.
Investigation showed that Guran was at a bus station in Zone 2, Bulan in Sorsogon when his assailants on board a motorcycle fired at him at about 6 a.m., Magno said.
The victim was dead on arrival at the Sorsogon Doctors Hospital, Magno said.
In Manila, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Movement of Filipino Farmers, KMP) spokesman Carl Ala said Guran was a second year political science student at the Aquinas University.
The victim was on his way to school when he was shot, said Renato Reyes, Bayan secretary general.
The militant groups slammed anew the spate of political killings.
Ala said Duran was the 715th militant slain since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power in 2001.
Reyes believed that the killings were done by the military, and were tolerated by Arroyo.
However, police said they had yet to determine whether the killing was politically motivated, said Superintendent Elciar Bron, Region 5 police spokesman.
With a report from Luige Del Puerto, Inquirer
Bayan Muna official killed in Kalinga, husband critical
By Villamor Visaya
Last updated 01:36pm (Mla time) 07/31/2006
(UPDATE) QUEZON, Isabela -- A Bayan Muna official in Kalinga was killed while her husband and child were wounded when masked armed men aboard a black van ambushed them early Monday along the national highway in Barangay (village) Bulanao in the town of Tabuk, in the province, police said.
Superintendent Pedro Ramos, Kalinga police director, said Bayan Muna-Kalinga chairman Dr. Constancio Chandu Claver, his wife Alice, Bayan Muna coordinator, and Sandy, 11, were attacked at 7 a.m. by two men armed with an Armalite and caliber .45 guns in front of the Saint Toni's College.
They were brought to the Kalinga Provincial Hospital, according to Inquirer reports.
The same reports said that contrary to a statement by Ramos earlier on Monday that Alice was declared dead on arrival, the Bayan Muna coordinator was still alive when she was brought to the hospital where she died at 12:45 p.m.
Gkachay Claver, a cousin of the Dr. Claver, gave a similar report to following the shooting.
Constancio is in critical condition while Sandy has sustained a minor injury, the Inquirer reports said.
Ramos said the suspects alighted from their black van, without a plate number, and shot the Clavers.
With a report from Thea Alberto; Inquirer Northern Luzon Bureau
Tabloid photographer gunned down in Malabon
By Nancy C. Carvajal
Last updated 11:19am (Mla time) 07/31/2006
(UPDATE) A NEWS photographer was killed in front of his house at around 8:45 a.m. Monday at the Gozun Compound, Letre in Malabon, police reported.
Initial investigation showed that three unidentified gunmen shot dead Vic Melendres, a photographer for the tabloid newspaper Tanod (Watchman), said Northern Police District chief Chief Superintendent Leopoldo Bataoil.
The photographer died on the spot with two gunshot wounds in the body, Bataoil said.
Bataoil said the victim was a cousin of photojournalist Alberto Orsolino for the tabloid Saksi (Witness) who was slain on May 16 this year.
Police are still looking for a motive for the killing of Melendres, Bataoil said.
Thea Alberto,

Posted by the wily filipino at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2006

Some Covers.

Some of you folks may have noticed the new feature on the right-hand side; the theme for this month (or so) are covers:

1. First up: probably the song of the year, Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," and three covers of varying quality from folks like Nelly Furtado and Ray LaMontagne. My money's on The Kooks' version, but as Bulletproof Vest would say wisely, though, "The original is still the best."

2. It's impossible to improve on perfection -- namely, the Beatles' "Here, There and Everywhere" -- but this cover by some band from Swindon called Belarus takes some interesting liberties with the melody. (Yes, the idea of Coldplay-does-the-Beatles sounds horrid on paper, but really, give a listen to the track first.) The high point of Mojo Magazine's latest freebie, a song-by-song cover album of Revolver, on the occasion of its 40th anniversary. (Though there's a cover of "Eleanor Rigby" by The Handsome Family that's darn good too.)

3. Sometimes there are songs that pop out of nowhere and you go, Where has this song been all my life? In this case, it's The Left Banke's "She May Call You Up Tonight," covered expertly by Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs. Their album of nothing but covers, Under the Covers Vol. 1, seems way too respectful and somewhat redundant (do we really need another cover of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue?"), but one can't complain about the overall summery vibe of the fantastic harmonizing throughout the album. Unlike other cover/tribute albums that make you run to your CD collection and pull out the originals, this one works quite well.

4. I should explain this a bit: every year, Yo La Tengo, my favorite American band other than the now-defunct Guided by Voices, plays a benefit concert for the radio station WFMU -- the schtick being, YLT plays whatever song the call-in pledger wants to hear, live, with no rehearsals. Their slaughter of Billy Joel's "You May Be Right" is from their latest album, Yo La Tengo Is Murdering The Classics, and they mostly deliver on their promise.

5. I'm a total sucker for the way M.Y.M.P. strips everything down to guitar and luscious vocals, and their sweet take on the Eraserheads' "Huwag Mo Nang Itanong" -- the highlight of the otherwise disappointing tribute album, UltraElectroMagneticJam: The Music of the Eraserheads -- is just as good as the original.

It's disappointing because it's a compilation filled with bands that are essentially the E-Heads' offspring, and so most of the album basically sounds like one big karaoke fest. The lead singers' vocals aren't particularly distinctive either -- unlike, say, Sweet and Hoffs above -- since I honestly can't tell the difference between Orange and Lemons, Cueshe or Sponge Cola. (The exception was Imago's "Spoliarium," which made me appreciate the original even more.) The trick to a good cover version, I think, is to make the song temporarily your own, as do South Border ("With a Smile" gets the r&b treatment) and the Radioactive Sago Project (a spazzed-out "Alkohol"). But not the others, unfortunately: Isha blows a great opening to "Torpedo" by returning to the same E-Heads arrangement; the otherwise very good Barbie Almalbis attempts to sing in Tagalog and fails (I think that's what happened on "Overdrive," but I'm not sure); and everyone else, including, most disappointingly, Rico J. Puno, churns out different variations of blandness.

Posted by the wily filipino at 12:02 AM | Comments (7)

June 20, 2006


In Ian Ganazon and Neill dela Llana's terrific thriller, Cavite, the Filipino American filmmakers take the tired cliches of the genre and craft an exceptional film. The plot isn't anything you haven't seen before, from Cellular to Red Eye (the only one I've seen of the four) to Nick of Time to Phone Booth: a man receives a call on a cellphone from a kidnapper, telling him that his mother and sister has been kidnapped and that he has to follow all the kidnapper's demands or they die. The result is a surprisingly politically complex and gripping suspense movie, made even more interesting for its being set in the Philippines.

What Cavite will also be remembered for is the astonishing constraints under which the film was made: an overall budget of less than $7,000, cameras resold on eBay to pay for editing (which was done completely on a home computer), a practically two-man cast and crew. (Two weeks before they were to fly to the Philippines, they still couldn't find a lead actress who wanted to accompany them, so they rewrote the script so that Ganazon could play the protagonist, with dela Llana holding the camera the whole time.)

Formally, the film is a marvel in its economy -- actor, disembodied voice, circling camera -- and the narrative is structured in the classic three-act fashion. Cavite is also clearly more than just a jittery travelogue. As the taunting kidnapper orders Adam to walk through twisted alleyways, crowded markets, squatter camps, and rivers choking with festering garbage, it is clear that he (and the audience) is receiving a political education as well.

The film, however, provides little historical or economic context for the poverty that Adam witnesses, and it is presented as almost being "endemic" to the area. A later scene where the kidnapper gives him a history lesson on the gross injustices experienced by Muslim Filipinos isn't exactly germane to what Adam sees in Cavite. (We get a possible glimpse of this in two clever digressions from the taut narrative: the camera breaks away momentarily to follow a boy buying a McDonald's meal for his grandmother, but one of these scenes ingeniously happens at a point when filming may have been impossible.) But we begin to understand, at least, the process of radicalization for the Muslim kidnapper, as we find out halfway through the film that he is a member of the Abu Sayyaf (I'm not spoiling anything here, as this is telegraphed in the opening credits).

Cavite could also be read as quite intelligently following the stereotypical plot as seen in your average Pilipino Cultural Night -- confused Filipino American in search of self, "returns" to the Philippines, and discovers one's self. What further animates this thriller, and elevates it from the genre, is the interweaving of the theme of cultural discovery. (Indeed, the movie could be seen as a suspense-thriller twist on the ethnic-identity film genre, and not the other way around.) Filipino American youth -- perhaps like the filmmakers themselves -- would no doubt find familiar tropes here, tweaked and heightened: the dizzying confusion, the humidity, the shock of the misery of the Third World, the bewilderment of a half-understood foreign/native language, the balut offered up as a kind of culinary litmus test. The filmmakers make perfect use of the staring bystanders; Adam's incongruity as he trudges through Cavite City is perhaps only a little less jarring than the presence of the two filmmakers themselves.

In the end, it is significant that the action takes place in the province of Cavite, where Emilio Aguinaldo first proclaimed the independence of the Philippine Republic from Spain. The Muslims of the Philippines, however, failed to receive, and continue to do so, the benefits and rights of any form of independence, and the events in Mindanao of the last three decades certainly bear witness to this.

(What makes the film rather politically problematic, on a couple of different levels, is the decision the protagonist makes, and the way the kidnapper is portrayed. Arguably, however, the filmmakers shroud this in moral ambiguity, depending on how one interprets the opening shot. But unfortunately, any further discussion would spoil the film for you folks, so perhaps any spoilers should be mentioned -- and explicitly designated so! -- in the comments, if any of you readers have seen the film...)

Posted by the wily filipino at 01:49 PM | Comments (7)

June 15, 2006

End Make D Parflays Dance.

Courtesy of Boyong and the V-Monster (looks like Bryanboy beat me to the link again), comes the funniest thing I've seen all month: brand-new Pinoy internet celebrity Alyssa Alano, with her incomparable version of Sixpence None The Richer's "Kiss Me" (or rather, "Keys Me"). And hats off to the genius who supplied the brutally funny videoke subtitles. (You may need the real lyrics to figure out what she's singing.)

Watch her YouTube video here; thank me later.

p.s. On a slightly more serious note: Ian Gamazon and Neill dela Llana's Cavite is one hell of a terrific film, and if you're living in the SF Bay Area or San Diego, please do make plans to see it. I'll be posting a longer entry later, but take my word for it: it's very good. (Yes, we can talk about the politically problematic parts later.)

Dennis Lim's review for the Voice is here.

Posted by the wily filipino at 11:51 PM | Comments (3)

June 13, 2006

Cavite, Opening This Friday.


A film by Ian Gamazon and Neill dela Llana opens June 16, 2006 in the Bay Area

A Filipino-American suspense thriller

Landmark’s Lumiere Theatre - 1572 California St., San Francisco, (415) 352-0821

Showtimes (valid 6/16-22): shows Fri-Sun at 2:30 5:00 7:30 9:45; Mon-Thu at 5:00 7:30 9:45

On Fri 6/16 discussion after the 7:30pm show
moderated by Benito M. Vergara, Jr.,
of SF State University Asian American Studies

Advance ticket purchase at:

Tickets are $9.75 for general admission and $7.75 seniors and children

Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas – 2230 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, (510) 464-5980

Showtimes (valid 6/16-22): shows daily at 1:30 3:30 5:30 7:30 9:30

Advance ticket purchase at:

Tickets are $9.50 for general admission, $7.50 seniors and children

Official film site:

Message from CAVITE filmmakers:

Dear Friends,

How often is it that a movie is released in theaters where Filipino-Americans can watch a representation of their generation up onscreen? Not often enough. Cavite opens May 26 in New York and Los Angeles and three weeks later in San Diego and San Francisco, with dates in Seattle to follow. It’s easy for us to ask all of you to come and support so we can continue our careers as filmmakers. But what we ask is so much more than that.

Cavite has been called “a landmark in diaspora cinema” and it could not be more true. It represents a journey back to our homeland that not only we, as a generation of Filipino-Americans, but audiences outside our culture have responded to as well. And it’s that idea of Cavite traveling beyond the lines of the Fil-Am boundaries that we should celebrate on this occasion. Now we have a chance to show people of all cultures and races a slice of the Filipino-American experience told in a manner that anyone, no matter what your heritage, can appreciate.

And it’s in that thought that we urge you and your friends to come see Cavite. It will thrill and it will educate, it will present a side of a spectacular world rarely seen in cinema today. But most of all, if people see this movie on the weekend of its release -- and let’s not kid ourselves, attendance will be key -- it will allow all of us as filmmakers or storytellers to make more films that our generation, and future generations can be proud of.

In conclusion, what we ask for is a celebration -- a celebration of a movie born out of a desire to represent who we are and what we can do. So let’s rejoice, go see the movie, tell anyone that will listen, and not wait another minute to watch a representation of Filipino-American filmmaking up onscreen.


Ian Gamazon/ Neill dela Llana

co-directors, CAVITE

The San Francisco Chronicle calls the Filipino-American suspense story an “exploration of identity…what it means to be a Filipino, an American and a Muslim.” Read the full article on:

“CAVITE ingeniously turns a Hollywood action movie premise into a report on the Philippines and the social and religious divisions that continue to roil the country. Directors Gamazon and Dela Llana get into locations not seen in the West since Lino Brocka’s provocative, politicized films of the 70’s and 80’s….Among the most striking American independent movies of the year.” –The New York Times

“CAVITE is a brilliantly resourceful film with sensational camerawork…A landmark in diaspora cinema.” –The Village Voice

“An intimate political thriller that’s fresh and compelling to the end.” --Los Angeles Times

“CAVITE is a breathless, jugular thriller” –LA Weekly

“A must see!” –Justin Wu, Asianweek


Someone to Watch Award, Independent Spirit Awards 2006

SXSW (South by Southwest), Special Jury Prize 2005

SFIAAFF (San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival) Special Jury Award 2005

Golden Maille Award, Best Picture, Hawaii International Film Festival 2005

Maverick Award, Woodstock Film Festival 2005

Posted by the wily filipino at 07:06 PM | Comments (1)

June 09, 2006

That Discussion on Skin Whiteners.

In an attempt to jumpstart a discussion I started but never got to participate in, I'm reposting the responses to a former post. I am not entirely sure that pursuing the origins of ideas regarding the aesthetic valuation of skin color in the Philippines would lead to a definitive answer; as in the present, the "explanation" would surely have to be a combination of both class and the globalized spread of Western ideals of beauty. But I am also intrigued by Iggy's answer, also below, that raises a particularly Asian aesthetic. (The long line of beauty queens profiled in Doris Nuyda's The Beauty Book, so sadly out of print, begins mostly with moneyed Spanish mestizas -- more an indication, really, of the high regard in which beauty pageants were originally placed -- and it is not until you get to the late '60s or so that skin color becomes darker.)

Here are the earlier responses:

Ed writes:

I'm Filipino and I'm aware of this practice, as many women on my family subscribe to it. I personally think it's silly.

But I guess the first question to tackle would be whether the "light skin" ideal is an imitation of the Western/Caucasoid image, or is it a separate status indicator?

Light skin used to be a coveted social emblem back around during American colonial times too, as evidenced by how Ben Franklin powdered himself silly. Apparently it symbolized wealth, for the same reasons as mentioned in that linked IHT article - rich people didn't have to work in the sun.

But now there's a reversal of that ideal; the current craze among the West is to get that killer tan. So it's said that a tanned skin represents a "well-traveled" person, who can afford to sail the Bahamas barebacked.

There's an entry in wikipedia:

And so to reiterate the question, is Asian people's valuation of light skin a reflection of their desire to imitate the Westerner's phenotype, or is it simply as the article puts it, that it is a status/wealth symbol?

O.P. writes, in response to the initial entry:

This is disturbing. Yet we do know that light skin colour is also associated with high status in Thailand, which does not have a colonial past, and therefore no colonial mentality to blame for this phenomenon.

My own experience as a Filipina has been the opposite of the Eskinol thing. I'm relatively dark compared to some of my cousins, who appear to have inherited more of the Germanic genes of a shared ancestor (our maternal grandfather). They had light brown hair, almost blond to a Pinoy's eyes, and of course lighter skin than most Filipinos. My poor cousins tried in vain to tan so they could "look normal," but despite tons of Coppertone tanning oil, even baby oil, they would only burn and turn reddish and I hope they don't have to deal with melanoma one day. One female cousin started dying her hair black once she started college in Cebu.

On the whole, despite some teasing from classmates about how "dark" I was (from being at the beach all summer), I grew up thinking that brown was beautiful, and thinking that my cousins who looked the most "native" were the most beautiful. Still do. So, I guess it's in the eye of the beholder.

And Ed responds at length to O.P.:

Hmmm, yea, that's a real good point. As confirmed by wikipedia, Thailand was never colonized, and so suggests that the social effect isn't so strongly correlated with colonization:

The Thailand case works against the effect of -direct- colonization, as Thailand is a subscriber of the 'whitening practice', but was never colonized under a European country (although that doesn't exclude interaction through trade).

But the original question's dichotomy is still in play. That is, selection for 'whiteness' stems from either:
1. global valuation of the Caucosoid phenotype, or
2.that 'skin hue' is a mere indicator of wealth.

Although, the Thailand argument excludes rule of colonization as a root cause for the 'international valuation' effect (#1). But I would also posit that adopting the values of another culture doesn't have to follow from colonization.

If #1 is the case, is that a product of history? Pardon a second dichotomy, but is it because of:
1a. a wipespread dissemination of Western values of beauty or is it that
1b. the European phenotype is the universal ideal for beauty?

I know not a lot of people would be willing to accept #1b, but it is still a viable explanation. I myself have reservations to this.

And in order to accept #1a, proof of concept demands that there be some reasons for introducing yet another factor in the effect. So I would propose that history has a hand in it, colonization and industrialization being its vehicle. Again, I don't think value adoption had to follow from direct rule (as in the case of Thailand), and so even Thai people can value the Causian image from mere association with adjacent colonized countries, for example.

As for industrialization, MTV bears to mind. Therefore western values disperse even more efficiently, as developing countries are consumed by vogue western fashions and images through the tv.


That's interesting, o.p., what you relate about the opposite valuation of the Malay beauty. I didn't have that experience when I was living in the PI 14 years ago, nor is it collectively true here in the US among Filipino-Americans.

After all, many Filipina-Americans (Filipino-Americans even) dye their hair blonde, as well as buy those whitening soaps/creams (not the males, to my observation). And as I recall, in the Philippines there were a lot of derrogatory terms reserved for denigrating the Malay image: Pango, Ita, Itim, Pandak, etc. True, there is variation among the Malay/Filipino phenotype (due to normal distribution and genetic intermixing with other countries), but these rough 'characteristics' are nonetheless unique to the regional genepool of Southeast Asia, and therefore define it.

I wanted to add as a reply to o.p.'s post,

I believe it's true that beauty is in the eye of the individual. But I also believe that beauty is also defined by cultural standards, a collective beholder, if you will.

And so when 4 out of every 10 people in a culture actively take part in a fashion (ie skin whitening), it says to me that there is a definite group of people that agree to a certain criteria of beauty. And when that criteria is contrary to what the ancestral phenotype is, it becomes somewhat of a curiosity as to why?

And Rebecca responds to the initial entry:

Does this "beauty" standard really not affect Filipino men?

My husband started a job two years ago where he is out in the sun every day, turning his pale brown complexion very, very dark. His mother's first reaction was to make fun of him for it (and she still does). I'm not fluent but what I did understand was pejorative at best. She even pulled his shirt up to see what color he was born.

He has since refused to wear shorts or short sleeved shirts to work for fear of telling tan lines. And he's been honest about it being almost purely out of vanity.

And here's O.P. again:

Relating the story of my personal experience regarding valuing the more "normal" Filipino skin hue, I tried to convey the view from the "other" side of that divide.

I agree that lighter skin IS a status symbol back home, and I did not do well against that standard, mainly because my mom envied our ability to tan and therefore encouraged us to be in the sun and slathered lots of tanning oil so we could be nice and brown like our dad (who is very dark). As a teenager I tried to even out my acne-prone skin using a whitener and was lectured to within an inch of my life for it.

However, those that have MUCH lighter skin (i.e., looking more like white people than like light-skinned Filipinos) don't necessarily fare better and have insecurities of their own, as they are also judged (or judge themselves) against the native standard.

One of my school friends -- whose parents were Canadian and pure Spanish, and therefore she was really a white girl born and raised in Manila -- was teased mercilessly by my other classmates as an "Amerikanang Hilaw." If white makes right in terms of beauty standards, one would think she could have been the most popular sought-after girl in the whole school. But she was put down for being unattractive and "too" white, and became the poster-girl for low self-esteem.

As for me, I grew up thinking I was too dark, because my mom liked to see us with deep tans, maybe so we would look more like my father (who is very dark). I felt fine around my relatives, because they didn't seem to care, but around other Filipinos it was a different story. I had been called negra a few times even.

It wasn't until I arrived in the US that I heard anyone compliment me on my nice colour. And it wasn't until later, spending lots of time indoors in winter climates and libraries and at a desk, that I lost my tan and found out I am actually rather light-skinned. It was weird at first -- even some of my relatives who hadn't seen me in years thought I had gotten some kind of cosmetic procedure, because I had always been very dark as a child.

As for looking at it from an academic perspective... I remember reading an article about fairness of skin and what that means for attractiveness in Japan -- don't remember what journal it was in. But the gist of it was that there is a particular kind of lightness of skin that is considered attractive -- the mere fact of "whiteness" is not it, because Western women are not considered attractive.

From what I recall of accounts of the first Spanish voyages to the Philippines, they noted how the higher-status Visayan women were lighter skinned than the rest, shielding their faces from the sun or something. I've also seen first-hand in some Lumad communities how the women who shield their faces from the sun and achieve a nice, even glowing complexion (as opposed to sun-ravaged), which not surprisingly is a mark of beauty.

So, it's not just a simple dichotomy or the belated application of Western standards. Globalization is not necessary to blame.

Iggy joins the discussion from a different angle:

In my personal experience, I guess what Asians strive for is the kind of fairness that is more "Asian" and familiar rather than "Caucasian" - think the skin color of Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese. I remember back in high school where there was a French guy and a Jewish girl who went to my school and were mercilessly teased for being too pale. It's funny, because the people doing the teasing were the same ones who praised a Chinoy girl for her milky, even skin. I guess "real" Caucasian fairness - complete with the blonde eyelashes and pinkish undereye circles - is almost too 'alien' for an Asian to aspire to. I don't know, just adding my two cents.
And Ed responds to everyone:

Yes, I do believe that Filipino men are affected by the beauty standard. I mentioned that hair bleaching (blonde) is a popular practice here in the States among Filipino-American boys, at least here where I lived thorughout high school. But the linked article's focus (on wily's blog) was on female consumption of skin lightening products, and so my response was also focused on that demographic accordingly.

O.P. & Iggy,

Yes! I found an article called 'Cultivating Japanese whiteness' by Mikiko Ashikari (University of Cambridge) published in the Journal of Material Cutlure asserting that 'Japanese whiteness' is actually idealized from Japanese whiteness - which is of a different hue from 'Caucasian whiteness'. I think this is close to what you're talking about, Iggy. She says that the Japanese white skin is actually a means by which the Japanese now identify and racialize themselves; contrary to idealizing the Western image. If anyone is having a hard time finding it and wants a copy, feel free to email me, and I'll email you one.

But this still leaves the question, for what reason do Filipinos (Thais, Malaysians, etc.) use whitening products? It cant be that they identify with it (like the Japanese), because the simple fact is that 'whiteness' is not part of their genetic heritage.

O.P., I acknowledge your case when you say that the opposite phenomenon occurs, as in your anecdote with your Western school friends. That wikipedia article mentions the ganguro of Japan, which serves as a parallel example:

But again, a sizable Southeast Asian majority use skin whiteners to imitate an image that isn't granted to them by genetics. You said that 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder', so the interesting question that comes up is: why does the Filipino behold 'whiteness' as beautiful, when the majority of our ethnic composition is Malay, a dark-skinned people?

For the Japanese it is a way for them to express their Japanese ethnicity. But for us, isn't it being anti-Filipino?

Posted by the wily filipino at 10:29 PM | Comments (4)

May 02, 2006

The Wages of Eskinol.

File under: beauty, class, colonialism.

In a survey carried out in June 2004 by Synovate, 61 percent of respondents in Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan said they felt they looked younger with a fair complexion. Half of Filipino women, 45 percent of Hong Kong women and 41 percent of Malaysian women said they were currently using a skin-whitening product.
Posted by the wily filipino at 08:22 PM | Comments (11)

April 28, 2006

Spoon + Fork = ?

Not a spork, exactly, but this story. Honestly, I thought it was something from The Onion at first, but it isn't.

Posted by the wily filipino at 06:01 PM | Comments (1)

April 20, 2006

I've Since Started Using Skype, But This Is Pretty Bizarre.

Purchased at the Russian-owned convenience store next to my place in San Francisco:


Posted by the wily filipino at 07:48 PM | Comments (2)

April 19, 2006


I figure this is just about the earliest reference I could possibly find, way earlier than either Marlon Brando or Steve Martin -- here's William Stewart, a Republican Senator from Nevada, in a speech in June 1900 attacking the anti-imperialists as the Filipino American War raged on (quoted in Kristin Hoganson's Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars):

We would suggest to the enthusiastic objectors who compare the guerrilla warrior of Luzon to the immortal Washington, that their language would be more accurate if they would compare [General Emilio] Aguinaldo to Tecumseh, Sitting Bull, Old Cochise, or some other celebrated Indian warrior whose exploits in the recent past surpass in gallantry the wily little Filipino.
Posted by the wily filipino at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

April 11, 2006


A lesson learned: Never, ever deliver a conference paper when you've only had four hours of sleep in the last 48 hours. I was supposed to deliver the paper below:
In this paper, I explore performance and improvisation among Filipino overseas musicians. In 2003, over 58,000 Filipinos were scattered worldwide in nightclubs and hotel lounges; however, the majority of people who migrate as Overseas Performing Artists (OPAs) travel to work in Japan. OPA is, in this instance, a euphemistic, bureaucratic category that denotes the sex trade, and comprises the crucial distinction between Filipinos working in Japan and those elsewhere working as more professional musicians.
Despite such differences, I argue that the practices of performance and improvisation, both as musical activities and as metaphors for everyday migrant life, link both kinds of OPAs. In my interviews, OPA returnees constantly spoke of a spontaneous and naturally Filipino ability to imitate. This imitative performance, however, did not allow for musical improvisation; they were limited to learning and mimicking particular idioms from a globally shared musical repertoire.
Such practices, I argue, parallel the relationship between state and individual. One can see performance and improvisation as strategies utilized to compete with restrictive migration policies, to evade state surveillance, or, more ordinarily, to resist drunken customers. As an economic strategy, migration also exemplifies a kind of adaptability, also directly related to improvisation or imitation.
My paper is also a critique of government policies that enable, if not facilitate, the exploitation of migrant labor. Simultaneously, through emphasis of migrant practices, I treat OPAs as rational and creative actors, incessantly performing and improvising, even if constrained by the regulations of the state and the demands of capital.
Et cetera, et cetera, until I realized that it had ballooned into an unmanageable 30 pages when it was still only really halfway done and I had to boil it down to about 7 pages for the presentation. So I painfully hacked off the entire "improvisation" section, threw out all the lovely ethnographic detail and whatnot, including a "thick description" of a performance of Kylie Minogue's "Can't Get You Out Of My Head," and came up with 6 pages. All of this surgery done the night before I was to teach three classes and hop on a redeye from SF. Not good. (Thankfully a MARTA ride from the airport to Buckhead was only $1.75.)

So I gave my talk -- my fellow panelists' papers on Filipino Americans in post-war Filipino cinema, the Black-Eyed Peas' "The Apl Song" video, and Jessica Hagedorn's Dream Jungle (plus a big helping of Baudrillard) were far more interesting than mine -- and had to run off with Izzy to the Children's Museum of Atlanta, which was only really okay. (It was too late to get tickets to the aquarium.) Izzy really liked the Rube Goldberg-like contraption which, among other things, made it possible for you to drop wet balls onto unsuspecting people's noggins. Nothing like wet balls. (Okay -- the first person to tell me which John Irving novel that comes from wins... well, nothing.) I missed everything else on Saturday, since I spent most of the day zonked with Izzy, but that was fine.

None of the pictures you see here were posted with anyone's permission, but I'll be happy to take them offline.

The 40-plus folks who ended up congregating in front of the hotel were then organized and split by Rick, who we see conducting the orchestra here:

The heat lamps reminded him of the tropics -- or, in a reference to Allan's forthcoming book, American Tropics. (We heard the phrase "American tropics" used a lot throughout the conference, just like the phrase "basketball court" -- but youngsters may be reading this, so I won't explain it.)

About half of the crowd. Martin's in a silly mood:

Half went to a Hawaiian fusion food restaurant, which was the wise choice. "I didn't go all the way to Atlanta to eat Hawaiian food," said Theo, who ended up going with us to the jaw-droppingly expensive Brazilian restaurant where you could eat (as Theo said later), "the entire cast of The Lion King on skewers."


I can't find my photo of Gladys' neater plate (she was sitting next to me).

I can't remember the exact context for this picture, but here it is, preserved for posterity:

Later, at the hotel lobby, the sated Filipinos, fueled by beer, vodka tonics and Brazilian cremes de menthe, regrouped -- Kiko, Lucy, Rick, Liz, Theo, Robyn, Linda floating in and out (her book just came out), and I can't remember who else right now -- where discussion ensued: somewhat lurid talk with Tony (his co-edited book just came out too), the Manila music scene, rather tame AAS gossip, and Rex Navarrete. (Someone explained their discomfort at his humor, saying that he was essentially making fun of the working-class generation of her immigrant parents. This is not an incorrect observation, and his more recent enthusiastic reception in Manila by the well-heeled suggests, I think, a decidedly classist tinge to all the laughter at the declassed middle class and lower-middle class Filipinos who followed the doctors and engineers to American shores.)

Anyhow, the next day we had our Filipino caucus, where we discussed our Plans to Take Over The World. But outside the meeting room, I figured we had a bit of a way to go:

Posted by the wily filipino at 08:27 PM | Comments (6)

March 08, 2006

"People Power Fatigue."

There is no better illustration, I think, of how GMA's KarlRovean tactic -- of equating any sort of dissent with "destabilization" -- has been parroted by both (alas) members of the media and the academe, than by the constant repetition of the catchphrase "people power fatigue." I read it as glib pseudo-sociological shorthand that both legitimates and reproduces acquiescence to GMA's vision of "order." Such "fatigue" is clearly contradicted by the mass demonstrations held both in Manila and in the provinces, both now and during the Hello Garci scandal (to name just two instances). The phrase -- an easy journalistic entree into understanding Those Wacky Filipinos -- (un)wittingly pathologizes opposition as being harmful to the body of the nation; it is "gulo," after all, and "gulo" apparently must be quelled through preemptive strikes.

Perhaps GMA herself said it best in her radio announcement proclaiming the "lifting" of 1071, when she thanked the Filipino people "who understand that the best way to a bright future is through hard work, not taking to the streets."

(Actually, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez has an even better quote in the Philippine Daily Inquirer:

"I think it has some sobering effect," Gonzalez said when asked whether PP 1017 had been effective when applied to the media.

"Even the most critical media had started to reexamine their policies," he said, adding that PP 1017, like all laws, had the effect of "sowing fear" among the people.)

Meanwhile, here's something backchanneled to me, and I'll let the unnamed person have the last word anyway:

as far as i am concerned, my wish is to see every demonstrator on EDSA arrested for destabilizing the Philippine economy. they have no viable replacement for GMA and they are making the philippines an undesirable place for any sort of investment. what alternative do the demonstrators have in mind? another "free election?" none of the street actions have, in any way, shape, or form brought a solution to the increasing gap between those who have and those who don't.

randy a martyr? good lord, after his support for Erap? while i am not an admirer of GMA, neither am i a fan of a loose coalition of FVR, Erap and FPJ sycophants, Marcos loyalists, Utrecht puppets, and glib neo-leftists. and that aquino widow should use her time putting some sense into her talentless daughter's brain before she wastes her energies on EDSA.

also, instead of focusing on that entire Garci incident, maybe those demonstrators should begin by locking up every member of the Marcos family and administration and making them accountable for what the Philippines has become today.

Posted by the wily filipino at 11:25 PM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2006



To all community allies and supporters of the Filipino people:

From Baghdad to the Philippines...State of National Emergency and Daylight Curfews only means that people's international resistance is growing around the world against repressive governments and U.S. military intervention and occupation. Join actions in the U.S today condemning Philippine president Gloria Arroyos' Proclamation 1017--another desperate step to cling onto power through using increased political repression and state terror against the people.


BAYAN-USA Urgent Actions in the U.S. today!

Oust GMA Rally and march to Philippine Consulate
4 pm Assemble Powell and Market in downtown San Francisco
March up Powell to Consulate on Sutter

Join Filipino New Yorkers in condemning the fascist Arroyo regime!
5 pm - Friday February 24, 2006
Philippine Consulate in NY

Condemn State of Emergency and Oust GMA
12 pm Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan USA Chapter declares overall failure and disgrace of the Arroyo government as the Real State of National Emergency which cannot stop third People Power ouster!

From across the ocean and within the borders of the U.S., BAYAN-USA proudly stands with with thousands of Filpinos in the streets of Ayala and EDSA yesterday on the 20th Anniversary of the first People Power ouster of Dictator Ferdinand Marcos. We condemn in fullest terms Gloria Arroyo's Proclomation 1017 of a National State of Emergency which is short of declaring martial law and the first step towards authorizing warrantless arrests, media takeover, dispersal of people's assemblies and systematic suppression of the Filipino people's right to participate in collective actions that go against Arroyo's wish to stay in power.

The Filipino peoople know that the real State of National Emergency started when GMA took office from the ousted Joseph Estrada in 2001. This latest crisis development reveals more than she can hide about her crisis-ridden and crumbling adminstration. GMA's desperate measures come after a preventable mudslide which killed more than 1500 in Leyte last week. She is responsible for Human Rights Violations worse than the declared years of Martial Law under Marcos. She has orchestrated a full blown economic crisis burying the country in billions of dollars of foreign debt. Worst of all, she continues to cling to power, holding on to a presidency discredited with election fraud while escaping democratic impeachment.

Since she assumed the presidency, BAYAN-USA has participated in international actions called by the growing People Power 3 movement in the Philippines. Yesterday's People Power anniversary and OUST actions are the result of escalating outrage from under poverty level wages, joblessness, homelessness, high gas prices, the burden of value added taxes on basic commodities and the failure to bring justice for the gang rape of a Filipina woman by U.S Marines. There is nothing spontaneous or surprising from the people's louder voices of dissent which represent a courageous anti-fascist stand. We recognize the most powerful way to honor the People Power Anniversary is to continue the struggle against fascism in the brutal form of the Bush loyal GMA regime.

There will be no denying People Power 3! Calibrated Preemptive Response (CPR), state sponsored terrorism and political killings in the Philippines, undeclared martial law and even arms and training by U.S. troops in the Philippines will never quell the people's resistance and will for national liberation and democracy and a just and lasting peace. We call on the U.S and governments around the world to withdraw support to the Arroyo government which proved to be best in stealing, lying and cheating rather than governing the nation towards genuine progress and democracy.


For more information, contact Kawal Ulanday at 510-914-4461.


Plus, a comparison of Macapagal-Arroyo's and Marcos's proclamations, 34 years apart.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez discusses the government's principle of "declare martial law state of emergency, show the evidence later:"

"We will offer that at the proper time," Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said when asked what proof Malacanang had to back Ms Arroyo's allegation of an unholy alliance among her political opponents, soldiers and the communist New People's Army.

Calibrated action

"This is no time for proving," Gonzalez added. "Go to the Supreme Court. Question this and we will offer the proof."

"What am I to prove to you? You are not the court," he said in reply to an Inquirer question.

"Warrantless arrests." "Illegal assembly." "Inciting sedition." And from Macapagal-Arroyo's proclamation: "WHEREAS, the claims of these elements have been recklessly magnified by certain segments of the national media..." -- is this assertion what prompted this? Smells like 1972 to me.

Posted by the wily filipino at 01:09 PM | Comments (2)

February 13, 2006

The Sarimanok Travels.

Passing this along...

by Francis Tanglao-Aguas

Take a trip to the Philippines in this beautifully staged one-man show
by performer-playwright Francis Tanglao-Aguas. The "Sarimanok Travels"
is "Fires in the Mirror" meets the "Vagina Monologues" but based on a
traditional Pilipino folk tale about a mystical bird that brings
harmony to a kingdom.

Francis weaves this tale full of stories and odd characters with dance
movement and poetry. This story is ultimately about one's connection
to a 'homeland'. Ayeta, the beautiful queen of Mahallikha spurns royal
suitors from more powerful lands, earning their wrath which they pass
on to their descendants. But the Mahallikhenos are resilient, with the
magical sarimanok bird on their side, thriving in the paradise that is
their land.

But what happens when the sarimanok bird is stolen by foreign powers?

Francis Tanglao-Aguas explores his version of the mythical roots of
the Philippines, hoping to answer why Pilipinos find themselves
leaving their beloved motherland.

February 10-25, 2006
Fri/Sat at 8PM
Noh Space
2840 Mariposa Street
San Francisco, CA

Call 800-838-3006 to purchase tickets, or purchase online at:

Posted by the wily filipino at 09:53 PM | Comments (1)

January 15, 2006

OPM Roundup, Part One.

Last May it seemed that the two songs that were absolutely inescapable -- blaring from jeepney speakers, playing in the background of TV noon time shows or in record stores -- were Daddy Yankee's "Gasolina" (good) and Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" (terrible). This time around, there were two other songs as well: Orange and Lemons' "Pinoy Ako [I Am Pinoy]," a fist-pumping, proud-to-be-Filipino pop song that, by all accounts, has served as an unofficial Philippine national anthem. Which is rather ironic (Tagalog readers will relish the lyrics), considering that a) the track was reportedly plagiarized from a song by the Care, circa the early '80s (check here for details), and b) the song was the theme to the hit TV show Pinoy Big Brother, which, as you can guess, is a Filipino adaptation of the British original. (If you use Firefox you can open the pages above on separate tabs and play the streaming files at the same time.)

At this point it seems unfair to criticize them for taking their name from an XTC album; my favorite Filipino band took its name from a David Lynch film, after all.

The second song also has Filipino connections: the Black-Eyed Peas' "My Humps," just about one of the most annoying songs ever. I know it's supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, but still. It's further proof, unfortunately, of a truth becoming ever clearer, which I hesitate, ever so slightly, to declare publicly, but will do anyway: the Black-Eyed Peas suck.

Anyhow, here is a little roundup of albums I was able to pick up and listen to (either bought or borrowed from my sister):

Barbie Almalbis, The Singles

In the world of one-hit (or one-album) wonders that is the Philippine music market, Barbie Almalbis is already something of a veteran. This compilation includes her work with the Hungry Young Poets as well as with Barbie's Cradle, and it's as good a snapshot of sharp '90s Filipino indiepop as you will get.

Isha, Time and Again

While the clear commercial hook here are the sincere piano-jazz cover versions of '80s hits -- Tears For Fears' "Everybody Wants To Rule The World," a clumsy version of the Go-Go's "Head over Heels," and a lovely reading of my second-favorite Madonna song, "Cherish" -- the standouts, interestingly, are the arrangements of some overplayed standards. "I'll Be Seeing You" is appropriately mournful; "Our Love Is Here To Stay" is turned into a pop torch ballad; "Round Midnight" is a jittery, caffeinated affair, belying the calmness of her vocals. The other half of the album -- which makes it rather oddly sequenced -- is filled with her own compositions which to my ear sound like "Silent All These Years"-era Tori Amos. Not a plus in my book, but I should listen to them more; songs that reference Milan Kundera can't hurt. (I still think she should have recorded under her full name, Pearlsha Abubakar.)

Isha, Katakataka

This, however, is the real gem -- a delightful and slightly sultry four-song EP of original songs in Tagalog about the things that matter most: love, longing, and the summer breeze.

Juana, Misbehavior

This quartet (two women, two men) plays smart, no-frills power pop; in an ideal world, the first track ("Connected") would be a Philippine middle-class teen angst anthem, upbeat but full of the burden of unfulfilled expectations. "Reyna ng Quezon City" is even better, kind of like a wiser Tagalog version of J. Lo's "Waiting for Tonight."

Rivermaya, Greatest Hits 2005

I'm probably remembering things wrong, but wasn't there a time when Rivermaya didn't sound like (or look like) Coldplay? Half the songs on this anthology have those faux-inspirational, hold-your-head-up-high lyrics that U2 should have abandoned twenty years ago; the other half sounds like bad Radiohead -- you know, kind of like Coldplay. In a word: insufferable.

The Tilt-Down Men, Together with The Tilt-Down Men

The Tilt-Down Men occupied that space between the British Invasion and AM-radio soft pop; as such, you get the almost requisite covers of songs by the Beatles, the Hollies, the Lettermen and the Bee Gees. The packaging, unfortunately, is quite sparse, and I would have loved to know whether this exemplified what the mainstream "combos" of the late-'60s played. Either way, it's an early chapter in the fascinating careers of the Sottos; future scholars of the political and cultural dimensions of the Sotto dynasty should take note.

Posted by the wily filipino at 11:00 PM | Comments (8)

January 04, 2006

My Cousin, the Pornographer.

The photograph, taken by cell phone, shows my cousin Rico's head, diagonally entering the frame from one side. He is his usual baby-faced, slightly chubby self, his hair tousled as always, his face serious but betraying the slightest hint of a grin. (He was always a bit of a goof anyhow; a few minutes before he was gleefully lifting up his T-shirt to show his large gut and the bandages from his recent gallbladder operation.)

Behind Rico is a green pool. In it are about eight naked, wet, and glistening women in an almost unrecognizable tangle of limbs. None of them are looking at the camera, for they are concentrating on each other. One woman has her head buried between another woman's naked breasts.

"This is my work," Rico said.

The photograph, he explains at our family's Christmas party, was taken on the set of Sex Guru 2. "We made Sex Guru 2 because, well, there was Sex Guru 1," he said. Sex Guru 1 apparently had the honor of being the #1 best-selling DVD at Tower Records for a while, and so a sequel came naturally.

My cousin Rico is a pornographer. This is not what he has always wanted to do for a living, but, he hastens to add, it's his bread and butter.

I had more or less grown up with Rico -- we are about the same age -- probably doing much of the same things: watching robot cartoons, playing tag or hide and seek. Our paths diverged in college; later, he would arrive at our Christmas parties later than everyone else, talking about wrapping up a shoot. A major in theater arts -- with an emphasis in set design, if I remember correctly -- Rico moved from one job to another: a stint dressing store windows, organizing singing groups to be sent off to perform in Brunei, and now, directing TV commercials and episodes for seven shows for GMA TV, including the popular Extra Challenge, a combination of The Amazing Race and Fear Factor. An advertisement for Red Horse Beer he directed ended with a woman pouring beer on a guy's pants; this won him an advertising award and the wrath, as he put it, of "troops from GABRIELA," the Filipino feminist group. (The ad agency wanted the beer poured on the guy's knee; he insisted it had to be on the crotch, and he won that little battle.)

But if there was anything that would inspire any ire (or admiration, in certain quarters), it would probably be his body of work with the revolving stable of model-slash-actresses popularly known as the Viva Hot Babes. The films Rico directs, he says, are like "Sports Illustrated swimsuit videos -- only more hardcore." I myself have only seen two samples of Rico's work. The earliest one I saw was a video shot as background for videoke songs, playing at a high school reunion a couple of years ago -- and so it was relatively tame, though the women cavorting on the beach were clearly naked underneath their wet clothes.

I asked him if his films had any particular style, whether or not one could tell that they were "Rico Gutierrez films." "Not at all," he responded quickly. "No lighting, no story" -- the videos are mostly vignettes strung loosely together -- "and the camera work is mostly close-up or not.

"It really is just a job," Rico said. "I go to the set, we shoot, I go home. It's not very exciting," he added. (He also described, in slightly more graphic terms, the fact that he found the whole business of filming rather unerotic.)

"The thing is, when I'm there, I'm a different person," Rico said. "I'm not like this," he explained to everyone at the table. "I can get pretty lewd, but that's the nature of the job." He turned to one side and addressed an imaginary actress in Tagalog: "No, damn it -- grab her pussy! Yes! Thaaaat's it! Now, everyone, we'll do the orgy scene! Okay, cut!" My God-fearing cousins blanched. I was taken aback as well. "But you know, we're all professional," he added. (Whenever his longtime girlfriend would accompany him on a shoot, he said, the actresses knew how to behave.) He suddenly looks around the party. "Hey, where did my kid go?"

His eight-year old son was, in fact, running around outside in the front yard with the rest of the clan's youngsters. Later he came in, all sweaty from his exertions; Rico mussed his hair with one hand and sent him off again.

(I wasn't kidding, by the way, about "God-fearing." The father's side of my family is fairly religious, with cousins who are actually working full-time in the "ministry;" saying grace before the big Christmas lunch is taken pretty seriously (my dad has been leading it for the last few years now), followed by singing performances and one of my cousins leading the kids on a rather painful "Happy Birthday Jesus" sing-along. Rico's choice of profession doesn't exactly make him a black sheep -- in every Filipino clan there are infidelities and shotgun weddings and substance abuse and various "improprieties" (at least in the predominantly Catholic Philippines) -- but his mom (my Auntie Baby) tells him seriously (in English) that "he will burn in hell."

"I wanted to tell her that I use the money to buy her medicine," Rico said with a laugh, "but it isn't true.")

Pornography in the Philippines isn't exactly like pornography in the United States; it's technically illegal in this country, so "you can't have insertion of the penis, or insertion, period, or blowjobs," he said. I can only imagine that it's the equivalent of late-night movies on Cinemax -- though I own neither cable nor a TV, so, uh, I can only imagine.

Sex Guru, for instance (which I only saw the other day), is actually a rather tame affair, enough for me to wonder whether I picked up the wrong title. Hosted by the fabulously stacked Asia Agcaoili, Sex Guru is an hour-long instructional video on -- I'm not quoting from memory, but I'm sure she must have said this at some point -- "the fine art of sensual massage," with lots of close-up shots of slick fingers and rose petals and a soundtrack making ample use of the Casio "choir" and "electric drums" midi presets. Still, Agcaoili is an engaging host, particularly in the most explicit scene when she licks and swallows plastic objects of different sizes. (One of Sex Guru's most interesting elements is its democratic attention to sexuality: there's an almost equal attention to beefcake, including long sequences featuring two men lovingly rubbing each other's chiseled asses in a shower. There really is something here for everyone, even if the video presupposes the straight male gaze.) In the end, the film is a loving tribute to oiled brown skin.

