Language and Filipino Self-Determination in the U.S.

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Inventing Vernacular Speech-Acts: Articulating Filipino Self-Determination in the United States􏰀

E. San Juan, Jr., 

Polytechnic University of the Philippines


From the time Filipinos arrived in the United States as “colonial wards” or subaltern subjects in the first decade of the twentieth century, the practice of speaking their vernacular tongues (whether Ilocano, Cebuano, Tagalog, or any of the other dozen regional languages) has been haunted by an interdiction. This accompanied the defeat of the revolutionary government of the first Philippine Republic at the end of the Filipino–American War (1899–1903) and the institutionalization of English as the official medium of communication in government, business, education, and so on. American English became an instru- ment of political and ideological domination throughout colonial rule (1898–1946) and neocolonial hegemony (1946–). With competence in English as the legal and ideological passport for entry of Filipinos into the continental United States as pensionados and contract laborers, the native vernaculars suffered virtual extinction in the public sphere. In exchange, the Philippines acquired the distinction of belonging to the empire of English-speaking peoples, texting messages intelligible at least to the merchants of global capitalism if not to George W. Bush and the Homeland surveillance agents at the airport. That is also the reason why Filipina domestic workers are highly valued in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and other countries in Europe and the Middle East.

U.S. linguistic terrorism has continued via subtle cooptation and juridical fiat. Up to the last quarter of the twentieth century, the custom of speaking the vernacular in the workplace was discouraged if not prohibited. Filipino nurses and government employees talking in Filipino/Pilipino were penalized, triggering legal suits by the aggrieved immigrants or naturalized citizens. “English Only” prevails.

􏰀A shorter version of this article appeared in DANYAG (June 2002).

Socialism and Democracy, Vol.19, No.1, March 2005, pp.136–154
ISSN 0885-4300 print/ISSN 1745-2635 online
DOI: 10.1080=0885430042000338462 # 2005 The Research Group on Socialism and Democracy


Filipinos need not be heard or listened to so long as they performed according to expectations. Why learn or study the Filipino vernaculars when “they” can speak and understand English? With the sudden increase of Filipino migrants after 1965 and the growth of the multi- cultural ethos of the ’80s and ’90s, Filipinos discovered anew that they have always been speaking their native languages even while they ventriloquized in English. Filipino (usually referred to as “Pilipino”) has indeed become a lingua franca for recent immigrants in the “land of the free,” making it possible for the newly arrived from the “boondocks” to read post-office guidelines and tax regulations in Filipino.

But Filipino is still an exotic language, despite its vulgarization and accessibility via Internet and satellite media. While today courses in Arabic have become necessary aids for preparing all students for global citizenship, a college course in Filipino is a rarity. In the ’50s and ’60s, when the Huk insurgency disturbed the peace of the Cold War Establishment, courses in Tagalog were introduced in the univer- sities as part of Area Studies; experts were trained at least to read cap- tured documents from the underground, if not to assist in the propaganda and psy-war effort of the local military (San Juan 2000). In the ‘70s, politicized Filipino Americans successfully initiated pro- jects to teach Tagalog inside and outside the academy. With the displacement of the Philippines as a contested zone in Southeast Asia (despite the Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front), administrators have shifted resources to the study of Indonesian, Thai and Vietnamese cultures. After all, isn’t the Philippines now a suburb of California? And hasn’t the current Arroyo administration reversed the trend of Filipinization by promulgating English as truly the privi- leged language for individual success, prestige, and acceptance?

Historical necessity has once more intervened in the “belly of the beast.” Filipinos have become the largest group in the Asian American ethnic category and are slowly beginning to realize the political impact of this demographic trend. With the upsurge of Filipino-Americans entering college and moving on to graduate schools, and given the heightened racial and ethnic antagonisms in this period of the border- less war against terrorism (recall the hundreds of Filipinos summarily deported in handcuffs and chains immediately following the 9/11 cat- astrophe), a new “politics of identity” seems to be emerging, this time manifesting itself in a demand for the offering of credited courses in Filipino as part of the multiculturalist program (San Juan 2002). In Spring 2002, I was requested by the community of Filipino and Filipino American students at the University of California, Irvine, to share my

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ideas about the “language question.” The following provisional theses attempt to address this question in the context of the struggle of the Filipino nationality in the U.S. for democratic rights and the Filipino people in the Philippines and in the diaspora for national self- determination. It goes without saying that there are other still undiscerned factors overdetermining this complex conjuncture, particularly in this stage of the advanced corporatization of the U.S. university in late modernity; the following observations are meant to induce an exploration of the totality of social relations subtending this issue.


In dealing with the issue of linguistic freedom and bondage, I begin with the thesis that language cannot be separated from material-social activity, from human interaction. Marx and Engels write in The German Ideology: “Language, like consciousness, only arises from the need, the necessity, of intercourse with other humans.” Language is essentially a social phenomenon, embedded in collective human activity. Con- sciousness and language cannot be divorced; both are social products; they originate from work, from the labor process, whose historical changes determine the function of language as a means of communi- cation and as an integral component of everyday social practice, a signifier of national or ethnic identity.

Work or social labor then explains the structural properties of language. This does not mean, however, that given the unity of thought and language, linguistic structures imply different ways of thinking, world outlooks, etc. Contrary to Hitler’s idealizing slogan “Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Sprache,” race, culture and language are not equivalent. We do not live in isolated language compartments with singular “takes” on reality. Forms of thought manifest a certain universality that are not affected by linguistic differences, even though speech acts derive their full import from the historical contexts and specific conditions of their performance. “Ideas do not exist sepa- rately from language” (Marx, Grundrisse, 1973, 163). And since the ideas of the ruling class prevail in every epoch as the ruling ideas, the uses of a particular language often reveal the imprint of this ruling class. Various classes may use the same language or operate in the same lin- guistic field, hence this domain of sign usage becomes, to quote Bakhtin/Voloshinov, “an arena of class struggle” (1986, 23). For exam- ple, Rizal used Spanish to counter the corrupt abuses of the friars and

reach his Spanish-speaking compatriots as well as reform-minded liberals in Spain. Likewise, Tagalog and other vernaculars were used by the Filipino elite in persuading peasants and workers to conform to American policies and ideas.

In sum, language as a practice of signification is not only reflective but also productive and reproductive of antagonistic social relations and political forces. It is a vehicle and an embodiment of power. Language usage manifests the pressure of contradictory class relations and concrete ideological structures that are registered on the level of special subcodes and idiolects.1 Language then is a socio-ideological phenomenon whose empirical manifestation can be investigated with scientific rigor.

Using this frame of inquiry, let us examine the status of Filipino/ Pilipino vis-a`-vis English within the Filipino community (totaling nearly 3 million) in the United States. A historical background is imperative in assessing the worth of languages relative to each other, specifically in the context of the fraught relations between the Philippines as a former colony, now a neocolony, of the United States, and the hegemonic nation-state, now the “only remaining super- power” in this period of “endless war” against terrorist multitudes.

With the violent conquest of the Philippines after the Filipino– American War of 1899 to 1914 (I include the wars that tried to pacify the Moros), which cost 1.4 million Filipino lives, the U.S. imposed colo- nial institutions on the subjugated natives. The process of what Renato Constantino famously called “the mis-education of Filipinos” began with the imposition of English as the chief medium of instruction. This was not, as one historian puts it (Arcilla 1971), because the teacher-volunteers who arrived on the St. Thomas in 1901 knew no Spanish, but rather because English was the language of the U.S. ruling class, the vehicle for inculcating the American “way of life,” its institutions and normative practices, in their colonial subjects (see Martin 2002). Contrary to the supposed intention of democratizing society, the use of English “perpetuated the existence of the ilustra- dos—American ilustrados” loyal to the United States, analogous to the Spanish-speaking Filipino elite who sought reforms within Spanish

1. While “idiolects” refer to those aspects of an individual’s speech pattern that deviate from group norms, the idiolect of, say, a Christian or Islamic fundamentalist believer represents a code of free variants mimicking certain sociocultural patterns of thought (Ducrot & Todorov 1979, 57). An idiolect then becomes intelligible as a departure from the normal usage of words (Riffatere 1983) and resembles what Mikhail Bakhtin calls “ideologeme” or “utterance” amenable to rational semantic analysis (1981).

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hegemony. Constantino cites Simoun’s denunciation of the latter in Rizal’s novel El Filibusterismo:

You ask for equal rights, the Hispanization of your customs, and you don’t see that what you are begging for is suicide, the destruction of your nationality, the annihilation of your fatherland, the consecration of tyranny! What will you be in the future? A people without character, a nation without liberty— everything you have will be borrowed, even your very defects! . . . What are you going to do with Castilian, the few of you who will speak it? Kill off your own originality, subordinate your thoughts to other brains, and instead of freeing yourselves, make yourselves slaves indeed! Nine-tenths of those of you who pretend to be enlightened are renegades to your country! He among you who talks that language neglects his own in such a way that he neither writes it nor understands it, and how many have I not seen who pretended not to know a single word of it! (quoted in Constantino 1966, 55)

In 1924, the American scholar Najeeb Saleeby deplored the attempt to impose English, in the manner of Alexander the Great and Napoleon, on multitudinous groups speaking different tongues. It was already a failure twenty-five years after the U.S. established schools in the pacified regions. But in preserving imperial hegemony, the policy was not a failure at all. It has proved extremely effective: English as linguistic capital has functioned to sustain the iniquitous class hierarchy and maintain the subordination of the nation-state to the power that monopolizes such capital in the form of control over the mass media, information, and other symbolic instruments and resources in a globalized economy. I think the purpose was to make English-speakers not out of all Filipinos, but just out of those classes—the elite and intelligentsia—that have proved crucial in reinforcing and reproducing consent to U.S. imperial rule.

The historical record is summed up by Constantino: “Spanish colo- nialism Westernized the Filipino principally through religion. Ameri- can colonialism superimposed its own brand of Westernization initially through the imposition of English and the American school system which opened the way for other Westernizing agencies” (1978, 218). Superior economic and technological power, of course, enabled the American colonizers to proceed without serious resistance. Inscribed within the state educational apparatus, American English as a pedagogical, disciplinary instrument contributed significantly to the political, economic and cultural domination of the Filipino people. American English performed its function in enforcing, maintaining, and reproducing the values and interests of the imperial power and the dominant native class. Its usage was not neutral nor merely prag- matic; it was a deliberately chosen ideological weapon in subjugating

whole populations (including the Muslims and indigenous commu- nities), in producing and reproducing colonial—and later neocolo- nial—relations of production.

As I have said, no language (like English) as a system of signs is by itself exploitative or oppressive. It is the political usages and their his- torical effects that need evaluation. Consequently, the use of the coloni- zer’s language cannot be separated from its control of the educational system, the panoply of commercial relations and bureaucratic machin- ery which instill consumerist values, white supremacy, and acquisitive individualism within the procedural modus operandi of a so-called “free enterprise” system. Over half a century of tutelage de-Filipinized youth and “taught them to regard American culture as superior to any other, and American society as the model par excellence for Philippine society” (Constantino 1974, 39). Individual and public consciousness had been so Americanized that a Filipino national identity was aborted, suppressed, unable to emerge fully except in outbursts of revolt and insurrection—a durable tradition of revolutionary resistance that we should be proud of.

What of Filipino and the other vernaculars? When the Philippines was granted Commonwealth status in 1935, an attempt was made to develop a national language based on Tagalog. This exemplifies the kind of language planning where a colonial state engages in the forma- tive task of constructing a formalistic notion of nationality using one of the local languages as a means of authentiticating the legitimacy of the Americanized elite (Fishman 1972). Pilipino evolved despite the objec- tions of other regional ethnolinguistic groups, a hostility born from the “divide-and-rule” strategy imposed by U.S. colonial tutelage that undermined the hegemonic ambitions of the minority elite. Note that, of course, the ruling bloc of local landlords, compradors and bureaucrats was completely subservient to U.S. dictates even up to and beyond formal independence in 1946. Up to now, it is no secret that the Philippine military is completely dependent on U.S. largesse for its weaponry and logistics, including the training of its officers in counterinsurgency warfare (as witness the prolongation and systema- tization of joint training exercises against the Abu Sayyaf and other insurgents in violation of the 1986 Philippine Constitution which prohi- bits the active participation of foreign troops in local law enforcement). Over 80% of Filipinos can speak or understand Filipino in everyday transactions throughout the islands. While some progress has been made today in institutionalizing the use of Filipino as an intellectual medium in university courses, English remains the preferred language of business and government, the language of prestige and aspiration.

