PhDs on LDRs

According to a 2017 survey, there are 2.3 million Filipino OFWs or overseas Filipino workers; and in another survey it was found that the Philippines is 3rd in the world when it comes to receiving the most amount of remittances at 30 billion US dollars (the 1st is India at 72 billion and the 2nd is China at 64 billion).

I was thinking of these numbers today because I was watching a CNN documentary in Netflix featuring Christiane Amanpour on the topic of Love & Sex around the world.

So far, she has gone to Lebanon, India, Japan, Ghana, Germany and China to find out the current mores and conditions pertaining to marriage, love and sexuality among these countries’ population. She has not visited the Philippines yet; which makes me curious as to how she will portray my country in her stories.

I have an idea, Christiane — and it is that of all the nations in the world, it is Filipinos who are the experts on long distance relationships (LDR).

If PhDs on LDRs will be endowed to anyone, it will be Pinoys who will graduate at the top of their class.

We have turned long distance romantic relationships into an art form.

A story: there is a woman named D who is married to a ship captain named M. The two of them were married just before M went into his first voyage overseas as a sailor (“seaman” is how we Filipinos refer to these men who run the world’s shipping vessels). Out of every year, M and D would meet and be together for one or two months; so 10 months out of 12 they would not be physically in contact. Before the days of internet, D and M would communicate with telegrams and snail mail and long distance phone calls (in fact, D was the first person in my neighborhood to have a telephone back in the days when only business establishments have phone lines; and in fact, my mom owes a lot to D and her telephone because my mom would communicate with her sisters in Canada using this device). Today, D and M have been married for 39 years. They are still together. Ten years ago, M stopped working and settled with his wife in their condo near a mall. Their only child (my childhood playmate K), has finished her studies and was about to get  married. So there is no more need for M to hop into a ship again. I  am curious though — how does it feel for D to now be constantly around M’s presence after him being gone all those long years?

D & M’s story is one that has been happening hundreds of thousands of times among Filipinos. Ever since the government made it a policy to send foreign workers abroad in the 70s to supplement our much-needed dollar reserves, the story of couples who have to sustain their relationships from thousands of miles away has been a quintessential Filipino story (or at least, Filipino middle class story — the class D and Class A have a different one, a topic for another blog post).

It takes a certain faith and resilience to make an LDR work. Especially an LDR that spans years or decades even. Not a few relationships that I personally know have crumbled because the male or female partner was abroad.

There is a song in Tagalog by Joel Ayala (I mentioned in a previous post that it was by Noel Cabangon; well I was wrong — my bad) which I think is the theme song for Pinoy OFWs and their significant others. It is called “Walang Hanggang Paalam”. It’s melody is a sad guitar, accompanied by what sounds like a banduria, and the lyrics go like, “at habang magkalayo, papalapit pa rin ang puso/ kahit na magkahiwalay, tayo’y magkasama sa magkabilang dulo ng mundo.” (we move farther apart though our hearts grow together, and meet from different ends of the world — my awkward translation)

Needless to say, I am a hopeless romantic. I believe that love prevails in the end. And despite the difficulties that distance or time or financial/resource constraints will impose, Pinoys will find a way to care for those they love.

Dubai Creek at night, from a boat. There are over 400,000 Filipinos living in Dubai at the moment, which is more than the population of Baguio City. Go figure.

 

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Nationalism or What do Filipinos Care About?

I am presently working in a foreign country as a temporary economic migrant. Someday, I will return home, but for now, I owe my financial resources to this nation whose culture is as different from mine as night is from day.

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I was thinking about my situation when I came across this article from one of the blogs I follow and usually comment on.  It is asking about nationalism, how it can be a bad thing, and finally, what Filipinos care about.

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First, the question of whether nationalism is “good” or “bad” is maybe a question of gradient and context.  When I was in elementary, the message I got from my teachers is that nationalism is “good” – and that is something we should strive for. We sang the national anthem and recited the “Panatang Makabayan” every morning without fail so this vague thing called “nationalism” could be instilled in our young minds and hearts. I had this idea as a child that it is a noble quality to be willing to die for one’s country. Back then, I was not aware of the nuances – i.e: what exactly are you dying for your country for?

