13 December 2010

Book Review: The Gay Metropolis

Kaiser was a founder and former president of the New York chapter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. He has taught journalism at Columbia and Princeton, where he was the Ferris Professor of Journalism.

I will admit that this book took me 14 years to read. My first college professor, who I was very close to, read this book when it first came out and insisted that I read it when I visited him once unannounced -- when in town. I bought the book and then carried it with me wherever I lived.

I don't think I would have appreciated it had I read it 14 years ago. I remember when I was a teenager still, he told me once that he was so "in the club" that he was out. He was in a committed long term relationship with a woman so this was even more perplexing to my young and delicate mind at the time. But, he was the father figure every gay should have. He told me about a 'slut phase' which I thought didn't apply to me. Me: "I didn't go through a slut phase." Him: "Yet."

He was gentle, steered me away from straight guys, towards Spinoza and supported my Vajrayana Buddhism, and towards an understanding of my self that resolved the conflicts that bring about self-hate in every minority. But the fruits of his planting would not come to bear until well after his death.

I found two themes running through reading Kaiser's book. One was that I couldn't put the book down. The other was that I had difficulty picking it up. To the latter, I think there is some resistance to the fact that I couldn't put it down. I grew up when AIDS was first named. I remember my mother telling me some scientists believed that people got AIDS by having sex or mixing blood. In my mind I thought of two guys naked in bed and contracting AIDS when scabs on their knees touch.

But, inescapably, my social and cultural milieu did in fact shape my understanding of myself, just in time for my gentle professor's intervention. It did not occur to me until after reading this book how powerful one authority figure (who was not gay) could be in being a positive, affirming role model. I talked to him for hours about my crushes, gay sex, religion, philosophy, politics, etc.,. It never occurred to me in my precocity how exceptional this time with him was. But it was enough to reorient me from potentially very destructive paths to which I can only thank him that we made contact.

I mention all of this because this book puts all of that in context. No one, anywhere in the world, who identifies as gay, can truly be untouched by modern American gay history. Additionally, I think it shows how, in some ways, there are parallels and in some ways, there are differences. Most of the repressive actions of the Philippine government towards gays and sexuality are actually reactions to directives by the Catholic hierarchy that have been indirectly adopted from American puritanism -- as opposed to some universal Catholic attitude towards gay politics.

This is true if we look at Brasil, Argentina or Spain and how the Catholic response there has been articulated differently and how the civil government provides for same-sex marriage and other gay civil rights protections. Of course, now after Benedict spoke on the lesser-of-evils with condoms, it will be curious if the CBCP sticks to its guns against condoms (like evangelical Protestant American preachers) or will let the RH Bill become law without threats of criminal reprisals or ecclesiastical nuclear bombs.

Every time I picked up Kaiser's book, I felt like I was transported back in time from the late 1930s until the 1990s. Part of the thread that weaves my life was exported from the US. I came to understand my professor's joking 'yet'-s about my protests to a slut phase. Instantly, the history of modern American gay culture allowed me to see, a previously, unorganized set of experiences which, in my mind, I had grouped all as gay but without further disposition or organization. This is something that my helpful professor friend/mentor was able to easily see and try to help locate me in but I was too resistant or other-focused to receive consciously then. I don't think I would have appreciated the book if I had read it when it was first new. I think I needed more time to develop and mature from when he offered it to me. But I'm glad I bought it and held it until this time, when I could appreciate it.

Okay. So I will leave you with two sets of images that I thought appropriately sum up some of the feelings I felt while reading the book.
The other leitmotif of the sixties was a feverish violence, which peaked in April 1968 after Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in Memphis. The assassination of John and Robert Kennedy bracketed King's. After Bobby's killing, John Updike wondered if God had withdrawn his blessing on America. William Styron remember this decade as an era when 'one of those liberal well-intentioned people would say, 'You don't mean, do you' -- and James Baldwin would interrupt and say, 'Yes, baby, they're going to burn your house down.' (144)



The version I read was a 416 page paperback published by Houghton Mifflin (September 1997), ISBN-13: 978-0156006170. It is written in English. The lowest price I found online was at abebooks.com.

11 December 2010

Movie Review: Antarctica


Okay. Well. What an interesting movie. I don't really know much about middle class Jewish life in Israel let alone gay middle class Jewish life in Israel. Okay, so the first half hour was a little bit confusing, but the rest of the movie was interesting. The narrative point of view and plot is a little loose but its an interesting formal type of movie and, well, you eventually want to know how it ends. If you're into white guys, this might be a movie to watch or if you want to see a selection of Israeli cinema, then watch.

06 December 2010

Book Review: The Sexual Organization of the City


Edward O Laumann is a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago. Stephen Ellingson is an assistant professor of sociology at the Hamilton College. Jenna Mayah is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago. Anthony Paik is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Iowa. Yoosik Youm is an assistant professor of the sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

I will admit upfront, that I'm not a sociologist and I've generally avoided most sociological literature. This has been in part because of the heavy reliance on statistical regressions that I've always found in sociology along with traditional political science, etc.,. There were parts of this book that were really really uninteresting (including almost every methods section of every chapter).

Now, I may not have gotten passed the first chapter had I not stumbled upon this passage:
Derek is a bisexual African American man from the city's South Side. Following his usual routine of looking for a straight, Hispanic gang-banger, Derek visits a public park in Chicago's Northwest Side neighborhood of Erlinda -- the scene of a curious interracial detente that brings together unlikely buyers and sellers. Gay white and African American men looking for 'drive-up' (i.e., a quick blow job) cruise the park to trade cash or drugs for sex with drug addicts, Hispanic gang-bangers, and other straight-identified Hispanic men looking to make a quick buck. At the park, Derek meets Juan, forty-something, straight, married and Hispanic. The initial encounter is a simple transaction: oral sex for a few dollars. On subsequent visits to the park, Derek keeps coming back to Juan. The two become friends, and the casual sex becomes something more than casual. The relationship ends when Derek decides to be exclusively heterosexual. Juan, however, decides to become exclusively homosexual, takes a new lover and is dumped by his wife.
So you see, the 350+ pages was undaunting if I could get some analytical insight into the workings of this dynamic, its cultural and social context, etc.,. The book was a dense forest of research into the sexual organization of Chicago. It is a place I've never been to. It also did it through the lens of "sexual markets".

When I first skimmed through book, I thought I had stumbled upon a chapter on prostitution, but instead, these sociologists have adopted the so-called "theory of sex markets" where individuals and groups are studied using the metaphors and theoretical functions of market economics and market actors. It's a fascinating way of looking at things, although, these sociologists certainly aren't psychologists and may have benefited a little from cross pollinating with the current research on brain and understanding.

I was very much fascinated with the breadth and depth of this book and it reminded me of the tremendous life time work of Landa Jocano. I suspect that with enough funding, a similar series of chapters could be written about the sexual organization of Manila and the sexual organization of the Philippines. It would be an ambitious project and could build upon the work of Michael Tan et al in their Love and Desire about the understanding and organization of sex in the lives of young Filipinos.

I found the most interesting chapter to be Religion and the Politics of Sexuality and how various churches with varying degrees of autonomy from their central religious offices come to deal with homosexuality and how that is mediated by the actual congregation. I think an extensive social survey conducted similar to the one in this book would provide some real meaningful answers toward population research and sexuality research in the Philippines. Of course, more immediately, we need to pass the Reproductive Health bill immediately and then fine tune approaches to reproductive health with more refined data and analysis.

The version I read was a 435 page paperback published by University of Chicago Press (November 21, 2005), ISBN-13: 978-0226468976. It is written in English. The lowest price I found online was at abebooks.com.

03 December 2010

Book Review: Take the Stranger By the Hand

John Donald Gustav-Wrathall teaches American Religious History as adjunct faculty at United Theological Seminary in New Brighton, Minnesota. He wrote this social history of the YMCA.