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Decolonization of the Filipino mind has not been completed, hence Filipino remains subordinate, marginalized, or erased as a language of power and self-affirmation of the people’s sovereign identity.

Like other colonized parts of the world, the Philippines was a mul- tilingual society during the heyday of Spanish imperialism. While formal colonialism no longer obtains, a linguistic imperialism con- tinues, with English employed as the international language of science, technology, business and finance, world communications and international academic studies—despite some nativization of American English in the Philippines. This will continue unless the poli- tical economy and power relations in the whole society are changed.


The rise of the U.S. Empire in Asia beginning with the defeat of Spanish power translated into a reassertion of Anglo-Saxon “manifest destiny.” This is a continuation of a long saga of territorial expansion from the Eastern seaboard of the continent. When Filipinos entered U.S. metropolitan territory, first in Hawaii as recruited plantation workers in the first three decades of the last century, the U.S. was already a racial polity founded on the confinement of the indigenous Indians, the slavery and segregation of blacks, the conquest of Spanish-speaking natives, and the proscription of Asian labor. The U.S. was and is a multi- lingual polity, with English as the hegemonic language.

A language community is not by itself sufficient to produce an ethnic or national identity. English cannot by itself define the American national identity as such, even though it is within this linguistic com- munity that individuals are interpellated as subjects, subjects as bearers of discourse—persons defined as subject-positions sutured within discourses of law, genealogy, history, political choices, pro- fessional qualifications, psychology, and so on. This construction of identity by language is open to incalculable contingencies; what makes it able to demarcate the frontiers of a particular people is a prin- ciple of closure or exclusion. And this fictive ethnicity is accomplished in the historical constitution of the U.S. nation-state based on the dis- courses of the free market and white supremacy.

Etienne Balibar has shown how the French nation initially gave pri- vileged place to language or linguistic uniformity as coincident with political unity; the French state democratized its citizens by coercively suppressing cultural particularisms, the local patois. “For its part,” Balibar observes, “the American ‘revolutionary nation’ built its original

ideals on a double repression: that of the extermination of the Amerin- dian ‘natives’ and that of the difference between free ‘White’ men and ‘Black’ slaves. The linguistic community inherited from the Anglo-Saxon ‘country’ did not pose a problem—at least apparently— until Hispanic immigration conferred upon it the significance of class symbol and racial feature” (Balibar & Wallerstein 1991, 104). In other words, the phantasm of the American race defined as English speakers materialized when the Spanish-speaking indigenes of the Southwest were defeated in the war of 1848. Thus, the national ideology of the ‘melting-pot’ of a new race emerged “as a hierarchical combination of the different ethnic contributions,” based on the inferiority of Asian labor immigrants and “the social inequalities inherited from slavery and reinforced by the economic exploitation of the Blacks” (Balibar & Wallerstein 1991, 104). It is within this historical process of ethnicization of the American identity under an assimilative or plural- ist ideology that we can then locate the supremacy of American English over the other languages of various ethnic groups within the polity. It is also in this historical context of the formation of the American multicul- tural pluralist imaginary that problems of citizenship, equality of rights, multilingualism, neocolonialism, nationalism or international- ism, should be placed and analyzed.

In the United States today, we have various languages spoken and practised everywhere—Spanish being the most widespread, Black English vernacular (BEV), creole in Louisiana and New York City, Russian in Brooklyn, and so on—testifying to a multilingual society. But as studies have demonstrated, the failure of the school authorities in the U.S. to recognize BEV as a separate language has continuously retarded the educational progress of black children (Spears 1999). BEV, like the varieties of Spanish, functions as a symbolic marker sig- nifying membership in a particular ethnic group.

Why is one’s use of a particular language important? Language usage or behavior is closely connected with one’s perception of self and one’s identity. The British sociolinguist Robert Le Page has pro- posed a theory of language use in terms of acts of identity. According to Le Page, “the individual creates his or her own language behavior so that it resembles that of the group or groups with which he wishes to be identified, to the extent that: he can identify the groups; observe and analyze such groups; is motivated to adapt his behavior; and is still able to adapt his behavior. By so doing the individual is thus able to locate himself in the ‘multi-dimensional’ space defined by such groups in terms of factors such as sex, age, social class, occupation and other parameters for social group membership, including ethnicity”

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(Cashmore 1984, 173). In Britain, the use of a modified Jamaican creole by second-generation Britishers of Caribbean descent is an example of acts of identity-formation, an assertion of an ethnic identity associated with such cultural interests as rastafarianism, reggae music, and so on. By consciously adopting this creole or patois, the youth are expressing their solidarity, ethnic pride, and symbolic resistance to what they perceive as a repressive and racist society.

One may ask: Has the Filipino community in the U.S. considered language as one of the most important social practices through which they come to experience themselves as subjects with some critical agency, that is, not merely as objects trained to consume and be con- sumed? Have Filipino scholars examined language as a site for cultural and ideological struggle, a mechanism which produces and reproduces antagonistic relations between ethnic immigrant communities and the dominant EuroAmerican society? In my forty years in the U.S., I have not encountered among our ranks—except for a few academics influ- enced by the late Virgilio Enriquez—any special awareness of the importance of Filipino and the other vernaculars.

In the dismal archive of ethnic studies of Filipino Americans, we encounter a species of identity politics that is unable to escape the hege- monic strategies of containment and sublimation. Ironically, this poli- tics is really designed for encouraging painless assimilation. For example, Antonio Pido’s The Pilipino in America (1986) is a repository of scholastic cliches and rehash of received opinions, at best an eclectic survey that tries to coalesce the contradictory tendencies in the research field as well as those in the community during the Marcos dictatorship. Recently, the collection Filipino Americans: Transformation and Identity(1997) edited by Maria P.P. Root, tried to advance beyond the Establish- ment banalities, but to no avail, although gays and lesbians have suc- ceeded in occupying their niches amid cries for “healing the cultural amnesia and sense of shame.” I have no problem celebrating Filipino firsts, but I think historical memory of this ingratiating kind cannot decolonize our psyches since we use such memory to compete with other people of color in grabbing a piece of the American pie. Pido’s contribution to this anthology compounded the muddle of pseudo- egalitarianism afforded by “melting” into the multiracial “pot” that still informs Establishment versions of multiculturalism. This is particularly lamentable in the neoconservative climate of the ’90s when one encountered everywhere the wish-fulfilling belief that Filipinos have transcended their ethnicity in assuming some kind of mutant or freakish existence. The ideological basis of assimilation by keeping one’s ethnic identity may be gleaned from this version of

constructing a hybrid figure: “Such solidarity did not happen to the Pilipino Americans because they are Pilipinos who are in America, as their parents and grandparents were, but rather because they are Americans who are Pilipinos” (Pido 1997, 37). An ambivalent opportu- nist indeed if not an enigmatic trickster figure. None of the essays, if I recall, deal with the discrimination of Filipinos on account of their speaking Pilipino/Filipino at the workplace, or elsewhere.

In a study on Filipino Americans, Pauline Agbayani-Siewert and Linda Revilla comment on the Filipino group’s lack of a “strong ethnic identity.” They give a lot of space to the issue of whether Filipino should be spelled with an F or P. In spite of disagreements among post- 1965 and pre-1965 immigrants, they note that Filipinos are distin- guished by their adherence to “traditional Filipino values” relating to family togetherness and respect for elders. So what else is new? What is interesting about their survey is that they touch on the issue of language, remarking that “language is a questionable indicator of Filipino immigrants’ acculturation,” without adding that of course their country of origin has been thoroughly Americanized in language, if not in customs and habits. They cite a study which indicated that 71% of Filipinos speak a language other than English at home, although 91% of them claimed being able to speak English well or very well. Their conclusion: “This suggests that most Filipinos who have been natura- lized citizens [Filipinos have a 45% naturalization rate, the highest among Asian groups] and who can speak English well still prefer to speak their native language at home” (Siewert & Revilla 1995, 152). What does this signify? In general, third generation children no longer speak the languages of their grandparents.

One interpretation is that of Yen Le Espiritu, author of the ethno- graphic collection, Filipino American Lives. While conceding that Filipinos, despite some mobility and cultural adaptation, are still not fully accepted as “Americans,” Le Espiritu claims that this is not bad because Filipinos are really “transmigrants,” that is, they resist racial categorization and at the same time sustain “multistranded relations between the Philippines and the United States” (1995, 27). This hypoth- esis is flawed. Espiritu wants Filipinos to have their cake and eat it too. While some may succeed in manipulating their identities so that they both accommodate and resist their subordination within the global capitalist system—a tightrope performance not really warranted by the biographies she presents—they do not constitute the stereotype. Especially in the case of those who came in the last two decades, Filipinos have not really become the full-blown hybrids conjured by postmodernist-postcolonial academics. The majority of the testimonies

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gathered by Espiritu provide incontrovertible proof that despite sly forms of resistance, institutional racism has continued to inflict damage on the lives and collective psyche of the Filipino community, whether some of them are perceived as transmigrants or not.

In fact the transmigrant paradigm cannot explain adequately the linguistic behavior of Filipinos. Siewert and Revilla report that Filipinos have begun to challenge the “English only” policies at the workplace. They cite one case in the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where seven Filipino workers filed a grievance after being penalized for failing to use only English for business purposes (on the assumption that “only English” use facilitates the efficient perfor- mance of mandated routine tasks). The policy was eventually rescinded, but we are not informed what the views of the experts are. Since they are obsessed with acculturation or cultural assimilation, they probably feel that the case was not really significant since Filipinos are bilingual anyway, and they can be flexible or versatile in adapting to the exigencies of their minority situation. Never mind that they have to suppress their need to speak in Filipino.

To recapitulate: The development of U.S. capitalism concomitant with the growth and consolidation of American English has proceeded from the onset of imperial expansion in the U.S. victory over Spain, to the conquest of world hegemony during the Cold War (1947–1989). The Civil Rights movement succeeded (through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and later the Bilingual Education Act of 1968) to mandate the use of non-English voting ballots and the funding of bilingual edu- cation programs serving primarily Hispanics to expedite their tran- sition to competent English users. Due to various revisions, bilingual education programs (which started in 1963 in Miami, Florida, to help the children of Cuban exiles) only serve a small proportion of the total population. And yet some were alarmed by the increase of Hispa- nics in many states. One of them, Senator S.I. Hayakawa, a naturalized Canadian immigrant of Japanese descent, founded the organization U.S. English in 1983 after sponsoring a bill in 1981 to make English the official language of the U.S. (Fischer et al. 1997). In a penetrating critique of the ideological scaffolding of the “English-Only” movement, Andrew Hartman traces its genealogy to the “historical racism” and white supremacy that continue to legitimize the hierarchical class division in U.S. society. With perspicuous documentation, Hartman not only emphasizes the racist ideology of colonialism underlying the subjugation of Native Americans, Puerto Ricans, Chicanos, and other nationalities, but also underscores how the English-Only campaign “reinforces the divisive effects of capitalist stratification,” undermining

labor solidarity and scapegoating immigrants; in effect, “the English- only movement embodies the colonial model of language as oppres- sion” (Hartman 2003, 199; see also Emerman 1991).

On the whole, I agree with Hartman that this phenomenon of lin- guistic nationalism may be construed as a symptom of the sharpening contradictions in U.S. hegemonic maintenance. In addition I would suggest that the program to subtly institutionalize English as the official language of “free-market” capitalism may be construed as one plank of the IMF/World Bank/WTO neoliberal agenda for continued transna- tional domination which has been effectively challenged by antigloba- lization forces (Mazrui 2003; San Juan 2003). In actuality, what has been happening in the last decades involves an implicit “reorganization of cultural hegemony” by the ruling elite faced with a sharpening politi- cal, social and economic crisis of the system since the end of the Vietnam War. We may interpret this English-Only movement as an index to the resurgent nativist hostility to the recent influx of immi- grants from Latin America and Asia—aliens that supposedly disunite America and threaten the supremacy of the “American Way of Life” (Nunberg 2000). The English First anti-immigrant phenomenon can easily be demystified and translated as the symptom of a moral panic, a fanatical zeal to preserve the status quo, “a fear of cultural change and a deep-seated worry that European Americans will be dis- placed from their dominant position in American life” (Douglas Massey quoted in Zelinsky 2001, 192). This symptomatic reading finds its rationale in Antonio Gramsci’s insight:

Each time that in one way or another, the question of language comes to the fore, that signifies that a series of other problems is about to emerge, the for- mation and enlarging of the ruling class, the necessity to establish more “inti- mate and sure relations between the ruling groups and the popular masses, that is, the reorganization of cultural hegemony (1971, 16).


