Category Archives: animals

Filipinos and Regionalism

Regionalism is defined as the consciousness and loyalty to a distinct region. Populations within countries are not monolithic. There is not one Canadian population, but a group of separate populations united under one nation. The same can be said about many countries. Even South Korea, a country whose population is quite homogeneous exhibits regionalism, rearing its head most often in politics and in dating.

The Philippines consists of over seven thousand islands. The biggest islands in the Philippines, Luzon, Mindanao, Samar, etc. are mountainous and tend to separate populations into different regions. This encouraged a multi-cultural environment where different languages and dialects developed. Out of these languages, Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilokano, Ilonggo, Bikolano, Waray, Kapampangan, and Pangasinense became the most widely spoken, with Tagalog being made the official Filipino language. Of course, as a former US colony, you can add English to the mix of the most common languages in the country, but we’ll come back to that later in looking at regionalism.

Prior to colonization, regionalism already exists in the country. It is after all, only human to be loyal to the place where you were born and raised as well as to the people who speak the same language as yourself. Even when you go visit the Philippines right now, people who hailed from the same region tend to be more comfortable and have an easier time getting along. Ilocanos would be with Ilocanos, Cebuanos with Cebuanos. But when the Spanish colonized the country, they used regionalism to their advantage. They would favor one region over another in order to prevent a unified rebellion. With colonization comes the creation of Spanish Filipinos, the mestizos and mestizas. Now the term in current day Philippines can be used for any Filipino of mixed European, Chinese, or American ancestry, but back then it was exclusively for Spanish Filipinos who tend to be of a higher class compared to the general population. Interestingly, with languages, the Spanish occupation created a Spanish-based creole language, Chavacano, which today is still spoken by many Filipinos.

After the Spanish occupation, the United States introduced a different form of regionalism via immigration. This occurred in three waves: pre-World War II farm laborers (Hawaii, etc.), Filipinos in the United States Navy, and post 1965 family reunification and occupational immigrants (Espiritu, Y.L. (1995) Filipino American Lives). Filipinos began arriving in the United States during the occupation in order to study. These were either scholars sponsored by the government, and thus called pensionados, or those whose wealthy parents could afford to send their children overseas for higher education. It wasn’t until the United States started utilizing Filipinos as cheap plantation workers did migration significantly increase. The initial recruits where from Tagalog-speaking regions, then came the Ilocanos and the Visayans. When the Navy started recruiting Filipinos in their fleet, once again, it was most often the Tagalog-speakers who were often recruited.

The batches of immigration to the United States centered on specific regions created a gap in opportunity and wealth in the country. Now, even if a Filipino person can immigrate to the US today, their ability to create wealth is only beginning now, while someone from a different region already had generations of creating wealth and sending money back home.

So how does Filipino regionalism manifest itself right now? Well, like many countries, it created regional stereotypes that continue to this day. People from Tagalog and Kapampangan speaking regions tend to be more affluent. The capital of the country is in Manila, and with President Duterte being the first president not from a Tagalog-speaking region, he made a promise to institute a Federalist government and not focus all of the country’s wealth and development solely on the Tagalog-speaking capital. Tagalog-speakers have enjoyed quite the number of perks throughout history and to this day, they often employed people from poorer Visayan regions as cheap household laborers. Thus, Visayan is seen as a lower language. Visayans and Cebuanos in turn tend to be very proud of where they come from due to chips on their regional shoulders.

One time during a trip to the Philippines, I tested a rather harmless regional stereotype on a relative who is Ilocano (from an Ilokano-speaking region). His daughter was dating someone who was Kapampangan. Now, some Ilocanos believe that Tagalog and Kapampangan-speaking people tend to be braggarts due to their privileged history. Ilocanos in return are said to be notoriously thrifty because they had to travel to other regions, save up money, and send it back home. Without any knowledge of how his daughter’s boyfriend truly is, I asked him, “So I hear your daughter is dating a braggart.” With a sigh he goes, “Pretty much. He’s Kapampangan.”