I had always wondered exactly why the Village People sang a song about the YMCA. Let be liberally quote from the lyrics and you can fill in the background with prancing Village People in their costumes:

You can stay there, and I'm sure you will find
Many ways to have a good time.

***

You can get yourself clean, you can have a good meal
You can do whatever you feel ...

***

No man does it all by himself.
I said, young man, put your pride on the shelf,
And just go there, to the Y.M.C.A.
I'm sure they can help you today.
Well, it turns out that the whole YMCA phenomenon really did start as a "Young Men Christian Association." The first turn from a devout evangelical movement to a pre-gay community culture in the mid 1900s in the US was that churches were concerned that the YMCAs were competing with churches. To accommodate the churches, they added "physical" work to their program and were able to develop a theological basis for it. At this time, there was a very body negative approach to human life by evangelical Christians. Everything was focused on the spiritual/mental side of things. (Yes, it was the Victorian period.)

Once the YMCA organization entered into the physical side of the universe, sex education appeared. At this point, the whole YMCA program focused on very intimate male friendships and well, from the 21st century perspective, it really all sounded like thinly veiled gay guys using the Bible to talk about how much they were into each other. Then, as the infrastructure of gyms and dormitories appeared, then the gay-sex cruising subculture appeared and was apparently tolerated even with major public scandals in 1912 and 1919 until the 1970s when the gay consciousness and rights came to the fore and technology allowed panopticism to invade the architecture and spatial politics of YMCA buildings.

This reminded me of all of the Youths for Christ or Victory Christian Fellowship and other Protestant youth movements where their leaders just seem so really really gay. Remember Gigil? The whole conflict starts because Katrina Halili falls in love with one of these closeted gay evangelicals who, when confronted with marriage, comes out.

The first half of this book may not be interesting unless you're interested in American social and religious history. Of course, it does lay out the framework for modern U.S. gay community and how a repressive anti-sex/anti-body Victorian Christian culture ends up producing a gay cruising scene.

I also found fascinating the discussion of how homosexuality was once completely engendered -- that is "real men" or "straight men" were the tops and the "queans"/"queens" were the bottoms. This is an under-researched area in global LGBT/gender studies that I'd like to hear more about in a comparative or transcultural way.

The version I read was a 288 page paperback published by University of Chicago Press (June 1, 2000), ISBN-13: 978-0226907857. It is written in English. The lowest price I found online was at abebooks.com.

26 November 2010

Book Review: Why Marriage?


George Chauncey is an American historian and professor of history at Yale University in the United States. He wrote this book shortly after the 2004 US Presidential election which focused as an issue, same-sex marriage.

I was going through my library looking for books that I had bought or received and never read or for books to reread and I stumbled across this little volume. I remember buying it and not reading it. As a committed queer theorist at the time, at that time, I was deeply ambivalent about the marriage question feeling that the 'revolutionary' call of gay liberation was being suffocated by the marriage proponents.

I remember asking myself why the terms of the conversation were yes for same-sex marriage or no for same-sex marriage and the question of marriage not being the focal point.

In any event, I have discussed some of this at other points and I would refer readers to my post on Michael Warner's Trouble with Normal if you'd like to hear an additional thought on the topic.

Chauncey is certainly not Andrew Sullivan and thankfully so. Like my friend, a retired Supreme Court justice, he is practical. He starts with the premise that marriage is not a static institution and many of the claims regarding "traditional" in "traditional marriage" are really references to the whole hierarchical, male-dominated property-right regime of pre-Capitalist Europe.

He shows why same-sex marriage is so hotly contested, not because of a real threat to heterosexuality or marriage from loving, committed relationships of same-sex couples, but because of four changes in American society that have altered our understanding of marriage, that has made same-sex marriage conceivable and that conceivability is the underlying threat:
Four fundamental changes in marriage since the nineteenth century have made the right to marry seem both more imaginable and more urgent to lesbians and gay men. In its own time each of these changes seemed as momentous as the prospect of same-sex marriage does today. First, the right to choose one's partner in marriage, no matter how much that choice distressed one's family, ethnic community, and co-religionists, came to be seen as a fundamental civil right. Second, the sharp differences in the marital roles assigned husbands and wives declined, so that it became easier to imagine a marriage between two people of the same gender. Third, marriage became a crucial nexus for the allocation of public and private rights and benefits, so that the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage imposed increasingly significant economic and legal consequences. Finally, the power of any one religious group to impose its marriage rules on others, while never strong, sharply declined.
The book goes into tremendous historical detail, relevant and easily contextualized, to understand exactly how same-sex marriage was an inevitable consequence of the modernization of family life in the U.S. (and elsewhere). It is the third point, more than any other, however, that Chauncey focuses on for Why Marriage? as opposed to other things.

The story is complicated and the U.S. has really linked social security services to recognized family forms. He goes into detail which is fascinating. The main thrust was the consequences of that married/family structured social security net and two phenomena: gay men's experiences when friends and partners died of AIDS and lesbian's experiences of trying to raise children. It turned out that "private biases may be outside the reach of the law, but the law cannot directly, or indirectly, give them effect[,]" did not apply to same-sex couples. (Chauncey citing Palmore v. Sindoti, 466 U.S. 429 (1984))

Many lifetime partners were denied hospital visitation with their partner in the last days, hours or minutes of the partners life. Once dead, the hospital would turn to the families of the dead and not the partner and would exclude the partner from any participation. Well crafted wills were contested by families claiming that the partner had 'unduly influenced' the dead partner to defeat the will of the dead partner. Chauncey does summarize many of the more publicized cases that were reported in the mainstream media in the 1980s and 1990s.

At the same time, lesbian mothers were stripped of their parental rights, harassed and discriminated again. In one case, the commonwealth of Virginia's legal system terminated a mother's parental rights (already a single mother) because lesbianism is a "class 6 felony." Chauncey goes into the more publicized cases that appeared in the 1980s and 1990s.

But these experiences and the shifts in the role and purpose of marriage in American society answered the question of Why Marriage? While right-wing gay activists were claiming that marriage would "civilize" gays and lesbians, many gays and lesbians looked to marriage as a legally recognized institution to eliminate the uncertainty and unnecessary suffering associated with a non-legitimate relationship.

I always was fascinated by the recycling of arguments that evangelical, fundamentalist Christians used in the 1940s-1960s against desegregation and integration of Black Americans. In the 1950s, the main sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was not homosexuality, as has been played up in recent decades. In the 1940s and 1950s, fundamentalist preachers claimed it was race-mixing and interracial marriage!

In a sermon the late fundamentalist preacher leader Jerry Falwell gave in 1958, he said: "If we mix the races in schools, in churches, the ultimate end will be the social mixing which can only lead to marital relationships." In the 1950s, it was widely believed that the tempter of Eve was not a serpent but a Black man. In the late 1990s when US senators debated same-sex marriage, Southern senators referred to Noah and "one male and one female" for proof that God intended heterosexual couples to "be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth." Yet, in the 1950s, that same argument was used extensively to oppose racial integration. Chauncey cites one 1954 pamphlet: "God destroyed 'all flesh' in that part of the world for that one sin... Only Noah was 'perfect in his generation' ... so God saved him and his family to rebuild the Adamic Race."

He does not use this to say that LGBT struggles are the same as Black America's struggles. Only, in the limited instance of opposing same sex marriage, the same Biblical stories are brought out that were used against integration and desegregation.

This small volume is worth reading for LGBT advocates anywhere in the world and for those interested in looking to the causes and conditions of a same-sex marriage movement. It is a great complement to How the Religious Right Shaped Lesbian and Gay Activism.

The version I read was a 224 page paperback published by Basic Books (December 13, 2005), ISBN-13: 978-0465009589. It is written in English. The lowest price I found online was at abebooks.com (and its for the hardcover at $1).

24 November 2010

Pope Really Meant It, Transsexuals too

A merry Christmas for AIDS activists round the world

The full story, Vatican: Condoms lesser evil for heterosexuals too

Snippet:

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told reporters Tuesday that he asked the pope whether he intended his comments to only apply to male prostitutes. Benedict replied that it really didn't matter, that the important thing was the person in question took into consideration the life of the other, Lombardi said.

