1/24/2006

Mostly Cloudy with Some Sun Breaks

A continued hiatus from the Symbols and Stories thread...reasons soon to be revealed...

ODLP seems to have returned to blogging for a bit, which is nice to see. Much like the sun valiantly filtering through the dispersing mist, his 'net presence warms me. His was my 'entry drug' here - I tracked him down when I'd heard rumors he'd been hired on at my old Alma Mater. His list The Village helped me find other FilAm writers and artists of all stripes, many who I've actually backchann'd and met F2F. Amazing Amazing thing.

Like Bino whose Jan 13 post on Filipino Voice was the most indepth I have read in a long time. Among his many points, he asserts

in literature, it has become even more important to tell the story of the filipino-american.

and just previous to this

the other side of the world of immigrant nostalgia is the born-in-the-u.s.a ethnic america. a filipino writer does not have to go back to a world that is unfamiliar (his parents') and write instead about the world where he grew up: america. unfortunately, while there is hunger for these stories, we haven't seen the daylight of these books.

His thoughts are so incredibly validating to me. I don't know how to emphasize this enough. As invisible as many Filipino diasporic artists have felt, I /know/ that Second Gen like me and Third, perhaps even Fourth Gen FilAms feel as if their stories have been overwhelmed by the immigration/cultural adjustment stories of the Firsts and 1.5's. Many of us lack the language needed to express ourselves adequately, sensing an internal Other that has no Tagaolog, Ilocano, Pangasinan, Visaya, Waray to speak. There are shadows of movements, body habits, food cravings that defy the measurements that would balance garlic with vinegar with missing vegetables. There are the unspoken, but hard emotions that come from years of cultural and linguistic translation, burdens of our parent's and grandparent's dream, and survivor's guilt for leading and sometimes not leading the life of plenty they travelled so far to gain for us.

It has been easier to be silent, to simply move forward, hobble with one foot forward and one foot back, keeping eye and ear silent, framing our essential Filipino nature as something past, something not ourselves, carrying a nostalgia that is not our own for a place we have not been. In comparison, our Manangs and Manongs, even the younger 1.5's who've arrived in the last 20 years seem to have the dance down, can be of two minds with alacrity, can express the yearnings with tools and experiences as foreign, and therefore more authentic, than we could ever muster. We have believed the media - that our faces do not matter enough to appear but briefly on TV, that our stories look too much like other minority stories, that we have come to the party too late, wearing outdated clothes of grievances already worn and revealed by other people of color.

To be Second, is to be like the middle child or the middle generation, caught between the older and the younger who somehow have this rapport that defies the middle. My parents and my children tell each other stories yet neither experiences the weight of the words, the responsibility to live up to the stories. Theirs is a honed, instinctual relationship, un-nuanced, and holding the best of the best. Lost generation - how do we find ourselves when we live in relation, in comparison, in between, and often in negation?

We give up being heard, give up expressing, give up shouting into the clamor, and turn away, moving off, and reinforcing the appearance of aloofness, of being the negation somehow assumed or imposed. Until someone turns from within like Bino and asks finally What is your story? The question then is, will you wait, Bino? Will you wait for us while we learn who we are, will you help us find the way to tell you what we know?

Because in silence, we have forgotten how to speak, never learned, never viewed ourselves, and in forgetting, turning back and looking at all that we know, we are overwhelmed, not knowing where to begin, not understanding how to be understood, not sensing how to express what seems to come so naturally to you who have gone before us. We have no mentors we can trust - we know what will sell on the market, but do not wish to sensationalize our experience; we know that to go beyond simply making personal art requires a critic to promote it, but what critic understands the world we live in that resembles, but is not like, what has gone before?

On Jan. 15 Joy Harjo spoke words that come close to expressing the difficulty I have remembering and focusing on my art without despairing the obstacles along the way:

I imagine that I am dreaming after I wake up and pull on my earthly skin. I pull it up over bumps. I am in reconstruction. I've had to re-remember and remind myself that my manner of construction of art comes directly from dreaming, from within dreamtime. That’s how my poems came, my songs, how they are born and come forth. Those years at UCLA and teaching in that kind of atmosphere did not value dreaming, though none of the academic constructions would exist without dreaming. The buildings wouldn’t exist without dreaming, nor would the humans who work there, nor would the various programs exist without dreaming and intuition. Reason and logic is a very small part of it, but necessary, like a ruler, compass and protractor are necessary when constructing buildings. I am being forced to strip myself of false notions of art and the purpose of art, of how art is born, where it comes from, its path and have to reconsider my attachment to certain ideas about the process.

i've had to deconstruct to remember myself again. (A different take on that term!)


It takes strength to dream and strength to remember. To realize I am a reconstruction in motion, that no part, no past is without purpose and therefore must be honored and expressed in well measure with all the rest.

Addendum: The next section of my draft notes is on Filipino Colonization, and given, I hope, the preceding commentary, it's pretty apparent that trying to distill Filipino Colonization and match my experience to history is a bit more mindbending than the earlier sections.

2 comments:

bino said...

bec, it would be so interesting to have a public dialogue on the issues you brought up. (between the 1st and 2nd generation fil-ams). since i'm a 1.5, i have also noticed a bit of a difference among the first gens: between those who immigrated as young children, teenagers (me), and older adults. thanks for the post and feedback.

Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor said...

Yes, I think it would be great to have a dialogue and opportunities for artistic expression between/among the generations. Second gens can be a mixed batch too, depending on when their parents immigrated.

I'll see if the Cordovas in Seattle might put a panel together at the Centennial in Hawaii this year. Thx!