Rico has a funny way of touching your leg with his fingers when he wants you to pay attention to a particular point he's about to make, and while relating this next story, he was all a-finger. The first scene in Sex Guru 2, apparently, was a demonstration of "Tantric massage," and he had wanted to show a penis being masturbated. There was, of course, no way he could get this past the censors, because, as he said, "we would get a technical. So we bought this strap-on dildo and made the two women give it a massage," he related. "No technical!" he added happily.

Another sequence, perhaps in a different movie, had Patricia Javier masturbating. "When that happened," he said, "I went over to the camera and de-focused it."

My brother Bulletproof Vest asked, "Couldn't you have done that in post-production? I mean, save it for a Director's Cut?"

Rico shook his head quickly and said, "No, no Director's Cuts. We don't film anything illegal or anything that's not in their contracts." (Maui Taylor, for instance, apparently does not do full frontal nudity.) In fact, a representative from the Department of Health has to be present at the shoot, making sure that everything is, well, sanitary. "I may be filthy, but I'm not a pig, " Rico said.

I asked him what film from his oeuvre he would choose as his favorite, or as one to recommend to a Rico beginner. "You mean, the most intelligent, or the hottest, or the lewdest?" he asked. "The most intelligent?" He paused. "I haven't made that yet."

The film he is happiest with right now, he kept telling me, is this three-minute short called "Haplos" [Caress] he made for an in-house contest for Sunsilk shampoo. (You can see it here -- then look for the "Mini-Movies" link on the left.) The film is short and sweet, with only the barest bit of reference to the product it’s selling; it's anchored, most poignantly, by a loop of another mini-movie, on a cellphone, played within the short film itself. "Each director," he said, "was asked to pull out the cast and the plot from a hat. I picked one that read 'A girl is in a coma' and I said to myself, 'I've lost before the contest has even begun." The finished work apparently began as a loose adaptation of Almodovar's Talk To Me. "But that's the film that's more personal. That's really me. That's what I want to do."

Rico called himself a "hostess" -- that quaint Filipino euphemism for "whore" -- and said that he would pretty much direct anything for money. "It's definitely not art," he said, referring to his work for the Viva Hot Babes. "Although," he continued with a grin on his face, "it's artistic in a different sense.

"I'm a pornographer," Rico said flatly. "It's soft, but it's still porno. I'm the Zalman King of the Philippines," he thought after a while. "I don't have a body of work like he does, but I'm getting there. That's it. The Zalman King of the Philippines. That sounds good."

Posted by the wily filipino at 04:08 AM | Comments (18)

January 03, 2006


This is a tribute to perhaps my favorite restaurant in the Philippines right now, located at the outskirts of the town of Bay, in the province of Laguna. Bay (pronounced "Ba-ee") was, at some point, perhaps the major commercial town by the lakeshore; Bay, after all, was the town for which the body of water was named. (Early maps already called it the lagoon of Bay -- "Laguna de Bay" (or "Bai"), though by the time Americans arrived, the pronunciation had changed erroneously to the English "Bay," and it remains wrong even now.) Established around 1570 or so (I don't have access to my books from here, so I'm relying on the perhaps-iffy Wikipedia entry), Bay is now a fairly bustling provincial town, eclipsed by the action in Laguna's capital of Santa Cruz, the busy Calamba (home to Jose Rizal), and Los Banos (home to my University of the Philippines campus, hotbed for research scientists and student activists). But the main reason to go is the restaurant.

This is Kamayan sa Palaisdaan (or, literally, Place-Where-You-Eat-With-Your-Hands by the Fishing Grounds), off of the National Highway.

The restaurant consists of over a dozen huts floating in a circle around a pond filled with carp. (There's also a two-story structure that can host weddings and other big functions, plus a swing and slide for the kiddies.) Reservations on weekends are strongly recommended; I've gone there on rainy weekend nights and for Monday lunches, and every hut was filled. (Did I mention that it's cheap? It's generally less than 200 pesos per person, not counting the San Miguel Lites.)

Below are the reasons why I love this place:

Pinakbet (basically, the Ilocano way of cooking vegetables -- bitter gourd (ampalaya), eggplant, okra and other stuff).

Kare-kare (oxtail, beef tripe, peanut butter -- purists, feel free to attack -- and shrimp paste on the side).

Liempo (grilled and sliced pork spareribs).

Shrimp in coconut milk.

Deep-fried catfish.

Sisig: pig cheeks and ears, on a sizzling plate. My fave.

Crispy pata: deep-fried pork knuckle.

Bicol Express: minced pork and evil chili peppers.

Tilapia with coconut milk.

They were still standing.

Food coma!

Posted by the wily filipino at 01:44 AM | Comments (2)

November 04, 2005

Jeannie Barroga's Banyan.

Jeannie Barroga's new play Banyan begins, quite promisingly, with the sight of Ona's (aka Dorothy, played with a kind of wide-eyed scariness by Victoria Mejia) red Converse shoes, her iPod, and, perhaps most important for the opening scene, the sound of shredding paper over the fading notes of "Somewhere over the Rainbow."

The ambient sound -- along with, at times, the distracting chirps of birds -- is important, because in a sense it's all background noise. There is hardly a moment of stillness in the entire play; the actors spend their time on stage drowning each other out, as if the constant, logorrheal flow of language (and there are indeed bodily fluids aplenty, including one long, ill-advised, piss) could smooth over the growing noise around them. Or, better yet, as if their constant chatter -- the first scene, for instance, revels in what I can only call Wall Street staccato -- could somehow ward off the evil spirits that lie in wait. It doesn't work. The aswang gets you anyway, and will suck out your life essence until you're -- oh, I can't resist a Munchkin reference here -- morally, ethically, spiritually, physically, positively, absolutely, undeniably, and reliably... dead.

Playwright Jeannie Barroga explains that Banyan is a response to 9/11, by way of a Pinay Wizard of Oz. In this respect, Banyan, like the tree that gives the play its title, is something of a sprawling mess. This is not meant to be negative, though it does point to something of a problem with the narrative.

With all these balls being juggled, it would inevitably be difficult to keep them all in the air, and this is where the play becomes hard to follow, both tonally and thematically. Francis Tanglao-Aguas' able direction keeps the cast's feet firmly planted on the ground, but Barroga's writing teeters quite close to farce at many points (which seems to contradict almost everyone's high-minded seriousness in the program notes). Add to this stew a couple of indecisive corporate execs, a trio of quarrelling soldiers, and yes, a blood-sucking, hump-hungry, succubus-like creature -- with almost all the actors playing double, if not triple roles -- and you get, as written above, a sometimes confusing tangle of tree roots. (Vicki Zabarte, as the aswang, actually does triple duty as the Wicked Boss Witch and, in a scene-stealing performance, a shrill Philippine Airlines flight attendant.) Towards the end, the "dream" bleeds more and more into "reality," making the sense of disorientation -- also felt at least by this member of the audience -- even more acute.

[Special mention must also be made here of Jose Saenz, who, I swear to god, must be the hardest-working Filipino American in show business, at least in these parts. (I think I see him on campus almost every week, and, it seems, in just about every other theater production in San Francisco.) His unctuous CIA agent / mysterious black-clad assistant strikes just the right note; to watch him unexpectedly channel the Cowardly Lion (at least that was how I interpreted it) is one of the play's better touches.

The set design, by Michael Mehler, is exemplary in its relative economy: the exposed office piping standing in for roots and branches, the shredded paper strewn everywhere as both corporate debris and oppressive rainforest moss. There are no windows in this New York office for its imprisoned employees; the walls are perversely covered by glossy Philippine tourism posters of beaches and blue skies. The banyan tree trunk itself looks like a transparent cloth canopy that could be both Enterprise Transporter or butterfly cage; either way, it works really well.]

But there's a good reason for what I described above as "a sprawling mess" (and again, it's not necessarily meant to be a negative): the fragmentary nature of Banyan's scenes, as well as the palpable feeling that things are about to go out of control (notably Michael Dorado, who plays his custodian / soldier role in perfectly calibrated, but slightly unhinged mode), are clearly in keeping with the setting, i.e., the dizzying experience of a company going down the tubes, the dislocation of an impenetrable Philippine jungle, and the breakneck use of language in a last-ditch attempt to anchor one's self. (One of the more amusing subplots in the play is how Barroga employs the cliche of the Filipino American "going back home" to the Philippines to "rediscover" her roots -- and ends up getting kidnapped by, in essence, the lion, the scarecrow and the tin (wo)man.)

"Maybe some of us need myths," Ona says at some point. This play is, perhaps, Jeannie Barroga's ambitious and fascinating attempt to make some overarching sense of the chaos of the last five years, a way of re-articulating the war on terrorism and the Philippines and the fiscal malfeasance of Enron into a grander and more spiritually resonant narrative. Banyan, then, could be seen as a shotgun marriage of Hollywood mythos and Filipino alamat -- perhaps echoing that originary, violent moment of the American incursion into the Philippines, at the barrel of a gun. Barroga's play gestures to something bigger than Oz; as Dorothy insists at the end of the 1939 film, it wasn't a dream -- a dream jungle, if you will -- but a place. (And you, and you, and you, and you, were there.) Ona's whirlwind journey may be in her head, but real corruption, and a very real war, is still happening in a real, truly live place.

Banyan, presented by the Asian American Theater Company, is playing from November 3-20 -- Wednesdays to Saturdays at 8, and on Sundays at 7 -- at New Langton Arts on 1246 Folsom Street (and 8th) in San Francisco. (Tickets, for only $15, can be purchased here.)

Posted by the wily filipino at 02:10 AM | Comments (2)

October 24, 2005

On Beauty.

There's a long blog conversation on beauty going on in cyberspace, and I'd thought I'd jump in with what little I know (precisely because it has little to do with gender and "ethnic"/national notions of beauty, but more on the pageants themselves).

Too long to quote here are two brilliant high-wire ethnographic accounts of gay beauty pageants and balls in Fenella Cannell's Power and Intimacy in the Christian Philippines (Cambridge University Press, 1999) and Martin Manalansan's Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora (Duke University Press, 2003). (The latter also has an exhaustive discussion of "byuti.")

I'll just cite a couple of passages, pulled somewhat out of context (since they're talking about two different places), from a couple of recent books:

The first, from Mark Johnson's Beauty and Power: Transgendering and Cultural Transformation in the Southern Philippines (Berg, 1997).

...the forms and idioms of beauty that are circulated... are informed by a Western image of glamour and beauty... beauty contests have a familiar resonance about them, from the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Madonna, to the 'ethnic/national' costumes which faithfully reproduce familiar stereotypes (53).

... contests are filled with instances of stylistic and verbal discourse which are clearly embedded in colonial ministrations. Beauty is about education and the mastery of the English language. Beauty is about good citizenship and a professional orientation (54).

And from Rick Bonus's Locating Filipino Americans: Ethnicity and the Cultural Politics of Space (Temple University Press, 2000).

Filipino Americans find in these pageants social spaces that reflect their tenuous positions as Filipinos who, in their eyes, are not fully American (by virtue of their first-generation immigrant status) and not fully Filipino anymore either (owing to their departure and distance from the homeland). The orientation to the bayan, both in the context of activities in the United States and in reference to the homeland, is one anchor they hold onto to mitigate these tensions (122).
And I'll end, out of chronological order, with a recounting of Philippine News' "Quest for Magandang Filipina - USA" beauty contest in 1979. This was, somewhat sadly, a replacement for an Outstanding Youth Contest which was cancelled for lack of response. "In place of it," they wrote, "we are announcing the start of a new contest which according to our survey is the kind of contest you want us to run."

Open to any permanent resident of "Filipino or Filipino-American descent (irrespective of blood ratio)" -- an interesting throwback to the days when "Filipino American" exclusively referred to people of mixed racial heritage -- the Quest for Magandang Filipina - USA was launched. Regional finals in eleven different cities culminated, after much front-page hype, in the crowning of Yvonne Flores from Suisun City, California after her "stirring vocal rendition of George Benson's 'The Greatest Love of All.'"

[I suspect some of you might be amused by the pageant's details. Sponsored by the Fil-Am Veterans and Federal Retired Association of Fairfield, California, Flores defeated, among others, first runner-up Lisa Manibog (who could have only been related to Monty, probably the first Filipino American mayor ever) from Monterey Park (who performed a "very symbolic American-Indian ritualistic dance"), Theresa Abueg (who "played 'The Entertainer' on her flute"), Jacqueline Guerrero (who danced "a jazz-ballet interpretation of Gary Wright's 'Dream Weaver'") and Rose Tibayan (for "a Malayan dance interpretation on disco roller skates"). [From Aljovin, Andrea. "Yvonne Picked as Magandang Filipina in Dazzling Grand Finals." Philippine News December 1-7 1979: 1, 12.]

I just had to write that again: "Malayan dance interpretation on disco roller skates."]

(What Philippine News de-emphasized, however, was that contestants had to buy 35 subscriptions each to enter the pageant, which earned the nice sum of $56,000 for the newspaper altogether.)

Sudden digression into historical context: 1979 was a crucial period in Philippine News's history -- a time, for instance, when one of their regular columnists, Steve Psinakis, would coyly allude to participation in the Light-A-Fire Movement. It was also a time when -- seven long years after the declaration of Martial Law, but still four years away from Ninoy Aquino bleeding to death on that airport tarmac -- the anti-Marcos opposition in the United States was riven (perhaps they always were) by ideological conflicts. This was also a period when the Movement for a Free Philippines-affiliated Philippine News was consistently red-baiting the Katipunan ng Demokratikong Pilipino, headquartered on the other side of the San Francisco Bay Bridge; the sniping between PN and Ang Katipunan reached its height this year.

Rather predictably, AK went straight to the politics of the contest, describing it as "a strange blend of fashion show, talent contest, an anti-KDP lecture, and slideshow all rolled into one." In an unsigned editorial, the KDP pointed out how such pageants promote sexism, calling the swimsuit contest "downright disgusting:"

The pageant's sponsor, Philippine News... [claims] that the contest was meant to promote Philippine heritage and unity. Anyone... however would surely agree that there was neither a performance nor presentation... which vaguely resembled Philippine culture or heritage.


No, the Magandang Filipina pageant was not an innocent competition, a meeting of the community's "best and beautiful." Rather it was a masked business venture which [sic] exploited the contestants and sections of the community.


...Like grand terno balls, cocktail parties and other expensive forms of social activities, the beauty contest diverts our attention from more pressing concerns. ...if we expended the same amount of money, energy and time on a fund raiser for some community cause or for the political refugee problem... we could justifiably claim that our efforts were progressive, positive and productive. A beauty contest can hardly claim the same. [From "Beauty Contests: An Exercise in Irrelevance." Ang Katipunan, December 1-15, 1979: 3.]

Paradoxically, the Philippine News would probably also agree with the above statement; back in those days, the newspaper constantly trod a fine line between the two images of heroism (as part of the self-proclaimed oppositional vanguard against the Marcos regime) and profligacy (look no further if you wanted pages and pages of pictures of couples in their tacky finery). (I argue anyhow that the newspaper was beset by contradictory impulses: to consistently demonstrate immigrant success, and to strive for political awareness by highlighting the community's marginality.)

But back to the pageants then and now -- rather than taking one side or the other, I would propose a more nuanced middle ground: one that recognized the problematic gender politics inherent in such spectacles (that reproduced colonial aesthetics and ways of seeing) but simultaneously understanding the temporary cohesive social function (and a "necessary" evocation of an arguably reified Filipino tradition) that the pageants afforded an alienated Filipino American community.

Last digression: beauty pageants in Manila are a different story, however. Gloria Diaz and Margie Moran's Miss Universe victories in 1969 and 1973 lent an odd veneer of legitimacy to Imelda Marcos' increasingly glittery and warped aesthetic project; only two years after Martial Law, Manila would host the 1974 contest in the newly-constructed (supposedly in 77 days!) Folk Arts Theater, with the crown going to Amparo Munoz, hailing from the Philippines' old colonial master, Spain.

Okay, I really will end this rambling post with an anecdote about Imelda (shades of white picket fences around squatter areas!), serving to remind us that her "truth and beauty" campaign wasn't merely conducted on an individual level, but aimed as well at the urban landscape of "the City of Man:"

Workers, up day and night in an effort to finish the interior and grounds of the Philippine International Convention Center, were forced to cut corners in order to finish the job [in time for the IMF/World Bank conference in 1976]. One patch of brownish grass was even sprayed with green pain to freshen it up. But the entire conference was nearly ruined because of one stubborn bulldozer. It had become hopelessly stuck the night before the grand opening in the thick mud surrounding the PICC. ...workers frantically tried to remove it only to see it sink more deeply into the muck. When Imelda arrived on the scene, she was predictably outraged. But... she, with a little help from the toiling workers, remedied the problem in time. Full-grown coconut palms were rushed to the site and planted in concentric rows around the offending bulldozer. The visitors never knew that the instant coconut grove was not part of the original landscape plan.... [From Victoria Luna, "Another Extravaganza In The Making," Ang Katipunan, May 16-31, 1979, p. 5.]
Posted by the wily filipino at 12:05 AM | Comments (1)

October 22, 2005

Alamat / Banyan.

I'm watching Bindlestiff Studio's production of "Alamat" tomorrow, and thought I should do my part promoting it.

From the Bindlestiff press release:

In commemoration of the Filipino American History Month in October, Bindlestiff Studio, the epicenter of Filipino American arts, today announced an upcoming touring theater production of writer Rodolfo Carlos Vera's Alamat (Legends), a performance project about identity, history and folklore.

The play will run for eight shows starting on
October 6-8th at El Camino Theater in South San Francisco,
October 21-22 at Serramonte del Rey Theater in Daly City and ending on
December 9-10 at the Diego River Theater of City College of San Francisco.

Directed by Louie Pascasio and performed by resident Bindlestiff Players, the play features the braided story of three different generations of Filipino men dating back to the 1904 St. Louis World Exposition in Missouri when a large group of indigenous Filipinos came to America clothed in their sacred traditions, haunting chants and pulsating beats. Alamat is a story about reclaiming one's heritage through myths and folktales waiting to be retold and reawakened.

To make reservations, please call (415) 255-0440 or email

"Alamat" is presented in conjunction with community forums (the first of which I presented at, and failed to even promote on my blog):

Sacred Traditions: Aesthetics, Community and Cultural Significance.
October 28, Friday
6:30-8:30 pm
Manilatown Center (tentative venue)
848 Kearny Street @ Jackson
The forum will include an excerpt from “Alamat”, documentary on T’nalak of the T’boli and community dialogue with featured panelists, Fides Enriquez Founder of Pacific Ethnographic Research Society and others.

Globalizing Culture: Interrogating the Exoticised “Other”
November 17, Thursday
6:30-8:30 pm
1010 Mission @ 6th Street
Bayanihan Community Center
Program TBA

And there's more:

Asian American Theater Company (AATC) presents:

BANYAN by Jeannie Barroga
A World Premiere Theatrical Production
Directed by Francis Tanglao-Aguas
Featuring Perry Aliado, Shelene Atanacio, Roberto Divina, Michael Dorado, James Lontayao, Victoria Mejia, Ryan Morales, Jose Saenz, and Vicki Zabarte.

November 3-20, 2005

BANYAN is a modern-day, multicultural variation on THE WIZARD OF OZ that incorporates Pilipino fantasy, folklore, and humor. A woman, during her 'dream vacation' to the Philippines, embarks on an allegorical adventure sprinkled with aswang (witch) tales, hostages, romance, intrigue, and 'symbolic' terrorism. Her journey through the jungles of the Philippines mirrors her dilemma over her role in a corrupt corporation's nefarious secrets in a paper shredding room.

For BANYAN tickets and more information, visit or call 800.838.3006.

Posted by the wily filipino at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2005

Stories High.

I'd be terribly remiss if I didn't post a short blurb on Stories High, a series of short plays on its (unfortunately) last weekend at the fab Bindlestiff Studio. If the cast and crew could bottle the energy and enthusiasm in the tiny 'stiff space (the first night) and sell it, they'd be raking it in (with Kanye West stealing Max Romeo for Jay-Z on the soundtrack).

At the core of these six fine plays are the middle three. (The first, alas, is exactly what you'd get if you threw a bunch of unbearable stoner spoken-word macktivists in a room, Abigail's Party-style -- or better, No Exit.) Play number 3 -- the tense and well-acted "Borders," written by Conrad Panganiban -- nicely pulls the carpet from underneath the audience; the real trick here is not the dialogue, but the way the subdued emotional content of the acting suddenly makes a sharp, effective pivot into creepy territory. (It's also preceded by a romantic comedy of errors, which lulls the viewers into foolish complacency.) "The Rub," written by Ed Mabasa, while stretched out maybe a little too long, is pitch-perfect noir using the barest of essentials: gun molls, a McGuffin, a worn-out gumshoe, and best of all, dialogue that positively crackles with electricity.

Conceptually, the best of the lot was "Final Purification," written by Anton Delfino, which -- again, the sequencing is perfect, since it follows "The Rub" -- begins with a familiar sight: a bare table, a handcuffed prisoner (in this case, my former student Lyle Prijoles), a lamp swinging overhead. But I won't spoil the excellent Law and Order setup here; it's enough to say that it's devilish fun.

Stories High ends on a high farcical note with "Lucy's Kitchen and Alex's Garage," which can't exactly be described well, except that it involves The Honeymooners, eczema, two bobble-head figures (one is actually alive, but you'd have to watch it for yourself), Grease, a pair of Nikes, peppercorns in adobo, an unlikely suitor (in this case, my former student Paolo Silvestre, whose knack for singing and dancing I had no idea lurked within him), the sad lives of eBayers, and the Barrel Man. I can't evaluate the dialogue that well, I'm afraid; I couldn't hear all of it since the audience (and I) were breaking down in laughter.

Posted by the wily filipino at 10:49 PM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2005


Should have. Checked. My e-mail. Sooner. (And to think it was on the auction block for 6 hours! And it ended via "Buy It Now!")

For the low, low price of $9.99: check it out.

Posted by the wily filipino at 11:31 PM | Comments (6)

August 24, 2005

Give Fat Chance A Chance.

No doubt most of you Filipinos out there would have received the e-mail message (I've already received it four times) asking people to vote for the Coconet Project (I love the way it sounds like the Conet Project too), part of BBC World and Newsweek's World Challenge, "a competition aimed at finding individuals or groups from around the world who have shown enterprise and innovation at a grass roots level." Justino Arboleda's project, which uses coconut husks to prevent soil erosion, among other things, sounds excellent; the landslides which kill dozens, if not hundreds of people, every year, would at least be prevented. (Though I would argue that the Philippine government should really be prosecuting the loggers, no?)

The e-mail message says:

"The World Challenge" already offers tremendous exposure and publicity to our flourishing Philippine coconut geotextile industry and to our Philippine coconut fiber exporters. But it would be great liberation for our country, which has been getting very bad publicity nowadays, to win this prestigious competition.
Fair enough. But I broke ranks and voted instead for Fat Chance, a project that enables the systematic collection of waste vegetable oil and converting it into biodiesel.

I didn't vote for it because it was based in Malta -- I know close to nothing about the country -- but I'm not voting for the Filipino project just because I'm Filipino either. To me it seems more and more necessary to recognize what gas-guzzling SUV owners in the U.S. obviously ignore, despite the fact that prices are creeping up to $3 a gallon: that no amount of staying the course can make the oil crisis go away. People's lives have already been sacrificed for oil. This is an issue that directly impacts everyone; indeed, in the Philippines, the crisis is getting worse and worse, with Macapagal-Arroyo talking of rationing.

The blurb on the BBC World website actually seems oddly written -- for me, it's not necessarily the clogging of drains and ocean pollution that's most crucial, but the seeking of alternatives to fossil fuel. (You can read more on biodiesel in San Francisco here; that just happens to be my neighbor Ben Jordan in the photos.) And I like the fact that Shell is sponsoring the World Challenge (perhaps accounting for the tiptoeing around "reducing Malta's dependence on imported fuels"); their logo is even above BBC's and Newsweek's.

Supporting a biodiesel project like this with $20,000 (the internet-based voting system is biased in favor of middle-class voters anyway) would at the very least mean greater exposure for biodiesel in general -- something that, in the long run, has a more direct impact on the citizens of the world in any case.

Posted by the wily filipino at 11:53 AM | Comments (3)

August 19, 2005

Ben Santos Gets Cranky.

bienvenido santos

Most Bay Area Filipinos would know exactly what Bienvenido Santos is crankily writing about here; I'd have to stress, however, that the newspaper in question has revamped itself and has, in the last few years, produced some of the most arresting, in-depth pieces of journalism on the Filipino American community. (Except for some of the stray issues from the late '60s, and whatever else missing from the Berkeley archives, I think I've read almost every issue cover-to-cover, and still do.) The passages below, are from Santos' wonderfully-titled 1987 novel What The Hell For You Left Your Heart In San Francisco, which would perfectly with Ver's entry on great titles. (I still need to think of a snappy nickname for you, Ver).

What sort of material would they want the magazine to contain? Photos of beauty queens from the islands now in residence in this country, well groomed and heavily rouged and definitely past their prime if they had had any prime at all? Good looking tots of obvious Philippine descent in their Sunday best having a birthday party? A seemingly endless listing of names in bold type throwing parties of all sorts, anniversaries and bienvenidas not to mention despedidas? So and so has just arrived from the Philippines or leaving for the islands on a visit. This dull-faced youngster has just passed an exam where a thousand others have made it?
And more:
A cursory glance at a typical issue of two of the most widely circulated Philippine publications in this country showed practically everything my magazine should not contain.

Start with pictures: photos across an eight-column page of convention delegates..., Philippine-American community organization officers, their right hands raised in the act of being sworn into office, usually by a diminutive consul or ambassador of the Philippine embassy or consulate or someone pinch-hitting for them; men and women receiving plaques, trophies, ribbons, cups... usually surrounded by smiling relatives and well wishers.... Weddings where even the bridegroom smiles, lifting the bride's veil for a not so chaste kiss, or the bride shovelling a piece of cake into the groom's wide open mouth. A christening party where everybody's name is printed, occupation, regional ancestry, from left to right.

Yes, they're somewhat mean potshots, but it's a sentiment that was shared by many of my Daly City interviewees as well. It's also, unfortunately, accurate content analysis. So hey, I'll quote myself here: "Despite its ambitions to a kind of transnationalism, the [name of newspaper omitted for now] also functions not unlike a small community newspaper, albeit one distributed nationwide. Nowhere else has the social life of the middle-class first-generation Filipino immigrant been so prominently on display."

Okay, where was I? I bring all this up because Santos was a keen and generous observer of Filipino and Filipino American life, and something shifts in tone, it seems, after martial law. (I'm skimming through his 1992 memoir, Memory's Fictions -- which has now moved to the top of my must-read pile -- and his San Francisco novel (which he started writing in 1973!) was the product of what he called "humiliating experiences.")

But I bring it up also because the Poeta and I just saw "The Santos Trilogy," which is still playing for another two nights at Bindlestiff (check 'em out!). We've fallen into a fun rut, the Poeta and I: drinks (beer for me, single malt scotch for her), a quick bite to eat, a movie / play, drinks again, then a long-distance phone call somewhere in there. Oh, and she has a secret, and it's not exactly a laughin matter. =)

Posted by the wily filipino at 11:07 AM | Comments (2)

July 27, 2005

GMA Komiks.


In what I hope will be an ongoing series, my brother Bulletproof Vest goes nuts with Photoshop (or whatever it is he used) and Google Images -- read the rest of this comic epic. (We were chatting last night and we figured he could do an entire series on the two above panels alone, a la Get Your War On.)

Posted by the wily filipino at 10:21 AM | Comments (1)

July 06, 2005

At Random, #1.

The Sassy Lawyer thinks about leaving. (Don't miss the ongoing discussion either.)

Posted by the wily filipino at 11:11 AM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2005

Tracing TRACE.

The biggest new building in Los Banos -- probably the tallest building, actually -- is TRACE College. Tucked away behind a gas station and a hardware store, on an unpaved street next to a video rental place with barely any room for two-way traffic, TRACE (short for Technological Research for Advanced Computer Education) College was touted, before its opening aabout five years ago, as bringing more money to Los Banos. And money is something of which TRACE seems to have a lot: there are professionally-printed, 6-foot tall advertising banners (of at least 4 different variations) placed almost literally on every other electric and lamp post within the town boundary -- even in the middle of the rainforest up on Mt. Makiling.

Despite the facade, the campus is the real deal: a large, modern, gleaming building, clearly visible from the main highway, is the centerpiece. Forgive me for all the vagueness: I haven't actually been inside, if only for the simple fact that you need to swipe an ID card to get through the security system, complete with an automated gate. Needless to say, it's an expensive setup, especially for a provincial town in the Philippines. I'm also told that the campus is quite huge, the college having quietly bought the surrounding lots in a residential subdivision to its north.

TRACE also clearly has the wherewithal for even bigger infrastructure projects. As recently as last October, the college was the frontrunner to host the swimming events (32 all together) portion of the 2005 Southeast East Asia Games (scroll down to the article by Christine Moncada, entitled "Venue kinks to be ironed out"), though the administrators were "hedging because of lack of funds." Apparently the capital has been found: some of the banners are now announcing that the SEA Games will indeed be held here in Los Banos at TRACE in November. This means, at the very least, the construction of an Olympic-sized swimming pool -- surely the first in Los Banos, if not even the region itself. And where will the competitors, the reporters, the staff and so on -- from 11 competing countries -- be housed? Why, in the hotel (yes, an actual hotel) on the college premises -- if the rumors that I hear are true.

TRACE has moved up quickly from its beginnings as a computer learning center to its new collegiate status. Its latest offering is a nursing school; according to a huge billboard in front of its campus, training begins soon, and they have apparently met all the requirements -- as mandated by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) Memorandum No. 30 -- for accreditation as a nursing school. The memorandum, available on the CHED website, details the standards for nursing schools -- a library, classroom size, necessary equipment, and a contractual affiliation with a 100-bed hospital, in this case, St. Luke's and Chinese General (all quite far away, in Manila).

(Let me digress briefly: the recent bad publicity regarding CHED has had to do with 23 nursing schools ordered closed last November, including, most prominently, the AMA School of Nursing in Makati; AMA, as many of you Filipino readers know, is, like TRACE, most famous for its computer schools. Following an appeal by its owner to the Arroyo government, a stay was granted, overriding CHED's decision; this led to the resignation of its former chair, Fr. Rolando dela Rosa, who had previously made headlines for implementing tighter screening processes to reduce the number of diploma mills. Some of the nursing schools he had ordered closed were apparently owned by members of Congress, who had supposedly pressured him into rescinding his orders. Earlier this month, Malacanang finally ordered CHED to issue a full nursing school permit to AMA.)

In any case, TRACE College seems quite successful at what it does: five degree offerings in computer-related sciences, and a B.S. degree in business administration, all on top of what would be an even more lucrative business in the form of a nursing school. By 2001 TRACE was able to have the government recognize preschool, elementary and high school divisions as well. (The list of accredited higher-education schools in Region IV is available here as a pdf file.)

But the fishy thing, really, is its owner, Efraim Genuino, and these aren't mere rumors. As the head of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) (and, oddly enough, Filipino Pest Control and General Services Inc.), Genuino has long been accused of various improprieties. The printing of Arroyo's election materials, for instance, were alleged to be illegally bankrolled by PAGCOR, siphoned from the corporation's intelligence fund. As the article above details, most of PAGCOR's public relations campaigns at the time similarly all bore Arroyo's name, if not image, almost as if they were election paraphernalia in and of themselves. The main emphasis of the article, written in 2004, is a meeting between Genuino and Comelec commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, of "Hello, Garci" fame. (Indeed, I'm tempted to make a bet that the TRACE banners were also printed up by Grand C Graphics Inc. -- almost the same size, coincidentally, as those "Pailaw ni PGMA" banners erected in the last few years.)

In 2003, Genuino, donor to the infamous Jose Pidal accounts (according to Udong Mahusay's testimony) and campaign strategist for Arroyo since 1992, was already under fire for "alleged financial mismanagement," including discrepancies in his declared assets. (At this point Genuino had only been head of PAGCOR for two years.) As an unidentified source told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in 2003:

Another manager identified four causes behind Pagcor's financial difficulty: "onerous" deals; a "surge" in new employees in the past two years; "profligate spending"; and "massive, mindless" donations.
At this point PAGCOR was so far down in the hole in terms of spending, Genuino had to borrow P60 million from two banks to cover the deficit.

Finally, in March of this year, Genuino and other members of the PAGCOR board of directors were at the receiving end of a complaint filed by antigraft groups (including BAYAN and Plunderwatch) for an alleged P946 million "sweetheart deal" between PAGCOR and William Gatchalian regarding the rental of two casino-hotels. Genuino has yet to answer for this.

I won't try to connect the dots, but there's something suspicious about a public official being accused of graft and his computer/business/nursing school that seems to be very, very well-funded... At the very least, the assets of a public official who is already the subject of filed complaints and investigations should be examined more closely.

To end, here is TRACE's history as published on its website:

Now, TRACE stands as a Computer and Business College par excellence, a leader in its own race. It has proven itself on top of the market when at its early state, it has reaped honors it rightly deserved. On top of this honor was the 1991 National Programming Competition where TRACE stood among 31 colleges and universities.

As this unfolds, TRACE makes its history all glaring. It remains committed to its goal to produce competent computer professionals and to serve the nation. Indeed, this history would still go a long way.

I think there should be a nice big "[sic]" after "As this unfolds, TRACE makes its history all glaring" -- surely they meant "bright" or "shining" or "glorious?" -- or maybe not. Looking at its founder and owner's history, there are indeed some "glaring" events in TRACE's establishment and growth that, in the face of the massive corruption of the Arroyo government, should seriously be traced.

Posted by the wily filipino at 02:00 AM | Comments (4)

June 22, 2005

The Last Week.

Phone's been ringing off the hook this morning probably because it's my dad's birthday. My and Izzy's stay here in Los Banos is winding down -- we hop on a plane for SF on Saturday night already -- and it's sad. Izzy is already missing her cousin Issa (my sister Joy's daughter).

The family went to Enchanted Kingdom in Santa Rosa. This was my first time to this Disneyland-styled amusement park, with different themed areas (an "Amazon Jungle," an incongruous "Main Street" tucked away in the back), an incredibly loud performing stage (the live band was actually quite good), a rinky-dink roller coaster (with two loops!), a brief fireworks display at 9 pm, a very cool carousel with all the trimmings, a giant Ferris wheel, and lots of other rides.

(Enchanted Kingdom received a bit of notoriety when it first opened about 15 years ago when -- let me see if I remember this correctly -- a band wanted to perform a Tagalog song upon request of the audience, and was told by management that (I paraphrase) "This is the Enchanted Kingdom, we're not in the Philippines, so we don't speak Tagalog here" or words to that effect. Not true anymore.)

In any case, we had loads of fun: Izzy could only really ride the carousel and the Teacups-like ride, but it was still great wandering around at night and seeing all the bright lights.

And there is nothing like riding one of these on a summer night. Is there one in the Bay Area?

My head is also bursting with information from my last couple of interviews -- one lasted for almost four hours and now I'm itching to write a paper as soon as I get back to SF.

Plus there were all the high school classmates I ran into. I'm taking the liberty to post a letter I sent to our uprhs86 e-mail list:

Mga ka-batch,

Kanina ang mini-reunion #2 ko -- nag-lunch kami nina Waldo, Noel G, Eric (da boyz -- este, Sherica pala 'yung isa), Ruby, Heidi, Jay at Sandy (da girlz). Unang gimik namin, minus two people, sa Congga Island two weeks ago, na alumni steering committee meeting daw -- "daw" dahil ang daming boteng nainom noong gabi na iyon (and I have the pictures to prove it).

Ngayong lunch naman, sa Kamayan sa Palaisdaan. Sarap ang kain, puro tawanan, at siyempre matamis ang lunch break na dalawa't-kalahating oras, lalo na kapag nakakaapat na San Mig Lite.

Ang menu: pinakbet, sinugno, kare-kareng baboy, sisig, inihaw na liempo...

Bukod sa kuwentuhan tungkol sa interbyu ni Henedina kinabukasan sa US Embassy (at siya'y mag-pPhD sa Kansas State sa Agosto), at sa mga kalokohan ni GMA, at tsismis tungkol sa isang kaklase (is he or isn't he?), mukhang iisa ang takbo nang utak nang mga ka-batch...

Keywords: matigas, malambot, maalat, matamis, sabik, sexual peak, scandal VCDs, pagod, "matagal na akong hindi kumakain nang ulo... nang tilapia," adventures with webcams, "the blue pill," mga motel sa Pasig, premature, "over," "ten percent," "twenty-five percent," laman nang maliit na bag, short time, "unang bola, bingo kaagad"...


p.s. Pinatatanong ni Heidi sa mga lalaking ka-batch: kayo ba'y HH*?

*HH = "halik-hugot." Sobrang dumi nang kahulugan, nahihiya ako tuloy na ikuwento kung anong ibig sabihin...

Posted by the wily filipino at 07:57 PM | Comments (1)

June 16, 2005

A Tangle of Books.

Damn. It's hot & humid & sweaty & sticky & I'm sitting here in Los Banos all alone & I'm reading Angelo Suarez's Else It Was Purely Girls & I swear to god every other poem in his collection is about cunnilingus. Curse you Angelo Suarez!

And curse you too for

& your sweaty palms, slightly bent nose, / shoulders & armpits worthy of psalms -- / your sex songful / with salt & sin.
(Sorry, I couldn't get the PRE tags to work, so I can't reproduce the funky layout of "Back-to-Back Showbiz Love Cycle.")

Or these especially lovely lines, from "To a Girl Sitting on the Table:" distant
the sky! how pluvial the night to reach

for hiding stars! tonight your cheek from there
is the moon for my broken rocket of hand.

Speaking of poetry, though, I am now the happy owner of an actual copy of Paolo Manalo's Jolography -- finally went to the source (UP Press -- I was interviewing someone in Teacher's Village, so malapit lang), to which I should have gone in the first place (got author's discount too!) and found a whole stack. Bought an (older) anthology of essays by Roland Tolentino, who is just about the most prolific UP professor this side of Neil Garcia. Also caught up on the Cornell-Kyoto mafia: Carol Hau's hard-to-find On the Subject of the Nation, and Jojo Abinales' fourth? fifth? book in five years?

Anyway, back to work: interviews to transcribe and all.

Posted by the wily filipino at 11:05 PM | Comments (6)

June 14, 2005

June 15 Na.

Dumaan at lumipas din ang ika-12 nang Hunyo -- bakasyon na naman para sa mamamayang Pilipino. Naubos na ang komemorasyon na ibinuhos noong Sentenyal. Sabagay, nakalimutan ko rin.

Paano naman kasi, ang nakakabahala siguro sa ibang Pinoy ay kung dahil bakasyon ito, mas maraming oras para ipuwesto nang mga militar ang mga tangke para sa isa na namang coup attempt. Wala namang nangyari, sa awa nang Diyos, pero kung ito ang Diyos din ni Gloria, aba, mukhang dapat magdasal na siya nang husto.

Mukhang malagim itong mga tapes -- sa transcript pa lang, malabong peke -- at nakakaamoy na ako nang impeachment proceedings, kung hindi paggunaw mismo nang rehimeng Arroyo. Hanggang ngayon pa kamo tameme pa si GMA tungkol sa mga tapes. Huli kasi eh. Kapag napatunayang siya nga ang nagtatanong kay Garcillano kung madedeliver ang mga boto sa Lanao, iisa lang ang mensahe na malinaw: na dinaya ang huling eleksyon, at si FPJ ang nararapat na presidente. Alsa masa nang hindi oras (o sa totoo lang, matagal na dapat nangyari).

Lalo na't nakaraan na ang June 12, dapat pagisipan nang husto ni GMA kung ano ang nararapat para sa bansa -- hindi para lang sa kanya. Hindi tunay na mahalaga ang problema na kung sino ang papalit sa kanya; ang tanong talaga ay siya ba ay nararapat pang maging lider nang bansa. Sa lahat nang mga iskandalo na lumabas sa huling dalawang taon lamang -- ang pagpalakpak nang tainga niya sa pagsapi sa coalition of the willing, ang pagpatay nang mga magsasaka sa Hacienda Luisita, ang paglubog nang ekonomiya, ang pagpaslang nang mga journalist, ang pamilya niyang mga sugalero, at ang mga anomalya sa eleksyon, atbp. -- malinaw na wala na siyang credibility sa mata nang publiko.

Kamakalawa lamang ay nagpunta ako sa Robinson's nang mga alas-diyes habang nagbubukas ito. Tinutugtog ang "Bayang Magiliw" -- este, ang "Lupang Hinirang" -- habang ako pumasok. Akyat ako sa escalator papuntang second floor -- at biglang napahiya ako noong nakita kong nakastand-at-attention ang mga mamimili. Ilang segundo kami roong nakatayo, hinihintay lang na matapos ang kanta -- at narinig namin ang huling linya, at kami'y nagkawatak-watak, upang hanapin ang aming imamalengke.

Posted by the wily filipino at 03:26 PM | Comments (0)

June 09, 2005

Los Banos, at Random.

It's funny how everytime I go to the Philippines I get smacked in the head with American pop culture, and sometimes just about the worst of it. First stop from the airport, as always: one of the three or four Starbucks cafes (actually, more like five or six) between the airport and my little hometown in the boonies. That Gwen Stefani song is playing everywhere, and there are big posters of Maroon Fucking Five at the single Odyssey in Los Banos.

The Asian edition of Time this week seems to be prominently displayed in bookstores all over Manila, since it has a Filipina -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whose credibility took an even bigger blow in recent days with louder calls for her resignation -- on the cover. The headline, in large capital letters, reads:

In case you are reminded of her Texan crony who was similarly fingered by God, the actual context of the quotation is a little more benign, and so the cover is somewhat misleading:
"I am the agent of change," she told Time in an interview last week. "I wish to be remembered as the one who made the tough decisions to turn the economy around, to get its act together ... Maybe that's why the Lord put me here at this time."
Supposedly the people put her there, but even that's in question.

Otherwise I'm in a jetlag daze, as usual: Izzy and I woke up at 3 this morning, and I'm unsuccessfully scheduling my interviews (though I have one on Sunday). It also marks The Hunt For Paolo Manalo's Jolography, Part Two, and I already came up empty-handed at a National Book Store in Sta. Mesa. (Though I did find a reprint of Nick Joaquin's unfootnoted coffee table book A Question of Heroes, and Angelo Suarez's Else It Was Purely Girls, which I'm looking forward to reading.) I'm just too lazy to go to Diliman (though UP Press did put my book out, so maybe I get some sort of discount?).

Posted by the wily filipino at 11:01 PM | Comments (5)

April 04, 2005

The Smiley Filipino.

There's a great, thought-provoking post from about a month back on Torn and Frayed that asks, Does the world look down on the Filipino? I'm not entirely sure, though, that the question is the right one to ask -- or rather, that the answers provided aren't exactly the right ones. (Granted, I can't answer his (?) question either.)

For instance:

Filipinos, on the other hand, are generally seen as hard-working, uncomplaining people, who stay out of trouble, lead hard lives, but manage to stay pleasant and cheerful through it all.
The fact that so many countries are keen to employ Filipinos would seem to support the theory that Filipinos have a good international image compared with that of other immigrant populations.
Torn and Frayed already partly answers this in the entry. Such traits as industriousness, hospitality, cheerfulness, et cetera -- all those virtues long enumerated as being inherently Filipino by both Filipinos and their colonizers -- can also be read as easily exploitable, won't complain to or about their employers, will work for long hours for below minimum wage, come from a country where people live in garbage dumps (so being worked to the bone in, say, Singapore, won't look so bad in comparison) -- and still have big smiles on their faces! "Staying out of trouble," for instance, can be anything in a whole range of behaviors (from smoking weed to joining an anti-government protest). They're only easily trainable to the extent that the government has already thoroughly prepared them to be ready for foreign discipline, whatever that may entail.

Filipinos are routinely sent to countries where they are extremely vulnerable to exploitation, and this is all tacitly approved, and indeed enabled, by the Philippine government. In short, people may say, on an individual level, that they like hiring Filipinos because of such-and-such characteristics -- but it obscures the way states collude with one another to make Filipino labor more marketable as commodities in a globalized economy.

(I could go on about "inventing slights," but I'll stop there -- suffice it to say that the whole Art Bell hoax is quite interesting in and of itself.)

p.s. Metro's comment to the Torn and Frayed entry (scroll close to the bottom) -- "Yes the flips try to connect to asian culture, yes its ridiculous considering they are more mexican than anything" -- aren't as inane as they sound, but only if you're talking about Filipinos in the U.S., and only in the last century.

There are, after all, some fruitful parallels that can be made between them: their colonial experiences, the language, Catholicism, shared histories of sending migrant workers (and their exploitation), fairly similar issues of citizenship and transnational migration, recipes for adobo, and so on. (One can take Puerto Rico for an even closer colonial comparison -- colonized both by Spain and the United States, and still controlled by the latter in different degrees. What was it that folks say about Latinos and Filipinos again? Different mommies, but the same daddy?)

But on the whole, such assertions only really deal with about a hundred years of history or so, and only in a particular part of the world. Arguments about Filipinos being more similar to Latinos than to other Asians are fatuous at best, and are perhaps made by people who know little about Southeast Asia and its history.

Posted by the wily filipino at 03:59 PM | Comments (9)

March 20, 2005

Lav Diaz's Evolution of a Filipino Family.

"Hindi tayo pamilya nang mga baliw (We are not a family of lunatics)," characters keep repeating in Lav Diaz's raw, transcendent, monumental, extraordinary masterpiece, Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino (Evolution of a Filipino Family), but if they aren't, it's only because the world around them has already gone mad. It's a genuine epic, not in the grand Hollywood sense, but in terms of sheer scale; efforts to compare it with other media -- an Andreas Gursky photograph, a Morton Feldman composition -- don't quite work. It isn't sweeping in the sense of a John Sayles film either, where every sector of society (or, in his last few films, every stereotype) is represented; Diaz's film is a closeup shot (though there are no closeups) of a small handful of Filipinos buffeted both directly and indirectly by fifteen years of political turmoil.

The fact that the film is 630 minutes long -- no, that isn't a typo, it really is ten and a half hours long -- may explain why my attempts to see it with friends failed, as they started dropping like flies (or indeed, may have had better fish to fry). But everyone I talked to would joke about bringing baon, and, a little more nervously, about cups to pee in. In short, it was cinema not just as event, but as experience, and, bladder jokes aside, it was more fulfilling and profoundly moving than any cinematic experience I've had in a long time.