"I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine," Lombardi said. "He told me no. The problem is this ... It's the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship."

"This is if you're a man, a woman, or a transsexual. We're at the same point. The point is it's a first step of taking responsibility, of avoiding passing a grave risk onto another," Lombardi said.

22 November 2010

Movie Review: The Sensei

It never occurred to me watching this movie that it had any Filipino connection. You see, I didn't pay attention when D. Lee Inosanto flashed over the screen. Of course, that mistake ended when the grandmother in one scene started shouting Tama Na! Tama Na! to two brothers fighting. It took me a few minutes after and then I replayed the scene. Yep. Tama Na! is what she is shouting. It's funny because I thought earlier, this woman doesn't seem to have a Japanese or even fake Japanese accent. I guess they didn't have the budget. It is only later that Lee Inosanto tells a Pure Land Buddhist minister that she was raised in a Japanese and Filipino mixed household.

That being said, this is a great movie about the dangers of narrow-mindedness and the power of love. The lesson that every warrior must learn is not that "you have a right to defend yourself against hatred" but that it is being in contact with the power of love (including self-love) which is the ultimate protection. A few scenes are a little slow but worth the watch.

happy birthday victor =P

21 November 2010

Pope's New Direction on Condoms

"Tu vuò fa l' americano?"


Preview snippets:

Benedict upholds the view that the Roman Catholic Church does not see condoms as “a real or moral solution,” and says that they are “not really the way to deal with the evil of H.I.V. infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.”

...

“It is not only the abuse that is upsetting, it is also the way of dealing with it. The deeds themselves were hushed up and kept secret for decades. That is a declaration of bankruptcy for an institution that has love written on its banner.” [Benedict said]

16 November 2010

12 November 2010

Book Review: Celluloid Comrades

Song Hwee Lim is a Film Studies lecturer in the United Kingdom. The research of this book was the basis of his doctoral dissertation.

I found this book to be refreshing in many respects. It more or less disposed of many of the postmodernist arguments about representation and still addressed issues of colonialism, imperialism, etc., without doing what many postmodernist theorists do, indirectly, exoticize the East by villainizing the West. Lim's piece more or less just moves the West out of the frame of the shot and looks primarily at Chinese gay cinema. He doesn't deny the effects of globalization or the role of "film festival" capital at channeling how Chinese gay cinema comes to be created, but does not fall into the trap of many Western theorists set for themselves by indirectly asserting Western supremacy in the production of Chinese cinema.

Now, enough with that, the book got me to thinking about the first time I saw the Wedding Banquet, Farewell my Concubine, Happy Together and East Palace, West Palace. These are the primary films that Lim deals with. It has been ten or fifteen years since I've seen any of them. When I subsequently read film criticism about them in English journals, I almost felt guilty for the affect the films produced in me. I identified with the main Asian character in the Wedding Banquet and in Happy Together, I felt like a struggle between my inner-Fai and inner-Po-wing was raging on and on occasionally spilling out into a love life where sometimes I was Fai and sometimes Po-wing and wondering when my own Chang would come. (I know, heavy of the father issues, di ba?)

With East Palace, West Palace, it reminded me of the complexity surrounding many young gay Manileños who have adopted this Western approach to sexuality and gender where kabaklaan is somehow an inchoate identity or a retarded form of homosexuality or a backward or primitive relic of a savage past. (This has seeped into theory elsewhere, but I'm not going there, for now.) I was captured by the movie when it first came out. It was tragic, all around. Although I was more focused on the seduction of the police officer, it really wasn't until later, did I see how I was being seduced by the entire constellation of images and how much in identification I was with Ah Lan's character. Ultimately, it was a struggle of Ah Lan and Xiaoshi, in me, that was engaging in a careful dance. The question and issue of my own masochism.

This is a must read for any survey of gay Film Studies.

The version I read was a 247 page paperback published by University of Hawai'i Press (February, 2007), ISBN-13: 978-0824830779. It is written in English. The lowest price I found online was at amazon.com.

10 November 2010

Queer and Loathing


There is a great article in November/December 2010 issue of Mother Jones about gay kids in the U.S. foster system and the failures of the system. It's worth reading.

29 October 2010

Do Good Today

When the Lord was forty-one, he traveled to the Tushita heaven, the heaven of the Thirty Three. His mother, Mayadeva or Mahamaya, had gathered tremendous merit and had been reborn there. To repay his mother for her kindess, he went to the heaven during the rainy season to give teachings to his mother and the host of gods present. But, there was tremendous concern that he would remain in the Tushita heaven and leave behind the world of men in darkness and decline without giving any teaching that may renew and transform life for us. With the intercession of the lord of the gods and his human followers on earth, the Lord decided, on this day, Lha Bab Duchen, to return to the human realm where he would give teachings that could liberate beings from the waves of birth, sickness, old age and death.

It is believed that all actions taken on this day are multiplied by ten million. A kind act is thus increased and an unkind act is thus increased. Do good today.

28 October 2010

Book Review: The Haunting Fetus

Marc Moskowitz is an anthropology professor in the United States. He engaged in field work to study the cultural phenomenon of fetus ghosts and fetus demons in Taiwan.

The only disappointment I had with this book was Moskowitz's preoccupation with the possibility of swindling by religious masters. And just perhaps, his failure to really look comparatively at the literature of the entire aboriginal area.

His central claim is that the practice of praying to and appeasing fetus ghosts is generally a new phenomenon in Taiwan that likely was imported from Japan. And that it took hold at a time when the nature of sexuality and family in Taiwanese society was very radically shifting -- culminating in the legalization of abortion in the early 1980s. He even cites to an informant that even goes so far as to say that fetus ghost appeasement was imported from Japan.

I found the symbolism as told in the stories of his informants -- together with what little affect he described -- to be highly rich. A richness that Moskowitz doesn't really mine. He got caught up in the materiality of the whole thing and was unable to fully differentiate the symbolic value from the literal value and it ended up as an echoing concern over religious masters simply hoodwinking emotionally vulnerable people out of money. He remains conflicted and uncommitted about this through out.

Naturally, this book got me to think more about the nature of ghosts and transmigration -- since I'm always correcting people on what karma is and isn't. On one level, Buddhists say that the realms of existence that consciousness transmigrates through are real places. When you die, you will be reborn in a real place like a hell, a hungry ghost realm, as an animal, as a human, as a demigod/demon, or as a god -- and you will suffer your karma there until you transcend it. On another level, however, we also say that the Buddha told us not to speculate about what happens after death and to focus really on this life that we presently have and that the realms of existence are just symbolic or metaphorical ways of describing present states.

A hell being suffers from anger and so what a human would see as water, a hell being sees as rotting pus and shit or molten copper or iron. A hungry ghost suffers from avarice and so what a human would see as water, a hungry ghost sees as liquid fire. Animals suffer from stupidity and are constantly exploited -- even if reborn among gods. Demigods and demons suffer from jealousy and would see water more valuable than we do and would suffer from fighting and quarreling over who exactly has the right to the water, etc.,. Gods suffer from pride and see water like a golden elixir. I wrote this poem several years ago about the tragic transmigration of a god, when he or she is confronted with death:

His lei wilted. The freshness that attended to him throughout his long life had dissipated into his old friend, the gentle wind. But now, this gentleness was a bit cold and slightly uncomfortable. He suddenly was overcome with fear.

His friends no longer came near. From a distance, they threw flowers at him and praised him.

'May you be born in the human realms, gather merit and return.' They said. In their expression there was not the slightest sadness or anger. There was a sense of loathing wafting subtly in the air. They carried on, without him.

In his last moments, he recollected his long life. Then, he turned to his mind's eye and would recollect his lives to come. His eyes welled up with tears. For eons he had sat in this sweet place, embracing beautiful gods and goddesses. He feasted on the most flavorful and pleasant dishes. Perfectly satiated, sedated.

