Thursday, July 29, 2010

Katibuk-an: Journey of Healing with Tatay by Venus Herbito

The permanence of texts

or the impermanence of texts.

I was reading a new book (2010) last night that mentions the first book that I wrote. In his two-page critique of my work, the author writes:
- Strobel's "decolonization" is premised on the putative Filipino American self's idealist transcendence of a colonial history's intertwined social materialities, including its contemporary neocolonial and postcolonial formation
- Strobel's warped decolonization pivots on a strident appropriation and alienation of an undifferentiated "Filipino indigenous"...that restores a foundational premise for "post-1965 Filipino American" identity formation.
- For Strobel and others in resonance with her framing, the abstracted "indigenous" is really a compilation of distant cultural artifacts and composes a project of cultural reification that postpones or erases the current life of actual indigenous peoples and movements in (and beyond) the Philippine nation-state...
- Strobel's conception of identity formation as a linear progression toward a self-realized Filipino American subject....is fundamentally an edification of Filipino American cosmopolitan subjectivity...
- Strobel's...prescriptive narrative of the self-actualized Filipino American as a good citizen-subject ...is a cooperative partner in the multiculturalist civil formation of the U.S. In this rhetorical structure, "decolonization" becomes a partner in the U.S. multiculturalist national project...


I actually appreciate this critique because, based on his own framework in this book, it makes sense. This is what scholars do, after all; in order to build up their own theorizing, they must deconstruct others and displace them in the name of the project they are building. And I agree with the project of this new book: that race, white supremacy, genocide must figure into the reading of the Filipino condition. Without such reading, the Filipino historical subject remains in a sort of "suspended apocalypse."

I quibble, though, with the permanence of texts because my work that is being cited freezes the narrative that I have been living and writing about into a time frame. Time, of course, is what fixes us as historical subjects. (In one of the essays in my second book, I write about my attempts to free myself of Time).

It is important to know one's self as a historical subject and our attempts to articulate and practice a Filipino American historical subjectivity is always contingent, impermanent, perhaps flawed, and always incomplete. The author's contribution to this project is worthwhile. I hope it becomes popularized and accessible to those who do not have easy access to academic theorizing.

I find it interesting that my work is cited as an example of a Fil Am "cosmopolitan subjectivity" and "idealist transcendence" and "appropriation of Filipino indigenous". I can understand how this reading happens and how it is framed as an accomplice to the US multicultural nationalist project.

However, I think those who know me and my work for the past decade a little bit more closely will see that such reading can't be farther from the reality of what I do.

And this is what I decry about the permanence of texts or textuality. As I become more interested in embodied knowing, in storytelling, in indigenous ways of being and doing, I also become conscious of wanting to be more than an overdetermined historical subject. I have devoted time and years to decentering the modern historical narrative in my life and now I want to see this sliver recede into the background of a larger reality.

But I may not have the time nor the desire to theorize about this right now. I just want to...dance.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

connecting the dots

Steve Jobs: You cannot connect the dots looking forward.
I have never heard a talk by Steve Jobs before and I stumbled onto this 2005 speech recently. His three stories about his being adopted, dropping out of college, and his close encounter with death ends with his admonition to the audience: Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

I specially like the part about being hungry and foolish. Bradford Keeney would say: be nonsense, make nonsense. don't just understand, stand under something.

Wisened old men - Bradford and Steve. I also live with a wise old man but he doesn't have a public profile. He doesn't want one either. So I go public for both of us. In spite of my own hesitation to be seen and heard. In spite of my shyness.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Summer visits

Visited with Lydia Cabasco today.

Lydia is interested in facilitating the process of healing guilt and shame among her generation of Fil Ams (22-32yrs old). As someone who has been on the spiritual path of healing herself, she now wants to help others. She is a trained coach and facilitator of SoulCollage but both of these modalities are informed by her personal background as a Filipina activist, feminist, and decolonizing spiritual person.

Later this week, Helen and Jason will be visiting as well.

And on Saturday: An Evening of Dawac Stories featuring Manang Betty Tabios.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Shaking Medicine

Bradford Keeney's shaking medicine is good news.

Am reading Shaking Out the Spirits and everything he writes about resonates.
I want to be more fully awake like this.
Leave the world of textuality...

