4/29/2005

Iz

Alison (*wave*) asked me if I knew of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole better known as Iz in Hawaii.

He unfortunately died just before I moved to Hawaii in 1997, but his memory is still quite fresh in the hearts and minds of Hawaii folk. I heard many of his songs played at the mall and such, and for such a big guy, he had an incredibly delicate voice. He was a role model to many Hawaiians and if I remember the stories correctly, helped many kids keep off the streets by learning traditional Hawaiian songs.

Really cool. Thanks Alison for bringing up his memory. I need to try to get some of his stuff for myself.

Hawaii

I love listening to good Hawaiian chant music. Today it's Call It What You Like by Mark Keali'i Ho'omalu.

Native American chant music is good too, yah know, drum stuff from powwows.

I never much got into Filipino music as a kid - the stuff my folks listened to all sounded too much like 50's lounge music (which it likely was) or covers of Christmas music.

Been thinking about the whole Filipino identity thing again, likely 'cause I'm still reading Emil Guillermo's Amok!

What's the role of identity anyway? Membership to a community? Definition from other groups/dominant paradigms? Historic ties to heritage and therefore 'cultural rights?'

But I guess it's also natural to ask "who am I?" "what defines me?" - the tricky thing in our post-colonial/politcal correct world is finding and properly using a term for oneself. Claiming a particular identity could imply membership into a group where the other members don't agree to your inclusion (how many New Agers have you seen try to sneak into private powwows with the declaration that their spirit is NA?) At the same time, reclamation of heritage and culture is important to the post-colonialist trying to find a space without a sense of negation (non-White, etc).

Then there's the whole problem with representation. As an artist I don't want my work seen as representative or definitive of my community, nor would I look to any other single artist to be that way. I'm influenced by several different cultures given my background, often conflicting cultures, and I want my art to reflect that. At the same time, it can be hard for a potential publisher to know where to "put" my work. Race is the easiest, of course, and a hot topic these days, but I don't want my work to be only viewed from the lens of race, or race relations, or even to an extent the post-colonial movement. These are all too restricting to my mind.

That's why I /laughed/ when I read Guillermo's move to coin a new term for himself. He wanted to acknowledge both his ties to Asia and to Spain, to somehow bring together this double consciousness that Filipinos/FilAms feel when looking at their heritage. He wanted to bring both the flavor of Asia and link it with the more common term Hispanic.

His solution: As-Panic

(not to be confused, of course, with the Margaret Cho-esque fear that the straight guy feels when he finds himself in a bathroom at a gay bar).

I don't know what I am racially - my parents immigrated before I was born and I always have this sense of second-citizenship when I hear the term American Born Filipino (as in, oh she doesn't know any better about *fill in the Filipino cultural issue* She was born /here/.) FilAm is easiest, but also seems to imply that I'm of mixed racial heritage, like my children. FilAm Culturally is just too cumbersome. APA is okay, except that there's that implied blendedness with the mainland Asians and the Japanese who don't have the cultural heritage of Spanish and US colonization. API'er isn't much better, but perhaps a tad more accurate. Survivor of the Spanish American War would be closer.

Perhaps it because we often confuse race with culture, as if our racial characteristics can somehow imprint a specific type of culture on our hearts and brains. Back to that Nature vs. Nurture argument, eh?

I don't know the answer, I just find a lot of comfort from the music of Native Hawaii and Native America. They seem to know how to put it, race, identity, culture, protest, all together beautifully.

QOTD

Perhaps learning to live finally would mean learning to live in the present, presently, without forgetting the past. We have said it before, no doubt: learning to live with the ghost, without letting it interfere in our enjoyment of the present moment.

And then, j'accepte, one of my greatest fears, vanishing into the air, like a dispersed cloud, like an evaporated dream, a trace of nothingness, a bad memory exorcised. Walking away, then, in silence.

Ghosts believe in other ghosts.

Ernesto

Birthday Meme








Your Birthdate: August 16

Your birth on the 16th day of the month gives a sense of loneliness and generally the desire to work alone.

You are relatively inflexible, and insist on your being independent.

You need a good deal of time to rest and to meditate.



You are introspective and a little stubborn.

Because of this, it may not be easy for you to maintain permanent relationships, but you probably will as you are very much into home and family.

