Sunday, September 30, 2007

In Filipino, it's Kapwa; in an African language, it's called Ubuntu.

Do you need Bill Clinton to spell it out?

Friday, September 28, 2007

as if to counter the unsettling emotions that arise from thinking about war, i think of this:

to caress is to be aware of the qualities veiled in communal life, qualities that civil laws and practices should guarantee to all, removed from the violence of an everyday life which has no concern for intersubjectivity, removed from the violence of utilitarian practice -- whether it involves commerce in the strict sense or the commerse of sexual desire-- removed from a gaze or a practice not concerned with respecting the other.

the caress is also praise. it is homage of the evening, of the feast, of the spring to what i have perceived, sensed and experienced of you during the day, the week, the winter, during daily life clothed in the grey of ordinary demands, of urban transit, of the submission of sensible rhythms to the instruments of labor and to the rules of citizenship. (Irigaray, to be two).

i have always translated "intersubjectivity" as pakikipagkapwa-tao. this word - Kapwa - evokes for me a universe of relations that is seamless, fluid, passionate, fecund, all-encompassing, respectful, non-possessive. to say -- you are my Kapwa -- is i love to you in the language of Irigaray.

i suppose this is my roundabout way of saying that what the French philosopher has learned from Buddhism, the Filipina has always known and carried in her body. let her body awaken to this truth, dug up from the rubble of colonial history, dusted up and dressed up in full naked regalia of her gloriousness and sensousness. without shame or guilt. only love uttered in her own tongue. say it. write it.

A blogger right in the heart of Burma. Lest it's forgotten, the real elephant in the room in the current revolution in Burma is this. It is so easy for US corporate media to rail against "repressive regimes" without having to mention that it has always been corporate interests that has kept the military junta in Burma in power. Who knows what's really going on now that China and India are equally interested, alongside with US and Europe, in its natural resources.

I may have signed the human rights protest circulating on the net but I'm saving some skepticism for the backdoor politicking of the real elephants. Ugh.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

worth taking a second look...

E-waste dumping on the poor

and found these essays while thinking about Barb's earlier posts about war and pornography.
Crisis of Masculinity
In the end, the book grapples with a fundamental question. "If pornography is increasingly cruel and degrading, why is it increasingly commonplace instead of more marginalized? In a society that purports to be civilized, wouldn't we expect most people to reject sexual material that becomes ever more dismissive of the humanity of women? How do we explain ... increasingly more intense ways to humiliate women sexually and the rising popularity of the films that present those activities?" Jensen concludes: "... this paradox can be resolved by recognizing that one of the assumptions is wrong. Here it is the assumption that the U.S. society routinely rejects cruelty and degradation. In fact the U.S. is a nation that has no serious objection to cruelty and degradation."

War and Porn
If you go to this collection of image galleries and scroll down to the very bottom, you will see a couple of folders labeled "War Trophy Photos." I must leave it to your judgment whether you want to see them or not. I trust you to want to see them for the right reasons. These are images of corpses and body parts mutilated and displayed, in close-up, laid out on a platter for cannibals. These are images that no one should find it easy to view, not even surgeons. But they are part of the true story of what this war is about and what all wars are about.
Many of these images were sent by American soldiers to a website that marketed pornography. Presumably, these were viewed as war pornography. Presumably, they were created by people who have come to love war. And I don't mean people who avoid going to wars and then send other people's children to fight and die or be turned into people who could do this. I don't think Dick Cheney and George Bush flip through these photos in the evening, but I think they have a duty to do so until they can't stand it anymore and bring our troops home.

