Monday, January 11, 2010

In This Skin: A Reclamation

I have a story to tell, silently and without words: 
'Tis a map laid bare
past drapes of fabric
and layers of armour
and bandages.
Can I trust you
to see past the curves and twists and turns,
the zigzags and crisscrosses invisible
but defining?
Beneath both smooth, unblemished surface
and raised, jagged scar tissue,
dark shadows and fiery bursts of colours mark my skin.
Tattooes etched by
nameless and faceless
artists' hands bring into being
what I cannot say:
This imperfect body is far from beautiful,
but there can be beauty in ugliness
so long as you listen to the story it has to tell.

I am a survivor.

Makaha Sons, "Kaulana na Pua o Hawai'i" (Famous are the Flowers of Hawai'i

Kaulana nā pua aʻo Hawaiʻi
Kūpaʻa mahope o ka ʻāina
Hiki mai ka ʻelele o ka loko ʻino
Palapala ʻānunu me ka pākaha
Famous are the flowers of Hawaiʻi
Ever loyal to the land
When the evil-hearted messenger comes
With his greedy document of extortion
Pane mai Hawaiʻi moku o Keawe
Kōkua nā Hono aʻo Piʻilani
Kākoʻo mai Kauaʻi o Mano
Paʻapū me ke one Kākuhihewa
Hawaiʻi, land of Keawe answers
The bays of Piʻilani help
Kauaʻi of Mano lends support
All are united by the sands of Kākuhihewa
ʻAʻole aʻe kau i ka pūlima
Maluna o ka pepa o ka ʻenemi
Hoʻohui ʻāina kūʻai hewa
I ka pono sivila aʻo ke kanaka
Do not fix a signature
To the paper of the enemy
With its sin of annexation
And sale of the civil rights of the people
ʻAʻole mākou aʻe minamina
I ka puʻukālā a ke aupuni
Ua lawa mākou i ka pōhaku
I ka ʻai kamahaʻo o ka ʻāina
We do not value
The government's hills of money
We are satisfied with the rocks
The wondrous food of the land
Mahope mākou o Liliʻulani
A loaʻa e ka pono o ka ʻāina

    [alternate stanza:
     A kau hou ʻia e ke kalaunu]

Haʻina ʻia mai ana ka puana
Ka poʻe i aloha i ka ʻāina
We support Liliʻuokalani
Who has won the rights of the land

    [alternate stanza:
     She will be crowned again]

The story is told
Of the people who love the land

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hapa, "Redemption Song"

Originally sung by Bob Marley, this rendition of Redemption Song by the Hawaiian group Hapa is one of the songs I turn to whenever I need re-affirmation that there is goodness in the world. 99.999% of the time, it is not too late. There is redemption.

I admit; sometimes I can be so rararara speak out! that I sometimes forget that a whisper can be just as powerful as a scream. Sometimes it's the little details that make the most profound difference, rather than a huge act. A whisper can resonate the loudest across the vast expanse of the world and a pebble can produce the most enduring ripple as long as they are constant.

That being said, there is something so powerful whenever I hear a chant or a song from my ancestral tongues. Power. Mana, it is called in Hawaiian. Incidentally, Mana in Tagalog means inheritance. So in the words of my Hawaiian and Pinoy ancestors, Mana is a power that is inherited, passed on from a proud people whose cultures and traditions can never be vanished.

Sometimes I do worry, though, that someday my ancestral tongues will cease to exist. We had been silenced before  by missionaries and conquerors who told us our Native ways were savage. They used God as a justification for silencing our tongues, our songs, our chants, our identity. But they couldn't succeed, because Mana is not created by man and therefore cannot be taken away by man. And so we still speak, though not as loudly as we had before the time of James Cook.

What worries me is that there are some in my generation who think that modernity and progress means letting go of Nativeness, that in order to fly one must abandon roots. I am an American in my home country and yet in here, I hunger for the sound of Hawaiian, Tsalagi/Cherokee, and Maori tongues. I yearn for Bisayan and Tagalog that are not peppered with English words; bastardized BisLish and TagLish have become somewhat of a new status symbol that separates the elites from the non-elites. I long to hear pride and survival with each syllable spoken from my ancestral tongues.

Is that too naïve, too idealistic? Maybe it is and maybe it isn't, but it is my truth.  


