Tag Archives: Joseph

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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What Do You Want?

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

This isn’t the place for sexiness.

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

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

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

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

Humor, satisfaction, and beauty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hard work, time, and humor.

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

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

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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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A Slow Crawl to the Dark Ages

Abortion has been decriminalized in South Korea last year, January 2021. Prior to that, women still got around to getting rid of unwanted pregnancies through other means. I can’t remember any case of women going into prison for abortion. Perhaps it’s this Korean habit of ignoring laws for the sake of pragmatism. Smoking in the streets is illegal, but the police don’t regularly enforce it in order to not harass people. Prostitution was tolerated for the longest time until the red light districts became a target for real estate developers. Now it’s kept more hidden but is still tolerated. Men will never stop seeing prostitutes and I imagine cops are getting kickbacks from pimps, etc. And as for abortion. There are different ways to stop a pregnancy, and Koreans don’t have a good record of adopting other people’s children. Abortion happens, even when it’s not legal.

What’s happening in the United States is not abortion being made illegal. It’s the criminalization of safe abortion. When abortion becomes illegal, I’m not sure people and doctors will skirt around it the way they did here in Korea. Women will be risking their health and their lives getting rid of unwanted pregnancies. And as much railing conservatives do against activist judges, I can’t think of anything more activist than taking away women’s rights, getting rid of a decades old precedent, and opening the doors to action against other cases which hinge on privacy laws.

There was a girl I once loved dearly. This was back when I was young, too young to know much about anything. Anyway, things didn’t work out between us mostly because of circumstances and our paths separated. She was in a bad place and mixed in with a questionable group of people. She got herself pregnant and was desperate for drugs to terminate the pregnancy. Someone offered her the drug Cytotec (or misoprostol). She was young at the time and I’m not sure how this person got access to this drug. Either he was old enough to be a pharmacist or just simply old enough to have access to it. I’m guessing she was sixteen or seventeen at the time. To get the drug, he asked her for sexual favors. I don’t remember how she ended up getting the drugs in the end. Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t, but that memory is long gone from my head.

It’s interesting. I remember the pain of hearing the story, I remember the drug, but I don’t remember how it ended. I guess that’s what trauma does. Not to forget this girl’s own trauma, but my heart broke when I learned about what happened. And now I don’t know how that episode ended.

But this sadness… this desperation… this exploitation, this is what the conservatives in the United States have planned for the country.

I mentioned privacy laws because this is the government getting inside a woman’s body. This could potentially threaten other aspects of life in America including gay rights, gay marriage, inter-racial marriage, heck even old school laws regarding sodomy.

Unless Biden makes abortion the law of the land now, the Democrats are just going to let this happen. The president can either unilaterally make Roe v Wade law, or simply expand the court and save the United States from decades of judicial devolution by radically conservative judges.

But I don’t have high hopes. Establishment Democrats are really just Republican-lite, and they are so feckless that they have failed to make a resounding political defeat of the Republicans after Trump and his failed coup attempt. I mean, after a failed coup and a win last year, If I was Biden and the Democrats, I would be making so many changes so fast to undo what Trump did before the Republicans could regroup. But now from the looks of things, the Republicans are set to gain more power again come next election. Just like the Winnipeg Jet’s this year, this is depressing to watch.

As the art shows, I was raised Roman Catholic. But I don’t push my religion to other people. You do you. You let women do whatever they want with their body. Let everyone do what they want with their body. God loves me. God loves you. God loves everyone. Leave women alone.

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Getting Myself Out There

I’ve been looking at other ways to show off my work through an online networking service, and so far, there hasn’t been anything that’s excited me just yet.

I’m not sure if I’m alone in this, but I’ve had a bias against DeviantArt. For the longest time, I’ve always thought of it to be the place mostly for sexy anime drawings. I’m sure there are lots of professionals in the site who do great work, but can’t help but feel that bias. To my surprise, when I looked at DeviantArt now, things seem to have calmed down. They’ve properly categorized the artists and it seems like they’re trying to cater to more serious artists. Maybe I’ll look more into it if I have some time, but building up a following on DeviantArt seems like starting a Facebook account in 2022. Perhaps that ship has already sailed a long time ago.

I tried out Tumblr, made an account, and found that the community is mostly dead. I think most people left Tumblr a few years ago after they strictly prohibited adult content.

I can’t with Pinterest. I actually find Pinterest annoying and how their aggressive SEO keeps pushing Pinterest in my search results when it’s the last thing I want. I also find Pinterest not very intuitive, so I just can’t.