Fast forward to Now.

Nationalism has taken on a bad rap.  The idea that “nationalism” is a dangerous concept probably started in Europe with its issues about the Nazis; fascism;  the breakdown of Yugoslavia due to the nationalist tendencies of the states that made it up; and now the deluge of non-European migrants into European soil. Presently, the US President is the poster child of the poisonous “nationalist” – a word which has become almost synonymous with “bigot”.

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A personal story regarding nationalism & immigration:

My aunts and uncles have all migrated to Canada in the 1990s. They have worked there and paid their taxes and eventually became Canadian citizens. So recently, Justin Trudeau has been welcoming Syrian and other immigrants to Canada. I would think that given their previous positions as economic migrants, my relatives would agree with Trudeau’s policies, in the spirit of paying it forward. But, alas … no. When I spoke with my aunt and uncle, all they could complain about was how the Canadian government policies would mean more taxes for them to pay and how welcoming more immigrants would be such a drain on the economy and how these middle eastern migrants are terrorists-in-disguise etc etc. So I just rolled my eyes and stopped the debate because I love my relatives and I don’t want us to spend their vacation arguing over immigration policies.

So what has this story got to do with JoeAm’s blog post is this: “What inspires Filipinos, broadly? Family, faith in the rituals of it all, gossip, and the practicalities of life: eating and getting around. Where is the MORAL foundation?” — particularly, me, mulling the answer to that question.

F Sionil Jose once wrote that Filipinos are  a shallow people (by the way, FSJ also supported and probably voted for Rodrigo Duterte — go figure).

FSJ said that we are shallow because we are “mayabang” (arrogant), we do not read (hence we are under-educated) and that our  mass media is shallow.

Given this “shallowness”, what inspires us then? I mean what would one expect a child to be inspired of? JoeAm gives this answer “Family, faith in the rituals of it all, gossip, and the practicalities of life”– ouch, but true. If we want to get rid of our shallowness, of this narrow definition of nationalism that we have, then we have to start with the family. And because of this we must consider that the unmet need for family planning in the Philippines is presently at 17.5% — oops, but this is another topic for another blog post  🙂

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So, to connect the ideas of this meandering post: do I believe nationalism is bad? Not necessarily, depending on how it is used. I mean, if one will define nationalism as a sense of loyalty to one’s country of birth/allegiance, that is not a perilous thing. That is actually a virtue. However, if one uses nationalism to justify the exclusion or persecution of “the other”, meaning people who are not part of your country of allegiance then that would just be mean. And if nationalism is used to defend one’s laziness and shortsightedness and unwillingness to make the personal sacrifices needed to combat climate change, well, that is just stupid.

Do Filipinos have a sense of nationalism? Yes and no. We have a superficial (“shallow” is the word FSJ’s used) sense of nation. We love our families to our detriment; and we identify with our tribes/regions (i.e Ilokano, Tagalog, Maranao etc), to the exclusion of our identity as “Filipinos”.

Given this fact, the question of “what inspires us?”, with all due respect, is the wrong question. The question should be: “how should that which inspire us translate to love of nation?”

Like, I love my family, my family inspires me. But would my family have existed at all if Filipino nationalists have not asserted our independence from Spain, America or Japan? My grandmother was telling me a story how the Japanese used to bayonet babies in their village. Without Filipino nationalism, she could have been one of the kids who suffered and then I would not exist.

This is a what-if of history (something my aunts get exasperated about when I bring it up, saying it is futile to think of what ifs).  But part of learning history is wondering about what ifs.  And that is what Filipinos lack, I think, why our love of our family does not translate to love of nation. We lack history. Somebody stole it from us (the colonial masters, the fucked up educational system, the present elites, you name it) – and now we fail to be inspired.

 

 

 

Blood and Soil

This morning I am thinking of US Senator John McCain, and of his last words to the country he loved and served for the better part of his life.