Arcade Fire, "My Body is a Cage"

My body is a cage that keeps me
From dancing with the one I love
But my mind holds the key

My body is a cage that keeps me

From dancing with the one I love

But my mind holds the key

I'm standing on a stage
Of fear and self-doubt
It's a hollow play
But they'll clap anyway

My body is a cage that keeps me

From dancing with the one I love

But my mind holds the key

You're standing next to me
My mind holds the key

I'm living in an age

That calls darkness light

Though my language is dead

Still the shapes fill my head

I'm living in an age
Whose name I don't know
Though the fear keeps me moving
Still my heart beats so slow

My body is a cage that keeps me

From dancing with the one I love

But my mind holds the key

You're standing next to me
My mind holds the key
My body is a

My body is a cage

We take what we're given

Just because you've forgotten

That don't mean you're forgiven

I'm living in an age
That screams my name at night
But when I get to the doorway
There's no one in sight

My body is a cage that keeps me

From dancing with the one I love

But my mind holds the key

You're standing next to me
My mind holds the key

Set my spirit free

Set my spirit free

Set my body free

Lea Salonga, "Paraiso"

Heto ang katotohanan: habang tumataba ang bulsa ng unanong Commander-in-Corruption at ang malabigoteng Erap aka Commander-in-Theft, eto ang kalagayan ng mga simpleng mamamayang Pinoy. 

It is a slap across the face of humanity and human decency for the "leader" of the Philippines to go on a diplomatic tour across the globe with a 400 person entourage. Seriously, it's okay for the wives of the Congressmen to accompany the Presidential midget on these so-called "business trips," but their little vacation should not be paid for by the national treasury. 

The rationale for staying at expensive hotels and having lavish meals is usually, "Oh, what would people say if the President of the Philippines stayed at Motel 6?" Saving face, in other words. Newsflash, Unanong may Nunal: Alam na ng mundo na mahirap ang Pilipinas. The only way for you to "save face" is to use the money you spend on your travel entourage on your citizens. Your husband does not need to enjoy another kilo of lechon--mukha na nga siyang lechon, eh, sa kakakain ng baboy. Politicians', policemen's, generals' pockets do not need to be more padded than they already are, but senior citizens--regular na mamamayan--need healthcare, clean water, and food.

 So pwede ba,  Ginang Nuno sa Punsoy y Tianak, maging tao ka naman?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Umit, ¿dondé estás?

Nunna daul isunyi--
kā mana leo o kā 'aina--
hinauot unta dili  ako makalimot.
I'll keep on walking to wherever it may lead.

Tessa Savicki: An Intersection of Reproductive Rights and the Inefficacy of the Welfare System

There has been much uproar in MA about a woman named Tessa Savicki who is suing  Baystate Medical Center, 3 doctors, and 2 nurses for allegedly  permanently sterilizing  her against her will after the birth of her  9th son in 2006.  In the suit, she claims that she had signed a consent form for an IUD, but instead awoke to find out she had undergone a sterilization process called a tubal ligation. 

In this linked Boston Herald article, journalist Jessica Flagen writes:

This is the second time Savicki has sued over reproductive issues. In 2001, she reached a settlement with CVS and a spermicide company after she became pregnant with her now 12-year-old daughter after claiming she bought and used an expired spermicide, according to federal court documents.

Savicki has nine children from several men, is unemployed and relies on public assistance for two of the four children who live with her. She receives supplemental security income, or SSI, for a disability, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, she said. Her mother has custody of three of her children.

Despite the fact that I would not have an abortion under any circumstance, as a woman I support reproductive choice. Choice, of course, being the operative word. The allegation of Ms. Savicki's right to choose being taken away raises serious concerns about the state of human rights in this country. Our bodies are our own; they are not our family's, our community's, our country's, and especially not our politicians to politicize for career gain. Our bodies and what we do we it are personal issues and nobody else's business.

That being said, I also understand some concerns about Ms. Savicki's  clear inability to provide a stable, healthy environment for her children. While I believe that the welfare system helps those who deservedly need it, I also believe that because the system is inherently flawed, it has been abused to the benefit of a few bad apples. Being in the welfare system has become an inheritance of sorts for some, wherein generations of the same family live off of it. This cyclical welfare dependency burdens an already floundering system, and encourages a sense of entitlement over self-reliance and accountability. The welfare system can only be effective when enacted short-term, but detrimental in the long run. The system must be changed so that people such as Ms. Savicki do not go around receiving benefits, unchecked. More stringent guidelines and limitations, as well as periodic and exhaustive reviews, must be implemented. In so doing, more jobs would be created for the understaffed and overworked social workers. As a taxpayer, I would much rather see my money go to funding more jobs to weed out welfare system abusers than go to the aforementioned welfare benefits abusers.

