Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kapihan with Kidlat Tahimik

Just taking a break from cooking: vegetarian lumpia, vegetarian munggo, pork spareribs in blackbean sauce, chicken adobo, black rice salad, kale salad, pineapple, buko with pandan gelatin, lemon grass tea with yerbabuena, broccoli and romanesco. It's going to be a feast!

When asked why I cook everything from scratch when Costco has all kinds of convenient ready-to-eat dinners, I said that I cook to honor what my mother has taught me. Because I love the people I'm feeding. Because I love the reason for our gathering.

And the reason is Kidlat Tahimik! An excerpt:

Tahimik’s postcollege sojourn in Germany resulted in a friendship with Werner Herzog (who cast him in The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser), a marriage, and a deceptively ramshackle debut film, Perfumed Nightmare (1977), whose easygoing interrogation of neocolonial identity, Philippine culture, and global economies turned it into a surprise international “hit.” Praised as “the joyful discovery of blasé film buffs from Berlin to Belgrade and beyond” (SF Chronicle, 1980) and “likely to become some sort of classic” (Village Voice, 1980), the film is now heralded as a key text of both Third World Cinema and the personal essay film, offering a pairing of politics and pleasure that has continued throughout Tahimik’s oeuvre. Never shying away from embracing a proud, postcolonial identity, yet always grounded in personal observation and a quiet, understated humor, Tahimik’s works take special joy in highlighting the indigenous cultures and history of the Philippines and beyond, whether honoring Tahimik’s beloved bahag loincloth, profiling local craftsmen and women, or recounting tales of Magellan’s Filipino navigator/slave. Assembled from countless hours of filming, drawn from months and years worth of work, “my footages are like tiles in a mosaic,” he writes. “You shuffle them, change them around. In my process, nothing is permanent.”

I'm glad to see the visibility of Kidlat's body of work today. Many Fil Ams have not heard of him. When I showed his film, Perfumed Nightmare, in my Asian Am course a few years ago, the students didn't quite know how to take it in. Many of them have never been to the Philippines and the cultural references in the film are unfamiliar to them. Secondly, many of them have never taken a course on the Phil-US colonial relationship and have never encountered the concept of colonial mentality prior to taking the class.  Even after discussing the film as a form of critique of colonialism, the students seemed to struggle with the idea that  assimilation is not the only way. 

Fast forward. The decolonization and indigenization movement in the Bay Area has been gaining momentum and visibility. The Center for Babaylan Studies is not the only organization that is contributing to this movement but I think it's safe to say that we are the only that is articulating this: 

In an email to a friend, I wrote:

We, at CFBS, have decided to organize the Second International Babaylan Conference in 2013.  Our theme will focus on the relevance of indigenous paradigms in the age of globalization. Questions like: What does it mean to reclaim our Filipino indigenous identity in the diaspora? How do we connect with our ancestral roots in the homeland? Why is it significant to do so? We raise these questions because we feel that we are riding a wave of transformation of consciousness as everyday we see signs of crises facing our planet. The modern world system is unraveling in front of our eyes and our political and economic systems seem unable to solve our precarious dilemma. On the other hand, we know that indigenous peoples around the planet have survived to the present because for thousands of years they lived sustainably and in deep relationship with the places they belonged to. The movement, Another World is Possible, drafted at the World Social Forum, and similar  social justice movements worldwide recognize the importance of reclaiming and renewing our indigenous consciousness and indigenous paradigms. 

As far as I can tell, within the Filipino American community, CFBS is the only organization that is articulating this. In the Philippines it is articulated by the Heritage and Arts Academies of the Philippines led by Kidlat Tahimik and Katrin de Guia and,  together with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, have organized the KAPWA conferences. 

So this Kapihan with Kidlat Tahimik tonight is part of our ongoing conversation on how we can connect the work that we do in the homeland and in the diaspora. May we all find our sariling duwende and the indigenius in each one of us.

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