This birth day inclines to interests in the technical, the scientific, and to the religious or the unknown realm of spiritual explorations.



The date gives you a tendency to seek unusual approaches and makes your style seem a little different and unique to those around you.

Your intuition is aided by the day of your birth, but most of your actions are bedded in logic, responsibility, and the rational approach.

You may be emotional, but have a hard time expressing these emotions.

Because of this, there may be some difficulty in giving or receiving affection.


4/27/2005

That which drives us (or at least me)

-it seemed that I had to be a writer as well as a reader. I bought a school notebook and tried to write- did write, pages that started off authoritatively and then went dry, so that I had to tear them out and twist them up in hard punishment and put them in the garbage can. I did this over and over again until I had only the notebook cover left. Then I bought another notebook and started the whole process once more. The same cycle -excitement and despair, excitement and despair.

-Alice Munro, "Cortes Island" (1999), as quoted by Margaret Atwood in Negotiating with the Dead

4/26/2005

Pukengkeng Liberation Front

I have just discovered a new space, a needed space here. Thank you and welcome to Grace for creating this blog.

Like many survivors of sexual abuse, for me The Vagina Monologues are a way to express and share the intense grief and suffering that seem to defy words, to break silence, achieve voice, and above all survive and thrive.

This is not an easy space for me to inhabit, and it's often easier to stay distant, listen to other women's stories than to own my own. Grace has given me a gift, just knowing a place like her blog exists. Perhaps that gift will give me the next set of tools and the needed strength and courage to go that next step further.

Screaming Monkeys

What began as a response to food critique gone racist has bloomed into a vibrant social and arts movement at the University of Miami.

Congratulations to Evelina Galang and all her supporters for fanning the flames of social change.

"The reason why things like that (article) happen is we don't study a broad history when we study American history." - Evelina Galang

4/24/2005

Web Del Sol Celebrates

Congratulations to Sarah Gambito and Jon Pineda for their chapbooks at Web Del Sol!

What a wonderful way to celebrate both Poetry Month and Asian American Heritage Month.

4/23/2005

The Thing About Being Sick

...is that I tend to feel disconnected with everything. Life has moved on around me, as if it were a train and I stand at the station wondering if I try to wait for it to stop or just jump back in and risk missing the open door as it whizzes by, thereby flattening myself to the side of a speeding train.

The details are cliche': sore throat became full blown flu became congestion that is in its third day, all aggravating, of course, the fatigue I battle constantly.

I hesitate...hands frozen above the keyboard a moment...is this the best place to be writing this? *shakes head*

The upside to being sick though was finishing Truth Serum. A wonderful book about growing up gay in Hollywood before, during, and a bit after the 'discovery' of AIDS. I'd forgotten much of the hysteria and prejudice of the 70's and 80's about AIDS and it chills me still that so many are suffering both here and overseas from this epidemic (or is it now pandemic?). The thing I enjoyed most was Coopers ability to linger on the most innocuous topics, centering his memoir on what at first might seem mundane, but holds the promise of revealing profound details of our inner lives. The Fine Art of Sighing" typifies the art, the essence of which I hope to bring into my own art.

I also finally saw Hero, twice in fact, in one day, and I am still trying to absorb the seamless quality of narrative, cinemetography, martial arts, and music that is this movies's bones.

I'm woefully behind on my emails and blog responses, though, as well as stuff for the 'day job.' I did get one submission off, though, a short story, but I'm concerned because the submission process itself went very rocky with attachments getting separated from emails and such. Gotta keep moving though and try not to add more energy to my anxiety.

I have gotten a bit into the whole Foetry.com thing, which I've found a touch bemusing - AC seems to have a bone to pick and there are plenty around to either help him or hinder him. I can't recall whose blog had whose comment (and I'm not really sure I want to actually do the linking anyway) but it led me to this wild idea of Poetry Idol where poets compete for the top ranking spot through weekly slams, enduring the scorn and cheerleading of the most well paid judges the sponsors can find willing to put artists through such a trial. It's like the $64,000 Question controversy all over again.

Now what that means for poetry and poetics, I haven't a clue, other than what was once internal to the artistic community interested in poetry has been outed along with AC, and exposure of that kind can be either good or bad depending on how the individual artist and individual publisher decide to do with the trend/reaction.

So there's my two cents on that topic of the week. Now I think it's time for me to lie (lay? I could never get those straight) down again.