Back to politics, voters tend to be swayed by regionalism as well, with people voting for the candidate most aligned to their region and language. It is why the election of Mindanao-born Duterte was monumental. Populism has defeated regionalism. Of course, regionalism in politics is not unique to the Philippines. South Korean politics is so heavily divided into regions when it comes to politics that I sometimes wonder why politicians even bother campaigning in a region that is so captured by their opponent. Every election, just like the United States, there are often only a handful of true battleground states.

When it comes to immigration, Filipinos can sometimes be regional as well. Sometimes those born and raised overseas are more comfortable associating with other natives, while newly-landed immigrants are more at ease with those of similar circumstances. Filipinos can sometimes feel insecure in the way they speak English, with Filipinos making jokes regarding mispronouncing or misappropriating English words. These jokes tend to be aimed at no one, but it can manifest into insecurity or a form of impostor syndrome, and seeing those who are more fluent in English to be more highly evolved or worldly.

What I find amusing is that sometimes, even in a foreign country, Filipinos will still find a way to group themselves into their regions. This is not to say that Filipinos will discriminate based on their ancestral region, but they will often be more at ease with those from the same background as them. Growing up in Canada, I was amazed and bewildered that my father founded a group for Ilocanos in the city. I was like, “Why?” and “How did you find each other?” But most importantly, “Isn’t there already a bigger group for Filipinos that is not exclusive to Ilocanos?” This is like me starting a group in Seoul specifically for expats from Winnipeg. What are we supposed to do in this group? Listen to Burton Cummings and talk about the Winnipeg Jets?

Just as black people are not a monolithic group, the same can be said for Filipinos. Scratch that. The same can be said for any population, really. There are Filipinos who get along well with other Filipinos, there are there are those who get along better with Filipinos from a specific region or from a common background, and sadly there are those that hate other Filipinos.

Blame the islands, the mountains, and years of colonization.

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Parental Issues

My father is a cadger. There’s no denying it. When I was growing up, I remember being upset that he would always find some way to quit his job and go on unemployment. It was extremely embarrassing. While everyone’s father was out being significantly more successful and more hardworking than my father, he was out socializing with people from his hometown and occasionally trying to to steal money from his kids. Yes, that’s true. After a year of working and going to university, I was due for a huge income tax refund. My own father intercepted it and told me that I wasn’t getting any refund that year. Luckily, the guy who was doing our family’s taxes wasn’t keen on playing my father’s game once I talked to him about it.

He’s probably one of the least adapted immigrant I’ve ever met. He distrusts anyone that doesn’t share his color. He looks down on white people, black people, and Native people. He even looks down on people from his own country if they’re not from the same region he was born in. He looks down on all of them. And yet, if he could get away with not working and just sit at home collecting government benefits, he would. He’s the horrible, faineant immigrant that racists use as a caricature to scare people against foreigners coming in.

My mother kept the family above water. She had to save him a couple of times from his debts. And the day she died at the young age of 53, my father decided he would no longer work. He’s the same age as my mother. I doubt if I could ever properly retire. And looking around at my in-laws and my sisters’ in-laws and my friends’ parents, most of them still work. My poor father-in-law is 72 and he still insists on working. My father collects money from his meager pension and my mother’s pension. Our old house in Canada, he sold and used the money mostly for himself. He bought some land and built a house in the boondoks in the Philippines. He bought land from my uncle who is also much like my dad. And lucky for that uncle, he gets to spend that money and not be stuck with land that no one else wants to buy. My mother’s childhood home was sold. Our share was mostly taken by my father as well. Despite all of this, he still occasionally gets handouts from my sisters. I stopped sending him handouts.