Friday, July 23, 2010

The good work of FANHS

My Highlights from the FANHS conference:

  • rooming with Karen, Bec, and Titania and Rocco
  • the beautiful Seattle University campus
  • youth participation: from Kodiak, Alaska; from PEP; from Virginia Beach, Va, youth from Seattle and Tacoma
  • Bay Area Kulintang Ensemble: Titatia, Holly, Tala, Patty, Alexis, Pat, Olivia
  • FANHS Sonoma County participation/Remembering our Manongs
  • dropping in on simultaneous workshops: Battle of Ising in Mindanao, Fil Ams in Detroit, Virginia Beach/FANHS/FACS work with K-12 youth; panel on youth's voices, mestizas, etc., Camp FYA making Babaylan dolls - beautiful!
  • authors' reception: being introduced by FANHS Pres Joanie Cordova (thank you!)
  • selling copies of Babaylan books (thank you, Linda)
  • Our BABAYLAN Panel/Workshop: Karen, Lorial, Bec, Titania plus Baylan, Holly, Pat, Alexis assisting with Kapwa Jammin.
  • reconnecting with Emraida from Milwaukee, Amalia from Hawaii, Judy from San Diego, Juanita from San Francisco, Melissa from San Diego, Veronica and the Virginia Beach crew, etc...
  • dancing the night away on Friday and Bec's cha-cha line...
  • storytelling among friends...
and many more...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Celebrating the Galleon Trade?

Celebrating the Galleon Trade?

This news item reminds me of an encounter I witnessed about a decade ago at a conference. A group of economists from Spain, whose expertise is on the "economic gains of the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines," encountered historians from the University of the Philippines who spoke of the psychic and epistemic violence of colonialism among Filipinos. What was supposed to be an academic dialogue about the economics of empire-building became a confrontation and call for an accounting and responsibility; it became an emotional exchange. At one point, historian Milagros Guerrero recounted the violence visited upon the natives and to the land itself. I remember her saying that the old growth trees were so huge that it would take half a dozen people holding hands around the trunk -- these were felled to build galleons. She spoke of how the Babaylans were beheaded and fed to crocodiles because the friars were afraid of their powers.

The Spanish economists didn't expect that they would be called upon to respond to this accounting for a historical past that they are were not a part of. They are only economists and shouldn't be held responsible for what their ancestors did, they claimed. (Sounds familiar?) I remember the moderator trying to restore the dialogue to a strict academic discourse, but it was too late.

One moment that stood out for me is to witness the response of Fred Cordova to this encounter. He said that he has never heard historians from the Philippines before and certainly not this version of history. He was visibly affected by the stories he heard. And at that moment it was as if something - a window, a door opened up for him - a more profound appreciation of his historical self: a Filipino with a long history of resistance against colonialism. At that time, Uncle Fred has not been to the Philippines and later that year I heard that he had returned to the Philippines, paid homage to Rizal, was honored at Malacanang, met his relatives, et al. He has come home full circle. The vision of FANHS expanded and would be transformed, I believe, from this encounter.

Thus, when I read news items that focus on wanting to showcase the Philippines and the galleon trade, I feel saddened and conflicted. Sad because I sense that historical amnesia makes us, again and again, not want to revisit the past and critique it. This time in the name of Globalization. Sad because I see the connection between the galleon trade and the impoverishment of the Philippines. The galleon trade is a symbol of the economic success of the empire and now a symbol of the success of corporate globalization. But what has it done to us?

I feel conflicted because I understand the impulse to move on, to forget and forgive. Conflicted because I want the Philippines to shine - as a festival site, as a cultural mecca - whatever it takes to show the world how beautiful and bountiful our cultural capital is. But who benefits most from our human and cultural capital? Is it the majority of Filipinos in the homeland and in the diaspora or is it merely the elites and uppermiddle class folks who also have a hand in the silencing of history so that their privileges are maintained?

In a way this question of whether we should celebrate the galleon trade or not is similar to the question of Indigenous Peoples worldwide: should we really celebrate the genocides visited upon indigenous peoples, the environmental degradation, and thievery of resources that followed the empires wherever they went? If we now live in a post-modern realization of the horrors of this past and we want to live more harmoniously with the peoples of the earth and in balance with the Earth, perhaps we should be asking even harder questions: questions of reparations for example. Reparations for slavery for example (yes, there were Filipino slaves on those galleons!). And so on....

