The exploration of Filipino culture by someone who’d spent most of her life overseas.
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That’s what this blog is, in a nutshell.
To be completely upfront, though: Most of my life is an exaggeration. I lived in Dubai for seven out of nineteen years, and two months of each were always allocated to visit the Philippines anyway. But. Those were the formative years. The time I instinctively think of when people ask me about childhood. The days that built the foundation of who I am today.
Most importantly, they were the years which got me from a straight-speaking-Tagalog child to someone the stall-keeper giggles at when I ask him magkano po?
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How this project began started first with happiness, and then a whole lot of sadness.
According to a psychological study, the best things that happen to you are gifts (metaphorical or literal) that come unexpectedly. Mine was a story (a piece of fanfiction of one of my favorite musicals) that head-canoned the main character as Filipino. And I thought, wait, what?
But it was true!
And the writer subtly meshed Filipino culture and language and pop music and family dynamics into a story that I already loved, into a character I already adored and identified with. And they did it so well! (Seriously, go check out their work.) And, you know, speaking as a Comm student, a theatre geek, a literature admirer, and all around nerd—that is the best thing a work of art can ever give you: a slice of your own truth and reality, beautifully articulated in a way that you had never expected.
And then I wanted more.
The story gave me something that I unconsciously, secretly wanted, and sort of despaired of getting: to see what I saw around me into something – art, culture – that affirmed its existence. Representation, though that word sounds stilted and weird. Ego flattery, maybe. Probably.
That’s easier said than done, though, because what bookstores mostly market is western books. Nothing against them; I love western books. But you’d kind of think national bookstores would make its local authors a bit more prominent. 😛
It’s more my fault than theirs, though, that I don’t know where to look. My probably-misguided impression of the Filipiniana sections of bookstores is a secluded corner that consist of self-help-get-rich-quick guides, depressing historic stuff, and Wattpad novellas that I’m not interested in. In my college, the section takes form as an old library that doesn’t let you take the books out, and only to be used for academic purposes or, occasionally, napping. Therein lies the problem. I’ve never bothered to check any more than a casual glance if those assumptions actually hold true.
Part of me wishes I didn’t have to. I don’t know. Perhaps it’s the privileged, middle-class college girl in me speaking, but I want it to be just evident that my country has cool art to relate with and smile at and share; and I’m not seeing it. But I will now.
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Two things got me to make the leap from I will hold Fil stuff close to my chest they are my treasure to hmm, blog?
One is that something I’ve talked about with more than one CW major; that it’s strangely hazy for us, the future artists of the Philippines, to set our stories concretely here. So much of our media, our movies, our books come from the US or Europe, and so logically there our imaginations tend to roam. Our characters are of vague ethnicity. Their surroundings are far-off lands that are kind of American.
The point is we, or more accurately I, need practice to concretely ground creativity in a place where the culture and history are uniquely ours. Something we can explore without a plane trip, that’s handed to us on our doorstep or closer; something that needs exploring. This is practice for me. And I guess I want other people to get something from it. (I want my thirteen-year-old self to have gotten something from it when she was wondering and wondering and wondering about identity.)
Secondly is my youngest sister, and a conversation we had.
“If I asked you what a manananggal or a bakunawa is,” I said to her, “would you know?”
She blinked. “Um, nope.”
She shrugged. She’s seven years younger than me; she was born in Dubai.
“It’s part of Filipino folklore! Uhh, you know what a vampire is?”
“A manananggal is like that. Except it separates from its waist and, instead of preferring blood, it focuses on a fetus in a pregnant women, and uses its tongue like a straw to eat it out.”
“Except…not exactly that.” I winced. I literally spent a semester studying the aswang, and somewhere in the distance I knew my Fil prof was getting a headache. “That was one of our lectures. You can’t explain in western terms what a Filipino creature is.”
“Yeah, I get it.” She paused for a second. “I’d like to learn more.”
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So there we go.
I’m not quite sure where I will go with this. My idea right now is to examine Filipino culture through the lens of art; or, to say it less pretentiously, to do a whole lot of book, movie, and music reviews and whittle out points that say something about the Philippines as it is (or how it could be). I shall learn as I go, hopefully.
I’m not quite sure I’m the most qualified person for this, in that I took Fil-for-non-Speakers and can barely hold a conversation in Tagalog, much less read a book. But I want to practice. (I will be a polyglot, so help me.) And I am curious. Insanely curious about everything that I’ve missed.
I know what I’m doing this for: to help anyone who’s ever gotten bit of a Filipino identity crisis, to give people someplace to start exploring. Or just anyone who wants a local movie rec—that’s fine, too.
I could always (always) use some help, so you can leave comments or say hi anytime. 🙂 But in any case, I hope you enjoy reading.