ArtLit, Blog

Art Exhibit: Figura Filipina

February 25 – March 5. When you don’t have time to go to art exhibits, the art exhibits go to you.

Distinct art styles showcased by three figurative artists of the Philippines: MananQuil, Santiago and Miranda

I was surprised to find a small open exhibit in the activity area of Robinsons Galleria a few days ago. The paintings were focused on showcasing Filipino women in various contexts. Three artists were featured: Romi MananQuil, Nemi Miranda and August Santiago.

The thematic focus on Filipino women is very timely. We are celebrating International Women’s month, the passage of the extended maternity leave bill, and the progression of the Anti-Discrimination Bill. In the same breath, we are still fighting for equal and rational basic human rights. 

I wrote a short poetic reinterpretation on the struggles of Filipinos and women few days ago. 

“Figura Filipina”, an Art Exhibition for the benefit of the Art Association of Malabon

Many of the paintings were painted very recently (i.e. signed 2017). What’s great about the pieces of art is that they highlight the unique merits of each artist’s style. I also had a bit of time to review the exhibit itself.

I do regret not being able to properly label my photos with the title of the works. Miranda’s work in the first photo, for example, had a title that alluded to “The First Sin” or something similar. The title and other external elements like framing really do affect one’s interpretation of the work. Maybe you’ll catch this exhibit near you some time and you’ll be able to fully experience the art yourself.

Continue reading “Art Exhibit: Figura Filipina”

ArtLit, Blog, Essays

“Kasumpa-sumpa ang maging Pilipino sa panahong ito…”

In the library of Philippine feminist works, there is a poem that reads:

ang maging babae sa panahong ito:
Depinisyong pamana
ng nakaraa’t kasalukuyan…
Anong pag-ibig o pagpapakasakit?
Anong paglilingkod o pagtitiis?
Ikaw ang pundiya ng karsonilyo,
ang kurbata, maging ang burda sa panyo’t kamiseta.
Susukatin ang ganda mo sa kama,
ang talino sa pagkita ng pera.
Kumikita ang beer at sine,
nagdidildil ka ng pills…

Ruth E. S. Mabanglo’s “Ang Maging Babae” captures the frustrations of an oppressed identity. And in times like these –with an administration that boasts of crucifying the opposition, a legislature that’s scrambling to legalize discrimination, and a people that prefers alternative facts to reason– it is easy to replace “woman” with “Filipino”.

ang maging Pilipino sa panahong ito:
Depinisyong pamana
ng nakaraa’t kasalukuyan…

Continue reading ““Kasumpa-sumpa ang maging Pilipino sa panahong ito…””

Blog, Essays

I want to be a doctor (sexism in medicine is not a myth).

I want to be a doctor. I’ve known this forever. In the back of my mind, I’ve always imagined it to be difficult, but not too difficult -just the reasonable amount of marathon studying, never-ending stress and running around as you might expect in any postgraduate course. But life has been telling me that it will never be that easy, even when I am a certified doctor already. That one of my advocacies of choice –feminism– will still permeate this part of my identity. If I do get in, pass and advance from medical school, I will never be just a doctor. I will never join the ranks of names which people can easily accept, appreciate, applaud and then recommend.

I will be a female doctor. I will be called and branded ‘doktora’ by Filipinos. I will be an entirely different beast of qualifications, intentions and capabilities, unnecessarily prefixed by my sex.  I will exist as a preferred option by female patients for more ‘delicate’ cases and unwanted by conservative males for the same reason. I will be judged by my dress, by the clearness of my face and the neatness of my hair, by the fit of my white jacket and the noise of my purse as I walk down a hospital corridor. Assuming I do become a doctor.

I have accepted this.

I’ve always known sexism existed in the field of medicine. This isn’t a post about why I want to become a doctor despite the struggles that come with it, or what could be done to counter the biased narratives that exist. This post only illustrates how sexism exists in my desired profession. Why we can’t ignore it.

I first heard about it in the context of skewed admission opportunities in prestigious medical schools in my country. But I brushed it aside at first –it was all hearsay. After all, how could something as backwards as sexism exist in places as esteemed as premiered learning institutions? How could established doctors and professionals and teachers, who have undergone years of training and education, be so removed from progressive society?

In hindsight I think I overestimated the transformative power of standardized education and underestimated the combined effects of media, culture and years of tradition on people’s codes of behavior. Because sexism in medicine is not a myth.  Continue reading “I want to be a doctor (sexism in medicine is not a myth).”

Blog, Essays

i’ve been thinking lately (on language, 1984 and the ‘bakla’)

I’ve been thinking more and more lately about language, and specifically their role on the formation of ideas and the creation of avenues of discourse. This won’t be a cohesive opinion, because I just want this out of my chest. I’ve been thinking too much.

In Orwell’s 1984, the idea of crimethink (which exists in vernacular as thoughtcrime) was popularized. It is, in fact, one of my favorite words in existence ever (a fact which I’m just sharing now for fun). It defines something that does exist in the real world and yet can obviously lead to harmful censorship and oppression in its most exhaustive extent, as seen in the celebrated novel.

My dictionary defines it as:

an instance of unorthodox or controversial thinking, considered as a criminal offense or as socially unacceptable

In the book, it covers mainly those thoughts which are against the government and against the kind of order the state promotes. Any thoughts which feature dissent, individuality and creativity are criminalized. (In 1984, topnotch surveillance and psychological profiling enabled authorities to pinpoint who was thinking what, even without explicit verbalization of such ideas).

