Category Archives: life

Itaewon Halloween

I don’t think I need to explain what happened last Saturday in Itaewon. It’s a tragedy and it’s amazing that such a thing could happen in an open area with no obvious catalyst. In any case, let me just quickly go about with my musings.

First off, I appreciate all of the calls of concern I got from people. I live near the area and I could easily have gone to celebrate Halloween that night. Fortunately for me, I had a very busy week, and I wasn’t really in the mood to go out for Halloween night. Also, the tragedy happened on a Saturday. The big Halloween parties usually happen on Friday nights in Itaewon. I’m guessing the crowd was bigger on Friday night than it was on Saturday, so it’s a mystery as to why the tragedy occurred on Saturday while nothing happened on Friday.

And yeah, when the tragedy happened, I was out having a meal and drinking somewhere else close by. I was so tired, I was home by around nine, watching crime shows on Netflix. The gravity of the news didn’t really hit me until the next morning.

Itaewon has a really interesting history. It was first seen as the foreign underbelly of Seoul. While popular, people would rather hang out in other, more hip places. Itaewon was simply just a place for foreigners to hang out. Then the song “Itaewon Freedom” came out and made it a popular place among the locals. Halloween made it particularly popular, with people dressing up and everything. A sexy nurse here, a Harley Quinn there… it was prime fodder for social networking material.

Then covid hit, and many of the bars and restaurants were forced to closed down. Several places I used to frequent are no longer around. Many of the small restaurants and buildings have been demolished, and now a lot of spaces in Itaewon are under construction, bound to be giant buildings or office spaces in the next couple of years. Last year, people started to be more comfortable going out in Itaewon. Business was starting to pick up. People even celebrated Halloween, I remember. But this year, with this thing happening over Halloween, I’m afraid it’s going to once again scare some business away from the area. After all, who wants to party where over 150 people died in one night? It’s such a grim scenario.

There are videos online of people chanting “push, push, push” as the crowd tried to move, regardless of what was happening a few feet from people. People don’t directly see what’s happening a few feet from them, so they could be unwittingly crushing someone as they’re going with the crowd which is chanting “push, push, push.” A smaller version of this happens every day in trains. I experience it regularly. People would push their way in, not considering the people already inside, regardless of whether the train is already packed. These people would ignore the discomfort their causing and pretend everything is normal as they hug the doors of the train. Selfishly, these same people would not move out of the way or just step out of the train for a bit whenever people want to get out, probably in fear that they would not be able to push themselves in a second time around. When a simple “실례합니다 (Shil-leh-ham-nee-dah)/ Excuse me” wouldn’t do, I have to resort to “Get out of my damned way.”

Now imagine about a hundred of these train jerks in the Halloween crowd just starting to push themselves through in one direction. One pusher multiplies his/her force via domino effect. Now imagine a hundred more pushers going on the opposite direction, unwilling to compromise, pretending that each push is not inconveniencing or hurting other people, the same mentality of the person squeezing himself in at the crowded train door. Then add in a chant of “push, push, push.” Push, push, push. Then you can stop wondering why such an incident could happen.

On April 16, 2014, a ferry, the MV Sewol, full of high school students sank in Korea, killing 360 people. In memory of the tragedy, people wore yellow ribbons. People are already comparing the Halloween incident to the Sewol incident, and now I see black ribbons online for the tragedy. It is certainly something that has shocked the nation and made them aware of life’s fragility. I think this will be seen in the same light in the future, the same collective PTSD. Right now, the small alleyway and the are around it is still closed off to the public. Who knows what will happen to the area in the future once things have settled down. Will businesses be affected? Will people still go to Itaewon to have a good time?

Some people in the government are blaming the tragedy on the lack of police presence to prevent such tragedy. I’m not sure if more police would have prevented the tragedy. I don’t think young people and definitely inebriated foreigners wouldn’t pay much attention to Korean police. They have such a weak presence in the country and don’t really command that much authority.

The lack of police presence could be attributed to political rallies happening close by. The president moved his political headquarters close to Itaewon, and it made the area a hotbed of protests and counter protesters during the weekend. Who knows, maybe if the president was more popular, there wouldn’t be too many protests. And there would’ve been more police available for the Itaewon Halloween celebration. It’s an interesting “what if,” but as I mentioned, I’m not sure more police presence would’ve prevented the tragedy.

