Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mother, daughter, strangers

In just about five minutes and a 50-meter walk, I was again struck by how sad life can be for a migrant worker.

I walked home from our office with T and I asked her why she and her daughter didn't go to the movies. A couple of hours ago, V even invited us to tag along but due to some work I had to finish, I had to beg off.

Off-handedly T said that the movie starts at midnight and she decided to go back to the office instead. When I asked where V was, she said that she went straight home.

I jokingly said, "lagot ka, tampo na anak mo." Apparently, it hit a nerve.

You see, T has been a migrant worker for almost 13 years. She left the Philippines when V was only about eight. They only get to see each other every time T comes home for two weeks or she sends for her daughter here for vacation.

My friend admitted that she just doesn't know how to be with her daughter - with only the two of them - anymore.

She loves her daughter, that I am sure of. V also loves her mother, that I am also sure of.

But as with any other relationship separated by distance, it is bound to change through time and sometimes for the worse.

Some will say that the level of technology right now is so advanced that communication is just a phone call or a YM away. While it is true enough that migrant workers of the 70's or 80's had it harder with only snail mail and voice tapes to get by, nothing still beats being together to maintain that harmony in a dynamic relationship where people develop and change.

Still others will say that it is not the amount of time spent together that is important but rather its quality. True as well but quantity and quality have a dialectical relationship that to say one is more important does not diminish the importance of the other. They are two sides of a coin that are held in a precarious balance.

Still others may assert that if they love each other, nothing should have changed. On this point, I rest my case and just read Mills and Boons.

Now T has got to know her daughter all over again. Soon V will be going back to the Philippines.

It only took five minutes for T and I to cover the 50-meter distance from our office to our flat where her daughter was.

But the time of separation and the distance between that migration has forced on them is much longer and considerably wider.

Oh it's so just sad when a mother and daughter become strangers.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The People’s Artists

As a person who has minuscule artistic skills, I have much admiration and respect for artists. Most especially, for those who are usually called as the people’s artists.

They are the artists-activists of various disciplines who use their creativity to advance a social concern. They are those who hone their skills to deliver radical messages, challenge existing cultural norms, promote liberating ideas, and mobilize the people in a movement for change.

As what anyone among them will say, it’s not an easy thing to do.

Arts in the Philippines do not get that much support, thus the concept of the starving, struggling artists. But I guess the concept comes so alive among the artists-activists who willingly give their time and skills with no concern for financial gains just so the people’s struggle will advance.

In the conference we organized, I met a few of these kind of artists from different parts of the world.

There was the tandem of Marie Boti and Malcolm Guy from Multi-Monde Productions in Canada who have made a host of films tackling migration. Their documentaries such as Modern Heroes, Modern Slaves and When Strangers Reunite are such powerful tools of education and information that whenever we show them to OFWs here, they just can’t help it but be indignant over their plight.

They also organized two nights of film showing where I got to meet another filmmaker who documented a fact finding mission on the displacement of people due to militarization in Chattisgarh in India. Searching through his work on the net, I found this

Then there were also the cultural activists from the Philippines. They came from different groups that create songs of struggles, mount social-realist plays and other activist productions. They were such a creative bunch and I also enjoyed the nights when we just gathered in a group and sang the songs that we grew up with in the movement.

Having two left feet, a voice that can only find melody in a group, and hands that did not go beyond drawing Pokwang na nagka-kandirit, I respect and admire artists.

As an activist who have come to learn the importance of such work in the movement for change, I salute the artists who get their inspiration from the people and return it to the people through their arts. Truly, they are people’s artists.

* * * * *

I wrote this after hearing how seriously-ill a cultural activist I know of is right now. I’ve seen him perform while I was still a starving and struggling student activist but I didn’t get to talk to him in person until he came here in 2005 to be a part of the anti-WTO protests.

His group has made an appeal for financial support on his behalf.

He is an artist. He is gay. He is a comrade.

I sincerely hope he pulls through. For an artist like him is one of a kind.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Belated Thanks

I know this is kinda late but I still wanna thank fellow bloggers for this

as well as the two brilliant and oh-so-gay minds of The Dan and Rye Show for making this their blog of the month.

