Friday, March 31, 2006

i love this...

Received notice that we got the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad grant that would allow us to take eleven (11) K-12 teachers to Mindanao for 4weeks in July-August, for a curriculum development project. I hope we get enough applicants from K-12 teachers who teach in classrooms with large numbers of Filipino/Filipino Am kids.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

I'm glad I went to the rally against HR 4437-Sensenbrenner Bill, in downtown Santa Rosa. The Latino community came out in droves - families, babies, young children, grandparents, high school and college youth. The positive energy was palpable. I was teary-eyed a couple of times even if I didn't understand the speeches in Spanish (I sort of got the gist though). The shouts of Si, se puede!, flag-waving, hands raised in protest, noise barrage from cars, the dances from an indigenous group (Aztlan) and drum-and-dance corps of 4-H created this energy that rippled through the growing crowd.

The authorities probably didn't think a lot of people will show up because they didn't even close the main drag. But as crowds kept coming, the police finally decided to close the main street to make room.

However, I was looking for faces like mine and didn't see many. I saw Greg Sarris and we joked about the missing contingents. We noticed a group of Native Americans holding up their huge banner: Who is illegal, pilgrim?

One of the placards had a remedy for illegal immigration: End illigal immigration, return California to Mexico!. There weren't many Gringos at the rally (where are the anti-war, peace activists?) and one who made eye contact with my husband, acknowledged him: "Oh, glad to see another Gringo!"

But here is another strange encounter today(see previous post): In the midst of the sea of brown faces, a young white pony-tailed male was trawling the crowds asking for spare change. When he came close to us, we looked at him and didn't give him any. A few seconds later, I realized that what I should have told him is: Go and pick lettuce!...

Saturday, March 25, 2006

A Strange Encounter

Today I was approached by a young white girl, about 10 yrs old, at the mall who is panhandling. She asked if I could spare change so she can take the bus and go home. I asked her why she needed to take bus, where she lives, who is with her. She said her brother was with her and she pointed in a direction where I didn't see anyone. When I told her that I want to help her call her parents, she immediately walked away.

I've never met this type of panhandler before so it was disconcerting. What if someone put her up to it? What if she's being abused? Oh my...am I watching too much tv? Did I do enough? Should I have done/said something else?

I will never know.

Preparing yet another conference (National Association for Ethnic Studies) paper on:

The challenges of identifying and transforming whiteness in the classroom in a time of war and age of globalization; how white American middle class college students respond to the challenge of deconstructing whiteness and white privilege.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Pathology of White Privilege by Tim Wise.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

What is this pain we feel?
Whose words have cut into y/our psyche and flesh
making us flee into silence and sadness?

They claim that your poetry opened the
first cut in their hearts
Stabbing at their holy relics
defiled now, saints smeared with
"bad" words. Thus, they say
you were merely making money
out of your crotch, capitalizing on your
exotic look.

This is poetry, for pete's sake! And they
do not care to explore beyond skin.

Skin. White. Brown.
Unafraid to go deeper into the memory of
colonial violence, they can only talk about Skin.

Brown Skin. Brown crotches.
Offends the religious among them.
So they bite back. But it is not your poetry
they talk back to but your Self
Perceived from the lens
of white skin.

White Skin. So comforting to hide behind
its thick scaffold of privilege honed by
centuries of selective, hierarchical,
universalizing rhetoric about humans and infrahumans.

They are human. You are infrahuman.
How did you end up on the center stage?
How did you steal your way into a Laughlin?

The Blind Spot on White Skin doesn't,
cannot allow this incongruity. So they must
stage a dissent. This is their show.

We have to remind each other that it is their show.
Let them be. Let us not be the "yarn in their spindle."
Let us not take the toxic bait.

Ok. Siyempre. Easier said than done. We are
Pinays, after all, and we are not prone to that
kind of dichotomy. The walls we build are
always see-through and slender to allow
for moments of potential reconciliation
between us and those who consider us their "other."

For us, there is no Other. Not even White Skin.
This is the fragility of our condition.
The babaylan's dilemma.

Our History is fraught with unifinished wars.
We take our place in the frontlines.
With Poetry, Song, Drama.
We invite ourselves into the Circle of Fire.
Poetry as embers we must walk across,
barefeet, where we welcome the shock
of Pain that eventually gives way to
Pleasure and healing.

Monday, March 13, 2006

For anyone interested in a concise analysis of the current political climate in the Philippines, I'm posting an opinion piece by my dear friend, Jimmy Ong. There is a glut of editorials on various listserves on same topic but until I read this I didn't get a clear picture of the scenario.


By Jimmy S Ong

The country seems fatally divided these days, between those who feel GMA should go because she cheated, and those who feel she should stay even though she cheated.

