Category Archives: drawing

The Art Teacher

I’ve been teaching someone how to draw recently. It’s good to get back to my art school days and recall some of the things I learned. Shout out to Ms. Bachewich, my high school teacher who encouraged me to art school but thought that another student was much more exciting and more talented than me. And to Diane Thorneycroft, my first drawing teacher in university, a renowned artist herself. What a positive influence in my art life!

The good thing about the whole thing is that it got me back to doing the basics. For the longest time, I’ve been doing stylized small drawings. Then more recently, I’ve been doing mostly crazy busy drawings. I’m teaching someone more basic techniques of drawing as well as looking at things. God-willing, he will be drawing more like Robert Crumb in a few months.

Oddly enough, I find myself speaking differently when I’m teaching art. I sound gentler than usual and I’m speaking about “happy accidents.” Give me a few days, and perhaps I’ll stop shaving my head and start growing a beard.

Well, if I can evangelize a bit. I want more people to draw. Do what I do. Draw to keep your idle hands busy. Draw to not think of whatever is bothering you. Draw while you’re listening to a podcast or whatever. That way, you produce something beautiful while basically just chilling. Draw in order to meditate and get yourself some inner peace. There’s a science to art therapy as well as mixing meditation and art, but all I’m saying is that just the act of drawing is creating your own reality. It’s exercising control in a world that becoming less and less out of our control. It is both peaceful, empowering, and relaxing.

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What Do You Want?

How do you make a QR code attractive? How do you make a random sticker QR code out in the wild attractive to strangers? Well, apart from having some T&A, I’d like to think that some art would be enough of an incentive for the curious. I had half a mind to design something that centers more on T&A, but I don’t want people thinking that’s what my art is mostly about. People would be greatly disappointed if they come to my website or my Instagram hoping to see sexy images. The last explicitly “sexy” image I created was over two years ago, and half of the woman’s body was covered in a gorilla suit.

This isn’t the place for sexiness.

Anyway, I think my failure to be popular as an artist not only stems from my lack of talent and my inherent unwillingness (or boredom/lack of interest) in doing what sells, but also in my inability to market myself properly. QR codes in random places isn’t going to attract art buyers. That’s like shooting at a flying target while blindfolded. In any case, this isn’t really some serious attempt at marketing. This is just me creating an artistic problem for myself and trying to solve it.

Actually, I’m surprised at how resilient QR codes are. They are still a thing. The pandemic kinda made them even more ubiquitous here in Korea, but I’m sure they’re now seen more in public in other countries compared to a few years ago. Of course it’s never good to scan random QR codes in public as they might be phishing scams or might contain malware, but that’s why I made the image more artsy. Joseph Reyes is an artist. He’s not going to trick you with malware or whatever. If he wanted to do that, he would’ve had T&A on the image instead of someone resembling the Virgin Mother.

Well, if you happen to find my site via QR code, welcome! I hope you enjoy the art. Don’t worry, your phone didn’t download anything malicious.

I was asked what I want my audience to take away from my art. “Name three things that your audience will take away from looking at your art?”

Humor, satisfaction, and beauty.

First off, due to my need to amuse myself, there is inherent humor in many of small images. “Why is there a karaoke microphone pointed at the Virgin?,” “Why is the imp smoking a pipe?,” “Did I just see that?” It might not seem like funny pictures at first, but I want people to be amused with some of the images I included, even though some of the jokes are vague or are just meant to amuse me primarily. I am a big follower of Dada, and a big aspect of Dada is humor and joy when seemingly strange and unrelated elements collide in art.

Not to brag but I also think that sometimes my opinions are a bit unorthodox. My depiction of Gulliver’s Travels as a horror story is something that is not often considered, but if you think about it, waking up in a beach and being surrounded by tiny men sounds like a night mare. Another is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and referencing it simply as a “moving day.” It’s a tad dark, but I find the idea amusing.

Second, is satisfaction. I want my audience to be satisfied in finding small details. I want them to see small images and know that they’re one of the few that noticed it. It’s almost voyeuristic in nature, having secret knowledge and getting a joke that is not meant for everybody. This is why I highlight small details of my work in Instagram. Take the image above for example. Do you see the phone looking at Instagram? Now, how many people would see that? And the reason why I included it? How many times have you prayed to your Instagram god today?

I often include interesting details in my images. So they’re discovery hopefully brings joy to my viewers.

Third is beauty. I want my works to be beautiful Just like any art, I want them to be aesthetically pleasing, something that people would want on their wall, or at least something that people would be inclined to look at. A friend of mine suggested I make “I Spy” books, which basically these images are, except that they’re more for adults and that hopefully the images work as a whole and not just a hodgepodge cacophony of small images and words.

As for me, what do I get out of my works?

Hard work, time, and humor.

I want my images to exude a feeling of hard work and time. I want my viewers to wonder how long it takes for me to produce one image. I have a chip on my shoulder regarding small works versus large works. People often overly focus on selling large works to fill space, ignoring the fact that small works can take just as much effort to produce as large canvass paintings. The image above for example took 15-20 hours to do. It sure doesn’t look like it to a layman, and it’s something that art sellers don’t really care for. They just want to fill space, ignoring both hard work and time.

