Category Archives: family

Father’s Day Post

Waiting for my turn

I don’t write too much about Canadian politics because as much as a faux-progressive Justin Trudeau has been, he’s still miles better than Harper. I really can’t complain too much with regards to Canadian politics. But if there’s one thing that’s continued to be ignored regardless of whether it’s Harper, Trudeau, or even Chrétien, it’s Aboriginal issues.

As much as I applaud the CBC for featuring the works of Drag the Red (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/drag-the-red-bones-1.4166029), it’s still the same old effort with no real response from the government. Concerned citizens are still out there, dragging the river looking for bodies or any evidence of people missing. Members of the First Nations, specifically Aboriginal women, have a higher risk of ending up missing compared to other groups, and despite this trend, there hasn’t been any real change to correct this. And what’s tragic is, with all the Aboriginal women missing and being ignored, if there’s ever a white woman missing, her case would dominate the headlines. This is why people are out there trying to find members of their community by themselves. And perhaps it might not be the most effective means of trying to find bodies or evidence; I believe they do it mostly as a means for catharsis at this point, especially with the rather gloomy approach of dragging the river for bodies instead of looking for a living person.

I learned about Drag the Red a few months when the group started first started looking for bodies. I’m afraid the group will continue to exist well into the future, and the government will continue with their same replies. “If they feel like they’re doing something to address what THEY SEE is an issue, then we support that.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8iDzIQW0XE) I could understand the risk versus reward approach, especially if the authorities in Winnipeg in particular are working on a very limited budget. But how often are we as Canadians going to keep on saying to the First Nations every time they have a problem that we just don’t have the resources for them?

And while I already linked a VICE video, here’s another VICE feature on missing Aboriginal women (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xz63Vppw3gE)!

Before I forget, happy Father’s Day!

As much as I love my father, he’s the biggest Duterte supporter. I have two problems with that. One, Duterte is everything Canada and most western democracies are against. He’s a strongman dictator who happens to think casually about rape and thinks anyone involved with drugs should be murdered. Second, why is my dad so involved with Philippine politics? Shouldn’t he be more involved with Canadian or American politics? That’s where his kids and his grandkids are! It’s like he moved to Canada and enveloped himself into this hyper-nationalistic shell.

In any case, I’ve debated people like him regarding the whole Duterte situation and I’ve written about him before, but one argument that annoys me most is the line, “you don’t know how it is as an outsider; people who live here know better,” which basically means that any outside opinion is disqualified since we don’t get the whole breadth of the experience- we don’t see how much the country has improved under the tyrant Duterte.

Well, first off, that is one of the most common defense of battered spouses. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jZqwq7N-ps) “You don’t know him like I do. We’re doing fine.” I would argue that anyone on the inside is far too gaslighted to know what’s good or not, and that anyone who actually thinks that Duterte is good is too deep in the bubble to know any better. It would take a concerned outsider to point out what’s wrong in the situation.

And like many things Duterte, it doesn’t take too much to point out the hypocrisy in the whole situation. If outsiders’ opinions regarding a situation are not qualified, then what qualifies an outsiders’ opinion regarding a drug user’s lifestyle? Perhaps drug users totally fine with their lifestyle and believe it doesn’t affect them negatively. Who is to say, as an outsider, that they are doing society wrong by getting involved in drugs? Maybe the outsider, in this case Duterte and his followers, should try some drugs to get more insight. And what about the Muslim crisis in Mindanao? Why is the rest of Philippines forcing their some of their minority to be part of the bigger country? Maybe those smaller communities are happier are Muslim nations.

Lastly, as prescribed by Godwin’s Law, it is exactly outsiders’ opinions that got Hitler and the Nazis to stop murdering Jews. What’s chilling however is that it was Duterte who initially compared himself to Hitler, and his supporters didn’t even bat an eye.

So what am I saying to the lost Duterte supporter who happened to have stumbled into my page? Look at your neighbors. Perhaps it’s a good idea to listen when they tell you that you’re in a bad situation.

Oh and yeah, happy Father’s Day!

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Hello Clara Grace

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My sister gave birth to a wonderful baby girl yesterday, my niece Clara Grace Bain, who inherited my mom’s name. My sister is such a trooper. She went to work throughout the pregnancy, went on maternity leave, in less than a week had a baby, then is now ready to go back home within a day. I mentioned this to my wife, and such a thing is just unheard of in Korea. My Korean sister-in-law should be having a baby soon as well. She plans to spend a considerable amount of time in a recovery facility after delivery. Of course as a man who doesn’t plan to have children and will never experience the pain and joy of childbirth, I don’t think I’m in any place to make any evaluation, but I can’t help but inexplicably feel a tad proud of how my sister’s delivery went.