He does not take birth again in this realm. He descends into the world of men and will never ascend again to this lonely place for all his lives.

But where do fetus ghosts, fetus demons, tiyanak, etc., play into this configuration? Moskowitz seems to presume that they do not exist, they are only an image of the psyche or the convergence of social change. But let's look a little more broadly at the issue. When someone meets an untimely death, throughout the world, there is always a tremendous concern that a ghost that will haunt the living will appear. If we take it on a psychological level, there is some energy from the psyche that was projected outside the psyche that is unable to be reintegrated into the psyche. Moskowitz describes this phenomenon with extreme clarity but not consciously. Most people who have had an abortion that he interviews feel tremendous guilt about it and when they meet with some misfortune, they ascribe it to the abortion (via the guilty feelings). And, you see now how karma works, it's a vicious cycle. Guilty feelings cause misfortune cause reactive action cause more guilty feelings cause misfortune, etc., etc.,.

I suspect, although I can't find any scriptural or commentary authority for it at the moment, that the answer is that the apparitions are clouds of karma that have formed below the clear light of the mind-sky of the individual. When one kills, the moralists say that one is reborn in the hell realms. But it has also been said by the liberals that one can rely upon the Dharma and transcend one's karma in this life time.

On another level, fetus ghosts and even tiyanak, in the Philippines, are a remainder between two belief systems involved in a process of social change where the synthesis requires extensive abstraction to resolve an apparent conflict between the two while also trying to balance this issue of untimely death and the potential consequences for psychic energy that is not reintegrated into the psyche.

There has been a two millennium dispute in Catholicism over the status of children not baptized and the belief in the limbo infantium. However, this contested belief has continued until present day among Catholic theologians and the most updated catechism of the Catholic church enigmatically says that baptism is necessary for salvation as a rule (caveat) but this is a rule of man and God is not bound to it as such. It almost sounds like a mystery is being born. Very complicated and unresolved. And, in the Philippines, this comes out as tiyanak -- from the pre-Catholic beliefs of demons caused by miscarriages, abortions, etc., -- untimely death. However, I am not aware of a ritual or practice that releases the tiyanak from their state -- only methods of returning them to the forest temporarily. I suspect that before Catholicism there were rituals which could heal these souls to the same level as people who died properly and in their right time.

If I had done the research, I would have turned in the direction of, why do Taiwanese go to these spiritual masters to perform incantations and prayer rituals as opposed to donating to an orphanage, etc., as one Moskowitz' informants had thought about doing. Why the rituals?

The version I read was a 216 page paperback published by University of Hawai'i Press (June 5, 2001), ISBN-13: 978-0824824280. It is written in English. The lowest price I found online was at abebooks.

27 October 2010

Book Review: Sexuality and the Stories of Indigenous People

Jessica Hutchings is a Maori postdoctoral fellow in environmental studies in New Zealand and Clive Aspin is a Maori researcher at Nga Pae o te Maramatanga in New Zealand. They were the editors of this collection.

Upon hearing one the satirical song of Eskimo (I'm the Only Gay Eskimo), I contemplated long and hard about the nature of sexuality, globalization, modernity and economic complexification. This made me ask the question: What is life like a gay Aeta? Is there such a thing? In many of the very small and insular communities that I've had personal interactions with, 'gay' identity is something that is either like the purloined letter or is invisible.

The book shares a variety of experiences from every end of every possible spectrum I could think of in indigenous communities. One concern I had in one story was a criticism of Maori politicians and religious leaders who attempt to claim that same-sex relationships and desires did not exist before Western contact. Even anticolonialism people have homophobia issues just think of Franz Fanon's Black Skin, White Mask famous footnote about how whites brought homosexuality to Martinique. I have never denied that type of claim, I just always felt it was homophobic in its selective incompleteness.

Whites brought heterosexuality and the perspective with them -- not just homosexuality. I also think, like a number of other peculiarities at the periphery of life, the identities and lives that eventually were swept into the homosexual bin by colonial means actually provide a glimpse into how exactly our ancestors really dealt with colonialism (without the postmodernist or legalistic jargon). I touched on this very briefly in my review of With Respect to Sex and Indian responses to colonialism.

Some of the stories in the book were way too intellectual and I found my affinity with the autobiographical stories that were not extensively footnoted with scientific journal citations or not significantly preferences by academic literature reviews. I am not fluent in Maori so the first chapter was almost entirely unintelligible. Once long ago, I had read the story of Tiki and Hinemoa, a famous Maori love story where Hinemoa (goddess) woos and gets the Tutanekai (god) by trickery. It was always an interesting story as many Polynesian stories I've been told or read are. What I didn't know, however, was that Tutanekai had a 'takatapui' friendship (takatapui is an ambiguous indigenous term that is sometimes used by gay Maori to identify as such) with another warrior named Tiki:
Tutanekai, with his flute and his favorite intimate friend, his takatapui [friend], Tiki, and Hinemoa, the determined, valorous, superbly athletic woman ... who took the initiatve herself, swam the midnight water of the lake to reach him, and interestingly, consciously and deliberately masqueraded as a man, as a warrior, to lure him to her arms.
Somehow Tiki and the female-t0-male transgenderism missed the version I was told long ago. This kind of Victorian revisions wasn't unique to Maori at all. Almost all of the same-sex intimacy was taken out of the English translation of the nineteenth century serialized stories of Hawaiian chiefs in Ruling Chiefs (collected and published in Hawaiian recently as Ke Mo'i Aupuni). The translator's purpose may have been much more complex than just homophobia. She may have felt that to include such a thing would have minimized the significance of the translation or its purpose for Hawaiian nationalism. These are things that every culture must work out for itself.

Neil Garcia, in Gay Philippine Culture, does address, to some extent, pre-Catholic forms of transgenderism and same-sex intimacy. In fact, he bases his claims to how best to view "gay" identity now on that understanding. I think this approach is useful, and must be done in a more wide-spread and systematic way. And in it, we can really answer the question if its possible to have a gay Aeta and if so, do they give up their residence in an Aeta tribe to have such an identity? (If we look to Micronesia, the answer is sometimes yes, sometimes no, sometimes something in between.)

The version I read was a 201 page paperback published by Huia Publishers (December 31, 2007), ISBN-13: 978-1869692773. It is written in English. The lowest price I found online was at abebooks.

26 October 2010

Movie Review: Loose Cannon

Listening to Yolanda Be Cool's Papamericano on love radyo all the time, it reminds me of this struggle between the collective and individual (no I don't speak any of the Southern Italian dialects, but I researched the meaning of the lyrics from the original song by Renato Carosone's Tu Vuo Fa' L'Americano -- yes, he's actually saying Fa' l'americano). Anyhow, this movie is a great film about the healthy development of the individual from the collective and the main character also happens to be gay! It also has the kind of Hispanic/Latin comedy that we come to expect from locally produced comedies and teleserye, even though the story occurs in Italy and speak in Italian. There is the matrona, the womanizer father, the aunt, the maids. The kontrabida, the konsintadora, the tsimosa, etc., etc.,. It's quite a lovely film.

There are many twists and turns that a plot summary will only ruin much of the light-hearted surprise. The most risque the film gets is one or two passionate gay kissing moments. But you will laugh the whole way through. Especially if you ever felt it tough to come out to your father or mother. I recommend this for viewing. It's Italian name, which is perhaps the only way to find it online, is: "Mine Vaganti".

22 October 2010

Book Review: God Loves Bakla

Raymond Alikpala is an attorney working for the United Nations in Cambodia. God Loves Bakla is an autobiographical treatment of his struggles growing gay in the Philippines.

I would like to start this review by saying that, in fact, I rarely read autobiographies and especially ones written by our countrymen. Most autobiographies are written by retired politicians who are still trapped in the self-aggrandizing nature of popular politics. I definitely think that this book is an excellent read and would be really helpful to young Filipino men who are struggling with their sexuality. I won't go into too many details about the book or my criticisms of the narrative style because I find something much more interesting about the book and the story that will require us to really just wait and see.

