Friday, August 31, 2007
Read me between the lines of my laughter.
Read me between the lines of my sighs.
Read me between the lines of my
Read me between the lines of
Read me between the lines
Read me between the
Read me between
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Received a 23-page narrative from Ceres today about her Lola as a Babaylan. I post excerpts here to acknowledge that we are each never more than six degrees of separation. I've never met Ceres and I've only talked to her once over the phone. But already I feel that we are sisters connected at the navel, our roots belonging to the same Tree.
Because Lola was a collector of lost souls, both human and animal. To us she was the gifted healer, our live-in and much-beloved manogbulong, our ever-present tambalan, our babaylan of some incredible healing events in our individual lives which made us who we are today.
Lola used to tell me that her Spirit Doctor had appeared to me when I was a baby. Although I have no recollection of this event, I knew this was Lola’s way of introducing her grandchildren to her Spirit Guide that we may be protected by this transcendent power all our lives. And although many people came to seek Lola’s help, claiming the efficacy of her medical wisdom, it is us, her grandchildren, who were the biggest beneficiaries of her special gift and the most blessed by its influence. She had always amazed us when she was alive and we were always in awe of her gifts. As children, we were sure she could heal anything and all of us were proof of her healing talent. In the following recollections, my brother Jovi and my cousin Joerita share their personal experiences of being healed by Lola. Theirs are eyewitness testimonies of the power of this gift which they had close personal knowledge.
Early this year, my path crossed Leny Strobel’s in Cyberspace—a serendipitous meeting that has set me on my way to recovery. She mentioned that she was putting together a book on the Babaylan Tradition in the Philippines and I told her that my Lola was a healer. In her next email, Leny proffered the invitation for me to write my Lola’s story. When I accepted this invitation, I had in mind to honor my grandmother and the long line of wise women ancestors whose healing talents cost them their lives with this tribute. Most of all, it was also something I needed in order to dispel the gathering gloom in my soul that living on the liminal edges of an alien culture engendered. What I had not anticipated was the tremendous surge of healing energies that would come from the writing of this story.
It dawned on me that Lola might indeed have been touching me through Leny, using her as an agent for my own healing. Throughout the writing of this story, Leny hovered with my grandmother on the fringes of my consciousness, showering me with vital positive energies and urging me on when I was slowed down by unfathomable loneliness. For nurturing in every way, Lola would do anything to protect and heal her own, her drive so strong it would transcend time and space, even life and death. To this day, although she had passed over into another world, my siblings and I always know when she is reaching out to touch us with her loving ministrations. Writing this story allowed me to write myself back into the world and Lola/Leny are leading the way. It is the beginning of my journey home. Writing Lola’s story has brought profound healing into my own life.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Monday, August 27, 2007
From the point of view of NVM Gonzalez' sacred space and time, you can be everywhere at the same time. The ancient Africans and black Australians talk to trees when they want to talk to one another...why does it have to be a little machine in your hand? Today, connectedness is only understood in material terms.
the babaylan still knows sacred space and time. she's never forgotten. so from that viewpoint: is there really a diaspora?
is the babaylan not a pinay who remembers with every cell of her body sacred space and time? even in the diaspora?
enriquez always said we filipinos will repopulate the world . what did he mean? repopulate the world with humans who know how to be in the body and outside the body-- in sacred space and time at the same time...
the babaylan, to me, thinks with the heart and the babaylan in the diaspora can do that fully conscious that (s)he is doing this without losing innocence. it is just a matter of creating your psychological foreground/background pattern in an order that reverses the present dominant cultural patterns.
deconstruction must not only be an intellectual process. the igorot "coat and tie" is deconstruction. enriquez was so good at it. his works are full of it. you just have to place yourself there-- innocent and lightly, just playing, but at the same time very very serious. your book does that, leny!
thanks for letting me jam with you.
Leny's note to self ...and my others: these notes from Katrin gently reminds me that when I am preoccupied and all bent with emotional turmoil about current events (wars of all kinds), I am being called to a way of being that knows how to be present both in sacred space and time and this physical space my body occupies in time. To play and be serious at the same time. Life as Jazz. Life as Jujitsu. Life as a Koan.
