Sunday, October 31, 2004

Pilipinos do not read!? makes me want to ask: But what is it that Pilipinos DO read? The reason why this comes to mind is because we often associate reading with the written word and reading literature specifically;but it can also mean the ability to "read the world" as most illiterate peasants know how to do as demonstrated by Paulo Freire. "Those who can't read the word already understand the world."

I guess the reason why I am on to this is because I am reading Derrick Jensen's A Language Older than Words which is about interspecies communication. Jeannette Armstrong, a Native American educator and friend of the author tells him: When native peoples talk about listening to Nature, it is not a metaphor. It is literal. We have been trying to teach the white people this for 500 years.

So here I am again talking about indigenous consciousness and what we civilized folks have forgotten how to do: how to read the world apart from the literate word we have been taught to believe as the ultimate source of meaning. Therefore, what does it mean that Pilipinos do not read? or What is it that they do "read" quite well and a lot of?

I know that Barb's context is literature and I do not mean to be contrarian here; I'm only following the trajectory of my thoughts with regards to the concept of "reading." HAving said that, of course, I wish we, as a community, will develop as a reading community of OUR OWN literature...and most importantly, literature that is written to help us develop an oppositional consciousness, for which Audre Lorde is famous for! (I hope you win, Barb!).

Back to reading: before the written word, there is this. Before the alphabet and vowels were invented, there was this form of writing in much older civilizations. I, too, would weep with the weeping god, seeing how the alphabetization of the world has wrought some wonders as well as some horrific ideas that became horrific actions.

On another note, we are being encouraged by our new Provost to read about the the national report of the American Association of COlleges and Universities on how to tune-up higher education for the 21st century. I told him at a recent luncheon about what I am doing in my classroom (transformative pedagogy) and how I want students to develop a global consciousness that favors ecological sustainability and cultural diversity.

But first, students must learn how to read, no?

Friday, October 29, 2004

The other day I wrote this long post about community events that I've attended lately and the conversations behind the scenes that I've been trying to distill into some coherence...and poof! blogger went down on me and it all disappeared! So maybe it wasn't meant to be.

Anyway, been busy preparing for this:

You are invited...

Honoring and Preserving Filipino Identity in a Multicultural, Globalized World
Keynote Speaker: Melba Maggay An All-Day Symposium

Dedicated to Helen Toribio

Saturday, November 13, 2004
9:00 -4:00 pm PUSOD Center for Cultural, Ecology, and Bayan 1808 Fifth Street Berkeley, CA 94710 510-883-1808 (http://www.pusod.org/directions.html)

Morning Session
The Intersection of Faith and Spirituality, Culture and Social Justice in the Filipino American Community
Panel Presentation and Discussion Panelists: Christina Leano, Ofelia Villero, Janet Stickmon, Evelie Areliano Posch
Discussants: Melba P. Maggay, Tito Cruz, Leny Strobel

Afternoon Session
Honoring and Preserving Filipino Identity in a Multicultural, Globalized World Keynote Lecture by Dr. Melba Maggay

Dr. Melba P. Maggay, is the Founder and President of the Institute for Studies in Asian Church and Culture (ISACC) based in the Philippines (http://www.isacc.org.ph/). She is the author of books on Filipino indigenous religious consciousness, church and mission issues, Filipino communication patterns, and “third world” development issues. She frequently travels around the world to speak on these issues to various groups including church groups, NGOs, and at international conferences.

Co-taught by Jess Celestial Delegencia, Co-Founder of Kapwa-InterVarsity, Berkeley

Bring your own lunch or order lunch by November 10 for $6

RSVP to one of the following people: Leny: lenystrobel@sbcglobal.net 707.538.5721
Christina christinaleano@yahoo.com 510.541.4685
Sophia snibungco@yahoo.com Jeannie@jcelestial@yahoo.com


Sunday, October 24, 2004

Well, glad to hear that Barb has issues too with MHK as poet. When I first got hold of her poetry book, I- the non-poet, thought: uh...this doesn't sound like good poetry to me, esp. coming from someone like her. But she sure has a long list of famous friends!