First and foremost, Alikpala is a heretic. That is, he holds religious beliefs that are in conflict with the dogma of the Roman Catholic Church. He is the most dangerous type of heretic, naturally, because, by and by, he does not reject most of the dogma of the Church and he has found a way to coordinate the rejected parts with the accepted parts of Church dogma. This sets up the possibility that this book, may one day, become a hagiography. If the Church can use Alikpala and what he represents to renew itself internally, he may be on the path to sainthood. But, although Alikpala believes the Church makes historical mistakes and its views on sexuality are in that category, I think Alikpala actually advocates something more radical and in directly challenges the way in which the Church and religion itself interface in our lives.

Naturally, Alikpala discusses the role of the Holy Spirit in his life and from his descriptions of life's events it seems to be genuine. Taking a short stroll down Church history, it was the spiritual movements focused on the Holy Spirit that were most violently suppressed by the Church. The Free Spirit heresies are a good example of this.

Ultimately all collective religious attitudes are first founded on a numinous encounter with the Self. It is from this encounter that an image of the Self appears and the process of crystallization occurs. This happens to every religion -- including Buddhism. It is in this process that the numinosity dissipates. For most people, though, there is no problem. Most people are not called to have a direct, individual connection with the numinous. In our own cultural history, that was the job of the headman or ruler of a community.

Yet, because of the crystallization, the image begins to decline even for the masses and that is when renewal and transformation must occur. The Holy Spirit movements 1000 years ago are one example. Tantric developments of Indian Buddhism are another. St. Francis is another example. And now, after God Loves Bakla, we have to ask ourselves, whether Alikpala is not pointing to something bubbling up that even he himself is not consciously aware of.

It is this subversion that makes Alikpala's book so powerful and the contours of his individual struggle are worthy of reflection for those with their own struggles. However, if this will spark the kind of renewal that we need, we will have learn more about Albert and the images and feelings associated with him in more detail. It is this angel in which the Spirit spoke as Alikpala points out. Gomer was a central figure to Hosea and God's plan for Hosea and Israel. But we need to know more about Albert.

The version I read was a 274 paperback published by Central Books (2010) ISBN: 9789710111183. The book is written in English. I purchased my copy from Central Books, Mega Mall.

18 October 2010

Movie Review: Amphetamine 安非他命

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I attempted to learn Chinese calligraphy. Yes, it was in an embarrassing attempt to write poetry to impress a boy from Hongkong. Professor Tan, who has long since crossed to the other shore, spent my first three lessons on 我. In fact, I feel like I was more getting an introduction to the philosophy of the self than I ever learned in calligraphy. At such a young and tender age, I was too impatient so I ended my lessons after the fourth one and found a young woman from Macau who could focus on just the necessaries for the moment.

But yet, after watching this movie, I find myself remembering those lessons from Professor Tan. For those of you that do not know, 我 is the character for 'me' or 'I'. (我愛你 was naturally the focal point of my interests.) Professor Tan defined this character as being of the nature of two brothers in an eternal struggle. This is the nature of the I. Amphetamine is a story of this struggle as represented in a novel way.

We have Kafka, swim instructor and holder of a few other part time jobs, who crosses paths with Daniel, a financier. Kafka is straight and a drug addict while Daniel is gay and not a drug addict. Their story is one of deepening intimacy and trust as the two are locked into a struggle between chaos and stability and attraction and repulsion. Fate locks the two into a powerful and explosive relationship of love. It is a beautifully choreographed sword fight in the nature of the eternal struggle of 我. I also was not previously aware of how Amphetamine was translated into Chinese previously ( 安非他命 literally is security-not-his-life). But what does it mean to escape one's life into not-security?

This struggle repeats in fractal fashion throughout the film over and over again with increasing intensity until it finally exposes the final struggle of the soul -- between life and death, between love and time. When Kafka's comatose mother dies, the struggle comes to a climax, where everyone who has ever lost their mother is confronted with: do I follow my mother into death or can I live on without her in this world and let her go to the other shore without me? What is 我?

Pictures courtesy of http://www.amphetaminemovie.com/.

03 October 2010

Six Years

It has been six years since I began blogging as a part of a previous transition in my life. I recall in those early months spending hours every day at the netopia in Alabang Town Center writing long poetic prose in coded language. In this new transition, I offer an excerpt from the Prayer on the Intermediate State:

Bless us to engender the realization of the impermanence of this life in understanding that whatever is gathered will be separated, whatever is accumulated will be exhausted, whatever reaches a high state will fall to a low state, and whatever takes birth will die and that the time of death is uncertain.

01 October 2010

Call Me By My True Names

Call Me by My True Names
by Thich Nhat Hanh

Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to
Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea
pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and
loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my
hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to, my
people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all
walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

16 September 2010

Movie Review: La Mission

This is a great movie. It is too bad that it did not have a wide commercial release in the U.S. and little press elsewhere. The movie starts with a ex-con father who discovers his son to be gay and announces: "You're fucking dead to me." (Shortly after saying: "Who's this fucking white boy?")

The movie is a slow and careful unfolding of a complex architecture of secrets and shame, layers and layers, which makes a review of this movie difficult. "Where love rules, there is no will to power, and where power predominates, love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other." C.G. Jung

I encourage you to watch it and see a story about how the walls that we put up to defend against the chaos can so easily become our own prisons -- insulating our hearts from love -- and what is necessary to liberate our hearts. In Buddhism, we call this karma.

27 August 2010

We're Watching You


NPR reported a great story about the struggles of bloggers in Egypt and across the Middle East and the revolutionary power of their word -- which is quite conservative and moderate actually. The flow of information through relationships (from organization of the permanent laws of the Republic to the general circulation of tsismis) is power.

24 August 2010

Behind the Curtain

This may not seem like a story about an amazing lamp, but it is. It doesn't take place in China, but in the Kingdom of Golkonda.

I traversed the great ocean and reached China. From there, I traversed farm fields, hills and mountains and finally arrived in Delhi -- late at night and in a thick fog. It seemed like our guide drove around in circles for hours and then we turned off onto a narrow street. A monk quietly walking through the shadows. A drunk laid out on the ground below a bench. We arrived in an inn and tried to sleep. The following morning I went to the shrine and meditated.

We headed for the Kingdom of Golkonda. It was a slow journey. When we got to Golkonda, I was entertained until quite late by a Muslim prince -- who looked like Keanu Reeves. In fact, for someone of such humble background. Being entertained by a Muslim prince was quite magical all around. The people that lived in the city around the palace were quite friendly.

A many number of strangers wanted to entertain and socialize with me and the invitations were quite numerous. However, after the late night entertainment by the prince, I decided to decline all.

We then joined a caravan leaving for the village of the final destination -- so I thought. As we got closer, the road to the village was still being built. Somewhere in the middle, the road was most rough. But we carried on and arrived in the village. It wasn't really a village any more. What was normally a small village of 500 peasants was transformed into a city of almost 200,000.

You see all of this seemed so magical. Princely entertainments, a mirage city. But the real magic was still to come.
In the middle of this hot desert under tents, more than 100,000 prostrated, sat and listened to the words of this wise sage. Night and day, hundreds of monks chanted to purify the land and the sky. It was the convergence of these many different universes that a magical resonance. But it was not until I had entered behind the curtain did the real journey begin. When the wise sage was present, a light fog appeared and cooled the land.


Then, I entered behind the curtain. I walked through the black eastern doorway. His words then pulled me quickly through many hallways with many perfect beings. I could see the detail so clearly but it was so fleeting. I felt like I was looking through a pinhole. I was overwhelmed with symbols, color, sensations. Then, I came to another set of four walls and another entrance. More corridors. More perfect beings. This occurred once more. But it was so overwhelming. I clung to the hand his words held out to me. The flood of sensations, symbols and colors did not slow but increased. Then, a square platform. Then, at the center another square platform. But no matter how close to the center I got, I could not, on my own, buoy myself from the inundation. Then, at the center, my guide appeared embracing his consort -- Love. The unity, my God.