There is one other person I love who knows this. Let her Light take you there.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Percentage of the French who agree with this statement: 36
Percentage of the Chinese who agree with this statement: 74
Number of Earth-sized planets needed if global resource consumption matched that of the U.S.: 3
*The Program on International Policy Attitudes, June 2006/ Yes!Winter 2007
Went for a long wine country drive today...which I haven't done in a long time. These days every decision to go anywhere is always conflated by the awareness of the size of my ecological footprint (too big!) and the fact that this country is at war supposedly because "the American lifestyle is non-negotiable." This means my lifestyle (of playing wine country tourist), too. (Was I a bobo in paradise today?) No matter how occasional these forays are and no matter how I try to get into my zen zone, guilt intrudes. With guilt comes the temptation to psychoanalyze...which I don't want to do anymore. At least there is still this space for confession:Mea culpa.
But,oh, the vineyards are heavy with grapes that are almost ready for harvest. The naked ladies (the plant, not the flesh, variety) along the coast are a deep pink, compared to the sun-drenched pale ones inland. The ocean was gray today and the fog is hanging just above the cliffs so I could still enjoy the sight of eight-foot waves crushing on the beach.
Always...when I'm on the coast of this side of the Pacific, my eyes gaze at that line on the horizon knowing that beyond are my Islands. My feet are here. My heart is here...and there, too. Can the heart be large enough to hold everything in-between? -- the beauty, the sadness, the joy, the anger, the insanity, the love...
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Friday, August 24, 2007
There is No End in Sight.
I am so sorry.
I am so angry.
I have no more tears.
I hate war. I hate war.
I hate war.
I am ashamed of being an American.
The war costs will add up to trillions
My lifetime will not be long enough
To pay these debts. This will be passed on to you.
Forgive me. Forgive us.
The hubris of a few men
Leaves a scorched Earth
The silence of many
Takes us all to the brink.
It is inevitable now.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
what makes the babaylan tradition unique among the remaining shaman traditions?
precisely the colonial experience! You mention 3 layers, zeus salazar mentions 4 affiliations of filipino psychology (which go- hand in glove- with what the babaylan knows, and not merely because the babaylan is a pinay psychologist but also because as a Filipina culture-bearer that is her history). however, what is hardly mentioned is the Buddhist influence and the Muslim influence which overturned the Buddhist influence on the Filipino culture in at least half of the archipelago (akin to Indonesia). Maybe because the Buddhist and the Muslim heritage is not mentioned either in english or spanish texts, it just fell under the rug. These patches of clothes in the dress of the babaylan are hardly mentioned and yet this very integration of global animist, asian buddhist, oriental muslim, traditional european, modern American and postmodern global culture makes the shamanic tradition of the babaylan so unbelievably rich. its not even the layers that are important, but the retention of ancestral memory despite all the layers, integrating the matching elements due to the inherent "including" strength of the kapwa culture.
that is what i tried to do telling stories about traditional babaylans in the mountains side by side with modern Pinays around the globe. they are babaylans because they keep remembering and connected to their archipelagic ancestors. angel shaw is such a good example for this, in my eyes. (so are you, leny, from what i made out of your book and all you other kindred spirits whom i yet have to meet)
because the babaylan has never forgotten how it all began, (s)he hears the environment talk, like all the other shamans around the globe. (s)he hears mother nature and father wind. that is quite a feat after so many centuries and millennia. (s)he does not need to live in a forest without being artificial or self conscious about being a babaylan even in the city world.
yun. there is that great love for life which comes with this obligation to serve. no shaman without that. but isnt it great that the babaylan can serve in so many ways-- telling her stories even by writing books or painting or making films, or healing as a nurse or doctor or yaya or a cook?
i believe this also plays into the question of diaspora. here, where life is so fast, how much space and time can you realy devote to your ancestors without just repeating old rituals and their forms? does your life express the ideals of the babaylan which are rooted in non-confessional spirituality? do you dream and understand your dreams and become a self sufficient member of society who contributes something, whatever small to humanity each day, wherever you are? do you know how to soul-travel and visit other worlds? can you be a leader when asked to lead?
such questions have to do with critical consciousness. it is the door through which the babaylan must step to claim her wings and humility keeps the feathers of these wings well oiled for flying across those oceans, forever finding a space for its own and its kin to survive.
warm regards from a soggy mountain overseas.
Thank you, Katrin.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Air like leaves on
my skin. The world
my barong, scent of
lavender and not concrete
between the toes.
