Filipineses


It feels like a kind of loving
February 19, 2015, 5:55 pm
Filed under: opinion | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

 

More as devotion, this kind of love has no bearing on the common notion though it feels like one for me. Or how does one explain the enormity of emotions it draws out—so compelling that we agonize over this beloved’s miseries, want to right the wrongs done to her, and even die for her sake? Yes, apparently it’s mother, this “loved one” for Filipinos.

And to my mind, this kind of love does begin at birth when with twin mothers we’re nourished in parallel yet dissimilar ways, one, with breast milk and the other, with the sun, air, sea, mountains, birds and flowers. Both as life-gifts, hence, taken for granted in our youth, until in a mysterious process, these rise from caverns within: first, as response in song, dance, and poetry, next, as work. While both revert to one’s own need of expression first, and existence, even a future, second, in the end, like atoms these coagulate into a mass wherein without our being conscious of it, we’re fused.

Drawn to symbols of her, like clarion calls or torches that flare in the dark, we’re magnetized when poised on us; either her wins, or defeats or dangers become ours. Yet, that’s not all—especially in exile whether or not of our choosing, longing for its gifts gnaws at us, seeing in alien landscapes her contours, grasping at likenesses in scents and sounds, envying the comforts and choices denied of her.

Or how would I explain the deep helplessness I felt at the Vancouver Public Library one afternoon over a sparse showcase consisting mostly of thin flash fiction volumes, CDs of telenovelas, children’s books not labeled Pilipino but Tagalog, that puts this sub representation at the far end of country collections in a shelf shared with the Vietnamese? Akin to finding out how a mother dressed inappropriately has been pushed aside, I crept home, nursing a hurt.

When I cried over a documentary film on women desaparecidos as one by one their oh-so-engaging-smiles served as ironic bitter punch to their unknown suffering to this day, I couldn’t explain why I did to a handful of Canadian women who had attended the small conference on an increased violation of rights. But they understood with their focus on the poignancy of the message spelled out in the constant juxtaposition of the country’s beauty and the rawness of brutality.

And what about when I grabbed the microphone in another conference on women’s history, and raved about the vastness of the Filipino’s reach versus the European and North American episodes presented. We’ve crossed the same paths, I proclaimed, sensing that no one seemed that much aware.

Books identify ‘love of country’ as patriotism, a concept linked to further abstract terms like “cultural attachment to one’s homeland” in varying contexts such as geography and political ideology. Could this be translated to my spasms of sorrow and pride in exile for what I would otherwise shrugged off had I stayed? Honestly, if I’m enraged over the evils the Philippines faces while its citizens scrape for a living, I wonder how I would respond to an accusation of not having the right, as I had traded my citizenship for another. Guilt does rankle in me at times, but I think this would absolve me: if I didn’t leave, I wouldn’t be as impassioned as I am now. More than it “does make the heart grow fonder” distance condenses the love-gifts of and for a mother.

Published in Peregrine Notes by Alegria Imperial, Market Monitor, February 16, 2015, Manila, Philippines

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Citizenship, what does it mean?
With my certificate of Canadian Citizenship

With my certificate of Canadian Citizenship

Citizenship if acquired by birth is simply a way of life, I believe, and not thought about. In truth, I never knew what it was being a Filipino citizen. 

Was it in being solemn during the flag raising ceremonies from grade to high school? I recall how the class sergeant-at-arms used to get me back in the line because when bored I’d break out of it to talk with a seatmate, three warm bodies up. Was it joining the Girl Scouts of the Philippines?  My troop learned how to cook bean soup in the beach though it was gritty, and yes, we planted a tree on Josefa Llanes Escoda Day behind the library in our high school, with none of us touching the soil, as we formed a lunette to watch our adviser and the principal, dig and put in a mango seedling that really never grew in the two years before my batch graduated.