The bells began to ring. The chanting began to pick up again. And slowly the intensity began to dissipate and dissolve. The colors, sensations and symbols dropped away until then, I returned to the mysterious cool fog in the middle of this mirage city in the desert.

And then, it was done. I got to peer behind the curtain and found it to be incomprehensibly beautiful and terrifying. The rest of the journey and the return, I crossed paths with many magical things but it was what I saw behind the curtain which continues to haunt my soul.

13 August 2010

Movie Review: Amnesia

I'd like to start this by saying Canadians don't make good Pentecostals. I'm also planning on spoiling the ending of the movie so read no further if you want to watch it and be totally surprised.

I very vaguely remember the true story. A young man woke up naked in an alley in Montreal with no recollection of who he was. After some time, he believed he was an American of British origin James Brighton. But actually, he was Matthew Honeycutt of Tennessee. After being confined to a psychiatric ward, he calls a gay hotline and gets rescued. His new gay friends help him get media attention but the search for his true identity went nowhere. Then, early one morning (or late one night, as the case may be), the Montreal Police came to his friend's apartment and arrested him. Matthew Honeycutt had been identified by family members in rural Tennessee.

Matthew Honeycutt's brother was a Penecostal minister. The story is left quite ambivalent about the veracity of Honeycutt's amnesia. Medical doctors, after performing tests, believed him to suffer a rare case of amnesia. When he is found, the real tracing the path to Montreal begins. We learn of the real James Brighton. "They talk as only stranger can. They fall in love as only strangers can."

I will end this with the observation that sometimes the truth is so painful that the only thing left, if we are forced to continue living, is to forget. Yet, if one can find the strength to integrate that which we cannot remember or refuse to remember, then we will then truly find the freedom to live.

11 August 2010

Movie Review: Another Country

This was not the first time I had seen this film. In fact, I had forgotten all about it -- at least its name and movie poster. It is interesting that at the time when Greg has taken the helm from Victor I would encounter this film once more. This movie can be summarized as Rupert Everett and Colin Firth, the queer and commie of a pre-WWII English prep school.

When I first saw this movie more than fifteen years ago, the idea of same sex marriage (although recently approved by the Hawai'i Supreme Court) was still theoretical. The interlocutors of the discussion were those in favor of same sex marriage, those opposed to same sex marriage and those opposed to marriage. I considered myself clever to be the only one in my circle to be of the third group. A true sex radical. In fact, my position was so unintelligible to "ordinary" people that most people thought I was against same-sex marriage. Now that all looks like a curious footnote to an otherwise seemless two-sided debate. When I campaigned against the ballot ban on same sex marriage, many of my comrades, true liberals could only barely make out what I was saying and only if I didn't use the word capitalist in a sentence.

Even when I was younger, I agreed with the legal arguments for same-sex marriage. I just opposed marriage in general. The difference between then and now, is that I don't have a negative affect towards the institution of marriage and family in general. These concepts -- which have meant many things to many people in many different ways in human history -- are not just enforcers of the capitalist hegemony at least not in as much as a hammer is an enforcer of the capitalist hegemony.

It occurred to me in watching this movie, something that I could have only reflected upon with a bit more experience, is the nature of intimacy in adolescence. I watch with anticipation for how those that are just suffering adolescence will bring meaning and stability to the constant onslaught of updates and the current instantaneous nature of information retrieval and how that resolution implicates intimacy. The automobile, the movie house, etc., all provided material support for radical redefinitions of romance in the twentieth century -- that help support redefining gender roles and sexualities. I am curious to see the outcome of social networking and what kind of material support it will provide in the changing notions of romance in the twenty first century. Will it be something I have previously seen, if only a glimpse? Or will the landscape be so changed that I will struggle to find patterns of recognition in a desert of the unknown?

07 August 2010

06 August 2010

State Lacks Rational Basis to Ban Same-Sex Marriage

(courtesy of obeygiant.com)

A U.S. federal district court judge in San Francisco struck down California's infamous Proposition 8 as violating the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the lacking a rational basis for distinguishing between same- and opposite-sex couples violating the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The 138 page ruling can be found here.

Both retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and current Justice Anthony Kennedy have said the next twenty years in the courts will be characterized as the period of advancement of civil and political rights for gays and lesbians. When they said this ten years ago, it seemed curious and a bit strange.

In his ruling U.S. district court Chief Judge Walker found that state laws that burden the right to marry (due process claim) must pass the constitutional test of strict scrutiny, that is the state must have a compelling state interest that is narrowly tailored to effect the compelling interest and no more. Banning same-sex marriage lacked a compelling state interest. He also found that state laws that discriminate on the basis of gay or lesbian status (equal protection claim) must pass the more liberal constitutional test of rational basis, that is that the state must have a rational basis for treating people differently. Banning same-sex marriage lacked a rational basis.

(Patrick Lagon and the late Joseph Melillo, Plaintiffs in the Baehr case
photo courtesy of HonoluluAdvertiser.com)

The trial was hauntingly similar to the Baehr v. Lewin litigation in the U.S. state of Hawai'i in the 1990s. After the Hawai'i Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that laws prohibiting same-sex marriage must survive a "strict scrutiny" analysis under the Hawai'i state constitution, a trial was held in 1996 (Baehr v. Miike). The attorney general's office defended the state law with the same theory as the California litigation: one male parent and one female parent married is the optimal familial relationship for raising children. Hawai'i State circuit court Judge Kevin Chang found that the state's case was wholly lacking and found in favor of the suing gay couples. Banning same-sex marriage violated the couples constitutional right to marry. His decision was stayed pending appeal and the Hawai'i Supreme Court held off decision until after a state constitutional amendment was passed authorizing the Hawai'i state legislature to limit how marriage is defined. At that point, the case was moot in the Hawai'i Supreme Court's view.

The difference between the Hawai'i case in the 1990s and this case now is two: first, the state officials charged with enforcing the law refused to defend it and it was the official proponents of Proposition 8 that defended the law; second, the case was pursued on the basis of the U.S. constitution not a state constitution.

Subsequent to the famous Hawai'i Baehr v. Lewin case which was the first legal case anywhere in the world to find that the constitutional right to marry included same-sex couples, U.S. state Supreme Courts in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, California and Iowa citing Baehr v. Miike have held that each state's constitution includes same-sex couples in its constitution's concept of ordered liberty.

01 August 2010

Try a New Name at Starbucks

(Courtesy of NPR/Getty Images)

There is a great story with transgender undertones on NPR. Check it out.

21 July 2010

Ang Plaka

Dear Robin,

Ilang taon na rin ang lumipas ng huli akong sumulat sa iyo. Di na mo muli akong sumulat sa iyo. Ayaw mong mahanap kita, kaya di ko na rin sinubukan.

Nang una tayong magkakila, ika'y nasa kalagitnaan ng highschool mo at ako naman sa kolehiyo. Matalik na kaibigan ka ng nakababatang kapatid ng kaibigan ko (ni M) – at kung akin pang natatandaan, sa isang punto ay naging kasintahan niya rin. Higit akong naging interesado sa iyo ng madalas mong siyang dalhin sa mga internet chatroom na may LGBT themes. Nahalina mo ang buong barkada sa kagawiang iyon. Lagi mong gusto na nakakasama si M. Sa tuwing magkikita tayo, lagi mong gustong marinig ang bawat detalye tungkol sa mga stories ko ng late night. Na-flattered naman ako. Samakatwid, ang atensiyon na binibigay mo sa akin ng namunga ng pag-ibig na aking pilit itinago. Marahil, dun ako nagkamali.

Ang pakikisama ko sa iyong senior year sa highschool ay parang noong senior year ko din. Namulaklak ako ng mga panahong iyon. Isang gabi matapos ang Halloween, sinapian ako ng espiritu. Binasahan ko ang pamilya ni M. At habang bumibista ang matalik kong kaibigang si B ay sinapian din siya Ngunit napuspos kami ng tumitinding pampalakas nito. Lumabas siya para sa malamig na hanging Amihan. Sumunod ka. Matapos ay sumunod din ako.

