Tag Archives: Filipino

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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The OFW

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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The Long Reach of Spain

Traveling in Osaka with a Spanish friend of mine, we passed by a restaurant that specializes in Filipino dishes. Nonplussed, he recognized many of the Filipino words written outside of the restaurant.

“Erm, dude, the Spanish occupied the Philippines for three hundred years!”

Ferdinand Magellan landed in the country in 1521, then later set about converting the locals to Christianity. The island of Mactan resisted the Spanish which later resulted in the Portuguese explorer’s death. The leader of Mactan, Lapulapu, was hailed as the first hero of the Philippines. The discovery of the archipelago started the Spanish occupation with Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arriving from Mexico in 1565. later making Spanish Manila the capital of the Spanish East Indies. Superior technology, Catholic missionaries, and dividing and conquering separate villages helped conquer and unite the archipelago. The name of the country is derived from King Philip II, the king of Spain from 1556. Many of the provinces, cities, and towns continue to have Spanish names, such as Las Pinas, Los Banos, Camarines Sur, San Fernando, San Juan, Pamplona, etc.

Having a Spanish surname doesn’t necessarily mean a person has Spanish ancestry. The Alphabetical Catalogue of Surnames is a book of Spanish surnames in the Philippines published in response to a decree that established Spanish family names and surnames to colonial subjects. Catholic converts took surnames like “de los Santos (of the Saints)” or “de la Cruz (of the Cross),” while others took well-known Spanish surnames. Surnames were given to one family per municipality, avoiding surnames being based on ethnic background or association. The surnames available however were based on provincial capitals, secondary towns, and smaller villages. Thus, a person who has a certain surname would most likely have roots in a specific town. I myself have a Spanish surname: Reyes. Reading up on this topic, I didn’t realize that my surname had a coat of arms!

Some Filipinos however chose not to change their surnames. Indigenous Filipino names include Abay, Katindig, Lacsamana, Mapili, etc. Researching the topic, I found out that the surname Bagonggahasa exists, which unfortunately means “newly raped.”

The Catholic faith is probably the most influential and enduring legacy of the Spanish. Around 80% of Filipinos are Catholics and the island is dotted with many ancient Catholic cathedrals. The Philippines calendar is filled with religious holidays, and Christmas and Easter are celebrated as proper sacred holidays. It is not uncommon to see Filipinos wearing crucifixes and have homes decorated with crucifixes and statues of saints and the Virgin Mother. So yes, thank you Spain for that ever-present Catholic guilt! (Guilt, a key factor in developing obsessive-compulsive disorder)

One things about the Catholic faith and the Spanish influence is that through them, western culture permeated the archipelago. Customs and philosophies became more westernized in what was one a predominantly Eastern Muslim country. Slaves or “alipin”s existed in the Philippines prior to colonization. When the Spanish came, the Laws of the Indies already forbade holding Filipinos as slaves. However, seeing that native tribes in the Philippines would use slaves, some soldiers seized non-Christians and took them as slaves. Later, the encomiendas system was instituted in the country. It was a Spanish labor system where a conqueror takes on natives as slaves, while the slaves in turn get education as well as protection from their masters. Slavery was not as commercial as it was in the Americas, and most slaves were tasked with doing household chores. Later when Spain fully outlawed the use of native slaves, it opened the import of foreigners for slave use, particularly Africans. Even some Filipinos had African slaves working in their homes back then. The use of a non-family member as a house help is a Spanish legacy. With the classes between the rich and the poor remaining, especially between city and country-folk, Filipinos to this day still continue to commonly have poorly paid helpers in their households called “katulongs.”

Arts and culture have been heavily influenced by the Spanish occupation. Artists have been trained and commissioned to produce works with European tastes in mind. Juan Luna, a Filipino revolutionary hero and national artist, was famously trained in Europe. With galleons from Spain and Mexico arriving in Manila and with Filipinos being sponsored to study and train abroad, Spanish influence in the arts permeated Filipino culture. Even the art of fine embroidery was introduced to the Philippines by Spanish friars. Some folk dances as well as the fashion which had heavy Spanish influence introduced during the occupation still remain in the country.

Filipino cuisine has also been heavily influenced by the Spanish. The name themselves betray their Spanish origins: lechon, leche flan, paella, embutido, puchero. The most popular alcoholic beverage in the Philippines is San Miguel beer. Not only is the name Spanish, but beer itself was originally brought in from Spain. Food and drinks in the Philippines can mirror those in many Latin countries. I remember visiting a Spanish restaurant here in Seoul and having the empanada and thinking, “this is no different from the ones in the Philippines.” The Spanish brought with them their cuisines, and they also brought with them non-native crop plants including corn, guava, avocado, coffee, papaya, and squash. Growing up in the Philippines, I learned a folktale regarding the origin of corn. It was about a girl obsessed with her silky hair who later turned into the plant. I think it’s a more entertaining picture than simply saying it’s a plant crop brought in from Mexico.