"Mythogyny", and anthology of BC elder women' s true stories we gathered on tape, which I co-edited

“Mythogyny”, and anthology of BC elder women’ s true stories we gathered on tape, which I co-edited

With members of Women Elders in Action (WE*ACT), the volunteer organization to which I belonged

With members of Women Elders in Action (WE*ACT), the volunteer organization to which I belonged

Was it immersing myself in Philippine history not from learning in the classroom but stories I

gathered and later lived? My first encounter with colonial history left me tongue-tied from awe in an interview I had with the late Fr. Jesus Merino, OP, then director of UST’s museum of history and sciences for our college campus paper, The Flame.

If a moment in time had some kind of spirit, that interview must have cast a spell on me, so much so that I married a restoration architect, the late Felix N. Imperial II, who lived and breathed not only the ruins of Intramuros but the history and mythic stories embedded in them. One historical perception he inculcated in me is this: with thicker defense lines landward than seaward, the Spaniards definitely feared not invaders but Filipinos.

Did hopping in on those jeepneys that rounded us up, voters, in the three elections I got to vote make me a citizen? What a fiesta those days were with the candidates’ minions scrambling for a handshake or a hand as if to lead one to a seat of honor. I remember the grand fun an aunt, my age, and I had those election weeks in our childhood where our mothers, both public school teachers served as inspectors in the polling places, and we had stay in at our house, sharing a mat, pillows and a “mosquitero”as well as gothic stories told to us by our “kadkadua” (helper). By the time I had to vote, there was but one choice, Marcos, of my home province.

Was getting drawn into the maelstrom of the Second Quarter Storm, but not deeply knowing what I personally struggled to oppose, being a citizen? A former classmate whom I met in the shadows under which we would talk sent me away, doubting if I had to follow to the end our idols then, Voltaire Garcia, Joel Rocamora and Edgar Jopson. He told me that I, like a flotsam, simply lolled in the current because I felt none of the oppression fought against. I dropped out.

Years later, in my job for government media, I would meet in the flesh the haunting gauntness of hunger and suffering among malnourished children, farmers barely surviving their confusion that came with agrarian reform, wives scraping the soil during draught or railing at Mayon during an eruption one day before a harvest, and they wrenched my guts. But the same job had also brought me to paradise-like spots where I often wish to this day to be transported.

Yet, was I being a citizen when during the People’s Revolution what mattered most for me had to do with a deadline? And as if there had been no two raging rivers when later I leaped on to serve the new administration of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Digging into the arts like a ballet on Noli Me Tangere’s Elias, crying over a 100-year old pain, I must have finally synthesized my being a Filipino.

But again, I encouraged my sister, a chemist, to apply for immigration to Canada, convincing her of the moribund state of sciences in the Philippines. She kicked and screamed against leaving but her papers came faster than her prayers to be denied. Even faster was the approval of her petition to get me, and my papers to immigrate. I left behind a swath of life-artifacts from clearing out in three months a life I thought I’d never look back to again.

At the book launching of "Mythogyny" with Ted Alcuitas, then editor and publisher of now-defunct Silangan, where I served as associate editor

At the book launching of “Mythogyny” with Ted Alcuitas, then editor and publisher of now-defunct Silangan, where I served as associate editor

Doing a bird dance at Stanley Park at a First Nations village

Doing a bird dance at Stanley Park at a First Nations village

Had I shed off my being a Filipino when I bought a one-way ticket to Vancouver, and on landing signed my papers for permanent residency? That marked day one of my rights among them, health care and public services and the freedoms of assembly and speech as well as my responsibilities to uphold the same rights in others. Today the 22nd of July, a year ago, I took my oath of citizenship.

Did I turn Canadian in an instant? Yes and no.  What I have become is more Filipino than I had imagined, possibly enhanced by my newly acquired freedom to find in Canada the threads I thought I had snapped broken when I left. I had unabashedly interwoven whom I am with these, often loudly qualifying my Filipino-ness from where I speak. And many times I would be told, ‘Ain’t that something!’

With members of Marpole Place, a community center run by the Marpole Oakdridge Area Council Society where I served a two-year elected secretary of the board

With members of Marpole Place, a community center run by the Marpole Oakdridge Area Council Society where I served a two-year elected secretary of the board

Peregrine Notes, Opinion Page, Business Mirror Philippines, July 22, 2012