He spends his time between Canada, California, and the Philippines. He’s been flying between these three places for over ten years now, financed by my sisters. They justify paying for his tickets because he gets to babysit his grandkids. He really doesn’t. It sounds fun to spend the year flying around the world and just hanging out with family, but he always makes it sound like a horrible chore. Summers in Canada, winters in California… sounds like heaven. But before Christmas comes, he would ditch his family and go to the Philippines. He would rather spend his whole life there. Unfortunately, his pensions are tied to Canada and he can’t be in the Philippines for the whole year. Why he would rather be there, who knows? Maybe because the Canadian dollar can go farther there? Maybe he’s got a girlfriend? Who knows? I know it’s not family. My grandmother died last year, his close cousins have their own lives or have prematurely passed away, and my dad’s siblings can’t stand him.

And what does he do when he’s with my sisters in Canada and the US? He nags at them for the way they are parenting. I understand being helpful, but it’s also another to be giving unneeded advice especially when we were mostly raised by nannies. If anything, my most significant memory of him when I was a child was his habit of embarrassing us in front of relatives for his own amusement. These days, he tries to create drama and elicit sympathy from people, trying to make himself seem like a selfless martyr when it comes to his children. When in reality, most of what he’s done is take, take, and take.

After a long while, for my own health, I haven’t called him. Then I hear from one of my sisters that he’s complaining that I haven’t contacted him in a while, totally forgetting that phone lines go both ways. So I called him last Friday and what do I get? I get more of him trying to sound like he’s suffering. Oh, boohoo! I’m flying to California soon!

Then I get the dumb questions and dumb comments:

So are you still living in the same place?” Huh, I moved almost four year ago! In fact, my lease is almost up and now I’m super stressed with the ridiculous housing inflation crisis in Seoul.

That’s the same everywhere, son!” No, it isn’t! What’s happening in Korea is unprecedented! Seoul is effectively becoming similar to Hong Kong or New York when it comes to housing. But of course he wouldn’t know that since he doesn’t read much about anything except news in the Philippines. Also, most newly-married couples get some money from the man’s side of the family in order to buy a house. Now, I don’t really subscribe to this tradition, but my father didn’t really offer me much help in my wedding. Heck, he didn’t help much in my education either. As I just mentioned, he sold our old house in Canada and has gone through that money all to himself. My wife married a foreigner who is significantly hobbled financially from the start compared to other married couples here despite of how much money I make now.

Well, why don’t you move back here?” This comment pissed me off the most. What the heck am I gonna do in Canada? What’s my wife gonna do there? This is a dumb question from someone who doesn’t really care about reality, someone who doesn’t really care about my situation. If I move to Canada, is he gonna help me? No, he won’t. If anything, I probably have to help him instead!

And what angered me most about that is the total lack of self-awareness. We’ve been trying to get him to settle down and get his own apartment in Winnipeg already. This way, he’s not wasting money travelling to the Philippines and risk losing his pension. And as for why he’s not staying in Canada, who knows? Now that my poor grandmother has passed away, he has no excuses to stay in the Philippines. He can’t say, “I have to take care of your grandmother” anymore. So why not stay in Canada forever? He’s definitely got more reasons to permanently move to Canada than I do. He’s got grandkids in North America. He can make new friends in Canada or the United States, too.

When he asks how I’m doing, I always tell him I’m busy with work, I’m always hustling for extra work, and that I’m both grateful to be working and fearful that I could lose my job at any point. He goes, “well, keep up the good work. You gotta do what you gotta do.” Yes, you gotta do what you gotta do, except when you retire at 53 and choose not to do anything at all. Because really, that was his style of parenting in a nutshell. “You should do this, inspite of me not doing it at all.” Work hard! Study hard! Don’t drink too much! Ugh! The hypocrisy is unbearable.

These days, he’s another elephant in a room occupied by a herd of elephants that I would rather not talk about with my wife. I’m sure it’s the same way with my siblings as well. How does he not see this? How does he not see that in this country, I am alone and I can’t even count on my father, my only parent alive, to be there for me?

This is rather ugly and it’s truly unbecoming to be airing out all of my dirty laundry on the Internet like this. Luckily, not many people visit this Website. No one else would probably hear about this other than my therapist. So yeah, if my therapist ever reads this, just tell me you read my site, and it would save us a few minutes.