Will this prevent future Halloween celebrations in Itaewon? Probably not. There would probably be a memorial set at the alleyway where the tragedy happened, but as for young people partying, I don’t think there’s no stopping it. If not Itaewon, there’s always Hongdae and other places. You don’t have to look far really. Hebangcheon is just a few minutes walk from Itaewon, and it’s filled with bars and foreigners (though not clubs).

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Ugh, young artists!

Stories like this are garbage. Art Basel Miami, his parents, Alex Hagwood at the New York Times, and anyone else promoting him aren’t doing the arts any favor.

In a nutshell, Andres Valencia, a 10 year old kid, has been selling his work for six figures and is being hailed as an art prodigy and a “Little Picasso.” He’s also blowing up online, even with members of BTS boosting him. What people are missing from the story, or solely from the headline, is just how connected the kid is in the art world, with a mother who’s a jewellery designer with relations with a gallery owner. Raise your hand if you’re an artist who knows a gallery owner pushing your work at 10?

Now, I’m not saying that the kid’s works are not remarkable. I’m also not saying that the whole thing is a fraud. But stories like this is fodder for cliché sayings like, “my kid can do that!” It devalues art and the years of hardwork by many artists when boom, out of nowhere, the New York Times just hails a ten year old the next Picasso. Who needs an art education? Who needs years of perfecting your craft? Why bother painting the hands of peasants? Just skip ahead and be avante garde at 10!

The thing is, young art “prodigies” are not unique. The article mentions this, and some of them are later suspected to be fraudulent. Again, I don’t suspect anything fraudulent here necessarily, but this kid will be forgotten by the art world after a few years just like the many art prodigies people proclaimed as the next greatest thing. “Little Picasso?” People have been studying Picasso and will study his works for years. This kid’s works will be bought by speculative investors and that’s about it. And in a few years, another new kid will be the next greatest thing.

If anything, stories like this read like a big “f**k you” to all other struggling artists, or heck, any artist who spent years getting to where they are now. What’s taking you so long? How come you’re not selling six figure works yet? Why weren’t you represented by a gallery and connected to so many people at 10? I guess you just don’t have it. Look at the kid’s pic on the paper. He looks so bored and disinterested. Art success is soooooo easy. Why aren’t you successful yet?

See, young visual artists, are the simplest to artificially pump into the news as the next big thing. Visual arts is so subjective, much more than singing or playing musical instruments. With musical instruments or singing, what’s good or what’s not good is more universal. One can easily tell if a kid sings or plays a musical instrument well. But they don’t often get in the news or blow up online with recording deals or whatever. Selling paintings for high prices make for great, albeit obnoxious, headlines. And yes, it’s much easier to fake or blow up via galleries and connections compared to other things. Other fields are not as subjective and harder to manipulate. This is why there’s no real-life Doogie Howser M.D.s.

Stories like this hurt artists. It hurts the arts by trivializing it. Don’t study art. If you’re not born with it and not gaining attention at a certain young age, just go to STEM. You’ll earn more money there.

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God Save the Queen

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here, but I guess if anything, the death of the Queen is something to write about. I’ve kinda been wondering about her death for the past couple of years, how a shift that would be. Many people, including my mother, lived and died with only one monarch in the British throne. Now I get to see one pass, one that’s been there for seven decades. The lady’s been in our money for so long. She’s a staple in ‘Kid’s in the Hall’ and many Canadian sketches. We used to sing “God Save the Queen” right after singing “Oh, Canada” back in school (The national anthem followed by the royal anthem). She’s as ubiquitous to Canada as the moose and the beaver.

I asked a British friend if it’s strange that I’d feel upset over the Queen’s passing. He thought it odd. I think it odd too. Afterall, she doesn’t really affect me much, nor does the monarchy. But I guess I’m mourning not just the death of from what I know is a pretty decent monarch that presided over the whitling away of the British empire’s colonies, but also the passing of a Canadian symbol.

I’m not a fan of the monarchy for its tabloid drama. I don’t watch ‘The Crown’ either. I really find all of the drama behind the royals a bit tacky, and I could only imagine how mortified as a parent and a grandmother the Queen must’ve been throughout each scandal. My wife was never a fan of the Queen due to her perceived coldness during Diana’s death. But people do acknowledge that she did bow over the late princess’ casket, something that was never done. It was always vice versa; subjects bow to the Queen and the Queen never bows to anyone. That bow shows love, respect, and humanity, as much as the tabloids would love to cast the Queen as the villain during the princess’ death.