It is clear to me that my reflections always come from a historical perspective that is longer than the view of empires of the modern era. It is my exercise in lucidity and hopefully...in fecundity.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

with or without ayahuasca

Sting took it with Trudie.
Anthropologists have taken it and written about it.
And I'm not sure why I have been thinking about it.
I think it has to do with this question:
Can a radical transformation of consciousness happen without ayahuasca?
Can it happen over time? Can it happen in meditation?
in prolonged phenomenological meditation over one topic?

I suspect the answer is yes because this has been my experience.

When I read the accounts about the aftermath of the ayahuasca experience, the radical shift in consciousness seems to have as much to do with one's previous state of consciousness: split, repressed, alienated, etc. So if one is still indigenous at the core, it is possible that one is closer to the reality of 'sacred wholeness' with or without ayahuasca. yah?

Still I remain curious.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Simon J Ortiz on Indigenous Integrity

Simon J Ortiz writes that he has never liked the idea of "getting educated" when it means assimilation and acculturation to capitalist values (western values). He also doesn't use the word "renaissance" to talk about the flourishing of Native literature in these times since this word references an era that is outside of his Native framework. For him it is about Land, Culture, Community. It is about being place-based. It is about being rooted in the Land and in his identity as an Acomo person.

To be educated means to gain knowledge about the world - within and outside the Acomo Land. It means to understand that Capitalism as the never-ending exploitation of natural resources in order to produce profit and in order to keep people tethered to production jobs is a losing proposition.

**
When the US and World Social Forum claim that Another World Is Possible, they mostly mean that Capitalism (the gospel of neoliberalism) will have to go. It is not enough for capitalism to 'go green'; what is needed is a return to an ancient worldview -- the indigenous world view.

So here I am looking at the Bioneers conference schedule and trying to decide whether to attend the pre-conference intensive on Native TEK/Indigenous Science and the sessions on "Education with the Earth in Mind"...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Malidoma Some on Indigenous Technologies

Between Two Worlds:
Malidoma Somé on Rites of Passage
Excerpt of an Interview by Leslee Goodman
SUN Magazine, July Issue 2010

Goodman:  In your autobiography you write of jumping bodily through a hoop into another dimension, as part of your initiation into adulthood.  Were you speaking metaphorically?

Somé:  No, I was speaking literally.

Goodman:  So you physically jumped through a hoop into another dimension, and some of your number didn't make it back?  They were lost forever?

Somé:  They weren't necessarily "lost."  That's a modern interpretation of what happened to them.  They're somewhere else.  Perhaps the best example I can give in modern terms is quantum reality--the idea of multiple dimensions.  What if a specific cognitive pathway can lead not only to a vision of another dimension but also to physical involvement in it?

     I experienced this other reality and survived, while others who were more likely to survive didn't make it.  That led me to go deeper down the rabbit hole in an attempt to understand my "otherworldly" experience not just from a spiritual perspective but from a theoretical, intellectual perspective.  I came to the conclusion that the intellect, as it is programed by modernity, may not be equipped to comprehend certain kinds of reality.  The modern mind has alienated itself from indigenous cognition in order to obtain a kind of control over the world.  Modern and indigenous cognition are like parallel lines that cannot meet.  They cannot be placed on a scale to measure which is stronger or more valid than the other.

     The challenge in teaching about this other reality in the West is finding the proper language to convey it.  Needless to say, it hasn't been easy, but it has helped me understand some of the limitations of modernity.  When I take a group of Westerners to my village to undergo rituals, they find themselves broken down, dismantled in the face of indigenous experiences that they have no language to describe.  The only option left to them is to throw open the gates of their heart, which results in tremendous outbursts of emotion.  This made me wonder whether the West's distrust and dismissal of sacred indigenous ritual is linked to a fear of losing emotional control.  In the West public expression of emotion is not really acceptable, especially for men.  Is there something about emotion and the sacred that runs the risk of overwhelming people?  If emotion were culturally authorized, would indigenous spiritual experience be more acceptable?  I would say yes, but the orderly society we know might become rather disorderly.