As I initially referenced, there are plenty of Spanish words that made it into the Philippine vernacular. 20% of words in Tagalog are Spanish or Spanish in origin. The use of numbers in counting money and telling time is also done in Spanish. I imagine a Filipino learning Spanish would find it simpler compared to other languages, much like an English speaker learning a Germanic language or a Korean learning Japanese. A common Tagalog greeting “Kamusta” was derived from “Como esta,” the Spanish greeting. Heck, many Filipino profanities have Spanish roots.

Spain also established friar-run schools. It would seem that back then, throughout the world, the best way to take the native out of the natives is through religious schools. Spain however didn’t implement what was equivalent to the residential schools in Canada. I believe the Catholics were truly invested in elevating the Filipino population and making them part of the Spanish empire and not simply making them Spanish. The schools, along with a heavy helping of religious teachings, added business and math into the curriculum. It also opened the country to higher sciences being open to Spanish empire. One of the most well-known historic institutions which still exists to this day is the University of Santo Thomas. It was established in 1611.

Once the country was conquered, the Spanish deliberately implemented incentives through the taxation system the inter-mixing of races. At the time, there were twelve recognized ethnic groups in the country, though the categorization might not be reflected genetically. The categories consider where a person was born or whether they have converted to Catholicism. This makes it quite fluid and not very scientific. Peninsulares and Insulares for example are two separate groups, the only difference is that peninsulares are people of Spanish decent born in Spain while insulares are born in the Philippines. I’m not sure what genetic genealogy testing would show in the average Filipino. Filipinos are Austronesian in origin, but I suspect there might be more Han Chinese ancestry appearing in my case rather than Spanish. Despite the cultural influence of Spain, I’m just not sure about the prevalence of Spanish blood among modern-day Filipinos despite the number of mestizos and mestizas in the country.

A group of tourists in Seoul did take notice of me one time and asked me if I spoke Spanish, to which I replied, “Lo siento. No hablo Espanol.

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Filipinos and Regionalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Long Reach of Catholicism

I was raised Roman Catholic. I went to Catholic school, served in church, sang in a choir, and went to church twice a week. I have nothing against religion or the religious, and when I’m confronted by my wife who is furiously anti-religion and she tells me about different churches and religions’ many contradictions, abuses, etc. I tell her that it’s not about what the church takes from me or how it “lies” to me, it’s how my religion personally brings me peace of mind. So yes, even now as a Catholic that doesn’t regularly go to church, I have nothing but good things to say about how the Catholic Church has affected me as a person. The bible is indeed a good source of hope and wisdom, and there have been many dark times when it pulled me out of despair.

I believe I am not alone in being this way. In the Philippines, the effect of the Roman Catholic church is even deeper. Though there is a separation of church and state, the church holds a strong influence on Filipinos even if they’re not religious. It takes over their relationships, their calendar, almost everything. Growing up in the Philippines, I got lucky enough to be accepted in a special school with science-focused curriculum. Students were drilled with advanced sciences, mathematics, and oddly enough “values education,” a subject which had very heavy religious components. The church is simply everywhere in the country, even in a school of science! It’s almost as if without religion, one runs the risk of having no moral values, and thus the church and being religious is so necessary. (I imagine if my school back then didn’t have a bit of religion, it would be accused of raising little heathens.)

Once again, let’s look at politics in the country. It is not uncommon for sexual issues to be at the forefront during elections. Often, it is the candidate with the support of the church that wins out in the elections, be it local or federal. On a trip to the Philippines a few years ago, I was surprised to learn it was coincidentally a few weeks into the election campaign season. One of the main topics being debated was the legality of contraception. It was 2011 and people were still debating whether women should have access to birth control pills. In country that is overpopulated with around 20% living in poverty, one would think access to birth control pills would at least help the country economically by allowing families to plan their futures, especially since abortion is still strictly illegal in the country. So yeah, it was election season and due to strong religious sentiments, the use of contraceptives was a hot debate.

But that’s not the worst of it. There was also a debate against the use of condoms in the country during my visit. Again, that was 2011. Fast forward to 2017, and the country is still debating the use of condoms, with the president openly advocating forgoing its use. In 2017, the HIV rate in the Philippines started to soar.