On another issue, I wonder about the fathers of Ms. Savicki's children. Save for her current fiancé who she claims has been helping to support her, there is no mention of Ms. Savicki's former boyfriends. What role, if any, do they play in their children's lives? From the articles, it could be inferred that these sperm donors, like Ms. Savicki, choose not to be accountable for their choices and decisions in life. If they are not paying alimony, it is unfair for the responsible members of society to take up their slack. Of course the children are innocent and should not be penalized for the sins of their parents; what I am saying is that these men and Ms. Savicki ought to find gainful employment and contribute to the  financial and mental well-being of their children. Yes, the unemployment rate is high given the economic crisis, but minimum wage jobs do exist. There is no shame in working the night shift at CVS or the nearby 24 hour McDonald's. So I wonder if it is an issue of not wanting to be employed and instead choosing to live off of the system because they  feel like they are entitled to it. Welfare is a form of aid and not a gift; it is intended as a crutch to help people rise from their disadvantaged circumstances and better themselves.

At the end of the day, I view Tessa Savicki's case as more than your average controversy. Her
story is about an intersection of violations on different levels: the possible violation of a woman's body and her right to choose, a man's  disregard for his responsibility to his children at the cost of taxpayers' money, and the abuse of an already weak welfare system. A
change must be enacted in the system itself to dissuade system abusers and would-be abusers. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Unanong Nangungurakot: Tao ba, o...

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

Monday, January 4, 2010

Adventures from the Eve of Y2K + 10 : Bahs-ton and CT Editions

Like a best served cold present from a curmudgeonly, schizophrenic, and menstruating polar bear  rapidly approaching menopause, dear ole New England weather decided to treat us all to fluffy sky dandruff on New Year's Eve Day morning. By mid-afternoon, the cobblestoned streets of Willard M. Romney's old stomping grounds became a lovely grey slushed winter wonderland. Ah, First Night. High-pitched sounds--decipherable only to dolphins--periodically emanated from the mouths of bundled up darlings whose parents were too busy gawking at OMG! Ice Sculptures! to pay them any mind. Summa cum laude graduates from the Mumbles Mennino School of Public Speaking served as MBTA workers for the day, informing us of delays and imparting words of wisdom from some homeboy named Grabauskas or however it's pronounced and spelled.

Perhaps because academic masochism has encroached into the realm of mental health  masochism, we decided that we absolutely positively needed to buy more sensible shoes that what we were originally intending to wear (translation: a modest pair of four inches, instead of the scandalous five) and jumped into the mosh pit called last-minute shopping. It's safe to say that WWE wrestlers now come under the guise of impassioned Nine West and Aldo loyalists who don't hesitate to use their Minx-adorned talons to show their displeasure over being beat out in a race to get that last size 7 foot torture device. 

After we escaped the 5th level of hell that is frenetic shoe-shopping, we then entered the 6th level called Food Court. In here, an ear-shattering cacophony of dolphin-decibel voices greeted us once again, mostly coming from dear little no-longer-bundled-up munchkins whose parents ignore them while fueling up for the eve's festivities with healthy, MSG-doused Chinese food or flatulence-trumpeting comida Mexicana. Since Regina's Pizzeria offers Italian grub that's as authentic as Madonna's British (by way of Ann Arbor) accent, we decided to skeedadle on over to Sakura, which serves Japanese food that's as authentic as a Chanel purse sold on Canal St. in NYC. 

While First Night is where most people choose to bling out the New Year, we were actually headed to good ole Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino. As usual, a scantily-clad gymnast dude with abs so chiseled it could've been displayed at the MoMa was doing this Cirque du Soleil thing wherein he hangs and contorts himself to all sorts of position from a tall ribbon dangling from the ceiling. Oh, not to be outdone by Dickie Boy Clark and Ryan Seacrest, the homies at Mohegan also had a ball drop at midnight. 

Overall, it was an okay way to spend the dawn of another year. I must admit, however, that this year, I would rather greet 2011 at home, with a small dinner with loved ones. Good food, good conversation, good people? I'd rather have that than spend a ton and cram into some place with thousands of people. Huh. Night in instead of out? I must be getting old ;o) 

Sunday, January 3, 2010


You are Strength

Courage, strength, fortitude. Power not arrested in the act of judgement, but passing on to further action, sometimes obstinacy.