If there’s anything I’m not happy about, but I really can’t blame her for, was the way Prince Andrew’s scandal was handled. The man clearly had illegal relations with minors and the Queen made it disappear. I realize she’s dealing with her own son, but the whole thing cast such a dark, disgusting shadow over the monarchy. The prince was caught being a pedophile, and the Queen had to fetch money from her purse to bail her son out. It was disappointing. I would’ve let the courts handle the whole thing instead of sorting it out in the shadows. Sure, the prince had to give up privileges and military ranks, but so did Prince Harry. One is a criminal pedophile, while the other is just someone who wants to protect his wife from the paparazzi. What Prince Andrew got was barely a slap on the wrist.

Looking at the monarchy, it would seem like the Queen’s biggest challenges came not from external forces but more from her own family.


Now of course there’s bitterness towards the monarchy over its colonial past, but I really don’t think the Queen is responsible for much of it. As I mentioned, she presided over the shrinking of the British empire, preserving as much diplomatic relations with the country’s former colonies as she could. In Canada, we are fully not divorced from the authority of the monarchy since many of the agreements with the First Nations were with Canada’s colonial powers at the time. But it’s not like Britain lords over Canada, except maybe once in a while when some British idiot would remark to me that, “we used to own you guys.” To which I would reply, “as someone with a Filipino background, technically it’s the Spanish that used to own me. Also, your racism is showing.”

God bless the Queen. It’s like a good distant grandmother has died. The Queen is dead. Long live the King. 

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About Covid

It’s been a while since I’ve done a coronavirus update, so here it is. It’s been over two years now, and I still haven’t caught it. Knowing someone who’s caught it is much more common these days, so is getting over it without much complications. I think taking the vaccine helps, and the treatments have gotten much better. My sister-in-law here and her family caught the virus from a daycare center, and they’re all much better now. I got coworkers and acquaintances here who caught it, too.

My bestfriend in Canada caught the virus, too. She seems to be doing well, but it shows that the virus is still out there causing trouble.

And me, I’m still successfully dodging that bullet.

They’re giving out second booster shots now to people who want it, but only to a certain age. A lot of people didn’t even bother getting the first booster because not long after they made the booster available last year, they made vaccine passes no longer necessary.

For a while, cases in the country were down to around 10,000 a day, which was quite low. People have begun to relax more as open public mask mandates have been lifted, although it is still required in closed public spaces. Even in the office, I see people occasionally taking off their masks when sitting around their desks. It just doesn’t seem to be something people worry too much about anymore.

There are no more limitations to gatherings, nor are there curfews. Once again, drunk people roam the streets and ride the trains of Seoul late at night. That’s one thing I kinda miss about the pandemic. The people and quiet at night. That, and the obligation to finish drinking at 10:00. I know, I know. That’s early. But I’m getting old, and going out for drinks has gotten pretty expensive these days.

I’ve been able to go to the gym these days, too. Finally. I haven’t regularly worked out in two years. Just doing push ups and ab rollers at home. People still have to wear masks however, but I come in super early and I tend to work out without a mask on when no one is around. Shhhhh!

When it comes to traveling though, some people are still wary, while a significant number of Koreans are taking the first opportunity to travel that they can. Some countries don’t require negative tests nor visas to enter, but South Korea still requires negative PCR tests to allow people in. My sister will be visiting on September and she’s got herself a visa. So yeah, tourism is slowly making a comeback in the country.

Relations between Japan and Korea still haven’t been normalized however, and Koreans would still need to apply for a visa when traveling to Japan. Uncertainty regarding Covid and the situation with Japan made me decide to just stay in the country for now and just vacation somewhere I haven’t been to: Busan. I will be on vacation this week, and I’m hoping all goes well.

What scares me though is the current uptick in cases happening around the world due to the new omicron variant. Yesterday, Korea had 40,000 new cases of coronavirus in the country. Japan had over 100,000. I’m hoping this is just a minor blip and not something that would last. God, I remember when Korea was being hailed as a model country with cases less than 1000 a day. Now it seems we’re just as bad (or as good) as other countries.

