Poem Series: #2

How colonialism operates to encompass even the sounds from one’s mouth.
How even this must be controlled. Reined in.
Kept subservient and to the satisfaction of the master.

Nothing is safe.

Take your children and your bodies,
away from this possessive clutch.

– The hegemony of English and the refusal of Filipino mouths to let go of their mother tongues. The way the r’s roll and vowels sing. Never forget this.

(A reflection from reading some works by Vincente L. Rafael.)

Writing Update

Since I've gone to the Philippines, I have had to learn how to adapt to a wifi free environment. Because of this, I will now be writing my pieces in advance and then just posting them when wifi presents itself to me. I shouldn't rely on it to be there, at least for now.

That being said, instead of rushing a piece when I have some wifi available, I'll write out my thoughts and then check it against sources for posting when there is wifi.

Here is a lineup of some topics that you can expect to read on in the coming days:

  • Sitting in the beauty chair and learning how to be ashamed of my body
  • Acceptance of Filipinos in the LGBTQ+ community
  • On travelling in a car through Manila
  • This is(n't) home

I hope that you will find these interesting to read!
Until the next 250+ words,
– Phebe Manaog

Internet Problems

I promised you, my lovely readers, two brillantly written posts in place of the one I missed. I'm not sure whether I can fit this quota anymore. Please read the following to see why.

I am currently metaphorically crying the tears of someone who has lived in a developed country for too long, and who has come back to their developing country of birth.

In short: I hate Philippine wifi. If I remember correctly, it is the worst in the world, or somewhere in the pits of despair of wifi. It makes me yearn for the relatively fast and decent internet available in Vancouver, like at Starbucks. In other words, I want both the home and free wifi that enables me to do my work and social stuff.

The thing about free wifi and data in the Philippines is this: you get it only for facebook, or with email at most. You are intentionally and purposefully led to focus your time on the internet, one of the greatest resources and innovations of our time, on social media sites. What the hell.

And I consider then, how does this shape the psyche, community, and attitude of social media using Filipinos? For those lucky people who can afford a cellphone and a wifi or data plan, how does this intentional social media targeting affect them?

I also consider the terrible tragedies currently happening in my country, from the Maute and ISIS in Marawi, to the extra-judicial killings around the country. How come there is such a complacency towards these events? Could social media and a focus on facebook really be breaking down the focus that citizens should be having on these terrible tragedies?

I admit, I write this piece mainly out of frustration for the wifi. But I've seen this comment pop up time and time again: FB is dumbing down our teenagers. Social media cuts people off. I've never thought about it seriously, since it is a common comment people make about teenagers and their cell phones, but could this really be the case here?

That being said, I have a wealth of material to write about for my trip. I hope my wifi is gracious enough to me that I can post these to share with you.

– Phebe Manaog

Dizziness in Airports

I had originally planned for tonight’s piece to be about my experience in the makeup chair today from my family’s photoshoot- I was pretty excited about it too! However since I’m flying tonight, I decided that I’ll instead write about airports, and convey some final fears before I head off.

Whenever I go to an airport, I always start to feel dizzy. I’m not quite sure why- perhaps the air in airports isn’t to my body’s liking, or it’s the effect of a childhood traumatic incident that I forgot.. but I always feel dizzy in airports.

The part of me that likes to phrase my mundane experiences with romantic language says that this is likely because airports are a liminal space. Airports are literally a place in-between – no one stops to stay at airports, but instead they are always headed to somewhere else, with the airport acting as the in-between space that faciliates the method that they’ll use to get there. Everyone in an airport is moving and in transition – with the exception, of course, of the people working and running the restaurants and other services in the building.

(Sometimes I find myself thinking how they could work in an airport. I always feel dizzy being in one, so I can’t imagine staying there for an extended amount of time. How do they feel watching people come and go? Unlike restaurants in a town, there are no regulars.. or perhaps there are? But of a different kind. Case in point: How does one work in such a literal space of liminality?)

I am expecting this same dizziness when I head to the airport tonight. I will watch the people walking past and beyond me, towards other places outside Canada or perhaps just within the country. Sometimes I wish I was headed to a plane that will take me to the east coast.

But tonight, or this morning perhaps, I will be flying to the other side of the world.
The Philippines has historically been referred to as a ‘place far away,’ by the Spanish and Americans alike during their respective colonial periods. If you know the word boondocks in American English, this comes from the Tagalog word bundok, meaning mountain. (Or perhaps this is in Ilocano – I don’t remember, but I do know it is a borrowed word in Tagalog. I also smile a little seeing how boondocks receives no squiggly red error line while bundok does.)

Boondocks was used to refer to exactly this – a place far away – and along with the other colonial language used, became the justification for why my ancestors and country needed to be civilized – because it was so far away from proper civilization.
But I digress.

I mentioned that I’ll also convey some last fears, and here they are.
– the political climate of the Philippines
– what my extended family is like, after so many years of not seeing them
– if my tagalog will be enough to save me this time around
– if i can still blend in and be read as a filipino/a
– (also scared of lots of reports of sexual assault.. but isn’t that a daily fear anyway?)

And perhaps to calm me down, I’ll watch College Humor’s video about the magic of airplanes and listen to Trevor Noah recount his childhood in Apartheid South Africa, as I walk towards the terminal gate and wait until my turn to soar through the sky, back into the arms of my family and inang bayan.

Hopefully I don’t feel too dizzy tonight.

One last admin thing: I likely won’t post tomorrow on Sunday night, since I will be ahead in terms of time. I will make up for it through two brillantly (maybe) written posts on Monday.

Until the next 250+,
– Phebe Manaog