The movie takes place in unspecified locations mostly in the rural Philippines -- though the end credits later reveal the locales to be Benguet, Tarlac and Marikina -- and it is filmed in a way that it could be most anywhere on Luzon. The film follows the lives of two families (though there's a reason for having only one family in the title), none of whom are "nuclear" in the traditional kinship sense: nephews, grandchildren, and orphans assembled or thrown together either by violence, necessity or love. The political events in Manila -- signaled primarily by incorporated footage of the EDSA Uprising, or Aquino's assassination, or Marcos' declaration of Martial Law -- while seemingly remote, affect the families in quite direct ways, even if they are not fully aware of it.

It is a quite still movie -- which makes the moments of violence all the more shocking (some real, in the case of footage from the massacre of farmers at Mendiola) -- with long takes shot with fairly rigorous formality: the natural landscape as proscenium, with the actors entering from stage right or left (or the background), then the cut, a beat after the last character exits. (The fact that it's filmed in black and white serves to blunt the abundance of foliage in the film, at least in the Benguet scenes; people are almost literally swallowed up by the landscape.) The camera very rarely takes any of the characters' points of view -- and when it does it's jarring -- and usually sits a respectful distance from the actors.

People walk a lot in this film, and my initial attempt to interpret this as symbolizing a kind of weary futility was deflated by Diaz in the Q&A session as his way of portraying the literal: that the rural poor do indeed walk for great distances. (They also wait, seemingly endlessly, for the sun to come down lower on the horizon, so they can keep working or walking.) Diaz takes an almost ethnographic interest in everyday life: we see characters make coffee, pack food, plant rice seedlings, eat dinner, and so on, almost in real time.

Such naturalism is somewhat offset by his use of digital video. The flashbacks to the '70s are filmed, it seems, on (deliberately?) degraded video, as if it were a fourth-generation bootleg, rendering daytime a somewhat nauseous blur and nighttime a pixelled abstraction. Many of the scenes set in Quezon City are shot in blinding white light; in a later scene when a character collapses to the ground, he is seen to seemingly disappear in the overexposed, white void. (Imagine my chagrin when Diaz later explained the overexposure as the fault of the projector. "We haven't graded the film," he said. "It was fine in Rotterdam when we showed it there, but obviously, not here.")

The night scenes in particular have a Dogme '95 feel to them, with hardly any sources of ambient light except a guttering torch or a miner's headlamp. Practically half the movie is set in close to total darkness, so much so that it becomes effectively and palpably oppressive to the viewer; Diaz later explained that this was literal, as many of the poor, in the absence of electrification, lived their lives in such a manner. But the effect of this is, like the film's duration, a new viewing experience at least for me: in some scenes we are left watching bobbing flashlights or a single candle flame, and it has the effect of reducing cinema to its purest essentials: light and sound.

This may make the movie sound forbidding, but really, it's not; the narrative is riveting at many parts, and there are some scenes of such quiet poignance (a prisoner singing Rey Valera's "Kung Kailangan Mo Ako (If You Need Me)" off-key to a roomful of sleeping, half-naked men in jail, the grandmother kissing old photographs, or her telling her eldest granddaughter about her plans to send her to college -- the acting, by the way, is consistently superb) that it offsets the seemingly audience-unfriendly sections.

We are, after all, invited to compare it to a soap opera, and there's a certain familiar melodramatic shape to the tragedies that occur to the family. Some of the most brilliant sequences in the film are these running scenes between families huddled around a radio, a constant motif, intercut with voice actors performing a radio drama in a sound booth, as if to underscore perhaps, the artifice of both radio and cinema, or the materiality of labor that the film depicts in such obsessive detail. The movie places itself (perhaps boldly) squarely in a literary and filmic (okay: by now, Filipino-mythic) canon: there's the Sisa character, from Noli Me Tangere, clearly embodied in the insane Tita Hilda, and Kadyo's search in Quezon City for his nephew deliberately echoes Maynila Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag. (A later seemingly bizarre subplot involving the director Lino Brocka is a slight misstep, if only because it's such a politically self-aware blip in the narrative, but it also self-consciously sets up the film in its entirety as a bid for a different Filipino cinema.)

If there are any shortcomings, it's the overall humorlessness, except for a few instances (like when a man on a train plays "Bikining Itim" on a harmonica). Indeed, the funniest scene in the movie quickly sours: the radio performers are rehearsing an attempted rape and the subsequent beating of the victim, but it is literally an auditory distancing from a rape that occurred offscreen a couple of hours earlier; the effect is amplified by having the grandmother relate the story to her daughter later.

But perhaps the largest question would still revolve around duration; the day before, I was talking to someone who talked about Diaz's "refusal to edit" (though admittedly he hadn't seen the film). Was it really necessary to take ten and a half hours to tell what Diaz wanted to tell? And indeed, there were times when my attention span was almost stretched to the breaking point. Still, many of the establishing scenes, for instance, contained bits of essential information: the tire tracks in the foreground as the farmers and their carabaos wended their way across a field, the faint sound of a chainsaw in an otherwise idyllic landscape -- indeed, this latter scene prefigured a long slow-motion sequence of logs falling into a river about ten hours later.

And sometimes the sequences aren't long enough. There is, for instance, a devastating scene in the seventh hour that consisted of (it seemed) a twelve-minute (could it have been fifteen?) uninterrupted tracking shot of one of the characters walking. (I was reminded, later on, of the famous scene in Tarkovsky's Nostalghia, when the Andrei character walks with a lighted candle across the drained pool.) Even after the audience had cumulatively seen perhaps an hour's worth of walking, the effect was, at least for me, the exact opposite; I was willing the character (indeed, maybe even saying a silent prayer) to keep going.

In Lav Diaz's film, time and duration, for the character and for the audience, ceases to matter after a while. Towards the end, one sister asks the other about what would happen if their grandmother died, and if their missing relatives never returned. The other answers simply, "Tayo, mabubuhay pa rin (We'll continue living)." So will the Filipinos, Diaz seems to be telling us, and, in a life-affirming, cinematic gesture to the audience who has just vicariously lived these characters' lives, so will you. So will his characters, for those lucky enough to have seen the film. Some people may call the film to be a product of self-indulgence; I can only call it an act of pure, brilliant generosity.

Posted by the wily filipino at 11:44 PM | Comments (5)

February 22, 2005

Evolution and Time.

So I've got tickets to see Lav Diaz's Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino (Evolution of a Filipino Family), showing at the NAATA filmfest here in the Bay Area next month. While I've long wanted to see anything by Diaz -- in particular, Batang Westside, which as far as I know never showed anywhere near here -- Ebolusyon should give one pause, since it's 10 and a half hours long.

That's right: 630 minutes, and it isn't a typo; the zero's really there. While the film itself sounds fantastic -- it traces the life of a Filipino family from 1971 to 1987, both before and after the martial-law years -- I must confess a curiosity about what a ten-and-a-half hour long film might be like. (I've never seen Shoah or Berlin Alexanderplatz; the longest film I've ever sat through was Frederick Wiseman's Near Death, which will test anyone even in the shorter version shown on PBS.)

Will it be like a wayang performance, where people chat and sleep and walk in and out? Or will there be a hardy few left in the theater when the movie ends, everyone congratulating each other for making it through? Will it play like a soap opera, or will it be like Andy Warhol's Empire? I'm tempted to think of it almost like a Morton Feldman piece, but there has got to be more of a narrative... maybe a view of Philippine history as written by Fernand Braudel...

There's a great interview here made by Brandon Wee for Senses of Cinema, where he is asked about why he wants to "[mount] such provocative durations:"

In Ebolusyon, I am capturing real time. I am trying to experience what these people are experiencing. They walk. I must experience their walk. I must experience their boredom and sorrows. I would go to any extent in my art to fathom the paradox that is the Filipino. I would go to any extent in my art to fathom the mystery of humankind's existence. I want to understand death. I want to understand solitude. I want to understand struggle. I want to understand the philosophy of a growing flower in the middle of a swamp.
And read the last paragraph of the interview: art can wait indeed.
Posted by the wily filipino at 05:03 PM | Comments (3)

February 12, 2005

Joel David Makes A List.

Poking around on Sight and Sound's most recent critics/directors poll (from 2002), I somehow missed the lone Filipino critic Joel David's top ten:

Salò (Pasolini)
Manila by Night; City after Dark (Bernal)
Khalnayak (Ghai)
The Opening of Misty Beethoven (Metzger)
Hour of the Furnaces (Solanas)
La Règle du jeu (Renoir)
God Told Me To (Cohen)
La Région centrale (Snow)
Olympiad Berlin 1936 (Riefenstahl)
The Devil in Miss Jones (Damiano)

It's something of a shitstirrer of a list -- indeed, even folks like, say, Bruce LaBruce, John Waters and Roger Corman had fairly conservative choices. None of the usual suspects are here except for Renoir and Reifenstahl. Otherwise, David's list has:

- two films almost impossible for plebes like me to see (Snow and Solanas),

- one Bollywood film (and the description sounds somewhat ludicrous, but what do I know),

- one movie from the director of some favorites from my youth, The Stuff and Q (haven't seen it, but I have it on this cheapo horror anthology packaged with Pieces and Satan's School for Girls),

- two porn films (one, incidentally, enthusiastically reviewed by Roger Ebert upon its release),

- one Filipino film (not Brocka's Maynila Sa Kuko ng Liwanag or De Leon's Sister Stella L. or (my semi-obnoxious favorite) Tahimik's Bakit Dilaw Ang Gitna Nang Bahaghari?),

- and one designed, as it were, to be seen only once (also selected by, surprise, Catherine Breillat and Michael Haneke). (My pervy friend Jane was looking for a copy of Salò on DVD because, as she put it, "the sex was really hot.")

But I do agree, kind of, with David's concluding comments:

So are American porn films better than Citizen Kane? Almost all of them aren't, but a precious handful are... I already found Kane too whiney-white-guy precious the first time I saw it, 20-odd years ago.
As fantastic as Citizen Kane is, I'd probably take Touch of Evil over it any day -- no "whiney-white-guy" preciousness there.
Posted by the wily filipino at 06:58 PM | Comments (5)

January 16, 2005

"The Tagalogs at the World's Fair."

To accompany the exhibition of Filipinos at the St. Louis World's Fair, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a series of full-page articles, or rather, lists of non-sequitur factoids about the people on display.

The excerpts below are from an article on the Tagalogs -- "They are many-sided orientals, these alert Tagalogs." -- dated July 17, 1904.

While many of the statements have a "scientific" directness to them -- "They have a literature of their own," "Their skin is a coppery brown," "They are devout Roman Catholics, but hate the monastic orders," "They are natural musicians." -- others take on a somewhat surreal quality:

- "They plunge into the sea amidst a school of sharks and fight the latter with long knives."

- "They are fond of gaudy dress and wear uniforms discarded by soldiers."

- "They bathe several times a day and change their clothing at every bath."

- "There are more pianos in the island of Luzon, in proportion to the population, than anywhere else in the world."

- "There is hardly a Tagalog family that does not boast a poet."

- "They do not kiss. They smell one another instead, placing the nose and lips on the cheek and drawing a long breath."

- "Up to the year 1844 the Tagalogs had no distinctive family names, being known instead by a certain harsh ejaculation."

Posted by the wily filipino at 04:18 PM | Comments (5)

January 05, 2005

OPAs in Japan.

The Sassy Lawyer has an entry on the possibility of "performing arts schools" in response to the Japanese government's stricter immigration policies.

For the Arroyo government to plead for a moratorium at this point is rather hypocritical, considering the fact that it -- and the different administrations prior -- has basically facilitated human trafficking in the first place.

We all know as well that OPAs in Japan are not primarily hired for performance, so the entire ARB/ACC process is in many ways a constructed governmental hurdle (and OPA as more or less a fictive category*) that also makes it easy for money to be made illegally. Nothing like bureaucracies to give what is essentially a reprehensible practice (on the part of the government) the veneer of respectability and morality.

The article the Sassy Lawyer linked to does not mention anything about Japan (or the Philippines, for that matter) doing anything punitive about human traffickers; the people who will be bearing the brunt of the new hiring regulations will be the Filipinas themselves, as they are now viewed by the state as being illegal aliens. Most of the statements coming from DOLE at this point have been almost consistently downplaying the human trafficking aspect, making it seem that it is really most anxious about the loss of remittances, and not the welfare of the OPAs.

*This, of course, does not mean that the OPAs in Japan do not sing and dance, but in the few interviews I've conducted with returning OPAs make it clear that this occupies a relatively small percentage of their work duties.

Posted by the wily filipino at 04:13 PM | Comments (0)

January 04, 2005

Kahulugan nang Kakonyohan.

E di napagbintangan ako nang kaibigan ko na konyo. ("You are more conio than you think, Sunny. I will not even editorialize or moralize on the concept.") Ako naman, medyo siyak -- ako? Eh malinaw na malinaw sa akin kung sino ang mga konyo noong ako'y nasa kolehiyo sa UPLB -- una, sila mga taga-Maynila -- at kung sino ang hindi (ako). (Totoo nga na ako'y pa-blog-blog, at nag-aral sa isteyts, pero merong kasing natatanging kahulugan ang pagiging konyotik, at hindi naaayon sa akin.)

Tinanong ko ngayon sa dalawang expert -- isang Atenista at isang taga-Maynila -- kung ako nga ba'y isang konyo, at mag-pa-assure na hindi. Ang sagot: "Ay naku, Sunny, malayong-malayo ka sa konyo. Sabihin mo sa kaibigan mo, mali siya." (Buntong-hininga.)

Kaya heto, galing sa mga informants ko, ang mga necessary conditions para mabansagang konyo:

- Pera. (Puno't-dulo ito, pero meron pang isang mas importante, which is...)
- Linggwahe. (Hindi lang wers, pero kolehiyala English talaga.)
- Damit. ("Gap," sabi noong isa, pero mabilis siyang kinorek nang asawa niya. "Prada, Calvin Klein jeans, Girbaud...")
- Saan nag-aral, college. (Dalawa lang na college, sa totoo lang: Arreneyo tsaka La Salle. "May konyo rin sa UP, pero...")
- Saan nag-aral, high school. (Nagsilistahan sila nang mga iskwelahan na ngayon ko lang narinig yung iba: Assumption, Zobel something something, ICA, Wood something something, ano pa?)
- Tirahan. (Forbes, Dasma, Greenmeadows, ano pa? "Iba nga lang ang Konyong Alabang sa Konyong Pasay -- mga Konyong Pasay, may rice rockets iyan.")

Ako: "Puede ka bang konyo na taga-probinsiya?"
Informant: "Malimit, pero kailangan sa Maynila ka nag-college or at least high school."
Ako: "Meron bang mga artistang konyo?"
Informant (mabilis): "Wala. Puro jologs iyon." [Nagisip nang konti.] "A, meron -- si Mikee Cojuangco. Si Kris Aquino."
Informant #2: "Si Martin Nievera, puede rin."

Kaya paki-linaw naman, mga mambabasa: sino ba nga ang konyo?

Posted by the wily filipino at 12:47 AM | Comments (11)

January 03, 2005

In the Philippines, #2.

As many of you folks probably know, Asia is video/music/software piracy central, and the Philippines is no exception -- camcorder-shot VCDs of The Aviator, The Incredibles and Alexander for about 50 cents each sold quite openly on the streets (and sometimes in malls themselves).

(Of course, the legit releases are good as well -- you can get fairly cheap Asian movies, that sell for three times the amount in the US.)

I usually check the places out to see what stunners appear in Los Banos. Over the summer they used to have full seasons of The Sopranos and Sex and the City on the streets; they're gone now. But alongside Spiderman 2 and The Matrix (perennial best selling bootlegs here) were some "weird" DVDs -- weird for a small provincial town in the Philippines, that is: Control Room, Supersize Me, The Hunting of the President. At one stall I saw at least 8 different Tinto Brass titles; bizarre, I know. But the biggest surprise was an actual set of the Criterion edition of Inagaki's Samurai trilogy (no booklets, of course), selling all together for 120 pesos, a little over 2 American dollars.

Speaking of wild goose chases (and consumption -- this is all related, I swear), another friend of mine asked me to bring back some duhat as a pasalubong, which she can apparently use to improve her complexion, not that it needs any improving.

Since I wasn't sure whether she meant duhat soap, duhat lotion, or whether I was supposed to bring back a fruit and a twig, I went straight to the girly section of Mercury Drug and didn't find it. Lots of papaya, though (could it have been papaya?), tons of facial whiteners, and the real surprise: armpit whitener. "No dark spot in 7 days," the box said.

(As it turns out, duhat seems to be primarily used for diarrhea. Someone's pulling your leg, girl -- I'll bring you the Dunhill Lights instead!)

Meanwhile, Leny gets angry about Bloomberg and the tsunamis, and my favorite cringeworthy line from a seasonally-appropriate cringeworthy song suddenly comes to mind [cue Bono here]:

"Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you!"

Let them know it's Christmas time indeed.

Posted by the wily filipino at 12:10 AM | Comments (1)

December 31, 2004

Welcome To Konyo Kids Kountry.

Kahapon, bilang Part 8 of my quest na hanapin ang Jolography, pumunta kami sa heart of Konyo Kids Kountry, ang EDSA Shangri-La Plaza. Ngayon lang ako nakatungtong nang Shangri-La, at medyo nagulat ako sa mga tindahan doon: Furla, Burberry, Kenneth Cole, Bally. Paano kayang nananatiling bukas ito sa Pilipinas? Mas nakakatawa pa ay ang layout noong mall: hiwang-hiwa nang EDSA at nang LRT station ang Starmall at ang Shangri-La. Para talagang class divide, pero ang mga taga-Starmall ay nakakatawid papuntang Shang -- kung baga'y nakakatikim ang tao nang ilusyon nang demokrasya...

Pati mga namimili sa Shang, super-konyotik talaga. 'Ika nga noong isang babaeng naglalagay nang Equal sa kanyang peppermint latte sa Starbucks, "Shit, pare, my ringtone is so gay." Ang sarap ipakain ang cellphone.

Eniwei, sa madaling salita, wala pa rin akong nahanap na Jolography. Pero kaming mga taga-Los Banos ay nagkita by accident: una sina Terry at Titus galing sa ComArts Soc sa LB, tapos si Binky na dating BS leader ko sa CAP at ngayo'y minor celeb na.

Tapos punta kaming Eastwood (ngayon ko lang din nabisita) at kumain sa resto na napakabulok ang service (Pho Hoa) at pumunta kami -- ako, si Happy at Clarissa, Monica, at mga pinsan namin sa Manalo side na si Chinggay (at Arnold), at si Omar at Kim -- sa isang bar na OJ's ang pangalan. Medyo naweirdohan kami at ang crowd ay half our age -- puro mga batang kakasampa pa lang nang labing-anim, naglalaklakan na nang San Mig Lite.

Lalo na kaming napasabak sa kakonyohan noong kami'y lumipat sa 90 Proof, isang bar sa Emerald Ave. sa Ortigas na '80s music daw ang palaging tinutugtog (hindi naman) at nagpapalabas ay mga '80s na sine (Desperately Seeking Susan ang nasa TV noong pumasok kami). Medyo hindi kami magkarinigan (ang lakas nang Michael Jackson -- Mr. DJ, ang "Rock With You" ay 1979 'ata), kaya uminom at nanood na lang kami nang mga konyito't-konyita -- people who I despised yet whose lives I probably (secretly) envied. (Maari bang maging konyo kung taga-probinsiya, o ito ba'y sakop nang Maynila lamang? Ang pagka-promdi ba ay sufficient, though not necessary, na elemento nang kajologan?) Mga naka-porma, pa-Ingles-Ingles, may sindi sa dalawang daliri, mga mukha nilang makikinis na naiilawan nang kanilang mga cell phone. Noong nakakuha kami nang upuan sa labas, na-realize ko na lahat noong mga naka-doublepark na kotse sa labas ay mayroong mga drayber, nagaabang habang nag-gugudtaym ang mga anak nang amo nila. (Mabuti nga naman na hindi magmaneho nang lasing.)

Pagtama naman nang ala-una, napuno ang kalye nang mga naka-bihis-opisina, dahil nag-lunchbreak ang mga nasa call-center. Iyong Starbucks at MiniMart naman sa harapan ang dinumog nang tao.

Sa susunod: mga pagmumuni-muni tungkol sa call center.

Posted by the wily filipino at 02:11 AM | Comments (8)

December 29, 2004


Kahapon -- este, kaninang umaga pala -- ang mini-reunion nang Class op '86 nang Mataas na Paaralan nang Rural dito sa Los Banos. Sa bahay kami ni Waldo sa Pansol sa may tabi nang bagong Halfway. Parang umulan nang toms, yosi at videoke.

Isipin mo na lang: mahigit kumulang nang trenta'y singkong tao (na ang average age ay trenta'y singko rin siguro) na ilang taon nang hindi nagkikita at nakawala sa mga asawa't anak (kung meron). Grabe ang alaskahan. May mga namayat (isa na ako roon, kasama si Ester -- Eloise, isa ka na roon). May mga hindi nagpalit, este, nagbago (si Alvaro, Ghandi, Joan C., Camilla). May mga nagsipag-laparan (my lips are sealed at baka may magalit -- sa totoo lang, maraming magagalit). May parang tumangkad (si Alice). May mga love team na dati, ibinuhay ulit. (Hulaan ninyo kung sino ang tinawagan sa cell noong magumpisang kumanta si Leah P. nang "It Might Be You?") May mga taong hindi magka-love team dati, ipinagtambal. May mga nalasing, wala pang alas-nuebe. May nakatulog (ako iyon). Mayroong videoke king and queen. Naglabasan nang mga litrato nang mga anak. Meron daw lumambitin sa bintana at tinitulungan yung sumusuka sa banyo. At may mga revelation din: nalaman na rin nang mga ka-batch kung kung sino ang crush ni Bessie. At kung bakit kulot ang buhok ni Alex noong second year. Puro kantahan din: kayang-kaya pala ni Trino na kumanta nang "Botsikik." Ako naman, nakakanta nang "Honesty" ni Billy Joel at naka-93. 'Ata.

Roll call daw (medyo mahirap dahil hungover pa rin ako, at alas-tres na ako nakauwi), by seating arrangement sa harap nang videoke (mabuti naayos dahil biglang nasira noong kumanta si Boits nang "Careless Whisper"): Pulge, Ghandi (tatakbo raw nang mayor nang Calamba), Papa Smurf, Arman, Ralaboy, Trino, Boits, Roman, Al (tatakbo rin daw nang mayor nang Calamba), Cynthia, Charina, Sandy C., Jay, Rico, Dean, Alex U., Tewalds, Heidi, Ruby, Sanya, Camille, Manuel, Joan C., Leah P., Mavelle, Jason, Irene, Bessie, Alice, Mayet, Osang, Eric, Noel G., Arturo, at siguradong meron akong nakalimutan.

Saka na group picture...

Posted by the wily filipino at 07:15 PM | Comments (0)

December 28, 2004

In the Philippines, #1.

Some evil book imp must have swept through Manila and bought every single copy of Paolo Manalo's Jolography because I can't find a damn copy. Grabe. Launched February 2004; "Out of stock, sir" a few months later. Syet.

National sa Glorietta: wala. Powerbooks sa Alabang: wala. National sa Festival Mall: wala. Et cetera, et cetera. Wala akong makita kundi dangkal-dangkal na kopya nang The Purpose-Driven Life at tsaka Harry Potter.

Posted by the wily filipino at 01:56 AM | Comments (4)

November 17, 2004

Academic Blacklist?

I'll be posting the SFSU Filipino faculty response shortly, but here's a press release from NAFCON regarding recent events.

There's also an article here written by Emil Guillermo for the Stockton Record.

For Immediate Release November 16, 2004 Contact: Jay Mendoza, 408-297-1977



Professors and students confronted the Philippine Consul General about a blacklist, which bars individuals from attending an awards ceremony for the President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, for an honorary Doctorate to be conferred from the University of San Francisco (USF).

At a meeting at San Francisco State University (SFSU) on Monday, concerned professors, students and community members met to discuss individuals' being denied tickets and the ramifications of a blacklist. Prof. Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales, Prof. Dawn Mabalon, and Dan Begonia, three well-known academics and community advocates, who are faculty at SFSU, were among those blacklisted.

Members present from the SFSU Associated Student Body committed to pursue a student body resolution against the blacklist.

"She's doing political profiling, just like Marcos did during martial law. She wants to silence any perceived voices of opposition. The irony is, people on the blacklist may not all be categorically "against her". So she's damaging her own reputation. It reveals to the American public the dark side of Arroyo---a side of her well known in the Philippines, but not so well known here." said Jay Mendoza, who is a Community Scholar at the University of San Francisco (USF), and the National Coordinator of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON).

Prof. Dawn Mabalon said: ""We have strong working relationships and wonderful friendships with our colleagues and the Filipino community at USF. I am shocked and angered that the Consulate would, without concrete evidence, bar us from the ceremony. It is a slap in the face to all of us who are community advocates, educators, and professionals, and the implication that we are directing our students to disrupt this ceremony is truly ridiculous.

I did not discuss this event with any students. However, even if I had discussed GMA's policies in my courses, the existence of this list creates an atmosphere of fear, suspicion, hysteria and division, in which the legitimate and constitutionally protected political discourse in which academics and their students can and should engage will be considered subversive. Placement on this list represents a threat to academic freedom. This is chilling."

Prof. Tintiangco-Cubales stated: “"On Wednesday, November 12th, I learned that the Philippine Consulate requested that my passes to the GMA event be returned. I was outraged to find out that it was because I was on a 'list of activists' that included my colleagues, Dawn Mabalon and Dan Begonia. This exclusion from the event is not only embarrassing, it could also cause unreasonable risk of harm to our professional careers, personal reputations and work in the community. It also strains our academic collaborations and relationships with those at USF.

In this situation, the only individuals that have been marked have been educators. This leads me to believe that there is some type of scapegoating of academics and students. Although I was not involved in planning an action against the Philippine President's visit to USF, I am against the unjust suppression of political discourse and peaceful demonstrations. No one should ever be condemned for exercising their constitutional right to engage and participate in political discussion. This is part of our educational process."

Meanwhile, the Philippine Consulate denied there was a blacklist. The denial came amidst two scheduled protests during Arroyo's San Francisco visit, growing community concern about Arroyo's bleak track record of human rights violations and a letter and fax drive to the President of the University of San Francisco, Father Stephen A. Privett, to reconsider conferring an honorary doctorate to the martial law-like President.

"Arroyo is curtailing civil liberties. She's bringing her strong arm, strong republic tactics to the Fil-Am community. This is indicative of a political leader with an atrocious record of human rights violations that rivals even the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. It's no wonder she's resorted to blacklisting," said Rhonda Ramiro of the Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines.


525 W. Alma Ave.
San Jose, CA 95125

Posted by the wily filipino at 10:00 AM | Comments (2)

November 16, 2004

Sex and the Manong.

The cover of last month's issue of Filipinas Magazine had the caption "Sex and the Single Manong, ca. 1940." I was, perhaps irrationally, hoping for some hot man-on-man action, but I knew what to expect: the men-to-women ratio, the taxi dance halls, the riots, prostitutes following the migrants from camp to camp and harvest to harvest, that California businessman calling Filipinos "hot little rabbits,"* the fascination with white women, reading between the lines of America Is In The Heart about Bulosan's blondes and wondering what the deal was with all these white women wandering in and out of the narrative.

It's quite obvious and understandable how historiography regarding the manong generation proceeded this way: in a community full of fairly devout Catholics, and a nascent second/third-generation (het-male) Filipino American identity that was effectively emasculated in current American popular culture, it was no wonder that this -- I'm thinking of a good word -- rampant male heterosexuality became regnant in Filipino American Studies. There's nothing like a threat to masculinity to get one's, um, dander up -- if "one" were a predominantly male and perhaps proudly heterosexual group of Filipino American scholars in the '60s and '70s. The party line, if one could call it that, was that the manongs were playas -- the suits! the white women! the slicked-back hair! -- supported very clearly by the very real white perception of Filipinos as sexual threats, with its violent consequences. It is perhaps easier to imagine them, amidst their lives of desperate I-Hotel loneliness, as eternally swinging, forever single, and straight bachelors.

Such heteronormativity (and a healthy dose of Catholic prudishness) would perhaps prevent any further inquiry into whether or not scenes of the love that dare not speak its name were ever enacted in those lonely and cramped migrant shacks.**

*The whole quote actually goes, "The Filipinos are hot little rabbits, and many of these white women like them for this reason." At which point, I imagine, my straight male Filipino students say under their breath, "Cool."

**I'm also thinking about this because of a discussion in class last week of Joel Tan's story "Night Sweats," in which the classroom -- and at some point one student was fanning herself just talking about it -- was treated to phrases like "ring muscle" and "purple knob."

Posted by the wily filipino at 10:32 PM | Comments (1)

October 25, 2004

Random Notes on The Debut.

When I asked my Filipino lit students* how many people had seen Gene Cajayon's The Debut, I was surprised to see that almost everyone, except the third of the class that was non-Filipino, raised their hands. The Debut was a genuine Filipino American phenomenon: an enthusiastic grassroots campaign, entire families and classrooms lining up in front of the theaters, in support of a truly well-made film. (I bet that some of you can read between the lines and pounce on "well-made" as if I were writing a lukewarm letter of recommendation.)

And because of this campaign alone -- the film's official website spends a good deal of emphasis on how the film was made and marketed -- the sometimes clunky dialogue could be forgiven (I was probably the loudest groaner during the boy-meets-girl scenes), and Dante Basco, who is otherwise an appealing actor, isn't given terribly complex material.** "Charm" isn't necessarily the kind of word filmmakers like to hear, but The Debut at least has a lot of that, and I mean that in a sincerely complimentary way.

The Debut works somewhat schematically, but it still works. The main character, Ben, moves almost like the Campbellian hero of myth through clearly demarcated domains: from "American" to "Filipino" to "Filipino American" and back and forth. The soundtrack, while performed by all Filipino American musicians, marks each passage nicely, if telegraphically: folk music here, hiphop there, guitar-driven rock for Ben's passages into whiteness. (There's a nice scene when Ben is listening to some Slipknotty-stuff on his headphones, working in his room, when his dad bursts in to confront him -- and the door opens, letting the banduria music from the outside fill the room as well.)

The writer drops the ball, unfortunately, in terms of character development. (The obligatory testosterone scene does have to do with balls -- a basketball, in this case -- and guys all dressed in wifebeaters.) This is something of a letdown, since the film makes a point of dropping crucial hints here and there about him wearing clothespins on his nose and so on. His "search for identity" turns out to be disappointingly trite, and in the end assumes the same tired trajectory as, say, Jade Snow Wong in Fifth Chinese Daughter. (But in contrast, Jade Snow learns the lesson that white women are infinitely generous and emotionally open; Ben learns that white women vomit on you and call you ''chink.'')

When I asked the students the significance of the title, my student Tahnee wisely replied that it was also Ben's "debut" as a Filipino American. Or so it would seem: it still isn't clear that any such realization or resolution takes place, despite the narrative gestures toward this conclusion. (If anything developed at all, it's the father's grudging admiration for his son's art at the end.)

This is one reason why Jessica Hagedorn's extravagantly messy The Gangster of Love works on an engaging level: it refuses to anchor the heroine's narrative to anything remotely resembling something paradigmatic. Cajayon deliberately (or, I suspect, carelessly) ends the film in ambiguity, as if he loses his resolve midway to further politicize Ben's muddle regarding his identity.

In comparison, Hagedorn makes this an intensely personal and therefore random and arbitrary quest for her character Rocky. (The truncated conclusion when she visits her estranged father in the Philippines -- which my student Ron characterized as somewhat tacked on -- is at first reading a concession to the demands of the "immigrant narrative," i.e., a return "home," but it seems to be yet another purposely loose thread in the Original Gangsta's meandering, another doomed opportunity to connect.)

*My original plan was to show the class Sana Maulit Muli, Olive Lamasan's at-times hysterical film about Filipinos in the Bay Area that was clearly made for consumption in the Philippines -- alas, no subtitled versions in English were available -- and my second choice, Rod Pulido's fascinating if terribly simplistic The Flip Side wasn't even available commercially.

And in case you're wondering why an anthropologist is teaching a lit class -- well, I'm not sure either.

**Though Eddie Garcia's walk-on role -- and it's practically only a cameo, since it's all saved up for the big blow-up at the end -- deserves applause; Garcia has the best voice in the business, and he can dish out contempt (or lasciviousness) so effortlessly even the audience would wither in their seats.

Posted by the wily filipino at 09:45 AM | Comments (2)

October 16, 2004

For Helen.

Helen Toribio left us too soon. Her Great Work -- as historian, teacher, leader, fighter, scholar -- to her, was never done, for she never rested. Now she does; she is greatly missed.

Posted by the wily filipino at 11:17 PM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2004

Song Titles in Tagalog.

Not sure where this comes from, but it was forwarded to me -- sorry, the humor gets lost in translation, so I won't bother. I do love the fact that almost all the songs seem to be ripped off a Mellow Touch playlist from the '80s (heck, Dan Hill is probably still in heavy rotation in the Philippines):

Imagine - Mantakin Mo
Bluer Than Blue - Malapit Na Sa Hukay
Tonight's The Night - Patay Kang Bata Ka
Hey Jude - Hoy Hudas!
Power of Love - Buntis
Three Times a Lady - Super Bakla
More Than A Woman - Tomboy
Can't Be With You Tonight - Meron Ako Ngayon
Don't Let Me Be The Last To Know - Huwag Mo Kong Gawing Tanga
You Should Know By Now - Alam Mo Na Dapat Ngayon Yan, Tanga!
Sometimes When We Touch - Minsan Kapag Tayo'y Naghihipuan
Touch Me In The Morning - Hipuan Mo Ako Sa Umaga
Stairway To Heaven - Mula Paa Hanggang Singit
Got To Believe In Magic - Walang Himala
Total Eclipse Of The Heart - Maitim ang Puso
King & Queen Of Hearts - Tong-it Na Ko Sa Jack
Macho Man - Walang Ganyan Sa Opis
Pretty Woman - Walang Ring Ganyan Sa Opis
How Deep Is Your Love - Magkano Ang Iyong Deposito sa Bangko

Posted by the wily filipino at 10:42 AM | Comments (3)

August 13, 2004

Two Announcements.

A couple of announcements:

The Filipino American Center of the San Francisco Public Library presents:

"Colored: Black n' White -- The Philippine-American War in American Popular Media, 1896-1907"

You are invited to join us:
Saturday, August 14, 2004
Opening Lecture with Exhibition Curators
Main Library, Lower Level, Koret Auditorium, 2:00 - 3:00 p.m.
A reception and exhibition viewing will follow in the Skylight Gallery

"Colored: Black n' White" is an exhibition containing more than 70 magazine and newspaper cartoons from 1896 to 1907 which convey the political, racial, and gender sensibilities surrounding the Philippine -American War. The exhibition presents a perspective on the debate about manifest destiny and the United States as a global power, the cost of war and the administration's justification for colonial expansion and the portrayal of Filipinos and anti-war advocates in American media.

Curated by Abe Ignacio, Jorge Emmanuel and Helen Toribio and presented by the Filipino American Center of the San Francisco Public Library.

Exhibition Dates: August 14 through October 21, 2004
Main Library, Sixth Floor, Skylight Gallery
100 Larkin Street (at Grove)

And here's a link for the Critical Filipina and Filipino Studies Collective Living Archive: the initial draft of a repository of documents pertaining to the Filipino and Filipino American progressive movement after 1986 -- an update of sorts to Schirmer and Shalom's The Philippines Reader: A History of Colonialism, Neocolonialism, Dictatorship, and Resistance.

Posted by the wily filipino at 09:11 AM | Comments (0)

August 05, 2004

Love! Sex! Communism!

Here's a plug for my good friend Jojo Abinales's forthcoming book, Love, Sex, and the Filipino Communist (or Hinggil sa Pagpipigil ng Panggigigil), coming out sometime this month from Anvil:

Love, Sex, and the Filipino Communist examines the CPP-NPA's guidelines on love and sex, and narrates some of the experiences by cadres and ex-cadres as they tried to deal with the regulations. It also explores the fraught relationship between Marxist-Leninism and "the woman question," and looks at the responses of Filipino feminists -- outside and inside the CPP -- to an orthodoxy that puts premium on class over gender and sexuality.
(Click on the image for a bigger version, and check out some of the hilarious quotes.)


Posted by the wily filipino at 10:54 AM

July 05, 2004

Burning Effigies.

Borgy Manotoc is one of Swatch’s signature models, and the other day in the Philippine Daily Inquirer there was a full-page photo spread / entertainment column on him. There he was, modeling Olympic-related Swatch designs, posing with boxing gloves or a bow and arrow.

Tim Yap wrote:

Borgy Manotoc is on a roll these days. Back from New York for just the weekend to pass the Swatch torch... Borgy made sure that his three days in Manila would be worth the trip.

As soon as he arrived, he made a pit stop at Nuvo for a quiet drink with friends. The next day, he was at the Swatch counters... Who can say this hot-blooded heir does not know the meaning of hard work?

I am trying very hard to read some sense of irony in the article. Here, “hard work” seems like George Bush’s “hard work” serving his country during the Vietnam War. (Granted, a 19-20 hour plane flight and having to work while jet-lagged out of your mind is tough, but I’m sure Borgy wasn’t flying economy.) But his good looks (and brains, according to reports), and industriousness and perseverance and all the accompanying virtues surely aren’t the main reasons he’s gone so far; he is, after all, Ferdinand Marcos’s grandson and the life of privilege he has led all his 21 years devalues the semantic currency of “hard work.”

I really have nothing personal against Borgy Manotoc; he may, in fact, be the nicest, most self-effacing guy on earth. He may even be embarrassed about his grandfather. Indeed, one can easily use the “sins of the fathers” argument against me: Borgy, after all, was not responsible for Ferdinand’s crimes.

But I am more interested about the fact of his celebrity, or rather, what his celebrityhood may represent. His is a different form of celebrity -– not the regular kind that comes with entertainers, or the kind that attends notoriety -– but it is a form that celebrates his good looks even as his origins are alluded to, then discursively erased. In the warped world of Philippine politics and its happy entanglement with entertainment, the lack of retributive justice – encapsulated here in Borgy’s stardom -– is the appalling failure on the part of the government (in collusion with the media, and the amnesiac fans) to learn from the errors of history. To see the smiling face of Borgy is to see the face of his grandfather laughing.

Sometime a year ago I wrote a rather angry post on the Marcoses, and was met with unsurprisingly negative comments. Most of the responses, however, were oddly ad hominem -– that I was envious of Borgy, that I was a fag, and that I would never, in my lowly state as a blogger, ever be like the Marcoses (shudder!) -– and very few of them bothered to defend the family I was attacking. I think this is because it puts Marcos supporters (on the net, at least) in something of an ethical dilemma; attempting to defend the Marcoses’ record of murder and torture and theft puts you in the same irrational camp as the delusional former First Lady.

This moral clarity -– at least in my mind -– is precisely why the absence of justice is so unfathomable. One of the more-circulated images of the EDSA uprising were crowds of people rushing into Malacanang, kicking and breaking apart a painting of Ferdinand Marcos. This, sadly, is as far as the Filipino people ever got towards any form of catharsis. In 1983 one could only burn effigies, and we are doomed, in 2004, to similarly futile gestures. The fact that Borgy -– or to be more precise, the generations before him -– are still free to blithely live their lives of privilege in the Philippines is an insult. The very fact of Borgy’s stardom is an obscenity.

Some people will argue that the Marcoses are relatively small fry, that there are graver problems that need to be addressed before the country can improve. This is completely true. But I think their going scot-free is also symptomatic of a more overarching, systemic problem -– a deep-seated corruption, perhaps, or maybe the pathology of amnesia -– that may, in the end, hobble the Philippines in other profound ways.

Some people (my mother included) have asked me about forgiveness -– that this would be the Christian thing to do, that this would lead to healing and so on. Quite frankly, I cannot think of anyone so undeserving of forgiveness as Imelda Marcos; as far as I can tell, she has never expressed any regret or, indeed, asked forgiveness -– why give her something she has never requested?

One day, maybe soon, Imelda will finally die. But she will not die penniless; she will not die behind the bars of a jail cell. She will die surrounded by her adoring fans. Her death will be eased by the best painkillers that money can buy. Her money will remain in Swiss bank accounts. She will die smiling, knowing she is to be reunited with her Ferdinand. She will die unpunished. Her children and grandchildren will mourn her, and then move on. And the Marcos dynasty will live forever.


Posted by the wily filipino at 03:56 AM

June 27, 2004

Quick Link.

Not much time to write or post anything -- I did get back from L.A. / Anaheim in one piece, but am still suffering from indigestion (more later, especially on Izzy at Disneyland) -- and Izzy and I are taking off in a couple of days for the Philippines. So you folks who visit for mp3s -- sorry, I won't have any downloads available for a little while.

Meanwhile, here's E. San Juan, Jr.'s riposte to Patricia Evangelista's prize-winning speech at the English Speaking Union's International Public Speaking Competition earlier this May.

Posted by the wily filipino at 09:04 AM

June 09, 2004

We Internalize Storylines.

While doing some surfing for yet another long-simmering project completely unrelated to the St. Louis one, I came across this report on outsourcing labor to the Philippines. The customer service / call center business is already well-known; the projection that the "aggregate growth rate" for this particular niche would grow by 50 percent to $864 (million?) doesn't look too farfetched at all.

The description of the Philippines' advantages over other Asian countries is rather interesting, though, as it could be read in funny ways:

In Asia, the country is in the best position to gain a large share of e-services contracts in view of the following reasons: affordable quality human resource; affinity to Western culture; strategic location; hospitable lifestyle and expanding infrastructure.
Or, if you will: low salaries, hostility to labor unions, a legacy of colonialism, and the desperation to do anything for cash.

But there I am grousing needlessly about what is apparently a genuine economic boom that actually doesn't stink of sweatshop-style exploitation, so I should be a little more positive. I do like the way the dry and rigorous economist language gives way to culturalist explanations of Filipinos' seemingly natural affinity for, in this case, the animation industry:

Demand for Filipino e-services in this area is also enormous in view of the inherent ingenuity, creativity and artistry of the Filipinos. Aside from their artistry, Filipino animators stand out from the rest of the world for their multi-cultural orientation that enables them to internalize storylines and concepts for better artwork and faster execution.
This isn't unfamiliar either: "inherent" cultural traits are also retroactively employed to "explain" Filipinos' supposed "aptitude" for nursing, housecleaning, singing, and so on -- only a shade removed, really, from physical, i.e., racist, characteristics employed in similar fashion, such as small hands (the better to assemble tiny computer chips with) or more flexible backs (the better to pick asparagus with).

Still, there's something quite resonant about that "multi-cultural orientation," one that could be construed a kind of strategic rag-picking engendered by the colonial experience. And that part about internalizing storylines! It's almost... poetic.


Posted by the wily filipino at 10:39 PM

June 05, 2004

Five Answers.

1. In the early '80s, Tetchie Agbayani created a furor when she posed nude for Playboy. The layout was composed of photos of her on a beach accompanied by the usual hokey captions -- but these captions were not written in English. In which language were they written?

My original question was going to be "Is Tetchie Agbayani an innie or an outie?" but I thought that a trivia question about her belly-button was kind of too detailed. (For the record, she was an outie.) The captions -- probably alluding to wild motorcycle rides, how she likes pleasing her man, and the usual silly stuff -- were written in German; Agbayani had posed for the German edition of Playboy. I don't remember the exact text of the captions; I can't read German, and besides, I wasn't exactly looking at the captions. =)

2. What animal is depicted on a Jack and Jill Chiz Curls package?

It was a cow, whose smiling face can be seen on the blue-green package, grinning as the artificial cheese coats your fingers yellow.

3. Six people were killed here in January 1970; seventeen years later, in January 1987, thirteen people also lost their lives in the same location. What place is being referred to?

Ferdinand Marcos and Cory Aquino may be different presidents, but the murder of students and farmers at Mendiola Bridge haunts both their regimes.

4. What did the cast members of Palibhasa Lalaki do at the end of every episode?

The cast had a water/flour/powder/softdrink fight at the end of each episode, much like the pie-in-the-face ending of T.O.D.A.S. A former classmate of mine in college, who had an inexplicable crush on Cynthia Patag, would always wait until the credits in the hope that Cynthia would get really wet.

5. For what store did Rod Navarro and two dwarves make TV advertisements?

The chain store was 680 Home Appliances. The poor vertically-challenged couple had to film a scene in a big 680 box, remember? Awful, awful.

Two people -- "arnolds" and "paddybgil" -- got 4 out of 5.


Posted by the wily filipino at 01:57 PM

June 01, 2004

Eileen Tabios's "Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole."

Eileen Tabios's Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole is an endless swoon. Reading it puts you in a state of suspension -- to misquote her, "an emotion you will welcome as a discovery." Like a flag torn from its moorings, borne aloft, knowing no nation, just the wind, her poetry is the essence of sensual drift and travel.

But I'm wrong, of course: the central image, after all, is the empty flagpole, or rather, what remains: traces of languorous Manhattan afternoons, the lingering of strangers in cafes and deserts, the cinders of urban longing and belonging.

But these conjured scenarios of wisp and wander conceal a steely interior: "For she has trained men to kneel and she is replete." It's romantic in the extravagant sense of the word, and the reader's obligation is to surrender. Let go, she whispers in your ear. Let go.

[Actual conversation with airport baggage inspector the other day:

Inspector: [looking at cover] What is that?
Me: I think it's a close-up of a plant.
Inspector: [looking puzzled] And what does the title mean?
Me: [thinking fast] Not sure. [Pause, then adding lamely:] It's a book of poetry.
Inspector: Ah, that's why.]

Posted by the wily filipino at 03:26 PM

May 24, 2004

Why Was This Picture Taken?

Why was this picture taken? It's the first question, perhaps, that comes to mind after the question "who are these people?" These are dead Filipino "insurgents" killed in the Philippine-American war; I have no more information on why or how they were killed, or who they were and who killed them. (The original is apparently at the Missouri Historical Society archives, which I hope to visit in July -- the scan above was made from a photograph I purchased on eBay.)

There is little dignity or repose in this photograph; limbs are twisted together, forming a stark white contrast between the clods of earth on the left and the tangled grass on the right. A bare foot dangles over another man's head.