This blog is first and foremost a political one. It cannot be otherwise because it is how I live my everyday life.

There’s politics in being a migrant worker. There’s politics in movies, books and travels. There’s politics in being gay. There’s politics in love and friendship. There’s politics in blogging as well.

In most of my posts, the politics I hold are expressed. In some, they are just implied.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo always says that we should stop making things political. But to declare so is in itself already political. Such a statement is as hypocritical as her “sorry”, promises and smiles.

To be political and to get recognised by bloggers who are not in the movement I’m active with is way cool. I’ve only got two readers who are activists as well and I bet they only read this because I read theirs. Kidding! (I hope)

So I thank Empress Maruja and TDRS. Kudos of course to those who visit and read.

When I started this six months ago, I never thought I’d get hooked to blogging. Thinking back, it was the same when I drank my first cup of coffee and puffed my first yosi.

This may very well be another addiction that I’ll be keeping. Well at least until another one comes along or my two other addictions kill me.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

What happened in 10 days

I am not yet back to normal.

This is just me trying not to think that I do need more than four hours of sleep. Once this week, I was up for 46 hours straight, fell asleep as soon as my head hit the sofa’s headrest, then snored like there was no tomorrow.

This is just me trying not to feel the physical fatigue due to lifting of luggages after luggages, boxes after boxes and bags after bags of conference knick-knacks. We practically transferred the whole office operation to a camp in the middle of nowhere.

This is just me trying not to dwell on the tragedy that befell my phone. Whoever has it now hopefully is happy and has enough sense to listen to the music I had in its player.

This is just me trying to say sorry to you. My mind was full of things to do everyday, problems to troubleshoot, people to talk to and materials to prepare. My mom, worried about why I didn’t go online or called her, even asked my brother to ask my whereabouts.

This is just me trying to remind myself that I’ll somehow see them again: my “nanay” whom I have only seen twice for the past 10 years, my other “nanay” who’s the classic mamench (as what we call the babaeng bakla) and the veterans who’ve been there since I became an activist.

This is just me trying to shake off the longing to go back to the Philippines and continue what I’m doing. I understand why I am here. I accept the reality of what should be. But it doesn’t stop me from still thinking of going home.

This is just me trying to again get used to the feeling of loss as old and new friends and comrades start to go back to their own countries to continue the work we are all passionate with. I’m holding on to the words a non-Filipino friend I met in another conference said years before: “there is no goodbye in solidarity, only see you again.”

This is just me trying not yet to digest the tons of new information that come out when one gathers hundreds of grassroots and grassroots-based organizations in one place to discuss and debate. Time will come that I’ll review what the situation of migration in the world is, or how globalization impacts the African people, or how the Latinos do in the US.

This is just me trying to not yet project the post-conference matters I have to settle. They have to be faced but maybe next week.

This is just me thinking that it has been 10 days of tiring but fulfilling work. The hard work paid off not only in the appreciation of the delegates for the hosting done but more importantly, in the fact that the objectives have been met ten-fold.

This is just me saying that I shall be blogging about the people I met, the things I learned and the experiences I had. Somehow I will for what just happened the past days are worth writing about and sharing with others.

I am not yet back to normal. But then again, as reaffirmed by the conferences we organized, the world is not normal and the life I have chosen can never be defined as such.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Fan of Fantasy

I told the Princess of Penang that I’ll write a rejoinder to his Sex (but not) in this City post. But it has to take a back seat as I just watched The Spiderwick Chronicles and it brought back to life my fantasy craze.

The movie for sure is for kids. It’s a fantasy film on the same breath as The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe of the The Chronicles of Narnia and the series Harry Potter and the so-on-and-so-forth: there’s the evil fantastical creature out to conquer the world, there’s a bunch of kids who are so responsible for their age that they’ve taken up the cudgels of saving everyone, then the good overcomes the bad in the end.

Of course, this is a bit simplistic way of telling the story. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy watching the film. But then again, I’ve been a fantasy buff for the past few years and it takes very little imagination of flying beings and magical characters to get my attention.

