Reminder to self:
Reminder to Self & Project Updates
This blog is an organic forum where I can digitally record and hash out ANY thoughts on the project. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT AN AUDIENCE. This is for YOU, Rod Dioso! Notes about the project at hand:
I have been fortunate enough to receive an OAC Grant for the Filipino-Torontonian Diaspora Community Project (I must come up with a better title for this). Completion of this project connects nicely with the MA work I will be doing in London studying the PI-UK community. I wish to incorporate more academic theory in the artistic process as I feel the integrity of the project depends on it and research will inevitably add to my growth as an artist. To achieve this, I have made connections the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR). I have also joined York University’s Professor Philip Kelly’s Philippine Study Group which will commence meetings in September of this year. The next tasks in order of priority are to make connections with the Filipino community and to further research digital art history and theory. Aspects of the project to be considered:
Through my work I wish to visually represent aspects of these communities that are transnational in nature. What has been retained from the Philippines? In what ways has change occurred? Why has it changed? How do I hypothesize the Filipino community in London will be different from that of Toronto? Below are possible themes of the community I wish to explore:
1.The culture of food as a vehicle for socialization
2.Photos taken by community members rather than by the artist
3.Differences in language/dialects and fluency of English between members of the community
4.Class divisions between members of the community
5.Attitudes of regionalism brought from the Philippines
I am realizing this is bigger than I imagined. I have more work ahead of me than I anticipated. That said, the work is engaging, stimulating and personal to my specific skills and experiences. It is an understatement to say that I am very excited to see the successful completion of the project.
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Lost blog entry, lost memory and a visit to my Lola's
I am devastated! I’ve just lost all the writing I’ve been doing for the last hour. I think it’s fitting that the blog entry that I was composing, about the loss and redefinition of cultural and linguistic memory, was erased by a careless click of the mouse. Sue tells me that I should just let go and write it again. She says it will surely be better the second time around. She’s right, (deep breath), so here it goes…
I’ve just come back from a pizza dinner visit with my 91 year-old grandmother. My Lola Cherry earned her fruity nickname because as a toddler I couldn’t pronounce the “ng” sound in her actual name, “Charing”, and what I was saying instead must have sounded like the yummy red fruit that is currently in season. As a child I was fluent in Tagalog, albeit ill-pronunced as the “ng” is crucial. When I started school, I seemed to have replaced all speaking memory of Tagalog for English. I believe it was a sort of defence mechanism as I was the only brown kid in the playground and I couldn’t speak a stich of English. I quickly learned English and just as quickly lost my ability to speak in Tagalog. I say this because although I can fully understand the rapid Tagalog in family gatherings and popular Pinoy movies like “Mano Po”, I was at a loss when forced to ask for directions in the Philippines. Somehow the memory of the language I knew as a child was locked in my head. I have currently enrolled in Tagalog classes (start date in the Fall) to release this lost memory from my mind.
My Lola is also experiencing challenges of memory. She had shown signs of slight forgetfullness before I left for Paris in January, but since my return her short-term memory has degraded considerably. She asked me about the wonderful cheeses in Paris and if it was very expensive to live there. She asked me how long I stayed there and if I had plans to travel again. After answering each of these questions she’d repeat the series of questions once more as if it were the first time she had asked it. This happened at least half a dozen times throughout the course of our dinner. Those of us in the family who see her most worry that she is in the first stages of dementia. As with most problems in my family, the issue is never actually talked about but the gravity of the situation is always alluded to. I’ve learned from my mother, my Titas and my Lola that when things are serious it is better to say nothing than to tell everything. Despite the fact that our conversation was in a loop, my lola was still as charming as ever and we had a more meaningful exchange because I could really see certain aspects of her personality in the repetition. Although she confuses the names of her daughters she is still the meticulous perfectionist who will cut her mangoes as close to the bone as possible. She doesn’t remember to take her medication but hasn’t forgotten that eggplants are bad for her gout. She remembers how to speak Spanish although she hasn’t used it in over 30 years. She offered me a parting gift of mangoes, the ones I just brought to her house.
My Lola’s first cousin suffered from dementia before she died. Although she was fluent in both English and Tagalog throughout her life, she spent her last days speaking only Tagalog and not being able to communicate with her American husband. I wonder if my Lola will also lose her memory of English, and if so, will she lose her memory of Canada? Where do I fit in that memory? Am I a part of her Canada or her Philippines? Will I ever find my childhood Tagalog? Will restoring this memory make me more Filipino? I am reminded that some things have to be said several times before they can become real and remembered, how some things take only once and how some things will never become real.