In 1985 then Education Secretary William Bennett judged bilingual education a failure because it only promoted ethnic pride despite the fact that programs like the Transitional Bilingual Education program and the Family English literacy programs no longer seek to fund classes conducted in the original ethnic languages. Four million language-minority students are now herded to monolingual “immer- sion” English classrooms which, according to one expert, often fail to teach anything but English. And this avoidance of using English as

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the only medium of instruction is supposed to explain why they don’t have equal educational opportunities and become complete failures.

One opponent of the bills to make English the official language, Rep. Stephen Solarz, expressed a sentiment shared by many liberals who endorse pluralism or multiculturalism under the shibboleth of a common civic culture. Language is a matter of indifference, these liberals argue, so long as the cement of the civic culture holds the market-system, individual rights, and private property together. Solarz argued that the proposals “represent a concession to nativist instincts and are incompatible with the cultural diversity and ethnic pluralism that constitute fundamental strengths of our nation . . . We are…a tapestry of many races, creeds, religions, and ethnic back- grounds—each independent, but all interwoven with one another . . .The glue that bonds these diverse communities together is not com- monality of language, but a commitment to the democratic ideals on which our country was founded” (1997, 251). Aside from these banal- ities, Solarz also opined that those proposals could pose significant threats to the civil and constitutional rights of citizens with little or no English proficiency.”

In this he was right because English triumphalism signifies a mode of racialization: the institutional subordination of other communities and other languages to white supremacy and its cultural hegemony. This was in part the thrust of the challenge made in the class-action suit of 1970, Lau v. Nichols, in which 1,790 Chinese children enrolled in the public schools in San Francisco argued against the SF Unified School District that they were not being provided with an equal edu- cation because all instruction and materials were in English, which the children did not understand. Futhermore, the plaintiffs contended that English-only education for non-English-speaking children was unconstitutional because it violated the 14th Amendment, which guar- antees to all citizens the equal protection of the laws. Moreover, such education was illegal under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which rules that “no person in the United States shall be . . . subjected to dis- crimination under any program receiving Federal financial assistance” (the District was receiving funds from the federal government). The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the Chinese students, but only on the basis of the Civil Rights Act; the Constitutional issue was avoided and the Court left the remedy to local school boards (Fischer et al. 1997, 242–5).

It is this 1974 Lau decision that can serve as the basis for litigation against public educational institutions that refuse to provide language services to students of limited English-speaking ability. It is a legal

precedent on which institutions receiving federal money can be held accountable. But it is not one which engages the question of injustice, discrimination, and inequality in a racial polity such as the United States. It is not one which addresses, more specifically, the subordina- tion of nationalities (like Filipinos) and their diverse languages as a consequence of the past colonial subjugation and present neocolonial status of their countries of origin. This is not a matter of personal opinion, feeling or subjective speculation, but a matter for historical inquiry and empirical verification.

Following the mandate of federal laws, Tagalog or Filipino is now being used in census forms, ballots, postal notices, and even in public announcements of flights to the Philippines in some airports. Is this a sign that the racial polity has changed and abolished institutional impediments to the recognition of the identity and dignity of the Filipino as a cultural-political subject? Are we now living in a classless and race-blind society? Scarcely. Such events as Filipino History Month or Independence parades in fact confirm the hierarchical placing of the various ethnic communities within the pluralist schema that repro- duces monolingualism and Anglocentrism in everday life. Even the concession to fund classes in Filipino, or, to cite a recent trend, Arabic—suddenly classes in Arabic multiplied after 9/11—may be a deceptive means of convincing a few that linguistic, racial and sex dis- crimination are amenable to such piecemeal reforms.

Apart from the neoconservative backlash of the ’80s and ’90s, the advent of post-9/11 hegemony of the “only remaining superpower” entrenched in a National Security State, the imperilled “Homeland,” almost guarantees a regime of unmitigated surveillance and policing of public spaces where ethnic differences are sometimes displayed. Filipinos speaking Tagalog make themselves vulnerable to arrest— recall the case of 62 overstaying Filipinos deported in June 2003, handcuffed and manacled like ordinary criminals throughout the long flight back to Clark Field, Philippines; and subsequently, the case of eight Filipino airport mechanics in Texas, victims of racial pro- filing and suspected of having links with Arab terrorists.

Filipino sounds completely unlike Arabic or Russian. What has made Filipino or Tagalog visible in our multicultural landscape is of course the huge flow of recent immigrants who are not as proficient in English as the earlier “waves” after 1965. Movies, music and other mass-media cultural products using Filipino are more widely dis- seminated today than before. In addition, the resurgent nationalist movement in the Philippines, despite the lingering horrors of the Marcos dictatorship (1972–86), has brought to center-stage the nightly

E. San Juan, Jr. 149

150 Socialism and Democracy

televised images of rallies where the messages of protest and rebellion against U.S. imperialism are often conveyed in Filipino. The nationalist resurgence in the Philippines, as well as in the diaspora of 7–9 million Filipinos around the world, has rebounded miraculously from the sixties and has continued to revitalize Filipino as the language of critical protest and nationalist self-determination. I don’t have to mention the anxiety and tensions provoked when children cannot understand their parents who, as Siewert and Revilla indicate, prefer to use Filipino or other vernaculars at home.


We are surrounded now by a preponderance of newly-arrived Filipinos who use Filipino to make sense of their new experiences, a necessary stage in their arduous life here, before they are able to gain mastery of standard English and feel more capable of directing their lives. But learning English language skills alone does not automatically translate to access to limited opportunities, not to mention genuine empowerment, as witness the plight of black Americans, or the 60 million functionally illiterate citizens in this affluent, technically superior society. Meanwhile, these Filipinos feel dispossessed and mar- ginalized, completely alienated, either resentful or more servile, depending on the complex circumstances of daily life. If and when they enter school (formal or informal), their language experience (in Filipino or other indigenous languages) is delegitimized by a pedago- gical system which operates on the assumption that knowledge acqui- sition is a matter of learning the standard English, thus abstracting English from its ideological charge and socioeconomic implications.

I don’t recall anytime when Filipinos have demanded access to bilin- gual education in the same way that Latinos and Chinese Americans have. And I know that the request for classes in Filipino/Tagalog is nothing compared to the substantial programs in bilingual education among Hispanics. Still, it might be useful to quote the educational scholar Donaldo Macedo’s comments on the current philosophy:

The view that teaching English constitutes education sustains a notion of ideol- ogy that systematically negates rather than makes meaningful the cultural experiences of the subordinate linguistic groups who are, by and large, the objects of its policies. For the education of linguistic minority students to become meaningful it has to be situated within a theory of cultural production and viewed as an integral part of the way in which people produce, transform and reproduce meaning. Bilingual education, in this sense, must be seen as a medium that constitutes and affirms the historical and existential moments of lived culture . . . [S]tudents learn to read faster and with better

comprehension when taught in their native tongue. The immediate recognition of familiar words and experiences enhances the development of a positive self- concept in children who are somewhat insecure about the status of their language and culture. For this reason, and to be consistent with the plan to con- struct a democratic society free from vestiges of oppression, a minority literacy program must be rooted in the cultural capital of subordinate groups and have as its point of departure their own language (2000, 309).

Macedo rightly emphasizes the daily lived experiences of linguistic minorities rooted in collective and individual self-determination. He considers their language as “a major force in the construction of human subjectivities,” since language “may either confirm or deny the life histories and experiences of the people who use it.” We need to underscore the role of language as cultural or symbolic capital, a theme on which Pierre Bourdieu (1991) has elaborated.

Literacy must be based on the reality of subaltern life if it is to be effective in any strategy of real empowerment, in the decolonization of schooling for a start. Only by taking into account the language of everyday lived experience—and connecting this with the community’s struggles to survive and maintain its integrity and autonomy—can we fully grasp what role the use of Filipino plays in the nationality’s pursuit of a truly dignified and creative life as full-fledged citizens. This is, to my mind, a pursuit that cannot be achieved except as part of the collective democratic struggles of other people of color and the vast majority of working citizens oppressed by a class-divided, racial- ized and gendered order.

And this system—globalized or neoimperialist capitalism—is the same one suppressing the possibilities for equality, justice and auton- omy in the Philippines. There is as yet no truly sovereign Filipino nation. I believe it is still in the process of slow, painful becoming. If so, how do we size up or assay persons who claim to be Filipinos, or whose geopolitical identities are somehow linked to the nation-state called the Philippines? Benedict Anderson theorized that modern nations are “imagined communities” made possible by print-capital- ism and the “fatal diversity of human language” (1994, 95). If that is true, then the Philippines was imagined through American English mediated in schools, mass media, sports, and other cultural practices. Both the institutions of print capitalism and the schools were controlled and administered by the United States for half a century; even after formal independence, most of us dream and fantasize in English mixed with Tagalog (Taglish), or one of the vernaculars.

We see then that language and the process of thinking form a dia- lectical unity. While Filipino has become the effective lingua franca, the

E. San Juan, Jr. 151

152 Socialism and Democracy

community in the Philippines is still imagined in a babel of languages, with Cebuanos, for example, refusing to recite the pledge of allegiance unless it is in Cebuano. Less a political gesture than a symptom, this situation reflects the inchoate or abortive project of constructing a Filipino national identity, the clearest proof of which is the failure to develop one language through which the intellectual, political and economic development of the masses can be articulated.

We have no alternative. We need to continue the task of reshaping our cultural identity as Filipinos whether in the U.S. or in the Philippines, in this perilous age of anti-terrorism. I want to quote Paolo Freire, the great Brazilian educator, whose work Pedagogy of the Oppressed has been a profound influence everywhere. Freire reminds us:

At a particular moment in the struggle for self-affirmation, when subordinated to and exploited by the ruling class, no social group or class or even an entire nation or people can undertake the struggle for liberation without the use of a language. At no time can there be a struggle for liberation and self-affirmation without the formation of an identity, and identity of the individual, the group, the social class, or whatever . . . Without a sense of identity, there can be no real struggle. I will only fight you if I am very sure of myself . . . This is why colo- nized peoples need to preserve their native language . . . They help defend one’s sense of identity and they are absolutely necessary in the process of strug- gling for liberation (1985, 186).

Whether here or in the Philippines, we are still, whether we like it or not, entangled, caught, implicated, in this ongoing process of struggling for liberation. A liberatory and radical approach to language, as part of cultural production and pedagogical praxis, is in order. How can we tell our stories in our own words? How do we retrieve the lost voices of our people, valorize their lived experiences, and in the process trans- form the way Filipinos as a group are treated in the metropolis?

To re-appropriate the submerged or erased revolutionary legacy of our people, we need a language that is an integral and authentic part of that culture—a language that is not just “an instrument of communi- cation, but also a structure of thinking for the national being” (Freire 1985, 184), that is, a tool for self-reflection and critical analysis, a crea- tive and transforming agent committed to solidarity, social responsibil- ity, and justice for the masses. That language needed to reconstruct our history and reappropriate our culture cannot be English but must be an evolving Filipino, which draws its resources from all the other vernacu- lars. If we allow English to continue in the Philippines as a hegemonic cultural force, this will simply perpetuate the colonial legacy of class- racialized inequalities—need I remind you that we are still a genuine neocolony—and allow imperial ideology to determine the parameters

of our historical and scientific development, not only for the Philip- pines but also for those who choose to leave and settle in other lands within the inescapable globalized market system. The challenge that faces us today, and for as long as we speak English, is to request or demand that the teaching and learning of Filipino be given space at every level of the educational system.