Liberals and Porn
Liberals often defend images of men chaining, whipping, torturing, and even killing women in the name of sexual pleasure as harmless exercises of free speech. At the same time, they strenuously object to war propaganda.
But if war propaganda is effective in dehumanizing members of "enemy" nations to make it possible for men to hurt, kill, and degrade other human beings -- as it clearly is -- why would images of women as merely body parts for male sexual use and abuse not have similar effects? Why, like other propaganda, would stories and images that dehumanize women not blind people to the reality of women's suffering? If linking sex with violence had no effect on behavior, why would savvy media professionals link sex with whatever they are trying to sell -- from cars to Coca-Cola -- to influence peoples' behavior?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

i cradled your anger, frustration, and disappointment for an hour as you let yourself go. i let you suckle on my empathy. i wanted to be there for you both. what you couldn't say to each other, i held in my body, this fragile body not quite used to being a container for someone's else grief. because i love you both, i listened without trying to tell you what to do. perhaps that is all that was needed because twenty four hours later you tell me that it is okay now between the two of you. i am relieved but i am spent. i do not mind. what i am recovering from is that other voice telling me that i should not have allowed myself to stand as a third party. that is the place for a lawyer, not you, the admonition said. this, more than the hours of listening to two, is, in the end, what saddens me the most.

Monday, September 24, 2007

it only takes a few words, sometimes none even, just a piano's melancholy, to unveil what is veiled. those feelings held at bay because you can't allow them to intrude. not now, not while you are "at work." but you remember a line from Coetzee, you hear an old Beatle tune in your head and reverie takes over. you stop the memo you are writing. you allow the feelings to rise. you feel your heartbeat. you feel the tears coming on. you freeze. and then breathe deeply. you think of ... yes, that one. you wonder. and then you remind yourself not to think. what you wait for comes when it will. it does. always.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I'm very exhausted but am joyful. very.
i'm surprised, too, by this state of being.
i'm grateful.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Thank you, Van Jones for saying this: In this Age of Extinctions...what we need is a Reverence movement where we can just stand in awe of each other, in awe of creation, in awe of the Creator and strive always to act from there...the path that we need to walk, the love that we need is the love we had as a child, the openness to all possibilities you had as a child...that, and nothing else, will ensure that our human family will survive.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I was stopped on campus today by a young woman calling out to me: Are you Leny Strobel? She introduced herself as my former student from ten years ago. Lena is one those students a teacher never forgets. I knew she would become a serious scholar one day and here she is, a newly-minted PhD in search of her first tenure-track position. Good luck, Lena!

if i could, i'd erase all that you think you know about me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Whoa! and what am I going to say about this?? ..."speak about your blog and what role it plays in your research and in the formation of Filipino American identity (if it plays a role)."

(scratching head)...I have never consciously thought of blogging as part of doing research but I suppose it is. This blog is a space where I talk about books am currently reading; where I ruminate about topics hovering on the edges of my consciousness and imy dreamworld; where I respond to other people's blogs or listserve posts on topics of shared interest. As such, it is a community space that is also linked to other listserves (pagbabalikloob, babaylan, filipino american curriculum project, and a few others). I suppose I do my thinking aloud in these spaces and the theorizing that follows and translates into books, projects, conferences, and other affairs constitute research. Doesn't it? So maybe that's one sort of answer.

On the other hand, I really don't know who reads this blog aside from the few that I know of. I don't know how to interpret sitemeter or technorati statistics. I am not networked well enough to increase traffic on the site and there is no "Comment" link. So what kind of community am I talking about? Not sure. Will have to think about that.

As for Fil Am identity? in cyberspace?...this sounds like a good topic for a dissertation. Better find that student who can take it up.

Adding Ian Casocot

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

How about this for a belated birthday treat on Friday night? Also to celebrate my student who came out of the closet in class (heart pounding, red face, hands shaking) -- I love it when students find their courage and their voice! And a belated graduation party for another Fil Am student who found her first real job and started her MA program at the same time. Yay!! Hey, my first time to go to this hotspot!. ...it's never too late for this old gal!