4/19/2005

Germ

I have to write this down before the inspiration flits...the found poem below (Induction) has lead me to wonder what a hypertext found poem would look like. The lines would be links, but the words wouldn't be the titles of the website, but something different, something leading...or commenting or whatever...

New form? Old form? I don't know enough to say, but I think it could be cool. I'll rewrite Induction soon to see what I think.

*I see memorists....*

Just wanted to move a comment from Barbara Jane forward to show it off.

Thank you BJ!

**hey rebecca! glad to see you've made all sorts of connections!
**so i wanted to give you this info on a pinay memoir:
**janet stickmon's crushing soft rubies.
**i have seen her perform parts of a one woman show. quite gripping.

Speaking on memorists, I finished Traveling Mercies last night then immediately plunged into Truth Serum. What I appreciate about Lamott's writing is her freshness - nothing dressy, except for the occasional description of a natural feature, more spice than meat to her work. She writes with a sort of self deprecating abandon, and I could relate to her nearly narcistic method of self-examination. Yes, I believe I'm at least as crazy as she when it comes to my neurosis and how I handle them. She's 'Jesusy' in a sort of 'awe' invoking manner, meaning she knows the treasure that is in 'awe'-some moments even if she's not particularly evocative when she writes about it. She has two prayers, two I've adopted for myself "Help me, help me, help me" and "Thank you, thank you, thank you" both cover most every situation and I'd only add "Praise and glory, praise and glory, praise and glory." It was a refreshing book, like hanging out with a really fun friend who knows what it is to be a mom growing old and being astonished by the whole process.

Cooper on the other hand is the ache that comes of years of hiding, of trying to be someone else, and he writes of the confusion and heartache of being gay in a straight world. There were no fights for equality when he was growing up, no rallys, no Margaret Cho, no Will and Grace, only that unnameable terror of being different, 'wrong' and outside. His work is excrutiating in detail, and the pacing gives a sense of longing to belong. He has his moments of humor, however, but less panicked (dare I say maniacal) that Lamott relates, like trying to learn how to kiss a girl while dreaming of his best friend or burning porn in his parents garage so he can make a clean start when eight grade begins.

Both have incredible observations of family and the times they lived in, the drugs, the women's movement, Reaganomics, and that in general reminded me that yeah, things were really screwed up in the 70s/80s.

I find (or better to say I am reminded) that I /love/ stories, people stories, the stories behind history, what impact history made on people, beyond the easy spin Scholastic Books puts on our experiences. We all have stories, and I love to hear them, read them, but often I forget that it's also my turn sometimes, the bright stage light too heavy on my eyes. The stunned feeling is starting to wear off, though, and that makes me hopeful.

Induction

(*A sort of found poem)

Oaths of Enlistment
United States Army

All members of the Army must take an oath upon being sworn in as members, swearing (or affirming) to "protect the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, both foreign and domestic."

USAFFE
Story of the Death March
Bataan Death March
Commonwealth of the Philippines
Tydings-McDuffie Act
Naturalization
WWII Filipino Veteran History
WWII Propoganda
United We Win
Four Freedoms
Meaning of Sacrifice
National Archives
The Forbidden Book
Filipino American National Historical Society
CAPAA FilAm History
Filipino American Elders
Filipino Americans in Seattle
Filipino American Resources

4/18/2005

Connectivity

The other day Ver sent me a quick note letting me know about the book Almost American’s: A Quest for Dignity. I had come across this book when it was first published, but I have to admit that I was on another train of thought when I read it, and didn’t fully appreciate it for the memoir it is. I need to go back and read it!

Barbara too had sent me a message a while ago telling me of Luis Francia’s Eye of the Fish, and I’ve since found Emil Guillermo’s Amok and Evelina Galang's Screaming Monkeys. Pinoy Poetics, of course, has wonderful essays on poetic form and experience, and I’m very anxious to read Leny’s A Book of Her Own as well as Pinay Power once they (and funding) come available. The wonderful thing about crying out in desperation about a thing is that, in a community, people respond with what is needed and I find myself wonderfully overwhelmed with words.