Allow me to conclude with quotes from Lenin on the question of the equality of languages:

Whoever does not recognize and champion the equality of nations and languages, and does not fight against all national oppression or inequality, is not a Marxist; he is not even a democrat . . . For different nations to live together in peace and freedom or to separate and form different states (if that is more convenient for them), a full democracy, upheld by the working class, is essen- tial. No privileges for any nation or any one language! . . . such are the prin- ciples of working-class democracy (1983, 100, 116).


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Protest Trump’s Imperial War-mongering in the Philippines


by KAMALAYAN: Philippine Educational-Cultural Forum, Washington, DC


Washington, D.C.–November 6, 2017–With collusion scandals on his back, President Trump visits Manila and Clark Field, Pampanga, Philippines, historic outposts of the then rising U.S. Empire at the turn of the last century.

Today, virtually a neocolony, the Philippines serves once again as a springboard for U.S. imperial interventions in the Asia-Pacific region. Various government agreements have converted the former U.S. military bases in Clark, Subic, and elsewhere into counterinsurgency centers against Filipinos protesting corporate plunder of the country’s natural and human resources.

The Duterte regime of corrupt oligarchs has welcomed renewed U.S. military intervention in the destruction of Marawi City in the global campaign against ISIS. The war on drugs and terrorism has become a pretext to justify a Plan Colombia-type of U.S. intervention in their former colony.

Duterte welcomes Trump in the hope of increased military aid. The issue of Duterte’s bloody human rights record, the extra-judicial killing of over 9,000 suspects in the drug war, and the vicious bombing and massacre of peasants, Lumads, and Moro villages, will fill the silent corridors of Malacanang and the Asian Summit halls.

After boasting of U.S. devastation of Japan in World War II, Trump wants to involve the peoples of Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, China and the Philippines in his campaign to destroy the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea with “fire and fury.” Nothing less than a genocidal campaign will fulfill Trump’s America-First policy.

As peoples concerned with social justice, respect for human rights, and peace among nations, we call on everyone to protest Trump’s endorsement of the corrupt, deceitful Duterte regime.

Trump’s attempt to project U.S. military power on the region, and his threat of nuclear war, only serve the profiteering interests of big business. We support the demilitarization of the South China Sea and respect for national sovereignty.

We call on all peoples in Asia and the United States to reject Trump’s war-profiteering and neoliberal programs that destroy people’s jobs, their civic and political rights, and the ecological health of the planet.

KAMALAYAN Philippine Educational and Cultural Forum
Washington DC

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BAKAS–Burador ng Isang Talambuhay –E. San Juan, Jr.


BAKAS: Dalumat ng Gunita’t Hinagap, Memorya ng Kinabukasan

— ni E. SAN JUAN, Jr.



Buhay ay pakikipagsapalaran, lihis sa iyong pagnanais o pagnanasa
Pook na dinatnan ay hindi nakaguhit sa dibdib, balintunang hinala
Pook na binagwis ng alaala’t pag-aasam
Tumatawid sa agwat/puwang ng panahong gumugulong sa buhangin
Nakalingon habang dumudukwang sa agos ng alon—
anong kahulugan ng pagsubok at pangakong itinalaga ng panahon?
Tayo ba ang umuugit sa daluyong ng kapalaran?


Lumilihis sa bawat liko, sa bawat sandali nag-iiwan ng bakas ang katawan
Sa bawat sulok, matatagpuan ang uling/alabok ng buong kasaysayan—
Bumabagtas sa bawa’t yugto ang tunggalian ng uri, saan kang panig makikisangkot, kaya kailangang magpasiya
Upang masunggaban ang sungay ng tadhana, ikawing ito
sa ating adhika’t pangangailangan ng komunidad—

Tanong mo’y saan? Sagot ko’y kailan? Bibingka ng hari, di mahati-hati….

Tuwing umaga’y nalalanghap ang anghot ng ihi’t dumi ng kabayo
sa kuwadra ng San Lazaro tabi ng Oroquieta Ospital ang kinagisnan—
Agwat/puwang ng panahon, kaluluwang humibik
sa pagitan ng Tayabas at Batangas, bininyagan sa Iglesiya Espiritu Santo

Kapagkwa’y tumawid at naipit sa riles ng Blumentritt at estero ng Dimasalang
malapit sa pugad ng pampang si Marina noong 1945….
—“dala-dala’y buslo…pagdating sa dulo”—
Sa mga eskinita lumalagos ang bango ng piniritong isda’t ginisang bawang sibuyas kamatis luya
Sa bingguhan asaran biruan ng mga kamag-anak

Amoy ng dura’t pawis masangsang na putik sa harap ng 2121 Avenida Rizal
kung saan napanood ang prusisyon ng libing ni Manuel Quezon

Kakatwang estranghero ang sumaksi sa tahanang
ginawang motel para sa ‘short-time” tipanan ng magtatalik—

Agwat ng umaga’t dapithapon sa naghihintay na musmos, binibilang ang patak ng ulan
Puwang ng paglalaro sa lansangan ng Tayuman at Bambang, inaabangan—

Sakaling wala ang ina’t ama, “buhok ni Adan hindi mabilang,”
himutok ng ulilang musmos
Sagisag na walang lakas hubugin ang daloy ng karanasan, biktima ng pangyayaring
matagal ang panahon ng pagkagulang, nabulabog sa bawat gulong ng trapik….

Gayunpaman, nabaluktot sa balisa’t di-pagkakapalagay, stigmata sa gunita:

Unti-unting nahuhulog kumpol-kumpol ang dilawang bulaklak ng punong-akasya
sa harap ng dungawang tila masamyong dibdib ni Nena, nag-alagang katulong, mangyaring pagpalain ng Inang Kalikasan
ang kaniyang mairuging kaluluwa.


2. MONTALBAN, RIZAL (1945-1950)


Bukal ang kinabukasan sa iyong gunita, sa tukso ng pag-asa
Sa guni-guni, tila huni ng ibon sa bulaos ng kalabaw tungo sa ilog Pasig
Bumubuhos sa Montalban, agos ng panahong sumusukat sa isip
Tinutugis ang kaganapang bulong at anasan ng mga nagdarasal
sa sementeryo ng La Loma…

Lalakarin daw ang haba ng dinulang, doon masusulyapan ang Irog
bago manampalok—Sinampal muna bago inalok?

Halinghing ng kabayo sa gubat ungol ng baboy aso’t manukan
Pangarap ng paglalayag habang nakadukwang sa estero ng Reina Regente
gumagapang gumagala sa Binondo San Nicolas Dibisorya

Takas, pumipiglas—
Pinaulanan ng bala ng gerilyang Huk ang PC istasyon sa munisipyo ng Montalban
—hindi lamang pito ang baril nila, di lamang siyam ang sundang—
Taginting ng salapi’y hungkag sa hinagap ng Boddhisatvang umakyat
sa lambak doon sa Wawa kung saan
nagkublli sina Andres Bonifacio’t at mga gerilyang Katipunan….

Umahon mula sa kabilang ibayo ang kamalayang sumasagap sa tinig ng panata
hindi mula sa Benares o Herusalem kundi sa Sierra Madre
upang humabi ng sutrang kayumanggi mula sa tadhanang gumugulong….

Sunggaban ang suwag ng kapalarang naligaw sa rumaragasang unos
Malayo na sa kilabot ng mga Hapong umurong sa Wawa
Pinaligiran ng tropang Amerikano, sindak ng imperyalismong sumasabog…

Gumising doon sa bukang-liwayway ng Liberasyon at tuloy sa dagundong
ng magulong Maynila, sunog sa Korea at Arayat
mabilis pa sa alaskuwatrong tumungo sa sinehang Lotus at Noli
Kung saan narinig ang “Fascination” nina Dinah Shore at Belle Gonzales—

Bigkasin mo ang pangalan ng mga kolaboreytor at bayaning nagbuwis ng buhay….

Ngayon ay alingawngaw ng panahong
Lumikha sa mga pangyayaring
Lihis sa iyong pangarap at panimdim
Kapwa ninais at pinilit
Kapwa tinaggap at tinanggihan: kailan? saan?
Sa pag-inog ng pakikipagsapalarang tila walang simula’t katapusan.





Pangangailangan ang umuusig sa pagkikipagsapalaran, gumaganap ang bulag na simbuyo
Sa daluhong ng kasaysayan, hindi maiiwasan o maitatakwil
Kaya ang sumunod sa nesesidad ay malaya’t magpapalaya
sa kahinugan ng panahon, pahiwatig ng mga pantas….

Sumisingit sa baklad ng gunitang balintuwad:
Minsan tinapos ko ang Crime and Punishment ni Dostoevsky
isang hapong maalinsangan
Di ko malilimutan ito, gabi na ng ibaling ang paningin sa bintana
Lihim na pagkahumaling ko kay Esther Deniega (lumisan na) ay iburol sa balong
malalim, punong-puno ng patalim, balong hindi malingon
Tulad ng pagsasama namin nina Ernie at Pete Daroy
Sa limbo ng mga pagliliwaliw, sa impiyerno ng mga pag-aalinlangan at agam-agam


Mabuhay kayong mga itinapon,
Nakarating na kayo sa ipinangakong himpilan, ipinaginip na himlayan.
“Dalawang pipit, nagtitimbangan sa isang siit, sumusungit ng bituin”
Di nagluwat, sumabak sa pakikibaka laban sa US-Marcos diktadurya—

Minagaling ang basag kaysa baong walang lamat

Sapagkat sa kaibuturan ng aksidente, pagbabakasakali, namumutawi
ang siglang pagbubuhatan ng tagumpay ng ating minimithi,
Hindi salita kundi hibo’t hikayat ng panaginip at guniguni, matris ng himagsikan,
ang lugar ng panahong nahinog sa yapos at aruga
ng mga magulang at mga gurong nagmalasakit…

Huwang mong basahin ito
Tatak ng titik titik ng tiktik
Huwag tingnan huwag sipatin
Huwag silipin huwag sulyapan
Tatak ng titik titik ng tiktik
Huwag mong titigan baka ka malikmata’t maalimpungatan….


Asul ang kulay ng langit sa parang at lambak ng Diliman—
Aso ko sa pantalan, lumukad ng pitong balon, humugos sa pitong gubat
bago natanaw ang dagat—

Walang katuturan ang panahon kung walang pangarap o pag-asa
Pagnanais ang matris ng pangyayari, pagnanasa ang ina ng katuparan
Kabiyak na niyog, magdamag na kinayod,
Naghasik ng mais, pagkaumaga ay palis—

Huli ng balintataw ang mailap na buntala ng iyong mithing talinghaga,
pangarap ng pithayang alumpihit pumaimbulog sa kawalan.




….Subalit ang kalayaang magpasiya’y nagkabisa
Sa isang tiyak na pook at itinakdang pagkakataon
Bagamat limitado ang kapangyarihang umalsa’t bumalikwas
Walang pangyayaring magaganap kung wala ka,
Sintang itinapon sa gitna ng maburak na Pasig.

Bumagsak ang eruplano ni Magsaysay ngunit nkalimutan
na ang CiA ahenteng Lansdale, sa gayon
Neokolonyang teritoryo pa rin tayo hanggang ngayon….

Agos de pataranta sa Palomares at Gardeniang dinalaw ng mga GI
pagkatapos sumuko si Aguinaldo’t nawala si David Fagen

Magkabalikat kami nina Ernie at David Bunao sa bilyaran sa Quiapo
Di inalintana kung may hirap, hanapin ang ginhawa
Aralin ng pakikipag-ugnayan sa Culi-Culi, Marikina, massage parlor sa Raon
Walang matimtimang birhen sa lagalag na kaluluwang naghuhunos
Di bumibilang ng bukas-makalawa upang paraanin ang nagparaan—

Walang matiyagang hayup sa magayumang kalapating sumasayad sa pampang….