Monday, September 17, 2007

You are in the grip of something, aren't you?...Some quality in her draws you. ..that quality is her burstingness, the burstingness of fruit at its ripest...she is bursting because she is loved, loved as much as one can expect to be in this world...she has grown up drenched in love. She is at home in the world. It is, to her, a good place.

culled from Slow Man

Saturday, September 15, 2007

On becoming a reader

Listened to Dana Gioia today talk about The Big Read program of the NEA. Gioia gave one reason why the US needs to revive its reading culture: to preserve liberal democracy. All the best minds that have made the US the great country that it is were readers, he said, of novels, poems, and stories. He also said: Reading makes other peoples’ lives a reality. Reading is an acquired skill in higher order thinking; it stimulates the imagination. People who read are more interested in the world around them, they participate more in civic life, they volunteer more, they give more. And moreover, poor people who read do more of the above than the rich people who read.

These days our lives are bombarded with a thousand ways on what to buy, what to sell, how to commodify, how to be happy, so that the time required by reading is given up. There is enough national concern about the declining literacy in the US that it spurred The Big Read movement in an attempt to make reading a central part of the culture again.

I appreciated this speech. I looked up the BBC site of the top 100 books and I realized that I am a reader. I have read many of the titles on this list. Just don’t quiz me on them.

As I was thinking about how I came to love reading, my first memory returns me to childhood: My father reading from the Bible during Friday night family devotions and daily bible reading moments at the breakfast table. Then there’s Sunday school where we competed in memorizing Bible verses. The Bible in KJV, Standard, Duoay versions - name it we read it.

In elementary school, my sister who is two years behind, reminded me that the school library had open shelves and that is how she learned to love reading. She could just go to the library’s open shelves and choose her own books. In our high school she told me that the books were kept behind glass doors and students had to use the card catalog to choose a book which the librarian then had to pull off the shelf for you. She was no longer free to just linger around the shelves and browse. Somehow I do not remember this.

I do remember, however, that in high school, one of my older sisters had brought home the forbidden Mao’s red book. I found it. Read it. Wondered why it was forbidden. I also found Night by Elie Wiesel under the covers of my sister’s bed. I remember stealing it to read it and then struggling to understand what the holocaust was and why he thought god is dead. The only other book I remember from those days is Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Again, I couldn’t admit to my older sisters that I had been stealing and reading their books. I didn’t understand Frankl’s work either but perhaps my interest in theological and philosophical questions began with that book.

By the time I got to college, having access to the UP Library’s open shelves, didn’t easily convince me that it was okay to read books that were not on the teachers’ reading lists. So when I discovered The Great Gatsby and Freud (forgot which title) at the library, I felt like a thief in the night. But I had my first taste of (guilty) pleasure in reading. It was my secret for a long time. By the time Gatsby became a movie, I was already in love with Robert Redford.

The guilty pleasure I had in reading was interrupted by conversion to C.S. Lewis and all the evangelical books on the list of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship: Francis Schaeffer’s The God Who is There convinced me that I must not be smart enough to understand that God’s existence can be proven through the application of western logic. Still I persevered and read all of CS Lewis’ books. I think it is his beautiful writing that made me stay in that faith longer than I needed to. Who wouldn’t be ravished by Surprised by Joy? Or Till We Have Faces?

It was CSLewis’ friend, George McDonald that exploded my evangelical world: God widens the fences so that good and wild things can roam free. I started taking down the fences of my life and one by one allowed the wild things to roam free. I carried on a long correspondence with a friend about his favorite philosophers – Nietzche, Kierkegaard, Hammarskjold, Rilke, Espinoza, Bentham, Sartre – what it means to become an agnostic or existentialist. What it means to believe in anything. This, too, was my secret life. Albeit a bit pretentious, too, I must say.

Why secret? Because none of my friends were reading philosophy. They were more interested in trade books and Playboy. I was also interested in self-improvement books until my Tolkien-loving friend said that reading these books is the most self-indulgent thing. Embarrassed, I hid my books and I pretended to like Tolkien, too. I was young and impressionable. I wanted to be liked.

I graduated from self-help books to scholarly reads in my 30s and 40s. My love affair with books continued – this time no longer a guilty secret pleasure – but a beloved practice. I’m always happiest when I am reading a Coetzee, Achebe, Okri, a Richard Feynman, Alexie, Tabios,…oh, I could just fill the rest of this essay with nothing but authors that adorn my shelves. Currently, I’m having affairs with Luce Irigaray, Gina Apostol, Eric Gamalinda, Lara Stapleton. Next month it could be Prau.