Nations live on long after individual lives have perished. And if living a meaningful life is all about loving something greater than yourself then loving one’s country would fit the bill.

But what is a country? What is a nation?

I am not a professional anthropologist or a sociologist or a political scientist. I haven’t read all the required texts on the subject. But John McCain’s letter brought home to me  two conflicting ideas about what it means to be a “nation”.

A nation of ideals versus a nation of blood and soil.

It’s like what does it mean to be a mother – giving birth to a child that is genetically related to you or raising a human being that may/may not be genetically related. It would be great if those two conditions exist at the same time; but what if they don’t? What takes precedence?

What is a country? What is a nation?

Is a country an amalgamation of people who may or may not look like each other, who may have been born in different land masses or continents but have been brought together by ideals and ideas that they share with each other?

Or are we a country just because we were born in the same place with parents who probably shared a common ancestor?

According to a review, this is the “book from hell”. If  we are in the Harry Potter universe, this book will be in the Forbidden Section. A veritable stockpile of Nazi and fascist bullshit.

Blood and soil versus ideals.

In the 1940’s Germany was almost torn apart because a political faction insisted that being a German was about “blood and soil,” hence lebensraum was an acceptable policy.

In the United States, Americans with dark skins had to fight tooth and nail for their right to equality in a country that they have invested in with their sweat and blood.

In my country, there are presently two types of Filipinos: those who believe that an autocratic/dictatorial government is ideal and those who disagree. Are we part of the same nation?

Just thinking.

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So here is a full text of McCain’s last letter before his death. Eat your heart out Barack Obama, McCain’s got style.

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My fellow Americans, whom I have gratefully served for sixty years, and especially my fellow Arizonans,

Thank you for the privilege of serving you and for the rewarding life that service in uniform and in public office has allowed me to lead. I have tried to serve our country honorably. I have made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them.

John Sidney McCain III, RIP, 1936 – 2018

I have often observed that I am the luckiest person on earth. I feel that way even now as I prepare for the end of my life. I have loved my life, all of it. I have had experiences, adventures and friendships enough for ten satisfying lives, and I am so thankful. Like most people, I have regrets. But I would not trade a day of my life, in good or bad times, for the best day of anyone else’s.

I owe that satisfaction to the love of my family. No man ever had a more loving wife or children he was prouder of than I am of mine. And I owe it to America. To be connected to America’s causes — liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people — brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.

Fellow Americans’ — that association has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have acquired great wealth and power in the process.

We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.

We are three-hundred-and-twenty-five million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do.

Ten years ago, I had the privilege to concede defeat in the election for president. I want to end my farewell to you with the heartfelt faith in Americans that I felt so powerfully that evening.

I feel it powerfully still.

Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.

Farewell, fellow Americans. God bless you, and God bless America.

 

A Tribute to Ursula

I have never liked the name “Ursula”; especially after I watched “The Little Mermaid” which had that octopus-woman that took Ariel’s voice named Ursula. I have always thought it sounded sinister and well, villain-ney.

However, there is one Ursula which I love because she gave the world such amazing books like “The Dispossessed” and “The Left Hand of Darkness”.

The former talks about capitalism and anarchy; while the latter is a mind-bending story about a world where there is no gender.

Today, Ursula died at the age of 88.

I have yet to read her Earthsea novels,  but now I will have to, since I have seen this quote from one of the books in that series:

“Nothing is immortal. But only to us is it given to know that we must die. And that is a great gift: the gift of selfhood. For we have only what we know we must lose, what we are willing to lose …. That selfhood which is our torment, and our treasure, and our humanity, does not endure. It changes; it is gone, a wave on the sea. Would you have the sea grow still and the tides cease, to save one wave, to save yourself?”

What can be a better way to remind us of death, and yet comfort us in the thought at the same time?

“The Last Jedi” Does Not Need Another Rave Review

(+++ warning, if you are sensitive to swear words please do not read this)

So I will not make one. But my article today will use Rian Johnson‘s baby as a starting-off point to talk about sexual harassment, creative/artistic efforts and James Damore.