And humor, there must always be humor. I’m an incredibly depressed person. Not only does drawing keep my hands busy, it also keeps me from dwelling too much into my negative thoughts. An amusing image now and then helps lighten my mood.

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On NFTs (now)

Apparently NFTs are still a thing and there is still much about them that I don’t know about. I’ve written negatively about them before, but a friend of mine who works in fintech has been educating me a lot about them. Now, of course I’m still very wary with investing in anything, and I’m really in no position to buy any bored primates, but I’m now more open-minded about them. A few things about them however.

1. They could be one of the only ways to truly sell and monetize digital art. Digital art is still art, and it is a bit unfair that they haven’t been able to be part of the art market until NFTs came around. This is similar to my complaint about anatomical/scientific illustrations. Why are they not seen nor exhibited as high art? There should be room for them in galleries, the same way there is room for most kinds of art. The only difference with anatomical/scientific illustrations and digital art is that the former can be monetized while the latter hasn’t been able to until NFTs came around.

2. The NFT market, much like the cryptocurrency market will always be in a state of ups and downs. I prematurely predicted the demise of the NFT market months ago and yet they are still here. Many NFTs have lowered in value since then, but many are still worth the initial investment. And me, I’m sitting here eating crow.

3. Many if not most NFTs are bad art. The percentage of bad art among NFTs compared to just plain digital art is considerably higher; I’d say 98% of NFTs are bad art. And it naturally will be that way for two reasons. One is that most of the NFT buyers are in it for the investment. They are not in it for the art. The second reason is that much like the Bored Ape Yacht Club, lots of NFTs are a set of similar images with a randomized set of traits that are digitally generated. Make 10,000 similar drawings, randomize their features, have people bid on them or set prices on them based on the rarity of the features an image has.

4. I don’t think many artists are making digital art and turning them into NFTs on a 1:1 ratio. I think that’s a rarity. The story of NFTs helping unknown artists in developing countries finally make a living off their art is a fairy tale that is only true for the smallest percentage of the market.

5. Most NFTs will not increase in value. There’s simply too many of them, and the initial prices of NFTs that made the news last year were so high that there’s nowhere else to go but down. Just check out what happened to the NFT of Jack Dorsey’s first tweet. It was sold for $48 million, and on the most recent auction, it barely got $300 in bids.

6. Celebrities who promote NFTs or who show off their purchases are in it for themselves. They are actively trying to increase the value of their NFTs before selling them. Did anyone really believe Jimmy Fallon and Paris Hilton when they mused about the uniqueness and artistry of their bored apes on the ‘Tonight Show?’

7. As incredulous as I am about the metaverse, NFTs will be an integral part of it. Basically, anything that is traded over the Internet for monetary value that has a limited amount functions as an NFT. The only difference is the blockchain element. If the metaverse does become all-encompassing as Mark Zuckerberg wants it to be, then we have no choice but to be involved in things like NFTs.

8. I am still skeptical of the element of the artist earning a percentage each time their artwork changes hands. This was one of the initial selling points of NFTs and I didn’t really see a point in it. Why would they get a royalty for items that they already sold? If I sold a painting, I don’t care if it increases in value when it gets resold years later. Good for the buyer. Good for me too because it means I’m talented enough to command such prices. But getting a percentage of the sale? Why? And when does that stop? Until I’m dead?

9. I am still dismayed at the cost of minting NFTs, both monetarily and environmentally. Apparently, the technology is getting better and the process will become greener, but who knows when that would be reality and whether that would also affect the price of minting NFTs.

10. Will I be making NFTs in the future? Who knows? I dismissed them prematurely last year, and now I’m no longer sure. I will need to talk to more people about them. I still need a lot of education.

11. I believe there are two camps when it comes to looking at NFTs. One camp are old school artists and the other are artists willing to try out new things online. During the beginning of the pandemic, I was trying to sell an idea to a friend of mine who owns an art gallery. It was a virtual art gallery that people could navigate in 3D online. She dismissed the idea as too fanciful and would require too much effort on her part. I tried to volunteer my services but she shut me down. Two years in, many galleries and artists are doing shows online one way or another, including virtual 3D galleries. Boy, did I feel vindicated.

I don’t want to be in the old school camp with my friend. I’d like to be more open-minded.

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Since the Spanish colonization of the Philippines, Filipinos seem to have been used mainly for their skills and labor. First it was within the country, growing and exporting crops for the Spanish empire. Then when the Americans took over in the 1900s, Filipinos started working in the US’ agricultural sector. They were sent to Hawaii as well as Mainland United States. This partly explains the considerable Filipino population in Hawaii. The other reason is that Filipinos also served in the US military, beginning in World War II. The Americans also began drawing educated Filipino professionals, including nurses, doctors, accountants, and engineers. Non-professionals also began working in other countries as artists, musicians, and laborers.

The former president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos instituted the Labor Code of the Philippines, which eventually created the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (later becoming part of the Department of Labor and Employment), which basically functioned as the middle man between countries and Filipinos looking to work overseas. By 2023, the Department of Migrant Workers is set to be launched, looking over the rights, benefits, and welfare of overseas workers.

