Thursday, September 18, 2014

Jose Antonio Vargas at Rutgers University

Last Friday I had the opportunity to go the Newark campus of Rutgers University to see Jose Antonio Vargas speak. Prior to showing his movie Documented, the moderator asked us to keep our cell phones on since the purpose of the movie was to encourage conversation on Twitter or Facebook. Quite honestly, I didn’t think anyone was on social media since there were so many of us brought to tears by the film. Although I have seen this film I cried at the point in the narrative when Jose realizes that he does not quality for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA (which allows those that were brought here as children to legally work) because of his age. I also cried seeing his mother react to him not acknowledging her as his mother on FB. He did this to ensure that nobody would ask too many questions and delve into his history. I have employed such tactics before and understand where he was coming from.  If we are not “out”, we undocumenteds (or formerly undocumenteds) don’t want to talk about the life we had prior to arriving here. Please note that Jose and his mother have not seen each other in approximately 2 decades due to wait times in getting her a visa although she is being sponsored by her mother. Also there is difficulty in obtaining a tourist visa since she is not working in the Philippines (opportunities are far and few over there). She might be viewed as a prime candidate for overstaying her visa without a job to keep her in the Philippines.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Ghost of Jose Rizal

The reclamation of my Filipino identity has naturally led me to Jose Rizal and his works. I have completed his two novels, Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not) and El Filibusterismo. The words Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not) comes from the Latin version of words spoken, according to John 20:17 (King James Version), by Jesus to Mary Magdalene when she recognized him after his resurrection. He said “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.” Historians have also noted that the title is a reference to cancer of the eyelids as Jose Rizal was also an ophthalmologist.

The novel opens with a letter of a patriot to his country. It is an awareness that something has gone wrong with the health of the nation. The patriot viewed it as a cancer and that in his writing, he would attempt to “lift the veil hiding your ills, and sacrifice everything to truth, even my own pride, since, as your son, I, too, suffer your defects and shortcomings.”

The main character, Crisóstomo Ibarra is much like its author having spent some time in Europe to be educated and then returns home to the Philippines. His hope is to reunite with his childhood sweetheart María Clara and get to know his country again. The first chapter is a dinner party thrown by a family friend Captain Tiago, Maria Clara’s father, attended by the upper echelons of the town which includes Dominican and Franciscan friars described by Dr. Rizal as “…the parasites, spongers, and freeloaders that God, in his infinite goodness, has so lovingly multiplied in Manila.” The party reads as if acted on stage where each character is posturing as something other than the truth.

The novel progresses with what seems like the veil lifting from Ibarra’s eyes as his idealism is corrupted by loss. First it was finding out the circumstances of his father, Don Rafael’s death. Ibarra’s father was accused of heresy and then after a series of other events is imprisoned. Don Rafael dies in prison and his body is eventually exhumed and then thrown in a lake. While Ibarra performs extraordinary acts of beneficence, like building a school, his intent grows darker with vengeance towards the priest that rendered Don Rafael’s fate.

In addition to this story, Dr. Rizal includes snippets of the lives surrounding Ibarra where the absurdity and abuses of the clergy and those in power are evident. The most important vignette is the intersection of Ibarra and a man named Elias. At some point Elias forebodes that “Without freedom there is no light…You don’t see the preparations for struggle, you don’t see the cloud on the horizon. Combat begins in the sphere of ideas, to descend into the arena, which will be colored with blood”.  In the end, their fates are intertwined and the reader becomes uncertain which man is the fugitive and which is the patriot.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Meet Dr. Beth McCoy

In 2010 a distinguished professor addressed the graduating class of 2010 in my Alma mater. Of course, I don't find out until 4 years later (yesterday) when I decide to troll around her Facebook page. She was amazing then as a teacher. The convocation address below reminds me of why I will always be her student despite 14 years away from the institution.

Dr. McCoy is an English professor specializing in African American literature. She has taught at Wichita State University and currently teaches at the State University of New York, College at Geneseo. Please have yourself a fantastic read, be inspired and do the work.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

“I live my life in hiding. My survival depends on it.” – Dexter

(most recent post on Balloon-Juice)
My Facebook feed tells me that the film Documented has been honored at the Cinemalaya Film Festival in Manila. I watched it on CNN the Sunday night we arrived at our Outer Banks vacation last month. I watched it alone while the rest of the family was either playing Monopoly with one dice or grocery shopping for the week. I would normally opt to go grocery shopping since I am selective about my diet but stayed in knowing the film was premiering.  It was 2 hours long and I found myself mesmerized by the images of Manila streets. It looked like a modern day Wild West with its dusty streets and a lone rickshaw pulled by a motor bike.
I identify with Mr. Vargas for many reasons. We are both Filipino, similar in age. We are both writers. He is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist that has covered Presidential elections. I am newly minted on the Balloon-Juice front page having graduated from my audience of 10 with the other other (a little bit neglected) blog. He is “out” about the most intimate details of his life and at some point I might also consider disclosing details about myself. He is friends with the likes of Mark Zuckerburg and I am a stalker of professors. All and all pretty close right? It remains to be seen if he has a luxurious, tumbleweed generator of a cat but I think not with his hectic travel schedule. This may be where I have Mr. Vargas beat.  My immigrant cat says, “eat your heart out Jose!”