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Striking Viral Gold

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Lately, there’s this new mascot in Korea has skyrocketed in popularity. Pengsu is a headphones-wearing penguin that does 10-minute man-on-the-street skits produced by EBS, the Korea Educational Broadcasting System. Unlike a lot of Korean comedy, the character is able to attract both young children and adults with his witty ad-lib free of sexual overtones, cursing, or slapstick.

I must admit, I too find him amusing. The whole set-up is reminiscent of Sacha Baron Cohen skits. Talk to someone for a few minutes, move one, rinse and repeat. He also has recurring things he comes back to, basically building his own world simply by virtue of the story he spins.

Much like PBS, EBS survives through sponsorship and advertisement. Because they’re mainly focused on education, they’re not as attractive to companies compared to other bigger broadcasting companies in the country. The character Peng-su’s surge in popularity not only because of the character itself but also due to the story of an educational character crossing over to the viral mainstream. And that is one of the things that interest me most about the character. A lot of the character’s fans are quite keen on speculating on what products the character would or should endorse in the future. Already, I’ve seen news stories of companies courting the creators of the character to ink a deal to start hawking their merchandise.

Now I know that some characters or some shows are always in danger of not having enough funding to continue. It’s always difficult finding funding for the arts. But to me, the Peng-su phenomenon is akin to having a viral tweet or Instagram post. When an unknown account suddenly goes viral with one tweet, it is often followed by either the original poster advertising something in response to the sudden popularity or just shrugging it all off and linking to something innocuous. That attitude of “BAM! You’ve hit the big time, not milk this for all it’s worth” is so pervasive that it’s a tad off-putting. Now, I know that this has been going on since the very beginning of mass media, but now it’s almost the very first thing one thinks of the minute they get a hint of fame (or infamy even). And now it’s even come to cartoon mascots. It’s a bit weird. I mean, I enjoyed cartoons and different characters and media when I was younger, but not once did I think they should trade their fame for more advertising revenue. G.I. Joe was already selling me action figures. I didn’t think they should advertise McDonalds just so they could eke out more episodes. Sesame Street could easily survive if Big Bird started selling life insurance.

I’ve seen this kind of talk with athletes before in the country. And this I understand. The champion figure skater Kim Yoona was super popular (and still is) in the country and her fame coupled with her good looks made her a magnet for advertisers. And good for her, too. Athletes only have a few years to capitalize on their fame, so she did well with her advertising and she didn’t overdo it either.

I remember Howard Stern once saying, “just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should.” Which is him saying just because you can be part of any sort of project just to make a few dollars, doesn’t mean you should say yes to everything. You can afford to not be part of everything. You can afford to say no. Which is more than I can say with some celebrities in Korea. There are times when the media just keeps on pumping the same set of people again, and again, and again. Sure, they might think their current popularity has a very short lifespan, but during that lifespan, I’m already sick of their face on television (Yes, I’m sick of Park Na-rae). This is one reason why I get easily put off by Korean television. It’s the same people again and again until you get sick of them.

Now, I do hope this Peng-su character lasts for a while. If anything, his popularity shows that there is more to Korean television than singing, people eating, or fake reality show BS. It’s also good to see a character be successful fueled mostly by wit. It’s a good departure from the standard brand of stand-up comedy you would see in Korean gag comedy.

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On Hunting Seals and Wearing Their Warm Fur

Centaur

I just saw the 2016 documentary ‘Angry Inuk.’ It’s upsetting, but one of the sins the world always seems to commit (among other things) is ignore the plight of First Nations. Basically, because of “conservation” efforts to save non-threatened seal populations, the seal skin market was destroyed, effectively plunging Inuit communities who relied on the seal skin trade into poverty. The infuriating part is that the people who push for the ban on the seal skin trade are often people who can afford to indulge on such causes and not be affected by the consequences.