The country’s main industries are varied, from manufacturing, ship building, tourism, etc. But as of writing this article, around 10% of the country’s GDP is through remittances sent by Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). This can be any laborer from skilled doctors to house helps. For decades, they have helped support countless of households and raised them to the middle-class, especially with the average monthly salary in the Philippines being 12,500 pesos ($240 US) in 2021. One can only imagine how much remittances can help with such a dire salary. One person working overseas can significantly improve a household’s lifestyle even if the OFW is only earning a meager salary by the overseas country’s standards. Now, imagine if this OFW is doing technical work. The remittances could potentially cover the salary of one or two people working in the Philippines of more, depending on the amount.

This is why it is in the best interest of the Philippine government to encourage Filipinos to work overseas, despite the long-term brain drain it might incur. Sure, the country is losing medical professionals, scientists, and engineers who decide to work abroad, but A) can companies in the Philippines compete with the salary these professionals can potentially earn in another country? And B) the remittances they send would be significantly higher than an OFW working as a blue collar laborer. This is not unique to the Philippines, however. One of the nurses who helped my mom was from China. Working in Canada as a hospice nurse, he used to be a surgeon in China. Better salary plus democracy, I don’t blame him for moving and working in Canada.

As countries develop and their populations move to jobs in cities, more and more industries in countrysides need migrant laborers to supplant the shortage of local workers. Take South Korea for example. Most Koreans are leaving their hometowns and moving to Seoul and its satellite cities in the hopes to work in its many conglomerates. Agricultural and manufacturing industries are then increasingly becoming more dependent on OFWs. It is not uncommon to see farmers or fishing boat captains leading a group of Filipinos to work in the absence of willing locals. An interesting aside, farmers in Korea are also left wanting for brides since many Korean women do not want to work in farms and take care of their in-laws in the countryside. This leaves Korean men in the countryside looking for partners overseas, particularly China, the Philippines, and Vietnam, creating matchmaking industries in Korea and these countries.

Growing up in the Philippines however, I learned of the term “japayuki,” which had a derogatory implication, suggesting that women OFWs in Japan working in the entertainment industry or “japayukis” are actually working in some form of prostitution. Technically, “japayuki” means any Filipino working in Japan, so foreign men doing manual labor or people working in a technical or medical field are indeed “japayukis,” but the word and the nebulous meaning of an “entertainment” visa feeds into the term suggesting prostitution. A couple of things however. One, in Korea, many foreigners who are arrested for prostitution in the country are either in the country on an entertainment visa or a tourist visa. Two, when I was in Hong Kong, I happened to stumble upon a very upbeat and packed bar with a big band playing. Lo and behold, it’s a group of male Filipino musicians on stage, most probably in the city on an entertainment visa. So yeah, despite the two things I mentioned not being in Japan, there’s probably a bit of truth on either takes on the term “japayuki.

OFWs are referred to locally as “modern-day heroes” not only for the fact that they are overseas, away from their families and scrimping away in order to send money back home, but sometimes they are subject to abuse by their employers, not to mention sometimes stigma at home, especially with the term “japayuki.” And again, working overseas or being away from one’s family in order to support them is not a uniquely Filipino thing; Nearly a quarter of a million Sri Lankans live and work in the UAE. But in the Philippines, it is about 10% of the GDP. One in ten Filipinos work overseas. In Korea, they have a term, “gireogi appa” or goose dad. This refers to Korean fathers working in Korea in order to finance their families overseas. These fathers probably deal with the same loneliness as OFWs, but they’re definitely better paid and the money they send goes outside of Korea and does not come into the country.

13% of male Filipino workers are categorized as unskilled laborers. This mean they could either be working as living assistants or domestic workers. For women, the percentage is 58%. These are low-wage, unskilled work, and women are more vulnerable to abuse by their employers. They can also suffer stereotypes of being uneducated, submissive, or simply be mail-order-brides. It’s a heavy burden to bear and yet, Filipina domestic helpers seem to be ubiquitous. I’ve seen them here in Seoul employed by US expats. Also in Hong Kong, I’ve witnessed thousands of domestic helpers gather on their Sunday day off around Victoria Park in Causeway Bay to have lunch together, catch up with friends, gossip, and pray. Often living with their employers and having limited free time, I thought the gathering in Hong Kong was a way for local domestic helpers not only to reconnect with the Filipino community but also as a survival skill, to collect a bit of peace and sanity after a busy six-day week.

As I mentioned in another article, the concept of a poorly paid house help was a product of Spanish colonization. Rich families would employ someone from a poorer caste to perform domestic chores. To this day, many Filipino families would employ “katulong”s (house helpers) or “yaya”s (nannies), and these families don’t necessarily have to be especially rich in order to afford a house help. It seems that Filipinos have taken the concept of “katulong” and turned it into a service that could be exported.

OFWs are not just limited to working in different countries however. Many are working in companies whose countries are questionable at best.

