Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Move towards the centers of people's lives...
(Barack Obama on community organizing)...

I'm thinking of my recent FWN experience and the witnessing of how Fil Am women can organize for a common goal: the recognition of the "100 most influential Filipina women in the US" and the future of goal of returning in 2012 and confer on the results of "womantoring" between the influential Filipina and her protege. I was told that this award is a working award and there is expectation of results in five years.

I quote Obama above because my attendance at FWN can probably be summed up as a challenge to me to "move into the center of people's lives." To really learn to listen -- to strangers, to people on the other side of my ideological position, to women who are hurting, to women who need to tell stories but have no available containers that can hold their stories as sacred. To listen to women with vision.

There were many tears shed at the summit. As woman after woman talked about their journeys of struggle and success, many of them showed their vulnerable selves and their spiritual selves. I thought about how deeply spiritual many of them are even though this spirituality was spoken in various languages -- christianity, zen, even the "the secret," and political language.

Throughout the summit, I became aware that my "academic" and "community" hats would come on and off depending on how keenly I was paying attention to my inner urges. Are you going to connect with other women or are you going to analyze and critique? Are you going to be part of the solution or are you going to be the problem? What do you see? What do you want to see?

Reading now Obama's reflections about his early community organizing days, something resonates with me. I have always felt isolated from the larger Fil Am community in the Bay Area. It's just an accident of geography, really, but it has many consequences. One of them is this feeling of not being physically connected to community. The FWN days, just like the days of this past summer of listening to stories, I, like Obama, realize that:

...these stories taken together, had helped me bind my world together, that they gave me a sense of place and purpose I've been looking for. There was always community there if you dug deep enough. ...There was poetry as well - a luminous world always present beneath the surface, a world that people might offer up as a gift to me, if I only remembered to ask...(190).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

you saw and felt a glimpse of your own happiness, freedom, your soul's fulfillment of conunctio - the mystical union. anima and animus. yin and yang. he and she. earth and sky. within you. it's all within you.

then you closed the doors. a sudden departure. out of fear, perhaps, that allowing Eros in the room would cause an implosion. the world that you worked all your life to build - a fortress of security, affluence, dutiful obligations -- in exchange for the rewards of obedience to a binding script.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Version 2 of I love to you:
May You be happy inside your own life.

And here's a Brown Pinay's version.

Jean Vengua's PRAU is launched!! Please see Eileen's 10/27 announcement! And while you're at it, you might also browse through Jean's use of the concept of Loob in reference to Eileen's poetics in Jean's 10/29 post.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Before I blog about the FWN summit, I want to share this surprise gift from an old friend.

I leave you with one of my favorite poems from Rumi, this one a tender reminder ...

The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.

Lovers don't finally meet somewhere.
They're in each other all along.

And if I may extend the meaning of Lovers in this poem to include or say: our lovers are those who inspire awe in us, challenge us to widen the boundaries of our empathy, who invite us to look deeply into our own hearts and souls, who travel alongside with us to do good in the world -- then there were Lovers who gathered at the FWN summit who were "in each other all along" and who have finally met.

I met: Elena Mangahas, Marily Mondejar, Nida Recabo, Nini Alvero, Reme Grefalda, Angel Shaw, Evelina Galang and her parents, Charmaine Clamor, Sylvia Lichauco de Leon, Evelyn Rodriguez, Donna Pascua, Linda Nietes, Eleonor Castillo, Joy Bruce, Mitos Santisteban, Noemi Tacuyan, Kristine Surla, Vangie Buell, Daisy Tucay, Thelma Boac, and the youth panelists that I didn't get to personally talk to. There were many others that I didn't have a chance to talk to in a more lover-ly manner but their presence and energy was palpable.

A special thank you to Elena Mangahas, who moved heaven and earth to make sure that I can attend...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I'm off to the Filipina Women's Summit tomorrow. Am not exactly sure what to expect but I was asked to be on the panel on "Academia and Activism" on Friday, 26th. Preparing a few minutes talk on such a big topic is like trying to come up with a sound-bite. Someone suggested the title "The Highly Effective Habits of Decolonized Filipinas" which I don't want to use because it's a copy of Covey's.