But why was this picture taken? Was it for strategic reasons? Was it for later use as propaganda? What did one get out of it? Was it part of a military archive, as evidence of a particular troop's activity for the day? Or was it meant for commercial purposes? Images like the above -- either reproduced in stereoviews and in monographs -- were already widely available as early as 1899. Along with photographs of such quaint Philippine sights as carabaos, local women, nipa huts and the streets of Manila, one could similarly see, with seemingly little dissonance, images of soldiers killed in trenches.

Unlike paintings, photographs could be made available to a mass audience -- through reproduction from negatives, and the invention of halftone plates in 1880. By 1897 speed presses could print photographs in books, magazines, and most especially, newspapers. It was this quality of reproducibility, as Benjamin wrote, that effected a radical shift in the conception of the work of art. The artwork was no longer a unique object, but was now a commodity that could be duplicated and circulated.

The pinnacle of this commodification (at least before film) was the postcard. Gradually losing its primary use as an epistolary medium, the postcard's image, instead of the writing space on the back, became more important. Whether it was actually sent or simply kept for a collection, the postcard was dominated by the image; in a sense, the postcard was the nearest one could come to the commerce of pure image. As David Prochaska writes, about Algeria: "These images were not made to be viewed aesthetically, but to be bought and sold, as capitalist commodities produced in a colonial context..."

The image above is not a postcard; indeed, I am not entirely sure what it was used for. (I cannot identify the coat-of-arms -- fleur-de-lis on one half, lion rampant on another -- but I suspect it has to do with the military unit associated with the photograph.) What makes it particularly chilling are the decorative lacy twirls that run along the border -- a macabre attempt, it seems, to render the photograph suitable for framing.

Was it, perhaps, a souvenir? The tourist souvenir relies on the capacity of the photograph to provide evidence: proof that the photographer (or the photographed) was there. Look, we're in Disneyland! Look, he's riding the bike with no hands! Look at all the fun we're having! A souvenir is intimately incorporated within -- perhaps even proceeding from -- the sphere of the personal. Possessing a photograph entails the ownership of a possessed and objectified (and perhaps eroticized as well) subject specifically meant to evoke memories of the same possessed and objectified colony. The Philippines, in effect, was also symbolically possessed through the purchase of images. The Filipino subject, decontextualized and objectified, was reduced to a replicable (and replicated), commodified image.

It is the act of symbolic possession of the subject, ensuing from actual physical possession of the photograph, which gives the commodification of the image its disturbing quality. Perhaps this accounts more for the talismanic properties of photographs: the ability to solely possess, the capacity to direct an unlimited gaze at the subject/object.

But in what capacity does the photograph above serve as a souvenir? Who framed it? Was it hung on a wall? Was it displayed prominently? Was it tucked into a scrapbook? Was it ever for sale? Who bought it? How many copies were sold? Was it looked at often? Was it placed at the bottom of a drawer? Why was the picture taken?

Why were the pictures taken? What did one get out of them? Were they souvenirs? Were they proof of all the fun they were having? Why are they giving the thumbs-up sign? Why were they e-mailing these pictures to each other? Why were the pictures installed as screensavers on the interrogation room laptops? Why are they smiling?

Posted by the wily filipino at 08:50 AM

May 21, 2004

Five Questions.

Because I don't feel like writing about music or politics tonight -- and because I'm testing out the bulletin board after I killed my comments option -- I'm pulling out something from my archives. I've already started a topic; let me know, people, whether it works. (Registration is painless.)

1. In the early '80s, Tetchie Agbayani created a furor when she posed nude for Playboy. The layout was composed of photos of her on a beach accompanied by the usual hokey captions -- but these captions were not written in English. In which language were they written?

2. What animal is depicted on a Jack and Jill Chiz Curls package?

3. Six people were killed here in January 1970; seventeen years later, in January 1987, thirteen people also lost their lives in the same location. What place is being referred to?

4. What did the cast members of Palibhasa Lalaki do at the end of every episode?

5. For what store did Rod Navarro and two dwarves make advertisements?

Posted by the wily filipino at 11:23 PM

May 20, 2004

Looking at "Wars of Conquest."

The iconic image of the Philippine-American War -- I'm posting it above because there's something hinky with Jim's java applet -- is of the massacre of Bud Dajo, where 900 Muslim men, women and children were killed in a mountain crater. The photograph was subsequently published by the Boston-based Anti-Imperialist League in a pamphlet, of which 3,000 copies were made and distributed to the press. (When Moorfield Storey, the first president of the NAACP, writes, "The spirit which slaughters brown men in Jolo is the spirit which lynches black men in the South," I'm reminded of Luc Sante's recent op-ed piece in the New York Times where he compares the Abu Ghraib photographs -- in particular, those dazzling smiles -- as similar to postcards of lynchings and the happy block party underneath.)

The photograph of Bud Dajo -- with American soldiers posed in victory over the corpses of the enemy -- and the image of Lynndie England dragging an Iraqi prisoner with a leash around his neck both raise similar questions: why were the photographs taken at all? Was it, as the privates now allege, part of a tactical program of interrogation? Or were the images meant to be incorporated into an official (or unofficial) government archive, a shadow archive of humiliation and homicide?

(One of the crucial differences is in this process of incorporation. The increased portability -- and most important, the novelty of the equivalences of the visual field of the camera and the viewer -- and the ideological function of the photograph in the visual possession / colonization of the Philippines are clearly contextually different. But the images are a nice bookend to the American empire -- one taken at its violent birth, the other at its similarly blood-soaked twilight.)

Barthes, following Benjamin, has famously written about the aura of the photograph and how, through the chemical process, "radiations" from the body of the photographed "ultimately touch" the viewer. But unlike Barthes' notion of the "punctum," the crucial, piercing part here is the sociohistorical conditions -- and their uncanny similarities -- upon which both photographs were produced.

In a superb series of essays, the Reverend Mykeru writes about all the hand-wringing on outrage -- and rank idiots being "more outraged by the outrage" -- and writes: "it's simply amazing that people are treating these incidents as if they are something new, as if ground is being broken with brutal photographic records of a brutal war."

Flashback to W.E.B. DuBois, who wrote that the photograph of the massacre was:

...the most illuminating thing I have ever seen. I want especially to have it framed and put upon the walls of my recitation room to impress upon the students what wars and especially Wars of Conquest really mean.
It's what war really means, but Bush and his sheep don't really get it.

Here's Storey again:

When a man is lynched the community which tolerates the offence suffers more than the victim. When we honor brutality in our army we brutalize ourselves. Our colleges have failed if they have not taught a better civilization than this, our churches have failed if this is their Christianity.

These Moros were robbers, it is said. Alas, what are we? We who went as their allies and friends, who made a treaty with them to be kept while it suited our convenience and then repudiated, and who now have robbed them of their country, their freedom and finally of their lives. Have they ever injured us that we invade their little island and kill them in their homes? "They do not know how to govern themselves." That is our excuse, and how do we govern them? We have shown them how little we regard our agreements, and when they "stir up a dangerous state of affairs" we exterminate them. Thus we teach the Filipinos what American civilization means.

And you'll no doubt be reminded of another leader doing a "superb job" after reading Roosevelt's letter of commendation to the commanding officer after the massacre:

I congratulate you and the officers and men of your command upon the brave feat of arms wherein you and they so well upheld the honor of the American flag.
Posted by the wily filipino at 10:11 AM

April 12, 2004

The Trauma of EDSA.

The conference I attended over the weekend -- in particular, UC Santa Cruz scholar Sherwin Mendoza's comments on Linda Ty-Casper's Dream Eden (which I haven't read) -- made me think about EDSA and trauma. Mendoza argued that narrative arcs in novels from what he called "the EDSA genre" followed similar structures, from euphoria to disillusion, which he described as a "fall from utopia."

I like to think of it as an "atopia," if there is such a word. What happened in February 1986 is constantly characterized as creating a singular, atypical moment of social solidarity, perhaps in the way that Durkheim imagined it: the free sharing of food and water, the seeming obliteration of social differences, the pervading sentiments of oneness with the crowd -- in short, a sense of this historical rupture as being outside of time and place. Think of it as the ecstasy of revolution.

Or, in this case, "revolution:" things sour quickly, and in each novel -- indeed, every single year -- the Filipino public is painfully reminded of this traumatic loss, the government's attempts to rein in or at least renarrativize such uncontrollable memories notwithstanding.

This is a different structure of the traumatic event as Freud conceived it: here, the loss happens afterwards, in a protracted non-eventful decline quite unlike the swift act we normally associate with trauma. In this respect it is closer to something like melancholy, resulting in a diminution of the melancholic's ego (or the Filipino ego). As Freud writes:

In melancholia the relation to the object is... complicated by the conflict due to ambivalence. The ambivalence is either constitutional, i.e. is an element of every love-relation formed by this particular ego, or else it proceeds precisely from those experiences that involved the threat of losing the object.
You say you want a revolution, but -- well, you know...

But there is a sense in which EDSA can be seen as precisely reproducing the paradigmatic structure of trauma. By the time "EDSA II" (and the intervening coup attempts both before and after) rolled along, the happy communitas of the original had dissipated, owing, as Courtney Johnson put it, to the difference between the spontaneity of the first and the forced busing of the second (and the "third"). People Power had settled, at this point, into a predictable, reproducible modularity.

One could then understand the EDSA Revolution -- and not just the squandering of political opportunities which happened afterwards -- as a traumatic event in and of itself. Now the great anxiety of the Filipino public is perhaps the frightening possibility that "EDSA" -- now pre-approved, sanitized for one's protection, and packaged with its own narrative template -- could return as an uncontrollably repeating event, forever haunting the nation, infinitely reproducing as EDSA III, IV, V and its sequels thereafter.

Posted by the wily filipino at 09:13 AM | Comments (2)

April 09, 2004

Ari's Back.

And after a nine month hiatus, too: pu-pu platter rises from the dead. I can't recommend Ari's blog enough.

No time to write more -- just came back from a great all-day conference on newspapers and novels in Southeast Asia, and will be back for round two tomorrow -- but suffice it to say that the Cornell Mafia was in full force. Say it with me: "Homogeneous! Empty! Time!"

Posted by the wily filipino at 11:28 PM | Comments (2)

March 31, 2004

Agapito Flores.

Didn't get to work on that ethnic studies porn script -- but I did find this:

[The heretofore unpublished fragments below are from the remaining archives, long thought to be lost, of historian Ricardo Tubero; they comprise the only surviving historical work regarding Agapito Flores. It is altogether unfortunate that the middle portions of the manuscript are destroyed, for they presumably cover his productive vocational education, his fateful meeting with President Quezon, and subsequent checkered career. It is undated and unpaged.]

Much rumor and speculation has swirled around the life of the eminent Filipino scientist and inventor Agapito Flores, the unheralded creator of the fluorescent bulb, which has given Light to countless homes and fine establishments. It is nigh time that such unconscionable errors be placed to rest by the swift sword of History, to reduce the tower of Unreason to a pile of smoldering rubble, and to restore Flores to his place as one of the finest scientific engineers the Western and Eastern world has seen.

The facts are these, to wit: Agapito Flores was born in 1898 in the town of Guiguinto, in the province of Bulacan. It was said -- now since proven erroneous by the diligent efforts of the Japanese scholar Susumu Kuraba -- that he was the offspring of an itinerant mambobote (an buyer of empty bottles) and a seller of bibingka in the Guiguinto Public Market. Nothing could be further from the truth: little Agapito was born the eldest son of Bulacan's postmaster general, Tiburcio Flores II, and his godfearing spouse Agapita. Surrounded by a dark cloud of mystery -- no-one seems to have made the acquaintance of this forbearing mother -- she is pictured in the single extant family portrait with an uncommonly haggard visage, tightly clutching a rosary in a wizened hand.

About the early family life of our wunderkind little is known, though there is no doubt that it was a immensely prodigious one, surrounded as Agapito was with nine other siblings, to wit, Consorcio, Demetrio, Eleuterio, Felicidad, Geronimo, Horacia, Inocencio, Jimena, and Tiburcio III. (A younger brother, Benito, perished in an unfortunate kitchen accident involving an egg beater, a gift from a visiting tradesman from Ohio, in the United States; Jimena, the most famed of his siblings, was the winner of amateur singing competitions and famed all over the province for her rendition of "Winter Wonderland.")

Countless historians and amateur psychologists have speculated on the reasons for Flores's pursuit of the chymical arts. One academic, whose name will not sully this treatise, has even ventured -- in print, even! -- that unrequited affection between him and a middle-aged neighbor was responsible for lighting the flame of Inspiration. Such scurrilous items are truly worthy of disdain, for the truth is far more prosaic.

A chance school excursion to the Manila Zoo -- chance because such leisure activities were often quite dear, and beyond the fiscal capabilities of any provincial educators -- provided young Agapito with the impetus for his life's work. Gazing into the murky, silty depths of an ill-kept aquarium -- the Bureau of Zoology was suffering a reduction of funds as a result of the fiscal panic of 1909 -- Agapito was startled to see a fish of the Myctopidae family swim before his field of vision. So taken aback was he, in fact, that he gave out an uncharacteristically effeminate-sounding squeal. The peals of derision from his classmates, whose cruelty your hapless scribe involuntarily remembers with similar agony, rang in young Agapito's ears, but this was of no consequence to our budding scientist: he was entranced, nay, converted, much as Saul was pierced by Our Lord on the road to Jerusalem. And it was through the light of that piscine angel, like the beacon of Science held aloft by the Muses themselves, that our young Agapito, infinitely blessed by the Lord --

[The rest of the manuscript is missing, presumed destroyed by fire when a water buffalo accidentally kicked over a gas lantern in a barn, which led to the fire that consumed historian Ricardo Tubero's home and library. Below is the only surviving scrap of paper, almost blown away by the wind and lost to the world forever were it not for the perspicaciousness of Tubero's colleagues who searched through the ashes.]

-- interviews with Flores's neighbors in his rooming house in Tondo remember a garrulous but bitter man, regaling his listeners with tales of his Paris days and amorous conquests then, of which I shall spare the listener, lest I be accused of impropriety, though it has also long been speculated that his cantankerous manner, no doubt a result of the gross fraud perpetrated upon him, was exacerbated by a lingering, shall we say, social disease, acquired from unconscionable habitual dalliances with a certain woman of ill-repute in Place Pigalle and other amateur historians have ventured forth with the name of the woman, and her other unusual proclivities besides, suggesting that such mental and physical trauma that Flores suffered directly accounted for his particular genius, but once again, such salacious trifles do not bear repeating, and are not worthy for the gentle and genteel ears of the reader, and merely aggrieve further his already estranged descendants.

Dear Reader, there is little more tragic than the events I am about to relate, but Flores's apparent demise from neglect, scorn and wantonness should serve as a caution not merely against the wages of licentiousness, but also against the price of gullibility, for there are those whose unscrupulousness, in particular that American electrical company which I am loathe to name again --

[section of manuscript damaged by fire]

-- scandalous details such as Flores staggering, in the manner of a man given over to drink, by a sari-sari store, ordering two bottles of that potion of Satan, Ginebra San Miguel, and consuming one as he stood, are not the sort of anecdotal details that serve Clio well, and only besmirch --

[large sections of manuscript damaged by fire]

-- and when his dissipated, lifeless body was finally discovered in his death bed, all one could hear inside the tomb of his room was the audible flicker of his invention, a filthy, cobwebbed fluorescent bulb, suspended from the water-stained ceiling, emitting an electrical buzz long after Flores's soul had quit his --

[section of manuscript damaged by fire]

It is my hope that my efforts to chronicle History, and rectify Injustice with Justice, will not be in vain, and that the name of Agapito Flores be returned to the pantheon of Philippine heroes -- nay, as another Pride of the Malay Race, along with the esteemed Doctor Jose Rizal -- and be praised endlessly on the lips of students young and old.

Posted by the wily filipino at 12:26 AM | Comments (3)

March 15, 2004


My favorite new website is called CINEMA, a Philippine-based website that stands for "Catholic INitiative for Enlightened Movie Appreciation."

It should be clear, once you get to their website, what this is all about: it's a movie review site where films are judged on "the basis of their TECHNICAL and MORAL strength and weaknesses." A handy-dandy "moral assessment" legend on the left-hand column, ranking movies from "abhorrent" to "exemplary," provides the viewers information as to whether to leave the kids at home or to watch it late at night -- or rather, not to watch it at all.

What it inadvertently provides, though, is a guide for skin fans, as it tells you most of the naughty bits. There's something oddly funny about how it's described in Tagalog, too -- here's a description of a segment in Mel Chionglo's Xerex:

Sa "O" naman ay malapit ng ikasal si Marge (Aubrey Miles) na naguguluhan kung siya ay tutuloy pa sa pagpapakasal sapagkat hindi niya naranasan sa lalaking kanyang pakakasalan ang rurok ng ligaya o orgasm. Naranasan niya ito sa isang estranghero (Kalani Ferreira) na kanyang nakaniig ng limang magkakasunod na araw. Ito ang lalong nagpalala ng kanyang pagkalito.
In Armando Reyes's Tumitibok... Kumikirot -- jeez, you'd think they'd know that their moral assessment would be "disturbing" from the title alone -- the reviewer takes pains to say something good:
Bagama't may mabuting saloobin ang pelikula ukol sa pagmamahal at pagpapatawad, hindi maitatangging higit nangingibabaw ang mga nakababahala nitong mensahe sa mga manonood. Una'y malinaw na karamihan sa mga eksena ng hubaran at pagtatalik ay ginawa hindi dahil sa mahalaga ito sa kuwento kundi upang pukawin lamang ang makalaman na pagnanasa ng mga manonood. Pangalawa'y naging napakasimple ng pagtrato ng pelikula sa buhay may-asawa na umiikot lamang sa dalawang bagay: pagtatalik at pag-aaway.
The Tagalog has such a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

And their review of Joven Tan's Eskandalosa -- which they brand as "abhorrent" and "not for public viewing" -- makes you want to put it on your wantlist right away:

Ang Eskandalosa ay namumutiktik sa sex at pilit na ginawang creative art pero bastos pa rin ang dating! Totoo namang napakaganda ang mga piniling tanawin para sa setting at maganda ang inilapat na musika, pero ang editing ay nakaka-dismaya. Nasunod na naman ang gusto ng prodyuser na busugin sa eksenang sex ang pelikula para maibenta ito!
It's two hours, they write, full of nothing but "sex; hubaran, bawal na pagtatalik sa iba't-ibang lugar, pang-aakit na makamundo ang dahilan, at lahat ng bagay na may kinalaman sa tawag ng laman." (Yeah!)

(By the way, while there's the clear temptation to snicker at the descriptions, it's also a very comprehensive website, with capsule reviews of a good slew of films released in the Philippines. To their credit, the reviewers never turn preachy, and instead have a wholesome open-mindedness about the films, unlike U.S.-based fundamentalists.)

Posted by the wily filipino at 09:16 AM | Comments (3)

March 14, 2004

It's Final: We're Done For.

I don't know what FPJ's platform is, but I doubt he knows either. For that matter, I don't know what GMA's platform is either, and I don't know that anyone particularly cares.

This is just about the messiest Philippine election campaign in decades, and I mean campaign, not election -- the fraud will probably come later. There doesn't seem to be much difference between the newly-minted parties -- no, wait, they're more like alliances now -- since formerly "opposition" senators are now on the same side. It's not clear what these politicians are "opposed" to anymore; it seems to have devolved into a series of high school cliques. May tampo si ganire kay ganoon, kaya nasa ibang alyansya na siya; bati na sila ngayon kaya magkasama na sila.

And now this, where Erap's former principal enemy defects to Erap's best friend's party, effectively ensures that an actor with zero political experience and close ties to the previous ousted presidents will become the next president of the Philippines.

Posted by the wily filipino at 09:45 AM | Comments (1)

March 12, 2004

On Imelda.

On Imelda.

Saw Ramona Diaz's Imelda with Barb last night, and my head is still reeling. It is a fine, fine documentary, and I am glad that there will be a theatrical release in the U.S. at some point this year; more people should see it (though a DVD is apparently coming out in 2005).

The film's chief virtue -- and there are many, from Grace Nono's soundtrack to the careful editing (more about this in a second) -- is the fact that Diaz lets Imelda talk on and on. We are treated to what seems like a severely delusional Imelda, completely in denial of reality -- or so we are led to think.

Imelda starts off portraying Imelda as a charming, witty woman who, even in her current, less glamorous state, exudes a faded, almost regal presence. The charm is absolutely critical to understanding Imelda and, most important, her large retinue of hangers-on and thousands of Leyte residents who voted her back into office. But very slowly, the film darkens -- martial law couldn't be portrayed as anything but, though certainly the Marcos government tried hard to -- and Imelda's fantasies about representing the people become, at turns, laughable and horrible.

There is some amazing film footage as well, from '70s propaganda reels to shots of Imelda dancing with Kissinger, or George Hamilton singing. (The end credits alone -- where you see Bongbong and Imee dancing to Depeche Mode's "Just Can't Get Enough" -- are priceless.) One scene -- a little tendentious, but very effective -- juxtaposes Imelda's maids airing out an entire rack of her ternos, with squatters living by a railway.

Perhaps my only real quibble with the film is this. Okay, there were some omissions -- no Dovie Beams, no mention of Mindanao, despite some tantalizing footage of a dance troupe dancing the singkil and the infamous Tripoli meeting with Qaddafi -- but perhaps understandable given the limitations of the length. (Diaz explained later that she didn't include events that couldn't be verified independently, but it doesn't excuse the oddly Manilacentric view of things.)

Okay, back to my personal quibble, which isn't really one as you'll see in a second: The viewer is initially seduced, but not necessarily repulsed. That is, one comes out of the theater with a vision of a wacky but charming woman, but not of one that was deeply corrupt and responsible (if indirectly) for human rights violations. Perhaps the fact that the film would never have been made without Imelda's consent explains this. (Diaz did say during the Q&A session that Imelda had to leave the room a couple of times so as not to answer questions -- whether they were confrontational or embarrassing or "too emotional" was not clear.) You come out shaking your head, but not necessarily your fist.

The film takes a fairly even keel throughout, but it is only sympathetic to her in the sense that we hear Imelda explain her side of the story. Imelda doesn't shy from showing her and her tacky extravagance in a bad light; the camera lingers on her face in moments of self-doubt, and slows down the film to somewhat crudely emphasize this point. Events are indeed placed in the proper historical context -- we see Pete Lacaba and Jo-Ann Maglipon talk about being tortured -- but the audience is oddly distanced from this (as was, in her own way, Imelda). But there is no mourning, few tears, no talking head explicitly reminding the audience that we are watching a criminal. (To her credit, maybe Diaz felt little need to beat the audience over the head with it.) But there is little sense of outrage; one comes away with the feeling that the enormity of her crimes are still not so keenly presented.

And perhaps this is also the other great virtue of this excellent, must-see documentary: that the enormity of her crimes are not so keenly felt in any case. The screaming, adulatory crowds of people that greet her at every campaign stop, the landslide election victories of her son and daughter -- Diaz never poses the question "Why are they even back?" Instead, she, in her filmic wisdom, lets the film speak for itself, and one is faced with the horrible answer: Perhaps one feels no real outrage in the film because, as should be clear by now, an unfortunately large number of Filipinos didn't either.

Posted by the wily filipino at 09:52 AM | Comments (5)

March 10, 2004

From FPJ.

I'm sure a bunch of you readers have received this already in your e-mailboxes. I can't vouch for the veracity of the quotations -- though there's an article in the Manila Times that covers similar ground -- but the e-mail is being circulated with the caveat that these are not FPJ jokes (or retooled Erap jokes):

1) Reporter: Sir, ano po ang suggestion niyo para ma-stabilize ang peso? FPJ: Magtrabaho lang ng magtrabaho!

2) Reply in a November 26 one-on-one interview with a television news correspondent when confronted with the question on how he would address the country's persistent problems (e.g., kidnapping, economic crisis/poverty), his confident answer was simply: Common sense.

3) When asked for his reaction to the peso plunge, seemingly surprised by the question, Poe said, "Bago 'yan ah, dahil wala pa kaming nilalatag na economic program nagkaroon na ng ano dun, diperensya? Okay 'yan, bago 'yan ah, di ko alam na magkaka-apektuhan ng ganyan?"

4) Asked if he thought the slide in the value of the peso was being played up by the administration to blame the political opposition, Poe replied, "Nagkaroon lang ng chain reaction 'yan. 'Pag nagbago ang dollar sa ibang lugar, may chain reaction 'yan."

5) Reporter: Clone nyo daw po si Erap?
FPJ: There are no identical DNA's.

6) When asked about what he thinks of the continuous depreciation of the peso: "Sa totoo lang di ko alam eh. Ikaw alam mo?"

7) Nung tinanong siya ng taga Manila Times kung paano tataas ang growth rate ng Pilipinas: "Well, ano kasi yan eh, ang growth rate na yan tataas din yan kapag tumaas na ang funding natin." (Sabay ngiti at nagmamadaling

8) "A foreigner asked me what I thought was the biggest problem in the country. My answer was breakfast, lunch, and dinner..."

9) Reporter: "Sir, what is your birthday wish for Senator Loren Legarda?"
FPJ: "I wish her...... I am at a loss for words!"

10) Reporter: Paano ho natin masosolusyonan ang seccessionist problem sa Mindanao?
FPJ: Kailangan lang natin ipaalam sa kanila na masama ang ginagawa nila lalo na ang kidnapping ng mga inosenteng sibilyan.

11) Tinanong siya kung paano marereduce ang polusyon sa Pilipinas, sabi niya "Madali na lang yun kapag na solved (sic) na ang mga ibang issue."

12) Arnold De Sales: Ano po ang mga masasabi niyo sa mga nagsasabing importante daw ang edukasyon sa pagiging isang Pangulo?
FPJ: Ang edukasyon kasi, part lang yan eh. Part lang yan. Matututunan mo din yan basta gustuhin mo.

13) When asked by Max Soliven (Philippine Star) about the importance of experience in government, FPJ replied: Hindi karanasan, but kung anong nararanasan.

14) His reason for not joining the presidential debate: There have been too many debates in this country. It's no longer time for talk, but for action.

15) When he was booed in Lubao, he was asked about his feelings towards the reaction of the people.... "Ok lang yan, suportahan nila ang gusto nila... PERO SAYANG, DAMI KO NAMANG NAGAWANG PELIKULA SA PAMPANGA... MORE THAN TWENTY."

I'll translate one of the snippets above:

What can you say, Sir, about those who say that education is important in being a President? FPJ: See, education, that's only one part. That's only one part. You'll be able to learn that too as long as you want it.
(I'd love to hear American pundits tut-tut over movie stars being elected to public office, though...)
[Listening to: N*E*R*D's "Rock Star" (from the album In Search Of...)]
Posted by the wily filipino at 10:17 AM | Comments (0)

March 08, 2004

Pinoy Naming.

The Sassy Lawyer recently trackbacked to a long discussion we're having on my blog on names and nicknames -- okay, my family's names and nicknames.

I have no theories about those cutesy Pinoy nicknames; much has already been written (usually by expats, tourists and P.J. O'Rourke) about the "weirdness" of full-grown adults with names like Baby, Girlie, Boy, Bhoy, Sonny and so on. Let me set them outsiders straight: it is not weird; all the infantilizing is in their heads. Some folks may be tempted to see it as laying an odd claim to the glamour/grammar of English, and that might be true. (Though I did grew up with Cherry Pies and Sugar Pies and Honeybees -- and a male college classmate actually named Cookie Macapanpan (first Google hit!) -- and it does sound somewhat painful.)

I'm a little more interested in the whole host of Juniors and the Thirds (and by implication, Juns and Jun-Juns) -- a failure of imagination, or some vestigial (or obvious) act of patriarchy? And what about those themed names? And those one-letter names (Romeo, Ramon, Rodel, etc., or -- hee hee -- Leny and Lily)? Are they ways of unifying siblings further through the magic bond of letters, or a gesture toward reproductive seriality?

I've always kind of liked -- though not, when it came down to it, for our daughter Izzy -- those remixed names. Thus, Rene and Ellie would have a daughter named Renel -- or Renelle, Ranelle, Rhanelle, Rhenelle, etc. It seemed to me to be a kind of rebellion against "standard" orthography and "standard" forms of naming, though it's difficult to spell over the phone.

(Just by utter coincidence, there's a thread on this very topic going on on Orkut -- are any of you readers on this? It actually seems cooler than Friendster.)

[Listening to: N*E*R*D's "Brain" (from the album In Search Of...)]
Posted by the wily filipino at 08:42 PM | Comments (7)

February 29, 2004

All Google's Fault.

Aaarrgh! I've been wondering for the longest time why I've been getting bizarre comments on one of my entries -- and now I know why: if you type in "Filipino" and "Friendster" into Google, guess what comes up on top of the list?

Now I know why all these kids keep posting...

Anyhow, I used to have bookmarks of various Filipino celebs and starlets who were on Friendster, but with the new Friendster rules all the bookmarks seem to be invalid now because they're not my Friendster friends.

This was going to be part of a future post on Friendster and civil society, called "Two Degrees of Separation from Giselle Toengi." (Did that link work?) And I haven't actually gone on Friendster in months, so there's little point.

[Post Satan- and Jesus-free for your protection.]

Posted by the wily filipino at 12:33 PM | Comments (0)

February 25, 2004

On Christianity, Mel Gibson, and the Battle with Evil.

Barbara's pissed. She's referring to a discussion on the Flips list where one poster referred to -- and I can't remember the exact phrase -- Christian basket cases. (I had a sarcastic response to her offlist, so I may very well be one of those name-callers.) This prompted various responses, of which Barbara's measured, sober post is one.

I'm not really in any position to criticize Catholicism -- I was raised in a Protestant, United Church of Christ-affiliated household -- but I do clearly see Barbara's point. There is little room, it seems, for such a thing as the critical Filipino Catholic (or even generic Christian) to exist; the operative animal metaphor constantly used is that of sheep. (In anthropology, there is a somewhat parallel tendency to try to keep "explaining" religious behavior -- giving rise to the implication that belief in the seemingly irrational is a philosophical/cultural "problem" to begin with, without having to take religious experience very seriously.) And as someone who was quite active in the church during high school and college -- yes, Campus Crusade got their paws on me, but more about that later -- I fully recognize and understand the deep, rational significance of religion in daily life. And there's no need to remind readers of the importance of liberation theology to the progressive movement in the Philippines.

Having written that, I share Leny's concern with how Mel Gibson's film could be easily appropriated by the U.S. rightwing -- and you all know how I feel about the right. Leny writes:

Whereas it is possible to interpret the movie as a call to Christians to embark on an inner spiritual journey, they might substitute a historical event-turned-Hollywood movie, as further license to tell people to take up the cause of the religious right in the arena of politics and culture. There is a fear of the "other" – the one who is not a conservative Christian, who is not white, who is an immigrant, who is poor, who is not straight – that turns that fear into the creation of an undesirable enemy who needs to be either converted or annihilated.
Her words (which, quite honestly, sounded alarmist at first) echo in my head as I read Michael J. Brown's article for Spirit Daily entitled "Gibson Saw 'Big Dark, Palpable, Force' While Filming The Passion," forwarded to the Flips list -- and I'm afraid I can't quote it in full, and I can't find it online either -- but hopefully you folks would find it enlightening. The article begins:
This is not just the story of a movie. If it were, we wouldn't be covering it so regularly. No, this matter with Mel Gibson and The Passion of the Christ and the extraordinary hoopla is a religious event that can be classed only as major spiritual warfare.

It comes at a time when there is an infusion of grace and also a step-up in the battle with evil.

I hardly need to connect the dots for you folks to recognize the implications of that statement.

Brown peppers his essay with loaded references, calling the New York Times as "no great friend to Catholicism" and Hollywood as "the belly of the beast" -- two institutions long talked about as being "run by Jews." But Brown himself would argue that the enemy here is really none other than Satan (and his minions, who happen to be...?):

Soon, some Jewish organizations (by no means all) were screaming that in portraying the role of Jews in the Crucifixion... Gibson was acting in a way that was anti-Semitic.

Chalk that up as another spiritual attack. The hallmarks of Satan include confusion, division, fear, and the devil's specialty of false accusation.

Later he writes: "There was the unfortunate flap over whether the Pope had endorsed it. The devil used this in an effort to besmirch both the Vatican and Gibson." Brown's cold, for-us-or-against-us, no-questions-asked rhetoric is obviously reminiscent of, well, one of my Great Satans.

(Some of you may be amused by Brown's words elsewhere:

We all have gone through runs of "bad luck" -- from time to time we all find ourselves under a cloud -- and often it's difficult to discern why this occurs. Sometimes it's simply a period of testing (again, think Job!). At other times it's our own fault because we've allowed dark forces to infiltrate. This can happen when someone brings occult or pornographic books into a home, views the wrong kind of videos, dabbles in things like astrology, or associates too closely with people who are carrying darkness -- sinfulness, the demonic -- around with them. [Emphasis his.]
You'll need to see the entire article to put the quote in context, though.)

In any case, I feel no need to give any more money to Gibson. Yes, I know, I know, I haven't seen it and I should see it before I make any judgements, and it may indeed be a spiritually transcendent experience -- but I know my cash will be funding something unsavory in the long run. It's already become one of those films that one feels pressure to see precisely because discourse is already exhausted prior to its being shown. Besides, wouldn't you rather see Starsky and Hutch instead?

Posted by the wily filipino at 10:40 AM | Comments (6)

February 22, 2004

Leny Strobel's Passion.

Leny -- forgive me for the title -- has a great, great post on why she's not watching Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.

I'm still a bit speechless; our religious experiences have some scary similarities, so now I'm inspired to write something as well -- but I know it won't be as well-written as Leny's.

Posted by the wily filipino at 02:10 PM | Comments (0)

February 21, 2004

"History Lesions."

Thanks to Jesse from, here's an article by Red Constantino on AlterNet where he succinctly spells it all out for you: the Philippines, Vietnam, Iraq. It's entitled "History Lesions" and well worth reading -- and even if it's all old news to you, pass the link on.

He also has a blog which seems to be spread out among various blogspot sites, but here's the main link to Red Constantino.

Posted by the wily filipino at 02:45 PM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2004

Field Costumes of Bontoc Igorrote Women, Philippines.

Field Costumes of Bontoc Igorrote Women, Philippines

This woman "in working dress," is described by Dean Worcester (Secretary of the Interior of the Philippine Islands) as "suggestive of the style prevalent in the days of Eve." The photograph was taken either by Worcester or Charles Martin for the Bureau of Science.

Such photographs taken for the ethnological archive were later commercially reproduced in National Geographic (see the November 1913 issue for the same photograph, cropped and hand-tinted), or, as we see above, as a divided back postcard from 1910, sent to a Mr. Percy Breece of Delaware.


(Click on the images for a bigger version, then turn your head to the right to read the back.)

One not only sees, in the example above, the generation of ethnological types that legitimated the fiction of colonial "tribal" categories. It is also an interesting blurring of photographs made for anthropological analysis and public, indeed, prurient consumption -- a mixture of scientific rigor and commodified entertainment similar to that of the Philippine Reservation at the St. Louis World's Fair.

Posted by the wily filipino at 09:19 AM | Comments (0)

February 09, 2004

NYC-Related Ramble.

Just came back from New York (only to realize, as I browsed through a copy of Time Out New York, that I was missing Eileen's reading the very day I was leaving). It was raining in NY (and sleeting up in Ithaca), but no matter; I ended up walking in the freezing rain to make my usual pilgrimage -- no, not to Cendrillon, but to the Dakota and Strawberry Fields.

I was invited to give a talk at a terrific symposium at Columbia organized by Coco Fusco called "Visualizing Race in American Photography" -- yeah, there I was all starstruck with all those bigshots! And if you don't live in NY or Seattle, the accompanying website and exhibition catalog would be the next best thing -- though it inevitably pales in comparison.

A photograph of Bennie Flores Ansell's piece "The Collection Box, Morpho Stiletto" doesn't do it much justice; one should really see the inkjet transparencies of shoes, in the shape of butterflies, pinned inside a box, to experience its fragile yet creepy tactile quality. I met the artist at the show and we had a nice chat about our respective obsessions about Imelda Marcos -- anyhow, I highly recommend checking out her website, where she has a mini-gallery and a discussion of "the interface of the values of beauty, identity and gender classification." (We talked about the possibility of some conference thingie, or at least more scholarly and artistic work -- hey, maybe I'll do another one of those mini blog parties! -- on Imelda. Anyone interested in answering a call for blog papers?)

Anyhow, it seems I'm missing out on a "po(e)tluck and literary feast" at Pusod this weekend; I'm kicking myself (no, really) as I have to be in Disneyland for Madeline's cousin's wedding. (Yes, really.) I think the bride actually comes out of a pumpkin-shaped carriage. And part of the contract is that Mickey and Minnie have to dance during the bride and groom's first dance. (Yes, really!)

So I've been praying, please, oh god, let Donald Duck pronounce them man and wife. That would totally make my weekend.

So you Bay Area folks: eat my share of adobo.

Posted by the wily filipino at 08:59 PM | Comments (0)

February 02, 2004


And yes, there was a Filipino connected to that boob:

In an interview posted on in the days before the show, Jackson's choreographer, Gil Duldulao, talked about the show, saying: "She's more stylized, she's more feminine, she's more a woman as she dances this time around. There are some shocking moments in there too."
It was apparently a "wardrobe malfunction."
Posted by the wily filipino at 09:57 AM | Comments (0)

January 26, 2004

"Bigger than King Kong with a 45."

Um, here's a letter I received via e-mail concerning a "Roco Tshirt and Fund Drive" for Philippine Senator Raul Roco's presidential candidacy. Santayana's heart, I guess, is in the right place, though, as he puts it, I wouldn't understand the theory since I haven't been in the area:


In case you didn't know, there's an election this coming May in the Philippines, and that we launched our Roco Tshirt and Fund Drive to support the candidacy of Senator Raul Roco for President of the Philippines.

If you also didn't know, before oldtime actor Fernando Poe, Jr. entered the contest, Senator Raul Roco consistently topped the Ibon and social Weather Surveys as the possible winner of this coming election. To get more support into real votes for Raul Roco come election time, we need to keep the voters reminded that Raul Roco is still the best and most qualified candidate who can restore the local economic foundation of the Philippines. To do that, we need to remind the voters the reasons why they are poor. Hey, if they are not poor - who will sell their votes, join the New People's Army, and then kill and be killed in a civil war so that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front can secede Sulu, Palawan and Mindanao with the help from the United Nations and help from some in the USA.

We also need to remind them that the Philippines was sold to the USA and can be sold again. If you didn't know, some in the USA wants Mindanao and that Malaysia wants Sabah for $80 million. If you didn't know, the Sultan of Brunei along with some Hong Kong Chinese were caught hoarding land in the Philippines! In retaliation, RP Congress made citizenship a requisite to owning land which got us into dual citizenship.

Surely, there are still others out there who are bent on making the Philippines cheaper if not poorer. To this end, they need to create a peace and order situation. In the movies, that's a US-CIA specialty. If somebody can become the Timi Yuro of the Philippines, maybe Jose Ma. Sison wants to become the Stalin of the Philippines while he satisfies his senses in the red light corners of Amsterdam. The partnership of these two alone is formidable, what more Osama Bin Laden's drug dealers, Al Qaeda/MILF and his corrupt cops or licensed-to-kill and mercenaries around the world?

The challenge here is, can you join us in making the Philippines rich? Making the Philippines rich is a no-brainer. If you did not know, (Raul Roco - Biodata) Senator Raul Roco finished college Magna Cum Laude at age 18, became a lawyer, took his masters in University of Pennsylvania, and was conferred seven honorary doctorate degrees.

Can this Peacemaker get this country above water? Because this country is naturally rich, with a lot of support, a good six months as President is all that is needed.

In case you didn't know, the reason why people hoard land in the Philippines is because there's lots of oil and gold in the Philippines. In fact, I am sure the USA bought the Philippines from Spain not because they wanted to offer the natives as entertainment to licensed hunters nor to train expert assassins with live targets. (Although I think they readily left because they have nothing more to learn from our natives about jungle survival.) Nope, I think they did because of oil and at that time there was no free trade nor open market policy. So the oil industry got the US to buy the Philippines.

The encouragement and entertainment: the military will have intelligence to bully the world; no - to dominate the world and preserve world peace; ain't that neat.

Why? I think because the prevailing bias at that time - the KKK - they are superior because of their white skin. It can't be any other way; it's because of their white skin. It's their shining armor! It's not because they're bigger than King Kong with a 45 and alcohol on the other. In fact, they're the only ones who plays football where they readily die practicing and perfecting the "sport". I don't think that's because they wanna maintain their claim to superiority; nope.

But the encouragement and entertainment was, to support that claim to superior white skin, they needed oil. No oil, no military presence and intelligence. No military power, no superior white skin. So they bought the Philippines.

You wouldn't understand this theory if you haven't been in the area. They could not say because of oil and gold because that is like telling everybody I found gold in California. They got to say something and get Congress to cut the deal.

How come they left without oil? Because they thought it was in the Muslim territory plus at that time, they did not have offshore drilling.

The Roco Tshirts will be given free-of-charge to all members of Aksyon Kabataan under the umbrella of Raul Roco's Political Party - Aksyon Demokratiko, then to jeepney, taxi, bus, and tricycle drivers, sidewalk and cigarette vendors, wet market vendors, college students in Manila, then all over the Philippines. These tshirts will have "kay Roco ako" in front and in the back "ako rin".

This Tshirt Project is huge and we can't expect to do half of what is needed without you, your friends and your connections valued support. Can you imagine a million tshirts at a $1 a piece! Without you and your friends support the tasks increases. Should you grant us your financial support, thanks, any amount will be greatly appreciated, and please write your check or money order payable to:

NYSBCAA (New York San Beda College Alumni Association)
189 Settlers Hill Road, Southbury, CT 06488
Attn: Fundraising Committee
Sonny Santayana, (702) 804-1848,
Art Montesa, (516) 785-5151,
Antonio Abad, (203) 510-3400,

Because we volunteers4roco work for free, all funds will be sent to Raul Roco's Aksyon Demokratiko Headquarters in the Philippines to pay for the tshirts already in the pipeline, poll watching expenses and Court Fees (in case). Please help. A dollar or two can go a long way.

Sonny Santayana, Las Vegas, NV 89144 - (702) 804-1848

Posted by the wily filipino at 08:36 AM | Comments (3)

January 21, 2004


Found an extensive snippet from my book that some of you might appreciate:

As early as 1898, the inimitable Philippine Commissioner Dean Conant Worcester, then still assistant professor of zoology at the University of Michigan, was already asking: "Can we refuse to accept the responsibility which the logic of events has thrust upon us?... Can we not withdraw and leave the civilized natives to work out their own salvation? There can hardly be two answers to this... for their utter unfitness for self-government at the present time is self-evident." Three months later, he was summoned by President William McKinley to join the first Philippine Commission, where they wrote, in their first conclusion regarding government:
The United States can not withdraw from the Philippines. We are there and duty binds us to remain. There is no escape from our responsibility to the Filipino and to mankind for the government of the archipelago and the amelioration of the condition of its inhabitants.
The Commission also underscored the eventual granting of "independence after an undefined period of American training," but the impossibility of self-rule at that time had already been established. Less than a month after arriving in the islands as part of the Second Philippine Commission, then-Commissioner Taft would write a friend: "The great mass of them are superstitious and ignorant.... They are cruel to animals and cruel to their fellows when occasion arises. They need the training of fifty or a hundred years before they shall even realize what Anglo-Saxon liberty is."
Speaking of people unfit to rule, President Smirk is going around again pretending he's the "Education President," promising "an extra $33 million in the approximately $12 billion Pell Grant program to give $1,000 more per year to low-income students who complete a rigorous high school curriculum."

Considering the fact that he actually froze the maximum award last year -- after promising a raise during his past presidential campaign -- makes this new "promise" even more brazen.

Posted by the wily filipino at 10:24 AM | Comments (0)

January 18, 2004

Five Answers.

I think the questions were too difficult, as not many people wrote answers. Well, here they are, but you'd have to wade through my various digressions:

1. This California-based lite jazz pianist dedicated one of his compositions on a 1985 album to Ninoy Aquino. Who is he?

I was initially tempted to write a long answer about how, in the eighties (the last time I was really familiar with the Philippines), the Filipino music scene has always been interestingly divergent from the American Top 40, despite what the Apo Hiking Society sings in "American Junk;" and this would have meandered into a discussion of the odd absence of hiphop from Pinoy radio airwaves, despite its seeming centrality to Filipino American youth culture; and CityLite 88.3's spearheading of the entire lite jazz scene, making a (yuppie) household name of Jim Chappell, who is virtually unknown in the United States, and who is probably eternally grateful to all those Manilenos who pestered Odyssey and SM into releasing his hard-to-find albums, with which I would have argued that such yuppie trappings was somehow culturally "necessary" for a disillusioned middle class (in the '80s) to differentiate itself from everyone else, considering that so many of the so-called professional and lower classes had gone overseas at that point, and that the kind of "sophistication" that jazz, in its various forms, connoted, was an important marker of Filipino upper middle-class consumption, and that this could also be seen if one analyzes the content of ads featured on an aggressively "A-market" radio station like CityLite as compared with, say, a more "downscale" 93.9 WKC, and that this would have been all still tied up with the glamor of English which still seems to be the only language used on FM radio, making Jeremiah Junior's voice and accent the default template by which all DJs are reckoned, and such that even a Tagalog ad on Citylite would sound jarring, considering that even the tracks from Filipino artists which Citylite would play in the early days would also be in English, with the exception of some stuff like Labuyo's classic "Tuloy Pa Rin Ako;" and 99.5 RT's valiant defense of the New Wave, when they played such willfully obscure singles like "C.R.E.E.P." by the Fall, "Chamber of Hellos" by Wire Train and the gorgeous "More to Lose" by Seona Dancing, and how RT fell into ignominy by switching to a godawful Top 40 format, despite the fact that their spearheading of the New Wave was instrumental in getting jeepney radios to play music from China Crisis and the Cure, and even my junior-senior high school prom's theme was "Feels Like Heaven" by the Fiction Factory, which goes to show how triumphant New Wave's entry was into the provinces; and the inexplicable success of Mike Francis and Fra Lippo Lippi, acts which are, once again, almost completely unknown in the United States, the anonymity of which is evident in sporadic postings on the soc.culture.filipino and newsgroups asking where to find their albums in the U.S.; and how, in many cases, the Philippines has anticipated many trends, since the ridiculous "Macarena" was poisoning Filipino airwaves at least a year before it hit the U.S., and how Everything But The Girl was already huge in the Philippines long before "Missing" came out; and that most of the time the Philippines may be really taking its cultural cues from Europe, filtered through Hongkong and Taiwan, with this reflected in the Giordano and Pink Soda shops all over Manila malls; and I would have wrapped it all up by asking whether anyone remembered such "hits" as "My Heart Keeps Beating" by Blind Date, or whether anyone knew why someone bothered to release singles like "See My Dreams Around," "Swiss Boy," "Hypnotized," "6 to 8," "Sahara Nights," and the makabagbag-damdaming "Body Dancer." But I digress. The question refers to "Hymn for Aquino," found on the David Benoit album "This Side Up."