A friend of mine from the Philippines once surprised me when I learned that she started working as a photographer for a cruise ship. “What a totally random occupation!”, I thought. Later, I learned that Filipinos are some of the best targets for cruise companies to employ. For one, many Filipinos have a strong maritime heritage, and another is that English is spoken as the official second language. Filipinos also have a reputation for being polite and hospitable. Unfortunately, cruise companies work in a legal limbo. Royal Caribbean for example is registered in Liberia. Policing labor practices or even investigating crimes is a gray area at sea and the government of the Philippines is willing to turn a blind eye to these things. Compensation for injury or a lost limb while working in a cruise ship can be notoriously low, if they’re even awarded. Cruise work is also notoriously long with time off counted in hours rather than days. Despite all of this, however, Filipinos are willing to risk working in a cruise ship in order to send remittances. Looking at the salary of different cruise ship occupations, the lowest ones are more than double the average salary in the Philippines. Twice in Manila, I’ve chatted with bartenders in hotels, later learning that they both got their training working in cruise ships. Apparently, about 30 percent of OFWs work in cruise ships, tankers, or other shipping vessels.

So yes, God bless the OFWs. They are indeed heroes, working away from their families and opening themselves up to abuse and exploitation. If only the Philippines had a better economy and the lure of working overseas will no longer be as strong. Fortunately, business process outsourcing seems to be getting more and more popular in the country, with the Philippines being more attractive to businesses than India. I hope those jobs get to replace working overseas and that more people get to stay in the country with their families.

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National Heroes and the Problems with the 5 Peso Coin and ‘Spoliarium.’

I’m not the best person to talk about Filipino heroes. There are names that Filipino children are taught and grew up knowing. Jose Rizal is the national hero of the Philippines. He was a member of the Filipino Propaganda movement against the Spanish occupation and the author of Noli Me Tangere and El filibusterismo. Andres Bonifacio was “The Father of the Philippine Revolution.” Marcelo del Pilar was one of the leaders of the Reform Movement in Spain. Apolinario Mabini was known as “The Brain of the Revolution.” And there are many others. From the earliest hero, Lapulapu, a chief who killed Magellan but also died in the Battle of Mactan, Filipinos made heroes from those who opposed the Spanish occupation, a period which lasted for 333 years. Even the first Filipino saint, St. Lorenzo Ruiz, was sent to Japan and eventually to his martyrdom due to a false accusation that he had murdered a Spaniard during the occupation.

The Philippines was also occupied by the US and the Japanese, but the Americans had a relatively less directly antagonistic and more complicated relationship with the Philippines despite a three-year strife. To this day, the US remains a partner and an ally of the country. As for the Japanese occupation, which Filipinos fought with the help of US support, figures like guerrilla leaders Luis Taruc, Terry Magtanggol, and Marcos Agustin are not as famous as the ones who led Filipinos against the Spanish.

So if there are better sources for Filipino heroes out there, what am I to write about? Well, I have a couple of bones to pick. The first one is with Emilio Aguinaldo, the man on the 5-peso coin. He was a veteran of several revolutionary wars and was officially the first and youngest president of the country, the First Philippine Republic, which lasted about two years before the break of the Philippine-American War. He was a brave and brilliant soldier and leader when he was younger. I will not take that away from him.

After his first capture by the Americans, he took an oath of allegiance to the United States. However, during this time, his former allies who fought the Spanish alongside him are still fighting what they see as colonial forces, who are this time the Americans. Andres Bonifacio instituted the Tagalog Republic which refused to recognize the government of Emilio Aguinaldo, especially since it now surrendered to the Americans. Bonifacio and his brother were captured and implicated in a crime allegedly done by those under Bonifacio’s command. In a sham trial with a jury filled with Aguinaldo’s advocates and a defense attorney that believes his client was not innocent, both Bonifacio brothers were found guilty and sentenced to death, but later to exile. This was later reversed back to execution.

Aguinaldo is also believed to have ordered the assassination of Antonio Luna, one of the most brilliant generals fighting against the Americans at the time. Luna was invited to a location via telegram sent by Aguinaldo for a meeting, only to be confronted by army officials he considered enemies once he arrived at the meeting location. Luna never received a telegram that the meeting with Aguinaldo was cancelled, if there ever was a telegram. He and his companions were slaughtered in a plaza in front of a church immediately after the failed meeting. After the death of Luna, Luna’s men were left demoralized and eventually surrendered to the Americans.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese invaded the Philippines. Aguinaldo famously sided with the Japanese and implored General Douglas MacArthur and the Americans to surrender to the Japanese. He naively believed that the Imperial Japanese Army would free the Philippines from American occupation and finally give them independence. Someone should’ve told him the meaning of “imperial.” This is the Japanese empire that enslaved people, did horrible experiments on prisoners, tortured POWs, and raped women in the countries they invaded. He later became part of what many considered a puppet government and discouraged guerrilla warfare, spreading anti-war and pro-Japanese propaganda. As much as I love current day Japan, the Imperial Japan of the past was disgusting. Aguinaldo must know what the Japanese were doing at the time and what they are capable of. He cannot be that naive. The Rape of Nanjing was in 1937, just a few years before the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in 1941.

Later, when the US defeated the Japanese and regained control of the country, Aguinaldo went into hiding and was later arrested as a Japanese collaborator. He would’ve spent his last days in prison if he wasn’t pardoned by Manuel Roxas, the country’s fifth president.