Speaking of community events, I attended the FWN summit/day 2 (of about 40folks) yesterday because I was hosting Perla Daly who came all the way from Connecticut to participate in the panel on Filipino Identity, culture, and spirituality. Melinda de Jesus of Arizona State U, Dawn Mabalon, and Allyson Tintiangco, and another Fil Am business consultant were also on the panel (not really a panel but a fish-bowl discussion). This was the only "academic" panel in the two-day sessions about image-building, branding success, corporate success for Filipina women. The panelists didn't waste time in positing the dilemma of being at this summit (which addresses corporate-success-related issues) when globalization and global capitalism are merely the new forms of colonialism and imperialism. At some point, one of the summit directors interrupted the speakers and told them to "talk amongst yourselves instead of talking to your audience -- that's what a fish bowl discussion is," she said. So they did. Perla talked about her cyberactivism, decolonization, kapwa, loob, babaylan. Allyson and Dawn talked about Pinayism/Pinay power and its many forms and their participation in it. When asked how best to pass on Filipino culture, Allyson said "Breastfeed!"...and she was referring to 7-mo old Mahalaya, who I was lucky to babysit for the duration of the panel. (At least I was useful for a while!). There should have been a q and a after the fish-bowl as people were asked to write their question in 3x5 cards but that part was scrapped. I wonder why?

Before and after this panel, I heard presentations about glass ceilings (it's still there!), Cora Tellez' talk about the defining moments of her career (very impressive!), management survey results that show women who are "less acculturated" are "less successful" than their "more acculturated" counterparts (huh??). At one point it was mentioned that Filipinos come from a culture of non risk-taking, at which my wide-eyes turned to Perla and asked "what do you make of the 2M OFW's - non risk-takers?" Of course, I knew that these comments were meant in the context of corporate culture but nevertheless, it is these paradigms (less vs. more acculturated, taking risk vs. not-taking risk) that, I later told Perla, make the dissonance so loud in my ears.

As for the five "women who could be president" -- all were deserving awardees for their commitment to public service, advocacy, community service. But when they were doing their fish bowl discussion, a question was asked: What do you think of US-Philippine relations? and will you vote to forgive the IMF-WB loans of the Philippines? One made a comment about the Philippines being too dependent on the US and the others said they don't know enough to comment. Another said that the IMF debt should not be forgiven because in business you have to be able to borrow money. Having your debts forgiven is not good for business, she said. Another said the debt should be restructured because it is known that those loans were hoarded and squandered by the Marcoses. Okay but not astute enough of an analysis.

Putting together events like this takes a tremendous amount of work and this summit is well-organized based on the corporate sponsorships they were able to secure, the media blitz they did. Still, I wonder, why there were only 40 women there (many of whom were participating as speakers or facilitators)? Is this an affirmation of the research results they were touting -- that there are so few Filipino women in leadership positions? My instinct tells me perhaps we should be asking a different set of questions.

Nevertheless, I was glad to connect and reconnect with Bulletx' daughter, Bingo, Mylene Cahambing, Chris Robertson (the first Filipina and first woman cable splicer for PG&E!), and other new faces. Evelie Posch and Baylan Megino - opened and closed the summit with their babaylan ritual of the 4 directions - this was much appreciated as far as I can tell.

Two lessons I need to keep learning: have fun regardless....and always find something worth affirming. It was definitely fun to have Perla over the weekend.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

I was going to write about Helen's memorial last night but after reading Barb's and Rona's posts on the memorial, I find myself sobbing again...even this morning while walking around Spring Lake, waves of grief come and go.

I think of Michelle's eulogy about Helen's love of sci-fi and magic and it makes me think about why I feel that Helen is different from other activists I have encountered. Most activists I know have a sharp edge around them, seething with anger at injustice, and they always sound whiny. They never let up; they never know when to let go. They have a tremendous sense of responsibility but they never know when to surrender it.

Helen was an activist. But she was also an artist. An artist believes in magic. To believe in magic is to believe in the sacredness of everything. To imbue everything with magic is to make the ordinary extraordinary. Helen understood this equation and simply lived it. No baggage. She traveled light.

Lessons I'm trying to learn...

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Remembering Helen...
I am asked if I am sad that another dear friend has died of cancer. I tell them, yes. I sobbed last night when I heard the news. But after the tears, there's the peace and calm. Because death is as natural as birth. Because death is not to be feared. Helen is one of those rare individuals whose Spirit is so alive, so large and uplifting that to be around her even in her frail physical condition is a reminder that the best of us are always capable of transcending the body's limitations.