Goodman:  So emotion is a direct line to the sacred?

Somé:  Yes.  Anyone who desires to experience this type of reality will have to deemphasize the analytical mind and reemphasize the heart.  The heart is going to have to be allowed at least as much self-expression as the mind, if not more.  When Westerners participate in native ritual, many break down in tears about death, drought, hunger, suffering, and injustice.  When the heart is open at that level, the eyes see differently; the senses respond differently.  It has nothing to do with whether you are from a developed country or an underdeveloped country.  It has to do with you as a human being in a world that is all magical and has always been that way and is best left that way.  We just need to learn to read the hieroglyphics that it offers us.

Goodman:  Do you think solutions to global problems might become apparent if enough people had their hearts blown open?

Somé:  I believe that is the only way it can happen.  There are certain problems that we're not going to be able to get our heads around, no matter how much effort we apply, because we have kept our hearts shut.  It's as if we're sending a message to the other side that we don't want to see it; we don't want to experience it; we don't want to feel that way.  This must change, because the greatest gift we have is a heart that can feel.

     Even after my initiation and thirty years of experience, I'm still learning the how and the why of what I call "indigenous technologies."  We forget that thousands of years ago people were in touch with a different kind of technology--non-Cartesian, non-Newtonian technologies that could get us from point A to point B without environmental side effects.  Somehow we are not imaginative enough in the West to consider the possibility of a parallel technological pathway that does not cause illness, pollution, or the extinction of species.

     There are certain experiences that, once you become privy to them, shatter so many things you have learned.  When a shaman in my village takes me to a cave, opens a portal to another world, and walks there and back again I have to ask myself, "What kind of technology is this?"  When this same shaman lifts himself off the ground--that is to say, levitates--I have to wonder, "What kind of technology is that?"  When another shaman is capable of walking on water, I have to wonder, "What is the technology that enables him to float?"  And so on and so on.  But modern science has grown so grandiose that it is unwilling to break out of its narrow thinking to explore alternatives that might better serve human consciousness and the world.

Goodman:  And you have witnessed these things without the aid of psychotropic substances?

Somé:  In my region of the world, psychotropic substances are not used.  That's why I am referring to them as "technologies," not drugs.

     Repeatedly I find that my biggest obstacle to understanding indigenous technology is the way my mind has been shaped by the West.  Let me give you an example:  A few years ago I decided that I needed to learn some of these technologies.  I wanted to know how to open a dimensional portal.  I wanted to know how to defy gravity.  I went back to my village and worked with an elder, who first asked me to spend a night at the cemetery.  He gave me very explicit instructions before sending me off:  "When you see the dead, get up and run to the house.  Don't look back.  When you get to the house, don't enter through the door, but turn your back to the wall like you're leaning against it.  You will find yourself in the medicine room."

     So I went to the cemetery and sat in the dark for hours, fighting panic.  Come two o'clock in the morning, the whole cemetery lit up, and there were all the dead, rising from their tombs, dressed the way they'd been when they were buried.  I did as I'd been told:  I ran for the house without looking back.  When I got to the house, I leaned back against the wall, and it worked!  I found myself in the medicine room.

     The next morning the elder told me that I was only the fourth person to have survived that experience in the last two years.  I was beside myself.  If I had known that, I would not have done it!  I'm fifty-three; I don't take those kinds of risks anymore.  So I decided not to go through with the rest of the training.

     In order to learn this type of consciousness, you have to have a certain commitment to it--a need, really--that overrides even the fear of death.  It's a different educational model.  You have to be willing to jump into it with very little information and follow instructions such as "Go sit in a cemetery in the middle of the night."

     The Western mind likes to ask questions.  There's a legitimacy to that, but at the same time, with the type of learning we're talking about, the more you know, the less likely you are to succeed.  You will learn things after the experience.  But being fully conscious of what you are getting into will act like a wall that prevents you from being swallowed by the process.  The Western mind has to be tricked into learning this perspective.

     In most Western study there's a reduction of events to a subject-object relationship, but magic requires that you dive into the unknown.  There is a lot of emotion in it, and fear is an essential part.  I remember when I was sitting in the cemetery in the middle of the night, I was on the verge of panicking.  Then, in a moment of inattention my mind thought about something else, and it was at that moment I realized that the whole cemetery was in daylight, and the dead were there.  But my mind had to be tricked, distracted, so that another from of cognition could become operative.