Gioia is right; we should restore Reading to its central place in culture. I only hope that when national leaders talk about American decline in any area – whether in reading and literacy, math, or science – that our desire be informed by a more radically democratic worldview than what we have inherited from the liberal tradition. What does it say about us that the majority of the 100 top reads are white European or American writers? When Gioia mentioned, as an example, Robinson Crusoe as a must read, I thought of Coetzee deconstructing this signature novel of rugged individualism (male and white) in his own version of Crusoe in Foe.

Reading for reading’s sake, without critical thinking, might be a disservice to the culture, too, in the long run. Why else have the literary canon turned away so many? And how and what accounts for the other forms of literacy that are blossoming in the margins of the culture? Why do kids love Tupac’s poetry or Slam, the movie? Why would kids rather dance than read? Why would kids rather play computer games? Why would kids rather text or talk with their friends? How can I require my students to read 100-pages a week when they wouldn’t even read 20? Or they wouldn’t even buy the book?

I digress.

I’m all for reading. I’m all for being wild. I’m all for taking down fences.

Thank You! for reading this.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Jean posts on Zizek. I think I have a sense of what he is saying about love's violence - the kind that seeks to possess, separate, dominate, assimmilate, organize, protect the loved object; the kind that pretends to know the other in any absolute way; the kind that fixes men and women into a patriachy-defined ideal of human subjectivity; the kind that insists on the fusion of two into one (but which one?); the kind that encloses and leaves no porous walls for fluidity; the kind that swallows the sun only for itself.

and yet...and yet, Jean...do we not, sometimes, long for a reprieve from philosophy? and all we wish for is a simple declaration of i love you?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I'm waiting for permission from LMN to post a link to her blog. But I hope she doesn't mind this tiny excerpt that I so want to share with you.

Those are the things that my grandmother and grandfather needed to come back to, those thousand small things that make the Philippines the Philippines, that make it the only place like it in the world. That make it...home.

You may not understand why language like this makes me cry. It's alright.

Yesterday, I showed Rabbit Proof Fence in class -- about three Australian aboriginal girls who walked 1,500 miles for 9weeks to escape from the mission school and return Home to Jigalong. We have just finished reading The Racial Contract and the students are struggling to understand what Mills calls the cognitive and moral dysfunction of white folks. Such harsh language, they say. But the students who understand the entire thesis of Mills also understand why the girls in the film chose to escape the mission school and take on the 1500 mile walk Home rather than be educated (as domestic workers) and act obsequiously for the rest of their lives.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Yes, You.
I Love You.

Especially today.

Monday, September 10, 2007

the heart has its own mnemonic device. it refuses the mind's will to forget.
so i must say Yes.

Happy Birthday, Ms Chatelaine!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

What a gift attending a performance of the Oda Oak Oracle by Ethiopian Poet Laureate Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin, directed by Aika Swai and her cast of talented musicians and actors. The themes of love, ritual sacrifice, ancestor worship, wisdom of the elders are stunningly interwoven in poetry, jazz fusion with African rhythms, and dance.

When I attend performances like these, I always fantasize about a Filipino version of same. When? Where? Who?

In looking up the Poet Tsegaye, I am drawn to these lines written about him:

...he is interested in an African reading of the West and Ethiopian reading of Ethiopia.

In the 1997 Ethiopian Review interview, Poet Laureate Tsegaye was asked what it meant for him to be an Ethiopian and what would he tell an American visitor about it. His response, in part, was:

A simple human being, conscious of African civilization, African culture. Conscious of world civilization, world culture, of equality, of world brotherhood. I think that has been what the ancient history of Africa, the ancient history of Ethiopia has meant and means to us. So, as we go to America to learn, the Americans must also come here to learn. To humble themselves before the ancestors, not to be arrogant, that’s what Ethiopia means.. You don’t begin knowing yourself halfway. You don’t start from Europe, because Europe started from Africa. It started in Ethiopia and Egypt.....I would tell an American friend to go to Washington for the July 4 celebrations, and see Americans worshipping the temple of the sun at the Washington Monument (which is a facsimile of Aksum obelisks)...It is my stone, my temple of the sun...and you are still worshipping my temple of the sun—a mutual heritage.