I’ve been using Instagram for a few years now and have developed a reasonable number of followers, and it has been alright with me. The algorithm seems to have changed and I no longer get as many new followers as I used to, but the fact that it pushes people to keep on posting content actually encourages me to make art more often. It’s dystopic because it is literally making content for a corporation that doesn’t reward me for my efforts in any way, but I find that my Instagram is a good way to catalogue my art, get some feedback from people, and even make new friends.

I looked at Dribbble. While they seem to be very serious about catering to artists, the fact that there’s a paywall also tells me that it would be closed off to the public when it’s the last thing I want. People can still access the site without paying, but because creators need to be paying customers, it also means that many people wouldn’t even bother engaging in it. It seems to be more like a Linkdin for artists, not so much a networking platform to meet other artists.

Similar to Dribbble, Behance seems to be like a Linkdin for artists. It’s free and I made a Behance account and I find that the format is for artists who don’t already have an online portfolio or their own Web site. The way to get a good number of clicks and followers seem to mirror Instagram as well: interact with people, follow others, be active, etc. The set up however is very static. Artists get to make “projects” with a number of images. It doesn’t work like Instagram and you don’t have to update regularly, so it’s very counter-intuitive to interacting with the site regularly and gaining followers to be noticed.

I used to be on Medium, but they changed the tools on the site and it stopped playing well with my Korean machine. I gave up trying to fix the issue thinking I wasn’t getting much good feedback from Medium in the first place. I think the platform is designed for long think pieces, much like Substack, and despite me occasionally having long spiels once in a while, sometimes, I have nothing much to write about, much like right now.

I guess I’ll stick around with Instagram and my own website for now. That is, until Meta completely messes up Instagram the way it did with Facebook.

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Dave Chappelle is wrong about Filipina OFWs.

Dave Chappelle opined on the impact and importance of Manny Pacquiao. He mentioned that the women being sent overseas to do domestic work contributes considerably to the Philippine economy, leaving behind men to take care of children. Generations of children in the Philippines are growing up without their mothers. I quote, “Men are left rearing their children, twiddling their thumbs, waiting on their wives’ cheques. These men have been fucking emasculated.” But then suddenly, Manny Pacquiao, with his fists, reinstates Filipino men’s masculinity with his fists. Now, this was a small part of a longer spiel that involves Manny Pacquiao’s views on the LGBTQ community, and yeah, Dave Chappelle has his own issues with them as well, but I’m here to talk about his rather skewed view about Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) women and male masculinity.

He got this wrong. He got this so wrong.

I remember Chappelle saying that he read Pimp: The Story of My Life, and that he’s basically a student of Iceberg Slim. I can’t believe how he can’t see the similarities between Iceberg Slim’s life of taking advantage of women and having them work for him to the life of women OFWs. Chappelle himself said that fathers are “twiddling their thumbs” while their wives are out there in the Arabian peninsula and other places overseas working for slave wages and opening themselves to abuse and exploitation. Now, pardon me, and I don’t mean to compare Filipina OFWs to prostitutes, but I have issues with Chappelle seeing the men in these relationships as emasculated victims when they are more closer to being pimps.

Patriarchy is ingrained in Philippine culture. The first man in Philippine mythology was named “Malakas” (strong) and the first woman was “Maganda” (beautiful). As head of the household, he used his strength to beat his children out of the house because there were simply too many of them. He treated them more like pests than children. All of this while his wife simply let it happen, a passive actor. To this day, men are the heads of households. Celebrities and politicians still make hay out of their macho image. And despite twice having women heads of state, Filipino women still lag behind in women’s rights. The Catholic church doesn’t help in this matter either, with abortion being illegal and access to birth control a perpetual controversial issue.

According to a recent survey, 25% of Filipino women have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from their husband or partner. As surveys go, I tend to think that with such a sensitive topic, the percentage could be higher. Shame, denial, and fear makes reporting partner abuse more difficult to do compared with other types of crime. And now let’s look at OFWs. There are an estimated 2.2 million OFWs. 56% of OFW’s are women. 58% of these women work as living assistants and domestic workers. That’s around 700,000 women working as OFWs. In 2020, only 5000 cases of abuse were reported by OFWs. This can be anything from physical and sexual abuse, to workplace and contractual disputes. Let’s imagine that half of these cases are with women. That’s 2,500 out of 700,000. But again, as with surveys and sensitive subjects, I tend to believe that abuse is under reported, especially if the women’s employers are holding their passports and virtually control their existence in their respective countries.

Or maybe I’m just imagining things. Maybe my math is totally off. Maybe things are so good overseas that only less than 1 percent of women OFW ever suffer abuse.