Goodman:  How do you know if you're ready for this type of experience?

Somé:  There's an African saying:  "If we go forward, we die; if we go backward, we die.  So let's go forward and die."  A person who is looking at it from that perspective is likely to learn something.  That person is likely to be swallowed, to be transformed.  That's not to say he or she is unafraid.
A proper understanding of this situation involves a certain apprehension.  I've noticed that people who attend my workshops in the West aren't afraid to speak of the topic.  In the village if you talk about a ghost or a creature of the underworld like kontombili, people want to get away from you.

Goodman:  Maybe it's because they believe in them.

Somé:  And the reality of them is quite frightening.  In the indigenous paradigm, what you see is only the tip of the iceberg.  Rituals are ways to uncover the part that is hidden.  Those hidden parts are both exciting and dangerous aspects.  The otherworld is exhilarating, but when you come out of it, you want a break.  Commuting between the two worlds often exacts a toll on one's physiology and consciousness.  Time and again they have to wonder what dimension they're in.

Goodman:  A lot of Westerners don't want to have anything to do with powers that might be dangerous. We want God to be beneficent.

Somé:  African spirituality is not based on faith.  It has an experiential grounding.  The fear comes from dealing with the unknown.  Africans' knowledge  of other-dimensional realities doesn't necessarily include an understanding of how those realities function.  Because the great majority don't have the key to manipulating these realities, they're afraid of them.  I'm afraid of them, even though I do have the key to manipulating them, because they're like a jungle that you enter without a weapon.

Goodman:  My cosmology says that the world is governed by a beneficent intelligence, although I realize this may be unrealistic.  For example, I love hawks and eagles, but I don't want to see them eat a mouse or a marmot, because I also love mice and marmots.

Somé:  Yes, the beautiful eagle remains so until you see it using an innocent mouse as a meal.  All of a sudden you have a contradiction:  the beautiful eagle did a not-so-beautiful thing.  This is where we encounter the paradox and the mystery of life.  How is it that something so beautiful can be so violent?  How can something we love be associated with actions that we find repulsive?  We forget that the reality of the eagle is not your reality.  When you put yourself in the shoes of the eagle, you will find that the meal of a mouse is quite beautiful.  It's part of the bounty of the world, and that is the beauty of all things.  If we can see ourselves as nourishment to the beauty that we see, then the beauty that we see can also be nourishment to us.

Goodman:  So we have to be willing to be eaten, to be consumed?

Somé:  That's right.  If you cannot offer yourself as a meal to the eagle, or whatever it is that you love, then it is impossible to be fully present in the world and to understand the cycle of birth and death.  In an indigenous perspective we see ourselves as an offering, just as everything we see is a gift to us.  It is not healing or constructive to see ourselves as just the recipient of beauty.  We must also be a gift to that beauty.

     That doesn't mean we're not afraid.  We still long for safety.  This is something to be respected.  Fear is an indication that we are human. We love to talk about "spirit," but we cannot predict what we are going to do when we are face to face with it.

     Back in the early eighties, someone from this country asked me to take him to Burkina Faso because he wanted to see proof that the other world existed.  He was so eager and sincere and insistent that I finally succumbed.  We went to my village and walked into the hills with the gatekeeper, who opened the gateway to the other world.  The rocky granite wall of the cave melted away and revealed a huge new reality.  My young companion panicked.  He screamed that it was a trick and went running down the hill.  I felt rather stupid because I'd trusted his sincerity.

     Years later I realized that it was not his fault.  Beyond his eagerness, he had an idea of how the other world should look, and when the other world showed up as it is, he had no way to take it in.  I should have respected his point of view.  If the other world had looked the way he'd expected, perhaps he would have knelt down and bowed in front of it.

     So it's important that our longing to see the other world be checked against our readiness to accept what comes.  I canceled the initiatory process that began that night in the cemetery because of my own fear and desire for safety.  Thirty-five years ago, when I was first initiated, I would have rather died than not go through with the process, but at that time my motive was more compelling.  This more recent experience was a quest for additional information that was not essential to my being.  I could cancel with no consequences.  But my initiation into adulthood determined whether I had an identity or not.