Isa gabing ito, pinangunahan ng espiritu ang pagbubuklod ng ating mga tadhana. Crush mo si B. Crush kita. Crush nya ako. Maliwanag, na ang espiritu papalit-palit sa naturang gabing iyon.

Sa sumunod na gabi, nagkaroon ka ng paanyaya para sa isang gabing pagmamasid sa mga bituin at pilopiyang pag-iisip. Ramdam natin ang hanging Amihan. Isang bisita mula sa kabilang batuhan ang biglaang sumipot. Nagsindi siya ng apoy at dinala ako sa isang liblib na dalampasigan. Ang lugar kung saan nakatira ang mga aeta. Huminto ang oras. Nang bumalik ako sa grupo, natuklasan ko na ang aking pag-alis ay parang karayom na di maalis sa ukit ng plaka, pilit na lumukso. Ang pangingialam ni B ay nakatulong upang ang karayom ay umurong. Hindi naintindihan ang anuman sa mga ito. Gayun din ako.

Dumating ang araw, nang hilingin mo na mapalapit sa espiritu. Hindi mula sa akin, kundi kay B. Hiniling mo na protektahan kita mula sa espiritu. Sumang-ayon ako. Naging arogante at hangal ako. Sa tinakdang oras, tayo ay nagdasal. Lumapit ang espiritu. Nadismaya si B. Binalewala mo siya ng lubusan. Pati ako ay nadismaya. Naging tatay-nanay mo na ako. Ang iyong di mahati at desperadong paghingi ng atensiyon para sa akin, pero hindi ako. Isang bagay na di ko maaabot. Ngunit ang pira-pirasong ito ay tama na upang mapanatili ang tinatagong pag-ibig.

Nagpatuloy ito sa iba't ibang antas ng iyong senior year. Hanggang sa tayo'y maibuklod ng tadhana sa gabing iyo, papalapit na ang pagtatapos. Binisita ni M sa labas ng bansa ang kanyang nakatatandang kapatid para sa pagtatapos nito ng pag-aaral. Nag-organisa ako ng isang maliit na pagpupulong sa bahay ni M. Ito nama'y sinang-ayunan ng nobyo niya. Dinala ko rin ang aking ex. Lahat kayo ay uminom. Nanonood tayo ng palabas. At nang lumaon ay sinubukan mo na simulang ang isang “fourgy”. Nabighani ako sa iyong mahalumanay na paghipo. At higit na namangha na sinusunod ka ng lahat sa bawat inuutos mo.

At muli, sumambulat ang katotohanan. Masyado ka ng maraming naiinom at muli ay lumapit sa akin bilang nanay-tatay. Dinala ka ng nobyo ni M sa ibang kwarto. Aalagaan ka daw niya. Linisan na namin ang lugar.. Nang tumagal, inamin sa akin ng nobyo ni M na magkasiping kayong natutulog habang wala si M ng buong linggong iyon. Higit akong naguluhan ng aminin sa akin ni M na nagtaksil din siya sa kanyang boyfriend ng umalis ito. Sinubukan kong paamin ang dalawa at sabihin ang katotohanan. Nangyari ito, at sa kabutihang palad ay nagkaayos sila. Ikaw ang kabit. At bago pa man natin mapag-usapan ito, sinisi muna ako. Akala mo tsismis lang ang lahat. Akala mo ako ang nagkalat ng sekreto mo, ang pagiging kabit mo . Walang ako ipinagsabi. Ngunit sa iyo, ako ang dahilan.

Maari pa sanang ayusin ito. Kabataan mo noon at dinaanan naman ako nito. Ngunit hindi sa ganoong paraan. Pumasok ang pagkakainggit at pagseselos sa tinatago damdamin. Nang inakusahan mo ako, kinuha ko ang nanay-tatay at naging negatibong nanay-tatay. Pinutirya ko na masaktan ka ang iyong pagktao at nagwagi ako.

Yun ang naging huli nating pag-uusap. Kinamuhian mo ako hanggang sa ikaw ang lumisan. Inako ko ang lahat ng resposibilidad sa pag-aakalang magpapagaan ito sa aking damdamin. Ngunit, inuulit ko ang mga pangyayari. Sa buong pangyayaring kinsangkutan ko ay naging responsibilidad ko ang bawat isa. Nang sumiwalat ang katauhan ko , tanging ang kapangitaan lang nito ang bumungad. Makalipas ang ilang tao, Naiintindihan ko na ang aking responsibilidad. At naiintindihan ko na rin ako mga di ko dapat alalahanin. Salamat sa mga naipunlang mga leksyon sa buhay nitong nakalipas na mga taon. Ngayon, pwede ko ng anihin ang bunga ng aking mga paghihirap.

Sumasaiyo,
ako

15 July 2010

Ang Sulat


Mahal kong Daniel,

Ilang taong na ang nakakalipas na tila ba'y nakalimutan na kita ngunit kahapon habang ako'y nagmamaneho ay bigla kang sumagi sa isipan ko. Nagkakilala tayo online at nagkakwetuhan tungkol sa mga tula at pilosopiya at mga di mahahalagang bagay. Karanasang lubos kong ikinagalak. Habang papalapit na ang araw ng ating pagkikita, kapansin pansin ang ating pagkaligalig.

Dumating ang araw na iyon. Napagpasyahan natin na magkita ng tanghalian. Subalit nang tayo magkita na ng mukhaan, nagdahilan ka na nakaligtaan mong tapos na ang iyong pahinga sa trabaho at dali-dali kang bumalik. Naniwala ako sa iyo at di ka kinuwestiyon. Ngunit matapos noon ay hindi na kita nakausap. Di ko naiitindihan bat binalewala mo ang mga email ko at hindi nagawang sumagot sa chat. Dito ako nagsimulang magtanong.

Ang aking pagtanggi ay nauwi sa pagsusumamo. Bahagya akong nadismaya, at nang lumaon ay namuo ang galit sa iyo. Sa puntong iyon talagang nakalimutan na kita. Hangga't isang hapon, habang kasama ang isang kaibigan sa CPK, ikaw ang aming naging waiter. Oo, walang duda. Galit pa rin ako sa iyo. Higit kong ikinagalit ng nakikipagkwentuhan at nakikipagharutan ka sa amin ng, hindi mo ako nakilala –- dalaga na kasi ako.

Ang pilosopiya noong kabataan mo na ang itsura ng tao ay di mahalaga, ay importante pala sa iyo. Ang pagkakaiba ng ipinakita nating letrato sa internet at sa personal na pagkikita ay tila nakaligtaan mo sa iyong pilosopiya. Pero binawale ko ito. Sa katunayan, ang tanging naiisip ko ay kung bakit di mo nagawang sabihin na hindi ka na interesado sa akin. Sa kabila ng nito, ang pagsisinungaling mo at pagbabalewala ay hindi ganun kasakit, Mas dinamdam ko ang pagtanggi mo sa akin.

Ngayon may edad na ako. Hindi kita sinisisi sa nangyari sa atin dahil sa kaanyuan – bagamat sa mental na aspeto ay magkasundo tayo. Hindi rin kita sisisihin dahil di mo ito nagawang aminin sa akin. Hanggang ngayon nahihirapan pa rin akong harapin ang aking shadow. At kahit ito'y nasa aking harapan na ay pilit ko pa rin itong itatago. Pinatawad na kita at gusto ko ng payapa dahil tanggap ko na magkatulad tayo.

Sumasaiyo,

ako

06 July 2010

Happy Birthday Lama-la!


GANG RI RA WE KOR WAI ZHING KHAM DIR

PEN DANG DE WA MA LU JUNG WAI NE

CHEN RE ZIG WA TEN DZIN GYAM TSO YI

ZHAB PE SI TAI BAR DU TEN GYUR CHIK

03 July 2010

Movie Review: Naked Boys Singing!