It reminds me of people who are into organic foods. People who are into organic foods are those who can afford organic food; and the richer and more into organic food you are, the preachier you tend to be regarding your diet. And often, lectures and the message of change are geared towards those who can’t really afford a different way of eating and living. In the case of Inuit seal hunters, it is people living comfortably and more affluently down in warmer climates that are telling Inuit that what they are doing is wrong. It is simply wrong to kill cute seal pups and sell their skin.

I’ve never had much issue with eating all sorts of animals and people hunting them, unless they’re endangered. I’ve had whale meat before and I really don’t care for it. I really wish commercial whale fishing in Japan would stop already, especially since whales are becoming more and more endangered. Now, you might say this is hypocritical and it is no different from the situation with Inuit hunting seals, but as far as I know, there are no communities in Japan dependent on whale hunting. In fact, the Japanese seem to be pushing whale hunting not for the same cultural and life-altering reasons and with the same small-scale methods used by Aboriginals, but by a highly sophisticated commercial process in order to have whale meat continue to be available in Japanese restaurants and grocery stores simply because some people like to occasionally eat whale. The Japanese can survive without commercial whaling.

I’ve had seal before and I think it’s fine. I’ve had bear as well. I’ve even eaten dogs. Now, some might call that monstrous, but pigs have been proven to be much smarter than dogs, equivalent to the intelligence of two-year-olds on average. Now, I mostly eat strange things out of curiosity (and then for pleasure should I develop a taste for it), but I do feel for people whose livelihoods depend on the sale of what most of society would deem unusual or even unsavory. There’s an old dog meat restaurant near where I work. It’s a family-run place, and I could only imagine the toll on them should there be a huge backlash on eating dogs in the country.

The problem is, outfits like Greenpeace, PETA, the Humane Society, and Sea Shepherd are all business at the end of it all. They will create marketing campaigns and manufacture villains in order to keep their operations afloat. As the documentary showed, seals are no longer endangered, but the campaign against killing cute seal pups is such an effective money generator that it’s highly unlikely that they’ll ever stop using baby seal imagery. And as businesses cater to their demographics, animal lovers can be the biggest suckers.

Just recently, I saw a popular animal show in Korea do a showcase on dogs raised for their meat. They partnered with an American company and rescued dogs destined for the butcher’s shop. They then flew the dogs to America and had families adopt them.  What an awful, awful, story of animal lovers not knowing where to throw their money! Why can’t they just use the money to rescue dogs in their own respective countries and have them adopted by locals? Wouldn’t that have resulted in more dogs rescued in the long run? It’s a great story to tell, “I rescued this dog from a Korean dog meat farm.” But you could’ve rescued two more dogs from a puppy mill in Idaho. And also, to the Korean producers of the show: great way of perpetuating the stereotype that Koreans eat dog! Some do, but the majority who don’t are I’m sure are quite tired of hearing about it.

I’m an animal lover myself, and I’ve cared for pets for most of my life. I just tend to be really suspicious of animal rights organizations and those pushing for people to eat a certain way. It just reeks of ethnocentrism sometimes.

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The Prince of Denmark is Uncertain

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Act 3, Scene 1. Hamlet, the young prince of Denmark, enters the courtyard and sees Ophelia sitting by a fountain. She reads a book while warm sunshine cuts through the garden and shines a glowing light on her. Unbeknownst to the prince, Polonius, spies on them from a nearby tree. As Hamlet approaches the young Ophelia, he sees a pair of winged creatures of yellow and black stripes, chasing each other above his beloved. They drift and dash with frenetic energy, an entanglement of miniscule, winged fury. Unsure of the dangers they might pose to Ophelia, the Prince of Denmark asks her, “Two bees or not two bees?”

Act 3, Scene 4. Since the passing of poor Yorick, the young prince has taken to writing melodies to pass time in the castle. This proved to be quite fortunate, since he plans to add music to the play he is writing for his uncle and his mother. But to the recent dismay of many members of the court, he has taken to the stylings of ‘The Five Satins’ and doo wop songs popular in the 50s and 60s. Uncertain on how to finish a line in his song, “Baby, Not in the Ear,” he looks to the night sky and asks, “Doo bee doo or not doo bee doo?”