Thursday, July 8, 2010

re The Future of Ethnic Studies

The Future of Ethnic Studies

When Ethnic Studies is at risk, democracy is also at risk. In this essay, Gary Okihiro outlines the history of ethnic studies as a discipline and how it must continue to sharpen its capacity for articulation and analysis of social difference so that it avoids slipping into mere identity politics and multiculturalism.
***
Having watched the evolving discourse of ethnic studies for over a decade, what has become important to me is the need for an ever larger context in which to locate and position myself. More recently I have become unhappy or uncomfortable with the left-brained approach and have felt the growing desire to be more embodied (rather than being a disembodied intellectual) in my knowing and being. I have also grown tired of the current and trendy language of analysis (whether Foucauldian, Lacanian, Marxist, etc) which is mostly inaccessible to the folks outside of academe.

Ethnic Studies began as a community-based movement (hence the charge of "cultural nationalism"). By the time I was doing graduate work, postmodern discourse has taken hold. This was also the 80s when Reagan conservatism kicked in and the nation was declared "at risk" by conservatives like Allan Bloom and E D. Hirsch who called for a return to conservative multiculturalism. The "old guard" of Ethnic Studies scholars was replaced by young pomo savvy scholars who became more interested in the professionalization of Ethnic Studies (read: attempt to prove that ES is a legitimate, rigorous intellectual discipline). I know of several Fil Am academics who sacrificed their relationship with the Fil Am community in order to concentrate on the tenure-track process of publish or perish. Some peers tell me that they could no longer afford to spend time working with their communities because of the demands of tenure. It was a tough choice that had to be made.

There are still scholars who do community-based dissertation research and then get published by a university press and get rewarded with tenure. But these scholarly books are usually written in the dense and obtuse language of academese and they don't reach an audience beyond the scholar circles. However, those who labor to read through this language do get rewarded with new theoretical paradigms and fresh ideas with which to conceptualize their work on the ground.

I have always been on the fence, a marginal scholar (others have called me) and sometimes I have been generously called an "organic intellectual." Whatever the label, my heart and my desire has always been to stay connected to the pulse of my communities. My books never went the route of peer reviews and university presses.  Some of my peer reviewed journal publications were later included in important anthologies but still I am aware that there are other Fil Am scholars who do not touch my work. It is as if by ignoring it, they refuse to legitimize it as an academic discourse. (This is only a game, of course, and when played by somebody else's rules, no one wins).

There are a few scholars though (Peminist-identified scholars) who have found my work on decolonization to be valuable and they have since expanded and extended the discourse farther and deeper into the shared project of community-building through education. I thank them here now: Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales, Patricia Halagao Espiritu, Joanie May Cordova, Dan Begonia, and others who reference the work that I've done.
**
I feel uncomfortable writing about this but I feel that it's time that I overcome my timidity. After all, I feel the wind beneath my wings - the community that has encircled me. It is this community that challenges me to talk and write louder than before. Mila Coger recently challenged me: Leny, it is our time now, let's make the Babaylan known. You have to come and speak...


My latest reflections about indigenization is a deepening of the decolonization process. In this work, I forayed outside of academic disciplinary boundaries because the new language of embodiment that I wanted to speak and write in was found in the works of Martin PrechtelDerrick Jensen, Thomas Berry, and Linda Hogan and others like them whose voices and ideas were not tamed by the demands of academic norms.
**
Okihiro's essay asks that ES scholars not lose their political edge and must continue to sharpen their knowledge of social formations to better safeguard democracy. The US is in the midst of imperial wars abroad and denial of civil liberties at home and ES scholars must be vigilant in their analysis and critique. So true.

The route I have taken, the doors or vistas that have opened to me via indigenous studies, tells me that it is by extending our historical perspective beyond 500 years of modernity that we come to a better understanding of globalization and its projects. To me, this means learning how to develop a mythic view of time and space, a cosmic view even - that allows for a perspective that is compelling in its urgency given that we now stand at the edge of the abyss of economic and environmental collapse or what others call a civilizational collapse.