The world is not made of candy and rainbows.

So women are sent overseas to live as domestic helpers, basically on call for most of the day as they live with their employers. They’re in a foreign environment, away from their children, friends, and relatives, probably occasionally facing discrimination and abuse, and most of the money they earn, they send back home to their husband and children back home. All of this, while the husbands twiddle their thumbs as Chappelle puts it. Does this sound like Filipino men are emasculated? Was Iceberg Slim emasculated when women worked for him while he twiddled his thumbs waiting for his cut of their pay? No. He was seen as an alpha male, in control of his women. And I can’t help but see the men who send their wives overseas to work as domestic helpers while they stay at home and wait for their remittance cheques as being lazy. They’re not pimps, but they sure get the better end of the deal in the relationship.

44% of OFWs are men. Why can’t that be higher? Why can’t the roles be reversed and have Filipino men be out there working while their wives stay at home, take care of their children? I’m not trying to be sexist and put women in the kitchen. But women are physically more vulnerable than men. Why would so many men put their wives at so much risk when there’s overseas work that men OFWs can do? Maybe they don’t want to be living assistants or domestic helpers, but they can work in other unskilled labor sectors like agriculture and manufacturing. I’ve met a few of these men OFWs in these fields before. (I sold my old computer to one. Gave him a great deal.) They are sending their money home to their wives and children. Why can’t there be more of them?

The thing is, the men who stay at home, I’m sure not all of them are lazy, perhaps they are also working. Good for them. Perhaps they are setting up their own businesses with the help of remittances from overseas. But it’s very hard to argue that they aren’t living a much better and more secure life in their home country compared to their wives overseas. Their neighbors are probably jealous that they get to spend time at home while they receive remittances which are likely higher than the average wage in the Philippines. They get to still be with their family and friends, heck, they can even go drink with their buddies late into the night. There is no isolation, prejudice, and constant risk of abuse. They are not emasculated. And if Dave Chappelle thinks that merely being the primary caregiver of children is emasculating, then he needs to get on with the times. The man doesn’t have to be the primary breadwinner. And yes, perhaps that “woke” statement is going against my main argument here, but I suspect that the majority of the men whose wives are overseas aren’t helpless actors in their situations. They don’t have to be “emasculated.” They can actually take action, keep their wives at home, and go overseas instead.

They don’t have to just sit there and wait, suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Their wives are out there, working hard, missing their family, and sacrificing so much! These husbands could actually take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing them, end them. (I apologize, I just saw ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ and have Shakespeare’s lines from many of his plays on my head all day.)

Lastly, the idea that a boxer holding a long undefeated record would reinstate another person’s masculinity is laughable to me. Pacquiao’s success is his success. His masculinity is his masculinity, not the country’s; the same way his dumb comments about the LGBTQ is his and not anyone else’s. Yeah, he’s a boxing champ, and some Filipino men are still at home waiting for their wife to send them cheques from Dubai while they take care of the kids. It doesn’t change anything. This Filipino infatuation with macho figures is a pox on the country and just reinforces outdated patriarchal ideas. And if anything, I would say Filipinos and Filipino men need to get off from idolizing Pacquiao already and have better figures to look up to.

Dave Chappelle is wrong. Women OFWs, just like all OFWs, are modern-day heroes to the Philippines. But the husbands of the women OFWs are not emasculated. That is an insult to their autonomy.

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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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The Out-of-Taiwan theory and My Outdated Education Regarding the Philippine Origin

The Philippines, being a group of islands with villages separated by mountainous regions, there are a number of creation myths coming from different groups of populations. There’s the Lumawig, the great spirit myth coming from the Igorot population, the creation stories from Bagobo, Bilaan, etc. I’m not an expert on the subject, but I grew up being taught the Tagalog creation story, which is probably the most common one.

In the beginning, the world was nothing but sea and sky. A great bird that was tired of flying stirred up the sea to create some land on which to land and rest. The sky and the sea created some islands and the bird built a nest on one of them. The sea breeze and the land breeze married and gave birth to a bamboo plant. The great bird split the bamboo and out of it came a man and a woman. I believe they were named “Malakas (strong)” and “Maganda (beautiful).” They married, had numerous children, and they became the origin of all races due to a bit of child abuse. Yes, child abuse.

The couple got sick of having so many children that the father began beating his children with sticks. The children hid in different places around their house. Those who hid in hidden rooms became chief of islands, those who somehow hid inside the house’s walls became slaves. The children who ran outside became free men. Those who hid in the fire pit became black people (or the local “Negritos”). The ones who fled to the sea and later came back became white people.