Act 4, Scene 2. Because of his erratic behavior, King Claudius, at the behest of Queen Gertrude, sent the young prince away from the palace to work at a humble town registry. He was tasked with keeping records of people in the kingdom.  Births, marriages, deaths… he saw all of life’s stages pass countless of times from his station. With the birth of Patroclus and Susanna’s first son, the new family came to the registry to proclaim the birth of young Tiberius. Unsure on how to properly put to paper the young man’s name, the prince of Denmark asked the couple, “Two Bs or not two Bs?”

Act 4, Scene 5. Unable to keep his employment due to his poor grasp of spelling and wanton soliloquies, young Hamlet decided to the United States. He was closely followed by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to keep the King informed of his actions. Creating a life for himself in Pennsylvania, for the first in his life, he must now choose a proper representative for the US Senate on the 2016 elections. Hoisting the skull of poor Yorick which he brought from Denmark, he asks his old friend’s bones, “Toomey or not Toomey?” (See in 2016, it’s Toomey running against McGuinty in Pennsylvania for the Senate.)

Act 5, Scene 1. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern visited the young prince of Denmark at his home. They say Osric sent them gifts of wine and NBA 2K16, of which they wished to partake with him. The two were welcomed inside the prince’s apartment in downtown Easton (he can afford it), and they sat in front of the television. Playing the game with his two visitors, the prince chooses players for his starting lineup. He was never a fan of the Lakers, but 2016 being the last year of Mr. Bryant’s professional career, he wonders, “Kobe or not Kobe?”

Act 5, Scene 2. Tired of playing games, the young prince and his guests decided to watch the first episode of “Westworld.” A ghost predicted to him that he would someday watch this show. Everyone wouldn’t shut up about it. His beloved Ophelia recently wrote to him that it has become one of her favorite shows on television, although Laertes questions the believability of living in a “cowboy hellhole” as a dream vacation. With a few minutes of the show remaining, he can feel the urgent effects of the wine on his loins. He does not want to halt the show momentarily, but he could not enjoy it fully at his current state. The prince of Denmark asks himself, “Should I just pause it for a sec?”

(It’s election week in the US. I’d rather talk about when the smoke has cleared.)

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This Election is Draining Me.

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We are twenty-six days before the US elections and it couldn’t come soon enough. It’s been dominating the news and my Twitter feed so much that it’s virtually inescapable. Even on CBC.ca, it’s right there on the front page. As a Canadian living in South Korea, this shouldn’t affect me so, but it’s been one of the biggest concerns that I engage in online. It has been everything, and I can’t wait for it to be over.

It is disappointing that otherwise intelligent people are brought to a position to defend what are otherwise indefensible positions and thus bringing legitimacy to ideas which would normally have been dismissed. And what’s scary is the rate to what new issues and scandals are being brought up and how people have seemingly just accepted them as the new normal. Right now, the hot button issue is the GOP candidate’s behavior towards women, specifically sexual allegations leveled against him. But it wasn’t that long time ago when he was involved in fat-shaming people, making light of military veterans, not paying his taxes, spouting hatred towards Muslims, etc. I don’t even hear him or other people talk about his initial plans to erect a wall along the Mexican border anymore. It’s like all of these things have been accepted, their offensive barbs have been dulled, because a newer and shinier scandal is blinding everyone at the moment. The perpetual shock, disdain, and disappointment at scandals, followed by the bewilderment and frustration listening to what I would like to believe are more intelligent people than me defend his positions has become really tiring.

I’m a political junkie. I love talking about the law and politics. And it is disappointing that the level of discourse has gotten so low and ignorance has been so normalized, that some people are even attacking the very basic concept of a defendant having access to a lawyer that would advocate for him. And instead of being ridiculed and suffering consequences for making facetious arguments, “experts” are rewarded by being given more media coverage. Alex Jones and Roger Stone have become part of the political discourse. Alex Jones is claiming that President Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton are literally demons. Why even concern yourself with issues like education, police culture, and geopolitical events, when fanciful paranoia can get you just as much political media legs? It’s a damned shame.