My friend’s artwork got stolen the other day. There’s concrete evidence that show that it was an old woman that she’s acquainted with. She plans to file a police report, but I told her not to. I just told her to talk to the art thief, let her know that if she doesn’t return the work and leave my friend and her friends from then on, she would file a police report. My friend however is concerned that the thief would not admit the crime and this would escalate into more abuse or dangerous behavior in the future. I’m guessing my friend is more familiar with this person and the danger this thief poses to herself and to others, but I’m just worried that this will ruin a person at the end of her years. Her children and grandchildren will learn that grandma is a thief. It’s like the origin story of a crazy bag lady.

I’ve met the art thief before. She was very friendly and quite unassuming. But from what little time I spent with her, no alarm bells rang. She didn’t really pique my interest either. I’m not saying that she’s a boring person, but hearing that she’s an “art thief” just made her a tad more interesting. It’s just one of those classier-sounding crimes.

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Estranged

Poet

This is my tribute to Gord Downie. It might not seem like it, but I’ve been putting a lot of Canadian-related imagery in my work lately. It doesn’t get more Canadian than the lead singer of the Tragically Hip.

More death. This is becoming a grim trend on my website entries. My estranged uncle passed away a few days ago. The funeral was just over the weekend. Our family had a rather curious relationship with him. My grandmother gave my mom the responsibility to watch over him. This was a task/burden she took to heart, and as we were growing up, she was always there to support him. At times, it got really rough, my uncle had a lot of demons, and it made it very hard to be on his side. But even when my mom was dying of cancer, she was still trying to support him.

When she died in 2008, our family made the decision to cut him off. My uncles and aunts didn’t. They still maintained contact with his kids and their mother. But we felt that we had to do it. We just had to move on with our lives, even if it unfortunately meant having no relationship with our cousins.

One of my cousins tried to make contact with me a couple of years ago, but unfortunately, time has made strangers out of us. That, and I’m really not that active on social media. It led nowhere. Just hellos and how are you doings. I had an opportunity to be decent and build a relationship with a relative, but I didn’t take it.

And now my uncle passed away, and I don’t know how to feel about it. I feel numb to the whole thing. I’m sad about everything, but a part of me feels that I really should be sadder, if that makes any sense. Perhaps it’s the Catholic guilt. My mom felt this huge responsibility towards her little brother, and I felt that I should continue with that tradition, but it just wasn’t in me. I’m sad and numb but not moved to anything else. Perhaps it’s because we’ve become strangers. Perhaps my memories of him had too many darker shades. But that not enough to justify being an unkind, unfeeling person.

I hope my cousins will do better soon. My heart goes out to them.

Interestingly, the time between learning that my uncle is gravely ill and hearing that he passed away happened in less than twenty four hours. He’s been ill for about a month, but the seriousness of the situation didn’t get to me until it was too late. Everything just happened to fast to process. What I noticed however is how people, especially those around me react to me talking about personal crisis by talking about their own crises. Not very helpful at all.

I try not to be too personal with people. I tend to be more candid when I’m writing here on the Internet. But when I talked to two of the closest people in my life about my uncle being terribly ill, they both talked about their own personal experiences and never got to talking about mine. One talked about an uncle she didn’t get along with, another talked about a father who recently had surgery. Forget about what I was trying to talk about in the first place.

Then a few hours later, I told both that my uncle passed away. Suddenly, it’s all about how I’m feeling and how sorry they are and wondering if I’m okay. Ironically, this is microcosm of how our family has neglected my cousins, and now that my uncle passed away, we’re all concerned about them. But ignore all of that for a second. Isn’t it odd how some people wouldn’t talk about your problems without talking about themselves first? And sometimes in the process, they never get back to talking about your problems.

Or maybe that’s just me. Maybe I just surround myself with self-centered people.

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Mommy Issues

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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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Mommet Dearest

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My grandmother on my mother’s side is currently in a nursing home in Hawaii. She hasn’t been well for years, and we received a bit of a scare over the weekend. Last I heard, she’s recovering and is under observation. A relief, but for a couple of hours there I wish I was swept with strange emotions, but honestly, I really didn’t know what to feel.

I love my grandmother dearly, but I haven’t really been the best grandson to her. The last time I saw her was over eight years ago, that was when my mother died. Even then, a part of me resented her presence at the hospital. I was thinking, “I realize you’re weak and all, but my mother is dying. Can we focus all of the attention on her?” My heart and my mind wasn’t in the right place. And I’m not sure if it recovered after that. She lived in Hawaii, far from me, so I barely thought about her. The years after my mom’s passing, our family’s gone through so much without my grandmother, that I can honestly say I only remember her in passing.

Which makes the weekend strange. I felt somewhat like a bastard, like someone who missed the train (or someone who will soon miss it), and will forever be much less because he missed it. Even though I was upset, I felt like I should be more upset than I was. And the thing is, I don’t know what I was upset about. Was I upset about her, or more about me and how I’ve behaved? Or maybe I was just upset at the passage of time. Eight years…. What happened in eight years? What the hell?!