Scanning Ver blog too, reminded me of the Philippine Scouts, of which my grandfather was a member. He survived the Bataan Death March and lived to fight in Korea, then retired from the US Army after immigrating to Seattle. His six daughters and wife all received US citizenship as a result of his wise choices. It was many years before he received his Bronze Star, a tacit acknowledgement of his role in keeping hope alive during the Japanese occupation, and something that well could have come too late if he had not been the stubborn man he was, living into his mid-eighties. I have since learned that there are Filipino soldiers who did not fare as well as he, for reasons I’m still trying to grasp, but their plight is deplorable and one that needs witness.

Ver's blog also reminded me about being a prose writer and made me hungry to find more prose out there. I looked for insight at Leny’s blog and she mentioned the blog of Melba P. Maggay, a Filipino writer I had yet to come across but whose ability to navigate the troublesome waters of Christianity and Imperial Legacy intrigues me. This led me through a merry search of Google for her other works and I am in awe of how long she has been speaking social justice from a deeply Christian space. I know I will be learning much from her work in the months to come.

I’ve lost track of how I found the other new links to my blog, though the amusement factor of finding that Thoreau has a blog out there remains. Bagong Pinay came of trying to find the cover of Leny’s new book, Babaylan Speaks came of formalizing my link to that space, and the Critical Survey came of just trying to make sure I don’t forget what has already come to pass.

In all though, the generosity of writers has been wonderful to immerse myself in as is the astonishment that the web has linked so much information to the general public that 10 years ago remained only rumor and hearsay to me. I look forward to finding and linking many more to come!

4/16/2005

QOTD

To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.

- Henri Bergson

4/15/2005

Gakked from Eileen

(*never read the book...likely never will*)




You're The Guns of August!

by Barbara Tuchman

Though you're interested in war, what you really want to know is what
causes war. You're out to expose imperialism, militarism, and nationalism for what they
really are. Nevertheless, you're always living in the past and have a hard time dealing
with what's going on today. You're also far more focused on Europe than anywhere else in
the world. A fitting motto for you might be "Guns do kill, but so can
diplomats."



Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

4/14/2005

Exciting Futures, Interesting Pasts

Thanks to Leny Strobel for her welcome on her blog, and a chuckle too - I met Ruth Mabanglo when I lived in Honolulu in 1997-1998. Near as we could tell after sharing dinner with her and my folks, she and my mom are fourth cousins or something, but she made me feel very welcome, taking the time to read and publish my poetry and flash fiction. For the record, my maternal grandfather was Mabanglo, the oldest and only boy in his branch. Mayor is my maiden name, and the bringing together of the two names is a sort of reclamation of my heritage. I legally changed my name to my husband's last name when I married and don't regret it, but I'm finding that to help me with my own mental space with writing, it's good for me to have Mabanglo-Mayor as an identifier to lean on. I sometimes wonder if I 'should' have taken Hidalgo-Agutaya as my writing name, to honor my grandmothers, but I didn't want to negate my mother's experience/impact also. Anyway, I could go round and round about naming and the meaning of names, but suffice it to say that I find it really cool to be associated with the power that is Ruth Mabanglo's poetics.

I'm also /very/ excited to know the name of Leny Strobel's upcoming book and am hopeful for its release. She has other books I hope to latch on to one of these days, but I'm still happily gnawing/devouring/consuming several books I've obtained in the last few weeks. They have all helped abate the hunger for FilAm words and experiences that I did not know was so strong in me.

4/12/2005

Poethics

A recent interview with Eileen has provided some thoughts I want to remember because their are extremely well said and very challenging.

"For me, this is the difference between a “poem” and “poetry.” A poem is a snapshot, a manifestation frozen in time. The poetry experience -- as in the engagement with any one poem -- continues beyond where the poem (if it’s a written manifestation) ends on a page."

"Ultimately, I want those following my blog to see an example of how JOYOUS poetry is, and what a JOY it is, indeed, to live Poetry as a way of life."

Sending

Sending out a submission today. It's an older piece, but one that hasn't found a home yet. Perhaps the editors will take a chance on a memoir piece written in the second person. We'll see in a few months!

I'm *yummy*

(*and likely to cause a coronary*)

Lechon
Lechon Baboy: Roasted to a crisp. The main act on
a Filipino buffet repertoire.


Which Filipino Food Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

(My meme fast is over!)

4/11/2005

Halo Halo Means Mix Mix

Thank you to Eileen for her favorable review of Halo Halo Means Mix Mix! Her continued support humbles my heart.

