Saturday, February 28, 2004

NAtional Speech Week, 1917

In 1917, The National Council of Teachers of English prepared the following pledge for school students to recite in observance of National Speech Week:

I love the United States of America. I love my country's flag. I love my country's language. I promise:

1. That I will not dishonor my country's speech by leaving off the last syllable of words.
2. That I will say a good American "yes" and "no" in place of an Indian grunt "un-hum" and "nup-um" or a foreign "ya" or "yeh" and "nope."
3. That I will do my best to improve American speech by avoiding loud rough tones, by enunciating distinctly, and by speaking pleasantly, clearly, and sincerely.
4. That I will learn to articulate correctly as many words as possible during the year.

(from "The Skin That We Speak," edited by Lisa Delpit).

Friday, February 27, 2004

War is a church.
Memory is a church on fire.
War and the idea of war
Will eat the tomorrow out of our bones.

(culled from "The Sin Eaters" by Sherman Alexie)

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

the s.o. read my Passion-ate blog and said: "gosh you make yourself sound more neurotic than you really are." isn't that sweet?...anyway, that pot has been stirred up enough. I just want to go back to this:

This is part of what I consider dialogue - for people to realize what is on each other's minds without coming to any conclusion or judgments. In a dialogue we have to sort of weigh the question a little, ponder it a little, feel it out. You become familiar with how thought works. We need to listen to each other and open up all the different opinions so that the whole structure of defensiveness and attack can collapse and change to one of participation and sharing.(David Bohm).

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Why I am not going to see The Passion of Mel Gibson

When I was about 14 years old, I dreamt of Jesus Christ. He was performing the sacrament of communion. When he stopped in front of me, he had two pieces of bread. I was going to choose the smaller piece but he said, “why do you choose the smaller one? Take the big piece.”

My father worked for the Philippine Bible Society. He drove around in a blue green van and on a certain night of the week he would set up a movie projector and an outdoor screen and show biblical films to the village folks. I saw the Ten Commandments, The King of Kings, Samson and Delilah, and other movies through my father’s movie projector. At night I would have nightmares and wake up screaming in fear of the movie images that repeated themselves in my dreams: the whipping of slaves, nails driven through hands, a head crowned with thorns, men attacked by lions in an arena. These nightmares would intensify during Holy Week when we would see men in maroon robes walking about town with a cross on their shoulders; sometimes in tow would be a band of costumed Roman soldiers. On Good Friday, the penitents who practice self-flagellation converge in the town plaza, hundreds of them, and a chorus of click-clack click-clack would rise above the din of the traffic noise. Their faces are covered with black cloth and their heads crowned with green twigs simulating the crown of thorns. In another hamlet called Cutud, a crucifixion is performed at 3pm, usually a penitent (or two or three) who has made a “panata,” a sacred vow to perform this as an act of penance for sins committed, or as an act of thanksgiving, or as an act of supplication. They still do this to this day…with CNN and major network coverage.

In my 20s I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son” – these words saved me. I understood the meaning of unconditional love and “being saved through faith.” I led Bible Studies, read any Christian literature I could get my hand on – CS Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Chuck Colson, Larry Crabb, A Tozer, The Daily Bread. It was a straight and narrow life but it was what I needed at that time to pull it together and make something out of the chaos of a teenage marriage, then a divorce, and single parenthood. And I survived the chaos by God’s grace.

In my 30s I found myself in the U.S. remarried to a devout Christian who is divorced with two kids. We blended our families. We attended an upper middle class white suburban church, sent our kids to Sunday School and summer camps and midweek youth programs. The kids had a good time. I didn’t. As a Christian from a third world country, I kept looking for the warm fellowship of my church “back home.” I didn’t understand then that Christian practices are different across cultures. I made the wrong assumption that Christians in the U.S. will treat me in the same way that the Christians in my church back home treated each other – with generous hospitality, genuine acceptance of differences, and unconditional love.