This is a card of courage and energy. It represents both the Lion's hot, roaring energy, and the Maiden's steadfast will. The innocent Maiden is unafraid, undaunted, and indomitable. In some cards she opens the lion's mouth, in others she shuts it. Either way, she proves that inner strength is more powerful than raw physical strength. That forces can be controlled and used to score a victory is very close to the message of the Chariot, which might be why, in some decks, it is Justice that is card 8 instead of Strength. With strength you can control not only the situation, but yourself. It is a card about anger and impulse management, about creative answers, leadership and maintaining one's personal honor. It can also stand for a steadfast friend.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Incubus, "Drive"

One of "my" songs then, and still is.

Favourite Movie...


2009 in Review

I gained: a better sense of who I am, how strong I could be, and who loves me/is there for me unconditionally.

I lost: touch with someone I care about deeply. I made the decision to cut ties because you have to know your worth and should not be around people who constantly tell you you are broken, damaged, unclean, or unworthy. 

I stopped: giving a rat's ass whenever some feminists tell me that I am not really a feminist or a womanist because I enjoy cooking and keeping a clean house. The way I see it, feminism and womanism are about equality--affording women the same  choices, opportunities and rights as men. Cooking is just one of the many choices I make. Besides, by ascribing gender roles and defining a person by its attributes, isn't that going against the tenets of feminism and womanism?

I started: meditating and practicing capoeira again.

I was hugely satisfied by: the fact that Roman Polanski is finally going to pay for his crimes. For victims and survivors, rape is a shadow that lasts the length of a lifetime.

And frustrated by: seeing Jon Gosselin's mug on TV, magazines, and websites. Enough already!

I am so embarrassed that I: said I loved to eat food "değil preservative" to a Turkish chef. I meant to say that I prefer food that are made with fresh ingredients--no preservatives. Unfortunately, "preservative" in Turkish means condom. Yep, my Tarzan Turkish strikes again! 

Once again, I: bought more shoes that I absolutely need and am able to bring to Turkey (unless I pay exorbitant fees, which isn't the case).

Once again, I did not: complete my Master's thesis. Deep down, I know that I probably won't. However, I will definitely go back to graduate school--just to another program!

The biggest physical difference between me last December and this December is: about a foot and a half of hair. One night in March, I decided that I was through being defined by my hair, and I cut off ten inches in a non-climactic Britney move. Another four inches was cut off at the salon the next day, and I've had about 4-5 inches cut these past few months with regular trims.

The biggest psychological difference between me last December and this December is: my wanting solitude more. And I can actually go a week without my smart phone and laptop!

I loved spending time: wandering around in the vast expanse of nature. Mountains, lakes, seas, plains, fields...doesn't matter. This year I hiked, camped, fished, and sailed more than I have my entire life.

Why did I spend even two minutes: worrying about living up to someone else's expectations of who and what I should be?

I should have spent more time: creating more art and writing for fun. For the first part of the year, I was knee-deep in research, interviews, transcriptions, transliterations, and translations that I barely had time to write for fun. I also have a book proposal thing for one of my former professors that seems to have been neglected.

I regret buying: that Showtime Rotisserie by Ron Popeil. The little bugger BROKE after one use!

I will never regret buying ten boxes of large pizzas and distributing them to the homeless people around the square even though with that money I could have bought a nice pair of shoes or some Apple gadget. I can survive another day without luxuries, but how could I want to, when my fellow man is hungry for food and a little kindness?

I slept on the rain, car, bus, plane, etc. way too much.

I didn’t sleep on my own bed enough.

Reading about the state of Philippine politics drove me crazy. The current president and her predecessor, Joseph "Commander-in-Theft" Estrada are two PoS in a pod of corruption.

The most relaxing place I went was Pine Ridge Reservation. Being out in nature and speaking with elders give me a sense of peace.

Why did I attempt to shop for Christmas/Dia de los Tres Reyes presents on Black Friday?

The best thing I did for someone else was to drop everything, go on a 5-hour bus ride to another state, hold them for a couple of hours as they cried, and then rode another 5-hour bus ride home to make it in time for work the next day. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

The best thing I did for myself was to cut ties with someone who for years convinced me that I was damaged and broken (because of something that was not my fault).

The best thing someone did for me was to fly from another continent to spend my birthday with me.

The one thing I’d like to do again, but do it better, is make Iskender Kebap.

We must never permit the voice of humanity
within us to be silenced. It is Man's sympathy with all creatures that first makes him a Man.

--Albert Schweitzer

Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

--Viktor E. Frankl