Shantih Shantih Weiilala leia Wallala leialala

Bago umakyat sa Baguio, tumawid kami sa Tayug, Pangasinan, nina Mario Alcantara
at Pablo Ocampo, kumakampanya para kina Recto-Tanada
Hindi ko batid noon na malapit sa Binalonan, bayan ni Carlos Bulosan….
Noong 1972 ko na lang napag-alaman ito sa lilim ng Pulang Bandila

Lumangoy at lumutang sa usok sa Luneta’t daungan ng Manila Bay
Tudyo’t halakhak ng mga kaibigang nakausad mula sa Tundo hanggang Sta Cruz & Quiapo

Tatlong bundok ang tinibag bago dumating nang dagat

Walastik, para kina T.S. Eliot Joyce Nietzsche Sartre, tapos ang boksing sa Sarili
Walastik, naghalo ang balat at tinalupan sa turo ng pilosopong galing sa Popular Bookstore

Di naglaon, tumubo ang sungay at tumindi ang pagnanasang makahulagpos
—“karga nang karga, kahit walang upa” ang islogan ng anarkista
bago sa engkuwentro kina Marx Engels Lenin Lukacs noong dekada 1965-72…


Pumalaot na mula sa daungan ng Subic Bay
Lupa’t tubig ang nakalunsad
Apog at asin sa lagusan
Tinalunton ang landas pabulaos mula sa Ilog Montalban
Halos magkandarapa halos sumubsob
Hindi pa nakaraos
Hindi pa natutuklasan: kutob, ligamgam
Hangin at apoy ang bumuhos
Hindi pa yari ang proyektong idaraos
Pumalaot na sa hanggahang di-abot-tanaw
Humugos sa dalampasigan
Tubig lupa hangin apoy
Apoy hangin apoy







Ilang Pagninilay sa “Bakas” ni E. San Juan, Jr.



Sa puwang ng ilang pahina, hiniling ng patnugot na ipahayag ko ang ars poetikang nakatalik sa tulang “Bakas.” Balighong hinuha, ngunit sa tangkang paunlakan, sinubok ng makata ang interpretasyong sumusunod na bukas sa anumang pasubali, pagwawasto, at pagpapabulaan.
Pambungad na gabay muna: Huwag kalimutan na nakapaloob sa kolonyalismong orden ang lahat ng intelektwal sa ating bayan, mula 1899 hanggang 1946, at sa neokolonyalistang istrukturang saligan ng Estadong nakapailalim sa imperyalismong U.S. Dahil sa kapangyarihan ng pribadong pag-aari (kapitalista, piyudal) at di-makatarungang dibisyon ng trabaho, patuloy ang digmaan ng mga uri’t iba’t ibang sektor ng lipunan. Mistipikasyon at obskurantismo ang namayani sa klima ng panahon ng pagkagulang ng makata (1938-1948), at utilitaryanismong neoliberal mula 1949 hanggang sa ngayon. Samantala, maigting din ang paglago ng mga puwersang sumasalungat sa hegemonya ng kapitalismong global.
Walang tabula rasa sa naratibo ng talambuhay. Masasaksihan doon ang suliranin ng “Unhappy Consciousness” (Hegel) na diyalektika ng ugnayan ng alipin at panginoon sa islang sinakop. Kolonyalisadong mentalidad ang minana ng makata hanggang magkaroon ng kabatiran sa panahon ng anti-imperyalismong pag-aalsa laban sa U.S. interbensiyon sa Vietnam at pagsuporta sa diktaduryang Marcos (1972-1986). Ang katotohanan ng kolonisasyon/neokolonisasyon ng isang subalterno at kung paano maitatakwil ito’t makahuhulagpos sa nakasusukang bangungot ng pang-aapi’t dominasyon—ito ang tema ng “Bakas.” Sa trabaho ng negasyon, sa pamamagitan ng gawaing subersyon ng umiiral, bumubukal ang kinabukasan na siyang katubusan ng nakalipas. Ililigtas din nito ang Rason/Ideyang ipinagtanggol ng mga bayaning nagbuwis ng buhay upang mapalaya ang sambayanang lumilikha ng pagkataong Filipino at kalinangang batayan ng sosyalismong hinaharap.

Mapa ng Salaysay
Di na dapat sabihin na matatarok lamang ang buod ng karanasan kung pagdurugtungin sa banghay ng naratibo ang proseso ng pagsulong at kinahinatnan. Mauunawaan sa gayon ang Konsepto (Begriff) ng kolektibong kamalayang nagbabanyuhay. Kaya susubaybayan natin ang detalye ng panahon at lugar na sumasagisag dito. Bawat nilalang ay nakaangkla sa isang espasyong partikular, lunan o pook kung saan nakaluklok ang Ideyang Unibersal (“Geist,” bansag ni Hegel; ang kooperatibang humanidad, sa isip ni Marx-Engels). Ngunit walang kabuluhan ito kung hindi nailalakip sa daloy ng kasaysayan.
Naimungkahi ni Henri Lefebvre na ang produksiyon ng espasyo ay isang usaping kaugnay ng buhay o kamatayan para sa bawat lahi. Naisusog niya na walang makaiilag sa “trial by space—an ordeal which is the modern world’s answer to the judgment of God or the classical conception of fate” (The Production of Space, 1991, p. 416). Adhikain ng tula ang himaymayin ang ideolohiyang minana sa kolonisadong kultura ng Commonwealth at neokolonyang Republika sa paraan ng paghahalo’t pag-uugnay ng iba’t ibang kontradiksiyon ng karanasan, paghahalintulad ng pira-pirasong yagit ng gunita, alanganin, pagsisisi, panimdim, pangarap, pagkabigo, mapangahas na pagsabak sa daluyong ng pakikipagsapalaran. Makikilatis ang tunguhin ng bawat tagpo sa tula: ang balak na lumikha ng identidad mula sa metapisikal na indibidwalistikong ego tungo sa isang konsepto ng budhi ng pagkatao. Sa kabilang dako, layon din na makalinang ng isang diwa o matris ng kolektibong ahensiya ng uring gumagawa o yumayari—sa ibang salita, ang ahensiyang istorikal ng mga manggagawa’t pesante, ang bayang pumipiglas sa kadena ng imperyalismo’t burokratang kapitalismong namamayani hanggang ngayon. Ito ang protagonistang uugit sa transpormasyong radikal ng bansa.
Sinikap dito na isatinig ang kolektibong memorya sa pagbabay sa mga kontradiksiyong masisinag sa karanasan ng makata. Kailangang ilugar ang nangungusap na aktor sa isang takdang yugto ng kasaysayan. Kung walang katawan, walang mararamdamang pangyayari, walang bisa’t katuturan ang pontensiyal ng kaluluwa—ang birtud ng inkarnasyon. Sino ang bumulong ng balitang isisilang na ang Mesiyas? Kinakasangkapan ng sining ang ilusyon ng anyo o hitsurang nadarama upang maibunyag ang katotohanan, ang sintesis ng sangkap at kaakibat na totalidad. Sa gayon, hindi matatakasan ang araw-araw na pakikihamok, tuwa’t daing ng mga katawang magkabalikat. Bawat pulso ng wika’y siya ring pulso ng body politic, ang komunidad na kinabibilangan ng makata. Artikulasyon ng katutubong wika (hindi Ingles) ang mabisa’t mabungang medyasyon ng bahagi at kabuuan.


Mobilisasyon ng Pagnanasa
Nasaan tayo ngayon? Patungo saan? Balitang nakatambad sa Internet: Martial law sa Mindanao, patayan sa Marawi City ngayon, mistulang katuparan ng binhing naipunla noong dekada 1972-1986 kung saan namulat ang makata sa realidad. Paano maipangangatwiran ang sining/panitikan sa gitna ng gulo’t ligalig, malagim at nakasisindak na paghahari ng terorismong gawad ng imperyalistang globalisasyon? Paano maikikintal sa konsiyensiya ng lahi ang balangkas ng buhay na nakagapos sa anomie at alyenasyong naibunsod ng komodipikasyon ng bawat bagay—panggagahis o pagbebenta sa karanasan, pag-ibig, seks, panaginip? Lahat ay nalusaw sa fantasmagorya ng salapi at bilihing lumamon sa dugo’t espiritu ng bawat tao. Saan ang lunas sa malubhang salot na nagbuhat pa sa pagsakop ng Estados Unidos nang mabuwag ang proyekto ng himagsikan ng 1896 at nalubog tayo sa barbarismong laganap ngayon? Nabalaho ang kasaysayan natin sa gayuma ng komoditi/bilihin, sa diskursong burgis ng pamilihan/salapi at indibidwalistikong pagpapayaman.
Ituring na alegorya ang imahen, tayutay o talinghagang ikinabit dito sa ilang pook ng MetroManila kung saan nagkaroon ng kamalayang sosyal ang makata. Isinilang bago pumutok ang WW2, nasagap pa ang huling bugso ng nasyonalismo ng Philippine Commonwealth (Avenida Rizal). Nagbinata noong panahon ng Cold War, panahon ng Korean War at pagsugpo sa Huk rebelyon—rehimen nina Quirino, Magsaysay at Carlos Garcia (Montalban, Rizal). Tinalunton ang landas tungo sa pagpasok sa Jose Abad Santos High School noong nakatira sa Balintawak; at sa paglipat sa Craig, Sampaloc, nasabit sa mga anarkistang pulutong sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas.
Di sinasadya itong makitid na ruta ng uring petiburgis. Paniwala ito ng aktor/suheto ng pansaliring pagnanais. Natambad sa positibismong pilosopiya nina Dr. Ricardo Pascual at mga kapanalig—sina Cesar Majul at Armando Bonifacio—at nakisangkot ang awtor sa kampanya nina Recto-Tanada noong dekada 1954-58. Nakilahok din sa praxis ng diskursong sekular laban sa panghihimasok ng ilang reaksyonaryong kleriko sa akademya. Nakakawing sa mga pook na naitala ang ilang pangyayaring nagsilbing konteksto sa paghubog ng diwang mapagpalaya’t makabayan, diwang tumututol sa umiiral na ordeng puspos ng pagsasamantala’t korapsiyon, ng walang tigil na tunggalian ng uri, kaalinsabay sa pagsigla ng pambansang pagsisikap makalaya’t makamit ang tunay na kasarinlan at pambansang demokrasya.
Salungat sa pormalistikong estetikong iginigiit ng akademikong institusyon ang buhay ng makatang tinalunton dito. Litaw na nagbago ang kamalayan sa pamamagitan ng ugnayan ng praktika at teorya, hindi lang pragmatikong pakikilahok at pakikiramay. Maraming balakid, natural, ang ruta ng gitnang klase sa lipunan. Tubo sa petiburgesyang uri—guro sa haiskul at pamantasan ang mga magulang, na naging kamag-aral nina Loreto Paras-Sulit at henerasyon nina Jose Garcia Villa at Salvador P. Lppez—naging huwaran ang mga intelektuwal sa milyu ng Komonwelt. Unang pumukaw sa imahinasyon sng mga pelikulang Hollywood, mga huntahahan ng tiyo’t tiya sa Blumentritt, ang mga kuwento ng kaiskuwela sa Jose Abad Santos High School sa Meisic, Reina Regente, na ngayo’y higanteng mall sa Binondo. Nagpasigla rin si Manuel Viray, tanyag na kritiko, at naglaon sina Franz Arcellana, Rony Diaz, Ernie Manalo, Pete Daroy, Gerardo Acay, Carlos Platon, Ruben Garcia, atbp. Huwag nang banggitin ang palasintahing pagpaparaos ng panahon na pwedeng suriin sa isang nobelang education sentimental—tila kalabisan na ito, mangyari pa.