2. In another Marcos-era rumor, the president allegedly had the borders of a province redrawn so that its shape would look like his profile. What was this province?

You folks haven't taken a look at a Philippine map lately, have you? The "correct" answer is Kalinga-Apayao, two subprovinces joined together in 1966, I think. Check it out: that swath of Bryclreemed hair shares borders with Cagayan Province. By the way, the rumor isn't true. But then again the regime lied about a lot of stuff.

3. Aside from their showbiz backgrounds, what do Rogelio de la Rosa and Eddie Ilarde have in common?

They were also both senators -- just in case one thinks that Loren Legarda, Noli de Castro, Tito Sotto, Ramon Revilla, Bobby Jaworski, and Freddie Webb were fairly recent anomalies in Philippine politics. And now Jinggoy Estrada, Pilar Pilapil, Bong Revilla, Jay Sonza, Lito Lapid and Jamby Madrigal are following suit. Yay.

4. Six people were killed here in January 1970; seventeen years later, in January 1987, thirteen people also lost their lives in the same location. What place is being referred to?

Ferdinand Marcos and Cory Aquino may be different presidents, but the murder of students and farmers at Mendiola Bridge haunts both their regimes.

5. In this controversial 1989 film, actor Daniel Fernando goes to Manila to do two things: to look for a job, and to look for his sister, played by Princess Punzalan, whom he unexpectedly discovers working at a brothel. What job does he end up getting?

He was employed as a macho dancer, in the film of the same name. Not the best Lino Brocka film, though, because it's ultimately derivative at heart, and Brocka has a better eye for political repression. But amidst the cheesy saxophone music in the background, the many lovingly-filmed soap-and-shower scenes between Fernando and Alan Paule have a kind of gaudy but erotic transcendence, and it's where the film shines. The film ends in tragedy, of course, but it stands firm in its belief of the power of redemptive luv.

Posted by the wily filipino at 12:18 PM | Comments (3)

January 16, 2004


Everyone's writing about karaoke: Veronica, Michelle (twice!), Barbara, and Leny (three times!). We should have had a karaoke blog party!

I have never done solo karaoke. Really. The closest I ever got to actually singing was when my brother and I (in the privacy of my folks' bedroom) would sing along tunelessly to America's "I Need You" as videoke played on the local cable station. (They always have some random woman -- either an Asian woman on the beach, or an Eastern European woman wandering around old buildings -- in these videos.) Then there was Nerissa and Lito's karaoke party last year, but only Zack, Richard and Robyn had the guts -- or the temerity =) -- to dare sing solo. (Oh wait, Lucy sang "Tomorrow" from Annie, complete with arm gestures.) And that's it. You will never see me sing solo. Ever.

So I'll cop out by quoting something, though it's not about karaoke, from anthropologist Fenella Cannell, in her essay on Bicolanos in "The Power of Appearances" (in Vince Rafael's Discrepant Histories, but you'll do better to read her entire ethnography Power and Intimacy in the Christian Philippines), where she writes, contra simple Bhabhaesque mimicry, "...the apparent 'imitation' of American forms actually constituted a subtle and ironic exploration of the possibility of accessing the power of the imagined American world, through self-transformation."

There is a particular elan about carrying off well a song in this foreign language, especially solo. It is, it appears, a small act of triumph; a small act of possession of this culture which largely excludes the poor. At the same time, there is a kind of nostalgia which attaches to it when sung in this context; not the nostalgia for an autumn leaf in a place on the other side of the world which evades the imagination [in reference to the song "Autumn Leaves"], but a nostalgia for the fragility of this act of possession, perhaps of any acts of possession; the difficulty of appropriating fragments of this culture as your own.
This reminds me of a Tagalog phrase I haven't heard in years: "plakadong-plakado." It's somewhat "obsolete" because there are probably few people in the Philippines nowadays who would play a "plaka," i.e., a vinyl record, but the point should be clear -- it refers to the capacity to, okay, "mimic" the studio sound of a record, or at least to replicate it in a live setting.

There's a nice use of it here, in a review of a Freestyle concert:

They did covers of Incognito, Mike Francis, Monica, Des'ree, Monday Michiru, Eric Gadd, Will Smith, Michael Jackson, George Michael and Next. And no matter whose songs they did – you could actually close your eyes and not know the difference. It was, in local parlance: plakadong-plakado.
One could argue that it's not necessarily mimicry -- perhaps that would even be reading too much into it -- but technical mastery that is strived for and applauded. Those videoke machines that give out points reserve the highest scores for people who can hit the same notes unerringly.

Ramble: Do Filipinos hear and listen differently? When Filipino musicians are hired overseas, is it not because of this plakado quality, the capacity to sing faultlessly in English, a language that they can speak better than the people of their host countries? (Damn, this ties up really well into long-simmering ideas for future research -- I just need to get the turn-of-the-century colonial topics and 9/11 stuff out of the way...)

Posted by the wily filipino at 07:59 AM | Comments (1)

January 11, 2004

Five Questions.

Answers will be posted a week from today.

1. This California-based light jazz pianist dedicated one of his compositions on a 1985 album to Ninoy Aquino. Who is he?

2. In a Marcos-era rumor, the president allegedly had the borders of a province redrawn so that its shape would look like his profile. What was this province?

3. Aside from their showbiz backgrounds, what do Rogelio de la Rosa and Eddie Ilarde have in common?

4. Six people were killed here in January 1970; seventeen years later, in January 1987, thirteen people also lost their lives in the same location. What place is being referred to?

5. In this controversial 1989 film, actor Daniel Fernando goes to Manila to do two things: to look for a job, and to look for his sister, played by Princess Punzalan, whom he unexpectedly discovers working at a brothel. What job does he end up getting?

Posted by the wily filipino at 08:38 AM | Comments (3)

January 04, 2004

Quick Trivia Answer.

No one seems to have answered my question about Lenny Bruce: What are the first three words of Lenny Bruce's How to Talk Dirty and Influence People: An Autobiography?

The answer: "Filipinos come quick."

Posted by the wily filipino at 07:56 AM | Comments (3)

December 24, 2003

Quick Trivia Question.

All right, folks, here's a trivia question for y'all, since Lenny Bruce is in the news for being pardoned for his obscenity conviction back in New York in 1964:

What are the first three words of Lenny Bruce's How to Talk Dirty and Influence People: An Autobiography? (I read the book back when I was in high school and was too young to figure out what he meant.)

Posted by the wily filipino at 09:52 AM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2003

Language and Aswang.

My Asian American Culture students are probably cursing my name, because I asked them this question for their finals (though a good number of them succeeded admirably):

In a few of our class's readings/viewings -- Wayne Wang's film Chan Is Missing, Barbara Jane Reyes's poem "101 Words That Don't Quite Describe Me," R. Zamora Linmark's novel Rolling the R's, to name some examples -- some words, if not entire blocks of dialogue, are left untranslated. What could this signify?
I had then expected answers regarding untranslatability, minority languages, language as instruments of inclusion and exclusion, the politics of translation, the interrogation of the primacy of English (one student would write in his exam that it was "a challenge to English hegemony) or, at the very least (even if I didn't personally agree), the idea of a native tongue as being "closer" to some kind of ethnic "essence."

To these characteristics of language I'd add another dimension, related to exclusion: language as signifying the secret. Or, in this case, representing the mysterious/exotic. I was happily reminded of this after watching Wrye Martin and Barry Polterman's enjoyable low-budget horror film Aswang, from 1994 -- a real treat for you indie-horror fans out there. The setup's pretty simple: a young woman is paid to be a surrogate mother (and to pretend to be a wife) by a wealthy man who apparently needs an heir in order to inherit their rural Wisconsin estate. Our pregnant protagonist visits the ancestral home and is introduced in turn to the ailing matriarch, and the creepy Filipina maid named Cupid (played with relish by Mildred Nierras) -- and is told about Claire, the sister who is "touched" and "gets upset easily" and lives in a cabin separated from the house.

And there is, of course, the aswang; for you non-Filipinos out there, it's a vampire-like creature straight from Filipino mythology. (Funny how the online reviewers -- one of which helpfully wrote, "It's pronounced ass-wang" -- found the premise intrinsically nasty, whereas I simply found it the stuff of childhood stories. Yes, the aswang happens to feed on fetuses sucked out of pregnant women.) We see it first in a framed drawing on a wall -- we are told the family spent time in Basilan -- and the nosy neighbor is horrified: "Good Lord! What is that?" "The aswang." "Wh-- what is it doing?" "Feeding."

But one of the coolest things* about the film is that the mother, the son and the maid speak in Tagalog to each other throughout the movie, and their speech (at least the version I saw) isn't subtitled. (The white actors playing the mother and son are pretty game, even if the pronunciation isn't the clearest.) Most of the Tagalog words are colloquial conversation, limited to "No" and "Thanks" and "Please pass the cider," but still. There's even a scene when Cupid puts her ear to the pregnant woman's stomach and pronounces "Mga dalawa, tatlong araw na lang, malapit nang mahinog" -- crucial information, I thought, but here, just left to the viewer's imagination. (Later, when the maid falls down on her knees and begins praying, one realizes that the audience is supposed to think it's a magical incantation of some sort.)

Tagalog here, particularly when seen in the context of the genre, functions to intensify the fear of the unknown; something bad is going to happen to the protagonist -- perhaps even discussed openly -- but both she and the non-Tagalog-speaking audience is deliberately left in the dark. (That "something bad" becomes clear once the aswang's phallic tongue is unfurled.) So while the Philippines is tangentially imagined here as the source for humid horror (in a fashion similar to those bad "anthropological" X-Files episodes when Scully and Mulder encounter "other cultures"), I am at least let in on the secret.

*But perhaps the coolest scene in the film -- particularly for you gorehounds out there -- is a battle between two women, with a hoe, a chainsaw, and a cramped living room.

Posted by the wily filipino at 08:45 AM | Comments (4)

December 08, 2003

Some Random Thoughts on Adobo.

1. I was walking down the street -- on St. Francis Boulevard in Daly City, as a matter of fact -- one day in 1995 when something in the air literally stopped me. It was the unmistakable smell of garlic, vinegar, and soy sauce, and I found it remarkable because (the thought occurred to me) I had never smelled it before. Not literally, anyway, and let me digress a little before I explain.

2. I've been thinking a lot lately about the smell of adobo. Anthropologists have always prioritized only two or three of the human senses (hearing and seeing, not to mention talking), and the sense of smell always ends up taking a back seat. But smell is crucial to adobo -- the sting of vinegar in the nostrils the minute after you pour it into the simmering pot, the murky, deep smell of chicken cooking after the second hour of cooking - so much so that it's instantly recognizable anywhere else.

3. My brother and I were chatting on the phone about adobo (he lives in Philly), and I asked him how often he cooked it. His response: "Meron akong kapitbahay, ano?" [Loose translation: I have neighbors, you know!"]

4. In contrast, Leny Strobel's poem gets it absolutely right:

Keep the lid off and let the flavors
Engulf the house to its rafters
Better yet open the doors
And windows, let your
Nosy neighbors envy you
of the delights
Of adobo

5. It's an unambiguous declaration of ethnic presence, an olfactory attack on the mainstream: We're here and you can smell it.

6. But to get back to my point in #1 about never having smelled adobo before: when I was growing up in the Philippines, adobo was just always there, another smell in the entire panoply of smells and odors and aromas that constitute the Philippines: garlands of sampaguitas, turned-up earth after a monsoon rain, lechon sarsa, tuyo, tricycle exhaust, sewage, kalabaw dung, and adobo. That unexpected whiff on a foggy Daly City day (which is practically every day) jolted me out of my suburban ennui.

7. So I wonder whether the smell of adobo in the U.S. is the same anywhere -- not the literal smell that, judging from the different variations posted already, I am sure would differ -- but whether it means the same everywhere else. It certainly didn't for me in the Philippines. Does it have the same meaning in Saudi Arabia? In Hong Kong? In Rome? Is it truly emblematic of Filipino identity in the "diaspora," or is it only in the United States that an immigrant population -- with those T-shirts that say, "Love, peace and adobo grease" -- has embraced adobo as the national (or transnational) food?

8. Unlike kare-kare -- which plunges you into the ground peanuts vs. peanut butter debate (I take a third way: the Mama Sita way) -- adobo creates little controversy, unless it's your neighbor furiously at work with a can of Glade in the hallway. (This really happened. We hated her anyhow.)

9. Unlike other Filipino dishes that are used to establish the borders of cultural difference in a sometimes ugly fashion -- I'm thinking of balut and dog meat here -- adobo is uncomplicated, a symbol that at once signifies everything (identity, colonialism, ethnic pride) and nothing, or rather, nothing but itself.

10. It's also uncomplicated in a literal sense as well. The great thing about adobo is the relative transportability of the ingredients, particularly if you're going for the simplest recipe. Unless you're stuck in the middle of nowhere (as do many Filipinos now, alas) without even a bottle of Kikkoman in sight, adobo is fairly easy to cook. (As a former classmate once scoffed when hearing of my cooking abilities: "It's the one dish any Filipino male learns to cook!")

11. And with that, this Filipino male gets up to stir the pot.

[I've gone ahead and collected not just blog entries posted today, but links sent to via e-mail or the comment box and entries posted since the "call for entries." If you wish to be delinked (or have your description changed), please let me know.

I'll be updating the list again tonight -- if you folks want a copy of the list below (all html-formatted so you can simply edit your entry and append it), then drop me a line.

And don't forget, folks: people mingle at parties, so please write comments or response entries when you can...]

Adobo Party People:

On 'Aiha’a, a recipe for turkey adobo.

Joffin-Mari Baril on how life is a pot of adobo.

BatJay writes on adobo power -- twice -- praises his partner's cooking, and ponders python adobo.

Michelle Bautista has adobo for Thanksgiving (thankfully not the kind with spit in it, and not moose adobo either).

Gitz Cano on adobo memories.

Veronica Montes says, "Adobo, you will be mine."

On On My Plate, a recipe for adobo-flavored garlic fried rice.

Rhett Valino Pascual with his adobo haynaku, and more musings on adobo.

Barbara Jane Reyes gets someone to fix her computer.

Jose Reyes with his recipe for Italian adobo.

The Sassy Lawyer with six adobo recipes.

Leny Strobel with more hay(na)ku, and musings on the origins of adobo.

Eileen Tabios delurks with an adobo poem -- and something on "licking, biting, chewing.... swallowing".

Jean Vengua on "adobo weather" and adobo as "a dish of magical realism."

Sunny Vergara writes about the smell of adobo.

Posted by the wily filipino at 08:07 AM | Comments (10)

December 05, 2003

Adobo Day, December 8.

Don't forget, folks: December 8 is adobo Day!

Those of you participating can drop me a line at wily [ a t ] on Dec. 8, and I'll send all the links to you in a formatted list to append to your entry if you wish. (I've also been keeping track of a bunch of adobo-related entries being posted in blogs so far.)

Posted by the wily filipino at 09:01 AM | Comments (3)

December 03, 2003

Short Note on Jollibee.

Barbara's been writing about Jollibee lately, so I thought I'd respond via the blog. Jollibee is indeed owned/founded by a Chinese Filipino. Interesting, though, that she kind of equates it with colonial mimicry: Jollibee stared down the McDonald's onslaught in the mid-80s with an advertising campaign that was "nationalistic" in thrust -- that Jollibee was the real Filipino fastfood. (McDo was seen fairly early on as emblematic of American identity -- and the coolness factor was such that the beautiful people, at least in the early 80s, would be hanging out at McDo for their pre-clubbing snacks.) In any case, the nationalistic ad campaign struck a nerve, and to this day Jollibee has been trouncing McDo in terms of market share. (It also helped that it offered greasy chicken and pansit palabok and that its spaghetti was a little sweeter, just the way Filipinos like it.)

So yeah -- the fast-food franchise model may have been derived from McDonald's, but there was a very conscious effort to portray the fastfood (and its corporate identity) as Filipino. Maybe not "a stronghold of heritage, a monument of Filipino victory" as they unironically describe it on their website, but still...

Happy knows more about this; maybe he can respond.

Posted by the wily filipino at 08:26 AM | Comments (7)

November 28, 2003

Screaming Monkeys.

M. Evelina Galang's Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, 2003) arrived in my mailbox today, and -- from what I've gleaned in the last 20 minutes since I pulled it out of the priority mail envelope -- it sure looks like it kicks ass. Scholarly articles, memoirs, poetry, fiction, art, primary historical documents, advertisements -- it's all here. Thankfully it's not too late to change my syllabus for the spring; this looks like essential, thought-provoking (and most important for my students, exciting) stuff. And yes, I do read the books before I assign them. =)

(I got my copy from Small Press Distribution -- okay, I know it's cheaper at another online bookstore, but...)

p.s. to you poet-types out there: Does anyone know why Michael Gottlieb's Lost and Found seems to have been "removed," with a new version apparently coming out in mid-December instead? And why Roof Books doesn't even list it?

Posted by the wily filipino at 02:27 PM | Comments (4)

November 23, 2003

All About Adobo: a Call for Blog Entries.

Adobo -- eating it, cooking it, talking about it, thinking about it -- is also about memory, colonialism, cultural contact, consumption, family, cuisine, the senses, identity... and it's good to eat too!

Remembrances, poetry, stories, recipes, photographs and other ruminations, whether fragmented or complete, long or short, rough or polished, are all welcome.

"Deadline" -- or rather, posting time -- will be Monday, December 8 -- just drop me a line via email at wily [ a t ] when you've posted it on your blog, and I will combine the links (which you can then similarly append to your entries). (If you don't have a blog, feel free to send me the writeup and I can post it on mine.) I encourage everyone to comment on each other's work as well.

Hopefully this will be the beginning of a kind of collaborative Pinoy/Pinay blog project -- one in a series where Filipina/o bloggers all write and post on the same topic (on the same day). ("Submissions," by the way, are open to *everyone* who's ever tasted / smelled adobo, whether it's the Filipino, Mexican, or Peruvian variant...)

And please spread the word -- the more participants, the better!

Posted by the wily filipino at 12:56 PM | Comments (8)

November 17, 2003

Joey de Leon.

I have no shame! Most people hide their old work -- you'll never see my undergraduate thesis on F. Sionil Jose, ha ha! But here's an old college paper that has mysteriously survived a disk crash and a couple of upgrades. One day I may return to it, but the whole paper requires a total overhaul. (My take on Barbi now would be somewhat different.) "Alternate subversive texts against the hegemony of Western culture?" I mean, come on -- De Leon's smart, but he would most likely think that reading would be a load of crap. If anything, you'll get a good glimpse of my sources for bad Pinoy trivia.

Here it is, in all its stark, embarrassing, unedited, late-'80s glory. (Note: I needed to post something long to keep the right tables from wrapping underneath everything, and this worked in a pinch.)

When the history of Philippine popular culture in the Eighties is written, one name will undoubtedly be mentioned: Joey de Leon. His recent string of low-budget but phenomenally popular films have established his work as a solo performer, apart from Tito and Vic Sotto. As writer, director, and star his movies have aroused much controversy, prompting critics and newspaper columnists to bewail the declining quality of Philippine cinema, as exemplified by the De Leon films.

But despite scathing reviews, the films continue to be top money grossers, and this is certainly a clear indication of audience preference. Why, then, are his films extremely popular, despite their "poor" quality? In turn, it may say something about his audience. Forget the poor editing and the glaring lapses in narration, disregard the limited cinematography and generally wooden-faced acting; Joey de Leon has something deeper to say here.

De Leon's films have all dealt with American cultural icons, from Tarzan (the three Starzan movies), the Lone Ranger (Long Ranger and Tonto), He-Man (She-Man), Superman and Mighty Mouse (Super Mouse and the Roborats), Barbie (Barbi), and Elvis Presley and James Dean (Elvis and James 1 and 2), and whether this may account for their popularity will be dealt with in this study.

This paper will discuss Joey de Leon's films as alternate subversive texts against the hegemony of Western culture. It will also tackle the "epic" quality of the films, and their attempt to elevate De Leon and his co-actor, Rene Requiestas -- along with Fernando Poe, Jr. -- to "epic hero" status, as replacements for the Western heroes. This paper will focus on only five works: Super Mouse and the Roborats, Elvis and James 1 and 2, Starzan 2, and Hot Dog (a Tito, Vic and Joey starrer).

Some readers may point out that De Leon is merely using Western images to promote his own films; it shows the sorry state of Filipino culture -- that the audience is primarily more familiar with Western culture. This may be true, but it emphasizes more the need to subvert the Western domination. Working with familiar images makes the films' attempts at subversion more direct, more intense, and more effective. Neither is it De Leon's way of appropriating Western culture; he is not merely absorbing the images in his own terms, but deliberately twisting them.

Of course, parodies of American characters have always been around: less popular comedians like Redford White, Palito, and Chiquito have lampooned Rocky (Rocky Tu-log), James Bond (James Bone), the Karate Kid (The Master and the Karate Gid), Rambo (Rambo-Tango), and the Six Million Dollar Man (The Six Million Centavo Man), among others. De Leon, however, has outlasted and outgrossed them all. Perhaps De Leon has articulated his message better then the former filmmakers.

Super Mouse and the Roborats is loaded with Western cultural references: Mickey (De Leon), the hero, makes a Madonna imitation; Super Mouse's costume is the same as the cartoon character Mighty Mouse's; Mickey sings a song (to the tune of "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head") with two cartoon mice, a scene reminiscent of Mary Poppins; the Roborats' costumes are the same as Darth Vader's costume in the Star Wars trilogy. The end of the movie is also familiar, when the head Roborat unmasks himself and reveals himself to be Super Mouse's father -- in The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader unmasks himself too and reveals he is Luke Skywalker's father.

Other American characters are similarly skewered, like the Lone Ranger and Tonto: Barbie, the Mattel doll with the exaggeratedly perfect figure (and, in a way, the "embodiment" of the ideal American woman), becomes a transvestite household drudge in Barbi. The Edgar Rice Burroughs creation Tarzan, in the hands of De Leon, is a potbellied, sex-starved bumbler.

In Elvis and James, the satire becomes even more intense: the names of the secondary characters themselves are parodies. There is Elvis Presto's girlfriend, Marilyn Monroy (Maricel Laxa); James Dacuycoy's girlfriend, Long Tall Sally (from a Beatles song); a teacher at Jaena High, Eleanor Rigby (from another Beatles song); Libourache (Panchito), the gay music instructor; and Johnny B (from the Chuck Berry song "Johnny B. Goode"), Elvis' arch-rival. In Elvis and James 2, their love interests are named Tina, Diana and Whitney (named, of course, for the three goddesses of soul music, Tina Turner, Diana Ross, and Whitney Houston). The duo foils a hostage attempt by four bald robbers named John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Both movies are full of musical numbers satirizing popular American '50s songs.

De Leon's Elvis is a mixture of Presley fashion and Poe swagger. Requiestas' James is even worse: not even remotely resembling James Dean, James Dacuycoy, with a cigarette dangling constantly from his lips, is ready to kill anyone who dares touch his hair, and froths at the mouth whenever he gets too close to women.

Sometimes De Leon even takes a swipe at his own government. Starzan's arch-rival is a transvestite named Tita Gori, who is, appropriately enough, Queen of the Gorillas. Starzan and Jane's (Zsa Zsa Padilla) sponsors at their wedding are Cory Aquino and Ferdinand Marcos.

The films, however, are not simply twisting American icons; the Filipino heroes are also asking for acceptance. Acceptance and rejection is a major theme in the De Leon films, where he and Requiestas often play outsiders attempting to integrate with the society and ultimately being rejected. In Super Mouse, the duo are part of a carnival, the members of which (the "peryantes") are looked down upon by the town populace. Paeng (played by the midget actor Noel "Ungga" Ayala) is rejected by Dora (Manilyn Reynes). Elvis and James are regarded as social misfits, who wear the same clothes day in and day out and drive a tricycle to school. They are constantly the butt of jokes (like the young Mickey in Super Mouse), especially from Johnny B, who looks down on them as poor ("Masyadong kang eyepoor," James tells Johnny B. "Matapobre.")

In Hot Dog, the brothers Juan, Jose and Pedro are driven away from their home by the villagers (who are ready to torch their house) who consider them bad luck. They run to the forest and feed a starving old woman, who turns into a fairy and gives them an enchanted dog, the counterpart of the goose who laid the golden egg. (Since dogs do not lay eggs, the scriptwriter had to turn to the only other recourse.) Armed with bags full of golden feces, the brothers buy rice and canned food and distribute them to the needy of their community. The gold-defecating dog reaches the attention of the local greedy landlord (played by Paquito Diaz), who exclaims: "Hindi ako papayag! Ako lang ang pinaka-mayaman dito!" and proceeds to have the dog stolen, with disastrous results.

The rich/poor dichotomy is seen here, with the rich portrayed as greedy and unscrupulous. It is the rich casino owner who has Mickey's adoptive "mother" (actually a fat circus transvestite) stabbed in the back in Super Mouse; it is the rich students who terrorize Elvis and James; it is the rich hunters headed by Bad Max (Ruel Vernal) who steal the King Diamond from the Jacuzi tribe in Starzan 2. It is the poor, the carnival freaks, the downtrodden, and the rejected who are elevated in De Leon's films. Super Mouse, the Long Ranger, and Starzan are presented as defenders of the "little people."

The little people are shown as virtuous; simplicity, virtue, and goodwill are emphasized in the films. The protagonists of Hot Dog are rewarded for their good deeds, and Diaz and his goons are vanquished; in his confusion over the complexities of the city, Starzan (in Starzan 1) tries to take his life by jumping from a building. Super Mouse pleads for the life of his friends (who are kidnapped by the Roborats for use in experiments), and the Roborats relent ("Sana, matandaan ninyo na kami rin ay may magandang asal, hindi katulad ng ibang tao," the head Roborat (Ruel Vernal) squeaks.)

Starzan is prevented by his pregnant wife Jane from joining the search for the stolen King Diamond: "Iiwanan mo ba 'ko sa ganitong kalagayan, eh may pamilya ka na?" Starzan answers: "Sa gubat, kami lahat, isa pamilya," thus emphasizing communality. The moral of Elvis and James is, as James pronounces at the end, "Don't judge a book by its cover." It wisely sums up a lesson from the whole De Leon series -- the Roborats, Elvis and James, Starzan (and Cheeta-eh and Ungga), and everybody else -- are to be judged according to their internal values and personality, not for the way they look, or the clothes they wear, or the place they come from.

Elvis and James 2 reportedly flopped at the box office, though it deals with the same acceptance/rejection theme, but to a lesser degree. This time, it is rock 'n' roll music versus the Establishment (in the person of Prof. Mozart (Lou Veloso), hysterical music instructor). Mozart's proposal to hold a class recital is squelched by Elvis' proposal for a barn dance, and Mozart exacts revenge ("Rock is evil! Repent!" he cries) by burning down the barn. In the end, Mozart is committed to an asylum, and Elvis affirms that all music is good. It is a limited message (and a passe one, for rock is already part of the Establishment). The audience is given less opportunities to identify with Elvis and James, who are now Music students at UP (their main problem at the start is where to enroll for college). The Elvis and James here are also strangely different from the ones in Part One: here, they attack an actress, and espouse the virtues of a-go-go dancers.

But one common thread that binds the films together are the references to the "unacknowledged" modern Filipino epic hero, Fernando Poe, Jr. The sharp audience will recognize Poe's swagger (in Starzan and Elvis' gait), Poe's movies ("Gawa na ang balang papatay sa iyo! Ako ang huhusga!" cries Ungga in a shootout with Bad Max's men; the Dacuycoy family is called "pamilya bungal"), and Poe's characteristic rapid-fire punching (in Aling Susie, Elvis and James' maid of sorts, who keeps beating up their gay landlord). (A recent Jimmy Santos/Requiestas/Ayala film, Small Medium Large, has its three lead characters named Fernando, Pol, and Junior. The title of the movie Gawa Na Ang Balang Papatay Sa Iyo has probably appeared, in different phrasings, in almost all of the films (even in Vic Sotto's).)The references to Poe are probably not meant to make fun of him, but to elevate him similarly as epic hero. If the Western heroes are subverted, then Poe must take their place, as even his gestures have fallen into myth.

But the heroes that De Leon plays are not exactly heroes. Super Mouse destroys highway billboards, he lets a man commit suicide in front of him, he allows a bank robber to shoot an ugly bank teller. The De Leon films themselves take a morbid look at mayhem, and all of it is supposed to be funny: Doro (Requiestas) accidentally sets himself on fire, and a girl is knifed twice in the forehead in a carnival show accident in Super Mouse; Don Pabling's (Panchito) posterior is accidentally burned by an overzealous herbolario in Hot Dog; Ungga's reproductive organ is bitten by a snake, and a transvestite is cooked by gorillas in Starzan 2; James is almost frozen to death in Baguio in Elvis and James.

This suggests a somewhat perverted manner of looking at Super Mouse and Starzan as heroes: these are comedies, they are no real heroes, and they are not meant to be serious. The movie itself constantly betrays its nature by reminding the movie audience that this is a movie. In Elvis and James 2, Elvis throws a hairbrush at James, misses, and hits the cameraman instead. In Starzan 3, Ungga complains that he has no "ka-love team" in the movie, and Starzan assures him: "Maghintay ka, sabi ni Direk, sa Starzan 4 na lang." In Super Mouse, after a song duet with Manilyn Reynes, Ayala turns to the camera and says, "Sorry, Keempee, ha?" Keempee is not only Joey de Leon's son, but also Reynes' love teammate in real life. The song they sing is a parodized version of "Sayang na Sayang", a song Reynes popularized herself. The references to events and people outside the realm of the movie are many and varied.

More interesting, however, are the references to other De Leon films. In Long Ranger and Tonton, there is a scene where Tonton (Requiestas) and a bandit take turns lighting and snuffing out a candle by shooting at it with a gun ("Patay." "Buhay." "Patay." "Buhay.") The same dialogue occurs in Elvis and James when Requiestas tips over his long-dead grandfather's coffin, and the corpse awakens. In the same movie, Ayala makes a cameo appearance, and tells James: "Mabuti ka pa, may sine ngayon," and James answers, "Magkikita naman tayo sa Starzan 3, eh." Even the phrase "Ganda lalaki" (and "Ganda babae"), coined in Starzan, has appeared in Barbi, the other Starzan movies, and is even in the title of Requiestas' new movie. At the end of Super Mouse, Keempee de Leon makes a cameo appearance dressed as Starzan.

The inside references would only be effective if the audience is familiar with De Leon's other movies, or at least his movie trailers. His works, then, demand a somewhat more active participation from the audience; they demand that the viewer has prior knowledge. Gags of this sort would fall flat without knowing the referent; viewing a De Leon film almost requires the viewer to be familiar with the other films.

There is a sense of interrelatedness in the films; perhaps one is inextricable from the other. This invites the critic to look at the series holistically. If the gags, the situations, the themes, the cast, and even the characterizations are the same, then the movies are probably connected in a way.

It may be that the movies belong to a larger frame -- a whole epic, perhaps. The shortcomings in the films that the critics decry may be defended as remnants of an oral culture. The largely "flat" characters (as opposed to "round") belong to most oral epics, including the episodic nature of the films. Elaborate jokes are simply strung together with a hardly tangible plot line (interspersed with musical numbers); like the oral epic, there is no actual climax: fragments of subplots weave in and out, and the movies usually begin in medias res.

But even the plots are similar, in a way, to the Campbellian monomyth (reduced to its essentials). The offspring of an other-worldly being, the hero comes to earth with super powers, and helps the innocent and fights evil. This, in fact is basically the same structure as in Superman, the Star Wars trilogy, and, if one stretches it, the Gospels -- and, of course, Mighty Mouse. The heroes are given supernatural aid: Mickey's superpowers in Super Mouse, after his "mother" is killed; and the dog in Hot Dog. The three heroes in the latter film even get to make a literal (and not just symbolic) marriage with the goddess (in this case, the fairy).

Along with FPJ, Joey de Leon and Rene Requiestas may be the epic heroes of our time. Through De Leon's films subverting and deliberately twisting American cultural icons, the simple, the "native", and the poor has been elevated. In their various screen incarnations which transcend time, place, and context, they preserve the quality of oral narration and weave tales for an age. They may be clumsy, stupid and even repulsive "heroes" who drag the viewers along through their misadventures, but they equip the audience with the ability to laugh at their (our) condition. And in the end, they are victorious.

The main unwritten implication of this paper is that De Leon's films are so popular because of their function as repository of anti-Western (or "nationalistic" sentiment; the audience may unconsciously enjoy seeing the bashing of foreign cultural icons on the head, and De Leon may be unconscious of this too. This idea may be taken by readers as seriously as, say, De Leon's films themselves, but the subversive implications of the films are perhaps clear. But there is one sure thing, though: Joey de Leon has irrevocably touched the pulse of our people, and it is reason enough for this study.

Posted by the wily filipino at 08:52 AM | Comments (2)

October 27, 2003

Aimee Nezhukumatathil's "Miracle Fruit."

Here's Eudora Welty, writing about the photographs in The Democratic Forest, by my favorite photographer, William Eggleston:

They focus on the mundane world. But no subject is fuller of implications than the mundane world! When you see what the mundane world so openly and multitudinously affirms, there is everything left to say.
After reading Aimee Nezhukumatathil's new poetry collection, one is more convinced than ever that poets -- or, at least, this particular poet -- unlike ordinary human beings, have different eyes through which to see: the reds of a jungle, a sari swinging over the shoulder, cherry farmers, potatoes pulled up from the earth. Each poem in her quietly stunning Miracle Fruit is a finely calibrated balancing act of breathlessness and restraint, sprinkled with words that must be savored in the mouth: "fire sponges, jingle shells, a remnant of whelk," she writes.

Here's an almost random excerpt, the last stanza of "In Praise of Colophons:"

My favorite colophon reports that another monk
designed Carlyle over two centuries ago. Its letters
sit round and open as fishbowls on a windowsill.
The balance so delicate, one strong wind
could spill the glass and its slippery contents
across the stone floor. O, but the light in each
watery leaf, the small transparencies in those fins --
the arc of orange fish that leap and leap and leap.

Her poems are afflicted with the ecstasy of small things, with an exuberant, barely containable delight in the ordinary. Look, she says to the reader, these are the miracles I see. And you must see them too.

Posted by the wily filipino at 08:29 AM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2003

The Real Model.

There's nothing very new in Bush's speech to the Philippine Congress -- the usual civilization versus chaos rhetoric, the long partnership between our two countries, and so on. It's already become wearying to have to point out inaccuracies and other irksome bits left out for the purposes of creating a smooth historical narrative. But I'll point out a simple one, at least:

America is proud of its part in the great story of the Filipino people. Together our soldiers liberated the Philippines from colonial rule. Together we rescued the islands from invasion and occupation. The names of Bataan, Corregidor, Leyte, Luzon evoke the memories of shared struggle and shared loss and shared victory.
I assume that by "colonial rule" Bush was referring to Spain, and by "invasion and occupation" he meant Japan -- in which case he completely elides 50 years or so of... colonial rule, no? Some liberation.

But the best part, really, is the implication that the Philippines could somehow be the model for Iraq -- forget all this MacArthur in postwar Japan business, here's the genuine model:

Democracy always has skeptics. Some say the culture of the Middle East will not sustain the institutions of democracy. The same doubts were once expressed about the culture of Asia. These doubts were proven wrong nearly six decades ago, when the Republic of the Philippines became the first democratic nation in Asia.
Bush achieves two remarkable things in the passage above: 1. he glosses over the fact that the U.S. was in the Philippines for 46 years or so (and those reservists in Iraq complain about their extended tours!), and 2. he more or less admits what many people already know -- that the invasion of Iraq was about pure, naked, imperial ambition.

Sometimes President Smirk gets it right.

Posted by the wily filipino at 09:03 PM | Comments (1)

October 14, 2003

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?

Ah, the cluelessness of the rich and corrupt.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. It's "What's President Smirk having for dinner?"

Representative Imee Marcos -- yeah, makes your eyeballs roll, doesn't it -- has the menu for the 2,000 peso-per-head banquet:

She said the native dishes would include "adobo" in olive oil, milkfish belly with mango sauce dipping, Filipino-style beefsteak, fried rice with smoked fish, and crisp-fried pork skin.

Native delicacies will also be served, such as roasted pig, "puto-bumbong," "lumpia," ice cream, pork and chicken barbecue, chocolates, "halo-halo," and "pan de sal" with an assortment of spreads.

Someone else can have fun with this: Texas chicken? Kalderetang tuta nang kano? (We already have a reading list; what else should he eat?)

Representative Crispin Beltran is asking for a full accounting of Malacanang's expenses:

"Bush is going to stay for a mere eight hours in the country, but already, the administration has used up millions to make his short visit as comfortable and welcome as possible, even if they're all at the expense of the people's economic and political interest," he said.
Economically, of course, this is a big thank-you note for the military package and state dinner GMA received earlier this year. And President Smirk gets a loving ally in his "war on terrorism" -- and a guarantee of more years of support now that GMA is running again -- and the head of Father Rohman al-Ghozi to boot! And a performance by Lea Salonga! Nothing to make our American guests feel more welcome!

And as Rep. Marcos -- now we get to the clueless part -- said:

"President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo must really mean to impress her visitors," said Marcos... "Our countrymen should feel proud that we could feed our guests so well even though in their homes, many poor Filipino families would be sharing a can of sardines and a packet of instant noodles."
Classic. Like mother, like daughter.
Posted by the wily filipino at 10:22 AM | Comments (0)

October 09, 2003

Chicken Adobo, Part 2.

There's something in the air, and it's adobo: adobo with beer, adobo with cinnamon, adobo with ginger, adobo with oregano, adobo with lots and lots of grease. And Joffin-Mari, where's the adobo negro recipe you promised? (Can't vouch for all the other ingredients, but the grease is crucial; the Mexican version, I think, involves ancho chiles, onions and oregano.) Even Eileen is volunteering to host an Adobo Sampler Party!

And -- through sheer serendipity -- here's an excerpt from Professor Leny Strobel's "The Power of Adobo" (taken from the Babaylan Speaks website):

Keep the lid off and let the flavors
Engulf the house to its rafters
Better yet open the doors
And windows, let your
Nosy neighbors envy you
of the delights
Of adobo

What a great image -- the olfactory equivalent of cranking up the speakers...

Posted by the wily filipino at 07:36 PM | Comments (1)

October 07, 2003

Chicken Adobo.

Funny that Eileen Tabios, that woman possessed by fallen angels, would post this recipe for chicken adobo, because I've been thinking of doing a chicken adobo post for some time. (Madeline once proudly told a roomful of Filipino grad students that I "can cook adobo now," only to be met by a snicker from my friend Andrew, who replied, "It's the one dish single Filipino men know how to cook!" Apparently Eileen doesn't know it, so I don't feel so bad.)

Speaking of white folks who cook adobo, Mark Bittman (yeah, that Mark Bittman) writes something to the effect that chicken adobo is the best chicken dish in the world -- can't find the exact quote, but it's in his excellent How to Cook Everything. (For the record, Bittman's recipe is way too salty.)

Anyhow, I'm posting Eileen's friend's recipe, because it uses some ingredients I don't use (ginger! chicken stock!), and I'm interested in trying it:

Chicken Adobo By Bruce The Drapery Fella


3 - 4 lb. frying chicken, washed and cut up
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup light or dark soy sauce
4 or 5 1/4" slices of fresh ginger
5 cloves of garlic, crushed and skins removed
1/2 cup vinegar
chicken stock to cover (three or four 14 oz. cans of off-the-shelf stock should do)
1/2 teaspoon of corn starch, diluted in water (if thicker sauce is desired)

Put all ingredients (except corn starch) into a large pot, bring to the boil and then reduce heat to simmer until chicken is tender (approx. 1 - 1 1/2 hours).

Remove the chicken when it is cooked and "finish and adjust" the sauce to taste. At this point you'll want to remove the ginger and garlic, add the corn starch mixture, sugar, vinegar or spices like chiles or a dash of Chinese Five Spice. Don't forget to start the rice!

Looks pretty fancy to me.

Mine's a lot simpler: 6-8 chicken thighs, 1/3 cup vinegar, about 4-6 tablespoons of soy sauce, two teaspoons of crushed garlic, 1/4 teaspoon of peppercorn, one bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste. Brown the chicken first, then dump the whole mess in and simmer with the cover on for as long as you can bear to wait. And don't forget to skim the grease off for the white folks! =)

(My other variation involves coconut milk: more or less the same ingredients above, except that the garlic is now upped to a whole head, minced. Then stir in half a can of coconut milk before serving.)

Anyone else?

Posted by the wily filipino at 10:21 AM | Comments (16)

October 04, 2003

Tonight! Two Pinay Poets.


October 4, 2003 @ 7:00 pm

Babilonia 1808
1808 - 5th Street
Berkeley, CA

Celebrate Filipino American History Month with Two Pinay Poets: Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Barbara Jane Reyes, who will read from their debut poetry collections, Miracle Fruit and Gravities of Center, on Saturday October 4, 2003 at 7:00 pm at Babilonia 1808, at 1808 5th Street in Berkeley, off University Avenue.

This event is co-sponsored by San Francisco State University's Asian American Studies Department, and will be moderated by Professor Benito Vergara.

As three worlds collide, a mother's Philippines, a father's India, and the poet's contemporary America, the resulting impressions are chronicled in this collection of incisive and penetrating verse. The writer weaves her words carefully into a wise and affecting embroidery that celebrates the senses while remaining down-to-earth and genuine.

"When language, sensory experience, and imagination meet and mingle in an inventive and convincing way, we have the ingredients for those moments of grace that characterize important poems. Aimee Nezhukumatathil's Miracle Fruit is rich in such luscious moments. Every line is alive with the excitement of what can be known about the world, every poem bursting with an eagerness to share it."
--Gregory Orr, Judge, Second Annual Tupelo Press Poetry Competition

Contained in this collection are poems and prose pieces which exhibit Barbara's oftentimes eclectic style/sensibilities and willingness to experiment with form and language. With serious and playful poems very much rooted in San Francisco Bay Area urban and suburban cultures, settings, and vernaculars, a geographically faraway Philippines is never absent from this Pilipina American writer's consciousness. Consistent throughout Gravities of Center are themes of longing, desire, diaspora, postcoloniality, feminism, and coming of age.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil was born in Chicago in 1974. She received her B.A. in English and received her M.F.A. in poetry and creative non-fiction from Ohio State University. She is the author of a chapbook, Fishbone, and was the Middlebrook Poetry Fellow at the Institute for Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin. She is currently an assistant professor of English at the State University of New York, Fredonia. She is the author of Miracle Fruit (Tupelo Press, 2003)

Barbara Jane Reyes was born in Manila and raised in the SF bay Area suburb of Fremont. She received her BA in Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley, where she served as editor-in-chief of Maganda Magazine, and is currently working on her MFA in poetry at SF State University. She is the author of Gravities of Center (Arkipelago Books, 2003).

Saturday October 4, 2003
@ 7:00 pm

Babilonia 1808
1808 - 5th Street
Berkeley, CA 94710

For more information, contact Mike Price 510-549-1808.

Babilonia 1808's mission includes promoting dialogue and cultural exchange between communities, while challenging audiences with thought-provoking contemporary art. Babilonia 1808 offers visitors the opportunity to experience diverse local, national, and international art in a casual, non-institutional environment.

Posted by the wily filipino at 03:03 PM | Comments (1)

September 25, 2003


Forget the snide comments -- sorry, Happy, but I had to use you as an example -- forget her ultra-privileged background, forget the kikayness, forget the fact that we don't have all the information yet. The salient fact, at least to me, is this: that Kris Aquino walked away from an abusive relationship.

Here's the transcript from the infamous interview with Korina Sanchez, as well as her own comments on her blog.

As she said in her interview:

Ako handa akong panagutan ang mga pangyayari. Ako handang tumayo, handa akong humarap, handa akong sabihin ang katotohanan kahit na mawala na sa akin ang lahat. You keep saying you are prepared to lose everything Joey, but you don’t have the balls to say the truth.
Posted by the wily filipino at 11:14 AM | Comments (10)

September 18, 2003

The Policy of No Policy.

Here's a link to a rather silly article on the Philippines by Paul Krugman, Princeton economist and New York Times columnist, (I always see him and Maureen Dowd and Bob Herbert as the foil to the three-headed hydra that is William Safire). Some of you may know that he was all over NPR and the New York Times Sunday Magazine last weekend promoting his book The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century. (Krugman was part of a UNDP team sent to the Philippines in 1990. He says he "should write more about the experience someday," and he should. Maybe a little less condescendingly next time, but I liked his description of Jose Concepcion. And he also has a short piece on Bush's "crony capitalism".)

But the more important quotation is the one below, from a recent interview on Buzzflash:

BUZZFLASH: As a professor, if you were giving a lecture and you had to define the economic policy of the Bush administration, could you get your arms around it? How would you define it?

KRUGMAN: There is no economic policy. That's really important to say. The general modus operandi of the Bushies is that they don't make policies to deal with problems. They use problems to justify things they wanted to do anyway. So there is no policy to deal with the lack of jobs. There really isn't even a policy to deal with terrorism. It's all about how can we spin what's happening out there to do what we want to do.

Check out his book; check out his "blog". (Better yet, buy his book through Buzzflash; I'm about to put my order in myself.)

Posted by the wily filipino at 11:51 AM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2003

Two Pinay Poets: Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Barbara Jane Reyes

Spread the word, folks!

Berkeley, CA - Celebrate Filipino American History Month with Two Pinay Poets: Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Barbara Jane Reyes, who will read from their debut poetry collections, Miracle Fruit and Gravities of Center, on Saturday October 4, 2003 at 7:00 pm at Babilonia 1808 - 1808 5th Street in Berkeley, off University Avenue.

This event is co-sponsored by San Francisco State University's Asian American Studies Department, and will be moderated by Professor Benito Vergara.

As three worlds collide, a mother's Philippines, a father's India, and the poet's contemporary America, the resulting impressions are chronicled in this collection of incisive and penetrating verse. The writer weaves her words carefully into a wise and affecting embroidery that celebrates the senses while remaining down-to-earth and genuine.