What I fear is that even after the elections, even if Hillary wins, the poison that was infused in the media and political culture will linger far beyond 2016. Politics has become dirtier, party lines will be even more divided, and the discourse regarding race, religion, sex, etc. will be even more hateful. This is the election that made political discourse dumb, and has turned “straight talk” into blatant bigotry. The Tea Party movement began in 2009, and though it has waned since then, the American people are still feeling the damage it has done, especially in the way the Senate and the House of Representatives conduct its business. I fear that even if the Republicans suffer due to a down ballot effect, this movement fueled by Trump’s rhetoric and his supporters’ machinations will have a far more longer and insidious effect in our collective culture.

The elections can’t come soon enough.

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Birds, Octopus, Vegas Weddings and Being a Bad Friend

Crow

A friend of mine from high school is getting married in Vegas soon. She’s kinda skirting on the idea and doesn’t even refer to it as a wedding. She calls it more of a “celebration” than a “wedding.” But for all practical purposes, it is a wedding. She plans to go there with a guy she’s been living with for years now. I met him too. They visited us here in Seoul and we travelled to Japan with them. He seems pretty cool and I really think he makes a good match for my buddy. The problem is, for some reason, despite me being one of her oldest and best friends from high school, she seems to be actively avoiding telling me this.

Another friend told me about her plans. She even advised her, “I think you’d better tell Joe soon.” But still, no word. I message her online all the time, telling her inane jokes about the desert, Las Vegas, gambling, married life, buffets, Cher, etc… still nothing. I saw this friend last year in Canada, and we had a great time together. But back then, she told me nothing about her nuptial plans.

When I was getting married, I invited her and my oldest friends over to attend. Of course, only my best friend from university could afford to attend a wedding overseas. But why am I getting shut out? Am I that terrible a person?

I remember one time she confided to me about donating her kidney to one of her friends. It’s a very noble gesture, one that I hope someday I would have the courage to do should I be required to make a similar sacrifice. However, after hearing this, I told her that she was being extremely selfish and shortsighted. She wasn’t thinking about my needs, especially when I might need a kidney in the future. I also said that donating a kidney doesn’t necessarily make her a better person than me. Going to church more often does. Of course this was all told in jest, but it took her months to realize I was kidding. Perhaps this might’ve caused some damage?

The whole marriage thing got me thinking about Vegas weddings however. If you’re gonna get married, presumably committing yourself to the one person you’ll share your life with in a special, sacred ceremony to be remembered as one of the most significant memories of your existence, why do it in one of the few places in the United States with legalized prostitution? How did this idea ever take off? How was this ever marketed? Why aren’t people having quickie weddings in happier places, places like Disneyland or something?

Is it the booze? It’s the booze, isn’t it?

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Mommy Issues

Octopus

In Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, Nazi scientists were curious about parental bonds, especially regarding identical twins. (SPOILER!) Young identical twins of opposite genders are kept by the scientists with their mother. Occasionally, the boy would dress like a girl and the twins would be nearly impossible to tell apart. On what was probably the last stage of the experiment, the mother was forced to choose one of the twins. She was to give up one of them to a fate unknown to her. At the time, the boy was dressed like his sister, and both children desperately clung to their mother, not wanting to be taken away. Crossdressing however did not save him, and the mother, after struggling for so long, finally let go of her son.

The boy grew up to be the main antagonist of the story, fueled by the mystery of that fateful day. What was the meaning of that day? Did his mother truly let him go or did his mother mean to let go of his sister instead? And if his mother said she meant to keep him with her, could that really be believed? This is the genius of Naoki Urasawa. He has a gift of exploring people’s most common insecurities.

It’s the life raft question. What if you were the one left in the ocean?