I fly free as a kite
goose-fleshed at dawn
zen-mind, head as
raw as an onion,
nestled in dirt, my bones
draped in multi-layered
pedicures of a thousand
forms of feet on my flesh
flesh on feet, flesh as feet
sucking reality through every
pore, walked by gravity
my belly earth-suckled
my thigh earth-swaddled
my hair earth-combed
with my ego as big
as a bee, humming
inside the nectar
like a mountain
- by jim perkinson, Noah's uncle,
current houseguestpoet, tethered to
Monday, August 20, 2007
And why not indeed? I don't remember now what I told him but I remember fumbling for an answer that didn't convey a sense of shame about being naked. His parents say that he has recently discovered the pleasure of running around naked and I suppose this means he is beginning to discover and explore his body as a source of pleasure.
This, too, is connected to the recent reflections here about Eros -- at what point do we become aware of the body and the need to cover it? What are we really covering? And why do women have to cover their breasts and men don't? So much history behind a child's question.
These days I think of nakedness in terms of emotional vulnerability to the sensuous call of Eros. The difficulty of letting go and allowing one's self to feel -- to feel an abstract idea like love, faith, trust, longing, desire -- and feel it in the tip of one's finger, to feel it as the holding on to a breath, or the letting out of a deep sigh; to feel it as a restlessness, or a desire to dance, to embrace, to kiss. To feel all these sensations as one goes about making dinner, or making conversation, or writing an email or a... blogpost.
There is always a measured and rational kind of response to Eros that harkens back, I believe, to the way we have been civilized and tamed into behaviors that keep us out of mental asylums and prisons. The panopticon keeps us all under watch and surveillance.
So when Noah asks why he can't be naked - he is invoking a universe of discourse about Eros -- why this civilized society hates it and represses it so.
As it turns out, this summer's lessons/questions about Eros refuse to be relegated to the backburner.
Sigh. and more sighing...
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Guy: She saved me then...and I never had the chance to thank her.
Gal: What do you mean?
Guy: Well, it's been 40 years...
Gal: Does she know that she saved your life?
Guy: No...because I didn't tell her.
Gal: Can you tell her now?
Guy: Do you think I should?
Gal: If it's important to you, you should. Did you love her then?
Guy: Secretly. Now I feel I respect and care about her...
Gal: Tell her then.
Guy: I need a back up...
Gal: I'll back you up.
Guy: Promise me you won't tell anyone.
Gal: I promise.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
to move me
Thursday, August 16, 2007
I do not know Fay, but it as though we already do in deeper ways. I did not know whether to give a standing ovation or cry tears of both joy and pain. What she wrote moved me so, as though she saw a corner of my heart and spoke for it.
I have taken on causes in the last 25 years of my life, mostly on social justice and political alternatives. For those causes, I gave as much as I could. I also discovered that one's capacity to give expands and deepens with personal maturity or the quality of the vision adopted and pursued. I cannot claim innocence of either wrongdoing or wrong thinking, but I can claim taking corrective steps in both departments of life. It remains an ongoing struggle, however, as the conditioning that has been indoctrinated into us by our environment is not an easy layer to dismantle in our very psyche.
What is important considering what I believe I can still achieve, or contribute to, towards nation building and the refinement of Filipino culture and value system is simply doing it day by day and drawing others to merge in collective understanding and action. When I think of a scenario where Filipinos try to undo a foreign or false understanding of ourselves which do not benefit our growth, I see impossibility, and an awesome, seemingly immeasurable ocean of required change. I feel overwhelmed by the sheer size of the problem and the complexity of it. Yet, I am determined to do something to unravel it with the life I have remaining.
It takes awareness not to fall into anger and resentment when the light of what has happened to us shoves aside the historical amnesia that has gripped us for so long. The configuration of the world today, especially with its communications technology which acts like a common and strong bond between peoples, make belligerence an archaic and unproductive attitude - even with cause.
Somehow, counter-measures to a recognized wrong must raise itself to higher levels than just shifting to the opposite polarity. There is great need for qualitative transformation from the part of victims to break the pattern of a pendulum swing from one extreme to another. Thus, Filipinos in America, or Fil-Ams, are challenged to recognize the historical ills committed by what is now their new country towards their motherland. Gratitude for the new opportunities clash with the utter distaste at the brutality and exploitation of a colonial past - no matter the Spam and the Coke that followed afterwards.
And I believe that a new spirit in Fil-Ams is already born and will find more visible manifestation in the immediate future. Many second generation Fil-Ams are finding their way home, either from curiosity or a deeper attraction that they have yet to consciously process. But it is there, and it will reshape not only our relationship with America but the future of the Philippines as well.***
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Spam shows up again in Karen's post. The other day's post by Fay Olympia also mentioned the ubiquituous Spam in those balikbayan boxes sent to the Philippines.