No one seriously believes she didn’t cheat; not after the damning evidence of “Hello, Garci,” and her even more telltale “I am sorry.” The most her apologists can argue is that the tapes were illegally obtained, and were tampered with, and can’t be used in a court of law, and anyway, Congress trashed the impeachment bid.

Those who say she should go enjoy the advantage of moral superiority. The irreducible argument is, at the center of the democratic process lies the vote; steal that, and you lose all legitimacy. (This may be why, even before the turbulence of last Feb 20, GMA had to tone down the Edsa 1 rites; they might have reminded us that one event that aroused the public 20 years ago was Marcos’s attempt to rig the count of the snap elections.)

Those who say she should stay resent their own lack of moral ascendancy, and so they sound petulant and testy when they raise realpolitik objections to her departure. Who will replace GMA? Are her most vehement critics any cleaner? Do they condone a coup d’etat or a communist takeover? Why doesn’t Cory Aquino stay home and discipline Kris?

Of these arguments, the leftist-rightist-NPA-Magdalo conspiracy sounds most hollow. To be sure, with the world communist movement in a state of collapse – China hasn’t become the world’s fastest-growing economy by strict adherence to MaoTseTung thought – Filipino communists have had to rethink their cherished tenets of people’s war and encirclement from the countryside, and seem more open to tactical shortcuts with disgruntled elements in the AFP.

But a joint venture formalized by a memorandum of agreement seems farfetched at this point, particularly if its leaders plot their takeover at a plush Makati village with a Time reporter recording it for posterity. Navy Lt. Antonio Trillanes did not turn to Joma Sison after concluding that systemic corruption in the Navy had eaten through to the organization’s core. He used his findings (first written up as graduate school term papers over four years ago) to justify a coup.

A coup threat is more real. It is an attractive option to any field commander who traces his troops’ threadbare uniforms and obsolete weapons to plundering generals, or who feels that professionalism in the AFP has been eroded by political leaders who have forfeited their mandate to govern.

But the notion of a coup, with its certain aftermath of military rule, remains abhorrent to those of us who lived through martial law and its trademark practices of warrantless arrests, media censorship and dispersals of peaceful assembly. One evening in September 1972 I returned to the Philippines Herald office after dinner with the other editors, to check on the next day’s edition, only to find the place padlocked and ringed with soldiers. Now it’s the Tribune that gets raided. In the ensuing weeks, friends like Mely Nicolas and Jerry Barican were detained. Now it’s Randy David’s turn. Justice Sec. Raul Gonzalez sounds as haughty today as Defense Sec. Enrile 34 years ago, and Sec. Ignacio Bunye looks as sartorial as Sec. Kit Tatad.. But it doesn’t much matter whether military rule is enforced by some general in GMA’s camp or some colonel who opposes her; both types draw their power not from the mandate of the ballot but from the barrel of a gun.

Still, just as odious as the prospect of GMA ruling through some militarist cabal is the prospect of GMA replaced by discredited faces who have had their turn at the feeding trough, and salivate to get to it once again.

For all of Cory Aquino’s deficiencies as a working president, she will always deserve our thanks for uniting us after Ninoy died, and our admiration for giving up power when her term was up. But to see her today on the same side as JV Ejercito and Imee Marcos? Did we face down the tanks at Edsa to pave the way for Erap’s return? We know that’s not Cory’s goal, but when we see the likes of Ernie Maceda and Nene Pimentel, Dinky Soliman and Linggoy Alcuaz, egging us on, we recall that these people held office and wielded power in their time, and at times they’ve been allies and at times they’ve been foes, and a fat lot of good it did the country. And we no longer feel that their fight is our fight. We feel, more and more, like the less-than-equal animals at the conclusion of George Orwell’s Animal Farm:

Yes, a violent quarrel was in progress. There were shoutings, bangings on the table, sharp suspicious glances, furious denials …. Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike…. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

This is where GMA’s claim – that she is our best and only leader – kicks in most insidiously. Conrad de Quiros and Randy David can insist that surely there are Filipinos more decent, more competent, more worthy than she; but these columnists don’t quite explain where to find such people, when so many institutions – the legislature, the courts, the mass media, the church – seem so diminished and uninspiring. More to the point, in a putative democracy, leaders are elected; but what chance have we got with a Comelec so tarnished by a scandalous and null-and-voided mega-contract, and an Ombudsman that won’t comply with the Supreme Court’s two-year-old directive to determine the Comelec’s criminal liability?