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Being Normal

When do people stop seeing their therapists? When do you go, “this is as far as we can go. Please wean me out of my meds and let’s have an amicable end to our relationship?” I’ve been with my therapist for more than a year now. My life has improved dramatically under his care, but I’m sitting here thinking, how long can I do this? How long can I be on meds? When does life become normal?

I do enjoy being able to talk my heart out to someone. And I find both his advice and the medicine very helpful. I was in a very dark place last year around February. Once in a while, I go back to that dark place, too. But our sessions have helped me cope with things and make it through just one more day. But a part of me hopes that one day I could be able to do without him be the well-adjusted individual I imagine most people my age are.

That, plus lately I’ve been hearing about the dangers of benzodiazepines. I know it’s probably not the benzos that made Jordan Peterson a lunatic, but looking at his latest rant, I wouldn’t want to be like him and would like to stray away from anything that might’ve contributed to his current state. He admitted to being addicted to benzodiazepines and struggled getting out of it. I missed a couple of days of my drugs one time, and I ended up with the worst headache ever and vivid nightmares. I take Xanax when needed and I don’t consider myself addicted to it, but I’m afraid that I’ll end up addicted to the other benzodiazepines I take regularly.

I actually keep a list of the changes in medication I’ve been taking just in case, which could be a sign of paranoia or obsession. Maybe I need more anxiety pills.

My wife wonders about my progress, but I think right now I’m in stasis. I’m in a place where I’m generally more okay than not okay. I get bad days where I really despise the person I see on the mirror, but there are more days which are more routine, peaceful, and I just go about with work and life. I’ll be going on a bit of vacation soon, and I’m hoping that it would help. But a part of me is a little anxious about it, too.

I used to see another therapist in Korea years ago, and she didn’t really care much about what I was talking about. She just prescribed me with meds and tried to drug the depression and anxiety away. I believe she over prescribed me because I found myself walking around like a zombie and needed drugs to both sleep and to function in the morning once I wake up. My doctor right now is much better, but I still wonder if I’ve been around for too long.

Or maybe being in therapy too long is more of a Korean thing. That’s still seeing depression and anxiety as a disease that can be healed completely, not a life-long condition that should be treated long-term. I’m grateful for all of the help I’ve received, but when my wife asks about my progress, I can’t help but ask myself, “why am I still not normal after all of this time? Why do I still need to see my therapist?”

I feel kinda guilty about it as well, because I mentioned to her that last week, I had a couple of depressed episodes as well as anxiety. I had to take Xanax a few times. This was a week when she did something incredibly generous, buying me a PlayStation 5, and thinking that would fuel at least a week of excitement and elation. And yet, the depression and anxiety still found a way to squeak themselves in to my life. She tried to make me happy, and yet I’m still in need of meds.

I just wish I was happier and things were better. I try, oh God, I try, but I still need help. But many things around me tell me that if I was happier and if I was content, then I would be crazy.

I guess the weather isn’t helping as well. I wish it would stop raining.

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The Permanent Resident

I was on a path to getting my permanent resident visa here in South Korea. For a while now, I’ve been living in the country under a marriage visa. This visa has to be renewed every two to three years. This makes sense to me because it prevents people from scamming Koreans into marriage, then getting a divorce and after settling in the country. Unfortunately, it also gives the visa sponsor a lot of power since their spouse is literally in the country based on their whim. Fortunately, I’m not in that situation, but I still figure that I’ve been living in the country long enough that I should try for a permanent resident visa.

A couple of differences before I move on. A lot of teachers and professors here are on a working visa, an E2 visa. This is for foreigners to teach in Korea for a year. I used to be in the country under an E7 visa. This is for foreigners working in other white collar jobs. Both types of visas are working visas sponsored by the employers and only allows the visa holder to work for the employer and no one else. No side gigs, no personal businesses, etc. A marriage visa is F6. This allows a person to work for any employer and any side gig or business. This gives the visa holder more freedom, but the person is naturally tied to their spouse for sponsorship. An F2 visa gives the same amount of freedom in terms of employment to the visa holder. However, the visa holder must show proof of employment as well as salary, thus tying themselves to a financial state that they must maintain when they apply or when they renew their visa.