"When language, sensory experience, and imagination meet and mingle in an inventive and convincing way, we have the ingredients for those moments of grace that characterize important poems. Aimee Nezhukumatathil's Miracle Fruit is rich in such luscious moments. Every line is alive with the excitement of what can be known about the world, every poem bursting with an eagerness to share it."
--Gregory Orr, Judge, Second Annual Tupelo Press Poetry Competition

Contained in this collection are poems and prose pieces which exhibit Barbara's oftentimes eclectic style/sensibilities and willingness to experiment with form and language. With serious and playful poems very much rooted in San Francisco Bay Area urban and suburban cultures, settings, and vernaculars, a geographically faraway Philippines is never absent from this Pilipina American writer's consciousness. Consistent throughout Gravities of Center are themes of longing, desire, diaspora, postcoloniality, feminism, and coming of age.

About the poets:

Aimee Nezhukumatathil was born in Chicago in 1974. She received her B.A. in English and received her M.F.A. in poetry and creative non-fiction from Ohio State University. She is the author of a chapbook, Fishbone, and was the Middlebrook Poetry Fellow at the Institute for Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin. She is currently an assistant professor of English at the State University of New York, Fredonia. She is the author of Miracle Fruit (Tupelo Press, 2003)

Barbara Jane Reyes was born in Manila and raised in the SF bay Area suburb of Fremont. She received her BA in Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley, where she served as editor-in-chief of Maganda Magazine, and is currently working on her MFA in poetry at SF State University. She is the author of Gravities of Center (Arkipelago Books, 2003).

Saturday October 4, 2003 @ 7:00 pm

Babilonia 1808
1808 - 5th Street
Berkeley, CA 94710

For more information, contact Mike Price 510-549-1808.

Babilonia 1808's mission includes promoting dialogue and cultural exchange between communities, while challenging audiences with thought-provoking contemporary art. Babilonia 1808 offers visitors the opportunity to experience diverse local, national, and international art in a casual, non-institutional environment.

Posted by the wily filipino at 12:18 PM | Comments (2)

September 11, 2003

The eBay Big Boys.

Funny how naive I sometimes am when bidding on eBay.

The other day, for instance, I very innocently bid (a measly $17, though not to me) on a bumper sticker commemorating the Beatles' July 4, 1966 concert in the Philippines. I thought to myself, who would pay $17 for a scrap of paper?

It went for $290.

Clearly I was playing with the big boys here, and I simply had no idea. (Somehow I naively thought the Beatles memorabilia market would have been exhausted by now.) (I knew to stay away from the psych-folk LP auctions, but...)

I also bid -- around $18, I think -- on the Juan de la Cruz Band's Himig Natin LP, thinking (especially its re-release on Shadoks) that no one would be interested.

It went for $125.

Well, here are more: Beatles pomade, cellophane tape, mothballs... all circa 1966. (I think Ringo himself could use those mothballs.)

Posted by the wily filipino at 11:52 AM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2003

Gravities of Center.

I've just finished reading Barbara Jane Reyes's first collection of poetry, Gravities of Center, Reyes, an MFA student here at SF State, has an assured voice that suffuses her impressive debut.

At first glance, there seems to be an uneasy fit between the earlier, more political poems and the poems in the second half about the bass player with the long hair and black jacket -- no, wait: the poems are also about what she feels when he's with him. But what is common to all the poems is the vital, seething, unruly energy simmering underneath the surface. Passion manifests itself as either anger or desire (perhaps they are the same in any case), and this collection is rich with evidence of both kinds. (The lesson of the seeming disjunction between the poems, it seems to me, is that the more explicitly "political" ones, like "Arithmetic" and "Now Showing," for instance, are inherently personal as well, as part of an exploration of the poet's identity, and therefore inextricable from the nakedness of the later poems.)

(It's funny, too; the piece "Delicadeza" is almost -- hopefully she forgives the adjective -- ethnographic in its attention to detail when she describes the Filipino denizens of a casino and the awkward misunderstandings (and shared cultural assumptions) between strangers.)

"Anthropologic" is the poem that made the deepest impression on me: a collage-poem about anthropology and colonialism, inspired by Marlon Fuentes's Bontoc Eulogy. There's sometimes a tendency, in less capable hands, for a poem like this to become predictably polemical, but that is not the case here. Cinematic, clipped, with truncated and erased captions, "Anthropologic" functions like photographs exhibited -- or butterflies pinned? -- on a wall. The way it looks on the printed page sometimes uncannily brings to mind the acquisitive, classificatory and dissecting impulses of the empire.

Like the skeletons embracing on the cover, Gravities of Center deals with the buried, the repressed, the hidden, the private: "margins always contain undeniable silent worlds," she writes in "Brown Man's Burden." A collection of Pinay postcolonial intimacies. Poems whispered in languorous darkness and secrets sealed with a hiss.

(I should mention too that it's not available on Amazon, alas, which is why I couldn't put it in my All-Consuming box to the right, but it's available through Arkipelago Books.)

Posted by the wily filipino at 09:53 AM | Comments (0)

August 27, 2003

Five Answers, Part 2.

1. What do the letters T.O.D.A.S. stand for?

No one got the exact wording right: Television's Outrageously Delightful All-Star Show. Their skits were uneven, and not as cerebral as "Champoy," but so what? Remember the pie fights they had at the end of every show? Plus, "T.O.D.A.S." also introduced Richie Da Horsie to a stunned nation.

2. The Philippines has stood in for Vietnam in films like Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July and Apocalypse Now. In which film did the Philippines stand in for Indonesia?

My very good friend Romeo Quintana got this one. Peter Weir's 1982 film, The Year of Living Dangerously, with Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver, was filmed in the Philippines. Watch for the scene when an old Muslim woman drops to her knees in terror, praying to Allah, with the words, "Ama namin, sumasalangit..."

3. What was the name of the building, or building complex, that Imelda Marcos demanded be completed by October 1, 1975?

No one got this one. Ali Mall -- the date's the crucial clue in the question -- had to be finished in time for the "Thrilla in Manila" between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. (The second most popular answer, the Manila Film Center, was built in the '80s; the Philippine International Convention Center was built in 1976; both the Folk Arts Theater and the Cultural Center of the Philippines were constructed by 1974.)

4. "Minikaniko ni Monico..." -- what's the rest of this tongue twister straight from the Seventies?

"...ang makina ng Minica ni Monica." My brother Happy got this one first. Not "ang kiki ni Kikay," as Romeo answered. Ulol!

5. What were the words, heard by witnesses, that were allegedly shouted just before Ninoy Aquino was shot?

My old college classmate Maila Alberto (now Maila Eslabon) almost got this one. The words were "Heto na, pusila, pusila" ("Here he is, shoot, shoot") -- allegedly said by one of the AVSECOM guards. The Apo Hiking Society would later call their concert series "etonAPOsila" -- supposedly a sly reference to the assassination, as the band became more and more vocal against the Marcos regime.

Posted by the wily filipino at 06:52 AM | Comments (6)

August 19, 2003

Five Questions, Part 2.

No time to post any new material, so here are five more:

1. [This one's for DBD.] What do the letters T.O.D.A.S. stand for?

2. The Philippines has stood in for Vietnam in films like Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July and Apocalypse Now. In which film did the Philippines stand in for Indonesia?

3. What was the name of the building, or building complex, that Imelda Marcos demanded be completed by October 1, 1975?

4. "Minikaniko ni Monico..." -- what's the rest of this tongue twister straight from the Seventies?

5. What were the words, heard by witnesses, that were allegedly shouted just before Ninoy Aquino was shot?

Posted by the wily filipino at 09:02 AM | Comments (9)

August 15, 2003

Five Answers.

All five have been correctly answered (see comments from the other day's post).

1. The old and the new: Beverly Hills and the oldest street in the Philippines is located in this city. What is the city's name?

The exclusive subdivision of Beverly Hills and Colon Street -- named after Columbus, established in 1565 -- are both located in Cebu City. Don't miss the huge Chinese temple up in the hills.

2. In an elaborate parody of Superman, Mighty Mouse and "The Empire Strikes Back," Joey de Leon plays a boy named Mickey with super powers who discovers that his arch-enemy, played by Ruel Vernal in a Darth Vader suit, is actually his father. What is the full title of this film, whose name was bleeped out by censors in television ads?

Dyno -- Dyno Atienza, is that you? -- got this one (and the next): Super Mouse and the Roborats. The voiceover in its TV ads would go, "Super Mouse and the Robo[bleep]."

3. The seminal Pinoy punk/hardcore/thrash band G.I. and the Idiots gave us such memorable lyrics as "The Philippine flag is a dirty old rag" and a stanza of almost Wordsworth-like lyricism, "We can't get along with our music! / We can't get along with our songs! / We can't get along with our assholes! / So we put our assholes in our songs!" What did "G.I." stand for?

"G.I." stood for George Imbecile, their bassist. Their 1986 debut album Fascinating World of Garbage is a must-listen for anyone who cares about Pinoy music history, released by the influential Twisted Red Cross label. (An overwhelming number of people from the previous quiz answered "Genuine Ilocano." Do you really think any "genuine Ilocano" would call their punk band "Genuine Ilocano and the Idiots?" "G.I.," of course, really stands for Government Issue, but not in this case.)

4. In September 1975, he told Sports Illustrated magazine, "I was the national champion in shooting. I won the championship when I was 16 and kept it for many years. My shooting got me in trouble. I was once charged with murder, but was acquitted." Who is the person speaking?

None other than the late "old twat" Ferdinand Marcos. (Lead singer of that other seminal Pinoy punk/hardcore/thrash band, Genuine Ilocano and His Idiots.)

5. "She raised her skirts and contemptuously thrust out a naked foot. He lifted his dripping face and touched his bruised lips to her toes; lifted his hands and grasped the white foot and kissed it savagely -- kissed the step, the sole, the frail ankle -- while she bit her lips and clutched in pain at the windowsill, her body distended and wracked by horrible shivers, her head flung back and her loose hair streaming out the window -- streaming fluid and black in the white night where the huge moon glowed like a sun and the dry air flamed into lightning and the pure heat burned with the immense intense fever of noon." It's the last paragraph of a classic short story by which author?

It's from "The Summer Solstice," written by Nick Joaquin in 1947.

Posted by the wily filipino at 09:37 AM | Comments (3)

August 13, 2003

Six Questions.

Thanks to Mark from Clickmomukhamo!, who sent me a link to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine -- and lo and behold, almost all of my quiz archives were indeed still alive, and now they're safely downloaded onto my hard disk. (Reading through them, I've realized that they all pretty much end at 1990, which was when I left the Philippines.)

Here were a few questions; there's one completely obscure one that I simply have to include because the answer is just too funny. (Sorry -- you non-Pinoys (and young Pinoys) would probably have to sit most of these out.)

1. The old and the new: Beverly Hills and the oldest street in the Philippines is located in this city. What is the city's name?

2. [Here's the obscure one.] In an elaborate parody of Superman, Mighty Mouse and The Empire Strikes Back, Joey de Leon plays a boy named Mickey with super powers who discovers that his arch-enemy, played by Ruel Vernal in a Darth Vader suit, is actually his father. What is the full title of this film, whose name was bleeped out by censors in television ads?

3. [Another obscure one.] The seminal Pinoy punk/hardcore/thrash band G.I. and the Idiots gave us such memorable lyrics as "The Philippine flag is a dirty old rag" and a stanza of almost Wordsworth-like lyricism, "We can't get along with our music! / We can't get along with our songs! / We can't get along with our assholes! / So we put our assholes in our songs!" What did "G.I." stand for?

4. In September 1975, he told Sports Illustrated magazine, "I was the national champion in shooting. I won the championship when I was 16 and kept it for many years. My shooting got me in trouble. I was once charged with murder, but was acquitted." Who is the person speaking?

5. "She raised her skirts and contemptuously thrust out a naked foot. He lifted his dripping face and touched his bruised lips to her toes; lifted his hands and grasped the white foot and kissed it savagely -- kissed the step, the sole, the frail ankle -- while she bit her lips and clutched in pain at the windowsill, her body distended and wracked by horrible shivers, her head flung back and her loose hair streaming out the window -- streaming fluid and black in the white night where the huge moon glowed like a sun and the dry air flamed into lightning and the pure heat burned with the immense intense fever of noon." It's the last paragraph of a classic short story by which author?

Answers a couple of days from now, plus more questions to mull over.

Meanwhile -- once again, politics intrudes into fun time -- I'm mulling over how to respond to the front-page story in this week's Philippine News that, in an informal poll with a small sample, 70 percent of Filipino Americans said they'd vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger:

Manny Cabildo of San Diego County... said he liked Schwarzenegger "because he had a business background."

The actor looks at things in a simplified way, he added. It's either black or white, "no gray."

Maybe Arnie can hire this guy for his campaign; "all black or white, no gray" sounds pretty catchy to me. After all, simple-minded people deserve simple-minded politicians, and vice-versa.

So, question no. 6:

6. Who are these 70 percent, and why are they being total idiots?

Posted by the wily filipino at 12:56 PM | Comments (7)

August 12, 2003

When the Philippines Hit the Beatles.

(Sung to the tune, if you will, of John Wesley Harding's "When the Beatles Hit America.")

The Casual Savant asks: "What was George's last name?" (Or rather: "Ok, I'll bite. This is one piece of pinoy trivia I don't know.")

Here's an excerpt from a later interview, in 1986:

GEORGE: Yeah, well we went to Manila back in the sixties, The Beatles on a tour and we did the concert and next morning we were in bed and somebody knocked on our door of our hotel suite saying, “Come on you’re supposed to be at the palace.” And we said, “No we’re not!” We didn’t have any engagement anywhere but somebody, some smart guy had said, “Sure, I’ll get The Beatles up to the palace.” And they said turn on the TV. We turned the television on and there it was, this big palace with lines of people and the guy saying, “Well, they’re still not here yet.” And we watched ourselves not arrive at the palace. But we were never supposed to be there. And so what they did was they said “Beatles snub first family,” which I’m glad we did. See even in those days we had taste, and so consequently he set the mob on us and tried to beat us up, which they did. They beat up a lot of people with us and wouldn’t let the aeroplane leave Manila, until Epstein, our manager had to get off the plane and give back the money we earned at the concert. So that’s what I think of Marcos, (George gives a lovely British two-fingered salute to the screen). Old twat he was!
(If I remember correctly, Eric Gamalinda's novel The Empire of Memory -- oddly categorized at Kabayan Central as "psychology/self-help" -- opens with this very scene.)
Posted by the wily filipino at 07:32 AM | Comments (5)

August 09, 2003

Tropical Poets.

Some of you might like this: this is from Willard Price's 1920 book on the Methodist Church's missionary work around the world entitled Ancient Peoples at New Tasks:

"Any Filipino who can scribble dog verse is a songster, a new Shelley, a budding Omar Khayyam. The population of the Philippines is ninety-nine per cent. poets and one per cent. farmers."

So wrote a critic of the Filipinos. He would not be correct in making such comment to-day. The work of the United States is transforming millions of easy-going, tropical "poets" into progressive farmers, manufacturers, and merchants is an achievement with few parallels in history.

Posted by the wily filipino at 09:07 AM | Comments (1)

August 05, 2003

More "Obsessive" Thoughts.

Some responses to Joel Tesoro's recent post:

In my first post on this topic, I used the word "manipulation" deliberatively to be provocative: if the representation of historical events is used to promote or justify present agendas, then the substantive difference between, say, an imperialist vision of history and an immigrant minority recasting of it becomes perilously slim. How much difference does the fact that one was used for "evil" and the other for "good" make when the means are so similar? I see a "usable past" as like a gun -- it's loaded, and thus always potentially dangerous.
I'm afraid I see a rather crucial difference between these uses of history; similar means -- whether you want to go the "tools of the oppressor" route or not -- in different hands may, and do, have different results. Or, you may approach it from a different though somewhat unproductive route: "the representation of historical events" always has an agenda, in which case… what mode of representation did you have in mind?
In sixth or seventh grade in Manila, I remember vividly being taught by my Pilipino/Social Studies teacher that the U.S. was a "core" country and the Philippines was at the periphery, and that the history of both was determined by that relationship. Only much later, in college, did I realize that dependency theory was being drilled into my head at the age of 12.
Then you're a lucky man. I grew up and went to school in Los Banos -- back then a real hotbed of left-wing student activism -- but received the basic historical narrative of tutelage and undying friendship that I think many still get today.
In college admissions, for example, a Latino or African-American will be more likely to be admitted to a selective college than an Asian, all other aspects of their records being equal. Try as you might to transform that rejection into a kind of victimization, but it still doesn't seem all that credible to the majority culture, who think Asian-Americans have done pretty well for themselves.
College admissions are a whole 'nother can of worms, so I'm hiding the opener -- suffice it to say that the operative word in your passage above is "think." A good number of more enlightened Filipino Americans -- who get lumped in with Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, and, say, Laotian Americans as fellow "Asian Americans" all the time -- will not hesitate to tell you about the truths behind the model minority myth. But this is turning into one of my classroom lectures, so I'll stop there.
Sure I do wish the Spanish-American War and the conquest of the Philippines had a more prominent place in the teaching of U.S. history (although I'd dispute any argument that claimed U.S. empire began in the Philippines -- the thought may privilege the Philippines, but it isn't that easy to dismiss the American expansion west and south!).
No, it isn't, but I think the United States' vision of itself as an empire, as Imperial America, becomes real after the colonization of the Philippines -- in other words, Manifest Destiny is finally fulfilled not with the Louisiana Purchase, or the land-grabbing in the south, but after the colonial possession of "our islands and their people."
Posted by the wily filipino at 07:21 AM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2003

Measured Critique and Outright Condescension.

I've ruffled a few feathers with recent posts. One invites a "measured critique;" the other one deserves nothing less than "outright condescension:" (I'll respond to Joel Tesoro's "Usable Pasts" post later.)

The anonymous writer wrote:

You and Joel Tesoro should have pointed out when and where the Filipino American War and its aftermath emerged as a legitimate object of academic study before throwing around loaded terms like "obsession" which only serves to smear the historical consciousness of Filipino Americans. You as well as I know -- or am I mistaken here? -- that the finest work on the Filipino American War was and is being produced not (only) by Filipino-Americans but by (white) American scholars as well as by "Filipinos" who are scattered all over the globe but who had been born and raised in the Philippines. The Filipino American War and its aftermath is therefore a trans-Pacific obsession -- if an obsession it truly is -- and Filipinos in San Diego, Canberra, Cebu, Manila, Kyoto, and yes, even San Francisco (and New York!) are equally among the obsessed.
I have no arguments with what you write; no smear was intended either. While it may sound like a bit of a cop-out, "obsession" was my friend's word, not mine; I think it should also be clear from what I wrote that I purposely used "loaded terms" like "obsession" and "obsessive" to refer to my own thoughts as well. I've been studying the American colonial period in the Philippines for over a decade now, and by that token I'm equally "obsessed." (Probing the psychological effects of the colonial period -- about which I'm not especially enthusiastic, as a student of anthropology -- is not a solely Filipino American endeavor either.)

S/he continues:

Indeed in the eyes of some non-Filipino critics what matters more for the Philippines is the obsession with American colonialism of Filipino nationalists in the Philippines rather than any of the feverish imaginings of Filipinos abroad. Remember the claims made by Ian Buruma and James Fallows that such an obsession is the root cause of Philippine underdevelopment? I don't believe that it is of use to anyone to reproduce their foolish arguments in a multicultural American setting.
Once again, you and I agree!

And ends with:

Both you and Joel Tesoro seem to be engaged in a more reprehensible game of one-upmanship than that played by other minorities in the US. I find it disturbing that two Filipinos now living in relative comfort in the United States would cast themselves as somehow more politically conscious and more authentic than those poor Filipino American scholars who can't seem to get past their obsessions, however understandable those obsessions may be. Many of us are in a desperate search for a usable past and many of us stumble intellectually in the process. But, to put it defensively, there are also many of us who can and do think critically about the uses and abuses of history in American and Philippine life without your measured critiques or your outright condescension.
First of all, Joel Tesoro is, I believe, in the Philippines, but you should address him yourself.

Secondly, I don't think I've expressed myself very well; nowhere did I mention "authenticity" or "political consciousness," much less attribute them to myself! (The Authenticity Game is even worse than the Who Suffered More Sweepstakes.) In fact I put forth, in two posts, the tentative argument that Filipino American scholars are, in that respect, more "politically conscious" than their fellow scholars in the Philippines because they are, at the very least, doing all that remembering! (And I explain as well why all this remembering -- okay, to use a loaded term: "obsessing" -- is important, if not crucial, to understanding and engaging (and hopefully, contesting) American empire.)

I really am puzzled by your response; I condescend every now and then, but certainly not in the post to which you commented.

Now for the second message -- [sigh], this is what I get for allowing anonymous comments on my weblog. I won't bother with a response because the letter writer is plainly a fool. But I'm posting it here anyway so that you all know what the rantings of a Marcos Moron™ look like:

At least yung mga anak ni Marcos... matatalino. They were all highly educated. Talagang maipagmamalaki. Matalino rin kasi ang mga magulang! Eh yung mga anak ni Cory? Saan sila nag-aral? Palibhasa 'housewife' lang na naging presidente. Baka nga pagluto lang ng ulam, palpak pa -- tulad ng NANAY nila.

Kaya ikaw Wily...magpakamatay ka na lang. Seriously. Ang mga BAKLANG katulad 'nahuli sa akto' tapos nagtatakip pa... tumahimik ka na lang. DAHIL ALAM KO KUNG SINO KA!! OKAY???

Posted by the wily filipino at 08:41 AM | Comments (2)

July 31, 2003

Obsessive Thoughts.

Joel Tesoro has written an excellent, thought-provoking response to my previous post, where, as he writes, "The real issue is how the Fil-Am obsession with that victimization plays on both sides of the Pacific."

I should probably qualify something: this "obsession" is really only limited to a small handful of academics, activists, artists and students; the real Fil-Am obsession (and I'm not being entirely flippant here) is paying their car loans and mortgage payments on time. That is, not all Filipino Americans have the luxury of ruminating about postcolonialism; that's something for people (like academics) who are paid to do it. =) (And yes, I'm being defensive, as he pointed out, simply because I've written about the American colonial period as well.)

He writes:

Many Asian-Americans have, for reasons I'd be curious to know more about, taken a leaf from the minority playbook and decided that emphasizing marginality, suffering and victimization ought to work for them as well in raising their political and social status. Hence the frequent emphasis -- especially among Asian-American groups on campus -- on cases of anti-Asian violence or anti-Asian racism and discrimination, both past and present.
I think it would be naïve to think that "victimhood" doesn't get you brownie points. I don't particularly like using the term because it's often employed as a slur by right-wing critics of liberal and minority politics, but there's truth to what you write. (I quote myself from my comments here.) But such is the double bind of identity politics in general, I think; one has to constantly walk the narrow middle ground between victimhood and self-affirmation or else leave oneself open to criticism. There is, in any case, the necessity to consistently address acts of racism and violence, and the "frequent emphasis" upon them only reflects the sad realities of life as a minority in the U.S.

But let me paint an utterly cynical, hypothetical scenario (and gentle readers, please do not quote me out of context, since I'm playing devil's advocate here): in comparison with, say, African Americans and Native Americans, Asian Americans were relatively better off. (Alas, I've seen the Suffering One-Upmanship Game played all too often in reality.) Blacks were enslaved, Native Americans were slaughtered, and Asian Americans -- well, the Japanese Americans were interned, and Chinese Americans did time on Angel Island, and Filipinos… hey, it sucked being a migrant worker back then. At least the Filipino-American War seems a lot more… catastrophic. [Devil's advocate mode off.]

But there's another reason for this obsessiveness, as you've pointed out: Filipino Americans locating themselves in the American narrative, and another factor that I'll discuss towards the end.

But to a Filipino academic, the focus on how marginal Filipinos are in America serves more to advance the agenda of Fil-Ams rather than Filipinos.
But of course (but see below).
In fact (a Filipino academic might say) how the hell do Fil-ams know what the U.S. colonial period was like: At the time, many of their ancestors were taking the opportunity to emigrate to the States!
While I don't want to raise the specter of the know-it-all Filipino abroad, this goes back to the point I made previously regarding commemoration. At least someone is doing the remembering. Besides, there are already few Filipinos alive today who were, say, teenagers during the Commonwealth period, so the same question could be asked of Filipinos in the Philippines. When I was growing up in the Philippines there was little mention in my history textbooks of the Filipino American War, and I can't imagine that it was simply due to people having "moved on," so to speak; it meant, at least to me, that there was still some digging up necessary.
So in a sense, aren't Fil-Ams, in their quest to advance themselves in their adopted homeland, just manipulating the Philippines and the Philippine experience -- essentially becoming another set of Americans colonizing Filipinos, except in this case they share the same skin color.
What exactly do you mean by "manipulating?" If by "manipulating" you mean shifting the historical lens onto the war -- perhaps even to the point of "obsession" -- then that still doesn't seem much like "manipulation" to me.

I can see your point about "colonizing" and "appropriating," but historically it's been shown many times that the fates of people in the U.S., particularly those of immigrants, are often inextricably linked with the U.S. government's policies towards their respective "homelands." That is, if the American empire -- not including the whole swath of westward expansion -- has its beginnings in the Filipino American War, then surely it "belongs" to Filipino Americans as well, if only a little more than it belongs to all "generic Americans" as well. (One can argue that the extraction of labor from Filipino migrant farmworkers mirrors the same neocolonial capitalist system in place now.)

Yet their colleagues on the other side of the Pacific continue to devote their energies to the production and research into victimization and suffering -- because it's both appropriate for them and also timely, as more and more young Fil-Ams enter academe and start to learn themselves about their "home culture." But that divergence only underlies the chasm between Filipinos and Filipino-Americans which has always existed.
Again, it's not exactly just about "victimization and suffering" -- see below. (I've been writing about this "chasm" as well, so I'm glad you mentioned it.)
This brings me to Vergara's final point: that remembering events like the Philippine-American war helps correct the Eurocentrism of American schoolchildren.
Not entirely my point, but more of an attempt to destabilize the glorious American narrative (which too many people still believe), and, at the very least, to shake up people's complacent notions about the United States.

Portraying themselves as victims, if rather remote, is certainly part of it. But I think the larger project here is to point out the historical connections between the American empire then and the supposedly new "Pax Americana" being established -- particularly in terms of its supposed benevolence, its arrogance, its notions of the dark-skinned "other," its unquestioning belief in military solutions. Bush's "war on terror," which has been extended to Philippine shores, surely has its echoes (and arguably, roots) in the American military occupation of Mindanao in the first decade-and-a-half of the colonial period. Such "obsessiveness" over the war -- while it may be unhealthy -- can only illuminate the political and cultural dynamics of empire. If it stirs people, both in the Philippines and the United States, to think more about the consequences of America's actions past and present, or to question political and historical orthodoxy, then so much the better.

Posted by the wily filipino at 08:50 AM | Comments (1)

July 28, 2003


The other day I was having a discussion with a fellow Filipino scholar, and he was criticizing what he called "the Filipino American obsession with the Filipino-American War" -- that there was, as he put it, "a Fil-Am orthodoxy of 'I am Pinoy and I feel the pain of the American colonial period.'"

I didn't necessarily disagree with him. Previously I had, somewhat unfairly, criticized in print a couple of my colleagues in Filipino American Studies for, shall we say, obsessing over the subject. (I'm biting my tongue hard here, and any more dropped hints or blunter comments would be imprudent.) Suffice it to say that I saw this phenomenon as well, but wasn't as puzzled about it as I was before. My friend, in any case, had "gotten over it," meaning the colonial period and the war, and recommended that others should move on and get along with their lives as well.

What I couldn't explain to him at the time was that the political dynamics of Filipinos in the U.S. were very different from those in the Philippines. First of all, the former is a minority, in almost every sense of the word, and with everything that that entails. And for Filipino Americans to seemingly keep rehashing the subject -- why, it was new to many of them, after all, and even if it only served to personally deepen some sort of grievance -- well, there was something there too. (I didn't add, either, that at least someone was remembering it; centennials came and went, but it's never clear that, say, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo actually "got over it" and "moved on" from something and was now able to declare undying friendship with the U.S. government. Selective memory is a wonderful and fearsome thing.)

Just the other day as well I was carrying on an e-mail conversation with another fellow Southeast Asianist who asked why it was necessary for there to be a "center" of "civilization" at all. (He was referring to my entry on Angkor Wat, where I wrote that it served as a reminder that not all "civilization" was centered in the West.) My response to him was that it was important because most American schoolchildren are taught otherwise, i.e., that at heart curricula, from elementary on up, are still very much Eurocentric. And he wrote: "Still?" And I wrote: "Still."

Still, indeed. Yesterday there was a little flurry of articles on the Philippines on my browser's home page (My Way), and Madeline pointed out to me one I had neglected -- a little article, serving as a bit of a primer, if you will, from the Associated Press (!) called "Philippine Facts and Figures." Here's an excerpt from the "history" section:

HISTORY: Spanish colony from 1521 to 1898, when U.S. Navy defeated Spainish [sic] fleet at Manila Bay. Americans crushed Filipino rebels in six-year war. Japan occupied islands in World War II. Independence granted in 1946.
So now you see why we must remember still.
Posted by the wily filipino at 06:57 AM | Comments (2)

July 27, 2003

Bayan Muna Statement.

Thought I'd post a couple of excerpts from Bayan Muna's statement regarding the "coup:"

We believe the grievances being aired by the young officers are legitimate and merit immediate investigation. The statement issued by the mutineers disturbingly highlight the deep involvement and culpability of the AFP leadership as well as the Arroyo government in a number of corrupt and devious activities.
Bayan Muna also calls for the creation of a special investigative commission:
This fact-finding body should get to the bottom of the claims of the junior officers that the special operations teams of [Defense] Sec. [Angelo] Reyes and Intelligence chief Gen. Victor Corpuz orchestrated the spate of Davao bombings which have killed dozens of civilians as well as the escape of terrorist-bomber Fathur Al-Ghozi. This further gives credence to suspicions aired by Bayan Muna and other progressive organizations that the militarists in government, led by Reyes, have been responsible for the widespread terror in Mindanao and the rest of the country to justify the need for repressive measures against the people and US military intervention in the country.
Posted by the wily filipino at 03:09 PM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2003


The Australian ambassador?

Posted by the wily filipino at 03:25 PM | Comments (0)

More Twists.

This whole new development is getting more and more curious: while the official government statements have floated various rumors -- connections with Estrada, officers disgruntled with low pay -- the BBC reports on the Magdalo group's statement:

In a statement read out on the video, the group accused the government of selling arms and ammunition to Muslim and communist rebels, staging recent deadly bombings to justify more aid from the United States and preparing to declare martial law to stay in power.
Something's going on, all right, as reported by the Philippine Daily Inquirer:
One of the leaders of the group, identified as Navy Lieutenant Senior Grade Antonio Trillanes, earlier called out: "We mean no harm to anyone," adding that "we are putting these (bombs) to defend ourselves."

"They are putting a death warrant on us," he said, adding, "they want to suppress what we know."


"This government is pushing us to do this," Trillanes yelled.

(None of this is mentioned on CNN, by the way.)

ABS-CBN has Joey Lina's reaction:

Interior Secretary Jose Lina said the allegations of staged bombings to justify an Arroyo move toward martial law were "black propaganda."

"This is a lie," Lina said on radio. "They are just being used by the politicians who want to seize power."

Here's more of the Magdalo group's statement:

The statement charged the Arroyo administration, through the Department of National Defense headed by Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, with selling war materiel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines arsenal to rebel groups.

As a result, the statement underscored, Filipino soldiers fighting the rebels are being killed by bullets and weapons from their own arsenal.

The statement also claimed that the explosions that rocked Davao City were masterminded by Secretary Reyes and Brig. Gen. Victor Corpus, commander of the Armed Forces Intelligence Service.

The staged explosions that killed scores of civilians, the group alleged, were carried out as part of the effort to brand the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as terrorists and eventually to secure anti-terrorist funding for the military establishment.

Posted by the wily filipino at 02:44 PM | Comments (0)

Not Good.

Not good at all.

Posted by the wily filipino at 01:54 PM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2003

On English.

Here's Bernard Moses, Secretary of Public Instruction in the Philippines during the American colonial period, writing in 1904:

The boy who in his school days has learned the language of a civilized nation, even if he has learned nothing else, has put himself en rapport with civilization. Aside from the practical circumstances of his life, it makes little difference whether he learns English, French, German, or Spanish, but it makes a great deal of difference whether he learns French or Tagalog, English or Bicol. The one makes him a citizen of the world, the other makes him a citizen of a province in the Philippine Islands. If the government were to make the local dialects the media of school instruction, a limited number of the more or less wealthy and influential persons would use the facilities which they can command to learn English for the sake of the additional power or other advantages it would give them in the communities to which they belong, and these advantages or this additional power would tend to perpetuate the prestige and domination of the present oligarchic element in Filipino society.
When I was much younger I got into an argument with a friend, where I defended the use of English as public instruction in schools, claiming that translating textbooks into Tagalog, or any other Filipino language, was simply time-consuming and expensive. I said English, after all -- and here it comes -- enabled Filipinos to be employed overseas, which was the main reason for their being hired.

Moses wrote the above quotation only a little after American schoolteachers were let loose on the islands, and we have the good fortune to knows what happens next; as Renato Constantino famously put it in 1966, "Philippine education was shaped by the overriding objective of preserving and expanding American control."

Moses, however, is also essentially correct. English did pull the rug off underneath many a member of the Spanish-speaking elite, though it clearly did not contribute towards dismantling the oligarchy in any real fashion. He is correct in that the glamour / grammar (I think their etymologies are the same) of English also provides social and, in this case, ultimately, economic capital. But surely this is no excuse to let native languages languish in schools in favor of English; the point here is to provide job opportunities locally (a tall order) rather than use English as a tool to make Filipinos more employable abroad.

One can call Moses prescient, but one can also argue that the present defenders of English -- and usually only for purely capitalist reasons -- are using the same colonialist reasons to fight for this alien tongue.

Posted by the wily filipino at 07:13 AM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2003

Wake Up.

I usually don't stoop to this level, but I thought I'd reprint some comments from a reader on a post I wrote about the Marcoses:

Ano ba problema mo? just enjoy life and wish that all people do the same thing. tama na yun hate gimiks mo -- pang 70s lang yan, iba na ang takbo ng mundo ngayon. WAKE UP!!!!
Or, in English:
What is your problem? Just enjoy life and wish that all people do the same thing. Enough of your "hate gimmicks" -- that's only for the '70s, the world is already different now. Wake up!!!!
Those of you who have seen my Imelda Marcos page would know that the angriest letters I received were from so-called Marcos loyalists who would tell me to get a life.

The problem, of course, is that the world doesn't seem all that different to many Filipinos; the same grinding poverty and grinning politicians are everywhere to be seen. The same bad deals made with foreign governments, and so on. And while hunting down the Marcoses, and demanding some form of retributive justice, will not solve all of the country's ills, it would, I think, go a long way in moving further. The fact that the people guilty of the most egregious crimes in recent Philippine history are free to flaunt their stolen riches -- well, that really says something.

If anything, my anonymous comment writer (I have your e-mail address, but I'll be polite and won't publish it) should be the one to wake up.

Posted by the wily filipino at 04:12 PM | Comments (1)

July 17, 2003

Scenes from Sangandaan.

1. The Sangandaan conference was just about one of the best conferences I've ever attended. Really. Not just because of the quality of the panels -- some panels were fairly uneven, most of them descriptive rather than deeply analytical, but the good papers happened to be very good -- but because of the overall coherence of the theme and the panels (and plenary sessions), the coordination of the entire festival, and the networking (it's great being with fellow Filipino academics again). (All this may sound like a backhanded compliment to the organizers, but it isn't -- I really did indeed find the conference quite satisfying. And this doesn't even include all the cultural events and exhibits!)

2. There were somewhat superfluous wrap-up "discipline" sessions towards the end discussing the adoption of resolutions, but they proved to be important because it impressed upon the audience the need to address the Manila-centeredness of the whole affair. (I think there were three presenters from Mindanao all told, and one attendee from UP Los Banos!) Being at the conference, in any case, reminded me of the time I was taking a couple of MA-level comp lit classes in Diliman and being acutely aware of my "promdi" origins; I was from UP Los Banos, and I was still all wide-eyed about being in the big city and marveling at all the Diliman students speaking English. (My fellow students in those two classes are all big shots now, too: Mila Laurel, Wendell Capili, Rofel Brion.)

I attended the literature session -- primarily because the lit panels, I think, were the best of the lot, even though I was on a "visual arts" panel -- and it was amusing to note that we had the least practical resolutions, because we got rightly bogged down on a discussion of "nation."

3. Each dinner -- hosted separately by different universities -- kept upping each other in terms of performances. Guitar and saxophone quartets from UP played at the first night; by the last night, the UP Madrigal Singers (beating out the previous glee clubs from La Salle and Ateneo the previous nights) were already performing. (They also brought out what sounded like their most technically difficult arsenal of songs.)

The DLSU dinner was the swankiest of all (though the food all four nights was uniformly superb): it was held at the La Salle Greenhills gym -- white flowers covering the scoreboard and on the tables, white tablecloth, jazz, airconditioner blasting away, candlelight, and two lechons. (And I dug the "No Parents, Yayas, Etc. Allowed Until 30 Minutes Before Class Dismissal" signs in the waiting shed.)

4. It would have been really, really nice if the hard work done by Nerissa, Leny, Penelope, Lucy, Theo, Luigi, Evelie (and Vince and Dawn), among others -- preparing for the ill-fated Kasarinlan conference, massaging the funding proposals (which miracle-workers Helen and Nic originally wrote), selecting our (also ill-fated) keynote speaker -- was also acknowledged somewhere. But I guess not being able to deliver just doesn't cut it. After much work, we still came out almost empty-handed, despite our approaching private corporations, non-profit organizations, and funding institutions. I can't remember how many lunches Helen and Vince went to, trying to court potential donors. If it weren't for the Filipino American National Historical Society East Bay chapter's gallant eleventh-hour save, many Stateside people would have been unable to go (and there were still people and activities that couldn't be funded).

So I guess I was a tad annoyed when one of the FANHS folks chided the academics at the final plenary: "What's all your education for if you can't raise any money?" He was right, of course, but I didn't feel like having to defend myself by reciting our litany of excuses -- the state of post-9/11 philanthropy, War On Iraq jitters, the SARS scare, the recession, the difficulty of securing US money to spend outside of the US. In any case, they had the moral high ground, as it were: they personally cracked open their checkbooks, for which I'm grateful; I didn't. (But it would have been nice if Nic mentioned FANHS in the closing address as well!) Rant over.

5. Name-dropping time! Some conference highlights: Rey Ileto's close reading of a Filipino-American War awit; Resil Mojares's epic sweep of a plenary talk (the man walks on water) on Filipinismo and how many national symbols were assembled and circulated during the American colonial period; Sarita See (one of the folks on our wishlist for Kasarinlan) on Filipino American postcolonial aesthetics; the Writing Against / About / For America panel with Jimmy Abad, Jing Hidalgo and Butch Dalisay; Charlie Veric on Villa's different receptions in the U.S. and in the Philippines (Eileen, you were cited all over that one); Kim Alidio (yet another Kasarinlan wishlister) on American children's books; Jody and Marivi Blanco's baby daughter Sophia (okay, their papers were good too!); Neil Garcia revisiting Villa, Montano and Perez through a postcolonial lens (he had written about them previously in Philippine Gay Culture from a queer perspective); Tatsushi Narita on T.S. Eliot at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair (one of about five papers on the expo, including mine). (And it was great to run into my friend Jun Aguilar, who is now teaching at Ateneo, and also Oca Campomanes, and Shirley Lua, and Dean Alegado, and Marjorie Evasco, and Theo Gonzalves, and Laura Samson, and Preachy Legasto...)

6. Probably the most touching thing during the conference was the sight of Liz Megino and Carolina San Juan, among others, filming everything -- and I mean everything -- for Helen Toribio. Sangandaan, as some of you readers might know, is partly Helen's brainchild; her and her partner Abe Ignacio's superb "Colored: Black and White" show was the germ for the conference, and Helen (also SFSU and CCSF professor) was the indefatigable conference organizer in the US. Unfortunately, Helen couldn't make it because she recently fell seriously ill, and so her absence was very much felt.

7. Cell Phone Blues! During Resil Mojares's talk, someone's cell phone kept beeping right behind me -- repeatedly, all throughout the talk, with total disregard of the audience members. Frustrated, I quickly turned around to shoot him a dirty look -- and discovered to my horror that it was none other than UP President Dodong Nemenzo, fumbling with his cell phone. Embarrassed, I slunk back in my seat. (My guess is that he didn't know how to turn it off, or configure the mute settings -- although at the dinner the night before, Nemenzo was happily puffing away at a cigarette despite all the No Smoking signs in the airconditioned auditorium.)

At another session, Resil Mojares, who was sitting next to me, was speaking when a cell phone started ringing. It took him about half a minute to discover that it was his own cell phone that was ringing, but after similarly fumbling with the cell phone, he gave up and gave it to me to turn off.)

8. Lito Cortes Watch! Butch Dalisay had a great story to tell about Lito Cortes and how he applied for (and won) his Wallace Stegner fellowship at Stanford. Similarly, Danton Remoto, who I met in front of the men's bathroom -- he would tell others later that we "met in the bathroom," which wasn't entirely true =) -- had something funny to say about Lito as well, but I honestly can't repeat it here dahil ayokong gumawa nang iskandalo. (Nerissa, if you're reading this, contact me; matutuwa ka.)

9. Vangie Buell's plenary address was excellent: a wide-ranging, personal history of Filipinos in the United States, complete with her own photographs. I suspect that not many people had heard the basic narrative of Filipino American history before, so this was mostly new to the listeners. By the end of the talk, Buell was in tears, and so were some members of the audience. She was finally greeted with what seemed like half a minute of applause. (Earlier at breakfast she was talking about the great treatment she would receive from strangers -- doors being opened, being helped up and down stairs -- because of her gray hair. I think that added to her presentation as well: the voice of wisdom and experience.)

Posted by the wily filipino at 03:17 PM | Comments (5)

July 06, 2003

"Not in My Hometown."

I really loved this essay by Cynthia Patag (as posted on the Flips list, though the essay's source would have been nice), in the light of one of my recent posts about the Marcoses:

The first jolt came when I went to the West Visayas State University... The dean of education... mentioned casually that their guest speaker for this year's graduation rites was Congresswoman Imee Marcos.
And so she talks further with the dean:
"As Christians, we must learn to forgive," the dean reminded me.

I had to take a deep breath. "The Marcos family is not asking for forgiveness!" I told her.

During a visit to General Santos City, Imee Marcos, who many believe is seeking a senatorial post in 2004, said, "We are willing to apologize provided we know what it is we are supposed to say sorry for."

Reminds me an awful lot of the same excuses that, say, my mom would make -- Christian forgiveness, sins of the fathers, and so on.

As for me, I simply refuse to believe that Filipinos are stupid. (Or are they too forgiving?) Filipinos are not stupid. But I can say that over and over until it loses meaning and the words are pulled from each other and all semantics disintegrate.

Posted by the wily filipino at 05:54 PM | Comments (0)

July 05, 2003

Scenes from Los Banos, Part 8.

1. Went to Tagaytay yesterday, about a couple of hours from Los Banos. Tagaytay City, which has been a booming resort town for a while now, is up on a ridge of mountains overlooking Taal Lake (the latter with an island in the middle and the still-active Taal Volcano on it). The view is lovely. We went to visit my aunt's summer home in some gated subdivision called Royale Tagaytay Estates (reminds of "Royale with cheese"). I was a little puzzled by the street names (Fillmore, Grant, Washington, Kennedy, Roosevelt) until I realized they were American presidents. My aunt had the great misfortune to actually live on Nixon Street. Probably only in the Philippines could you find a street named after Tricky Dick. Does Yorba Linda even have a street named after him?

2. Zoning laws don't apply: ate an excellent Filipino lunch (more of the same grilled fare) at Dencio's Bar and Grill. Right next to it was an actual Starbucks, with a large roofed terrace overlooking the lake and volcano, making it possibly one of the few Starbucks cafes in the world with a picturesque view. (Does the McDonald's next to the Spanish Steps in Rome count?) Probably coming up next: a Banawe Rice Terraces Starbucks.

3. The other day I was watching the news: President Macapagal-Arroyo was doing one of her surprise visits again (remember when she publicly berated the now-disgraced LTO Commissioner?), and this time she dropped in on a police station in Cubao. The head honcho wasn't there; he had gone to a conference in the U.S. and was already two weeks late. But what got the President's goat was a pile of porn VCDs on the boss's desk, next to a TV and VCD player:

[paraphrased dialogue, translated from Tagalog]

President: What are these?
Second-in-command [flustered]: Er, we confiscated those.
President [with look of distaste]: I think you were watching this.
[Second-in-command mumbles something.]

The Philippine Daily Inquirer picked up the story as well, with further comments from the President on moral responsibility, but unfortunately the news item was not accompanied by the image I saw on TV (which just about made me bust a gut): the President of the Philippines holding up a VCD clearly entitled "ANAL QUEEN." (My friend Jane later sent me an article confirming it.)

4. I won't be writing anything for a little while -- I'm off for the week-long Sangandaan conference next week, and then we have to pack for our loooong flight to San Francisco the following day. Back to our dog Shelby and our home on Ocean Beach...

Posted by the wily filipino at 09:44 PM | Comments (0)

July 03, 2003

Accounting Terms.

Slightly edited and passed on from my friend Jane:

In spite of the overwhelming pressure from members of Congress, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo vetoed a bill to use Filipino language as a medium in Accounting and other financial transactions. Why? Below are some of the accounting terms that, when translated to the national language, seemed quite inappropriate.

Asset - Ari
Fixed asset - Nakatirik na ari
Liquid asset - Basang ari
Solid asset - Matigas na ari
Owned asset - Sariling pag-aari
Other asset - Ari ng iba
Miscellaneous asset - Iba-ibang klaseng ari
Asset write off - Pinutol na pag-aari
Depreciation of asset - Laspag na pag-aari
Fully depreciated asset - Laspag na laspag na pag-aari
Earning asset - Tumutubong pag-aari
Working asset - Ganado pa ang ari
Non-earning asset - Baldado na ang ari
Erroneous entry - Mali ang pagkapasok
Double entry - Dalawang beses ipinasok
Mutiple entry - Labas pasok nang labas pasok
Correcting entry - Itinama ang pagpasok
Reversing entry - Baligtad ang pagkakapasok
Dead asset - Patay na ang ari
Secretary - Secret na ari
Liability - Malayang ari (kaya naging problema)
Liquidity - Laman ng ari
Solvency - Clean-up ng ari

Posted by the wily filipino at 07:15 PM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2003

Scenes from Los Banos, Part Seven.