My best memories of my grandmother, we called her Mommet, was growing up and visiting her house every Sunday after church. I used to hang out with her and my great grandmother. I would help my great grandmother sew by putting thread through needles. The house back then had this great garden with different fruit trees. Mommet’s garden even had sugar apples. My sisters and I would recall her trying to feed us lucuma (chesa or dien taw)and none of us liking it. Weirdly, it was the place where I first saw my first salamander. It was also the place where I first stepped on dog shit. When I was a bit older, I remember discovering the Beatles at my grandmother’s house, when I saw my mom’s old records.

The series of Virgin Mary sculptures I made were inspired by my Mommet’s bedroom. It had a shrine of Catholic saints. I thought it was very pretty, and I made my series of sculptures inspired by the colors as well as the stories behind each and every character on that shrine.

Mommet used to be a bigger part of our lives, until finally she wasn’t, until she was in Hawaii and I barely saw her. I suppose it was better for her. After all, who wouldn’t want to live in Hawaii? It’s just a shame that in the process, I ended up losing a strong relationship with my grandmother. I’m relieved to know that she’s still with us, although it would seem that I’m writing an entry as some sort of eulogy. I’m not. I’m just ranting. I guess if anything, this is more of a eulogy for the dead part of me that wasn’t reacting properly over the weekend… or perhaps it is a precursor to how I’ll be devastated when the inevitable finally comes.

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How We Are Here

Double_Virgin

Simon and Garfunkel looked at loneliness and isolation as something like a super power, a super human ability to be impervious to what drags most people down. We are social creatures. We take strength from our neighbors. But this reliance on others makes us vulnerable to our neighbors’ weaknesses as well. Looking back at Simon and Garfunkel, after spending an intimate afternoon with Cecilia and forming what I assume are more than just sexual bonds with another person, Cecilia starts having sex with another man the minute either Simon or Garfunkel leaves the room to wash their face. Being a rock, being an island would have been better. At least one doesn’t have to deal with the humiliation and emotional battery.

Unfortunately, true isolation is rarely possible. By virtue of being raised by someone, or the minute we take interest in another person, be it sexually or emotionally, we are trapped. Our lives are connected regardless of whether the other person cares, and the dynamics of this relationship ultimately affects our happiness.

Which brings me to what a friend of mine told to me the other day:

I’ve come to full terms with the fact that my father is a bit of a deadbeat. He is someone who saw the first opportunity to retire and took it, not even caring about what happens in the future. He would rather be lazy, not work and lead a mediocre life, than work and actually do interesting things, be interesting… travel the world, contribute to society, have a freakin’ hobby, do something. And that’s what got to me the most… people like that, and the way they drag other people down into an especially tedious and mediocre existence.

Because he doesn’t work, he relies on his children for money. His children are just starting their own families, their own lives. Instead of saving money for their own children, or maybe using that money to make their lives a bit more exciting, a trip to Disneyland or something, they end up sending that money to their father, someone who has no interest in working. Instead of just one person leading an uneventful life, he drags his children’s life to the same mediocre existence, only they are working harder for it. He isn’t. He’s “retired.” 

Now, this hit me a little close. Being the breadwinner, I have to worry about providing for my wife. Ideally, we would be DINKs (Double Income, No Kids). But for one reason or another, my wife would not be able to survive by her income alone. And by some miracle, the one who graduated with an arts degree is the breadwinner of the family. I don’t mind this much. I believe, as Dan Savage said, this is the price of admission. This is the price I pay for being with my wife. I’m fine with it. My wife is a good person and I am fortunate to have found someone like her. Unfortunately, the price I pay is not limited to money. It is also the scope of what I could dream, what I could accomplish.

This is not news, but marriage ties finances. And because finances are tied to another person, instead of considering just one’s self when thinking about the future, a person has to consider their partner. Now, this would be good if the other person can carry their own weight (or even better if they could help out considerably). But it’s a tad problematic if they can’t. My dreams, what I can accomplish, are tied down by the needs of those that are around me. It’s true to varying degrees with everyone who’s married. A husband can’t get that new car he always wanted, or a wife has to give up on her dreams of moving out of their small town. We are all tethered to each other, and I believe, more often than not, it grounds us. It makes our lives more mediocre. Now, imagine if there was another person in the mix, like a deadbeat dad.

Which brings me back to my friend. It seems that he has surrounded himself with people that tie him down financially: his wife, his kids, and now his deadbeat dad. If he was single, with his salary, he could lead a rather exciting life. But because of his social bonds and obligations, he leads what he considers a rather normal, run-of-the-mill life. It is the price of admission for love and family.

Wouldn’t it be great to be a rock? A lonely rock that has more disposable income?

Life without his wife, his kids, even his deadbeat dad, would be more depressing. It’s easy to dream about all the money we could be spending on ourselves, to be free from the responsibility for other people, but it’s not so fun thinking about a life that we don’t share with anyone. I think it’s more realistic to dream about a life where others contribute as much to your life the same way you contribute to theirs. Instead of people tying our dreams down, they make our dreams possible.

I gave him an encouraging sermon, which is basically what this whole entry is about. He was a tad depressed, but really, who’s married and never had stuff like this to worry about?

Then I introduced him to the uplifting music of Elliott Smith.

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