I didn’t understand race relations in the U.S. either. In fact, I was a historical ignoramus. I didn’t understand why people in church asked me inane questions like: Did he pick you out of a catalog? Is he in the US Navy? (read: are you a prostitute?). Why do you speak English? Why do you know our songs? I need a domestic helper, can you help me? And during Bible studies when I would interpret bible passages through the lens of my cultural experience as a third world person, I was often corrected. My sense of Christian identity began to unravel. I blamed myself. I felt guilty. I felt abandoned by God.

I went back to school to try to deal with my sense of alienation and feeling of not belonging to the country that I have been taught to love and desire. (When I was growing up, my father always said, “In American everyone is a Christian!” He said this to allay my tantrums when I got teased for being a religious minority among Catholics.) The people in my church said: Oh do not go back to school, you will become a liberal!! At the university, I had a professor who is Zoroastrian. We became friends. As an evangelical Christian, I felt the impulse to evangelize her but I couldn’t bring myself to do so. In her presence, I melted in her unconditional love and I wondered why I, as a Christian, didn’t have the same capacity to make room for difference (cultural, racial, religious). For the first time in the U.S., I felt unconditional love from another who was not a Christian. My religion taught me that we had the corner on Truth and that it was our sacred duty to spread this gospel. To have this be shattered by the real experience of close encounter with someone of another faith loosened the hold of evangelical Christianity.

“God widens the fences so that the good and wild things can roam freely” – writes George McDonald (CS Lewis’ best friend). Since that encounter with a Zoroastrian, I have had many more encounters: with Buddhists, Bahai’s, Jews, Unitarians, Quakers, agnostics, animists, Catholics, Muslims – who have shown me the many faces of the mysterium tremendum with many names.

I understand the power of religious conversion. And when someone like Mel Gibson is transformed by a conversion experience, I understand his willingness to spend his own money to share the gospel message. But within the larger context of a violent world where religious discourse is often invoked to explain its causes, a Hollywood movie about Jesus Christ is subject to political manipulation. Already, many are concerned that it would create more anti-Semitic feelings. But there are more repercussions than this.

I am not going to see the movie because I do not want my childhood nightmares to revisit me. I am not going to see the movie because when Mel Gibson says that he has purposely made it violent to show the magnificience of God’s supreme sacrificial gift – I know how that has been translated over the centuries to wed religion with politics and imperial power. I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of that imperial power – to be declared uncivilized and unchristian, therefore deserving of domination under the guise of benevolent humanizing projects.

Ever since 9-11, the born-again Bush, buoyed by the resurgent power of the religious right in the country, proclaimed that all those who are not on his side are the enemy (and the enemy is evil), inflated the rhetoric into simplistic “us versus them.” Soon the market is flooded with books about being ‘left behind’ at the Rupture, the nation’s educational policy is called “no child left behind,” church pundits declare the beginning of the end, television creates shows about angels and religion. All these interlink to shape an atmosphere of impending dread created by an external enemy “out there” who will destroy “us” so we better get on the side of power to make sure we protect ourselves.

I am afraid that this is what people will get from watching this film. 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. Already our well meaning Christian neighbor has asked us several times to join their 40-session study of “the purpose-driven” life. Even if I had told her repeatedly that I am trying to unlearn my driven-ness, I am only perceived as a fool.

People cry as they watch the movie. I wonder if they would cry too if they saw a real cruxifixion today – in a third world Catholic country ruined by poverty – where the act of being cruxified is an act of supplication to a silent god who has abandoned them. Yet in that act is a giant ounce of faith that perhaps their own personal sacrifice would rupture silence and by some miracle a blessing – a job perhaps, or the election of officials with integrity. They do it year after year – hang on the cross at 3pm on Good Friday for a few minutes – this is faith. Real faith because they do not hang their hopes on military-economic-political power. They know the world has largely forgotten them. They do not matter in the schemes of the global corporate economy. So they hang on to the faith they know, although medieval in its form, they have made it their own. This is the movie that Mel Gibson should have made.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

The chatelaine's ancestor in writing the longest poem is a Filipino named Padre Anselmo Jorge de Pajardo (1785-1845) from Bacolor, Pampanga, who after theological studies at the University of Santo Tomas, sailed to Spain and upon his return wrote "Gozales de Cordona," a three volume epic of 832 pages, 31,000 lines, which took seven nights (instead of the usual three nights) to stage.