Then there’s also Freddie Highmore of the August Rush fame and the voice of Pantalaimon in The Golden Compass. He’s not an object of my fantasy (that’ll be gross and a big crime) but I’m willing to wait for the kid to grow up. I liked how he played the two characters of the identical twins but so poles apart in character Jarrod and Simon Grace.

While I do enjoy watching these kind of fantasy flicks, I await the time when fantasy epics will get to the big screen. Much like what they did to the Lord of the Rings.

If I am to be asked what my fantasy films are, I will definitely say The Wheel of Time and The Riftwar Saga. If they can pitch in The Riftwar Legacy, the Legends of the Riftwar and David Eddings' The Belgariad, much better.

TWOT was what hooked me to fantasy books. Penned by Robert Jordan, who unfortunately died before he can finish the last of the 12-book series, TWOT created a whole new fantasy world that millions have followed. Others said that TWOT actually takes up from the tradition of the LOTR. Who cares? My Philo professors used to say that nothing in philosphy is original anymore after the Greeks.

While also placing magic as a major part of his novels, Raymond Feist’s Riftwar Saga meanwhile interestingly put non-magical people at the forefront of the stories. Maybe it had something to do with what Pug aka Milamber said: in the end, there is no magic.

My fantasy character to play Pug is James McAvoy and for Thomas the Valheru, Brad Pitt of course! Give me a break, it is my fantasy.

To the Penang Princess, sorry for not doing a post about yours. But just let me say to him that at the rate things are going here, Sex IN THIS City is also just a fantasy for me.

Most probably, I won’t be able to make a post for the next two weeks due to this and this.

While I do plunge into fantasy worlds, these are the kind of events that keep me rooted in the world’s realities. There’s also the added perk of seeing old friends and comrades.

If ever I don’t find myself blogging, I’ll see you guys after a fortnight!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Something old, something new

My hard disk and Creative Zen are stacked with movies like The Kite Runner, Across the Universe, No Country for Old Men, The Great Debaters and old pinoy must-sees such as Tinimbang ka Ngunit Kulang and Batch 81. Yet, I haven’t seem to find the urge to really watch them.

Instead, for the past few days or weeks even, I was contended to re-watch films and TV series episodes that I’ve seen many times over. It’s one of my sometimes irritating eccentricities but that’s me.

Listening to the same dialogues I’ve heard before and even memorized, looking at the same scenes I’ve already seen, and knowing exactly what will happen next is kinda comforting.

Maybe that’s it. There’s something comforting about old stuff. It’s familiar, it’s easy and it’s already there. But yes, there are times when we really have to embrace the new.

This was what Shelter – a movie I accidentally watched – was all about for me.

The plot of the film was simple: Zach is a poor boy living with his sister and his nephew. He loves them so much and takes his responsibility to them seriously that he’s torn between staying with them and following his dream of becoming an artist. For a time, he has chosen the former.

Until Shaun came along and made the situation more complicated.

Shelter is said to be a gay film. Indeed, it has gay characters, it has a gay coming out subplot, it has a sweet and hot love scene and it does show half-naked bods (surfers!). But it goes beyond gay themes.

The word “shelter” gives an image of a safe haven. But it is bound to happen that we have to go out and face the unfamiliar, the uncomfortable and the difficult. For the familiar, comfortable and easy are not what life is really all about.

When Zach finally chose to pursue art school and at the same time embraced his homosexuality, it was liberating. And sweet.

The prospect is scary but the rewards may be great. The tricky part though is that it is not a breeze to do it. Always, it is not a case where we can just pack our bags, leave most things behind and start afresh.

The even trickier part is to embrace what’s new without totally letting the old one go. When we embark on the new, we also take what we can of the old for it is not always bad the same thing as the new is not always good.

I may like to watch the same films, see the same episodes, read the same books, and live the same life day in and day out. But there’s always something new that comes along that is pleasant, worthwhile and, yes, liberating when I grab it by the balls.

Oh yeah, the film’s soundtrack is also cool. It’s something new that I fully intend to look for, get and put together with the old stuff I have.