Another favorite newspeak word of mine is crimestop. Crimestop describes the way people in 1984 would deliberately not think of something if they realize or feel that that “something” is dangerous, illegal or harmful. It’s like purposefully not thinking of the elephant, which they can do, just so that they don’t commit crimethink.

The discipline required to ignore budding ideas or the slope to radical ideas comes in different degrees of difficulty for some people. In the novel, majority of the people are able to accept two obviously contradicting ideas as true through a lot of compartmentalization and maybe apathy. This is described by another favorite word of mine: doublethink. In the real world, people who accept two conflicting ideas as true usually do feel some stress the moment they realize the contradiction. This is the basis of cognitive dissonance. 

Lastly. In 1984, newspeak was created and taught in such a way that any form of idea generation, creativity, dissent and opposition would not exist. Words are short and meanings are limited, so that people are less encouraged to think. It is difficult for people to name and address the grievances they feel when there are no words to describe and name them. Abuse, therefore, can go on unchecked because no one knows what abuse even is, much less that it is a bad and immoral thing.

Newspeak has come to general usage. It describes any attempt to restrict disapproved language (though for some reason my dictionary says otherwise).

As individuals cannot process anything that can destabilize the structure, society itself cannot affect the structure. When words like liberty, freedom and revolution are eradicated by newspeak, movements concerning liberty, freedom and revolution become eradicated from the realm of possibility. Ideas cannot spread when the ideas cannot take a tangible, definitive verbal form. 

But anyway, that isn’t the point of this long and rambling musing. Actually there is no effective transition here. I’m just talking about a lot of things.

The development of ideas and the spread of discourse is therefore contingent on the availability of precise and inclusive language. Words are a necessary vehicle for the dissemination of thought and the conversion of thought to idea to argument to action. 

What I’ve been thinking about lately is the state of gender politics in the Philippines, and specifically the role of local language in its development. 

Continue reading “i’ve been thinking lately (on language, 1984 and the ‘bakla’)”

ArtLit, Blog

Three things i learned from life


The prince smiles at the pauper
and he says, welcome home.
He removes her rags and seats her on a throne,
gives her jewels, buys her gowns
and drowns her in the kind of whispers
i shouldn't repeat.
These are the kinds of bedtime stories
my mother flushed down my throat:
poor girl meets rich boy
and they aren't meant to be, forevermore
pangako sa iyo, p.s. i love you, stay with me.
And Mary Sue feels like the queen of the world
but she's wrong.

17 years old and prince charming has finally found me.
He dresses me in scarves and tells me to
gives me a set of cue cards 
-- hermès, prada, gucci and kids --
of all the things and the only words I could ever say.
I thought love had more freedom than this.
I was wrong.

I run to my mother, but i can't ask her why
i have to live the next 40 years of my life
needing a man
to finish my story:
to have my children, my house
my name and myself
my biology.
And my mother won't lend me her tears
or her answers,
but she will bring out all my old fears.
Without a man i'm useless, sexless and alone.
My mother was wrong.

She told me: 1. I need to find a man.
               And 2.

Continue reading “Three things i learned from life”

ArtLit, Blog, Essays

Haikus to Freedom

I was reading the Inquirer a week and a day ago, and I thought of airing some opinions on Philippine news. With some poetry.

to think of the world
quite odd: easy to clamor
easy to forget

The Philippines is perhaps one of the few “democratic” countries where a corrupt president –overthrown by a mass demonstration by the people –could evade persecution through the inefficiency of the bureaucracy and citation of ill-health, be reelected into public office as a congresswoman, be functional for several years and only then be called into question for one of the scandals that marred her presidency.

It would be interesting if it happens only this once. But it’s not –the current mayor of Manila is a similarly deposed president, the sons and daughters of both GMA and the tyrannical dictator Marcos live happily as “public servants”, the 90-year-old Senator Enrile is asking for hospital arrest and his cohort senator asking for bail on a supposedly non-bailable offense.

The Philippine electorate forgets quite easily the sins of its leaders. We are eager to revise history or to ignore it; why is that?

Continue reading “Haikus to Freedom”

Blog, Essays

When Having Opinions Brings Rape Threats: A Captain America Story

When Having Opinions Brings Rape Threats: A Captain America Story

I’m just so angry right now. The article boils down to the headline: a woman criticizes the work of a white guy in the comic book industry (Rick Remender) for portraying the Falcon (inebriated, if not drunk) having sex with a 22-year-old woman (who was thought to be a 14-year-old by a significant number of the audience) and just for that criticism she went on to receive rape threats, unsolicited dick pictures, stalked and humiliated online, with her name and personal details broadcasted against her will. Whether or not her criticism was unfounded (and no matter what anyone says, there’s really no such thing as an invalid criticism, wtf??), the response was overwhelmingly antagonistic and inhumane. Infantalized, patronized, condescended —basically disrespected, because she probably didn’t read the comics / interpreted too much / was too sensitive; nevermind that a hundred others joined the hashtag campaign to fire Rick Remender!

Rape is never just fiction. It fucking translates to real life if it’s unchecked, excused, defended. Fucking means war.

Blog, Essays

The Perception of Sexism and Racism

The whole point of this post —the problem of dealing with sexism, classism, racism and other oppressive behaviors— is captured in this quote from @chocopompcirc:

Racism in this day and age is often subconscious and implicit; you may have to think critically about it, rather than just seeing a black body hanging from a tree and understanding that it’s wrong.

The problem, of course, is that most people don’t bother to think critically, and then go all defensive when other people do bother.

(It’s another article anaylsis post!)

Continue reading “The Perception of Sexism and Racism”