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Picture from Wikipedia

Looking at Mr. Johnson’s facial hair and the fact that according to Wikipedia, he is presently in a relationship with a woman, it is safe to say that he is a heterosexual white male.

Heterosexual white males have traditionally been privileged creatures in Planet Earth. Yes, they still have their own pecking orders as in:  Jewish heterosexual white males are picked upon by  Italian heterosexual white males, who are picked upon by the Irish who are picked upon by the British who are picked upon by the Nords (??) — ad infinitum.

The point is, in the Grand Scheme of things, these guys should think twice first before claiming to be a discriminated minority — BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT. Another point is, I have just had enough of their whinings which they can express in pseudo-reasonable or creative ways.

Then Mr. Johnson came along and created “The Last Jedi” — and it restored my faith in male humanity. To anybody who has not watched that movie, in a nutshell, the takeaway message of TLJ is: “guys, for fucking Christ’s sake, listen to women.”

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Because if you do not listen to us, one day you may just wake up and learn that once upon a time you were a rapist.

Yes darlings, when a woman says NO, it DOES NOT mean yes; and no: yes does not mean anal. If you have chosen to believe otherwise, then you are an asshole.

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Women have been sidelined or worse, harassed in the workplace long before Mira Sorvino agreed to tell her all to Ronan Farrow (Ronan, Mia Farrow’s son, who may or may not have been Woody Allen biological child — yes, Life is Ironic).

I was watching Ms. Sorvino’s performance in “Mighty Aphrodite” just now; and she is wonderful. She carried the movie, despite Woody Allen’s clueless-ness (Allen, by the way, was the one who inspired Rian Johnson to become a film-maker, after watching “Annie Hall”).

A very sad thing that Allen was able to thrive despite his crimes. But as Oprah said in the Golden Globes Awards this year … a new day has come girls!

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Despite Oprah’s speech, I am still pessimistic. It will be an uphill climb for human beings with XX chromosomes to achieve the same respect as human beings with XY chromosomes.

And that is mainly because women will never (or rarely ever, at the very least) kill their sons.

If women are as cutthroat and efficient  (and I say “efficient” in a disparaging way) as men, then misogynists like James Damore will not live long enough to write his fucking memo.

Yes, James, you are a misogynist. And do not give me that “I make reasonable, evidence-based, rational arguments” crap. You do not.

As Cynthia Lee has pointed out — your memo is nonsense.

If you had the reason that god gave a petunia, the first thing you will do is to have a uterus transplant on yourself, carry a baby the full 9 months, breastfeed that baby, raise it up to be a decent human being — without killing yourself in the process.

Then you will have a right to write your memo. Because, James, darling, men like you is the reason why I do not want to become a mother.

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On a positive note (yes there is one as I refuse to end my piece like Nietzsche), all this ranting has made me realize that I do not want to be a male, and thank God she made me a woman.

Who am I kidding? God definitely is not a woman. It would be a different world if god is a she. But then, if alternate universes are possible, maybe in one of those — God is a SHE.        Image from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3108477/If-God-woman-Church-feminists-say-God-wittiest-wisest-writers-imagine-world-higher-female-power-helm.html

 

 

 

 

A Failure of Imagination

This Patrick Henry guy must have been a real macho. I don’t care much about his looks (Alexander Hamilton is more my type);  but his resume would give a girl pause.

Patrick Henry — lawyer, politician, orator, planter, slaveholder, a typical 18th century macho, who had the gall to say these words: “It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.” I am rolling my eyes.

Girls, FYI, Patrick was that guy in the American Revolution who said these famous words: “Give me liberty or give me death.”

Yep, I know … he is the typical guy who thinks the world is only composed of apples and oranges.

I mean, really … there are worse things than death (being tortured out of your mind; a 36-hour labor that results in intrauterine fetal death and genital fistula; seeing everyone you love die before your eyes like what is happening to a lot of Rohingyas, etc etc) … and things that can be preferable to freedom depending on one’s circumstances (i.e if I am on the verge of starving I would probably be willing to go to jail where the meals are assured anytime).