Now, despite his earlier actions as a revolutionary, doesn’t his later actions as a leader seem slimy and unprincipled? Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio bravely faced firing squads. I’m not sure if the older Emilio Aguinaldo would do the same. He seems more a conniving politician than a revolutionary. If it weren’t for the Americans, maybe the Philippines would still be a Japanese colony, all with the help of Aguinaldo. I wouldn’t want this man’s face in coins.

Another hero I have an issue with is Juan Luna, the celebrated Filipino artist. While I admire The Battle of Lepanto and think it’s a masterpiece, I’m frankly not a fan of Spoliarium. I think it was only elevated by the commendations of his friend Jose Rizal who compared the abuse and indignities suffered by gladiators under Roman rule to that of the Filipinos under the Spanish. As a piece, I do not find it exciting at all. Even the name is gibberish to me. I suspect it is made up the same way vomitoriums don’t really exist. I also find it odd to elevate him so much when most of his famous works are done in the European classic tradition with European themes; there’s not many that connect to the Philippines and the culture of the country. I’m not even sure if Jose Rizal’s interpretation of Spoliarium is Juan Luna’s intent or if it was just incidental.

Juan Luna was a bully, a serial wife abuser, and a double murderer. I think his success and being a pensionado got into his head and wouldn’t think twice to abuse his wife who he eventually shot dead through a door along with his mother-in-law in a fit of jealous rage. After being arrested and charged, he was acquitted on the grounds of crime of passion and temporary insanity; insanity over his wife’s unfounded infidelity. This was 1893 and misogyny was to be expected, but it still saddens me how women seemed to be so disposable back then. Now many artists are famously horrible to women or their muses. Auguste Rodin was not particularly good to Camille Claudel. But she was able to rise as a renowned artist herself and certainly didn’t die from gunshot wounds from Rodin.

What’s fascinating is that even after the double murder, Juan Luna was still able to continue his career and even be a part of the Philippine Revolution. This is like letting OJ continue his career successfully and even be elevated as a hero even after the murder of his ex-wife. There are better Filipino artists out there: Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, Guillermo Tolentino, and Fernando Amorsolo. None of them are sociopaths.

No hero is perfect, of course; most of the US’s Founding Fathers kept slaves. But I think it would help to know some of the less known history of the Philippine’s heroes. I say this because I actually grew up hearing a lot about Juan Luna, not really knowing that he was such a despicable human being.

Lastly, while I have nothing negative to say about Jose Rizal, there’s an argument that Andres Bonifacio, “The Father of the Philippine Revolution” is more deserving of the title national hero. Rizal inspired Bonifacio in his revolution, but Philippine historian Renato Constantino argues that Rizal was a “United States-sponsored hero” who was against the Spanish occupation and already passed away before he could make any comments regarding the American occupation. Andres Bonifacio fought and lost in the Philippine-American War. Rizal had a more diplomatic approach to change while Andres Bonifacio was more radical and troublesome with occupiers, including the Americans. His guerrilla warfare could even be compared to that of Che Guevarra, famously assassinated by the CIA. Even at a young age, I thought that Rizal seemed privileged: traveling overseas, socializing with elites, romancing women, etc. Most historians believe that Jose Rizal was unknown to many Filipinos at the time since he was often overseas and frequently associated with the elites. Contrast this with Bonifacio who had an image of someone who was down in the trenches fighting with the people. I found it odd that Jose Rizal was the national hero compared to someone who had a more direct hand in Philippine independence and similarly had to face a firing squad.

Another person who supposedly advocated for making Jose Rizal the national hero instead of Andres Bonifacio was Emilio Aguinaldo; Emilio Aguinaldo who allegedly had a hand in the execution of Andres Bonifacio. Why would he give someone the honor of national hero when he was instrumental in his demise? That, and he was also very much in line with the forces that Andres Bonifacio was fighting against.

God bless Jose Rizal and his sacrifice. He is a hero; I will not argue that he’s not. But I cannot help but think that his elevation to national hero over Andres Bonifacio was part of American propaganda. You wanna be a hero and save your country? Write a book and traffic in allegories. Don’t be a guerilla fighter.

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Let’s Eat.

As a Filipino-Canadian in living in South Korea, I used to catch the eye of other Filipinos, especially in my old neighborhood where many Filipino expats among other foreign nationals live. Foreigners sense each others’ presence; it’s just a thing among foreigners in South Korea and I’m sure everywhere else. It happens among different races as long as they’re non-native. The thing is, and it’s a bad habit, no matter how innocent the curiosity is, when it comes to some Filipinos, it comes off as them looking at me suspiciously, almost menacingly, and it make me uncomfortable. Perhaps the stares can sometimes be too long. This uncomfortable stare is one of the things that made my wife feel uncomfortable when we were traveling in the Philippines a few years ago. She felt like someone is always observing her or us. Let’s all try to be subtle, people.

But the thing is, once you get beyond that, the minute you get a little familiar with Filipinos, then it’s almost like you have an instant extended family. While I was living in my old neighborhood, now and then I’d hear “hoy, kabayan! (Hey, fellow countryman!)” or even better, “Kain na tayo. (Let’s eat!)”