Halo Halo was originally designed as a hypertext short story, but as of now, it is a story printed on cards that can be shuffled. It was my little experiment in cubism, the backstory being that all the parts of the story are converging on the mind of the protagonist as she decides whether to break her engagement. It was also my attempt to subvert the idea that authors are the 'authority' when it comes to their work.

When I workshopped the piece, I told my classmates to take the manuscript, remove the paperclip, and throw it up in the air, letting the randomness of the moment determine how the ordering would go. My classmates to a one blanched, all very resistant to take on such responsibility. At my final thesis reading, I had to get a 'non-writer' friend (meaning significant other of a classmate who also didn't want to shuffle the cards) to do the randomizing. It was a bit nervewracking to read the piece, but also really exciting because it was like I was reading the piece for the first time. The repetition did some interesting things to the theme that I hadn't anticipated either.

Anyway, I still hope to get the piece up as a hypertext story complete with links, pix, and random events, but until then, it's very nice to know the 'low tech' version works.

4/08/2005

Bearing Witness

The response to my poem “Mail Order Bride” in the April edition of Meritage Press' "Babaylan Speaks" has been very positive (thank you!) and I’m reminded to note that an earlier flash fiction version of the poem was published by the Katipunan Literary Magazine through the University of Hawaii. The piece was originally inspired by a talk given by representatives of Gabriela at a Women of Color conference I attended in 2000.

Before the conference, I had romanticized ideas of mail order brides – he’s the tough but kind trailblazer, likely living in the wilds of Alaska, where few women dare to go; she’s the equally tough but beautiful adventurer willing to take a gamble on a guy she’s only met through letters. It was startling to hear of mail order brides as basically legitimized sex workers, left vulnerable to the ‘romanticized’ ideas men in First World countries. Perhaps it worked out for some, but in too many cases, these women forfeited their happiness, safety, and lives to a system ‘overlooked’ by many governing agencies.

I was appalled today to find a *helpful guide* that provides all the information needed to secure a Filipina, complete with basically a ‘what to expect when you’re expecting a Filipina Bride’ section. *shudder*

It is easy to point to these ‘johns’ and say ‘shame on you!’ but in that moment of reduction, a blind eye can be turned away from the issues that allow this system to persist. Economic inequalities, outright imperialist attitudes, and Hollywood comedy romances that entertain us with their high concept films based on ‘dating services’ all add to a cultural tolerance, and sometimes cultural encouragement, toward this type of ‘matchmaking.’ The complexity can be dizzying to unravel – I know I’ve only touched on the barest facets of the issue – and the cure is not easy to come by.

In the meantime, though, there are those faceless thousands of women from the Philippines to the Ukraine, willingly putting themselves in harms way with the hope and prayer they can make life better for themselves, their families and their children as yet unborn. Sometimes bearing witness is all we can do.

New Life for Out of Print Books

Amazon Acquires On-demand Printer

Attempting to generate more revenue from hard-to-find books, Amazon.com acquired US inventory-free book printing and fulfillment company, BookSurge.

Founded in 2000, BookSurge offers its inventory-free book fulfillment network to publishers through BookSurge Publishers services and to authors through BookSurge Publishing. It also provides its services to retailers, distributors and wholesalers through its Global Publishing System software platform. Some examples of titles available on demand through BookSurge include foreign-language books such as the Arabic-language version of the international bestseller The Da Vinci Code and Perez and Martina: A Puerto Rican Folktale, by Latina librarian Pura Belpre. BookSurge also offers selections from New York bestselling author Robert Morgan as well as non-fiction works that include books produced by the Museum of Modern Art. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. “Print-on-demand has changed the economics of small quantity printing, making it possible for books with low and uncertain demand to be profitably produced,” said Greg Greeley, vice president of media products for Amazon.com. “BookSurge makes it possible to print books that appeal to targeted audiences, whether it’s one copy or one thousand.” He said the new relationship with BookSurge will provide Amazon customers an ever-expanding selection of titles that are not available through other channels.

Source: EDITTECH INTERNATIONAL

***

So this could be really good, helping indy/midlist books that are out print to get back into circulation. College instructors may then be able to teach books previously too difficult to secure for their classes. I have to admit to a certain skepticism simply because of the word "acquisition" that seems heavy with corporate compromises for the sake of profitibility, but perhaps, the resistance to Literary Canon has just received a new tool to use.