see, if i had the chutzpah of William Hung, i wouldn't be faking it as an academic; I'll just tease Simon with my rendition of 'he-bang! he-bang!' and be so sincere and innocent about it all...dang, even Jimmy Fallon would impersonate me! :-)

Monday, February 16, 2004

I missed the adobo party and unfortunately I don't know when I'll ever get to eat lamb adobo with a hint of turmeric. This is great: the idea of women making dinner together as a performance art (which, of course, it is and always been but perhaps some of us don't look at our cooking as such) that should eventually be captured in language and in print, hence the call for submissions to a new food anthology!

It is true: stress can make you sick. In the past weeks, I got tangled up, via email, with a American (I suspect he is white) Christian missionary to the Talaandig people in Mindanao who saw no need for dialogue, no need to budge from his moral high chair. I also felt I was being swallowed by the ugliness of media spectacles. So the body coiled up and wound itself around anger and frustration resulting in insomnia and flu symptoms. I'm better now. I am cooking today: brown rice with sauteed vegetables, a roast chicken, an applesauce cake. Food as medicine.

worthwhile reads from the NYT:

The working class in the US:

A review of CK Williams' new poetry book:

Thursday, February 12, 2004

the wily filipino's post about being in the same room with Coco Fusco drew me to this artist's most recent V-day activist project. I've noted elsewhere that a Filipino American women's organization is having a V-day event. I've always felt ambivalent about this event and Fusco articulates this for me.

A love-your-adobo day seems more apropos.

collaged from EULOGY, p. 37-39

Desire is an ocean; there is no edge between us.
Losing uncertainty, what lies beyond the horizon
Is the same gravity
That unclenches a fist
That obviates.

I like the disappearance
Of memory as a controlling agent
What may surface from an inward search
After all, depends on transcending
The definition of regret.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Dinner with a white woman and her white friends...

Your fascination with white astounds me. Doesn't my presence mean anything? You glanced my way as a short gesture of politeness. You asked about my country yet you changed the topic even before I finished my sentence. I made a mental note and decided I would no longer be polite. I will speak and I will be heard. When I did it surprised you and you called me brilliant. Yet by then I was only humoring you. Still you couldn't read me. You pronounced that "those terrorists value life so little." I made a point that all human beings value life. I dropped names and book titles just to impress you; perhaps shift your lens just a little bit. So I tell you about Malidoma Some. I give you the story of anti-globalization movements. Of quirky Northern Californians who are already eschewing the values of the corporate world. I give you a spill on Dave Egger's new book that I haven't read. Perhaps at the end of the evening we managed to tilt the continent a bit. And perhaps that is enough for tonight.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

... a little piano music as I enter his blog is a moving experience especially when I am trying to recover from today's headlines...

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

I was pleasantly surprised to find this beautiful writer's website while browsing for info on Filipinos in Geneva...which led to this artist's website.

Tatang has already posted the Oreo cookies from truemajority.org so I will not repeat it here.

Reading Gura's post today while also reading "Yellow" by Frank Wu. A Filipino American in Iraq is still seen as a Filipino (which is good, no? in the case of Gura's friend). An Asian American is, acc. to Wu, always the "perpetual foreigner" in the US because of the perceived connection of the former to Asia which, oftentimes, that connection is as tenuous as the color of one's skin and nothing else. How to articulate transnationalism? Will the idea of transnationalism subvert the idea of citizenship in the US?

On another note: "A tourist is an ugly human being."

Monday, February 02, 2004

Amber, p. 83

“death attempts a seduction whenever she “eroticizes history” to transcend the past…

I am swallowed by the sadness of my history and so I must take the poet’s prescription:

“revise the word ‘death’ with the word ‘birth’ ”

how do I unleash the luster of amber? How do I acquire the skill of “suspension”?

I am this body that walks the land with hungry ghosts. I do not know if I can hold out much longer for the blossoms of spring. Even dreams languish in the pallid grey of sky; the brevity of memory always shatters the possibility of new eyes.

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