Being invited to eat or share a meal by strangers is something I find quite unique and I don’t normally hear this from strangers of other nationality. Say you pass by someone you are sorta familiar with and they happen to be Japanese, Korean, or whatever nationality, do they invite you to join them? I think this might be a Filipino thing.

More than once, I’ve been offered to join Filipinos as I pass by while they are eating. This could be in a Filipino store or a restaurant. A couple of times in a Filipino store I happen to frequent, the owner insisted on me having his packed dinner because he was sure it was a dish I miss eating or he was insistent that I should try his wife’s cooking. I ended up bringing them home and enjoying them each time. I don’t even remember us introducing ourselves to one another. All he knows is that I most likely have a Filipino background due to my frequency in his establishment (and that I looked really hungry?).

The closest I can compare this to is when Koreans ask, “Bap mokosoyo? (Have you eaten?)” It is a common expression with roots going back to years of wartime poverty and starvation. As a Confucian society, Koreans generally have community-centered ethos, and this is reflected in the expression inquiring about their neighbors’ well-being and whether they’ve had anything to eat for the day.

Times are tough, have you had anything to eat? If not, here, have some food.

South Korea has a long history of being invaded by the Chinese and being under the rule of Imperial Japan. There’s been repeated times of struggle, starvation, and injustice under foreigner conquerors. The same is true with the Philippines. It was the Spanish colony for hundreds of years, then the country was ruled by the Japanese, then by the United States. Frequently poor throughout history, the simple pleasure of having a meal, sharing it with a countryman is akin to ensuring the survival of one’s neighbor, of one’s own family.

So when I’m shopping at a Filipino store in Seoul (or any city overseas) and I see the owner bringing some food in to eat and they politely offer, “Sir, kain na muna tayo. (Sir, let’s eat first.)” It brings to mind the same history of wartime poverty, starvation, and shared perseverance the Koreans and Filipinos went through. I’m sure there must be similar sentiments regarding food among other nationalities other than Koreans and Filipinos, but from my experience, I’ve only seen it among the two.

Sharing a meal to bring two parties closer together is universal. From kings of old age, to modern dignitaries; from families during holidays; and even simple dates among couples; it is one of the most basic ways to bond with one another. But from my experience, with Filipinos, there is eagerness to share and to bond simply by being Filipino, even to mere acquaintances.

“You’re Filipino. I’m Filipino. We’re both in a foreign country. How about sharing a meal?”

Around 20 percent of the Philippine population live below the poverty line. More than fifty percent of Filipino households struggle with food insecurity according to a 2019 estimate. This, along with the frequency of natural disasters, could suddenly turn a middle-class family to one that is struggling with food. The act of sharing what little food people have is a communal reaction to poverty or at least to the ever-present looming threat of food insecurity. Perhaps it is an act of Christian kindness (even if the offer is insincere or just made in an attempt at being polite) while the offerer is still capable of being generous. Who knows when food will be scarce? Might as well be kind and generous given the opportunity.

I didn’t grow up in a rich environment. And foolish as it may be, I’ve seen family members come into money for a short while and instead of saving it or investing it in something more productive, the initial instinct was to share the sudden windfall, to be generous while they still can. The money never lasted of course, but there was a tendency to be generous in an almost haphazard “you only live once,” sort of way. And who can blame them for thinking so? So many people are financially starving. The chance to be generous to others, to spread goodwill, or in some cases, return goodwill, might never come again.

Filipinos can often be accused of crab mentality. See crabs, when put in a bucket, don’t need to have a lid to prevent them from escaping. The crabs will pull down on one another and thus make escaping futile. Filipinos sometimes put down others who are more successful or people who are about to be more successful than they are. It’s ugly. But whenever I hear “kabayan” or “kain na tayo” from complete strangers, I hear the complete opposite of crab mentality. I hear people rooting for me. I hear people checking to see if I have eaten and whether I would share a meal with them. Life is hard, let’s work through it together. Here, have a meal.

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A Year in Review

First off, covid has gone up, gone down, and gone up again in South Korea. I got my two jabs and will be ready for my booster next month. Despite the high numbers, I managed to not catch the virus. The tracing and tracking in the country as well as the treatment has been good, so the death rate has been quite low and the numbers are believable. The country also has a vaccine pass rule everywhere, and no, it’s not tyrannical. If anything, it’s liberating to know that everyone in the establishment I go to has been vaccinated and that I will be warned if anyone got covid anywhere I went to.

This year, I started regularly seeing a therapist and have been religious with my drugs. It’s helping and I do look forward to each of our sessions. I feel like I have too much control over our sessions sometimes, but I’m glad that he’s helped with my anxiety, depression, and addictive personality. I had a public nervous breakdown last summer while I was arguing with my wife, and I vowed not to revisit that bar again nor put myself in similar situations. It’s just too triggering.

I also started to study more Korean by myself. It’s difficult, but going to class has been impossible. I miss meeting people and making friends in class, but I guess that’s part of being older. Making friends is difficult.