4/07/2005

Life Is Wonderful!

Thank you Eileen and Meritage Press for being my new Peeps!

The April edition of Meritage Press' "Babaylan Speaks" http://www.meritagepress.com/babaylanspeaks/

features several poems, including hay(na)ku, from

Jill Jones
Ernesto Priego
Chad Parenteau
Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor
Glynda Tejada Velasco

We need someone to believe in us -- if we do well, we want our work commended, our faith corroborated. The individual who thinks well of you, who keeps his mind on your good qualities, and does not look for your flaws, is your friend. Who is my brother? I'll tell you: he is the one who recognizes the good in me. ~Elbert Hubbard


4/06/2005

Finding Space

*chuckle* The weird thing about blogs, I've found (this is my second) is how conversations get started/go 'round. I think lit critics out there will be looking at the form seriously soon, because I'm finding that beyond the "So I had breakfast with Pete and then I had a terrible day at work, and Oh isn't that new movie the Bomb?" folk are starting to use the form as a method of social and political commentary, going beyond the basics to something more formalized. With the exception of meme's (of which I'm managed to actually go an entire month without), I've been trying to push beyond the boundaries of daily diary into something more akin to what a columnist does - problem is, I'm still trying to balance all the layers out. There's the emotional me, the critical me, the hopeful me, the angsty me, the mom, the editor, and the 'thing' that I do with words. I'm trying to communicate, I think we all do when we enter a form like this, something very raw and personal. This is one of the reasons why I don't edit my blogs as a general rule, other than what a spell checker tells me to fix (and if it ain't on, yah gets what yah gets).

The results of my new vision of the form have been okay from my point of view, but still somewhat mixed from an outside viewpoint. Eileen responded to my last post via email and as much as I would love life to be as clear as we make it seem on paper, it's not. On the one hand, there was me, trying to find something elusive to my understanding that night, and Eileen trying to respond, with no prior warning, to something actually quite complex in nature. In the end, there was a disconnect which was disturbing to us both. There is part of me that yearns to be able to reconnect, to fix things, to redo the moment of questioning last Friday - perhaps I'd be less aggressive, perhaps the venue would quieter, perhaps the discussion less rushed. There is also a sense of self-censorship, of needing to respond here, yet not wanting make things worse by my continued rambling/questioning.

I have to admit to a certain confusion, though, as to why Creative Non-Fiction (memoir) is often characterized as something less than the other three genres, as something not actually creative/artistic in nature? I’m reminded of memoirists I have talked to lamenting that their work is often marginalized because it can’t be defined very well. What struck me most, then, about the responses to my question Friday was that here were a group of writers marginalized by the lit mainstream apparently uninterested in a marginalized art form. And an art form, I would argue, lush with the opportunity to break the very stereotypes already presented in the Big Three.

So, if I could go back, the original question was "Where can I find FilAm memorists?" meaning where is the fourth genre/creative non-fiction work by FilAms? Not the critical essays, not the historical essays, not the autobiography form of the elder year, but the work that melds it all together - the critique, the poetry, the fiction, the history - all wrapped up in the writing of personal experience in a way that gives a voice of claiming to the unique experience of marginalized groups? The answer appears to be, It's there, but in bits and pieces. Most of the personal experiences of the current writers are being transformed into poetry and fiction. And that's cool, really.

I know that artists use the forms they feel will most express what they are trying to say, and for now, for the FilAms I'm reading, that means forms from the traditional three genres. FilAm lit has had to struggle for recognition, with poets like Eileen blazing the way into our literary consciousness to a brilliance that will not fade. And that's a very much needed thing in this increasingly non-post-colonial world we live in.From her work, and the work of others over the last century, I find the foundation to create my own expression, even if for now, it seems disconnected to the larger FilAm lit movement.

Which brings me to the layer beneath the question I’d originally asked, the reason for the question in the first place – basically I’m looking for mentors to my own writing.