But nevertheless here's an attempt at bulletpoints:

Signs and Symptoms of Decolonized Filipinas in the US:

1. She understands European and American colonial history and its psychic and epistemic violence on herself and her people.
2. She understands that her presence in the US is a product of this history. The narration of US history as it relates to the Philippines should be understood as an imperial and colonial narrative in need of critique and revision.
3. She does archeological psychic work to uncover, discover, or reimagine, what her Filipina indigenous memory is trying to teach or reveal to her.
4. Filipino indigenous memory reveals intuitive knowledge about who she is as an indigenous woman. Indigenous Filipino theorizing includes language-based concepts like Kapwa, Loob, Damdamin, Diwa, Dangal, Paninindigan -- that gives a decolonized Filipina a narrative that anchors her identity and her life work in Filipino values.
5. She recognizes that the framework of indigeneity and decolonization can serve as a powerful critique of modernity and its discontents. After all, modernity is the newbie on the block (only 500 years old and yet has brought more havoc on the planet than anything before it).
6. A decolonized Filipina knows herself as a "self-in-relation" (kapwa) rather than the product of the western and liberal notion of the self as an "individual with free will" acting out of its self-interest.
7. A decolonized Filipina understands that the location and position of her Fil Am community need to be reframed away from the model of assimilation into US society. The assimilationist model has long been debunked as an unviable and an unsustainable one.
8. A decolonized Filipina in the US understands that she lives on stolen land from indigenous peoples on this continent. What are the implications of such realization? What is the connection between the taking of the Philippines by colonizers and the taking of this continent?
9. A decolonized Filipina understands the uses of history in order to be an effective and powerful woman in the US context. If NVM Gonzalez is correct in saying, "To be a good American, you must be a good Filipina first," how does a US-born Filipina begin to articulate what it means for her to be a good Filipina?
10. A decolonized Filipina has a global perspective that is informed by what the rest of the planet has to say and not just the US perspective.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Notes on our Ifugao weekend...

The Ifugao Dance and Music Ensemble of Banawe's performance at SSU was well attended and much appreciated. Allelulia provided the narrative of their 90min performance beginning with the Ifugao Creation Story, Tribal Justice, and the three-part Wedding ritual. Their oldest member, 61yr old mumbaki Apu Hukita, recited parts of the epic chant hud-hud. It was a high energy performance and during the last wedding part where they were playing Ifugao games, the kids in the audience ran down to the front of the stage to watch.

Post-performance q and a, picture taking, and more. By the time the evening was over, the group had split into three and went home with host families. I had six of them at home and we didn't want to sleep but we had to. It was 1:30am.

The morning after, the presidents of the local Fil Am communities brought food for breakfast for our "meet and greet" time at my home. Before eating we asked Apo Hukita to pray and he prayed a christian prayer in Ilocano. Then we had sharing afterwards and the Fil Am members of the ensemble were teary eyed as they shared their journey of trying to reconnect with their indigeneity. A Filipino Pomo, Alex CAnillo, brought a Pomo basket, a clapper, and a sedge bundle to share and show with the Ifugaos. Gloria Batalao, the "mother hen," (who is 100%Ifugao and descendant of Otley Beyer) cried as she talked about being converted to Baptist and being told to renounce her grandfather who is a shaman/mumbaki. And the sharing went on and on just like that...very heartfelt. The Fil Am community leaders who are all christians didn't know how to react to the talk about shamans, indigeneity, decolonization, christianity, and etc...but they were all quite touched by the sharing.

I gave away copies of my orange book to the Ifugao group...Oh, one of the young dancers, Sheldon, is a mumbaki in training; he is the grandson of Apo Pogong, one of the last living mumbaki. The group coaxed him to give a sample of a chant and he did a short one but then one of their more mature spokespersons, Renato, talked about the inappropriateness of reciting the chants out of context.

He told the story of how, as children, he and his friends went out to the rice fields and they would imitate the chants, dance, and rituals of the mumbaki as childplay. Once, as they played this game, a spirit descended and they recognized it and they got scared because they didn't have an offering to the spirit. So one of the boys got sick and then they had to call a real mumbaki to heal the boy. So he said this practice is really powerful and shouldn't be taken lightly.

After the sharing, we just sort of naturally moved outside as the sun was nice and warm. They started picking apples, playing gongs outside and pretty soon we were all on the sidewalk dancing...but the neighborhood was so quiet, only the Mexicans next door came out to watch. More talking, sharing, picture taking. The Filipino long goodbye.

What a blessed even if tiring weekend!! It is almost magical, miraculous when people connect deeply. Alleluia and I promised that we would do more collaborative work in the future.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Ifugao artists perform at my university tonight.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sisterhood and Eros

One girlfriend has left her religious community in the Dianic tradition. It seems that when her Mother died, her Filipino memories came flooding back in: her mother as the keeper of family stories, the healer, the indigenous one. Her religious community, she realized, has never been that curious about her being Filipina and that has become a source of sadness and pain. She wants to find her community among Filipina sisters.