Oh, how I would love to read this about us Filipinos -- our pride in what is ours and inviting others to worship in our "temple of the sun"...what is this stone? If we see it, would we recognize it? Do we even know how to do a Filipino reading of the West? or a Filipino reading of the Filipino?

All these questions are triggered by recent conversations about education. The latest is a visit from an education and technology consultant from the Philippines who wanted to brainstorm on how he might tap into a Fil Am market for online educational materials. Before answering his questions, I wanted to know what his vision is: what version of Filipino history do you want to market? what do you want the end-user to learn? what do you think he ought to be learning? and what for? forwhom? what do you think of the California curriculum standards? what do you think are the education-related concerns and issues in the Fil Am community and what are they rooted in?

I probably exasperated him with my questions but I find that there is always so much that we take for granted, e.g. that more technology will solve a lot of problems. There is always an assumption that "content" already exists out there and it's only a matter of putting it online and making it accessible. The glut of online information right now does not an education make. Obviously.

I hope he left with some good ideas...if not, at least remember how sweet the pears and tomatoes from my garden are and how sumptuous my cooking. haha! Not to mention that I didn't even charge him for my consulting hours.

Friday, September 07, 2007

55years, 55thank yous

1. Inanna
2. Apu Sinang
3. Ma and Tang
4. Mga kapatid at kabiyak
5. Dustin and Jennie
6. elementary school teachers
7. high school teachers
8. Ms Tablante
9. Bong
10. Ms Guarin
11. high school classmates
12. Math 11 teachers
13. Melba Maggay and ISACC
14. Dick Sotelo, Jimmy Ong, Jojo Fresnedi
15. Red
16. Ebbe Gronvold
17. Alex Aronis
18. Ver Enriquez
19. Paring Bert
20. NVM Gonzalez
21. Bullet Marasigan
22. Sikolohiyang Pilipino friends
23. Noe
24. Perla Daly
25. Roshni, Ardath, Susan
26. Mutombo and Francisco
27. Melen McBride, Ruth Hill
28. Joaquin Sanchez
29. Larry Shinagawa
30. Alma Flor Ada, Rosita Galang and USF faculty
31. 14th Amendment and Affirmative Action
32. Ate Gloria Rodriguez
33. Eileen
34. Jean
35. Barb, Bino, Michelle, Don Luis, Mike P, flips
36. Coming Full Circle writers
37. pagbabalikloob friends and babaylan sisters
38. Reme Grefalda
39. Katrin and Kidlat
40. Mon David,Vicki, and Grace
41. Ianthe Brautigan
42. Judy and Laurie
43. Miriam Hutchins
44. Byron, Melotte
45. Mindanao and Fulbright
46. Jim Perkinson, David Abram, Derrick Jensen
47. Freire, Fanon, Jung
48. Irigaray, Haunani Kay Trask
49. Thomas Berry, Neil Tyson
50. Cornel West, Coetzee, postcolonial writers
51. Grace C
52. Sacred Pause and koans

53. Cal
54. Noah
55. Anitos and tricksters

Thursday, September 06, 2007

on the fecundity of the caress

adding John Drabinski

and here, Grace alludes to the impact of "I Love to You"...at Storyfield.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

sooner or later comes the one blade that could cut through the illusion of emptiness. seize. let go. bleed.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Language is my anchor:

I am also a fan of Eric Gamalinda...but these other poets can say it better than I can.

what remains of the languages we no longer speak? or speak very little of?

i speak Pampango and Pilipino with declining fluency for lack of practice. my son, 1.5 generation, understands both languages but can't speak except for a few vocabulary words. my grandson, Noah, will probably never know either except for the funny words we've taught him like kili-kili and buldit.