Balloon Juice

Hi Everyone,

So its finally happened. My writing has been read outside of my circle of few. I have been asked to be a guest blogger on Balloon-Juice. I have written 3 posts so far and the response has been overwhelming.

I am still working on pieces for this blog - although I can't seem to keep up with the reading, the general mental churning and the expunging from the soul type of activity right before I press "publish". I did learn how to do the "read more" cuts on this interface and Wordpress so you don't get overwhelmed right off the bat when the posts are 5 to 10 pages long on a word document.

So just an update, I am still fully immersed in Dr. Jose Rizal's works. I have completed "the Noli" and currently reading "The Fili". I wrote the review above for BJ and I'm honestly not done writing about the Noli so stay tuned. I will say that the "Fili" is a really exciting read now that I am use to Dr. Rizal's writing style.

Tonight I ordered In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines by Stanley Karnow via

Be well. I think of you often and we'll talk again soon.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Meet Carolina Valdivia

In September of 2013, I did a brief search on "undocumented bloggers" curious about what other people were writing on the topic. I found the blog below and also reached out to the writer on Facebook. She was kind (welcoming me into our undocumented community) and said she was there for me. She was true to her word as I have begun this writing journey. She also encouraged me to hit the "publish" button on this blogger interface. I have been in touch with her for almost a year now. I wanted to share her most recent blog post below. I feel such a sense of reverence and  pride in all her activities as an activist, researcher and educator. Please check her out!

“My Un(DACA)mented Life: Experiences of Undocumented Immigrant Young Adults Growing Up and Resisting Through Activism"

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Meet Ju Hong

I am sharing a blog post from an activist rock star, Mr. Ju Hong. When the typhoon Haiyan (known as Yolanda in the Philippines) destroyed South East Asia, particularly the Philippines on November 8, 2013, I had local news on my Facebook feed for storm relief updates. I wanted to know what the Philippine government, as well as other governments, was doing to help.  Later that month President Obama held a news conference in San Francisco’s Chinatown on immigration reform. Undocumented youth were invited on stage with him while he spoke. During the speech he got "heckled". 

I didn't see too much coverage on this in the US (most likely because my news is limited to NPR during the morning commute and the treadmill at the YMCA in the evenings) but news on the other side of the world was buzzing, particularly ABS-CBN news (a Philippine network) about a DREAMer that dared to speak out against the most powerful man in the world. Undocumented activists, DREAMERs and allies were afire with support and pride for this courageous and outspoken individual. The amazing thing about our nation and it’s Leader is that Mr. Hong was allowed to stay as Secret Service agents sought to remove him.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Dark Passenger Part II

Once I became acquainted with my dark passenger, I wish I could say I outgrew her but I didn’t.  Unlike Dexter, I didn’t have a foster father or a therapist (yet) that could discern her signs. She was everywhere in me and I didn’t know what to do with her. At first I wished that the passage of time would rid me of her but she was more than just a “gift”. While I assimilated with my American peers, her form took shape and breathed life in the space inside me.  She lived in the space between my parents and me as we adjusted to our new lives, eventually leaving the safety of my Aunt and Uncle’s home.   She haunted my mother and father and lived in their frustrations. She was in the language unspoken with the people with whom they interacted in their new found jobs.  She was in the language unspoken with my American peers that called me stupid because my focus was elsewhere and I had

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Dark Passenger Part I

I’ve been watching Dexter with my husband.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, Dexter is a clinical psychopath. I think this might be a loose interpretation since Dexter exhibits signs in his thoughts and actions that he not completely unemotional. In Dexter’s own words, he was “born in blood” when his mother was murdered in front of him when he was 3 years old. Dexter, like his foster father, identifies this moment as the day his darkness was born. Afterwards, Dexter was found in a pool of blood by a young policeman that would eventually be his foster father. At first Dexter was like any other boy but as time went on there were signs of Dexter’s new nature. Such signs might have been missed had his foster father not been a seasoned policeman. At first, his foster father thought his urges might be curbed if Dexter took the lives of animals. When it was evident that animals would not slake his urges, his father trained him to be stealthy, efficient and eventually to take the lives of evildoers that were missed by the law, while being undetectable. In his daytime role, Dexter is a blood spatter and forensic evidence expert for the Miami Metro police. It is this day time role that allows him to hunt in the evenings, fulfilling his true nature.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Book Review - The Edge of Terror - Scott Walker

I finished a book this past holiday season entitled the Edge of Terror by Dr. Scott Walker. This is the third book I have read this year on Philippine history. I was intrigued by the topic knowing my mother’s birth records were destroyed during the war. Also, in speaking with my grandmother before she died, I learned she was a war bride while the Japanese occupied the Philippines. She was married in secret on top of a mountain.  She told me in Tagalog (pronounced tah-gah-lawg, tuh-) it was a scary time. After having read this book, I understood more about “scary”.

(book cover courtesy of Google Images)

I have to preface this post by saying that I am a product of the New York State public school system. I was a fine student having taken the Global Studies Regents exam. During that time, I do not remember this topic being covered. There is so much to cover with regard to World War II that I might have missed it.  I might have been more concerned about everything else that went on during high school.  I don’t know for sure.  Also, the teachers have to cover so much about the world that more than likely they couldn’t cover World War II in depth getting ready for this exam, which was 2 school year’s worth of global history.