A month ago while visiting Helen, I told her that I've been thinking about babaylans a lot and that I've also been telling people that I am animist...and that I can say it unapologetically and without embarrassment now. She said she was glad to hear this because she, too, has made her own reconnection with earth spirituality/animism. We promised we would talk about it more...perhaps even plan another Kapihan. We reminisced about the Kapihan days in the 90s at my home when scholars and artists like NVM Gonzalez, Ver Enriquez, Jimmy Veneracion, Johnny Francisco, Jun de Leon, and others always challenged us how to articulate what Filipino American identity and culture might be based on what we glean from Filipino scholars' input on the topic. Helen was one of the core people who kept those Kapihans going. We both lamented the passing of another era.

It seems only fitting that the Nov. 13 symposium at PUSOD on the "Intersection of Faith and Spirituality, Culture and Social Justice" be dedicated to Helen's memory.

I will miss you, dear Helen!

Friday, October 15, 2004

Thanks, Guillermo, for your take on the Columbus statue event. The alternative media in the US gives credence to the Chavez regime and wish there was more media exposure in the US on criticism of the Chavez regime.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Eileen has company (re her books not being picked up and taught in Asian Am lit courses) in Karen Tei Yamashita, author of Through the Arc of the Rain Forest, Brazil-Maru, and Tropic of Orange. In one interview Karen mentions the same thing: Through the Arc...was picked up by the environmental movement, Brazil-Maru was thought to be about the Japanese in Brazil, and Tropic of Orange...well, it's surrealistic...thus her work is often not taught in Asian Am lit courses. As Karen suggests: Asian American Lit is changing because the maps are changing. And perhaps, as long as writers show the way in map-making, maybe the critics will eventually follow. (Thanks Jean, for the online interview with Karen!).

Well, today in my "Asians in the Americas seminar" (there's only one Asian Am student in class), students read an essay about Guillermo Gomez Pena and Karen Yamashita as performing tricksters -- "the ubiquituous shape-shifters who dwell on borders, at crossroads, and between worlds, and the oldest and newest creations." The students have never heard of this trickster definition just as they've never heard that there are Japanese in Brazil and/or the terms transracial, transnational, and transgendered -- as these are represented in Pena's performance art and Karen's work. One of Karen's characters in Tropic of Orange, in fact, was based on Guillermo Gomez Pena, and she calls this character Arcangel. Arcangel is "grotesque, freakish, yet Christ-like, accounting for 500 years of history in the Americas...he takes the poetry, and also the political conscience and history across the border."

As trickster, Yamashita transgresses all the rules and definitions about national boundaries, the cultural and national definitions of literature. As these boundaries explode, how do we talk about them? In class, it was difficult trying to convince the students to move away from the received definitions of culture, race, ethnicity, nationality but as soon as it was explained to them, one student who is Mexican American exclaimed "so I must be a trickster! this is exactly how I've felt about my identity and location but didn't have a language for it."

Then with the discussion of the perils of a United Colors of Benetton brand of multiculturalism, the students once again raised their furrowed brows while reflecting on how to discern the tame/conservative version versus the radical version of multiculturalism.

Oh the joy of teaching!...

On another note: Well, Barb, re the email that you quoted about the role of poets and writers in society, I received this from a Pinoy guy in Texas who read the same email: "If you hate America so much, why are you here?"...jeez...when I get an email like this I just feel like banging my head on the wall, you know? Out of frustration that some folks in the community just never seem to know how to ask critical questions. Some days I don't feel compassionate and generous (I'm with you, Michelle!).

Our Bino is speaking this weekend at the National Press Club and other Washington DC events promoting Fil Am literature...hope it went well, Bino. Waiting for your report.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

While the US observed Columbus day, Venezuela took down the statue of Columbus.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Why Che? Why Freire? Why Now?

Saw the movie Motorcycle Diaries this afternoon and then went online to look up Che's legacy and found this essay by Peter McLaren of UCLA School of Education. Here's an excerpt:

It is saddening to witness how the figure of Paulo Freire has been domesticated by liberals, progressives, and pseudo-Freireans who have tried incessantly to claim his legacy and teachings—much as they have done to the figure of John Dewey, whose radical politics have been ominously blunted by his more politically sanguine followers in the academy. Hence, it is necessary to re-possess Freire from those contemporary revisionists who would reduce him to the grand seigneur of classroom dialogue and would antiseptically excise the corporeal force of history from his pedagogical practices. It is much more difficult to appropriate the figure of Che Guevara, given that he was an active guerrillero until the moment he was murdered under the hawkish eye and panoptic gaze of the CIA. At the same time it is much more difficult to argue for the relevance of Che for educators today, given that he remained an active opponent of U.S. imperialism throughout his entire life and called for "Vietnams" to arise on every continent of the globe. But when you consider that Malcolm X now appears on a U.S. postage stamp, it might well be the case that one day Che will be included in the U.S. pantheon of world ‘heroes.’ After all, the United States has a seductive way of incorporating anything that it can’t defeat and transforming that ‘thing’ into a weaker version of itself, much like the process of diluting the strength and efficacy of a virus through the creation of a vaccine. If the United States could find a Che ‘vaccine,’ it is more than likely that a stronger version of the Che ‘virus’ would rise up somewhere in the world where capital was laying waste to human dignity and the survival of the poor and dispossessed, in order to wreak its revenge. As long as Marx and Engels’s homage—"The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles"(1952, p. 40)—still captures the imagination due to its increasing relevance in the world today, that much is assured.
When I first began sketching ideas on Che’s pedagogical imperatives and practices, I proposed readmitting into the debates over educational reform the legacy of Che Guevara as a model of moral leadership, political vision, and revolutionary praxis. I soon recognized, without surprise, that Che had never been officially admitted to the court of serious educational debate, most likely for the same reason that provoked Herb Kohl to write:
I am still not convinced that . . . [Che] . . . had a pedagogy that is meaningful for our society at this historical conjuncture. We are not at a revolutionary moment and we are the center of capitalist oppression with no strong social movement committed to changing the situation. In fact I cannot think of any school textbooks that treat Guevara with dignity and complexity. (1999, p. 308)
Kohl argues that because Che is not sympathetically portrayed in school textbooks, and because strong social movements against oppression are woefully lacking in the United States, we therefore should not place too much faith in the relevance of Che’s message for our current condition. I wish Kohl could have been on the marches in which I have been privileged to participate, from Los Angeles to Porto Alegre, where banners of Che are clutched by proud working hands and held high. Kohl’s defeatist comments about Che appear more symptomatic of a growing cynicism among progressive educators than a reasoned and convincing case against Che.
Why should educators bother to engage with the legacies of Che Guevara and Paulo Freire, especially now that the ‘end of history’ has been declared? Especially, too, when broadside condemnations of Marxism abound uncontested? And why now, at a time when the marketplace has transformed itself into a deus ex machina ordained to rescue humankind from economic disaster and when voguish theories imported from France and Germany can abundantly supply North American radicals with veritable plantations of no-risk, no-fault, knock-off rebellion? Why should North American educators take seriously two men who were propelled to international fame for their devotion to the downtrodden of South America and Africa? One reason is that capitalism’s Faustian urge to dominate the globe has generated a global ecological crisis. Another obvious, but no less important, reason is that the economic comfort enjoyed by North Americans is directly linked to the poverty of our South American brothers and sisters. As Elvia Alvarado proclaims in Don’t Be Afraid Gringo, "It’s hard to think of change taking place in Central America without there first being changes in the United States. As we say in Honduras, ‘Sin el perro, no hay rabia’—without the dog, there wouldn’t be rabies’" (1987, p. 144). Still yet another reason is that Che and Freire have given us a pedagogical course of action (not to be confused with a blueprint) for making bold steps to redress locally and globally current asymmetrical relations of power and privilege.
Why Che? Why Freire? Why now? For those who have been following world events, or taking even a cursory look at the conditions in our cities and small towns all across the United States, it is evident that democracy has transmogrified into the negation of its own principles; that there is a counter-tendency growing within it; that a beast is growing in its belly, bloated by capitalist greed; that human beings have made themselves subservient to, and at the very least, accessories of capital accumulation and consumption and the instruments of labor that dominate them through a powerfully cathected social amnesia; and that the international division of labor is widening into a crisis of monopoly capitalism—what Lenin so aptly termed imperialism. Che and Freire have never been needed more than at this current historical moment. It is not necessary to canvas the present political landscape with the discerning gaze of the sociologist or the trained academic eye to see that oppression has not been vanquished by capitalist democracy but continues to emerge unabated in new forms by means of innovative and decentralized production facilities, newly centralized economic power brought about by new media technologies, capitalist warfare against unions and social services, state-sanctioned Latinophobia, and the disproportionate incarceration of Latino/as and African Americans in a rapidly expanding prison industry. Recent events surrounding education professor José Solís Jordán—who taught educational foundations at DePaul University and the University of Puerto Rico, and who was framed by the FBI and found guilty of planting two bombs at military recruitment center—serve as only one of many indications that the U.S. government will stop at nothing short of breaking all peaceful opposition to its imperialist practices in Puerto Rico and elsewhere.1