The latter part regarding child abuse was not widely taught, but it’s still part of the creation myth nonetheless. It’s interesting to note that patriarchy and child abuse is baked into the culture from the creation myth itself. That’s something I’ll be writing about later. But speaking of baking, another Filipino creation myth involves god baking men out of clay and it exemplifies the special place of Filipinos in the eyes of the creator.

After creating everything in the world, god decided he needed a caretaker to oversee all of his creation. He created man out of clay and baked him under the sun in order to animate him. At first, he didn’t bake man long enough. This created white people. Next, he baked man too long, and this created black people. Finally, he baked man “just right,” and this created the Filipino race. To modern ears, the story sounds like a mixture of Goldilocks and racism.

Now, those are taught in school as myths. There might be some variations to the stories, but they’re basically the same stories.

What was taught to children when I was growing up as the scientific and accepted theory of where Filipinos came from was through a series of migrations, the “wave migration” theory.

The first settlers of the archipelago were the “Negritos.” They arrived around 10,000 years ago. The term “negrito” is a Spanish diminutive which means “little black person,” but seems to be widely accepted in the country. There are over thirty ethnic groups in the Philippines which are grouped as “Negritos” sharing similar characteristics and cultures. They were mostly hunter gatherers but some also practiced agriculture.

The second settlers were the Austronesians. They theory called them “Indones,” believing that they came from Indonesia. They arrived around 4,000 years ago and formed their own different groups as well as alliances with different populations of Negritos.

The third to land and settle in the archipelago were the “Malays” around 900 CE. They mostly inhabited the southern part of the country while the Indones settled through most of the archipelago. Now I remember having some trouble differentiating Indones and Malays when I was first introduced to the concept. In my young mind, I thought they were too similar.

This theory is Beyer’s Wave Migration Theory, but I remember it being taught only as “wave migration.” I’m not sure how strong the archaeological evidence is for this theory, but I think people believed it mainly due to the credibility H. Otley Beyer, the founder of the Anthropology Department of the University of the Philippines; that and the Filipinos’ commonality with their neighbors. Filipinos certainly share a lot of physical and cultural similarities with Malaysians and Indonesians. Malaysian and Indonesian can even sound like Tagalog or other Philippine languages sometimes. Heck, during my trip to Bali, I was confused for a local a couple of times.

I think what is more widely accepted as plausible these days is the Out-of-Taiwan theory. Archaeologist Peter Bellwood suggested that Austronesian peoples originated from the island of Taiwan, and from there, migrated across Southeast Asia, East Africa, and the Pacific. It began around 6,500 BC and continued until 3,500 BC. What’s interesting about this theory is that while the Austronesian people spread to different islands across the world, in Taiwan itself, the Indigenous or Austronesian people only account for 2% of the people, with 97% of the population being ethnic Han Taiwanese.

The theory is supported by linguistic, archaeological, cultural, and genetic evidence. According to the theory, Austronesian settlers arrived in the Philippines from Taiwan around 2200 BC. Once there, they assimilated with the Negritos who arrived earlier. Arriving in Luzon, they spread southwest towards Borneo, Indonesia, and Malaysia. They even spread much further east to Madagascar at around 500 CE. They spread southwards to New Guinea all the way to New Zealand, arriving there by around 1200 CE. They spread east all the way towards Easter Island and Hawaii by around 900 CE. The Austronesian people share similar cultural characteristics, technologies, and took with them similar domesticated plants and animals.

Instead of the Philippines being a receptacle of different waves of settlers, after the Negritos settled, the archipelago basically became a launching port for the Austronesian expansion. The previous “wave migration” theory was wrong and had it the other way around. The Austronesian people originated from Taiwan and spread from the Philippine archipelago. The Out-of-Taiwan theory connects Filipino ancestry with Malaysians, Indonesians, as well as Melanesians and Polynesians. Which again, might explain why I was once confused for a local native the last time I was in Hawaii.

Now, I didn’t really learn about the Out-of-Taiwan theory until a Taiwanese classmate taught me about the existence of an Aboriginal population in Taiwan. I didn’t know they existed. And really, who could blame me since they’re only 2% of the population. But it wasn’t until I dove deep into the subject did I come to learn about the Out-of-Taiwan theory. Now maybe I’m old and I’m showing it by my knowledge of the curriculum I was taught when I was young, but I wonder if young Filipinos these days are still taught the “wave theory.” I mean, if it wasn’t for a chance encounter and a random conversation about aboriginal population, I wouldn’t even have know about the Out-of-Taiwan theory and the scope of the Austronesian expansion.

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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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