I haven’t gone to the gym for two years now. I miss it. I try to work out more at home and climb stairs more, but it doesn’t compare going to the gym. But it doesn’t matter really. It’s not like I’m going to the beach anytime soon. I’ve eaten way too much Burger King this year. My favorite Subway Sandwich place has closed down, and now due to laziness and me often eating lunch at my dek, I just grab a burger from the Burger King next door. In other food news, my new favorite place for dining is this Japanese lamb place in Yeonnam-dong. Good food, good price, great Japanese ambiance, friendly staff, decent sake. One of the servers is a kickass tattoo artist as well.

I used to not be a driver, but this year I became a motorist. I can’t travel outside of the country so I might as well travel outside of the city. I got a car, it’s an Audi A4. It’s already in need of some body work, not my fault, but I’m going to ignore it for now. I think it adds some character, plus, I can sense that it won’t be the first scratch my car is going to get in the next few months. In a country filled with Hyundai Avantes, it’s a bit slicker than the average 4-door sedan. But in the words of Marv from Sin City, “Modern cars- they all look like electric shavers.”

I didn’t travel outside of the country but I did go outside of Seoul and had the worst sashimi ever. Never eat machine-sliced sashimi. Aside from a lack of TLC, it’s simply disgusting.

Artwise, I’ve been consistently producing works. It’s therapeutic and very calming. It’s been very difficult to get my work shown and I imagine it’s going to be the same next year. I didn’t apply to too many shows this year, which was disappointing, but it doesn’t make much financial sense to me to send my work overseas with the way covid has devastated postal services and made sending works exorbitantly expensive if not impossible. Sales have been dismal as well, but that’s the same throughout my art career. I don’t really care much about sales. I did publish a second book last February, a plan from 2020 which I actually followed through on. Now, I’m contemplating publishing another book next year. And no, I’m not making nor buying any NFTs. The only people who are saying NFTs are good are usually ones who are already invested and shilling NFTs. It’s rare to find NFTs actually uplifting artists. And even funnier, I found a post asking, “What is a good way to print or display NFTs on a wall?” Haha!

Unfortunately, I’ve stopped gardening. I moved to a new office and I no longer have the space to cultivate plants. I’m glad to have maintained it for a while and even given out several seedlings to people. I’m hoping at least half of them are still alive. Oh, and I also learned that cherry pits are not toxic. Not two cherry pits, not thirty, not sixty. They are simply not toxic.

Family’s been okay, but I haven’t been seeing eye to eye with my dad this year. I haven’t called that often and when I do, he often frustrates me. I really should try harder, but I keep thinking why? Why do his children have to try harder to get along better with him? Why is the effort seemingly always from our side? What about him? I don’t see him making things better for himself? This is the year I gave up caring too much.

It’s late but I think the ‘The French Dispatch’ is the best movie I’ve seen this year. Wes Anderson is a treasure. I’m still upset that my bestfriend back in the 90s couldn’t appreciate the genius of ‘Rushmore.’ Other movies I enjoyed; I was surprised with Nicolas Cage’s ‘Pig’ and delighted by “The White Tiger.” I couldn’t think of anything too remarkable on television. I’ve see quite a few Korean dramas but nothing stands out. Everyone was raving about ‘Squid Game,’ but frankly, I didn’t think it was that special. Videogame-wise, I enjoyed ‘Persona 5 Strikers’ and ‘Resident Evil: Village’ the most. Otherwise, I haven’t played too many video games this year. Also, I’ve yet to get a PS5. I wish I could read more books, but most of the books I’ve been reading are Korean learning books. No fiction this year. I’ve fallen behind on Chuck Palahniuk. Music, I’ve given up on anything new. I’ve been listening to a lot of Sparklehorse and Vic Chestnutt, which I realize is not really the best for my mental well-being.

There’s been a couple of close calls, but I almost died twice this year. Each day, I’m grateful that I’m still breathing air. Tired of living, but grateful that I am. Dying is scary. Here’s to 2022, which I suspect is going to be exactly like 2020. I’ll be moving houses, renewing my contract at work, trying to get into a Speedo before summer, get into more art shows, and hopefully improve my relationships. God help me.

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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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Inktober is Coming

Inktober is almost here. The prompts for every day of October is already out. One thing I’ve learned to appreciate about this October drawing initiative is that not only does it encourage people to make art, but it also does the hardest thing about drawing for me: coming up with ideas of what to draw. I think I spend half of my time tormenting myself thinking of what to draw as opposed to actually drawing. Thank you, Inktober. Here’s to trying to keep up with all of the daily prompts!

I just realized that it’s been a while since I’ve applied to any shows. Being busy and with the pandemic, it’s been very difficult to find an outlet which could cater to my works. I do make art regularly, it’s just that I haven’t been very active in trying to get them out there, especially with the postal services messed up and prices to send work overseas skyrocketing. There are tons of opportunities out there online, but I haven’t been spending the time getting my heart broken by applying to juried shows. It’s time to get busy.

The image here is one that was suggested to me. Make a busy traffic scene. I didn’t want to end up with the opening scene of ‘La La Land’ or the music video for ‘Everybody Hurts,’ one of REM’s worst songs, so I tried to look at traffic from an unusual point of view, from down below. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it fully translates. Half the time, I have to explain to people what is going on and why they are only seeing the undersides of cars.