Friday, October 08, 2004

newfind: Pinoy Expats

Of course, I don't have any time left to blog after an exhausting week of teaching 4classes/150students and answering questions like this one (after they've watched The Color of Fear) and with only have 5minutes of classtime left:

But we have been taught by our parents that to treat all human beings equally and to ignore difference is a universal value and now we are being told that this use of the term "human being" is synanymous with being white. What do I do now?

Ugh, can you summarize the concept of deconstructing whiteness in 3minutes?

Anyway, I get home and de-compress from teaching by doing my blog-tour and escape into other bloggers' worlds like...

And then there's time left to watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Pinay Warrior

Today I had the chance to listen to Carmencita "Chie" Abad of Global Exchange in San Francisco. Chie is a Pinay who used to be an OFW in Saipan making garments for GAP, Old NAvy, etc. under sweatshop conditions. She is an accountant but when she applied as a factory worker in Saipan, she had to apply as a high school graduate. She borrowed $2,000 to pay for the costs of recruitment. Shortly after she arrived in Saipan in the early 90s, she realized that the working conditions and slave wages were inhumane so she surreptitiously began organizing a workers' union. Once the union was organized, she helped file a class action suit against the American corporate owners and the subcontractor of the sweatshops. Needless to say, she was fired from her job. Then she was recruited by Global Exchange.

She has since testified before Congress, crashed a GAP corporation stockholders' meeting where she was carried out by four policemen, and appeared in a documentary (Behind the Label) about making corporations accountable and socially responsible.

She tells me she has her eyes on becoming a lawyer -- the better to prosecute corporate abuses and defend workers' rights. Go, girl!!

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Fil Am lit makes it to the National Press Club Murrow Room!! (even though they can't spell Filipino!)

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Free Speech Movement in UC Berkeley, 40yrs ago this month

I was glad to find this excerpt from Mario Savio's speech via Jean's blog. After his fame and notoriety as the symbol of the free speech movement Mario Savio sought a life away from the spotlight and Sonoma State University gave him the anonymity he wanted. He was hired as a Lecturer in the Math Department. His young students haven't heard of the FSM except for the occasional student who recognized his name from his high school studies on the Civil Rights Movement. You ARE Mario Savio? No way, man!

As a newly-arrived immigrant and a re-entry student at SSU in the early 90s, I didn't know of Mario Savio's fame until he died of a heart ailment in the mid-90s. There were questions about his status as a Lecturer and why he wasn't granted the tenure he deserved. There were talks that he literally died of a broken heart.

I often saw Mario Savio on campus. Quiet. Tall and Lanky. His long white hair in a pony tail. Wistful eyes. Alone. I regret not approaching him and talking to him. As I think of him now, I wonder where the passion and energy of this current student generation lies. On my campus, political activism is muted. Noontime at the quad, we have entertainment instead --often classical music at that.

I miss Mario Savio.

Thanks to all the b- a- Pinays who made my long drive from Santa Rosa worth the trip to attend the celebration of books and art at the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco. It is always gratifying to commune with Michelle, Eileen, Jean, Barbara, Melissa. And then there's Oscar Penaranda, Marianne Villanueva, Ninotchka Rosca, Tony Robles, Vics Magsaysay, and Mel Vera Cruz. I hope you sold a lot of books!...and enjoyed the tapas and flamenco! Sorry to miss it.

And thanks to the students of Dan Begonia/San Francisco State U who gave up their Friday evening to get extra credit for attending the event. They had to prove their attendance with a photograph of the students with the author of Coming Full Circle. I noticed they bought other books as well! Great!

The only disconcerting part of the evening for me are the comments of the Philippine official who thought that racist comments would fly with this audience. Ninotchka Rosca didn't let him. Or the Consulate official who quoted George Bernard Shaw instead of quoting Filipino authors. Eileen called him on it. Which he then disavowed and said he was only reading the script prepared by someone else and that he doesn't even like Shaw himself.

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