I can find memoirists and I can find FilAm writers, but I can’t find a FilAm memoirist. I’m compelled to write CFN and in that compulsion is a desire for community as well as a sense of direction, the self-recognition that although in my middle years, I’m still a young artist looking to the master’s work for insight and inspiration. I find I can only learn so much from folk like Gutkind, Miller, Hemley, Paola, and Moore before I run into that gap that echoes my experience as woman of color living in white suburbia/academia. I find I can only learn so much from FilAm poetry and fiction before I run into that gap where artistic expression is claimed as both personal and imagined experience. Angelou and Kingston come close, but there is also a generational gap between them and me. What I find, then are gaps, which I can only hope my work can begin to fill, if for no one else, at least for myself.

4/05/2005

AWP 2005

Background:

I attended AWP 2000 in Kansas City, MO, "back in the day" when Robin Hemley was still Editor of the Bellingham Review and Brenda Miller had just started as faculty. I was one of Hemley's 'prize horses,' one of a handful of us who he'd encouraged to come with promises of publication and notoriety. We were shown off to others, his latest batch of prodigies *shakes head* We tolerated it, of course, because we were with Hemley after all, and he always seems to get what he wants, no matter how outrageous it seems in retrospect.

I valiantly, and successfully, found a batch of FilAm writers there - Nick Carbo, Vince Gotera, Evelina Galang, Oliver de la Paz and a few others - and we all snuck out for Missouri BBQ on a Lenten Friday night. It was great to find "my people" in the sea of whiteness that can be AWP, and I kept a picture I'd taken of all of us hanging above my desk, my quiet inspiration to keep going even I felt too hopeless to write on my thesis.

Flashforward:

AWP 2005 - a Friday night again, this time the Friday gathering is after Easter, so no worries about not eating fish when I'm not supposed to. Instead, I find myself in a corner cafe in Vancouver, BC after driving two plus hours through rush hour traffic. My mood is tense and anticipatory - would any remember me?

As it turned out Oliver, Vince and Evelina were not in attendance, and when I reintroduced myself to Nick, all he could say was "well, you've grown up" which is strange, since I was 34 when we met and now 39. I'm hoping he didn't mean I'd gotten fatter in five years. The crowd was mixed ethinically and age-wise, with me apparently square in the middle, belonging to neither side. There was a lot of that, feeling inside/outside, especially when I was asked about my book (I don't have one published yet) or my teaching (I don't have a stint right now). There is nothing more conversation stopping than revealing the lack of publication or academic position, leading to the inevitible, yet unsaid "So what /are/ you doing here, then?"

I wanted to find Eileen Tabios, though, to thank her for her interest in a poem of mine, and she walked up just as I was asking about her. F2F (flat nose to flat nose) finally, we laughed a bit, and she called me one of her Peeps, wondering how I knew about the reading - "your blog" I said, which seemed to surprise her and made me feel a bit like a stalker (Hi My name is Bec, I stalk famous writers).

The question of the night for me, though, was "where are all the FilAm memorists?" which was an odd thing, I know, since this was a poetry reading afterall, but here was the biggest concentration of AsiaCan and AsiAm writers I'd been around in years, so I took a risk. Most were taken aback by my forthrightness (which by now I should be used to) - Nick seem confused by the question at first, then gestured to the book I was holding Pinoy Poetics, saying that all the writers in it were memorists. Oscar Penaranda seem intrigued, saying he'd been encouraged by his editor to put together a memoir also. We talked a long time about the form and how important it was to get the stories out there, and I'm hopeful, since when he gave his reading, I realized he had the perfect voice for memoir pieces. Eileen, though, was the most surprising, first insisting that 'we' had to establish the FilAm aesthetic first before we could write memoir, then mentioning, almost as an aside, that her 'brick' was a memoir of sorts, even if she couldn't claim to be a fallen angel.

All through the reading, which was fabulous (oh the voice of those poets! beautiful and challenging) I kept wondering, why does it seem on the one hand that these writers already knew memorists but who were choosing to focus on poetry and fiction instead while on the other there was this shyness about the memoir form.

It didn't hit me until a few days later - duh - Fourth Genre. Many folk think of memoir as something done at the end of one's long, illustrious career, usually hollywood types wanting to cash in on dishing the dirt on their friends 'back in the day.' Memoir, then, is too much about self, about personal accomplishments, which is antithetical to the Filipino culture. It's about looking back, but never pushing forward, never an action of protest or activism.

I had to laugh when I realized this! The problem was Fourth Genre.

The three main genres of writing are Poetry, Fiction, and Playwriting. Historians are considered non-fiction writers, and traditional memoirs, as mentioned above, are seen as historical non-fiction.