On the backchannel, the Consul General of Los Angeles is convening a Peace Forum and a friend solicited my opinion on how to focus this discussion. I said that given her interest in the "Books for the Barrios" issues, perhaps she should suggest something along the lines of "Education for Peace" -- what does it mean to be "educated" these days? what should Filipinos be educated for and why?
Monday, August 13, 2007
I speak as a Filipina who, as a child, attended schools run by Americans. I also grew up in a little American enclave somewhere in what is now Metro Manila, having learned to speak English before my own Filipino.
As a result, I was surrounded by children’s books from the US and I devoured them. It was all age-appropriate, nothing prurient. Think Dr. Seuss, Mark Twain and the Book of Knowledge with its bits and pieces from beloved American writers of children’s prose and poetry. By the time I was in high school, I knew more about Betsy Ross’ supposed sewing of the first American flag than I did about the first Philippine flag and Marcela de Agoncillo.
But after coming to the US as an adult and learning what the culture and nation’s history was all about, I now realize that those books were instrumental in the colonization of my mind and helped create highly inaccurate impressions of the supposed superiority of all things American vis-à-vis all things Filipino.
I also realized that my life-long dream of coming to the US was fed by what those books contained: oversimplified images of American childhood, home life as well as small-town, farm and city life that barely hinted at segregation, made no mention of the Trail of Tears or signs that said "Positively No Filipinos Allowed."
Now you tell me how that helps equip Filipino children as future participants in nation-building?
How I would love to have read the true history of Philippine relations with the US and understood its context including the enslavement of Africans, the Civil War, the Indian Wars, the exclusion of Asians, the Manongs among them, along with other aspects of US history that those books failed to mention.
How much better would my self-image have been if I had read the stories we have today of how courageously our ancestors fought and died for freedom in the Philippine-American War and how they refused to shoot at Black soldiers as an expression of solidarity versus white oppression? How less likely would I have been to accept white entitlement and supremacy if I had instead read children’s books that proudly showcased my people’s traditions, cultures and history before and even during western colonization?
I could go on and on.
If we truly want to help the Motherland and its children, then let’s be part of the solution and not wittingly or unwittingly perpetuate systems and mindsets that have kept Filipinos captive for generations.
It’s so easy to keep sending what we know people back home associate with America and will value. Yet do we ever stop to think why we keep putting can upon can of Spam in those balikbayan boxes though we health-conscious Californians know it’s a health hazard (what about all that fat and sodium?) and don’t eat it ourselves? Just because people back home are poorer than we are doesn't mean that their psychological and physical needs are any different from ours.
I would like to think that by now, I have imbibed the best of what America stands for---the true meaning of equality, free of the contrived hierarchies and knee-jerk prejudices against our own people that our former colonizers so assiduously fostered as a means of conquest. Surely none of us in this listserv want to be instruments of continuing "benevolent assimilation. "
There are many (though not enough) children’s books written and made in the USA that empower and tell the stories of people of color like us. If I were to send books to the "barrios" at all, these are the ones I would send.
p.s.I used to work in local government and trust me, even the term "barrio" is considered derogatory in the Philippines and is no longer in use. The preferred term is "barangay."
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Luz is a cultural activist par excellence! I've always admired her ability to envision what and how multicultural arts scene in San Francisco can look like with the contribution of Filipino and Filipino American arts and culture. During the early years of the Pistahan, we spent a lot of time over coffee and on the phone discussing her ideas, her efforts to mobilize key people who might come aboard the FAAE organization to make things happen. Over the years, there have been many struggles she has overcome...sometimes so difficult that you would think one who has less courage and gumption than Luz, would easily give up.
Community and cultural activism is not easy. Politics within and outside of the Fil Am communtiy is fraught with intrigue, heartache, and disappointment. And yet over the years, none of these have been severe enough to make Luz give up.
I think when one believes in the authenticity of a dream/vision, one has the capacity to trust. FAAE has been built by trust and faith in the Filipino -- the beauty of her traditions/culture/arts; trust that "if you build it, they will come." Luz has this faith and trust. No one and nothing has taken this away from her -- not the skeptics and cynics who thought that Fil Am Arts cannot possibly go mainstream, cannot possibly be successful in a very public venue like the Yerba Buena Gardens. Well, I suppose 14 years belies this.