Being a religious country, there is a strong patriarchal culture in society. There are deeply defined roles for family members and genders. Stepping outside of these norms can be dicey. Outside of being fodder for laughter and curiosity, being gay is still considered a sin. Future presidential candidate Manny Pacquiao even compared homosexuality to degeneracy lower than animals. That’s boxer and current senator Manny Pacquiao letting his religious views lost the support of the roughly 11% LGBTQ in the Philippines. And again with its strong gender and family roles, divorce is still considered taboo in the country. The Vatican and the Philippines are the only two sovereign states that still won’t allow couples to divorce. Annulment is allowed in the country instead, but it is prohibitively expensive, can take a long time to resolve, and still results in negative stigma after the separation.

Of course, those are just a couple of issues where the church’s heavy hand is felt by Filipinos. The church acts like the moral center of Filipinos, dipping its toes on even non-religious issues as drug use, media.

Now, I don’t want to sound like I’m exclusively harping about the negative effects of the Roman Catholic Church on Filipinos, but the church does fuel a lot of the conservatism that holds the country back. Now, going back to what I was thankful for about the religion is the personal peace it offers (as opposed to the external conflicts it can fuel, but let’s talk about that some other time). Having religion growing up, I was grateful of having that sense of hope, or a the sense that a personal divine observer is out there looking out for me. Now this might sound fantastical, but living in a country that has struggles with crime and poverty, then me moving to Canada at a young age, and then dealing with the pressures of being a young adult, religion gave me hope that somehow, someway, things will always be fine. I didn’t have as hard a life as other Filipinos in comparison both abroad and at home had, so I could only imagine how much more solace they found through religion.

Personally, one thing I noticed that Filipino families are often so willing to do is to forgive. Now what do I mean by that? You know how many families often have that one bad seed? Or maybe that one argument that tears the family apart? Maybe it’s just me, but I think Filipinos are more often willing to forgive and welcome back their prodigal sons than most people. I’ve seen/experienced it a couple of times. However, I’ve seen people from other nationalities cut off family members over some ancient squabble. This is all anecdotal, of course, but it’s not uncommon for me to hear someone in Korea say that they are no longer in contact with a relative due to a past wrongdoing. With Filipinos however, one could have a long resume of sins and still be welcome to every Christmas dinner (though that person will be gossiped about afterwards). So yes, forgives, for better or for worse, has been ingrained by the church in the Philippine psyche.

Looking at all of it from the most utilitarian point of view, what does the Roman Catholic church promise? Life on earth is temporary and the afterlife is eternal. Everyone you lost in life will be reunited with you once again in the afterlife. You have God watching over you 24/7, and any challenge or setback you face is something that you can overcome because it is part of his plan. God loves you for what you are. God will protect you from your enemies and provide for your needs. God will forgive you for all of your sins as long as you ask for forgiveness. Imagine being a citizen of a recently conquered nation, someone who experienced tragedy, or simply someone in need of hope, doesn’t all of these promises sound too good not to accept? No wonder the Roman Catholic Church tagged along with Spanish colonialism. People having religion also helps to survive not only through a series of colonial regimes in the past, in modern times, it also helps getting out of bed easier in the face of long tiring and challenging day, be it due to poverty or simply just the redundancy of everyday life.

The New Testament itself mirrors many of the ideals Filipinos see in themselves, especially when one looks at the country’s national anthem, Lupang Hinirang (The Land that was Chosen): their sense of uniqueness, the value of hard work towards reaching a goal, the duty for self-sacrifice. The Church has a tradition of having a “chosen one” be it Jesus Christ or the many saints and martyrs. Filipinos have a sense of being unique, and in a way being chosen for a better future amidst its much wealthier neighbors. Now, I’m sure this is the same for many other countries as well, but this is made so much evident in the national anthem’s lyrics: The Pearl of the Orient… The Land that was Chosen… A country can’t get any more special than being “the land that was chosen,” a land whose populace would be happier and more prosperous if it weren’t for invaders. Then the song talks about oppression and rising above it much like Jesus did. And as for the duty of self-sacrifice, Land of the sun of glory and passion, the skies are alive in thy presence. Our joy is when someone comes to oppress thee, is to die for you. Compare this national anthem’s lyrics to Oh, Canada. The Canadian anthem entrusts God to protect the country and its citizens promise to stand on guard for the nation, not to joyfully die.

In closing, if I was to offer a travelers guide to anyone being around Filipinos, due to religious influence, chances are you could expect a bit of conservatism, Catholic guilt due to people’s upbringing, some judgmental attitude behind closed doors, and a patriarchal attitude regarding the nuclear family. Oh and there’s hope. There’s a lot of hoping and praying.