Well, I watched it. I think the target audience for this kind of thing is really crazy upper middle class Americans and Europeans and that's about it. The rest of us are not so neurotic about the body and sex that after about five minutes of the production, it's boring. The humor is not really that funny. And if you think to hard about, there is a certain level of tragedy that this is one direction that the civilizing impulse takes humans. (That is, that this would be seen as something other than boring.)

I would skip this unless you're really into musicals.

28 May 2010

Merry Saga Dawa Duchen!

The great hermit Asita, whose austerities were pleasing to the Gods, heard of the birth of him who was to save mankind from the torment of rebirth. In his thirst for the true law, he came to the palace of King Suddhodana and gravely approached the women's quarters. His years and his learning lent him great dignity.

The king showed him the courtesies that custom prescribed and addressed him in a seemly manner:

"Happy, indeed, am I! Truly, this child of mine will enjoy distinguished favor, for the venerable Asita has come purposely to see me. Command me. What must I do? I am your disciple, your servant."

The hermit, his eyes shining with the light of joy, gravely spoke these words:

"This has happened to you, O noble, generous and hospitable king, because you love duty and because you are ever kind to those who are wise and to those who are full of years. This has happened to you because your ancestors, though rich in land and rich in gold, were above all rich in virtue. Know the reason for my coming, O king, and rejoice. In the air I heard a divine voice speaking and it said: 'A son has been born to the king of the Sakyas, a son who will have the true knowledge.' I heard these words, and I came, and my eyes shall now behold the glory of the Sakyas."

Overwhelmed with joy, the king went to fetch the child. Taking him from his nurse's breast, he showed him to the aged Asita.

The hermit noticed that the king's son bore the marks of omnipotence. His gaze hovered over the child, and presently his lashes were wet with tears. Then he sighed and turned his eyes to the sky.

The king saw that Asita was weeping, and he began to fear for his son. He questioned the old man:

"You say, O venerable roan, that my son's body differs little from that of a God. You say that his birth was a wondrous thing, that in the future his glory will be supreme, yet you look at him with eyes that are filled with tears. Is his life, then, to be a fragile thing? Was he born only to bring me sorrow? Must this new branch wither before it has burst into flower? Speak, O saintly man, speak quickly; you know the great love a father bears his son."

"Be not distressed, O king," replied the hermit.

"What I have told you is true: this child will know great glory. If I weep, it is for myself. My life draws to a close and he is born, he who will destroy the evil of rebirth. He will surrender sovereign power, he will master his passions, he will understand truth, and error will disappear in the world before the light of his knowledge, even as night flees before the spears of the sun. From the sea of evil, from the stinging spray of sickness, from the surge and swell of old age, from the angry waves of death, from these will he rescue the suffering world, and together they will sail away in the great ship of knowledge. He will know where it takes its rise, that swift, wonderful, beneficent river, the river of duty; he will reveal its course, and those who are tortured by thirst will come and drink of its waters. To those tormented by sorrow, to those enslaved by the senses, to those wandering in the forest of existences like travellers who have lost their way, he will point out the road to salvation. To those burning with the fire of passion, he will be the cloud that brings refreshing rain; armed with the true law, he will go to the prison of desires where all creatures languish, and he will break down the evil gates. For he who will have perfect understanding will set the world free. Therefore do not grieve, O king. He alone is to be pitied who will not hear the voice of your son, and that is why I weep, I who, in spite of my austerities, in spite of my meditations, will never know his message and his law. Yes, even he is to be pitied who ascends to the loftiest gardens of the sky.

The Life of Buddha, by A. Ferdinand Herold, tr. by Paul C Blum [1922].

26 May 2010

The Revolution Among Us

Jejemon busting is a form of fascism which is why all the powers of old have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre of the jejemon. The true revolutionary spirit is alive in the lone jejemon who disregards all rules of the social order in favor of his own expression -- using orthography in new and curious ways, disregarding historical precedent for the meaningless, inefficient use of typography in favor of simpler direct speech, at times, and artistic, meaningful inefficient use of typography, at other times.

Even the CBCP only has limited, conditional neutrality towards its "private use" as a "passing fad."

DepEd declares all-out-war vs Jejemon

CHR, CBCP see no problem with jejemon

24 May 2010

From F Sionil Jose to Noynoy

Open letter reprinted from the PhilStar:

Dear Noynoy,

You are now swamped with suggestions and advice, but just the same, I hope you’ll have time to read what this octogenarian has to say.

You were not my choice in the last election but since our people have spoken, we must now support you and pray that you prevail. But first, I must remind you of the stern reality that your drumbeaters ignore: you have no noble legacy from your forbears. It is now your arduous job to create one yourself in the six years that you will be the single most powerful Filipino. Six years is too short a time — the experience in our part of the world is that it takes at least one generation — 25 years — for a sick nation to recover and prosper. But you can begin that happy process of healing.

Bear in mind that the past weighs heavily on all of us because of the many contradictions in it that we have not resolved, whose resolutions would strengthen us as a nation. This past is now your burden, too. Let us start with the fact that your grandfather collaborated with the Japanese. Your father was deeply aware of this, its stigma, its possibilities. He did not leave any legacy because he did not become president. He was a brilliant and courageous politician. He was an enterprising journalist; he had friends in journalism who can attest to his effulgent vision, who did not profit from his friendship, among them Nestor Mata, Gregorio Brillantes — you may consult them. I cannot say I did not profit — he bought many books from my shop and when he was in Marcos’s prison, your mother brought books from my shop to him.

Forgive me for giving you this unsolicited advice. First, beware of hubris; you are surrounded by panderers who will tell you what is nice to hear. You need to be humble always and heed your conscience. When Caesar was paraded in ancient Rome before the cheering multitudes, there was always a man chanting behind him: “Remember, you are mortal.”

I say to you, remember, the poor — some of them in your own hacienda — will be your ultimate judge.

From your comfortable and privileged cocoon, you know so little of our country and people. Seek the help of the best — and the best do not normally want to work in government and neither will they approach you. You have to seek them.

Be the revolutionary your father wanted to be and don’t be scared or wary of the word “revolution.” It need not be always bloody. EDSA I was not. Your father wanted to destroy the most formidable obstacle to our progress — the Oligarchy to which you and your family belong. To succeed, you have to betray your class. If you cannot smash the oligarchy, at least strive to have their wealth develop this country, that they bring back the billions they stashed abroad. You cannot do this in six years, but you can begin.

Prosecute the crooks. It is difficult, thankless and even dangerous to do this. Your mother did not do it — she did not jail Imelda who was the partner in that conjugal dictatorship that plundered this nation. Watch her children — they were much too young to have participated in that looting but they are heirs to the billions which their parents stashed abroad. Now the Marcoses are on the high road to power, gloating, snickering at our credulity and despicable amnesia.

You know the biggest crooks in and out of government, those powerful smugglers, thieves, tax cheats — all you really need is guts to clobber them. Your father had lots of it — I hope he passed on to you most of it.

And most of all, now that you have the muscle to do it, go after your father’s killers. Blood and duty compel you to do so. Cory was only his wife — you are the anointed and only son. Your regime will be measured by how you resolve this most blatant crime that robbed us of a true leader.

And, finally, your mother. We loved her — she united us in ousting an abominable dictator. But she, too, did not leave a shining legacy for her presidency was a disaster. She announced a revolutionary government but did nothing revolutionary. She promised land reform but did not do it. And most grievous of all — she transformed the EDSA I revolution into a restoration of the oligarchy.

She became president only because her husband was murdered and you became president elect only because your mother died. Still, you are your father’s son and may you now — for the good of this country and people — scale the heights he and your mother never reached.

I am 85 and how I despair over how three generations of our leaders failed! Before I go, please let me see this unhappy country begin to be a much better place than the garbage dump our leaders and people have made it. You can be this long awaited messiah but only if you are brave enough and wise enough to redeem your father’s aborted promise.

Hopefully yours,

F. Sionil Jose