Luz is one of the participants in my Coming Full Circle book. She has taught me a lot about the need to build community institutions that are sustainable. She always told me that Filipino Americans should learn how to negotiate the mainstream culture; develop the cultural competence to deal with funding institutions; professionalize philanthropic giving within the community. And most of all, she is still teaching me how to trust one's instincts for this kind of rare and gifted seeing for an entire community.
My dear friend, thank you for all that you continue to do. I wish you success in Toronto...and who knows which city is next to embrace your vision.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Excerpt from the thesis' Analysis:
The discourse of BftB introduces the audience to the needy Filipino who did not know he was needy before he was introduced to the discourse. In this discourse Filipinos (non-Westerners) are positioned as helpless dependents in need of charitable support. The Filipino children in the BftB images are taught to personify this subject position by the discourse. As Mendoza (2005) explains, “I’m not sure that Philippine barrios, on their own, would have known necessarily to “beg” for US discards but that it’s more likely they’ve been taught/conditioned (historically) and effectively turned into beggars by those who claim to know what’s good for them.” This is precisely how Filipinos are coerced into believing that they need the charity of their benefactors in the West.
What gives BftB the right to call these children poor and disadvantaged? A person’s view of their status or position in life is relative to their own personal experiences. Whether a person is “poor” or “rich” doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with their economic status. BftB has no way of knowing about any of the wonderful gifts in the lives of these children that are beyond the measure of the United States dollar. As Strobel points out, “a child who hasn’t held a book yet has held a flower, basked in the sun, beheld the stars in awe, has held her mother’s hand and felt love. She doesn’t feel she is lacking in anything. …” (2007). Nevertheless BftB forces Filipinos to occupy the subject position of a poor, disadvantaged, charity case.
Donors subject themselves to the discourse in order to move into the ideal subject position from which to understand the knowledge produced by the discourse. In doing so the audience becomes the perfect “spectator-subject” (Hall, 1997, p. 60). The spectator-subject is the subject position closest to the source from which the knowledge flows and the myth is perpetuated. In the discourse of BftB, Western donors occupy the spectator-subject position of generous global citizens “helping” the people of the Philippines.
As nothing is outside of the discourse, naturally the Harringtons are subjected to the discourse as well. Regardless of their intent, the message of the discourse is delivered loud and clear through the workings of BftB. As Hall reminds us, “[i]t is discourse, not the subjects who speak it, which produces knowledge” (p.55). Thus even though the Harringtons, through BftB, are the vehicle through which the knowledge travels it is the discourse that produces the knowledge. The Harringtons “cannot stand outside power/knowledge as its source and author” (Hall, 1997, p.55), they can only serve as the medium through which the knowledge flows.
Leny Strobel questions the philosophy of giving Filipino children “junk books” and the discarded materials of American children. In an article for the Philippine News she muses, “It is as if what is no longer good enough for American children should be good enough for Filipino children who have nothing to begin with” (Strobel, 1992). She points out the difference between “charity” for the poor and “solidarity” with the poor and explains that, “the difference is in the attitude that accompanies the giving” (Strobel, 2005). Due to its entrenchment in the discourse of “the West and the Rest,” the attitude that accompanies BftB’s giving is one of pity and paternalism which makes its actions charitable at best. Strobel (2005) suggests that BftB may also be rooted in the cultural deficit theory which “perceives children who come from underprivileged status as fundamentally/essentially “lacking.” This line of thinking promotes feelings of superiority on the part of the donors which leads to paternalistic behavior. As Strobel (2005) states, “…when we start from the ‘deficit theory’ the ‘other’ merely becomes the object of one’s good works.”
John Banagan (2007) testifies that, “U.S. influenced materials (not just books) can bias the thought processes and self-image of Filipino kids reading or experiencing these materials that may downplay Tagalog (or another regional language) versus using English.” He reminisces about the last time he was in the Philippines (in 2004) when he heard that the Tagalog young people spoke wasn’t very good as it was more like “Taglish”- a mixture of Tagalog and English. On this same trip he met a Filipino couple living in Manila who spoke only English to their Filipino son in order to discourage his use of Tagalog. Banagan tells these stories with a sense of remorse as these stories provide evidence of the effects of cultural imperialism occurring in the Philippines today. The trend amongst Filipinos of consciously forgetting their native language is caused by shame. What, if not the discourse is causing this shame? Why would parents discourage their children from learning their native language if someone or something (the discourse) had not convinced them that English is better?