With these aces up her sleeve, GMA can push charter change relentlessly, and bill herself as the best possible leader for a transition – a transition, by the way, to a parliament under the best possible leader, who happens to be GMA. Of course, legitimacy will continue to be a nagging problem, but that’s the whole point of EO 464, Proclamation 1017, guidelines for the media, and stories of the leftist-rightist-NPA-Magdalo conspiracy.

This is where things stand today. Although GMA demeans the presidency, and the office ill-suits her, as the Bard would say, “like a giant’s robe / Upon a dwarfish thief,” we have got to be convinced that she must stay on, that the alternatives are too dreadful to contemplate, that the cure is worse than the disease. But she is the disease.

Jimmy Ong started out as a journalist 40 years ago, and now teaches at De La Salle University.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

I'm now 60 pages into KAPWA: The Self in Others. For a reader in the diaspora like me who has been away for almost 25 years and whose connections to the homeland is held tenuously by family, a few friends, and popular media (sporadically accessed), and one Philippine-based listserve, it is soul-nourishing to read about Filipinos like Roberto Villanueva -- an artist who used, exclusively, found indigenous materials, always involved the community's rituals and dreams, expressed the wholistic view of KAPWA. Katrin included photographs of Villanueva's art installations. As I meditate on these images, I am touched by the same Spirit that must have been Villanueva's inspiration as well. Still, these words are not enough to convey the experience.

Katrin says it well when she talks about "tacit understanding" as pakikiramdaman - that deep feeling that connects us, not just to other human beings, but to all that exists in nature - above, below and in all directions.

In light of the recent depressing news about the latest coup against GMA, this book reminds me/us that if only we look deep and close enough, we can still access the Filipino as a mythic man (NVM Gonzalez' term)...as a beacon of hope. Katrin writes: we are sick, but we aren't dying yet. Look to the Filipino artist-culture bearer for healing.

Friday, March 10, 2006

I hold in my hand the new book by Katrin de Guia, Kapwa: The Self in Others published by Anvil.

This book is dedicated to Ver Enriquez. He passed away in San Francisco, 1994. He was traveling from Manila enroute to U of Michigan to take up a teaching post there. He had been ill the months before but refused to submit to hospital procedures for diagnosis. By the time he arrived in SFO, he was too ill to continue on to Michigan; he was hospitalized and diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer and died a week later. We had a beautiful memorial for him before his remains were flown back to Mla. To many of us, he will always be an ancestral spirit who guides our lives towards decolonization and reaffirmation of our Filipino Loob.

I first heard about Katrin from Ver. He told stories about mentoring a German woman living in the Philippines as she worked through a ph.d. program in Sikolohiyang Pilipino. It is all a blur to me now what he might have said exactly about Katrin being in the program. He told me many more stories I couldn't put together until much later; he just told them as if I had been an audience to a saga going on at the University of the philippines - which I wasn't. I relished his trust though, for telling me.

Now I hold KAPWA in my hands -- and I see the impact of Sikolohiyang Pilipino -- it is a beautifully designed book: art work by Filipino culture-bearers; KAtrin's personal narrative interwoven with her scholarly exploration of Kapwa, Pakikiramdam, Loob, Dangal, Paninindigan -- as core cultural concepts; how these values are lived and made manifest in the art of Filipino culture-bearers. She features the work of Kidlat Tahimik, Roberto VIllanueva, Angel Shaw, Rene Aquitania, and others.

Mila, Katrin's friend who forwarded the book to me said: "this book will hold you even as you hold it." How true! This book is more than a text; it is an experience. Thank you, Katrin!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Dear Barb -
Am rushing to leave for class but wanted to take a moment to let you know how I've been trying to come up with something coherent in English re the racist remarks in Ron's blog. Maybe I should try Kapampangan, eh? (me, too, didn't know Eileen is fluent in Ilocano! Yay!!). Some thoughts:

You know you've arrived on the center stage of Poetry when racist people refuse to give you that space. They keep trying to steal the limelight. They can't bear not being in the limelight because the dark scares them. The dark scares them because they are haunted by the dirty little things they've kept in the dark for so long. Now having to face those dirty little things as you mirror it for them in your poetry, they are scrambling for shelter -- mockery, put-downs, misspellings -- hmm, could these perhaps be the symptoms of an impending nervous breakdown? There is no shelter out there. Not even our forgiveness. For it is they who need to forgive themselves. The prayers in poeta are amulets, Barb - babaylan weapons - and they've just struck a bunch of racists who may not realize that by being so blatantly out front with it, they've just began a long process of detoxification (even if unconsciously desired).

ok, till here, more later after class:-)) be well...

Monday, March 06, 2006

What happens when your recurring dream suddenly decides to change course...the ending that you have come to expect...the feelings you wake up to -- wistful, light, blithe -- morph into the ordinariness of waking hours?

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