Naligaw na Mapa ng Paglalagalag
Bagamat kabilang sa mga petiburgesyang etsa-puwera, hindi biglang naging maka-kaliwa ang awtor—matinding impluwensiya sa simula ang Existentialismong naisadula nina Sartre, Camus, Marcel, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard. Ginagad sina Villa, T.S. Eliot, Wynhdam Lewis (tingnan ang “Man is a Political Animal” at iba pang detalye sa Kritika Kultura #26 ) at mga awtor na tinangkilik ng mga kaibigang kalaro sa bilyaran at kainuman sa Soler, Sta. Cruz, Quiapo at Balara. Tanda ko na laging bitbit ko noong katulong ako sa Collegian ang libro ni Sartre, What is Literature? Hihintayin pa ang dekada 1965-1975 bago mapag-aralan sina Mao, Lenin, Lukacs, Marx, Engels, Gramsci, atbp. Nauna si Mao noong huling dako ng dekada 1960, at sumunod si Georg Lukacs sa antolohiya kong Marxism and Human Liberation (1972). Mapapansin ang indibiduwalistikong himig ng tula, na hango kina T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, at W.B. Yeats, mga manunulat na naging ulirang padron noong aktibo sa UP Writers Club at sa krusadang anti-obskurantismong pinamunuan nina Pascual, Alfredo Lagmay, Augstin Rodolfo, Leopoldo Yabes, Elmer Ordonez, at iba pang guro sa pamantasan. Nakaimpluwensiya ang mga sallita’t kilos ng mga iskolar-ng-bayan, at naging tulay ang tradisyong humanistikong iyon sa pakikipagtulungan ko kina Amado V. Hernandez at Alejandro Abadilla noong mga dekada 1960-1967. Hindi dapat kaligtaan ang pakikisama ng awtor kina Ben Medina Jr., Rogelio Mangahas, Ave Perez Jacob, Efren Abueg, at ibang kapanalig sa kilusang makabayan.
Bakit panitik o sining ang napiling instrumento upang maisatinig ang mailap na katuturan/kahulugan ng buhay? Anong saysay ng tula sa harap ng mabilis na transpormasyon ng lipunan—ang pag-unlad nito o pagbulusok sa lusak ng barbarismo ni Duterte at oligarkong kasabwat? Noon, masasambit bigla ang pormularyo ng Talks at the Yenan Forum ni Mao. Sapantaha kong nakausad na tayo mula sa dogmatikong gawi. Sukat nang sipiin ang bigkas ni Amado Hernandez sa panayam niya tungkol sa sitwasyon ng mga manunulat noong 1968: “Ang kanilang mga katha ay hindi na bungangtulog kundi mga katotohanang nadarama, kaugnay at kasangkot sa mga pakikibaka ng lipunan at taongbayan at ng pagbabalikwas ng uring dukha laban sa inhustisya sosyal ng mga manghuhuthot at mapanlagom” (Panata sa Kalayaan ni Ka Amado, ed. Andres Cristobal Cruz, 1970).

Salungguhitan ang Sangandaan
Nasa kalagitnaan na tayo ng pagtawid sa ibayong pampang, bagamat naudlot ang usapang pangkapayaan sa pagitan ng gobyerno at National Democratic Front (NDFP). . Inaasahan kong naisaulo na natin ang prinsipyo ng materyalismong istorikal: ang konkretong analisis ng masalimuot na paglalangkap ng sari-saring dimensiyon ng anumang krisis sa kasaysayan. Umpisahan natin ang mapanuring pagtalakay ng kasaysayan sa metodong Marksista: malawak ang imbak na posibilidad ng sambayanan, ngunit ito’y binhi pa lamang ng kinabukasang nahihimbing sa pusod ng kasalukuyan (ayon kay Ernst Bloch). Gayunpaman, hindi natin mahuhulaaan ang tiyak na oras o sandali ng kagyat na pagsalimbay at pagdagit ng anghel ng Katubusan.
Ito ang dahilan sa pagdiin ng makata sa kontradiksiyon ng di-maiiwasang pangangailan at libertad, ang larangan ng contingency at ng nesesidad. Naitanghal na ito ng mga suryalistikong artista at nina Pablo Neruda, Bertolt Brecht, Lu Hsun, Aime Cesaire, atbp. At naipaliwanag din ito sa pilosopiya nii C.S. Peirce (ang polarisasyon ng tadhana at aksidente; tychism, synechism). Sa paglagom, ang kalayaan ay nagmumula sa pagkabatid sa batas ng kalikasan (tendensiya, hindi istriktong batas, batay sa galaw o kilos ng produktibong lakas ng komunidad).
Sa masinop na imbestigasyon, masisilip din ito sa Tao Te Ching, o sa akda nina Clausewitz at Sun Tzu hinggil sa arte ng digmaan. Kaugnay nito, pag-isipan din natin ang turo na ang sining ay hindi tuwirang salamin ng realidad kundi simbolikong praktika. Sa pamamagitan ng retorika, talinghaga, sagisag, binibigyan ng solusyong ideolohikal o pang-imahinasyon ang kongkretong kontradiksiyong pulitikal-sosyal sa lipunan. Tungkulun ng manapanuring aktibista ang pagsiyasat at pagsaliksik sa subtexto na mga kontradiksiyong pinoproblema sa karaniwang buhay ng madla sa lipunan.
Pahimakas sa Patnubay ng mga Bathala

Sa larangan ng malikhaing panulat, desideratum sa makata ang paghabi ng makabagong artikulasyon sa loob ng parametro ng sistemang lingguwistika, at sa musikero ang pagyari ng baryasyon sa tema sa loob ng kumbensyonal na kuwadrong sonata o fugue, halimbawa. Lumisan na ang Musang maipagbubunyi. Naiwan na lamang ang gumuhong labi ng malungkuting alingawngaw ni Maria Makiling sa Pinagbuhayan ng bundok Banahaw. Marahil, bukas, makikipag-ulayaw tayo sa mga Pulang Mandirigmang nagdiriwang sa liberated zone ng Sierra Madre.
Balik-aralin ang proposisyon ni Sartre: Kanino mananagot ang manunulat? O sa pagtatasa ni Brecht: dapat bang mang-aliw o magturo ang manunulat? Maari bang pag-isahin ang naihiwalay sa aksyomang klasikong dulce et decorum, ang responsibilidad na magpataas ng kamalayan habang nagliliwaliw at nagsasaya? Maibabalik ba ang gintong panahon nina Balagtas at Lope K. Santos?
Sa panahon ng kapitalismong neoliberal, at madugong militarisasyon ng bansa (sa ironikal na taguring Oplan Pangkapayapaan), paano maisasakatuparan ang pagbabalikwas sa lumang rehimen at pagtatag ng makatarungang orden? Paano mapupukaw ang manhid na sensibilidad ng gitnang-uri na nabulok na sa walang-habas na komodipikasyon? Hindi na matutularan ang huwarang kontra-modernismo ng makatang Charles Baudelaire, halimbawa, na nagsiwalat ng kabulukan ng burgesyang lipunan noong ika-1800 siglo (ayon kay Walter Benjamin,The Writer of Modern Life, 2006).
Ano ang dapat gawin? Malayo na tayo sa milyung inilarawan ni Ka Amado noong 1968. Sa ngayon, ang katungkulan ng mandirigmang makata (mithiin ng awtor ng “Bakas”) ay makisangkot sa pagbuo ng hegemonya ng proletaryo’t magbubukid bilang organikong intelektuwal ng nagkakaisang-hanay (tagubilin ni Gramsci) sa panahon ng imperyalismong sumasagka sa pagtatamasa ng kasarinlan at kaunlaran ng bansa. Huwag kalimutan ang Balanggiga? Oo, subalit huwag ding kalimutan ang Maliwalu, Escalante, Mendiola, Marawi! Itampok ang bumabangong kapangyarihan ng sambayanan! Sa halip na mag-fokus sa egotistikang talambuhay, ibaling ang isip sa mabalasik na bugso’t pilantik ng kolektibong gunita na mauulinigan sa musika ng “Bakas.” Sukat na itong magsilbing pahimakas sa kabanatang ito ng paglalakbay ng manlilikha sa mapanganib na pakikisalamuha (hindi pakikipagkapwa) sa digmaang-bayang rumaragasa’t patuloy na gumigimbal at bumabalantok sa buhay ng bawat nilalang sa milenyong ito. —##

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— ni E. San Juan, Jr.
Professorial Chairholder, Polytechnic University of the Philippines

Ang tao ba ay katumbas lamang ng kanyang katawan, o bahagi nito? Ang kasarian ba ay walang iba kundi organong seksuwal? Seks ba ang buod ng pagkatao?

Kung hindi man ito kalakaran, ang tumututol ay siyang nagtatampok ng problema, bagamat salungat sa namamaraling opinyon o doxang pangmadla. Sinomang bumanggit ng seks ay kasabwat na ng mga bastos at mahalay. Sabi-sabi ito. Batikusin mo, ikalat mo’t palaganapin. Bakit mali ito?

Ang usapang seksuwal ay di na masagwa o mahalay ngayon. Buhat noong maging sikat, bagamat kontrobersiyal, ang “Vagina Monologues” ni Eve Ensler, tila hindi na nakasisindak tumukoy sa mga maselang bahagi ng katawan ng babae (Wikipedia 2015). Ang estilong bugtong o talinghaga sa seks–gawaing pakikipagtalik–ay itinuturing na sintomas ng neurosis o maselang sakit ng budhi. Paano ang seks ng transgender, hybrid o cyborg?

Ordinaryo na lamang ang seksuwal chitchat sa kontemporaryong praktika sa sining at publikong huntahan. Bakit hindi kung laganap na ang advertisement sa Viagra at iba pang drogang nagpapaudyok sa hindutan? Anong masama sa masarap na “dyugdyugan”? Di ba utos kina Eba at Adan: “Multiply…Magparami kayo!” Kung di kaya, uminom ng pilduras o di kaya’y virgin coconut oil. OK ito sa mga pariseo ng simbahan.

Wala bang sariling ating pukaw-pukyutan? Katutubong pukyotan- putakang pangsarili. Biro ng iba, kung instrumento ng progresibong sektor ang popularidad ni Ensler, bakit di pumatol ang “Penis/Balls Monologue”? Kung sobrang tsobinismo o makismo ito, e di symposium o colloquium ng mga genitalia? O sunod kina Bakhtin at Levinas, diyalogo ng balun- balunan, bukong-bukong at puwit? Demokratikong pagpapalitan ng kuro- kuro at kiliti. May reklamo ka?

Pambihirang Pakulo

Iwan na muna natin ang katawang performative. Dumako tayo sa milyung espirituwal, sa palengkeng neoliberal. Pambihira talaga. Walang clone si Ensler. Isa na siyang korporasyon ng Power Elite ng Global North.

Isang haligi ng Imperyong U.S. Naging selebriting burgis si Ensler, kumita ng di-makalkulang yaman at prestihiyo sa di umano’y peministang hamon sa moralidad ng puritanismong lipunan.

Nagsilbing kultural kapital ang cause de celebre, ginawang passport o pretext para isalba ang kababaihan saan mang lupalop tulad ng neokolonyang Pilipinas. Talo pa niya si Mother Teresa. Ililigtas sina Mary Jane Veloso, Andrea Rosal, Wilma Tiamson, at iba pang inaaping babae sa rehiyon ng BangsaMoro at Lumad (San Juan 2015).

Huwag nang idawit ang Birhen, o babaylang Reyna sa TV at pelikula. Hindi biro, naging talisman o magayumang lakas ang seks ng babae. Sino ang may reklamo sa One Billion Rising ni Ensler? Ang Vagina Men sa Quezon City o sa Congo? Pati mga gerilya ng New People’s Army ay nagsasayaw sa direksiyon ni Ensler sa tulong ng mga kakutsabang kabaro. HIndi na monologo kundi koro ng mga diwata sa gubat kung saan ang masa ay mga isda, ayon kay Mao.
Magaling! Tuwang-tuwa ang mga hito, talakitok, dilis, bia, tanggigi, bakoko at tilapya. Mabuhay ang rebolusyong umiindak, naglalambing. Kung hindi tayo kasama sa sayaw, sambit ni Mother Jones, bakit magpapakamatay?

Karnibal ng mga Paru-Paro?

Kaalinsabay ang usapang puk# sa liberalisasyon ng diskursong seksuwal sa klimang anti-kapitalistang protesta sa buong mundo. Tampok dito ang Women’s Liberation movement (simula kina Simone de Beauvoir o Shulamith Firestone) noong dekada 1960-1970. Bumunsod na nga sa pagturing sa prostitusyon bilang sex work/trabahong makalupa. Ewan ko kung anong palagay ni Aling Rosa at mga Lola ng “Lolas Kampanya Survivor” na naglakbay sa kung saan-saan, salamat sa tulong ni Nelia Sancho, ang coordinator ng grupo (tungkol sa industriyalisasyon ng seks, konsultahin si Barry 1995, pahina 146-51).