Bino Realuyo (2005) believes that the materials coming from BftB are biased and potentially harmful. He suggests that when Filipino children are given western books they should also be given the warning that the materials “are biased and therefore can be dissected, analyzed and CHANGED” (Realuyo). Unfortunately this warning is not included in BftB shipments. If it were, Realuyo (2005) maintains, “then we [Filipinos] can read all kinds of books, without regard to their sources.” Realuyo accepts that English is the international language of commerce and is beneficial for Filipinos to know. But he is quick to point out that English should not be a replacement for Tagalog or other native tongues. Instead he believes English should be mastered in addition to Filipinos’ native language, reminding us that everyone should be at least bilingual. In his final statement, despite the dangers of BftB he encourages us to, “give them all the books to read, empower their minds…. One day, one of those children will rise, given all the information s/he needs and will lead that country to the prosperity its people deserve” (Realuyo, 2005).
Lily Mendoza (2005) adds a historical perspective to the counter-discourse by pointing out several factors that escalate the threat of BftB’s charity to Filipinos. She discusses the longstanding trend of the Philippines learning almost exclusively from the U.S. and reminds us of the consequences of this arrangement, “…our unique colonial history with the US necessitates a cutting off of the colonial umbilical cord before we can consume US knowledge without having it dominate our consciousness.” She suggests that more translations of foreign works into Tagalog or other local languages would indigenize the foreign material giving the Filipino people a sense of ownership. In addition to more translations Mendoza suggests borrowing from sources other than just the U.S. to diversify the foreign material Filipinos receive.
I have many friends who are in the nonprofitbusiness of sending books to the Philippines. It is a source of anxious ambivalence for me. I wrestle with it all the time...and am just glad to know that there are others who are similarly trying to grapple with its political implication...and beyond the political,the insidious nature of the discourse that finds its way into psychic and epistemic violence in the psyche of the donor and recipient.
Friday, August 10, 2007
I turned off the TV because I can't stand corporate media anymore. Not those awful reality shows or the loud raging pundits or not even the cool Oprah or reruns of sex and the city. not even the so -you -think -you -can -dance shows. sure i miss the surly dr. house, who wouldn't. even Jon Stewart doesn't turn me on anymore and Amy Goodman is on at midnight and am too sleepy to wait.
I turned off the TV to listen to music online. to read. to blog. to go for long walks instead. to gaze at the garden's delights. to talk to friends i've not talked to in ages. to listen to stories. to watch indie films with popcorn. to cook. to linger at bookstores. to feel local. to feel this place where my feet dwell.
I turned off the TV because I don't want to be angry and scared anymore. Anger at fundamentalists and authoritarian bigots, foreign policy blunders, arrogant leadership. anger at being made to feel scared by my own government and corporate interests: scared of immigrants, nonenglish speaking peoples, homeless, gays, trannies, gangsters, the poor, drug addicts. they have us all feeling scared so we numb ourselves by buying guns to secure our illusion of safety; medicating ourselves to sleep, medicating every condition there is. restless leg syndrome anyone?
I turned off the TV to dwell in reverie. to go inward. to dive deep. to read poetry. to listen to feelings. to feel the tingling of my fingers. to feel the thumping of my heart. to feel the ache in my knees. to taste the salt of my tears. to feel the tiredness of my bones. to feel the sadness. to feel the love. to feel the longing. to feel the joy. to feel awe. to feel gratitude. to feel the body.
But today I get an email that Annalisa Enrile, Ninotchka Rosca, and Janice Mirkinson of GABRIELA are all being held/detained in the Philippines and are not allowed to return to the US. It's time to take action...again.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Last night, my sister made me watch a Filipino movie (Kailangan Kita) starring Aga Mulach and Claudine Barretto. (I haven't watched a Filipino movie since Marilou Abaya's Rizal). Interesting plot: A Fil Am from Bicol returns to his hometown to marry his NY-based girlfriend who is arriving late for their wedding date. In the interim, Carl falls in love with the homely Lena, the younger sister of the would-be-bride...as Lena leads him "home" to his Filipinoness and reconciliation with his estranged father. He falls in love with her as he also falls in love with Bicol all over again but the ending of the film isn't clear whether he returns to Bicol for good or whether he brings Lena to the US with him.
I found it interesting that Filipino movies are attempting these cross-over themes -- of diaspora and transnationalism. It might not be the last movie that I watch.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
In the meantime, an email from my publisher asking me to verify bookkeeping details sent me to the filing cabinet to look for very old records. Among the files, I find all the papers I saved from this book's booklaunch in March 2001 and among them is Sis' "response" that was read during the booklaunch.