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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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Filipinos

Read a 2014 article about the effect of antidepressants on creativity. It’s about a study at the Max Planck Institute. Apparently, the flatness of mood, which is a great alternative to depression, can also be seen as “emotional blunting” which hurts creativity, especially for artists who work best in response to internal turmoil. Another article I read talks about an artist who found it difficult to write after a period of being on antidepressants. Now, I’m not sure if I’m experiencing a bit of this, but I’ve experienced a couple of periods of artist’s block and I don’t know whether to attribute it to medication, the lack of stimulus due to the pandemic, or just natural artist’s block. I seriously hope the antidepressants are affecting my creativity because given the choice of coping tools, I’d rather have art than medication.

One possible effect discovered by the study coining “emotional blunting” is that antidepressants negatively affected feelings of affection towards partners, especially among male participants in the study. Perhaps men are more prone to “emotional blunting” than women. Or to put it simply, women just care more than men, so much so, that their love emotions are more resistant to drugs. So yeah, antidepressants may cause less creativity and love… but hey, less depression and suicidal thoughts. If true, what a dilemma!

My sister proposed a writing project regarding Filipinos and the immigrant experience. It could be a book, a collection of essays, whatever. We’re just in the process of throwing ideas at the moment. I think it’s a good idea, especially with her being a mother of a couple of gen Z kids who might be disconnected from their heritage or would need some guidance regarding the culture of their parents. Admittedly, many of my entries regarding the Philippines, or perhaps even Korea, tend to be very critical. This is not coming from a negative spirit. This is coming from someone who wants things to improve. So yeah, perhaps in the coming months, I’ll be writing more about the immigrant experience instead of much else. Some ideas that come to mind include:

-“Kain na tayo.” The willingness of strangers to share their meals.

-Love the people, hate the politics. Why Filipinos will never vote themselves to prosperity.

-The long reach of Catholicism

-Filipinos and regionalism

-Spanish colonialism and its effects

-Filipino heroes and non-heroes; Juan Luna is a despicable scoundrel.

-The Out-of-Taiwan theory, and what the heck are we?

-The Overseas Filipino Worker

-No, Dave Chappelle, you are wrong about Filipino women overseas.

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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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Morning Oddity

Special_Flowers

I created a page for my skeleton/tentacle drawings (http://josephmreyes.com/Lou.html). The series is still work in progress but it’s a stage where pieces are already shown in some galleries. The name’s an amalgam of my best friend Jordan Miller (http://www.jordanlmiller.com/) and artist Lou Valcourt, whose works with icons I saw years ago but was kinda embedded in my memory. The idea heavily influenced the series.

So the boxing match was a big dud. I can see why boxing isn’t so popular these days. All that hype for a game of keep away. Not that I blame Mayweather. He’s not about to hurt himself when he’s got millions to enjoy regardless of whether he wins or loses. It was like watching a fight between Bill Gates and Carlos Slim. “Hey Carl, let’s not hurt each other so much. We still have awesome lives to after this.” I guess this is the difference between UFC and boxing at the moment, and why UFC is more popular. The fighters are hungrier.

What was interesting though is what happened to our table before the fight. So we’re sitting in a sports bar in Seoul, a bar popular among expats. It was me, my wife, and a good artist friend. This Korean guy goes in and out of the bar looking lost. He’s dressed like he’s going to work (not relaxed at all) and carrying bags of who knows what. So the first time I saw him walk in, I assumed he was delivering something. But then he keeps coming back and not saying a word to anyone. Being the only brown person in the bar at the moment (it was 10:00 am), he goes to me and asks where the “Filipino bar” was at. He said he wanted to watch the fight with Filipinos.

I pointed out a Filipino restaurant in the area, but they weren’t open to show the fight. My friend directed him to a different neighborhood where he guaranteed Filipino bars would be showing the fight, and off he goes.

Now, what would a Korean guy want to watch the fight for in a bar filled with Filipino strangers? What was the pay off? Was it to cheer for Pacquiao? Most of the people in the bar we were at were cheering for Pacquiao, and there were a handful of Filipinos there as well. Why specifically look for Filipinos? It’s not like Filipinos cheer differently. It would be equally strange to go looking around for a “black bar” in order to watch the fight with black strangers.
Again, this guy got dressed, packed some stuff, and went out at 10:00 am on a Sunday telling himself, “I’m gonna specifically look for Filipinos and watch the most boring fight in the world with them.”

Strange people. My wife blames me for the weird encounter. She says I attract strange people. I tend to agree.

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