Sa ngayon, 300-400 Lola ang buhay pa sa bilang ng 2000 “Comfort Women” sa Pilipinas. Wala pang hustisya sina Lola Julia, Lola Fedencia, atbp hanggang ngayon. Patuloy nilang iginigiit na ang ginawa ng mga Hapon noong giyera ay hindi pag-upa sa babaeng trabahador kundi talagang gahasang tortyur, panggagahis sa sibilyan, isang masahol na krimen laban sa humanidad. Usapang putangna iyon, walang duda. Ang babae ay makinang ginamit upang magparaos ang mga sundalong Hapon, tulad ng mga “hospitality girls” sa Angeles City, Olongapo, at iba pang R & R sentro ng US sa kanilang pandaramong sa Vietnam, Cambodia at Laos noong mga dekada 1960-1980.

Sa kasalukuyan, walang pang artista tulad ni Kenneth Goldsmith na mangagahas sumulat ng isang tula tungkol sa “Katawan ni Lola Rosa, “Comfort Woman.” Nang sambitin ni Goldsmith ang kanyang tulang konseptuwal, “The Body of Michael Brown” (Goldsmith 2015), katakut-takot na puna’t panunuri ang sumabog sa Internet at mass media. Bakit? Ang katawan ng Aprikano-Amerikanong biktima ng karahasan ng pulis sa Ferguson, Missouri, ay tila naging banal, sagrado, hindi puwedeng gawing paksa sa makalupang aktibidad. “Off Limits,” wika nga, sa mga puting naghahari, puting makapangyarihan (White Supremacy).

Akala natin ay nasira na ang mga hanggahan, regulasyon, o bakod na naghihiwalay sa iba’t ibang uri, paksa, ugali, kaisipan. Akala natin, kung popular na ang “Vagina Monologues,” maaari nang pakialaman ang anumang bagay; wala nang pag-aaring pribado o di kakabit ng espasyong komun o komunidad. Paano mangyayari ito kung umiiral pa ang pribadong pag-aari ng mga kasangkapan sa produksiyon ng ikabubuhay? Umiiral pa ang tubo, salapi, pribadong lupa o espasyo. Binibili pa ang lakas-paggawa, hindi lamang lakas kundi buong katawan at kaluluwa mo. Pati panaginip mo, damdamin, iyong matimtimang pagnanais o pangarap mong kalakip ng iyong puso’t budhi. Walang sagrado sa korporasyong multinasyonal, sa palengke ng kapitalismong global. Biniro ni Goldsmith, kaya siya natisod sa apoy ng umaatikabong alitang di lamang kultural kundi tahasang politikal at moral.

May aral kaya ito sa mga alagad ng ONE BILLION RISING? Anong panganib na sumusunod tayo sa modo ng publicity ng isang haligi ng burgesyang imperyo? Paano mababago ang diwa at institusyong mapang- api kung wala tayong kabatiran sa maselan at masalimuot na rasismo’t makauring ideolohiyang kaakibat ng patron ng produktong inilalako ni Ensler?

Radikal at Mapanuri? Bawal! Huli ‘yan!

Bago sumabog ang peminismong radikal, mahaba na rin ang tala ng rebelyon ng mga alagad-ng-sining laban sa sensura, ipokrisya’t pagbabawal sa malayang paglalahad. Historya ito ng ebolusyon ng modernidad. Kasi, laging pinaglalangkap ng Patriarkong Orden ang militanteng sining at pornograpya. Hindi sumusunod sa istandard ng burgesya. Taktikang pagbubusal iyon sa kritikang kamalayan. Isipin na lang ang kaso sa dalawang nobelang Ulysses ni James Joyce at Lady Chatterley’s Love ni D.H. Lawrence, o mga libro ni Henry Miller. PatiCatcher in the Rye at Huckleberry Finn ay pinagbabawal sa ilang aklatang pampubliko sa U.S.

Nakakabagot itong ipokrisya, testigo sa paghahati ng lipunang mapagsamantala’t makahayup. Huwag na nating balik-tanawin pa ang mga sinaunang halimbawa ng Satyricon ni Petronius, Decameron ni Boccacio,Gargantua at Pantagruel ni Rabelais, at mga akda ni Marquis de Sade. Sinubok nilang sugpuin at pigilin ang pag-unlad ng kamalayan. Laging umiigpaw sa kontrol ng mga naghahari ang lasa at nais ng madla, hindi ng mga awtoridad na umuusig sa mga “ideological State apparatus” ng makauri’t mapagsamantalang lipunan.

Sa larangan ng pintura, masilakbo’t maengganyo ang balitaktakan. Armadong puwersa ang nakapangingibabaw, hindi argumentong rasyonal. Nakasalalay ang kapangyarian ng Patriyarkong Burgesya. Pwedeng banggitin ang eskandalo tungkol sa “Olympia” (1865) ni Edouard Manet, “The Origin of the World” (1866) ni Gustave Courbet, “Ecstatic Unity” (1969) ni Dorothy Iannone, at mga litrato ni Robert Mapplethorpe. Halimbawa naman ng mga paggamit ng tema o imaheng relihiyoso, mababangit ang eskandalo tungkol sa “Piss Christ” (1987) ni Andres Serrano o “The Holy Virgin May” (1999) ni Chris Ofili (Frank 2015)..

Sa atin naman, magugunita ang pagsasara ng “KULO” exhibit at ang “Politeismo” (2011) ni Mideo Cruz. Kung itinanghal ang “KULO” sa Pransiya o Italya, marahil walang problema. Baka naging mabenta pa ang mga mapangahas na likhang-sning, karibal ng mga milyong dolyar na produkto nina Andy Warhol at De Kooning.

Ngunit sa neokolonyang mahal, ang diskurso ng libog o praktikang pukaw-pukyutan ay tabu pa rin, sa pangkalahatan. Merong pasubali. Sa akademyang sekular, umiiral ang regulasyon sa takdang lugar ng usapang libog. Ngunit nananaig pa rin ang tradisyonal na moralidad ng iba’t ibang simbahan–mga ugali, gawi, kostumbre sa kilos, salita, at sentido komun ng bayan.Sino ba ang nakikinabang sa ganitong paghihigpit? Di na tayo makababalik sa hardin ng karinyo’t lampungan (hinggil sa kontrobersyang legal at etikal kaugnay sa pornograpiya, konsultahin si Strossen 1995).

Magtiyaga na lang kayo sa kampo ng mga nudist, susog ng mga miron. O pornograpikong eksena/video sa Internet. Mag-ingat ka, ang surveillance ngayon ay di lamang estratehiya ng pulis, kundi maniobra ng mga espiya sa Internet, satellite, drones—wala kang ligtas! Puputaktahin ka ng isang katerbang buwisit at kamyerdahang panghihimasok.

Hamon kina Gabriela Silang at Mga Babaylan

Paano kung ambisyon mo ang tumulad kay Shigeko Kubota? Lalaki ka man, puwede ka ring gumaya kay Kubota.

Sino itong Kubeta? Kubota po, hindi kubeta. Ipinanganak siya sa Niigata, Hapon, noong 1937, kalahi ng mga Budistang monghe (Wikipedia 2015). Naging kasapi siya sa organisasyong Fluxus sa New York noong dekada 1960. Si Kubota ay tanyag na avantgarde video-iskultor, lumilikha ng video installation, sumusuri sa pamana ni Marcel Duchamp, ama ng modernismong sining. Kalahok ang mga maraming likha niya sa Dokumenta 7, Kessel (1982) at iba pang museo’t galeri. Naging propesor siya ng teknolohiya ng video/pelikula sa iba’t ibang unibersidad at institusyong global. Unang napag-aralan niya ang komposisyon ni John Cago noong 1963 sa pagsasanib niya sa grupong musikero sa Tokyo, ang Ongaku, kasama si Yoko Ono.

Naging tanyag si Kubota sa “Vagina Painting,” na ginanap sa Perpetual Fluxus Festival,Cinematheque, New York noong Hulyo 1965. May foto ng akto niya sa libro ni Peter Osborne, Conceptual Art (2002), pahina 71. Subaybayan din siya sa Internet sa dokumentasyon ng “Vagina Painting” at iba pang likhang-sining niya (Godfrey 1998).

Sa pangyayaring ito, inilatag ni Kubota ang isang malapad na papel sa sahig. Doon nagpinta siya nang abstraktong linya sa pulang kulay sa bisa ng galaw ng brotsa. Nakakabit ang brotsa sa singit. Huwag mo nang itanong kung gaano katagal ang aksyon at ano ang reaksyon ng awdiyens noon. Sinasagisag ang kanyang vagina bilang bukal ng inspirasyon. Ang pulang pinta ay kahalintulad ng dugo sa regla na hulog mula sa lugar na tinaguriang kawalan ng phallus (sa metaporikang pakahulugan; ibig pahiwatig, hindi penis o titi). Sa gayong palabas, pinasimulan niya ang isang perspektibang makababae sa tipikal na pagtatanghal ng Fluxus hinggil sa operasyong pagbabakasakali, pasumala o patsansing- tsansing(“chance operations”).

Iminungkahi ni Kubota sa kanyang akto ang isang alternatibo sa agresibong teknik ng action o drip painting ni Jackson Pollock. Isang hamon din ang ginanap ni Kubota sa papel ng babaeng artista na laging pinapatnubayan, ginagabayan, at inuugitan ng kalalakihan–awtoritaryong disiplina ng mga Patriyarko. Dagdag pa, pinuna ni Kubota ang paggamit sa babae bilang brotsang buhay, nilubog sa pintang kulay asul, na pinagapang sa kanbas, na masasaksihan sa Anthropometrie serye ni Yves Klein noong dekada 1950-1960.

Salungat si Kubota (na asawa ng bantog na si Nam June Paik) sa ganoong paggamit ng katawan ng babae, isang uri ng “human traffiking” ng kababaihan. Kapanalig niya sa krusadang ito sina Yoko Ono at Carolee Schneeman, na hindi masyadong nagustuhan ng kanilang grupong Fluxus (Osborne 2002).

Sunod ba ang One Billion Rising sa pintang pukyutan ni Kubota? Aktibo pa rin si Kubota sa New York. I-Google ninyo. Uliran ang kanyang halimbawang napasimulan sa pagpukpok sa pukyutan upang pukawin ang bihag at nakukulong na kamalayan. Isang sandata iyon sa conscientizationng madla.Bakit hindi? Bakit hindi gamitin ang katawan–na siyang lugar ng “Kingdom” ng Tagapagligtas–upang palayain ang pagkatao’t kaluluwa (kundi pa naisangla o naipagbili)? Bakit pa nagkaroon ng inkarnasyon kung tayo’y mga anghel na walang puwit o bunganga, walang titi o puk%?

Anong reklamo mo? Manunuod na lang ba tayo ng “Fifty Shades of Grey” at YOUTUBE seryeng pornograpiko, at mga artifaktong pabalbal sa Internet tulad ng “Kakantutin ka lang nila” (mahigit 4,081,933 ang taga- subaybay sa YOUTUBE; Lordganja 2015). Kuntento na ba tayong laging nakatungaga sa mga strip-tease at sirko ng mga egotistikong selebriti sa TV at pelikula? Marami tayong reklamo, sigurado, kaya dapat ipahayag na ito. Pasingawin at ibilad ang mga pasakit, himutok, hinanakit. Kundi, baka magkarambulan sa sikolohiyang pantayo’t pambarkada.

Alam nating lahat ang tunay na situwasyon. Tulad ng anumang bagay, puspos ng masalimuot na kontradiksiyon. Lahat ng bahagi ng katawan ay may reklamo, laluna ang sikmura, uhaw sa hustisya. Marami nang pasubali: kaya bang ipahiwatig ang damdamin ng buong body politic sa makitid at partikularistikong paraan ng Vagina Monologue o Vagina Painting? Binugbog at pinarusahang mga katawan ng sambayanan, isinasangkot sa pambansang mobilisasyon ang lahat ng kasariang inaapi. Bukod ito sa One Billion Rising.

Pag-ugnayin muli ang pinagwatak-watak na bahagi ng katawan upang mabuo muli ang kalayaan at pagkakapantay-pantay na winasak ng imperyalismo’t kapitalismong global. Usapang mapagpalaya, hindi lang usapang puk%, ang rebolusyong sumusulong, kabilang ang lahat ng nakikiramay ngayon kina Ka Leoncio Pitao at Ka Vanessa Limpag, biktima ng barbarismong kabuktutan ng rehimeng Aquino at US imperyalismo (Dulce 2015). Mabuhay sina Kumander Parago at Ka Vanessa, bayani ng lahi, laging buhay sa puso ng masa.