Leny has, in many ways and in passionate and grace-full prose, courageously made possible through this book, the speaking of a repressed, denied, and much-maligned cultural and historical legacy. In this work, Leny symbolizes for me what it means to live with courage, to keep doing what one feels called to do even when immediate affirmation seems not forthcoming, or when one simply feels that one's thoughts and ideas are still so incomplete, always still just "works in progress." "I'm just fishing," I used to hear her say self-deprecatingly when she and I would wanter into heavy theoretical discussion. But out of that potent metaphor I found her weaving a framework for a different kind of knowing, a different way of constructing knowledge that made room for creativity, passion, insight, and intuition. The metaphor holds, for indeed, when you fish, you don't always know what you'd be getting at the end of the line, thus, there is always that element of surprise known to accompany all truly creative endeavors.
Here, what I want to affirm and celebrate with you today is the creation, through that liberating narrative, of a space that is "para sa atin" - a space for us. Through, Coming Full Circle, Leny has succeeded in creating that space for us -- a space where, as a community of belonging, we can reclaim the prerogative to control the very terms of our own self-definition, a space where we can begin to mark out our own boundaries no longer based on an assimilationist ideology, but on confident self-knowledge separate from the colonizer's gaze. Finally, it is a space where we walk, no longer afraid to set the terms on which to live our lives, but being able to relate to the world around us apart from the dictates of our internalized dominant Other/s.
This is what Coming Full Circle has done/can do for us. In opening the door to an honest conversation about the violence of colonial domination and the indigenous ways of being of an entire people that it has sought historically to deny, marginalize, if not erase altogether, it makes possible a new beginning, the constitution of a new Filipino subjectivity premised no longer on an inferiorized self-image naturalized by colonial representations but on a transformed, decolonized consciousness. How that process is facilitated, what kinds of knowledge makes it possible, and what are its resulting consequences - that, for me, is the book's unique contribution to the literature.
This was in 2001. She has since published her own book and I've published another creative non fiction work. With our next project, we are venturing out into the little known territory of the Filipina babaylan - a territory that feels familiar deep in our bones and soul, an intuition that feels true/authentic, a powerful Energy that dares us to name it...name Her.
Can we do it? I ask her. I do not know for sure. But we know there are sisters and brothers with us. This Summer's gathering of wisdom, erotic energy, and community support may just be the kind of "baon" we need for this book's journey. Say a prayer. Light a candle. Be with us. Send us an encouraging email. We would love to hear from you.
(For Teacher V)
Do you like her?
Do you feel connected to her in a deep way?
Do you want to build a life with her?
Do you think it can work if you do build a life together?
Do you share things in common?
Do you have similar passions?
Are you capable of giving each other space To Become?
Can you take a "No"?
If you answer "Yes" to the above
Then tell her, V.
Monday, August 06, 2007
What of its gaze?
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Marjorie gave me permission to post these excerpts from her manuscript for my babaylan book project. I share them here because I think young Filipino American artists are breaking new ground in thinking about this concept and they need all the space they can get. I'm happy to oblige. Thank you, Marjorie!
Irene: When I hear 'decolonization,' I'm thinking of the experience for many Filipino Americans, or even Filipinos in the Philippines, or wherever they're from, when they realize the richess of their history, and how they think, make decisions, carry themselves in the world, were informed by Eurocentric ideas. When the person goes through decolonization, it's finding out that they were operating under that. And it's about going back and finding, unearthing our history, things that are hidden, not spoken about.
Dino:...We have this general insecurity about ourselves constantly aspiring to be Western, or lately here in LA trying to be hip-hop or something, what I'm trying to say is not become a Filipino fascist or anything, just give your culture a fair shake as something to be regarded well, and we stand equally among everybody...
Giovanni: We do come from indigenous tribes, possibly thousands in the Philippines. But it's been 400 years spent morphing it into something...For example in Spanish culture, a lot of it actually came from Gypsies. And there's a spirit there, too. And then American culture. Some of those colonizers had native American blood, too, so that has spirit, too. When you think about it there are all these spirits in us, so that makes us a stronger people.
Alison: I really think that on a certain level it is about decolonization, but I also feel like there's a new word, there's a new concept,, there's a new feeling that is beyond this process of the "de" colonizing and I don't know what it is yet...at a certain level as human beings our humanity is really at stake, our existence as a species, our existence as a planet is at stake.
Saturday, August 04, 2007
The power of this Stillness leaves a mark on All It has touched.