One girlfriend describes this time of her life as "almost a nervous breakdown" as she rearranges her family situation sans husband of many years.

One girlfriend discovered her "lost" self at a clown school and broke all the molds that told her she couldn't live outside the molds created for her by someone else. Freedom at last. She was surprised that she found her joyful self among clowns and circus folks.

One girlfriend has moved into a coop housing in the heart of Detroit. And yes, she loves it: the colors, the creativity, the community. Yes, the inner city is poor and many folks are struggling but this is where she feels so keenly the pulse of aliveness compared to the blandness of the suburbs.

Thanks to yahoo messenger, we are able to laugh and cry together about transitions, about menopaws (meow!), and welcoming Eros in our lives. I told them that I imploded last summer and out of that implosion, the birth of many creative projects that comes from a source that feels new, deep, expansive, miraculous.

As I write this, I'm listening to Mon David's CD Abe Mu Ku, and his song about Ima/Mother...and I do believe that it is our Mother, Great Mother, that propels us in all directions. Sky. Earth. Fire. Water.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Alchemy of Eros
Paraphrasing LIrigaray

There is Nothing going on between us. There is Nothing between us. True.
Nothing is the space in-between, the space that lovers can't enter without betraying the sacred contract of Two-ness, that if entered would prevent them from returning to themselves as I and You.

Nothing as the space of unknowing. Of radical otherness. The I is respectful and faithful to this unknowing. You who I will never know in the absolute and will never be mine. You who is different. Male and female -- this sexual difference, according to Irigaray, is what must not be surrendered in the name of love. It is what protects subjectivity while it connects through the space of Nothingness.

This space of Nothing, therefore, is Everything. The space of Becoming and Being. Out of respect, faithfulness, and loyalty to this space, the energy that would otherwise go into possession, completion, enfoldment, fusion -- is freed up to become Energy for the creation of community, of a civil life, of History.

This space is celestial/divine/sacred because it originally arose from an attraction between man and woman. The moment when the heart linked the Sky and Earth. So that the celestial is not only above but between. This between must be safeguarded and cultivated to preserve the mystery of each other. This is a call to a poetic way of dwelling. The beloved is sheltered in the silence of the heart, in the mystery of thinking, in the restraint of the gesture, its inward gathering, in a fullness that escapes the control of the will.

To the call of each other's name, they will respond from the dwelling and gathering place, rather than to the availability of the gaze or the hand.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A close family friend, Mon David - winner of the first London Jazz Festival in 2006, is now US-based in Los Angeles and is checking out the jazz scene.

As we say about friends who become famous..."i knew him when"... Mon and I used to sing duets in high school. But it's really my younger sister, Rox, he has performed with over the years and with whom he's had a soulful relationship.

I would say that his greatest accomplishment of late is the lending of his talent to the revival of Kapampangan music and culture. Here he sings Kapampangan Ku with Arti Santa Rita. He has rearranged and recorded jazzed up versions of Kapampangan folksongs like Atin Ku Pung Singsing and composed new Pampango songs as well.

What does it mean that I'm drawn to these songs now? Why not yesterday?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

In another world I would not need words. I would appear on your doorstep. "I have come for a visit," I would say, and that would be the end of words. I would embrace you and be embraced. But in this world, in this time, I must reach out to you in words. So day by day I render myself into words...words out of my body, drops of myself...to take in, to suck, to absorb...drops fashioned and packed with love, the love we have no alternative but to feel toward those to whom we give ourselves to devour or discard....

from Age of Iron, Coetzee

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

the body is a resonating chamber

...and in case you didn't catch it...Evelyn Glennie is deaf.

Monday, October 08, 2007

My friend is going to become a Trappistine. I'm not sure if this is the abbey she has chosen (or chose her) but her email announcing this comes at a time when I'm trying to reconcile many of my own contradictions. Naturally, her announcement brings tears to my eyes. Life's major decisions can be so simple sometimes: A calling to a life of silence and prayer. Calling. Obedience.

This friend did her MA thesis on reconciling her Catholic faith with the recovery of Filipino indigenous spiritual values. I know it is possible (I was on her MA committee with Rosemary Radford Reuther). But somehow for me, this process is taking much longer and is taking me to places I've never thought to look before. So I'm looking at many different things at once: indigenous spirituality, eco-theology, radical feminism, postcolonial trauma, etc. What I'm finding out is that the body has it's own wisdom about where it wants to go. If the psychic split of modern subjectivity is to be healed and made whole, then we must return to the place of beginnings: the body. This body has a History that it needs to unpack and reconstruct.