To me, the boundary of Ethnic Studies as a discipline is porous and transparent. Its project may be primarily local and political (U.S.) and simultaneously global but what integrates and connects the two can be facilitated by developing a cosmic and mythic view. As long as I, as a scholar, maintain the tension between the local/political and the cosmic/mythic, what happens in the in-between is an adventure of the body-mind-spirit. This is what I aspire to: to learn how to dance this tension with grace, passion, equanimity, and the ability to wield a sharp sword when called for. For this, I need courage all the way to the bone marrow.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

more on the Social Forum

Lidy Nacpil, Freedom from Debt Coalition: "We are not poor, we are impoverished... Our resources/resource outflow in the South is paying for the affluence of the North."

Invincible, Detroit Hip Hop Artist

Every time I search for more links to the USSF, an upwelling of gratitude and affection happens to me. I become speechless. The links provided here will speak for themselves.

Lidy Nacpil talks about the debt crisis in the Philippines and Invincible talks about the renewal of Detroit from the ground-up. I hear that some folks are now planning to move to Detroit because of their positive experience of being there during the USSF.

The other day a friend asked me "what's next?" I don't know, I answered. The USSF made me realize more urgently the need to be part of the local community. Local to me means suburbia, it means my neighborhood, it means the local Fil Am community. How do I plug in when cyber communities have been more "real" to me than the local scene?

It's time to adjust, enit?

The cost of white ambivalence

...in the midst of the faltering national economy we should understand how our inattention over the years to the warning signs of coming crisis explain much about how and why things got to be this bad. And those warning signs were ignored in large measure because they seemed not to impact white Americans, especially middle class and above whites. 



Sunday, July 4, 2010

Amanung Sisuan, the language you suckled on

Lately my siblings and I have been writing daily emails to each other in Kapampangan, affectionately called amanung sisuan -- the Word you suckled on. Isn't it sweet? Our eldest brother's natural eloquence in Pampango challenged us to respond to his emails in this language. The older sister thought she will never get her tongue back; she kept mixing Tagalog and Pampango in the most hilarious ways. Now just a few weeks later the native language has resurrected itself in full beauty. The siblings in the Philippines, at first, didn't understand why the siblings in the diaspora are suddenly enamored.  My older sister said there is something that happens deep inside when I speak Kapampangan. I feel happier.


I tell this here because I know what she means -- this deep inside -- that wants to be remembered and re-membered. She left the Philippines almost 40 years ago and she hasn't  made a lot of return trips. She was married to someone who didn't speak the language and didn't have the occasion to speak in our native tongue very often. The language she thought she has forgotten wasn't, it merely stepped aside for a while and waited on the sidelines until it was summoned back. Mekeni!  Come!

Thanks to email and echats, all six of us are now connected like stringed longganisang Kapampangan - the kind that you crave for breakfast along with garlic fried rice, scrambled eggs, and chopped tomatoes with patis. Kanyaman!! Of course, desire always begin with the tastebuds.

Now that the amanung sisuan has reclaimed us, we are always surprised by words remembered, like treasures discovered from an old baul - a chest full of jewels. What we thought was silly and just-for-laughs has turned into a serious exercise in sharpening the Kapampangan tongue.

Kapampangan has always been oral to us; we never read books written in Kapampangan (not my fault, really; ask the educators). But it is the voice of my Apu Sinang telling stories; it is the voice of my Tatang advocating for senior citizen rights; it is the voice of my Ima gently and soulfully expressing her longing for her children now scattered in a far continent. They are not here anymore and yet they are here more than ever, fully present in spirit.

My parents were of the generation who wished for their kids to dream American. Well, that happened.  But did their hidden wisdom know that someday we would all come back to reclaim our Kapampangan selves?

A few years ago a friend back in Pampanga told me that I've never really left Home, that I am more Kapampangan than the ones who never left. Well, am not sure about this but it felt good to hear it.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

New Template, Old Blog

I couldn't resolve the posting issue on the old blog so what could be simpler than starting another one. I've been thinking of retiring the old blog anyway. The old blog is a good archive since it contains more than five years of musings - personal and otherwise.

This will be my post-Social Forum blog.

Am looking at the stacks of books for summer reading:

The Darker Nations by V Prashad
Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong
Globalization and America