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It's Father’s Day and in keeping with the theme I thought I'd recount a story that I heard just last week. A childhood tale from Tatay that took place in San Pablo.
This is a story of my Dad’s banlon shirt. Banlon was a very rare material in the Philippines when my dad was a teenager. Those few who could afford to wear banlon were given automatic status and respect within the community. Like most men in San Pablo, my Lolo valued what others thought and how he looked in the community. His eldest son was an extension of his own image. Although he had two other boys he gave my dad (the oldest) a beautiful, white, banlon shirt to match the one he bought for himself. My teeenage father wore it with pride and was the envy of his peers. He said he could feel the eyes on him when he wore it, and I could tell by the way he said it, he was surprisingly impressed by the power it possessed over his neighbours and friends.
One day, soon after my father received this rare top, his Tito Popoy asked to borrow the shirt. Popoy was only twelve years his senior and although he was my father's uncle, he was quite close to my dad and was seen more as an older brother than a Tito. My father, although hesitant, couldn't refuse Popoy's request.
So Popoy used the banlon shirt for a local BBQ he was attending. I’m guessing that Popoy was either quite arrogant in wearing the shirt or that he was at a terribly unfriendly party because this was to be the last day that the shirt would hold its magical powers.
Apparently as the story goes, a jealous friend "accidentally" poked Popoy with a greasy hot BBQ fork and pierced the beautiful white shirt. (Popoy was unharmed as I know for a fact that my Tito is still out and about and attending plenty more BBQs in San Pablo). My Dad told me this in tears of laughter touching the side of his ribs where the shirt would have been ruined, demonstrating the jabbing motions of the stick in mock jealousy.
After the party, my father tried wearing the shirt but soon realized that the large stained hole took away its charm. As much as he wanted to, he could no longer wear the shirt. He had to eventually lie to his own father about the shirt and say that he was the cause of its ruin as telling the truth would be a betrayal to Popoy and partly to himself who allowed it to be borrowed. We laughed hysterically about this magic shirt story but I'm sure that it was a cause of much stress when my dad was going through it.
I'm reminded of just how important social relations are in the Filipino mentality. Ideas of loyalty and social status are complex but essential systems that are learned young. In this story of the banlon shirt, my father communicated to me the importance of appearances to the Filipino male. As well as the age-based hierarchy that existed between men when he was growing up. Of course this dynamic wasn't carried directly into my own upbringing but some remnants of these ideals still permeate my life.
As we speak I have a few beautiful Pierre Cardin ties, gifts of my father, in my closet and an expensive Italian suit once owned by my late Lolo. My Lolo was a small man and I hold on to the suit even though it doesn't fit, nor ever will fit my large Canadian-fed frame. I keep these things, I think, because of cultural memories and values that my own father has passed on to me and that I may eventually pass on to my children. Even up to now, my father carries a stylish vanity that keeps him youthful-looking in his sixties.
In a way, the Filipino male as the proud handsome rooster, is an analogy that I too have taken to heart and revel in from time to time. Although I don’t like shopping, I have been known to indulge in a few hand-tailored goodies (a made-to-fit silk AoDai from Hanoi, a Parisian pinstriped 2-piece suit, Italian leather sneakers, among others). Like Lolo and my dad, I also like to look good. And why not? When you got it, strut it, pare! ;)
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For lack of a better title this is "The First Entry". In keeping with the increasingly popular phenomenon of self-publishing, self-revealing digital-extroversion fuelled by sites like facebook.com and blogspot.com, I have decided to start a blog of my own. I like the informal, organic nature of this digital forum and I hope to use this blog to document my thoughts and findings as I begin my artistic project of documenting the visual representations of the Filipino community in Toronto.
Although the project has just begun I feel there a few people whom I should thank. I wish to thank the Ontario Arts Council for providing the initial funding for this project, my parents who have provided me support and interest of which have been invaluable, and most importantly my wife, of which this project would have merely remained yet another great idea that never saw fruition. Thank you Suzy, you are the sunshine to this growing shoot. I am certain as I continue in my exploration of this project the list of people to thank will grow.
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