1. Izzy isn't sleeping very well. The last three nights she's been waking up around 9:30, wanting to be held, yelling for her mommy. The moment we try to put her in our bed - which never works anyway - she starts squirming and playing with the pillows and kicking us. This continues until around midnight when we finally leave her in her crib and she's too exhausted to cry out. All this clinginess is not a good sign, especially since Madeline and I are leaving her with her lolo and lola (we're going to Bangkok and Siem Reap next week).

2. Tension is mounting as Happy's wedding day draws near. My mother and I have fallen into our old "conversational" rut, mumbling sarcastic comments under our breath. Peck, counterpeck.

3. Last night Clarissa's parents threw a party for us and what seemed like a zillion other friends and relatives. We picked up Tawee and Kalaya (Happy's sponsors, flying in from Bangkok) from the airport, then headed over to Megamall to buy Tawee a barong (and got caught in the rain), then over to Clarissa's. Great food -- the chef, waiters, and bartenders were apparently pirated from some other restaurant and paid under the table. Saw some old acquaintances (bridesmaids of Clarissa), relatives and so on; the entourage also had a big briefing session, with lots of jargon I simply wasn't familiar with (cord? arras? Was I supposed to have the ring on me, or grab it from the ringbearer?).

4. The flowers are going way over budget. My dad blames my brother, my brother blames the florist and my dad. The white roses (and glass vases) on each table -- all 28 of them -- are quite beautiful though. (The cost of the flowers alone -- $1500 -- is for me, in the US, pretty darn steep, and unimaginable in the Philippines.)

5. I'm angry when I brush my teeth. The bristles are worn down almost to the roots before I throw the toothbrush away. Sometimes I've even snapped the brush in the act of brushing, stabbing the roof of my mouth with the splintered plastic stub.

Posted by the wily filipino at 03:01 AM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2003

Scenes from Los Banos, Part 6.

1. The other night I took Happy out for his bachelor party. He wanted something small and sedate, i.e., nothing involving naked women. (All of us were, in any case, either married or engaged, and were more in the mood to eat.) So I took him and his friends out, as per his request, to Kamayan sa Bay, and feasted on sisig (chopped-up pig cheeks, stir-fried with onions, and served on a sizzling hot plate), grilled eggplant, pork spareribs, tuna belly, and a couple of catfish. (Plus two beers and six Cokes, the bill came to about $20. Yeah, I sound like a cheap bastard.)

2. Now I have less than a week to figure out a best man's toast. (None of you readers are suggesting anything!) Happy started getting really upset when, after a couple of beers, I started joking about slipping up and mentioning ex-girlfriends' names. He looked at me darkly and said he'd kill me after the banquet.

3. With the monsoon rain crashing down, we all drove over to Flat Rocks, a pool hall and bar located where the old, bankrupt Agrix supermarket used to be. (It's named after these big flat rocks in Molawin Creek -- a popular outdoor drinking spot up Mt. Makiling,) 50 Cent's "In the Club" was playing just as we entered. Happy and Gee played nineball; Moly smoked his Marlboro Lights; I sat and drank my Red Horse (the rotgut of Filipino beers). I knew Happy would lose badly when he asked Gee "Are you any good at pool?" and Gee answered, "We'll see."

4. Then we all went home and I broke out the Stoli from the freezer. The bottle of vodka was given to my mom back in the mid-'70s by her "Russian boyfriend." (There's a long story here about my mom and a Russian spy, but I'll spare you the details. I am not making this up.) In any case, my dad (who knows little about alcohol) claimed the vodka should still be fine. "It's unopened," he pointed out. We stared at the rusty cap for a few seconds, then cracked it open, and poured it into shot glasses. I'm still alive.

5. I hate really hot weather. I love Madeline in hot weather though.

Posted by the wily filipino at 02:54 AM | Comments (3)

June 15, 2003

Hey, I Got Published!

Samples of my (eek!) poems from Eileen Tabios's Hay(na)ku contest, here and here.

Posted by the wily filipino at 05:06 PM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2003

Eating, Shopping and Laughing. Oh, and Massages.

I was mindlessly flipping channels on TV one afternoon -- my folks have the coolest cable service, with the Cartoon Network ("Courage, the Cowardly Dog" and "Samurai Jack" are great), the Discovery Channel, and stations from France, Italy, Spain, Hongkong, mainland China, and best of all: India, with '70s Bollywood films showing in the afternoon -- and I was totally taken aback when I chanced upon a talk show called "Straight Talk."

There, I was treated to the disgusting spectacle of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos's daughter, Imee Marcos-Manotoc, "interviewing" her own son, Borgy Marcos-Manotoc. All throughout adoring viewers would text them inane questions and comments via cell phone (which Imee would dutifully read), like:

- You two look so cute together!
- Borgy, you're so intelligent.* You're as smart as your grandfather!
- Are you going to run for senator?
- What's your favorite song?
- I hope you go into politics like your grandfather some day.
- Borgy, what is your favorite dish?
- Are you two close?
- More power to you!
- Borgy, will you be hosting your own talk show?
- Borgy, you're so handsome!

Jesus Christ! Why are these fucking criminals in the country in the first place? They should have been mobbed and sent back, to put it mildly, the minute they stepped onto the tarmac of Ninoy Aquino International Airport! The fact that these people are elected governors (Bongbong is governor of Ilocos Norte) and congresswomen (both Imee and Imelda are/were reps of Ilocos Norte and Leyte, respectively) is abhorrent enough -- but at least it's comprehensible, for political and monetary favors can be dispensed. But to make them celebrities -- objects of adulation for whose fans the only reward is to bask in their dubious (vain)glories -- simply boggles the mind.

Some of you might argue that Borgy** had nothing to do with the depredations of his grandparents. As Agent Scully once said, "Sure. Fine. Whatever." As far as I'm concerned, the $27,000 in yearly tuition fees he pays to the University of San Diego*** is blood money, both literally and figuratively: money pillaged from the coffers of the nation, blood exacted from the disappeared and from victims of torture.****

Let's take his mom*****, for instance: What about the $4.5 million she owes to Archimedes Trajano's family -- the kid her bodyguards tortured for at least 36 hours before he died? And Borgy himself -- how does the victim of a "bar brawl" with him end up being treated for cigarette burns on his back?

I'll end my rant with a snippet of dialogue from the show (some words are paraphrased, but most of the quotes are verbatim):

Imee: A question for Borgy. What did you learn na wholesome family values?
Borgy: Did I learn any wholesome family values?
[Imee laughs.]
Borgy: Laughing.
Imee: Tawanan. Iyon ang family bond natin, eh, puro tawanan.
Borgy: Eating, shopping and laughing.
Imee: That's right.
Borgy: Oh, and massages.
Imee: Oh yeah. We love massages.

Why are they still free to be on talk shows?
Why are they still free to be governors and congresswomen?
Why are they still free to cavort on beaches?
Why are they still free to get massages and eat and shop?
And why are they still laughing?

*My mom tells me that Borgy was on the Philippine edition of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" and almost won a million pesos for charity. "So people started saying," she recalled, "that he is as smart as his grandfather." I guess that's what passes for intelligence these days. I've never known why people still call the deposed dictator "intelligent." Why dignify a thief and killer?
**Okay, he's cute, he apparently reads Kierkegaard, and he had the good taste to go out with MTV VJ Sarah Meier. Meier, on the other hand, had the bad taste to associate with him.
***Probably couldn't get into UCSD.
****Folks have commented on my Imelda Marcos page -- see links on the right -- and said that it was funny, but it does not solve anything. They're quite right. But for me personally, it's better to make a laughingstock of Imelda -- to laugh helplessly -- than to wring my hands in despair at the sheer helplessness of it all.
*****Dang, girl! With all the money your parents stole, you'd think you'd be able to get a nose and chin job that didn't look so cheap-ass.******
******Okay, I'm being mean and insulting and petty. I honestly don't care. Could I be sued for libel if I called him Prince Ferdinand the Turd -- I mean, Third?

Posted by the wily filipino at 01:30 AM | Comments (27)

June 11, 2003

Scenes from Los Banos, Part 5.

1. I realize I've turned into the classic, loathed stereotype of the whiny balikbayan: complaining constantly about the heat, the humidity, the traffic. (I'm even more appalled because I study the damn subject.)

2. Ate three balut eggs in one sitting the other day. Yum. (The fourth I had to discard because the duck was a little older, and the beak made a disgusting little snap when I bit into it.)

3. May Starbucks na doon. [Translation: there's already a Starbucks there.] This is something one hears from balikbayans returning to the United States, often accompanied by that the economic situation in the Philippines is improving, or "Umaasenso na ang Pilipinas." (It is indeed true that there are at least four Starbucks shops between Alabang and Susana Heights alone.)

The recent explosion of malls (and Starbucks) in Manila does not mean a thing, of course; it only means there are more places for people to window-shop. (My friend and former classmate Lotta has a great essay, which I read quite a while back -- so my memory probably fails me -- where she argues that the malls function to prop up civil society, as spaces that provide the illusion of democraticization. Or something like that. But the SM Megamall, to take one example, still reinforces those class distinctions: the proles are free to jostle each other for space on the first floor by Jollibee and the discount clothing stores, while on the top floors (where the expensive boutiques are), the air conditioners actually work, the tisoys shop, and the chauffeurs wait by the entrance to the parking lot.)

"May Starbucks na doon" is distantly related to something I often hear as well, "Nasa Amerika na siya" [Translation: s/he's already in America now] -- with that na ("already") signalling a kind of teleology to Filipino immigration to the United States -- and so I spend a little chunk of my dissertation exploring that na.

4. Most people think that Filipino popular culture is completely in thrall to American pop culture. And yes, one can turn on Philippine radio and hear almost nothing but American Top 40 pop dreck (nothing but Nelly, Nelly, Nelly and more Nelly, with some Busta Rhymes and Mariah Carey thrown in) or feel trapped in a '70s time warp (I don't think one can even hear Randy Vanwarmer's "Just When I Needed You Most" on U.S. oldies radio stations anymore). But this is false on a couple of levels: global mass culture has, in any case, almost always been centered in the West; and two, the Philippines still obviously takes its cues as well from the rest of Asia. (Walk into any good-sized mall and most of the stores you will see are branches of HK/Taiwan/Singapore originals.) Case in point: the biggest, drop-everything-you're-doing show on TV right now is a "chinovela" -- a soap imported from Taiwan called "Meteor Garden." Dubbed in Tagalog, it stars one-half of a female singing duo and all four members of a boy band named F4. Their songs (in Mandarin, I think) are played all over the marketplaces here, and their posters are all over store and bus windows.

5. The ringtone on my dad's Nokia cell phone is Missy Elliott's "Get Ur Freak On," for some inexplicable reason.

Posted by the wily filipino at 07:09 PM | Comments (0)

June 10, 2003

Lapdog Alert!

Former Friend Of Bill-turned-Friend Of George Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is beginning to reap the dubious rewards of heading the most willing country among the coalition of the willing. After that state dinner (about which I've gone on and on in these pages), President Macapagal-Arroyo, who has long expressed no interest in running for re-election, is supposedly thinking about changing her mind:

According to the highly placed source, Bush urged Ms Macapagal at the close of her recent official state visit to the United States to reconsider her announcement on Dec. 30 last year that she would not seek a full six-year term in the 2004 election.

"You know what [were] Bush's parting words to her? 'Madame President, women and politicians are entitled to change their minds,'" the source said.

(Sen. Raul Roco wryly observed that the last time he checked, Bush was not an overseas Filipino voter.)

Presumably our Cowboy in the White House needs someone like her on his side to fight the Eastern Front of his war on terrorism, and the only way to assure that stability would be to keep her in that position.

Already the propaganda machine is well into gear for this next phase, as veteran hack director Cirio Santiago's latest film, Operation Balikatan (starring Rey Malonzo, Eddie Garcia, and a bunch of unknown white guys) is a war movie supposedly in the tradition of Black Hawk Down. It's already being criticized by activist groups as part of a shameless psy-ops campaign orchestrated in favor of the US troops (despite the American diplomats' public show of wariness about the film). (To his credit, he produced and directed some of my favorite B-movies of the early '70s, an entry about which I'm planning to write.)

Meanwhile -- the animal metaphors are piling up, so I apologize for any sexist connotations -- our lapdog has also turned into a parrot:

Referring to the first day of strikes launched by the United States and its allies against Iraq, the President said: "March 20 signified a major blow to the power of the United Nations." ... "Unless its security mandate is updated, the United Nations will continue to limp forward, tasked to do much peacekeeping but too feeble or hand-tied to be effective at peacemaking, Ms Macapagal said.
Them's fighting words, and will no doubt jeopardize the Philippines's supposedly shoo-in bid for entry into the U.N. Security Council next year. But more important, it reiterates, in even stronger terms, the Bush Administration's insulting disregard for international law, and is a bad sign of things to come for the Macapagal-Arroyo administration as well.
Posted by the wily filipino at 05:31 PM | Comments (0)

June 09, 2003

Scenes from Los Banos, Part 4.

1. It's hot. The pillows radiate heat.

2. It's been threatening to rain for over three days now: sunshine in the morning, dark clouds and terrible humidity in the afternoon, and then -- nothing. More of the same at night.

3. You get what you pay for. The bootleg VCDs were almost unwatchable -- and, in a couple of cases, just about impossible. I didn't have very high expectations for X2, so I could deal with the audience laughter. (Thankfully, Madeline knew all the mutants' powers, so she could fill me in on what was going on.) Gangs of New York was clearly shot from a duffel bag by some guy sitting in the left aisle of the left side of the theater. So Close, a Hong Kong film, had its English subtitles cut off at the bottom. And while watching The Pianist, the CD lens kept slipping a few "grooves" back, as it were, so a pixelled "flashback" from a few scenes before would suddenly pop up. At times it would provide an interesting narrative counterpoint to the images playing on screen -- as if Adrien Brody's interior thoughts would appear, Kirlian camera-like, onto the film -- but I'm sure Polanski wouldn't have wanted it that way. =)

4. I have a week and a half to come up with a best-man toast. For suggestions, please write comments below.

5. Tom Tykwer's Heaven was a delight. (It was a clear copy, what we didn't expect was that the English subtitles would be obscured by the Chinese and Indonesian subtitles superimposed on top of them! Fortunately Madeline knows Mandarin, my Bahasa Indonesia is passable but extremely rusty, and we both know a smattering of tourist Italian, so it worked out fine.) Cate Blanchett, as a mysterious saboteur -- one of the esteemed members of my Pale and Haunted Pantheon, though not up there with Julianne Moore, but now above Judy Davis -- was very good in the beginning, as was Giovanni Ribisi as the carabinieri / interpreter who falls for Blanchett. With a Kieslowski screenplay and gorgeous photography to boot -- it's Italy, after all.

My only real quibble -- okay, there were major plot holes, but this is a parable -- is how lately a few films have been flirting with the vague idea of spirituality and the "metaphysical" with rather shallow intellectual engagement. Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves is a good case in point; it sends you out of the theater thinking you've just witnessed a semi-religious experience and then... what? (There must also be a whole slew of recent films coming out of Europe on the same subject, but I haven't had the time to read subtitles (Philistine!), so I will point to three recent American films: the vacuous Signs, by M. Night Shyamalan, Steven Spielberg's much-misunderstood A.I., which I chose to read more as a twisted Oedipal fable, and the excellent The Pledge, by Sean Penn, in which Jack Nicholson actually plays someone other than himself.)

6. Coming soon: lapdog alert, and the repercussions of the Philippines being the most willing of the coalition of the willing.

Posted by the wily filipino at 08:24 PM | Comments (2)

June 08, 2003

Unpacking My Mother's Library, Part 2.

Jose Garcia Villa's Doveglion book is particularly special to me, because it marks the inclusion of my uncle Ernesto Manalo's poem "Parable" (tucked almost all the way in the back of the book as one of two poems in the "Prose Poems" section).

I never met my Uncle Nesto. He committed suicide, well before I was born, at the age of 26 after a long, scarring bout with (as he put it) "the state called psychotic depression." He had an enormous talent; elsewhere Villa called him "one of the most important Filipino postwar writers." In the preface to his posthumous Selected Poems (1962), he writes:

I believe that poems are always products of neuro-pathological states, that is, a neurosis. If this is not true of other poets, it is certainly true with me, because I have been undergoing psychiatric treatment since I was twenty (the age when I started writing poetry)...

And that is why I have been led to believe that the melancholy... is a natural component not only of my poetry but of all kinds of poetry. I think it is in the nature of the poet to have his melancholy as a form of concentration. It is in his melancholy that he reigns supreme, and through which he controls his art. If there should be order in the poem, it is the melancholy in the poet that gives this order...

...I believe that the poem while being a direct product of the poet's neurosis is not a symptom of this disease; on the other hand, I think the poem is the outward sign of the poet's strength -- the poem is the point of departure from the illness.

And he concludes: "I present the poems in this book as poems, not as testimonies to an illness."

Here's Uncle Nesto's "Parable" in full, which still breaks my mom's heart everytime she reads it.

And I wanted them all around me and I gathered them:
My brother (my keeper) my wife, my mother and my father.
My father said: I will stand by and watch over you.
My wife slept beside me.
My brother watched over me with the scientific mind.
And my mother was my spiritual keeper.
And I said: You who thus watch over me will get no reward
But that I shall sleep peaceful.
And they said: We shall watch over you and expect no reward
But that you shall sleep peacefully.

Posted by the wily filipino at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

June 07, 2003

Unpacking My Mother's Library, Part 1.

Managed to unearth some real gems: among others, the New Directions hardcover edition of Jose Garcia Villa's Volume Two (1949), and Villa's A Doveglion Book of Philippine Poetry (1962). (She's letting me bring them to SF.)

The latter book has the usual, much-anthologized suspects -- Virgie Moreno's chilling "Order for Masks," Nick Joaquin's weary "The Innocence of Solomon," Alejandrino Hufana's "Poro Point" -- and a few surprises (to me): an experimentation in form by Carlos Bulosan, artist David Medalla's "Envoi" (reminiscent of Yoko Ono's Instruction Paintings), and Romeo Solina's oddly affecting meditation on the "open and closed parentheses" of the rosary ("dead seedbead"), entitled "GOD, theo, dios" (excerpted here, coming towards the conclusion):

GOD, theo, dios turn
from words and sound and words and sound
to holy unstillable silence within-without

Archly, Villa provides his introduction:


Being, simply, an selection by the
editor of what he regards as
the best poems in English
written by Filipinos

Not to say that there isn't one unifying theme: there are indeed Villa-esque touches here and there, from Jose Lansang, Jr.'s "Sonnet" (where [chuckle] he rhymes "Phoenix," "genetrix," "unmix," and "matrix"), and the ending of Gemino Abad's fine "To Caliban:"

Rise, Caliban, and rage,
And pure, burst, Eyes.

Add a couple of commas and stir! =)

(When she was a teenager, my starstruck mom met Villa a few times, when he was hanging out at my uncle Armando Manalo's house -- the first time, she said, he brought wife and kids; the second time, when she had dinner with him, he had "a very good looking boy toy in tow." Apparently my mother has a photo of herself with Villa, who was sporting a lock of hair dyed green -- quite scandalous in those days! I asked her if Villa had any words of wisdom, but all she could remember was his handsome young partner.)

Posted by the wily filipino at 03:05 AM | Comments (0)

June 03, 2003

Back to That Dinner.

This isn't exactly about Bush's state dinner with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, but about Bush's welcome speech:

The Philippines was the first democracy in Asia and has a proud tradition of democratic values, love of family and faith in God. President Arroyo, you are carrying this tradition forward, and I`m proud to call you friend… Mabuhay!
Dean Jorge Bocobo, whose blog I really enjoy reading but with whom I mostly disagree, rightly points out the change in Bush's rhetoric:
I was dumbstruck reading the transcript. These bold words, are history being revised... No U.S. president since William McKinley -- not Roosevelt or Kennedy or Reagan or Clinton -- has ever proclaimed the simple truth in those 8 words: “The Philippines was the first democracy in Asia…” Pres. Bush's words contradict the history of Philippine-American relations as taught in America (except in hundreds of Asian studies departments) and written up in history books (unless they've read the words of Teodoro Agoncillo, Renato Constantino, or U.P.'s Dean Armando Malay).
He writes further:
[The Treaty of Paris] made inevitable America's first and only colonial war of conquest against an insurrection that was also our war to defend the infant Philippine republic...

The Filipinos would lose that war, but America would give the Philippines everything Spain never did: schools, government, science, Hollywood. Still a century of nationalist resentment seethes in many intellectuals, pundits and local elites. Now, for the first time an American President seems to agree with them. I see the end of a great untruth because George W. Bush is a straight talking Texas cowboy.

I suppose I'm one of those "seething pundits" then -- who, as Bocobo eloquently writes, "never emerged from the black hole of resentment." (Do I qualify as a "seething intellectual?")

Yes, I'm seething: the joys of schools and Hollywood aside (for which we should be eternally grateful to the United States of America, forever and ever, Amen), Bush's statement reads to me as precisely signaling the very elision of that same war (not an "insurrection," by the way) the Filipino-American war that sought to destroy that same "first democracy in Asia." The simplistic recognition of a change in date -- finally, an American President realizes our independence day is not on July 4! -- is little reason to applaud. This is only hypocrisy of the basest sort, especially since Bush is financing -- no, wait: directly plunging into -- yet another war against those crazy Moros.

There's more (the permalink might be broken, but it's from May 29, with a mirror here) adulation concerning the "partnership" between the U.S. and its major non-NATO ally, but you can read that for yourself. (And you can read my earlier entries if you click on the "this damned war" category in the boxes on the right.)

Posted by the wily filipino at 06:56 PM | Comments (0)

June 02, 2003

Blogging and Mangoes (or, Scenes from Los Banos, Part 3.)

1. Grrrr.

2. "The problem with the two of you is that you're too tense." I answered, "I wonder why." (Pot. Kettle. Black.)

3. No, the real problem is that any slight deviation from what she wants is considered by her as an explicit criticism of what she is and does. The merest suggestion that we buy or feed Izzy something else is enough to drive her into a mini-fit.

She: I bought her banana yogurt. Why haven't you tried it yet?
Me: I'm feeding her usual cereal.
She: Well, she's not eating it. What about the banana yogurt?
Me: She's eaten this cereal for over a year.
She: She's probably tired of it. You would get tired of eating the same thing too.
Me: Yes, but I'm not a baby. Babies like consistency.
She: Fine, have it your way.

She [after Izzy tries to remove her plastic bib with a trough at the bottom to catch falling food]: She probably wants a soft bib.
Me: No, she just doesn't want the bib.
She: The plastic bib's too hot, and doesn't let any air through.
Me: But it keeps the food from falling onto your floor.
She [to Izzy, in a goo-goo voice]: They think they know what's best for you, don't you?

The side comments! The mumbles as she walks away! The constant suggestions about what we're doing wrong!

4. Madeline and I are cooking tonight -- not because we don't like her cooking (I think it's yummy), but mainly because Izzy's been eating nothing but rice and garbanzo beans and macaroni, and probably misses her carrots and potatoes. (I bet someone's just wishing for the meal to fail.)

5. I miss our dog Shelby. But there's no way she'll be allowed to walk on my mom's endangered hardwood floors. There's no way she'd be able to survive the heat and humidity either. And if she happens to accidentally wander outside the gate, she wouldn't be able to survive my neighbors' dinner cutlery either.

6. Six more weeks to go.

7. Lots of desserty things in the Philippines are too sweet. I have a sweet tooth, but even I thought the yogurt (which my mom bought) that we were feeding Izzy was way too sweet. But in this case I'm just as tense and defensive as well:

Me: The yogurt's too sweet.
She: Why, have you tasted it? [Translation: How dare you criticize me?]
Me: Yes. Why would I say it was sweet if I hadn't tasted it yet?
She: I just thought you already knew.
Me: Now why would I already know?
She: Fine, have it your way.

8. It's extremely hot and humid. And the air is completely still.

9. Issa, who's seven years old, is just about one of the most precocious and smartest children I know.

Izzy [pointing to something]: Batsi?
Issa: What is she saying?
Me: I don't know.
Issa: Is it English?
Me: Maybe.
Issa: Is it Tagalog?
Me: I don't think so.
Issa: Hmm. Maybe it's French.

We later figured out Izzy was asking "What's this?"

10. It's really all about control. After writing a letter to one of my advisers I walked out to the kitchen and discovered that Izzy's clothes had been changed (from tank top and shorts to a different tank top and a skirt) for no apparent reason. ("They looked too hot," my mom said.)

11. In a way, blogging is a nice temporary substitute for therapy.

12. Mangoes, too.

Posted by the wily filipino at 07:32 PM | Comments (3)

June 01, 2003

Scenes from Los Banos, Part 2.

More rambling: Los Banos is a college town in the provinces, but it is quite different from the college town in the United States. A good amount of the population, perhaps more than in any other small town in the Philippines, have advanced degrees. There is also a sizable number of international students and expat employees, so there is more non-Filipino / non-Chinese cuisine -- Thai, Indian, Japanese, Middle Eastern -- than most other locations outside of Manila. It isn't cosmopolitan in the same sense as Manila -- and certainly nowhere near as shiny (the better to conceal the grime) -- but I really don't know the latter city very well.

This reminds me of how we drove into Valleverde (it's somewhere off Ortigas, in Quezon City) yesterday to get Izzy, Joy (my sister) and Issa fitted for their bridesmaid and flower girl dresses. (Joy looked smashing, by the way, though frighteningly skinny -- her waistline is only a little smaller than her age; Izzy was absolutely darling in a floor-length dress.) It's a gated community, like some parts of Metro Manila, and it was clear that many people who live in Manila would never have the opportunity to go through its gates. (Some of the easiest shortcuts, to ease traffic congestion on the main highways, would be to cut through these gated subdivisions, but you have to surrender your driver's license -- or rather, your driver would have to surrender his license -- to the security guards at the gate before you can go in.) Add to this the expensive, alternate flyovers that cost more and allow the middle class to drive over the jeepneys and squatter areas, and one can see how the middle class and upper middle class could eat and drive and shop and live in Manila without having to deal with the poor at all, except for the ones who wash their Z3s. (And yes, there was an actual BMW Z3 parked in the designer's driveway. But no, Clarissa's parents are paying for the dresses.)

But back to Los Banos: I passed by Olivares Mall, a somewhat dingy mall in LB in the more heavily-trafficked part of town, across from the gasoline stations. There is nothing much in it: ugly clothes shops with little turnover, an appliance store, a sporting goods place, a record store. But the real reason to go to Olivares -- which, apparently, you can find in most malls in the Philippines -- are the stalls with pirated DVDs, VCDs, CDs full of mp3s, and software.

In one stall one could buy an entire Adobe suite -- Pagemaker, Photoshop, Premiere, Acrobat, you name it -- for a little less than 8 dollars. Or 50 programs, all cracked (or if not, serial numbers were helpfully provided) for CD burning or mp3 creation or anything else music-related. Windows XP Professional? That'll be 8 dollars as well, and you get some change back.

It's sometimes mind-boggling what they have: 4 dollars will get you the complete works of the Beatles, minus the Yellow Submarine album. Or, on two CDs, the complete works of Bob Dylan (minus any bootlegs, or The Basement Tapes, or Biograph).

Most surprising of all were the sheer newness of the DVDs: piled up for way less than the price of a rental (crystal clear too, and apparently region-free) in several stalls were Secretary, Anger Management, Talk To Her, Identity, The Ring (and Ringu and Ringu 2) and the real shocker, The Matrix Reloaded. For 2 dollars each. (VCDs were a buck, but the quality wouldn't be as good.) So I ended up taking home pristine copies of The Jungle Book, Chicago and The Hour [sic] (the latter had "Property of Miramax" running underneath the widescreen bar every now and then). (The funniest DVD was entitled Lord of the Rings 3, which had Frodo and the gang on the cover Photoshopped with Tom Cruise and Mia Sara from Ridley Scott's Legend.)

While one may be tempted to characterize this as Third World capitalist ingenuity, I certainly can't approve of all this piracy: it's still a ridiculous amount of money that isn't going to Renee Zellweger or, to put it in better perspective, some poor Eastern European software designer whose demo program was cracked and being resold in the Philippines.

Posted by the wily filipino at 02:28 PM | Comments (0)

May 31, 2003

Scenes from Los Banos, Part 1.

1. Izzy has survived jet lag, having finally slept from 6:30 to 5. We'll try to keep her up later. (It was brutal the day before -- she was up from 1 to 4 in the morning, with me crashed on the sofa while she watched a vintage Scooby-Doo episode, and was cranky all day.)

2. (We were, alas, dealt a bad blow yesterday during our 65-kilometer journey from Makati to Los Banos when a fuel truck fell off a bridge and onto a house below. We left around 5 and arrived at home after 9:30 with stop-and-go traffic all the way. Izzy, alas, only sleeps in her crib, or in her car seat when the traffic is smooth -- many tensions arose around that car seat, which people don't use in the Philippines -- and it was way past her bedtime.)

3. It's a little strange posting when I really have no time to surf and read anyone else's entries -- my folks have only one phone line and a 33.6 modem -- so I'm going through Eileen Tabios-withdrawal right now. =)

4. I've decided that Lyn Hejinian's My Life is just about the perfect thing to read, a poem at a time, before going to sleep. (I think dream work is necessary to process this kind of poetry anyhow; the half-remembered images slowly unfold like a flower that blooms only at night.) My wish: to take a class that walks me through a close reading of this book, one step at a time.

5. I've also started picking a fight with my 7-year old niece, Issa (she speaks flawless English, better than I ever could):

Me: Don't show any violent cartoons to Izzy; it's not good for her.

Issa: But these aren't violent.

Me [looking at the TV while Wolverine slashes some villain]: You don't call that violent?

Issa: But those were bad guys.

Me: So it's not violent if it's done to bad guys? What about the civilian population of Iraq, did you think that wasn't violent?

Issa: Huh?

6. My good friend Mike -- who I knew as "that kano who walked around Los Banos with a pick mattock on his shoulder" -- is asking me for updates on what LB looks like now.

a. Well, that store that sold fresh milk from DTRI at the corner of Lopez Avenue and Demarses Subdivision -- I'm sure the women there flirted mercilessly with Mike -- has been gone for well over a decade now. The main drag is now a long strip of internet cafes and restaurants, quite unimaginable in the '80s. A few years ago the Vega Arcade expanded across the street into a three-story building with McDonald's, Goldilocks, etc., and is still going strong.

b. There's also a Robinson's department store / supermarket / mall right before Crossing, just before you get to Jollibee. Huge, but it doesn't have the nice provincial feel that Olivares Mall does.

c. What this all means, of course, is a decline in sari-sari stores -- I certainly don't see very many anymore, especially since a South Supermarket also opened up between Maahas and Bay.

d. LB is more congested than ever, even without the students. Haven't driven around the campus yet, though -- Mike, did I tell you about the jeepney waiting shed that the Thai grad student alumni set up next to the Auditorium? I have to send you a photo, and you'll have to write about it sometime.

e. My folks took us out to lunch to this restaurant near Bay called Kainan sa Palaisdaan (Eatery at the Fishery, or something like that). About a dozen huts on bamboo rafts, circled around a pond with fish, the wind rustling the bamboo leaves. And the meal: grilled spareribs, sisig, pancit canton, kangkong, and other greasy Filipino fare. Excellent.

f. More on LB later. The heat and humidity is still the same; it's still raining every day, almost all day, since Typhoon Chedeng left.

7. No other fruit in the world can compare to a mango from the Philippines. Mmm.

[Up next: video piracy, more child-rearing tension, wedding preparations and more in "Scenes from Los Banos, Part 2." (I'm going to have to work tomorrow, so all you constant readers won't see it for another few days.)]

Posted by the wily filipino at 05:45 PM | Comments (3)

May 23, 2003

About that Dinner Again.

Eileen -- you have no idea how many times I've tried to connect to your site (as with other Blogspot sites) -- excerpts an article from the Washington Post about that dinner again:

Bush praised Arroyo as "a fierce fighter of terrorism in your own country. You've earned the respect of the American people for your resolve. And after September the 11th, you were one of the first leaders to contact me and express your strong support for the war against terror. And you have not wavered."

"Friends stand by each other," she responded. "In times of crisis, friends do not ask why. They ask how."

There's a nice rhythm to this give and take -- obviously they weren't actually having a conversation, but it reminds me of those skits that I used to put on to promote Sunday School and Bible study fellowship to the teenagers in my church. (Believe it or not -- I shall have to write about my fall of grace one of these days... the post will be called "The Road to Apostasy.")

No, wait -- it reminds me of how Emily Elizabeth would sum up the lesson for the day on Clifford, the Big Red Dog (no offense to the show, which my daughter really likes). ("Today, Clifford learned about cooperation...")

One of the presents in Macapagal-Arroyo's "goodie bag" -- man, Philippine News is getting sharper and sharper -- was this:

The two Presidents agreed on legislation extending new benefits to Filipino WWII veterans based in the U.S. Among these are: full-rate service connected disability compensation; eligibility for burial at national cemeteries and burial benefits for New Scouts; full-rate dependence and indemnity compensation (DIC) to the survivors of New Scouts, Commonwealth Army veterans and guerrillas, and comprehensive health care eligibility to Commonwealth Army veterans and New Scouts.
Which explains why Principi, Ganio and Lachica were invited to the dinner (but they didn't get the pension, though). (Jennie Ilustre emphasizes at the beginning of the article, however, that the Philippines had wanted to get more -- $380 million vs $100 million. "It became clear the state visit was more about photo ops, and less about opportunities," she writes.)

But what a photo op for her anyway. Nelson Navarro compares Macapagal-Arroyo's relatively stellar reception to the lukewarm brown-bag lunches Ramos received way back when, but it's still "begging-bowl diplomacy," as he puts it, when all is said and done.

Emil Guillermo, right underneath Navarro's mug on page 5, has gone amok as usual and pushes her to remember Filipinos overseas as well:

The World Bank just released figures that said that in 2002 for the first time, more money flowed from poor migrants in rich countries like the U.S. than the combined total of government aid, private bank lending and IMF/World Bank aid and assistance.

Do you understand what that means?

That means Manong Boy and Auntie Baby who work the hotel/restaurant beat and send back money through LBC to their family back home, are doing more to prop up the Philippine economy than anyone gives them credit.

And he ruminates, no pun intended, on the possible "chew toys" GMA might receive:

All the hoopla and attention of the week should be a nice payback to President GMA for loyalty beyond the call of lapdog.

So of course, now she’s looking for her bone.

Guillermo holds back on criticizing what's humming in Gloria's goodie drawer -- he does get a nice potshot at Bush's "doggy-style politics" -- but man, can't anyone see what she's traded to get equity for the Filipino veterans?

But back to that dinner. My first reaction was that it was extremely different from the guest lists during Clinton's administration. My second reaction was that it was decidedly low-watt. I mean, who selects the people to be invited? I can see that there were really rather few business connections -- eBay, UPS, a few others, and Gigot to write all about it -- but otherwise, not that much there. Is this par for the course at state dinners, or...?

The other interesting point were, as I'd pointed out before, the Filipino Americans. (I can't imagine Gloria gettin' down to Neal McCoy, much less even heard of him -- can you?) What an odd coterie of people: a former Miss America? An Olympian boxer? An ex-mayor? And none of the usual Philippine News quotables -- no Veloria, Cayetano, Mabilangan-Haley, Nicolas-Lewis, Clemente, Bulos, or even good ol' Alex Esclamado? And jeez, doesn't Michelle Malkin deserve a doggie treat thrown her way at least? Are Filipino Americans simply under Bush's radar? (Well, there are all those chefs and stewards in the White House...)

There are a couple of ways to interpret this: one, that the guest list was slapped together by some clueless drone, or, more likely, that this was never really about Filipinos (or Filipino Americans) in the first place. This simply looks like an elaborate scratch behind the ear for the U.S.'s ally in the Far East, a big thumbing of the nose to Chirac and Schroeder and all those other folks who won't be eating out of the same food bowl with Bush anytime soon, a relatively inexpensive gesture to remind the world that the war on terrorism in Asia apparently isn't over.

And so I'll end with an excerpt from Sen. Robert Byrd's recent, much-quoted speech, which reminds us why being on Bush's buddy list is ignominious anyhow:

...the Bush team's extensive hype of WMD in Iraq as justification for a preemptive invasion has become more than embarrassing. It has raised serious questions about prevarication and the reckless use of power. Were our troops needlessly put at risk? Were countless Iraqi civilians killed and maimed when war was not really necessary? Was the American public deliberately misled? Was the world?
And so Byrd ends -- god, this speech should be disseminated far and wide:
I contend that, through it all, the people know. The American people unfortunately are used to political shading, spin, and the usual chicanery they hear from public officials. They patiently tolerate it up to a point. But there is a line. It may seem to be drawn in invisible ink for a time, but eventually it will appear in dark colors, tinged with anger. When it comes to shedding American blood - - when it comes to wreaking havoc on civilians, on innocent men, women, and children, callous dissembling is not acceptable. Nothing is worth that kind of lie - - not oil, not revenge, not reelection, not somebody's grand pipedream of a democratic domino theory.

And mark my words, the calculated intimidation which we see so often of late by the "powers that be" will only keep the loyal opposition quiet for just so long. Because eventually, like it always does, the truth will emerge. And when it does, this house of cards, built of deceit, will fall.

Posted by the wily filipino at 11:18 AM | Comments (1)

May 21, 2003

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?

Forwarded to me by my good friend Mike, from The Washington Post:

The Guest List

Tuesday, May 20, 2003;
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, president of the Philippines, and Jose Miguel T. Arroyo
Franklin M. Drilon, president of the senate, and Mila Drilon
Jose C. De Venecia Jr., speaker of the house of representatives, and Gina De Venecia
Alberto G. Romulo, executive secretary
Blas F. Ople, secretary of foreign affairs
Jose Isidro N. Camacho, secretary of finance
Angelo T. Reyes, secretary of national defense
Manuel A. Roxas III, secretary of trade and industry
Albert F. Del Rosario, ambassador of the Philippines to the United States, and Margaret Gretchen Del Rosario
Roberto R. Romulo, senior adviser on international competitiveness
Maximo V. Soliven, journalist
Spencer Abraham, U.S. secretary of energy, and Jane Abraham
John Ashcroft, U.S. attorney general, and Janet Ashcroft
Angela Perez Baraquio, Miss America 2001, and Tinifuloa R. Grey
Ernest Z. Bower, president, US-ASEAN Business Council, and Mrs. Sam Bower
Tom Brokaw, anchor and managing editor, "NBC Nightly News," and Meredith Brokaw
Karen Brooks, director for Asian affairs, National Security Council, and Scott Faber, Keen Inc.
Marvin P. Bush and Margaret Bush
Catalina Camia, Gannett News Service, and Cliff Roberts, HNTB Corp.
Andrew H. Card Jr., chief of staff to the president, and the Rev. Kathleene B. Card
Lupo Carlota, President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and Lilibeth Carlota
Elaine Chao, secretary of labor, and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
Vice President Cheney and Lynne V. Cheney
Jeff Coleman, state senator of Pennsylvania, and Rebecca Coleman
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)
Tom Daffron, executive vice president, Chesapeake Enterprises
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Sandy Cornyn
Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Meredith Daniels, daughter
John J. DeGioia, president, Georgetown University, and Therese DeGioia
Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and Danielle DeLay Ferro, daughter
Paula J. Dobriansky, undersecretary of state for global affairs, and Bruce Friedman, special assistant to the U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States

George M. Drysdale, chairman and CEO, Marsman Drysdale Group, and Diane Drysdale
Donald B. Ensenat, U.S. chief of protocol
Michael Eskew, chairman and CEO, UPS, and Molly Eskew
Jose Esteves, mayor, Milpitas, Calif., and Susan Esteves
Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Karyn Frist
William P. Fuller, president, Asia Foundation, and Jennifer Beckett
Patrick Ganio, national president, American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, and Eric Lachica, executive director, American Coalition for Filipino Veterans

Paul Gigot, editorial page editor, the Wall Street Journal, and Rebecca Randall
Susan Graham, soprano (performing), and Betty Fort Graham and Janet G. Jaquess
Michael P. Guingona, council member of Daly City, Calif., and Teresa Guingona
Stephen Hadley, deputy national security adviser, and Ann Hadley
Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor, The Washington Post, and Margaret Shapiro, staff writer, The Washington Post
James A. Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and Audrey Pool Kelly, artist
Colbert I. King, deputy editorial page editor, The Washington Post, and Gwen King
Robert P. Koch, Wine Institute, and Doro Bush Koch
Rep. James A. Leach (R-Iowa) and Elisabeth Leach
Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) and Char Lugar
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, and Bishop Kevin Farrell
Neal McCoy, singer, and Melinda McGaughey
James F. Moriarty, senior director for Asian affairs, National Security Council, and Lauren Moriarty
Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Mary Jo Myers
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and John Jay O'Connor III
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.)
Colin L. Powell, secretary of state, and Alma Powell
Anthony J. Principi, secretary of veterans affairs
Francis J. Ricciardone Jr., ambassador to the Philippines, and Marie Dunn Ricciardone
Condoleezza Rice, assistant to the president for national security affairs, and Gene A. Washington, National Football League

Donald H. Rumsfeld, secretary of defense, and Joyce Rumsfeld
John Snow, secretary of the Treasury
Lt. Gen. Edward Soriano and Vivian Soriano
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Catherine Stevens
Gaddi H. Vasquez, director, Peace Corps, and Elaine Vasquez
Ann M. Veneman, secretary of agriculture
Brian Viloria, U.S. Olympic boxer, and Gary Gittelsohn, attorney
Ronald Walker, former managing director, Korn-Ferry International, and Anne Walker
Leslie H. Wexner, chairman and CEO, Limited Brands, and Abigail Wexner
Meg Whitman, president and CEO, eBay, and Griffith Harsh
George Will, syndicated columnist, The Washington Post Writers Group, and Mari Maseng Will
Gary L. Wilson, chairman, Northwest Airlines, and Barbera Thornhill
Brian Zeger, pianist (performing), and Benjamin C. Moore

Interesting to see the Filipinos invited: an ex-mayor and mayor, a former AAJA president, the Hawaiian Punch, the highest ranking Filipino in the U.S. Army, veterans' rights people, a country singer, a prominent Republican, and a former Miss America. No other Asian Americans except for Chao.

Posted by the wily filipino at 07:46 AM | Comments (1)

May 19, 2003


Kumusta na? Kailan ka dumating? Matagal ba ang biyahe mo? Sino ang kamukha niya? Nakakakain ka na? Anong balita? Kumusta ang biyahe mo? Anong ginagawa mo doon? Tapos ka na ba? Marunong ba siyang mag-Tagalog? Napanood mo na iyong bagong Matrix? Anong gusto mong kainin? Pupunta ka bang Maynila? Anong pinanood ninyo sa eroplano? Anong pasalubong namin? Kumakain ba siya nang Pilipino food? Hindi ka ba natatakot sa SARS? Sinong kapitbahay mo doon? Madalas mo bang makita si Sulpicio? Anong naman ang gagawin mo sa conference? Matagal ba kayo sa airport? Saan kayo natutulog? Anong uso ngayon doon? Pumunta ba kayong duty-free? Marunong na ba siyang maglakad?

Ilan ang ibon sa batok ko? Ano ang sinabi nang bata sa papaya? Binili ba noong madre iyong pipino? Malapit ba ang salamin sa baso? Kailan ka papasok sa kubeta? Sino ang kumuha nang tatsulok galing sa kahon? Binanatan mo na ba? Kinuhanan mo na nang litrato ang puno? Marunong ka bang kumatay nang matsing? Saan nawaglit ang relo? Madalas ka bang nakakasira nang computer? Wala ka bang napapansin sa buhok ko? Malaki ba ang opisina nang principal? Wala bang magamit na santol? Gusto mo bang magpalampaso? Hahanap ba ako nang gatas? Mainit ba sa gubat? Malayo ba iyong lalakarin niya?

Anong oras kayo umalis doon? Anong sasabihin mo sa kasal? Kasya ba kayo diyan sa kuwarto? Kailan kayo bibisita ulit? Kailan kaya kami pupunta diyan? Magsusulat ba kayo? Anong kinakain niya? Sinong nagaalaga sa aso ninyo? Saan kayo nakatira doon? Anong pinapakinggan mo ngayon? Gusto mo bang magpagupit dito? Kailan kaya kita mabibisita? Iyong kotse ninyo, saan ninyo pinarada? Gusto ninyo bang mag-swimming? Alam ba nang mga kapitbahay mo na wala kayo? Magiimbita ba ako nang kaibigan mo? Malapit na bang mag-expire ang passport mo? Gusto mo ba nang talunan? Malamig ba ngayon sa San Francisco? Sinong nag-aalaga sa bata? Maraming bang imbitado? Iyong utol mo, kailan ang punta doon? Kumusta na?

Posted by the wily filipino at 09:51 PM | Comments (5)

May 02, 2003

Oops, Part 2.

An October 2002 article from The Seattle Times: or, why not to trust Filipino websites. =)

You know, some people really need to learn that just because something is on the Internet doesn't mean that it is true.
Posted by the wily filipino at 10:34 AM | Comments (0)

Pinoy Celeb Blog.

Via my brother -- who somehow gets the coolest Filipino links before I do: a blog supposedly written by the most famous daughter of a former Philippine president, not counting those horrible sisters Imee and Irene Marcos. (She describes herself in her profile as "actress slash commercial model slash talkshow host slash most talked about media personality in the philippines. ")

If anything, you non-Tagalog readers may get a nice strong, caffeinated dose of kolehiyala Taglish unleashed (you can take her out of college, but you can't take the kolehiyala out of her):

okay, so i'm watching the other channel ha, and i am seeing geneva cruz strutting around onstage sa labas ng gma complex. baring her navel as usual. but what's really funny is that she's singing the charlie's angels theme as done by destiny's child. tapos poor her, she has no back up singers, so she makes habol the "i bought it" part. tipo bang thecarimdrivingiboughtit!theshoesimwearingiboughtit! etc. kawawa talaga.

dati naman she made gaya the video of JLo, now this? iha, konting originality naman.

Real or not, it's just too, too funny.

Posted by the wily filipino at 08:52 AM | Comments (0)

April 29, 2003

More Lessons from Parents.

From my friend Romeo:

Here's one that wasn't there:

"Naku, kung puede ka lang ibalik sa pinanggalingan mo, matagal ko ng ginawa."