I am a body-in-relation to other bodies. As we read our bodies as texts, we realize that our interpretations are subjected to a priori discourses about what it means to be a human being, male and female. As a Filipina and a postcolonial subject, I have been colonized by these discourses. If I want to return to the place of beginnings, I must re-trace my steps and work my way back to the wisdom of my body. Easier said than done.

Monks live in silence and "you are only a real monk when you live by the work of your hands."
This way of life feels right to me.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Happy Birthday to some body!!

Between girlfriends, we have this ongoing conversation about Eros versus Romantic Love. Yesterday, this comment: yeah, the notion of romantic love is really a capitalist construct. If the sole province of legitimate and sacred love is monogamy within marriage , then it is in the interest of capitalism to manage and control that institution and conversely, to punish and discipline all those who dare to express love outside of this romantic notion. And as couples find themselves imprisoned inside the institution, how much better for capitalists to find profitable ways of prescribing products for coping with marital misery: couples therapy, expensive divorce proceedings, sleeping pills and other addictions, self-help books, cosmetic surgeries, etc. And then there are the escape mechanisms available mostly to men: illegitimate dalliances in airport restrooms, at the White House, at pink brothels in the desert, etc, etc. The more numbed and distracted, because most folks no longer have access to or have forgotten how to construct their own History, the better it is for capitalists. The keyword is: History. This history that defines Love has been defined by western philosophers of subjectivity where women have always found themselves defined only in patriarchal terms. This is violence to men and to women alike.

(I know. A writing mentor once told me that my brain is rushing with too many things to say and my pen can't keep up. So if the above sounds cryptic, my brain is on overdrive. Ask me again later when I have slowed down to explain better.)

Later that evening, as I was listening to Van Jones (you can buy and download files from Bioneers) talk about California's gulag/prison economy, I couldn't help but think about my previous blogmeditations about war as porn, about prison and education, about the repression of Eros... it all somehow connects and makes sense.

to be continued...this body needs to go for a long walk...

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Radiance shall remain
As long as the I
does not desire:


As long as the Sun
Is not blocked by
Shadows. Yours. Mine.
As long as You are You
I am I, there is Us.

This is what Fecund means.

The possibility of new discoveries.
Endless skies, countless stars
Inside this dreaming body
That includes You.

A caress unburdened
A koan released
A lasting dazzlement

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Her heart broke into pieces as Eros showed up at the gate and began to rattle the cage. All her fine china and mirrors in the house fell into smithereens at her feet. The gentle soul she expected would save her from falling apart was nowhere to be found. Perhaps he was out in the garden staring at the fading moon of the morning. He doesn't have the language and the poetry she needs. He utters the old script but she knows it's not the truth. If Eros remains veiled would she recognize the truth she seeks?

I offer salve but it's too intellectual, too theoretical...about Eros, psychic irruptions, individuation, transcendence. I try to translate but I falter. Pain is not soothed by abstractions.

For now a prayer. May you be kind to each other as you try to get to know this Eros in your midst. She who comes uninvited and sits in the middle of the room waiting for you to sit at her feet so she may offer you her gift of Becoming Two. She will tear asunder this Oneness that has calcified the mold that now imprisons you. She will liberate you, give you a new pair of dancing shoes. But first, the pain and tears of giving birth to this new way of Being.

I hold you in my heart until then.

A university official said this at our meeting the other day:

There are more people in prison than there are students in college dorms nationwide (US).

It is no secret that among affluent countries, the US has the highest rate of incarceration. It is no secret that the disproportionate numbers of those incarcerated are people of color. It is no secret that those who drop out of high schools and colleges are mostly students of color specially Blacks and Latinos. It is no secret that there is a tracking system in the educational system. It is no secret that schools in low-income areas are under-funded. It is no secret that the canon is white.

Connect the dots.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Me? an "Innovative and Thought Leader"?

Thanks to whoever might have nominated me; it is quite humbling and inspiring to be in good company - some of whom are my dear friends. And yet when I was asked to fill this survey, I was at a loss for words. Am not used to talking about what I do in terms of its "impact, involvement, sustainability, professionalism, mentorship." Let others talk about what it is they think I do or what I am about. But this much I was able to say: I hope the work that I do sustains the (academic, spiritual, cultural) work of those who came before and will be sustained by those who will come after. And if the Filipina babaylan symbolizes what it means to be a human being, then I hope that the babaylan spirit that inspires me transcends the requirements of professionalism.

I don't know yet if I will be able to attend the summit.

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