The problem with guys and their  and/or view of the world is a failure of imagination.

But hey, we can’t blame them so much, right girls? It is a very rare male who will ever experience what it feels like to be the minority, the second sex, the one who will be harassed by Harvey Weinstein. For them, freedom is something to fight for above anything …

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Women are the ones who have been trained over and over on how to crouch and wait and endure that which are unendurable. We were trained by our mothers — those women who preferred their sons over their daughters because, what is the point of favoring the daughter who will just eventually turn out a slave? (Our mothers did have a point you know.)

 

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Women can imagine … and we do it a lot.

This is the reason why we are sooo hopeful — because we can imagine alternate realities to our destitute situations.

This is the reason why we fall for bad boys … because we can imagine how he can be a better man (As if! Men NEVER change, not if they can get away with being assholes, what would be the point of changing? … if girls can get the fact of men’s unwillingness to reinvent themselves through our frontal lobes, we would be so much better).

This is the reason why the world has not dissolved into the self-destruction of mass suicides — the fact is  the Universe will end someday, so if women are anything like Woody Allen, neurotic pessimist that he was, then we would all shoot ourselves or fling out bodies into the nearest cliffs by now.

But we don’t do that. Because we are women.

Go figure.

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References

Give me liberty, or give me death!

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/958077/filipinos-of-the-year-2017-pinoy-ako-blog-and-other-voices-vs-fake-news

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2017/05/it-is-really-important-to-humanize-evil.html?mid=fb-share-scienceofus

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/06/lolas-story/524490/

Searching for Antidotes to Bad Places

One should not love something that one cannot own. Loving entails dreaming for that which one loves. And what would be the point of expending energy dreaming for  that which one will never be a part of?

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Alice stares at Jonas while he was sleeping. She cannot help feeling like a voyeur; but since  this is the only time she can permit herself to be with him without being defensive or guarded, she relishes such moments.

She stares at his eyelashes — the ones she had, once upon a time, found so entrancing — resting peacefully against his wasted face. She still loves his eyelashes; and as she remembers how he used to get annoyed when she teased him about them, she smiles.

Alice wonders how a man who possesses such lovely eyelashes can turn (wittingly or unwittingly) into a monster.

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She remembers the time he held her hand, that far-off time; a stormy June at the faculty lounge. 

He brought her lunch at 4 pm: siopao, dimsum and chinese noodles. She was grateful, nervous and hungry. And he was looking at her with a mixture of fondness and amusement as she was eating.

He was telling her about Helen. His ex-girlfriend who was a drug addict.

“I haven’t heard from her for years. Then she called the university looking for me.” Jonas was tracing random figures on her palm. It felt ticklish but he was so absorbed in it that she let him go on.

“She was in trouble,” he continued. “She got into a group that was really bad for her. She quit her job and was not living in their house.”

“Where was Helen staying?” Alice asked, not that she was particularly interested.

“A bad place,” Jonas answered simply. “They uhmmm, they were blackmailing her. She had photos with them and they were threatening to release those photos and humiliate her and her family.”

“Why did she go to you for help?”

“I don’t know. She just did.”

“Do you always remain  friends with your ex-girlfriends?” she teased him.

He smiled, “I try.”

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Years later, after that conversation, when Alice was Jonas’s pseudo-ex-girlfriend, he told her that he really really wanted to kiss her then, in that faculty lounge. But he was afraid that she might bolt or slap his face. Given the person she was, Alice agreed with his conclusion.

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How often can a person  change in one lifetime? Now Alice wonders.

She so wants to reach out and touch Jonas.

But she is afraid that he might bolt, slap her face. Or worse.

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Author’s comments (not that I matter in this story): I have always been  more partial to Nat than to Betty. So I choose to believe that Alice will turn into Scarlett Johansson and save Jonas from himself. Or, will it be the other way around?