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Suicide, it’s a suicide!

Not my proudest moment, but I flirted with suicide last night. I’m not going to go into details, but I was in a really bad place and I just tested the waters, trying to see if I could ultimately check out.

가장 자랑스러운 순간은 아니지만 어제 밤에 자살해봤습니다. 세부 사항은 다루지 않겠지만 저는 정말 안 좋은 곳 이었는데 그것을 시도했습니다.

The truth is, I’m actually a pretty awful person. Aside from being horribly cynical, I’m increasingly depressed, have low self-esteem, hedonistic, self-centered, no dreams for the future, not to mention I have a crippling sex addiction (which probably stems from low self-esteem and self-hating issues). Ultimately, I tend to be pretty shitty to the people closest to me. And quite frankly, they are probably much better off not getting caught up in my bullshit in the first place.

사실은 저는 정말 꽤 끔찍한 사람이요. 냉소적 인 것 외에도 저는 점점 우울 해지고, 자존감이 낮고, 쾌락 주의적이며, 자기 중심적이며, 미래에 대한 꿈이 없으며, 심각한 섹스 중독이 도 있어요. (아마도 낮은 자존감과 자기 증오 문제에서 기인 할 것이요). 궁극적으로 저는 가장 가까운 사람들에게 꽤 나쁘게 경향이 있어요. 그리고 솔직히, 그들은 아마도 처음에 내 헛소리에 빠지지 않는 것이 훨씬 낫어요.

As I mentioned before, I’m only good in small doses. Anything more, and you get to see how awful a person I am. But that’s for people around me though. Unfortunately, I am the person I live with. The call is coming from inside the house. It’s awful. And last night, my self-loathing got to the level of low-stakes suicidal tryouts.

앞서 언급했듯이 저는 소량 만 잘해요. 그 이상이면 내가 얼마나 끔찍한 지 알게되요. 하지만 그것은 내 주변 사람들을위한 것이요. 불행히도 제 자신을 함께 사는 사람이요. 집 안에서 전화가 오고 있어요. 끔찍 해요. 그리고 어젯밤, 저의 자기 혐오감은 자살 시도 수준에 이르렀어요.

The thing is, coming out of it, I’m not sure if I’m happy I didn’t succeed. And I’m not sure I won’t try again either. I’ve been having suicidal fantasies for years now. I’ve been rehearsing different scenarios over and over again on my head, weighing the pros and cons, etc. I even wrote romantically about it a couple of times. But the dumb thing is, when I finally attempted one scenario, I came away with nothing. Just back to the fantastical drawing board.

그것에서 나오는데, 성공하지 못했어 내 행복하지가 잘 모르겠어요. 그리고 다시 시도할 거야. 수년 동안 자살에 대한 환상을 가지고 있어요. 여러 시나리오를 머리 위에서 반복해서 연습하고 장단점 등을 비교했어요. 그것에 대해 몇 번 로맨틱하게 썼어요. 그러나 멍청한 것은 마침내 한 시나리오를 시도했을 때 아무것도 얻지 못했어요. 환상적인 드로잉 보드로 돌아가요.

Now, this isn’t a cry for help. This is just me writing things the way they are in my head. I’m an awful person who hurts others, and last night, I tried to hurt myself. That’s just the way it is. No lessons learned, no interesting insights. I don’t need people’s help either. And if you talk to me in person about it, I will wave it off and spin a different but far more interesting tale. Maybe I’ll tell you a long drawn out joke as a distraction. Ever heard of the suicidal moth? What about the systemic racism in the world of olives?

자, 이것은 도움을 구하는 외침이 아니요. 이것은 내 머릿속에있는 그대로 쓰는 것뿐이요. 저는 상처를주는 끔찍한 사람인데 어젯밤에 자신을 다치게하려고 했어요. 그것이 바로 그 방법이요. 배운 교훈도, 흥미로운 통찰력도 없어요. 사람들의 도움이 필요하지 않아요. 그리고 그것에 대해 나에게 직접 이야기한다면, 저는 그것을 훨씬 더 흥미로운 이야기를 회전시킬 것이요. 주의를 산만하게하는 긴 농담을 말할 것이요. 자살 나방에 대해 들어 본 적이 있어요? 올리브 세계의 조직적 인종 차별은 어떼요?

This is just my version of r/SuicideWatch, so don’t be too alarmed. And quite frankly, if I do succeed, the keyword is “succeed.” It would be a pleasant surprise that no one should be mourning over. BTW, this thing I’m in is no one’s fault but mine. I screw things up, I make myself miserable, and I just make things worse. It’s all me. 

이것은 r/SuicideWatch의 제 버전 일 뿐이므로 너무 놀라지 마세요. 그리고 솔직히 내가 성공하면 키워드는“성공”이요. 아무도 슬퍼하지 말아야한다는 것은 즐거운 놀라움이 될 거예요. BTW, 내가있는 것은 누구의 잘못이 아니라, 내 잘못이요. 저는 일을 망치고 자신을 비참하게 만들고 상황을 더 악화시켜. 다 나야.

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