You can probably label this one as a lesson in REMEMBERING YOUR PAST.

Isa pa: "Naku, kung ahas iyan, kanina ka pa tinuka." Lesson in CREATURE APPRECIATION.

Posted by the wily filipino at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

April 27, 2003

Filipino-American Scholars Lead API Colleagues in Protest

Thought I'd post this, from Robyn Rodriguez, friend, colleague, and Ph.D candidate in Sociology at UC Berkeley:

Filipino-American Scholars Lead API Colleagues in Protest

For additional information contact: Robyn Rodriguez

The Critical Filipino Studies Collective (CFSC) is calling on Asian-American Studies professors, researchers and professionals to live up to their historic mission and oppose the Bush administration’s global “War on Terror” at the annual Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) conference next month. The AAAS conference will take place at the Cathedral Hill Hotel from May 8-10, 2003 in San Francisco.

In addition to the resolution, the CFSC will be sponsoring an exhibit of Asian American photographers who have been documenting Asian Americans’ leadership and involvement in San Francisco’s anti-war protests, as well as a benefit for the Filipino immigrant airport screeners who unfairly suffered a mass lay-off at Bay Area airports in the wake of the 9/11 tragedies.

Dozens of highly respected Asian-American and Pacific Islander professors from around the country have added their names to the anti-war resolution sponsored by the CFSC, an organization of Filipino studies scholars. The Filipino and Asian American scholars denounce the recent war of aggression and subsequent occupation of Iraq. According to the CFSC-sponsored resolution to be presented on May 9 at the AAAS business meeting, “This war is a manipulation of the American public's grief over the 9/11 tragedy, an illegal and undemocratic campaign to further U.S. multinational corporate interests.” CFSC calls on the Association to “actively defend and support the academic freedom of its members’…in challenging this imperial ‘War on Terror’.” Moreover, the CFSC calls for “the Association [to] form a task force to organize a national day of action and produce educational materials.”

Asian-American studies along with other ethnic studies programs and departments trace their histories to the 1960’s anti-imperialist movements and struggles for Third World self-determination, including, most notably, the San Francisco Ethnic Studies Strike of 1968-9 (for reference see: The AAAS will hold its annual meeting in San Francisco, the very site of these historic struggles and the recent anti-war protests.

May 8-10:
Association for Asian American Studies Annual Conference, Cathedral Hotel, San Francisco

May 8:
Critical Filipino Studies Collective Public Meeting, 11-1 at SF Public Library

CFSC Organized Events:
May 9
3-5PM: Presentation of CFSC-Sponsored Anti-War Resolution to Board
7:30-11PM: “Filipino Activism and Immigrant Rights in the Bay Area Benefit” (co sponsored by Asian American Studies and Philippine Studies, USF and Asianweek) and “Rise Up, Stop the War! Asian Americans in the Anti-War Movement” Photo Exhibit. The theme of the exhibit will be “Strength in Unity, Peace through Justice Now”

Posted by the wily filipino at 03:40 PM | Comments (0)

I'm Filipino, But Is This A Filipino Blog?

(I'm totally blushing. And you should see Eileen's comments on my blog! Brown skin doesn't blush easy, but in this case...)

Anyhow, this will be a more rambling entry than usual. The title of the entry came to me as I (thoughtlessly) clicked on the category "Pinoy" (look to your right for the category archives) after I posted the entry on Eileen Tabios's WinePoetics blog. This was, of course, technically true -- she is Filipina, after all -- but the entry wasn't really Filipino in content, and neither is her blog very Filipino either. Whatever "Filipino" means, anyway.

And then a very nice mention from Mac Diva on her Mac-a-ronies blog (a must-read, by the way, along with her other blog, Silver Rights), where she calls my blog "an olio of news, entertainment, poetry and material about the Philippines." But I feel I'll let some people down, because I hardly post on Filipino or Filipino American things, really.

Much of this is going through my head lately because of Tim Yu's tympan blog, where he has a hilarious and thought-provoking entry on writing an "Asian American" poem -- link swiped from WinePoetics, natch. (See also his equally interesting response to a post by Ron Silliman.) Or rather, parodies of the four categories of Asian American poems he has seen:

--the grandparents poem
--the family photograph poem
--the exotic food poem
--the erotic poem, usually employing imagery from the exotic food poem
Yeah, it is indeed a little snotty, as Yu put it, but not inaccurate. I can think of a few elements contributing to and mitigating this phenomenon:

1. I see this more often in small student-edited collections: young poets learn from those "Asian American" models (and may be given the same writing exercises, i.e., "write what you know") and (unwittingly) imitate them. Nothing wrong with this in general, but...

2. This also operates on a "culturalist" level, i.e., stop a random Chinese American person (for instance) walking in the street and ask her or him what "Chinese culture" is all about, and it is likely that family, respect for ancestors, food, etc., will be invoked. Again, nothing wrong with this in general, but...

3. Unfortunately, this becomes reified uncritically as "Asian culture," and editors/reviewers looking for "a distinctive Asian voice" or something with "an Asian sensibility" would end up selecting an ancestors poem or a food poem because they are coded as Asian. Writers like Amy Tan have been living off the proceeds of this "sensibility" for years.

4. And if outfitting oneself in Asian drag sells, well... this may explain the success of all those footbinding memoirs. How many permutations of "golden," "lotus," "heaven," "jade," and "dragon" could there be? Thus, the reproduction of Orientalist cliches, both internally and externally.

5. But if ethnicity, in opposition to a "biological" category like race (yes, I know both are culturally constructed), is a combination of "culture" and descent, then it would make perfect sense to have a family poem and a food poem (and food preferences, as Bourdieu argues, are practically seen as hard-wired, and integral to notions of culture) as the two models of the "ethnic poem."

Something like Walter Lew's Premonitions was, perhaps conceived to escape those four walls of the Asian American poem-jail (kind of like the prisonhouse of language?). As Maria Damon writes on the backcover blurb:

Neither a multiculti feel-good anthology, an instrumentalist teaching anthology that condescends to its audience and subject matter, nor an Orientalist rehearsal of anti-Orientalism, this book will liberate the reader from the strictures of the known at all levels.
She makes it sound like acid! But that's beside the point: I think what she means is that the poems contained inside weren't selected to communicate an Asian American sensibility (though some do), but perhaps because they were written by good poets, to paraphrase Ron Silliman in his post, who happen to be Asian American.*

I'm preparing for two sections of an "Asian American culture" class in the fall, and as an anthropologist, I taught my previous sections from a social sciences angle, only to be told later on that the classes were meant to deal with "the expressive arts." But while reading through different anthologies recently, I found myself stupidly passing over the fiction and poetry that weren't specifically coded as "Asian American," i.e., those pieces that didn't deal with language or racism or food or repressive tradition, as if "Asian American" couldn't encapsulate anything else. And so I was therefore unwittingly duplicating some Orientalist notion of what Asian or Asian American meant. In any case, the discussion in class should be interesting next year.

*It should be made clear, though, that this is very different from the fantasy of social colorblindness.

Posted by the wily filipino at 03:32 PM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2003


It's about time I wrote a little something about the sparkling joys of poet Eileen Tabios's blog, WinePoetics. I imagine her drinking her wine, her entries spilling like tiny diamonds onto the keyboard, getting stuck between the "j" and "k" keys.

I met her a few months back at a reading, where she stumped me with a question on some offhand statement I made (I was introducing the writers) about how poets are needed to imagine the nation. I couldn't really answer. Then I ran into her again buying Peet's at SF State (god, this is starting to sound like some kind of mash note), just before she had a poetry reading. (I couldn't go because I was teaching my research methods class at the same time.) Anyhow, she clearly had no idea who I was. =)

Her latest entry, "Song of the Torn Footnotes," is characteristically lovely. "Your hands never memorized the circumference of her ankles." And again: "As the moon rose, we never entered a room whose lights I cancelled from a sudden shyness."

So, Eileen, if you're reading this, consider it fan mail. Or better yet, consider it a toast.

Posted by the wily filipino at 07:57 PM | Comments (1)


My dad, also named Benito Vergara (he's D'Original Benito Vergara), wears many hats -- I think he was befuddled, but secretly pleased, at being called a "rice guru" -- but the last few years he's been writing children's science books. Children's books! My dad!

Here's a review of his latest, Waling-Waling: The Search for the Most Beautiful Orchid in the World.

Posted by the wily filipino at 01:42 PM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2003

Mga Aral Mula sa mga Magulang.

The following was forwarded to me by my friend Jane -- it looks like a fairly direct translation of this unfunny version in English, but the Tagalog version is so much funnier (and coarser):

MGA KAPATID... Tiyak na kapupulutan niyo ng mahahalagang aral ang e-mail na ito...


1. Si Inay, tinuruan niya ako ng HOW TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE.
"Kung kayong dalawa ay magpapatayan, doon kayo sa labas. Mga punyeta kayo, kalilinis ko lang ng bahay."

2. Natuto ako ng RELIGION kay Itay.
"Kapag yang mantsa di natanggal sa carpet, magdasal ka na!"

3. Si Itay, tinuruan niya kami ni Kuya kung anong ibig sabihin ng TIME TRAVEL.
"Kung di kayo tumigil ng pagngangawa diyan, tatadyakan ko kayo ng todo hanggang umabot kayo sa isang linggo!"

4. Kay Inay ako natuto ng LOGIC.
"Kaya ganyan, dahil sinabi ko."

5. Kay Inay din ako natuto ng MORE LOGIC.
"Kapag ikaw ay nalaglag diyan sa bubong, ako lang mag-isa manonood ng sine."

6. Kay Itay naman natuto ng FORESIGHT si Kuya.
"Siguraduhin mo na lagi kang magsusuot ng malinis na brief, para pag-nakascore ka sa syota mo e di kahiya-hiya."

7. Si Inay naman ang nagturo sa akin kung ano ang ibig sahibin ng IRONY.
"Sige ngumalngal ka, kundi bibigyan talaga kita ng iiyakan mo!"

8. Kay Inay ako natuto ng science of OSMOSIS.
"Punyeta, itigil mo ang kadadakdak at tapusin mong kainin ang inihanda kong hapunan para sa iyo."

9. Si Inay ang nagpaliwanag sa akin kung ano ang CONTORTIONISM.
"Tingnan mo nga yang dumi sa likod ng leeg mo, tignan mo!"

10. Si Itay ang nagpaliwanag sa akin kung anong ibig sabihin ng STAMINA.
"Wag kang tatayo diyan hangga't di mo natatapos kainin lahat yang gulay mo!"

11. At si Inay ang nagturo sa amin kung anong ibig sabihin ng WEATHER.
"Alangya, ano ba itong kuwarto nyong magkapatid, parang dinaanan ng bagyo!"

12. Sa CIRCLE OF LIFE, ang paliwanag sa akin ni Inay ay ganito:
"Malandi kang bata ka, iniluwal kita sa mundong ito, maaari rin kitang alisin sa mundong ito."

13. Kay Itay ako natuto kung ano ang BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION.
"Tatadyakan kita diyan, huwag ka ngang nag-uumarte diyan na parang Nanay mo!"

14. Si Inay naman ang nagpaliwanag sa amin kung anong ibig sabihin ng ENVY.
"Maraming mga batang ulila sa magulang, di ba kayo nagpapasalamat at mayroon kayong magulang na tulad namin?"

15. Si Itay naman ang nagturo sa akin ng ANTICIPATION.
"Tangna kang bata ka, hintayin mong makarating tayo sa bahay...!"

16. At si Itay pa rin ang nagturo kay Kuya kung ano ibig sabihin ng RECEIVING.
"Uupakan kita pagdating natin sa bahay!"

17. Si Inay naman ang nagturo sa aking kung ano ang HUMOR.
"Kapag naputol yang mga paa mo ng pinaglalaruan mong lawn mover, 'wag na 'wag kang tatakbo sa akin at lulumpohin kita!"

18. Kay Itay naman natuto si Kuya ng HOW TO BECOME AN ADULT.
"Kung di ka matutong magbati, eh di ka nga tatangkad."

19. Si Inay ang nagturo sa akin kung anong ibig sabihin ng GENETICS.
"Nagmana ka nga talaga sa ama mong walanghiya."

20. Kay Inay din ako natuto ng WISDOM.
"Pag umabot ka na ng edad ko, saka mo pa lang maiintindihan ang lahat."

21. At ang paborito ko sa lahat na natutunan ko kay Inay at Itay ay kung ano ang JUSTICE.
"Isang araw magkakaroon ka rin ng anak, panalangin namin na sana'y matulad sila sa yo... haliparot!"

Posted by the wily filipino at 09:39 AM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2003

You're Out!

The other day we were discussing in class the politics of outing, and how hapa studies also theorizes outing -- a similar epistemology of the closet, as it were. The premise here is that mixed-race Asians who may look phenotypically Caucasian may experience a kind of coming-out process as well. The conversation naturally turned to hapa celebrities who hadn't "come out" -- not that this was necessarily a required thing, and not that their "silence" meant that they were somehow ashamed, or in denial, or afraid that they would be typecast in Asian roles -- and I think the talk winded down with "Well, it would be nice if Keanu Reeves acknowledged his Asian origins once in a while" or something like that. (We also discussed Asian men in gay porn, but my student Jesse has already blogged about it.)

Anyway, much of this was still on my mind a couple of days later when I went into my anthropology class and was talking about that comic genius, Rob Schneider, who is part-Filipino. Schneider, in his movies, routinely sneaks in some joke or reference to something only other Filipinos would understand. (I once had the privilege of interviewing Pilar Schneider, Rob's mom, who was running for re-election to the Pacifica, California school board. Her husband came too, and showed me photographs. Man, I'd never seen such prouder parents! "He doesn't behave that badly," she said, referring to the then upcoming premiere of Men Behaving Badly.)

So here are a few current celebs, off the top of my head, who some of you readers may not know are indeed part-Filipino or of Filipino descent or are people who are probably Filipino but whose identity I can't be quite sure:

- Tia Carrere.
- Lou Diamond Phillips. (Both of them, as well as Schneider, are quite active in the campaign for Filipino veterans' equity rights.)
- Kirk Hammett, from Metallica.
- Shannyn Sossamon (I have no idea who she is, but my students mentioned her, and I can't be bothered to IMDB her right now)
- Joey Santiago, from the Pixies, one of the greatest bands in the world. (I thought he was Latino, given their sometimes Spanish lyrics, but he's Filipino.)
- the Baluyut brothers from Versus.
- I think David Pajo from Slint and Tortoise and Aerial M and Zwan is Filipino, but I'm not sure either.
- and of course you know DJ QBert (and a good number of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz) are Filipino.
- um, Enrique Iglesias is part Filipino.
- Phoebe Cates isn't, but everyone in my high school thought she was. (A Burmese friend of mine claimed that everyone in Burma thought she was part-Burmese.)
- Prince (I swear, I'd claim him as one of my people in a heartbeat if I had positive, documented proof. But as far as I'm concerned it's all completely unsubstantiated, even though Filipinos say "I think I read it in a magazine somewhere," kind of like people's responses when asked for proof of the Saddam-bin Laden connection. In any case, just because Prince is short and horny doesn't mean he's Filipino.)

And finally my students mentioned some other name I wasn't familiar with: "Cris Judd," someone said. "Who?" I asked and the class laughed.

So I looked him up:

Cris Judd

Oh, okay. I guess he's a celeb now.

Posted by the wily filipino at 08:57 PM | Comments (19)

April 16, 2003

The New "Empire Lite" and the Philippines, a Century Ago

There has been a lot of talk about empire lately, and even with Bush's denials ("America has no empire to extend or utopia to establish," he said in a speech last June) this vision of a Pax Americana -- or at the very least, a kind of "liberal imperialism," as David Rieff put it -- seems more and more apparent. Michael Ignatieff's now-notorious article in the New York Times has him, despite his denials, still essentially advocating taking up the white man's burden:

America's empire is not like empires of times past, built on colonies, conquest and the white man's burden. We are no longer in the era of the United Fruit Company, when American corporations needed the Marines to secure their investments overseas. The 21st century imperium is a new invention in the annals of political science, an empire lite, a global hegemony whose grace notes are free markets, human rights and democracy, enforced by the most awesome military power the world has ever known. It is the imperialism of a people who remember that their country secured its independence by revolt against an empire, and who like to think of themselves as the friend of freedom everywhere. It is an empire without consciousness of itself as such, constantly shocked that its good intentions arouse resentment abroad.
The first two sentences made me choke; the last three made me stop and think. Why did this seem so new to him? Of course there was historical precedent for this "new invention;" as many scholars have long argued, the American military occupation of the Philippines was already the dawning of the American empire, a reopening of the closed American frontier, the first moment of America's assertion of military might in a foreign land as a world power for the very first time. (Add to this the genocide of Native Americans, the colonization of Chicanos in the Southwest, the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, the takeover of Puerto Rico (and Cuba) during the Spanish-American War -- a war that took a lot less time to wage than the Filipino American War -- and you have a beast that sure looks and talks like an empire. Richard Drinnon similarly argues in Facing West that the racist attitudes embedded in westward expansionism (and toward Native Americans) served as a template for foreign policy from the Philippines to Vietnam.)

In any case, "empire lite," or "liberal imperialism," still smells to me like "benevolent assimilation," which was William McKinley's policy for governing the Filipinos. He, too, passionately denied any mercantilistic aims for the colonizing of the Philippines, pretending instead that the country fell into his lap and that he was commanded by God to "uplift, Christianize and civilize" the poor Filipinos. McKinley and Taft and their cabal of colonizers similarly vowed liberation and upliftment for the hapless Filipinos -- and they too, were "constantly shocked that [their] good intentions arouse resentment abroad."

Some folks have at least taken notice of this historical precedent. (Gen. Tommy Franks has been likened to Gen. MacArthur and his occupation of Japan after the surrender, but as John Dower put in the New York Times Sunday Magazine a couple of weeks back, the comparisons are spurious: for starters, there was worldwide (and regional) support for the occupation. Similarly, the Japanese postwar economy was seen at the time to be a non-starter, unlike Iraq with all its oil resources. Okinawa, Dower said, would be the more historically accurate parallel.) This one, from Emphasis Added, looks at it differently, however. Comparing Iraq and the Philippines, the blogger writes:

[The United States] finds itself in charge of a hot foreign country, teeming with fanatics of various stripes with a long tradition of mutual hostility, for centuries under the sway of a backward and repressive religion.
Well, "hot foreign country" is at least accurate. (And while I have no real quibbles with "backward and repressive religion," Catholic priests from the U.S. set up shop in the Philippines as well.)
Within a generation, American administration instills basic cultural values and a democratic political culture...
And so we see where he's coming from: what exactly are these "basic cultural values" that the Iraqis and the Filipinos lacked?
By any measure, the impact of 45 years of US rule there during the first half of the 20th century must be seen as a net positive, and the Filipinos remain close, generally supportive allies.
This depends, of course, on what this measure would be: Economic? Political? And was this a "net positive" to Americans, or Filipinos, or both?

I can see how the parallels are tempting, but for all the wrong reasons. For all of the American government's patting itself on the back for making the Philippines into a "showplace of democracy" in Asia, the colonial government was fairly inefficiently run, carpetbaggers were grabbing land and mines and fields, and bad deals were made with landlords with no real benefit to the peasantry.

Sure, "liberal imperialism" could certainly be used to characterize this particular form of the colonial yoke (albeit one supposedly padded in velvet) used in the Philippines: the Americans, after all, brought roads, bridges, hospitals, Hershey bars, and, most important -- something the Spaniards weren't particularly interested in -- schools. For free. And there was English, too.

But to embrace the colonization of the Philippines as a "net positive" -- and a template for governing Iraq -- would be to discount the consistently brutal war that took the lives of... 200,000? 400,000? a million? Filipinos from 1899-1903. (These numbers -- which don't even include the death toll from the various skirmishes and massacres in Mindanao, where the war never really ended -- vary greatly depending on the source. Both the Philippine and American soldiers kept fairly good records of casualties, but these do not include "indirect" deaths -- exacerbated illnesses, hunger, and the like. Ken de Bevoise, in Agents of Apocalypse, cites about 1.7 million, which already includes people dying from the various cholera and malaria epidemics and those who died of natural causes.) And it would also have to take in consideration Filipinos who mourned the loss of national sovereignty, as well as the aftereffects of neocolonial dependency and exploitation well after independence was "given" in 1946.

No, the lesson to be learned from comparing Iraq to the Philippines is this: for the U.S., the war on Iraq is simply coming full circle to the imperial depredations it committed just about a century ago.

(Thanks to Javier Morillo-Alicea from Brindle Planet, whose comment a few posts back pointed me to Emphasis Added, and whose excellent posting "Where Is The West?" inspired me to write this. But Javier -- horrors! -- please don't call it the "Philippine insurrection!" Scholars have tried for years to get the Library of Congress to change its categories from the "Philippine Insurrection" to the "Filipino American War" precisely because it shouldn't count as an "insurrection." The insurrectos -- later denigrated as "ladrones," kind of like those wandering Afghan "bandits" and "pockets of resistance" -- were only defending their newly independent, sovereign nation-state from foreign invaders!)

Posted by the wily filipino at 03:43 PM | Comments (6)

April 15, 2003

More culinary nastiness

And to add to my recent posting on balut -- I actually regaled the students the other day with a slightly less explicit description, but this time combined with miming gestures -- a thread, with lots of links, on Metafilter.

Posted by the wily filipino at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2003

And now, a Filipino First:

Quite possibly the very first time for the phrase "chicken adobo" to appear on the front page of the New York Times:

"I'm going to fatten my boy up a bit with some chicken adobo and rice when he gets home," [Anecita Hudson] said after she learned that Specialist Joseph N. Hudson, 23, had been set free.
(You all know how I feel about the war -- yes, I support the troops, but they're fighting an unjust war -- but I thought the "adobo" comment was touching all the same.)
Posted by the wily filipino at 08:31 PM | Comments (0)

April 09, 2003

On eating balut.

(Inspired by recent balut-related e-mail from Lia at and Caterina at, I thought I'd write this.)

Balut. That much-loved, much-maligned Filipino delicacy: favorite of beer drinkers all over the country, degree zero for culinary nastiness (used as a stunt on TV's Fear Factor, apparently), the dreaded food test for the Kano (and Filipino American, as my students tell me).

Say it: balut. Ba-lut. Your lips gently press together at the beginning, your tongue flicks quickly up towards your palate, your lips move as one in the shape of a narrow ooo, and ends with your tongue teasingly poking behind your teeth.

(This is, however, in contrast to how balut is sold in the Philippines, by ambulant vendors who yell in the streets, "Ba-luuuuuuuuuut!")

But there is nothing sensual per se about balut; it is, after all, an aborted duck fetus. As opposed to, say, eating an ordinary chicken egg with yolk and all, the balut is already fertilized and ready to go, as it were, with an actual, healthy, living duck embryo (incubated up to 18 days in a hatchery). And this where, of course, the balut gets its notoriety: the duck really looks like a duck, eyes, pink little limbs, gray feathers, useless beak and all.

Duck embryo in the shell,
I pluck you out of the shell; --
Hold you here, beak and all, in my hand,

My fondest memories about balut had more to do with buying them. They were always sold late at night (my father would bring them home after playing mahjongg until midnight), but sometimes we would go out ourselves. In Los Banos they were sold by this gaunt, gray-haired woman who would squat by the side of the road. The balut would be swaddled in cloth, and nestled in an old wicker basket; the woman would carefully unwrap the rolled-up blanket that kept the eggs warm, give us a thimbleful of salt in a twist of recycled graphing paper, and count her money in the light of the candle anchored with melted wax on the pavement. (I remember these were windless, humid July nights.) We would then ride home, feeling the heat of the eggs in our laps.

Instructions for eating balut:

1. Boil water gently in a pot, and put the balut in it for a few minutes.
2. Untwist the salt and put it in a dish. (A dipping dish, the kind used for soy sauce or patis, works very well.)
3. Hold the balut upright and, with the underside of a spoon, make a crack at the top of the egg.
4. Chip away pieces of eggshell with your finger until you have a hole about the diameter of a finger. (This could be bigger, it depends.)
5. Sometimes you'll see some kind of gauzy membrane. Pierce it.
6. You can peek inside the balut now and see broth. Is this albumen? (I always preferred to think of it as amniotic fluid.)
7. Tip the egg to your mouth and suck out the amniotic fluid.
8. Continue removing the eggshell. Depending on how you cracked it open, you may then see an undifferentiated mass of stuff that feels like slightly runny, soft-boiled egg in texture. Dip the stuff in the salt and eat it.
9. Or you may encounter a hard, spherical section that looks like a seed. Throw that away. (My godmother swears that it's all calcium and good for you, but it's tasteless and hard for me.)
10. Or you may finally get to the jackpot: the duck fetus. You may pick it up by the head -- at which point the body unrolls from its fetal position and its little legs dangle -- dip it into the salt, and pop it into your mouth.
11. Wash down with a cold bottle of San Miguel beer. (I think I may have been drinking it with milk when I was in elementary school -- now that sounds disgusting. Balut and milk...)

Answers to frequently asked questions:

1. Yes, you can feel the feathers on your tongue.
2. As a former (white) professor discovered (he was being administered the balut test), entering a pitch-black closet so you don't have to see it makes no difference. You can still smell the faint, slightly gamey, deliciously menstrual aroma. (Also see #1 above.)
3. No, the duck's eyes are closed.
4. Of course it's dead.
5. No, I have never been able to buy good balut in the United States, and I won't try to. One time my schoolmate Tim (can't remember his last name, but he lived in Mountain Province once and was studying Heidegger and Japan for his dissertation), Jenny Franco (I wonder where she is now), and I drove to Queens to Roosevelt Avenue to buy Filipino food. I bought a six-pack of San Mig and two balut eggs, which were simply horrible -- they were all pinkish and looked under-incubated, and they tasted rotten.
6. No, you can't pop the whole thing in your mouth. To begin with, there's too much, unless you have a big mouth. You have to separate the balut into its component parts to appreciate it, and that requires reverent contemplation of the duckling, forever asleep.
7. Yes, it tastes great and I miss it.

Posted by the wily filipino at 05:30 PM | Comments (2)

April 01, 2003

Happy Pinoy Easter!

From my friend Jane, by way of Something Awful:

cadbury balut

Posted by the wily filipino at 11:18 AM | Comments (0)

March 31, 2003

What the Military Taught Me.

My brother recently posted his thoughts on ROTC. I was actually a cadet officer in my fourth year of high school (and a cadet officer candidate -- as member of the Cadet Officer Candidate Corps, or COCC -- in my third year).

I could write about this longer, but the fact of the matter is: I hated every minute of it (COCC, Citizens' Army Training, and Citizens' Military Training) and still think it was an absolute waste of my time. I joined probably because I was insecure and wanted some affirmation (or to exercise some authority), and I can now assert that my time would have been better spent reading books or playing computer games or listening to music. Or something.

Almost every day of my junior year I would have to greet every cadet officer with a "Sir, good morning, Sir!" or a "Sir, good afternoon, Sir!" I was made to do push-ups every day (either in public or on the urine-slick bathroom floor), I cleaned the commandant's office, I drank chili pepper-infused water, I ate lunch underneath a table, I had to wear a dress, and I was regularly called "stupid," "maggot," "faggot" -- all the happy, daily indignities that one had to suffer for the sake of "military discipline" ("the state of subordination under a military command," involving "the ready subordination of the individual for the good of the group," or something like that -- we had to memorize paragraphs and paragraphs of military handbook stuff as well). Okay, so I was pretty darn fit as well, having to do the dreaded Army dozen regularly. And I had to wear a long-sleeved shirt and tie every Friday -- and a buzz cut and black leather shoes the rest of the time -- but that was about it. (Thank God physical contact was phased out before I joined, otherwise my ass would have been paddled, that's for sure.) And to Cecille, the woman who was directly in command: we hated you, we loved you, but it was all Stockholm syndrome at that point.

I was miserable, as you can imagine, but I was determined to finish and not be called a quitter. I finally did finish the year-long program, at some point, learning all about rifle drills and how to assemble and disassemble rifles and whatnot, but there was no heavenly moment of catharsis -- all I remember was one of my batchmates, Johnny, weeping, snot running out of his nose, vowing to make his subordinates-to-be suffer like he had done. That, I think, said it all. It was really nothing but a glorified Filipino college fraternity, with the initiates subject to the petty whims of the older "brods," except that we didn't drink or lose our virginities to hookers.

A couple more of my batchmates ended up joining the Philippine Military Academy and were shipped out straight to Mindanao. Christopher returned to Los Banos in a coffin. Randolph had an illustrious career at the Academy -- and this is simply totally hearsay (although Randolph, if you're reading this somewhere out there, alive or dead, I don't give a fuck what you think) -- electrocuting POW's testicles (or it may have been pledges' testicles, I can't remember which) with such high voltage that he would blow fuses all throughout the barracks.

But I digress. Being a cadet officer in my fourth year gained me nothing; Randolph gleefully assigned every thug in my year to Military Police, and assigned me as the MP head. All I got for this was lotsa yuks behind my back (and to my face) and a dousing in a steel drum full of stagnant rainwater for my efforts.

By the time I got to college I was already pissed off at the military, and the prospect of compulsory military training (for men only) every single Saturday for two more years was disheartening -- especially since I'd heard it all before. And so it went: the endless marching and rifle drills, the pointless lectures on military history and discipline, being yelled at by company leaders who called us "goddamn shitheads" so that we could learn to respect them -- all for the service of the nation and eventual battle with the Muslims in the South and the Commies... well, everywhere (more about this some other time, as my involvement in the school paper got me deeper into the left). Some folks who tried to duck out -- this poor Jehovah's Witness, a couple of male models who couldn't get a buzz cut -- ended up not being able to graduate until they got their units.

At some point I wrote a rather critical opinion piece on the military college requirement in the UPLB Perspective, and was later pulled out of my platoon one Saturday for an audience with the commandant at the grandstand. (My friend Edwin was waiting and merely corrected my use of "khaki" -- it was "fatigue" -- but I understood what my being singled out meant.)

To this day I can't think of a more profound waste of time in every possible way.

Posted by the wily filipino at 04:33 PM | Comments (0)

March 28, 2003

Pinoy Slang

Courtesy of my brother's blog, Bulletproof Vest, comes Pinoy Slang. Nowhere else on the web will you get goodies like this:

himutong (verb):

himas utong || to caress someone's nipples

Posted by the wily filipino at 01:24 PM | Comments (1)

March 22, 2003

More forwarded Christian e-mail.

I'm a constant recipient of e-mail like the one below, but this I found rather interesting because it happily ignores history. It was forwarded unattributed -- it looks like something from a newspaper column -- and it's also unattributed on this page.

(Oh, wait -- found it at the Heal Our Land Movement webpage, and the relevant page is here. The version I'm quoting from here is slightly different. The movement was started by one Vicente "Enteng" Romano III, also "founder and moderator of eLagda.")

I'll reiterate their argument first.

By the year 2030, our children will experience far worse conditions than what we have today:

1. A population of 160 Million
2. Of those, 70 to 90 million (equivalent to our current population) will live below the poverty line
3. Our national debt is estimated to be at US$200B (compared to US$ 28B when Marcos fled, and US$ 53B today)
4. We will be competing, not against Thailand or even Vietnam, but against Bangladesh
5. We will be the most corrupt nation in Asia, if not in the world (we are already ranked 11th most corrupt nation by Transparency International)

The signs are clear. Our nation is headed towards an irreversible path of economic decline and moral decadence.

Okay, so far, so good. The next step (as alluded to in II Chronicles 7:14) is for a synchronized prayer network of 8 million Filipinos during the week, with the prayer meetings replicated on the net. As the writer explains:

We need a force far greater than our collective efforts, as a people, can ever hope to muster.

It is time to move the battle to the spiritual realm. It is time to claim God's promise of healing of the land for His people. It is time to gather God's people on its knees to pray for the economic recovery and moral reformation of our nation.

Is prayer really the answer?

While I may have a different answer to that question, there's no discounting (or belittling) the significance of mobilizing 8 million (middle-class) people to pray.

But let's continue.

Before you dismiss this as just another rambling of a religious fanatic, I'd like you to consider some lessons we can glean from history.

England's ascendancy to world power was preceded by the Reformation -- a spiritual revival fueled by intense prayers.

The early American settlers built the foundation that would make it the most powerful nation today -- a strong faith in God and a disciplined prayer life. Throughout its history, and especially at its major turning points, waves of revival and prayer movement swept across the land.

The British Empire became what it was through slavery and colonization of most of what we would now call the Third World -- any history book can tell you that. This colonization was facilitated by the use of superior military weaponry (usually by the simple murder of the native populace) and the exploitation of "natives" through extraction of labor and natural resources.

It gets even worse when we start talking about "the foundation that would make [the United States] the most powerful nation today," especially since this is coming from a Filipino. What "swept across the land" was the genocidal massacre of Native Americans, not to mention the slavery of Africans and the colonization of Mexicans in the Southwest. Is there little doubt that much of America's capital in the 19th century was built on the backs of African slaves and by dispossessing "Indians" of their land?

But the U.S. would only really become a genuine Empire, and a world power, after the Spanish American War and its subsequent colonization of Cuba (which they gave independence to), Puerto Rico and Guam, the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai'i, and, of course, the brutal Filipino American War and the colonization of the Philippines.

Prayer is one thing -- but please, please do not distort history (especially in such a woefully misguided manner) to "prove" the power of prayer. What made the United States "the most powerful nation today" was not prayer, but its military might which it first exercised in the Philippines over a century ago.

Posted by the wily filipino at 02:21 PM | Comments (0)

March 04, 2003

Rejoinder to Philippine Collegian letter.

Just got this e-mail from Larry Cruz, President of Cafe Havana Greenbelt about the posting below (via the comments section); here's the letter they sent to the Philippine Collegian explaining their side (and I figure I'm obligated to report it):

In case you've read in the email or anywhere else a letter complaint about Cafe Havana Greenbelt, please refer to the attached response of which is self explanatory. Please use our rejoinder addressed to the Philippine Collegian to counter any adverse effect it may have. Thank you.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR, Philippine Collegian

Dear Madam:

I was wondering where and when the expected savaging of Cafe Havana Greenbelt would take place, having received a few days ago a letter complaint from an irate guest about alleged racism practiced in this particular restaurant-bar. Then a friend e-mailed me a copy of a letter to the editor of the Philippine Collegian published on 21 February. It was signed by Jose Duke Bagulaya, Department of English and Comparative Literature, University of the Philippines.

When I first received a letter complaint from a certain Mr. Philip Ting on stationary marked Office of the President of the Philippines, National Anti-Poverty Commission, citing our establishment's arrogant and blatant discrimination", I knew it was not going to be your usual complaint from a dissatisfied customer. The incident involving Mr. Bagulaya, he wrote, reminded him of his grandfather's stories of Old China where certain places were marked off limits to Chinese and dogs. My first reaction was one of astonishment -- how could such a thing happen in our establishment? Anyone who knows the history of our restaurants or of the background of its owners would react in similar disbelief.

Forthwith I sent text and fax messages to Mr. Ting through the contact numbers he listed, expressing utmost concern and extending my apologies even as I promised to look deeper into the incident. I asked for a little time. I did not get any response. Instead we got a barrage of e-mail from concerned friends who had read the Letter in the mail.

It took a few days for us to verify what happened, from the point of view of the security guard on duty and the manager of the restaurant. Herewith is a gist of the report of our chief of operations:

"Mr. Romy Canda (Cafe Havana manager) was on duty that day (Saturday, February 8). He said the guard on duty does not remember having received any complaint from any guest but recalls refusing several guests, locals and foreigners, due to improper attire, one of whom was in shoddy shorts. That guest may or may not have been the complainant. The guard simply does not remember, it was a very busy night and no one had made a big fuss about being turned away. On February 10 Mr. Canda received a letter from Mr. Philip Ting who complained regarding the incident in which he claimed to have been told by the guard that the restaurant "had a preference for foreigners." (In his letter to Collegian, Mr. Bagulaya has the guard saying in Taglish: "Havana 'to...priority namin foreigners." Mr. Canda says had there been the slightest incident due to that remark, the guard would have immediately reported it to him, this being SOP in our restaurants. He said the guard does not speak very well, is shy and inarticulate and therefore could not have used those offensive words, at least not intentionally. Many guests are refused entry on a daily basis because of non-conformity with the dress code posted on the establishment's wall."

Clearly there is denial that discrimination was intended. Could it be a misinterpretation of the guard's crude way of expressing himself? Did he say those words at all? On the other hand, I cannot make light of the complaint, coming as it does from a respectable source who would not be so incensed had something close to what was narrated not actually taken place. I would take the guard's denial with a grain of salt and lean on the side of the complainant, especially regarding the uneven application of the dress code. The complainant's comment that other guests more under-dressed than he had found their way inside the restaurant is possible. The guard explains that sometimes on crowded nights improperly attired guests get past him and once inside they are no longer asked to leave. They are told to observe the dress code on the next visit. The dress code, conspicuously posted at the entrance door, is applied to foreigners and locals alike.

It is true, we do not admit just anybody in our restaurants and bars, but this policy has nothing to do with race, creed, or social standing. The following are not acceptable in all our establishments: people who are drunk or suspected to be on drugs, hookers of any gender, and improperly attired but otherwise respectable individuals such as those wearing basketball shorts, street slippers and tank tops. Due to the number of people that descend on Cafe Havana on late nights, it is not always possible to enforce the rules to the letter.

To accuse management of enforcing a "racist" policy and encouraging its staff to discriminate against Filipinos in their own country is to blatantly distort the truth to get back hard at management for the seeming lapse of an one employee. The letter writer, an educated man from the State
University, shows the same arrogance and prejudice he accuses the guard and his employers of, especially when he likens the guard to a dog and ridicules him for not being able to write "a decent Spanish sentence."

After all is said and done, I should like to say that we at LJC truly regret this incident and apologize on behalf of the guard who has been chastised and lectured on for not exercising prudence and good judgment but who may keep his job for humanitarian reasons, and on behalf of the owners and managers of Cafe Havana. In a way, I should be thankful to the kind professor for making us more aware of our shortcomings. Needless to say we have learned a few valuable lessons from the incident.

We hope the complainant and his friends find this letter a good reason to revisit Cafe Havana Greenbelt. I would personally welcome them to disprove notions of prejudice and arrogance in our establishment, for no such things exist there and or in any other LJC restaurant. We certainly wouldn't last a quarter of a century in the business if we were not sensitive to people's feelings.

Thank you for publishing our side of the incident.


Larry J. Cruz

Posted by the wily filipino at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

March 01, 2003

"Priority namin ang foreigner."

This is forwarded from the Philmusic mailing list -- ostensibly a letter published in the Philippine Collegian just a few days ago.

True or not, I've always been fascinated with cases like these happening in the Philippines. (This includes that story Enchanted Kingdom in Santa Rosa, Laguna, where a Filipino singing duo was prevented from singing Tagalog songs because -- as management supposedly put it -- EK was like Disneyland, and Disneyland wasn't in the Philippines, and EK was in some mythic country of its own, and so only English songs could be sung. Apparently, the duo started performing and noticed that the crowd was bored. They then switched to Tagalog songs and were warmly received by the audience -- but not by the management, who allegedly refused to pay them for disobeying orders.)

Dear Madam,

I thought it only happens in the novels of Ralph Ellison. But I was wrong. I met racism face to face at the entrance of Café Havana in Green Belt Makati last Saturday, February 8, 2003.

As I and my companions approach the café's door, at around 12 midnight, the six-foot tall Filipino guard apprehended me. He consequently told me that I'm not allowed to enter due to my attire. I would have accepted his alibi if I had not seen white men in tee shirts freely entering and leaving the premises. So I countered and ask the guard, 'why won't you let me in when I am wearing a long-sleeved shirt, while those white men are just in their plain tees?' Seemingly irritated by my question, the guard told me: 'Café Havana 'to. Priority namin ang foreigner.' I was stunned that I remained standing in front of the entrance. I could not believe the reality of my experience. But it was not yet enough for the guard, he ultimately told me: 'Kung hindi kita papasukin, may magagawa ka ba?' Surprised beyond words, I left, bewildered.

Looking back at what happened, I could not blame the security guard alone. Sometimes some guards are like dogs; they only follow what their masters wished. Moreover, I'm not insulted that someone, who cannot even write a decent Spanish sentence, would verbally push me away from a pseudo-Hispanic commercial establishment. I'm rather shocked by the fact that I suffered the most savage form of racism not in a foreign land but in my own country and in the hands of people of my color.

Café Havana's management policy is no doubt disturbing and prejudiced. What happened to me and my companions is not a purely isolated case, but a determined result of the management's view that the indio is inferior to the white man. What happened is nothing but a practice of the company's unstated racist policy. What happened is but a ramification of a policy that is unconsciously propagated by a semi-colonial state, a state that kowtows to foreign capital. Racism, in short, is never incidental.

Any policy that springs from racism is indeed not appropriate for any establishment that gets permit to operate from the government, a government supposedly by Filipinos. I wish that Café Havana's management would amend and reassess its barbaric policy before more people suffer the same fate. For if it remains firm on its racist practices, I would suggest that Café Havana put up a signboard which says: 'Dogs and brown-skinned natives are not allowed here.' That at least would be more humane.

Jose Duke Bagulaya
Department of Engish and Comparative Literature
University of the Philippines, Diliman

Posted by the wily filipino at 10:32 PM | Comments (0)

February 23, 2003

Overseas Voters.

I've been avidly following the developments leading to the signing of Republic Act 9189, otherwise known as the Overseas Absentee Voting Act. Senator after senator has passed through San Francisco and Los Angeles, promising passage of the bill, and I couldn't help but wonder whether this was all a dress rehearsal for future informal campaign stops (and shopping junkets for their respective partners, of course).

Anyhow, the bills have now become a law, signed without much fanfare. But it is testimony, I think, to the government's reconceptualization of the civic and political role of overseas contract workers. Prior to this, the Administrations' consistent lip service was the general policy; OCWs were being crowned as "bagong bayani," or "new heroes," while they were being farmed out to countries where their rights were barely protected. (The language of nationalism only barely clothes Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's latest term, OFIs, or overseas foreign investors -- god, the woman has no shame!)

The reasons for the bill should be clear. More than 7 million Filipinos overseas are denied their fundamental political right to vote, despite a constitutional mandate (back in 1987!) to Congress that a voting in absentia law be enacted. And as the International Coalition for Overseas Filipinos' Voting Rights wrote:

The right to vote in absentia, practiced by more than 40 countries, is not unique to the Philippines. But ours is a necessity made unique by the economic circumstances that compel a sizeable number of our citizenry to seek better opportunities abroad, yet remain politically marginalized, mute and powerless, even as they are hailed at every politically expedient turn as economic saviors for remitting billions of dollars a year.

And if people were still unconvinced, the war cry of "Taxation without representation" would have done fine as well.

The trouble with all of this, however, is the fact that the new law is spectacularly unworkable. And this is not considering the fact that implementation of this would be a logistical nightmare, both for COMELEC and the DFA.

Let me turn to the section that has the Filipino American press all in a tizzy:

SEC. 5. Disqualifications. – The following shall be disqualified from voting under this Act:

1. Those who have lost their Filipino citizenship in accordance with Philippine laws;
2. Those who have expressly renounced their Philippine citizenship and who have pledged allegiance to a foreign country;

This is clear enough, i.e., no dual citizenship.

3. Those who have committed and are convicted in a final judgment by a court or tribunal of an offense punishable by imprisonment of not less than one (1) year...

And that should be clear too.

And now we come to the real whopper:

4. An immigrant or a permanent resident who is recognized as such in the host country; unless he/she executes, upon registration, an affidavit prepared for the purpose by the Commission declaring that he/she shall resume actual physical permanent residence in the Philippines not later than three (3) years from approval of his/her registration under this Act. Such affidavit shall also state that he/she has not applied for citizenship in another country. Failure to return shall be cause for the removal of the name of the immigrant or permanent resident from the National Registry of Absentee Voters and his/her permanent disqualification to vote in absentia.

Got that? Such an affidavit, of course, would be totally unenforceable, if not entirely unfeasible. If the voter does not return to the Philippines permanently, does the vote get nullified? Can a congressperson be recalled if a sufficient number of overseas voters do not return after three years? And who, exactly, will be monitoring whether these overseas voters actually return? Customs? (It's the "actual physical permanent residence" that should bother those in the Middle East, or those working as domestic helpers everywhere else; does this mean they can't reapply for another contract?)

This is why the folks in the Filipino American press are shaking their heads in disbelief; the main difference between Filipinos in Abu Dhabi and Singapore and Hong Kong and Rome and Filipinos in Daly City and Modesto and West Covina and Queens and Hialeah and Colorado are that those in the United States can, and usually, stay there.

And I present, as an afterthought, the last disqualification, or what would disqualify any of the senators or congresspeople who dreamed this up:

5. Any citizen of the Philippines abroad previously declared insane or incompetent by competent authority in the Philippines or abroad, as verified by the Philippine embassies, consulates or foreign service establishments concerned, unless such competent authority subsequently certifies that such person is no longer insane or incompetent.

But this does raise a fundamental question about the nature of political participation, and civic duty, and living in a country like the United States with relatively liberal naturalization policies (in comparison to other European countries, or Japan, or Middle Eastern countries, or...). Suppose such an affidavit was not required: Could a Filipino with a green card live in Vallejo or Glendale in perpetuity and yet continue to vote, every few years, in the Philippines? How would this affect that person's political participation in the United States? That is, surely the affidavit, however inane it looks on the surface, was meant to ensure... accountability?

In any case, this seems lost on some Filipinos in the United States. Take, for instance, the latest editorial, dated February 19-25, from the Filipino American newspaper Philippine News:

We agree that granting Filipinos living abroad the right to vote is important. Perhaps more than their countrymen back home, they have a bigger stake in the stability of the Philippines. It is they who have chosen to make the ultimate sacrifice of leaving family and friend to work abroad in hopes of bettering the lot of their loved ones.

(But this is perhaps a slightly different matter for the green card-holder in Southern California, saving up for that SUV and waiting for the day when she or he becomes a citizen, and petitions for the relatives, than it is for that domestic helper in Hong Kong, no?)

And there's more:

Theoretically, Filipino voters based abroad would have voted a lot more wisely than some of their compatriots, who have a tendency of turning every election into a popularity contest.... An intelligent electorate would have pored through candidates' qualifications before choosing, and under this premise the Philippines would never have elected a thug as president, which is what happened in '98.

Nothing like being unaccountable and elitist at the same time.

Posted by the wily filipino at 04:13 PM | Comments (0)