It is not for me to foretell how these markings will find their way
Into a book, a poem, a play, a dance, a painting
Or the heart of a freshman in college
Or the rambunctious energy of a toddler.
I do not know
If Fire will leave embers
To keep the hearth warm
If Air will continue
To conjure primal metaphors
If Water finally satiates
Communion of desires
If Earth will bare itself
As a Round Brown Woman
Holding her cup of potions
All that's been uttered
Without words for millenia.
Tonight I take down the books of Summer from the bedside.
If someone asks me what I did this summer I will tell her that I disappeared into a Cave and dwelt among ghosts and angels, lizards and dragons, songs and reverie.
I will say that I dated Eros...that she led me to the Gatekeeper's den and we took back the key, released the dead bones and took them dancing.
Soon it will be Fall. With Fall comes young bodies in search of their faces.
But I will be thinking of another ocean and a sea of brown faces in orange skirts.
Oh, Beloved Stranger -- always, always, I return to You.
Friday, August 03, 2007
The ending is never mine to write.
This tale is so fragile that I cannot muster the ending on its own.
I must send this to you. You, a total stranger, to discover my own story.
What do you not know about me? Answer.
Tell me what to know about me. We have known this since our births,
haven't we? - that lucidity generates questions, not answers. (81)
Still, as women, we must insist on answers.
An attempt at an answer here by Marjorie Evasco (via Eileen):
Five hundred years after, women writers of this century try to trace their ancestors to as far back as they can remember or dare to dream, for like them they carry upon their arms the enchanted marks of words which may enable them to continue to hold up half the sky of legend and worship. But the re-tracing is arduous and fraught with peril. Not only is there the deadly silence of four hundred centuries to contend with; there is also the overwhelming patriarchal order which may threaten them into a more deadly silence.
What then is the task of women writers in search of their roots? Cut off from the awesome tree of history, do they quietly wither away with the grief of not being able to find their mothers, grandmothers and great-great-grandmothers? Or do they plant themselves into the rich soil of their womanhood and dream of growing, so that in their growing they will find their way into the depths of their story and connect with the great tap root of their ancient mothers?
Today’s writers, particularly women writers, carry the burden of articulating women’s experiences as they go through these processes of change, to enable more and more women, as well as men, to wrestle with the ghosts and monsters of their lives, whether these monsters and ghosts are in the past, the present, or the future. For women writers, the task to remember is also the task to dream. They must not only be able to find more babaylanes in the past, the Leona Florentinos and Magdalena Jalandonis who wrestled bravely with the monster of silence and actualized their creative power. They must also enable more women in the future to use their strong, clear voices in order to affirm their womanhood and enrich the experiences of our shared humanity.
Hopefully, their own daughters, granddaughters, and great granddaughters of the 21st century will be able to live through holocausts and revolutions and read that their foremothers did their task well so that they too might write more freely as human beings and live more fully as women. The present women’s struggle to assert identity and to create a stronger sense of community shall have been for the survival of the very young writers who are now doing their first exercises at the babaylan’s altars and worktables. They must be encouraged to go on and fulfill themselves. For the sacred clearing in the forest and the vision of pintadas could still be lost to women if they are not wakeful. If they remain mindful of the memory and faithful to the vision, it is possible that every time a young woman writer comes to join that circle of women chanting the rhythms of the fire, she will learn to re-affirm what earlier wise women demanded of themselves ages ago: to celebrate without guilt the gift for the healing words of power.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
This is the culminating event of the five-week Academic Talent Search (ATS) summer program at SSU. 180 middle school students from all over Sonoma County were represented. Every year this program identifies a theme and this year the focus is on the Philippines. Thanks to the presence of Raul Pasamonte, our Fil Am person at the ATS program who was able to convince his colleagues to feature the Philippines, the students learned about the many facets of the Philippines while learning MAth, Science, and Language Arts.
Serendipituously, this program follows the Fulbright Hays' KAPWA conference in June. The ATS teachers were able to attend the conference and gather curriculum materials that were integrated into this program.
If you notice this is a very multi-ethnic, multiracial, multicultural group of students. This is what Sonoma County (and California, and soon the entire US) will look like.
The photos do not even begin to capture the energy and enthusiasm of the students... as one of their teachers told me: It is so important for these kids to see the parallels in our histories, to begin to see how interconnected we are.
Please backchannel and tell me you are impressed! That you will tell your child's teacher about this program. That you will be an advocate for the integration of FIlipino and Fil American content in your child's curriculum. Wherever you might be: in the US, in the Philippines, or anywhere else!