I have three sisters. I grew up, knowing that my mother loved us all but not equally. I knew this even at a very young age. And even after she passed away, I was reminded that she loved me less compared to one of my sisters. It makes me bitter sometimes knowing this, but it didn’t turn me into a monster the same way Naoki Urasawa’s character did. I am confident, that like all mothers, she would sacrifice herself to save her children. But just like the story, given the choice, I’ll probably be let go to the hands of Nazi scientists.

Writing this now, I look back at how this truth, albeit common, might have affected me as a person. It might have affected my confidence growing up, doubting why I wasn’t as beloved as my sibling. But that lack of confidence could also have been fueled by a father who was never really the most encouraging person in my life growing up. I was told I threw a ball like a girl before I was even taught how to throw. Perhaps it affected how I see women in my life. Growing up with sisters have been a great influence in making me more sympathetic to feminist concerns, but perhaps my childhood has given me mother issues that affects not only how I relate to women. I don’t know. I’m just throwing this out there. It’s a bit late for Mother’s Day, but I remember feeling three things on Sunday. One is gratitude and longing for a mother who passed away. Two is regret for not being there for her during the last years of her life. Three is bitterness… selfish, idiotic bitterness.

The thing is this is not the only time I’ve had the mixed feeling of being second best (if that). I remember dating a girl once knowing that she liked another guy long before she even took notice of me. Now this is true for most relationships in the world, but I felt like she could drop me anytime this other guy showed any affection towards her. I was grateful for the attention she was giving me, but I was also insecure. At worst, there was even a hint of bitter victory, like “Ha! Finally, you like me now, after ignoring me for so long, you bitch!” And all the time she was with me, I kept wondering if she’d rather be with that other guy instead. It was very confusing.

Now as for my mother. All of the love and kindness she has given me, a dumb part of me would sometimes feel that it all pales to the love she has for my sibling. Enjoy the scraps. Your sister is getting the full meal. And just like with that girl, would my mother really have spent all that time with me? Wouldn’t she rather be with my sister instead?

Now, I realize how juvenile that all sounds. It’s juvenile, petty, and competitive. It probably doesn’t reflect her true feelings, but sometimes my mind goes there. It just does. In many ways, I should be grateful for having such a wonderful mother raise me. After all, there are many others who don’t have the luxury to complain about their parents. Or worse, having parents who mistreat them. I just wish sometimes that I merely suspected my mother having favorites, instead of having it proven to me several times in my life.

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Chickens

bloody_cock

I drew this based on an actual cockfight I saw when I visited a cockfighting ring in the Philippines back in 1998. I remember it being a bit gruesome especially in how a much cared for pet quickly becomes a casually manhandled broken animal after losing a fight. Attitudes change after a minute-long fight. I also remember the chaos at how the participants bet on fights: yelling odds and wagers, and throwing money owed. I don’t know how the system works and how it’s policed, but everyone there seems to be content with the chaos.

The birds are beautiful creatures which unfortunately are tied to evils regardless of how enthusiasts wax poetic at how the fights are metaphors to their own struggles. In the end, it’s still about animal cruelty and gambling.

I started drawing another bird last week, the greater prairie chicken, which is really a grouse. I’ve been on a Canada-kick lately, and I think I should do a tribute on one of Canada’s poor extirpated bird. Why can’t we reintroduce these beautiful birds back in the western provinces? C’mon Prime Minister Trudeau! Let’s get this done!

Due to a busy schedule, and honestly, bouts of depression, I haven’t had much time and energy to do art. Usually, working on art gets me through depression and anxiety, but lately I’ve just been torpid and it’s been extremely challenging to get myself out of it. So to artists out there who are making art to deal with their issues, good for you! You might be depressed, but at least you’re making something and have the energy to create despite being in a dark place.

As for me, I’m still looking into this fat bird to get myself to a healthier mental state. It’s easier to draw birds than to actually work on the things that are negatively affecting my life, but that’s another entry for another time. Unfortunately, I’ll be on vacation soon, and ironically, that may leave me with even less time to draw. Hopefully I could finish it soon.

 

 

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Rats

Rat_King.jpg

Sometimes, there’s not much to do but draw the royalty of the rat kingdom.

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