Creative Non-Fiction, the use of narrative techniques to tell a personal, non-fiction story, is a relatively new invention, though it's roots go as deep as the traditional three. The Fourth Genre is Creative Non-Fiction, and as such, has only a few journals that publish it. The movement is a strong one though, with many critics and writers of Creative Non-Fiction around the world. Within the genre, the work is refered to as memoir (because Fourth Genre seems so blah, and Creative Non-fiction is so long).

There aren't that many FilAm memoirists because in general, there aren't as many writers of Creative Non-Fiction as there are writers of the other three forms. It was such a simple understanding once I figured it out.

I still feel outside, me doing 'that thing' I do (even Oscar picked up on it when he wrote the inscirption to me in his book), but at least now I know a little more about why. The Poets, Playwrights and Fiction writers all get the glory and attention, but there is something distinctly deconstructive and protest like about Memoir writing, and that makes me feel pretty good.

4/03/2005

Wisdom to Remember

I'd rather be a failure at something I enjoy than a success at something I hate.
- George Burns

This one is a tough lesson, because sense failure is something I struggle with. It's tough to keep going when I feel as if my efforts only end in failure. Fatalism really.

Because I haven't really failed, so much as not succeeded as spectacularly as I'd like. That's a hard thing to admit, but there it is.

But I'd also like to think it's a matter of practice, enjoying what success I do have, because I do love what I do, love what I have and experience. And if I keep practicing, perhaps I'll get better at enjoying what I've done rather than always wondering how much better it all could have been.

Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
- Winston Churchill

Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
- George Bernard Shaw

4/01/2005

Babaylan

The word babaylan is of the Philippine Visayan dialect and means priestess. In pre-colonial history, it specifically refers to a holy woman(shaman) and a woman leader. - From http://www.babaylan.com/trans.html

Much of the criticism I have about Christians (and yes, that means me too. Ah the wonders of Double Consciousness), stems from the Colonial aspect of the religion itself. “Spreading the Good News” has historically lead to the eradication of key cultural and ethnic traditions as ‘conquering’ nations move to replace political, religious, and social systems to fit their agendas whether economic or spiritual in nature.

The protestations are nearly cliché’ ‘We only meant to provide the Truth about God.’ ‘We only came to educate and bring /those/ people (ne’ savages) the conveniences and opportunities we have.’ ‘We only did what was necessary to protect ‘those’ people from *insert demonized Other Culture.*

Not that it was all ‘their’ fault – many of the Colonized /believed/ ‘they’ were right, assumed that they could retain their cultural heritage at home while their children went to school, got jobs, moved away from their home country. After all, the logic went, their blood was not the Colonizer’s blood – why not take advantage and have the best of both worlds?

But no one counted on the beatings, the edicts forbidding use of native language, the cynicism these children, now grown to adulthood, would face in the new Imperial World. Racism comes too easy after colonialism, colonialism too easy after religious evangelicalism (there’s an essay rolling around in my head centering around Cultural Evangelization in the form of product advertisement and the whole Hollywood scene, so anyway…) And what is left is a gap between past and future, past and present, where the Second/Third/Eleventh Generation post-colonial (because face it, the minority /never/ becomes part of the dominant paradigm, no matter how many generations removed from the initial incursion) senses an absence of understanding but cannot find that cultural link. Often the link has been buried in “good intentions” or worse totally erased.

I am fortunate for I can look for and can now find some of the links to my spiritual heritage that I have lost. The diwata and the babaylan are as integral to my personal identity as Christ and the 12 Apostles, because they /all/ put me in touch with and enhance my relationship with God as Creator, Advocate, and Companion. Some would argue that I have to choose the “better,” the “right” in order to remain Christian, but I am unwilling, and believe I am not being asked to, “give up” this sense of heritage. I cannot change that I am a woman of color, and I will testify that this is who God has made me to be. All of me that has come this far in life is all part of God’s Vision. I refuse to demonize that which the colonial did not understand or that which the colonizer offered as the Pathway to God. Too much blood has been spilt in that argument.

But I have to ask myself, what of the others like me, those who have less access to their cultural/spiritual heritage because of war and rumors of war?

Cultural Imperialism is at an all time height in power. We are /all/ challenged to take back what was taken from us and from others in the name of Expediency.