even so, Noah knows that when he hears these words, they refer to his Dad and Lola who are Filipinos. he looks at me and looks at himself in the mirror and says "I am Filipino!" he looked at the checker at WalGreens and asked her: Are you Filipino? and when she answered affirmatively, Noah said: I am Filipino, too!.

or when I play the Pilipino audibles on yahoo messenger, Noah is tickled by the different sounds and he giggles and with sparkling eyes he knows that this is his language, too. he couldn't speak the words, and he doesn't understand the meaning but he recognizes the lilt, the intonation, the pronunciation -- they belong to him because he hears me speak in the same voice. Okey ka lang?

Lola, sing to me -- he asks of me at bedtime...and he knows I will sing "Ugoy ng Duyan" and the lullaby calms him and sends him off to dreamland.

so what remains of the languages that we no longer speak in words...but yet the language lives on in our voices, in our songs, in our touch, in our eyes?. . .Noah will always know.

Gura posts about being multilingual ...

I would like our children to know different languages in part so their minds gain a greater fluidity. I was inspired by some kids of a friend of mine that spoke 7 different languages and didn't have a problem speaking one language to one person and another language to another.

After learning 5 different languages so far I've come to understand how each language facilitates different thought processes. The Philippine languages with their extensive use of passive tense and emphasis on the object rather than the emphasis on the actor in Latin languages. Even the subtle differences between the Romance languages and their rhythms reflect the different natures of people.Yet, in these last hundred years the Philippines has constantly fought for a national identity and language. Even making attempts to create a national language like in Indonesia. But in 40 or so years, nature may take it's own course to a unified language.

Monday, September 03, 2007

My mother tongue is dying... amanung sisuan -- in the beginning was the Word. the word that you suckled on. that gave you life and love. cradled you. sang lullabies to you. breathed soul into you. how, now, do you love her back? O Ima, kaluguran da ka! Makananu at nukarin ku apagyu ing lugud ku keka?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

This is a Native American theologian's Call to Action.

A few years ago, a Filipino theologian suggested that I should become a member of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT) - US Minorities group. I told her that I am not a theologian and she insisted that I am because "a theologian is anyone who is interested in the questions about the meaning of Life;" she said that what she has read of my work, this is exactly what I do. (and my doubtful self says -- it is?).

Todate, I have been accepted as a member of EATWOT but I have yet to attend any of their meetings. From looking at the membership list, I note that many of them are affiliated with Christian seminaries or Religious Studies Departments in universities (primarily Christian in orientation). I don't feel compelled to engage in discourse about "third world theology" when the implied frame of reference is always the christian perspective. I would like to be engaged in more inclusive discourses.

That is why Tink Tinker's address to CTA (above) inspires me because he articulates for me my difficulty in reconciling Christianity with indigenous spirituality. Perhaps it is because the history still pains me and I have not yet transcended fully. Or maybe I haven't challenged myself enough to venture out even further. Or perhaps I need to find a new community (like EATWOT?). Something is definitely shifting...quite deeply, too. (help...am drowning...!)

Last year a group of Korean American theologians asked if I would contribute an article to their journal. I told them that I'm not sure if their readership would be interested in issues of decolonization and indigenization. In subsequent email exchanges, the editor told me that decolonization is definitely an issue that the Korean American Christian community has yet to deal with. But I never heard from him again. hhmmm...

I write this because I am thinking aloud...wondering what the next bend in the road would be for me. And because I need to design a seminar course on these topics for Spring 08.

On this labor day weekend...these thoughts are laborious enough...

Saturday, September 01, 2007

this labor day weekend, the words have taken a day-off. some went flying into the lake of fire. others into the black hole that scientists found today. however, one, who refused to take a day-off, decided to broadcast that the finance minister of Norway has announced government pension fund (the largest in the world) disinvestment plans in 21 global corporations whose ethics do not meet Norwegian standards. eleven of the corporations are US-based, including walmart. naturally the US ambassador to Norway is fuming mad. tsktsk.

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