An F2 visa is awarded on a point system. Points are awarded based on age, salary, special recommendations, Korean language skills, etc. If you accumulated over 80 points, then you qualify for a visa. I’ve been stressing out for the past couple of weeks over my Korean and passing the TOPIK test, the Korean language test, in order to get more points. However, it is notoriously difficult and even if I do get a good score, it will only award me a few points. The category most people can get points on seem to be age and salary. The younger you are and the more money you earn, the more points you get, which is frankly counter-intuitive. There are not many rich young people applying for permanent residence. And by the time one is older and earns more money, they’ve already lost a ton of points due to their age.

But then I discovered that my school, the University of Manitoba, qualifies as an Excellent school, giving me an extra fifteen points. This qualifies me for an F2 visa even without taking any language test. Perfect! I started getting my ducks in a row, sorting out my diplomas, my financial records, employment contracts, etc.

Then boom, just as fast as my hopes were raised, my hopes were once again dashed. I simply do not qualify for a permanent resident visa. Apparently, people in the country under a marriage visa cannot apply for an F2 visa. I will need an E7 visa. I had an E7 visa before, but that was during my bachelor days. An exception can be made and F6 visas can be changed to F2 visas if the applicant was working in a competitive hi-tech field like nanotechnology or something. Not me. No, not me.

It just wasn’t meant to be.

My wife suggested that maybe I’m looking at the wrong thing. Why can’t I be like other foreign celebrities on television who have different visas and can vote and everything. First off, with voting, it sounds like they’ve been awarded citizenship, which I really have no interest in applying for. But I decided to look anyway.

F5 is a permanent resident visa awarded to people who have made considerable investments in the country, employ Koreans, and has mastered the Korean language to heights I could only dream of. A lot of the qualifiers also include recommendations by government agencies. This is a no go.

So that’s my adventures in trying to get a permanent resident visa. If you’re an English teacher or an office worker reading this. If you’re on an E2 or an E7 visa, as long as you’re young enough or earn enough money, you could very well qualify for an F2 visa. And don’t underestimate your school even if you didn’t graduate from an ivy league institution. Your school could still be Excellent and award you with additional points.

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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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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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The Multilingual Liar

My wife and I were watching Terrace House last night as I was folding clothes. The screen was just on my periphery and I could just barely read the subtitles. Despite my attention being distracted by my chores, I try to keep up with the conversation and read what I can. I do this, so I can remain engaged with my wife who is invested in the show. I commented, “That’s sad that Hana just sees Kai as a friend.” This surprised my wife. From her angle, she thought there was no way I could’ve read that, and also, my eyes were on the clothes I was folding, not on the side of the television, which she tried going to and reading the subtitles, and she had trouble doing. She suspected I actually understood Japanese.

She spent about twenty minutes insisting that I understood Japanese and that all of these years I was just feigning ignorance. I must’ve been interested in Japanese culture and learned some of the language.

This is not the first time she accused me of knowing Japanese. And for the record, I don’t speak nor understand any Japanese. I have good eyesight and a decent intuition which I use to read subtitles and follow conversation, that’s about it.

But then she accused me of pretending not to speak Tagalog either. She said that I sometimes feign ignorance when a Filipino speaker was on television. Now, I’ve never done this ever. And I’ve explained it to her many times: I can speak Tagalog. This is the reason why so many Spanish words are familiar to me. What I cannot understand and what I’m truly ignorant in are the many other languages that Filipinos have. So when a Korean documentary goes to Palawan and they start interviewing the locals, I don’t necessarily understand what they’re saying all of the time. And this is the same with Filipinos we encounter in the country. I don’t necessarily understand the depth of their conversations when they’re speaking Ilocano or whatever dialect.

The thing is, she think I should be prouder of my Filipino heritage and not be too proud of being Canadian. After all, I’m ethnically Filipino and have spent most of my living life in Korea much more than I have in Canada. Let’s explore that.

First off, I say I’m Canadian because I chose to be Canadian. It is something that my mother dreamed for her family and one that we worked on being. Why should I not say I’m Canadian. I may not be a Canadian by birth, but I am by will. And as for loving Canada more than let’s say the Philippines or Korea. I spent my teens in Canada, my most crucial formative years. You know how the songs you listen to in your teens will be the songs you will listen to for the rest of your life. The same goes for culture. The shows I watched, the friends I made, the way I talked, not just the songs I listened to… these are all that I will carry with me because it happened in that crucial time in my life.

And no, I don’t actively despise nor feel shame for being Filipino. Heck, I just wrote several essays on the Philippines a few weeks ago. It’s just that the memory of being in the Philippines are much farther removed from me. I have like one friend from my childhood that I still keep contact with. I lost touch with many of my cousins from the Philippines. The last time I was there, I felt alien. I was practically foreign. Add the fact that whenever the Philippines is in the news lately, it’s often bad news or something about the country being backwards (like electing the son of the former dictator). Who wants to talk about that?

And so when my wife complains that I always point out that something is Canadian, it’s because I find it interesting that something or someone Canadian is out in the mainstream or out here in Korea despite the greater influence of America. It is part bemusement and part love of Canada. When I hear Anne Murray’s “You Needed Me” in a Korean bus, how can I not point out such an obscure song making it in Korean airwaves. And of course I don’t do the same with Filipino things because they’re not as ubiquitous as Canadian things. And as for pointing out something or someone is Korean… I am in Korea! That’s kinda redundant. And of course when I mention that the lawyer that justified torture for George Bush is actually a Korean, my wife is barely interested. Nor does she care if I mention that Sandra Oh is in a movie.

This is in contrast with an experience I had with my best friend growing up. I wrote about it once, but it bears repeating. I was still a permanent resident and not a citizen. We were in English class. Somehow, I mentioned that unlike her, I was not Canadian, that I was still Filipino. She said, “bullshit.” “You will be Canadian soon enough, and in many ways, you already are.” That was such a welcoming feeling into a society that I still remember it to this day. I don’t think my friend realizes how much Canadian patriotism she planted deep inside of me.

Now as welcome as I have been in Korean society, I don’t think people ever truly considered me Korean. I am forever grateful to be in this country, but I doubt if I would ever get past the label of being a foreigner.

So what does this whole rant amount to? Well, from last night, I am reminded that my wife thinks I’m extremely duplicitous and that I could maintain a lie for years, hiding my knowledge of Japanese and Philippines language, despite being an intermediate Korean speaker for the longest time. Also, she believes I am not proud of being from the Philippines. Don’t I sound awful?

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On Marcos

Korea had a series of dictators and strong men. Park Chung-hee, while credited with helping improve Korea’s economy, he abused his office, declared martial law, and persecuted his opposition, and was eventually assassinated in 1979. He was never elected, but grabbed power after leading a military coup. Many conservatives still worship him, crediting him for Korea’s current economic standing, ignoring the abuse during his reign. This led to the election of his daughter Park Geun-hye as president. She was president from 2013 until 2017 until she was impeached and convicted due to corruption.

I though it was incredible that Koreans allowed her to seize power back in 2013, especially after her father served for five consecutive terms, aggressively controlling any opposition and free speech. I’m sure every country has their political family dynasties, but didn’t Koreans learn their lesson with the father of Park Geun-hye?

Eventually, after the Sewol tragedy, when around two hundred students died in a ferry accident and the government showed an incredible display of incompetence, the dominoes started falling for Park Geun-Hye. Stories of corruption, unusually vain behavior, being controlled as a puppet by her advisor, etc. ignited protests around the country, resulting in her impeachment and eventual arrest. She was just recently pardoned by the outgoing president due to her ailing health.

Marcos Jr. Is the new president of the Philippines. People never learn.

His family’s corruption was the stuff of both legends and parody. He put the country under martial law for a decade and had political enemies assassinated or disappeared. Free speech was muffled and many people lost many family members when he was presidency. All the while, his family was stealing billions of pesos and hiding them in accounts overseas. During his reign, Marcos had the gal to put his giant face on a mountain while he was still alive. A proper dictator move. And still Ferdinand Marcos’ son got elected. This happened following the tenure of another strong man with plenty of blood in his hands, President Duterte.

I have seen this movie before. Filipinos never learn. This is why the felon ex-president Erap Estrada eventually got elected as mayor of the country’s capital soon after his release. I don’t have high hopes for the Marcos presidency. Populism is king in the Philippines, and Filipinos will never be able to vote themselves out of poverty. At 92, I’m not sure if Imelda Marcos would resume he insane shoe-buying habit, but I’m sure one way or another, we’ll hear stories of corruption sooner other than later.

This is a redundant and sad movie.

Korea’s kinda similar, recently electing a conservative populist who seems to have no idea how government works. But his election was more of the population’s rejection of the last president’s bungling of the housing prices. With Yoon beginning his presidency yesterday, it’s going to be a long five years.

Seems like it’s a good time for conservatives and would-be strong men.

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