Barry, Kathleen. 1995. The Prostitution of Sexuality. New York: New York University Press. Nakalimbag.

Dulce, Leon. 2015. ” ‘Taytay Parago’ and the Defiance of Paquibato.”Kalibutan. Nakapost sa Bulatlat (2 July).<> Webpage.

Frank, Priscilla. 2015. “A Brief History of Art Censorship from 1508 to 2014.” HuffPost Arts and Culture < art- censorship_n_646510.html> Webpage.

Godfrey, Tony. 1998. Conceptual Art. New York: Phaidon Press. Nakalimbag.

Goldsmith, Kenneth. 2015. “The Body of Michael Brown.” Facebook of Kenneth Goldsmith. Entry for March 15, 2015. Webpage.

Lordganja. 2015. “Kakantutin ka lang nila lyrics.”; Webpage.


NPA Panay. 2014. “One Billion Rising, by the Red Detachment of Women.” YOUTUBE. Webpage.

Osborne, Peter. 2002. Conceptual Art. New York: Phaidon Press Lit. Nakalimbag.

San Juan, E. 2015. Between Empire and Insurgency. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press. Nakalimbag.

Strossen,Nadine. 1995. Defending Pornography. New York: Doubleday. Nakalimbag.

Wikipedia. 2015. “Eve Ensler.” <; Webpage.

Wikipedia. 2015. “Shigeko Kubota.” <https// kubota> Webpage.


E. San Juan, Jr.
Professorial Lecturer, Polytechnic University of the Philippines E-mail: <>



SINING KONSEPTWAL, PANITIKANG POST-KONSEPTWAL: Estetika, Politika, Rebolusyon ng Masa–ni E. San Juan, Jr.


ni E. San Juan, Jr.


The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum, a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.

—Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks

The class struggle, which is always present to a historian influenced by Marx, is a fight for the crude and material things without which no refined and spiritual things could exist…. There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.

—Walter Benjamin, These on the Philosophy of History


     Malubhang sitwasyon ng kulturang kontemporaryo—sintomas ng masahol na kondisyon ng kabuhayan sa Pilipinas. Bagamat maitatambuli na tayo’y nakarating na sa saray ng mga modernisadong kalinangan sa panahon ng globalisasyon at paghahari ng neoliberlismong kapital, nakalubog pa rin tayo sa piyudal at neokolonisadong kumunoy, Hindi lamang ito totoo sa ekonomiya at pulitika. Kaagapay rin ang pagkabimbin sa lumang tradisyon ng burgesiyang pananaw, kaakibat ng mapagsunurang gawing minana sa kolonyalismong Espanyol. Magkatuwang ang pagkakulong sa lumang pananampalataya—utos/ritwal ng simbahang Katoliko ang nananaig—at indibidwalistikong asta at malig ng pagkilos. Hindi ko tinutukoy ang atrasadong teknolohiya kundi ang inaaliping mentalidad/saloobin ng mga mamamayang sa neokolonyang sinakop dito sa Timog-Silangang Asiya.

Mapanghamong tanong: maaari kayang malunasan ang di-pantay na pagsulong kung babaguhin natin ang kamalayan? O lagi ba itong tagasunod lamang sa ekonomiyang pagbabago, ayon sa nakasanayang modelo ng “base/superstructure”? Idinaramay ko rito hindi lamang mga alagad-ng-sining at intelihensiya kundi lahat ng mamamayang nag-aangkin ng budhi at pintig ng pagkalinga sa kapwa-tao (San Juan 2016).

Subukan nating ipanukala ang pag-aaral at paghalaw ng ilang leksiyon sa konseptwalisting kaisipan na sumibol sa Kanluran noong dekada 1960 & 1970, hanggang sa post-konseptwalistang epokang isinaad ni Peter Osborne sa kanyang The Postconceptual Condition (2018). Ang mga pagbabagong naganap matapos ang Digmaang Pandaigdig 2 (WW II) ay kaalinsabay ng mga kilusang Civil Rights, anti-Vietnam War, at pakikibaka ng mga kabataan at kababaihan na sumukdol sa Paris 1968 rebelyon. Sumiklab rin ang anti-imperyalistang giyera sa Aprika, Palestine, at Latino-Amerika (Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada), at sa Pilipinas sa paglunsad ng Bagong Hukbong Bayan at paghuhunos ng Partido Komunista sa ilalim ng Kaisipang Mao-Tsetung. Hindi maihihiwalay ang materyalistikong basehan ng mga pulitiko-ideolohiyang pagsulong na taglay ang diyalektikang (hindi tuwirang) pagtutugma. Gayunman, dapat isaloob na masalimuot ang ugnayan ng mga elemento sa totalidad ng anumang politiko-ekonomiyang pormasyon.

Krisis ng Sistema, Sigalot sa Kaluluwa

Pangunahing nawasak ang banghay ng modernisasyong sekular (alyas kapitalismong pampinansiyal). Isiniwalat ng 1917 Bolshevik Revolution ang di-mapipigilang pagbulusok ng kapitalismo-imperyalismong orden. Lumala ang krisis nito sa 1929 Wall Street bagsak, at pagkatapos ng WW II, ang pagtamo ng kasarinlan ng dating kolonisadong bayan, pati na Vietnam at Cuba. Nabuwag ang naratibo ng walang-taning na pag-unlad ng kapitalismong naka-sentro sa kompetisyon ng bawat indibidwal, sa walang patid na akumulasyon ng tubo (surplus-value) at dominasyon ng Kalikasan. Kaagapay nito ang pagtakwil sa ilang paniniwalang aksyomatiko sa larang ng sining, tulad ng: 1) Isang tiyak na hiyerarkya ng kahalagahan nakabatay sa isang matatag na kaayusang global; 2) dogma na nakasalig ang sining sa pagsalamin/pagkopya sa realidad; 3) pag-aari ng artista/manlilikha ang isang galing/birtud, talino at kasanayang inaruga sa disiplinang personal; 4) namumukod ang artistang henyo, kaakuhang taglay ang mahiwaga’t banal na imahinasyon/dunong; 5) ang diskurso sa sining ay nakasalig sa tatlong kategoryang magkalangkap: artista, likhang-sining, awdiyens.

Sa kanluran, ang paglunsad ng kilusang avantgarde laban sa modernismo (binansagang postmodernismo, dekonstruksiyon, poststrukturalismo) ay tumingkad sa taong 1966-1972. Panahon ng “dematerialization of the art object,” hinalinhan ang romantikong aura/fetish ng obra-mastra  (mula Michelangelo hanggang Cezanne,Picasso, Pollock) ng idea/information art, sa kalaunan, conceptual art. Naging isang tipo ng art-labor ang pagmumuni o pagninilay na inilaan sa interogasyon ng problema ng sining (Corris 2013). 

Kung tutuusin, ang kaisipang tinutukoy ay pagsisiyasat at pag-analisa sa kondisyon, haka-haka, pala-palagay, prehuwisyo na namamahala sa pagyari, sirkulasyon at pagpapahalaga sa sining. Mithiin nito ang buwagin ang modernismong pangitain (Weltanschauung) katalik ng burgesyang ideolohiya’t ekonomyang pampolitika. Kalakip ng burgesyang modernidad ang malubhang alyenasyon at reipikasyong bunga ng pagsikil sa uring manggagawa at pagsasamantala sa mayorya. Adhikain nitong wasakin ang hangganang humahati sa araw-araw na ordinaryong buhay at katas-diwa ng sagradong sining—ang pinakabuod na hangarin ng makaproletaryong avantgarde sa kasayayan. Huwag kalimutan na mayroon ding reaksyonaryo’t pasistang avantgarde (Marinetti, Dali), kaya dapat kongkretong analisis sa masalimuot na pagsalikop ng mga puwersa sa iba’t ibang antas ng galaw ng lipunan sa tiyak na yugto, hindi mekanikal na paghimay sa habi ng historya (Morawski 1978).

Kongkretong Imbestigasyon sa Milyu

Matutunghayan ang mga paniniwalang nabanggit sa kasalukuyang dominanteng panlasa ngayon. Kalagayang neokolonyal pa rin bagamat nayanig na ang status quo sa 1986 Pebrero, “People Power” rebelyon at masiglang pagbanyuhay ng pambansang-demokratikong pakikibaka. Mistulang hindi naaapekto ng sunod-sunod na krises pampolitika ang mga guwardya ng elitistang istandard . Ihanay natin ang ilang ebidensiyang kalunos-lunos.

Sa pambungad ni Virgilio Almario sa kanyang Hiyas ng Tulang Tagalog, inatupag lamang ang  kaibahan ng tema o paksang naghihiwalay kina Teo Baylen at Amado Hernandez, walang puna sa tunggalian ng mga puwersang historikal. Makitid at mababaw rin ang makasektaryang pagwari sa tatak modernismo dahil gumagamit ng “malayang taludturan…at kaisipang pribado’t indibidwalista” (2015, xxv). Sa kabilang dako, ayon kay Rene Villanueva, ang dula “ay laging nagtatangkang isaayos ang isang tiyak na karanasan upang mapaghanguan ng manonood o mambabasa ng mga pananaw tungkol sa buhay” (2000, 103). Lumalayo sa moralistikong tingin ni Villanueva si Gary Devilles sa pinamatnugutan niyang antolohiya, Pasakalye. Mapagwawari na ang talinghaga ng paglalakbay, punto at kontrapunto, ay liberalismong pagsukat sa “muhon ng panitikan” na hindi maikukulong sa simbolo ng transportasyon o hulagway hango sa teknolohiya. 

Hindi pa tumatalab ang kuro-kurong radikal ng mga Minimalista’t konseptwalista. 

Isang parikala na masisinag natin ang estetika ng mga sinaunang pantas (tulad nina Inigo Regalado, Lope K. Santos, Julian Cruz Balmaseda (Zafra 2013) na hango sa klasikong modelo nina Aristotle at Horace sa militanteng panunuri ni Bienvenido Lumbera. Sinuyod ni Lumbera ang pagsulong ng kritisismo mula sa pormalistikong pananaw hanggang sa realismong sosyal. Itinakwil na ang tradisyonal na ng pamantayan ng “ganda,” “lalim” o “kinis,” subalit kay Lumbera, mas importante ang “bisa” ng pagpapahayag o pagpapadama, “pagtatampok sa nilalaman” (2017, 36), na di tinitiyak kung sa anong layon o adhika nakatutok ang bisa, at  kung anong kontekstong historikal nakaangkla ang nilalaman. Sina Isagani Cruz at Soledad Reyes ay nagpatuloy sa kanilang empirisistikong talaan ng mga awtor na marunong makibagay sa kalakaran, tulad nina Nemesio Caravana at A.C. Fabian na batid “kung paano pawiwilihin ang mga taong basahin ang kanilang mga akda” (1984, 258).   Lahat ng nabanggit na opinyon ay nakasandig pa rin sa lumang tatsulok ng artista, likhang-sining, awdiyens—ang padron ng aprubadong panulat.

Oryentasyong Pangkasaysayan

Uminog at umalimbukay ang kosmos ng diskursong mapanuri sa epoka ng neoliberalisasyon. . Pagkaraang lagumin ang tradisyonal na konsensus tungkol sa mga katangian ng likhang-sining, kuro-kuro ni Stefan Morawski na hindi esensyal na sangkap ang ekspresyon, techne, at porma: “Conceptualism is but the final step on the journey ‘beyond’ art” (1974, 120)—ibig sabihin, iyong tipong nakagawian. Ilang bagong pangyayari ang “theatricalization” sa sining, ang ritwalistikong paglalaro sa “performance art,” collage sa pelikula (Godard) at musika (Stockhausen). Salungat naman ang dulang walang dulaan nina Jean Genet at Beckett, sampu ng mga nobela nina Robbe-Grillet, Butor, Calvino, Garcia Marquez—ang estruktura nito ay bunga ng partisipasyon ng mambabasa o nanonood. 

Tigmak ng ikonoklastikong hakbang ang postmodernistang improbisasyon. Dito lumantad na ang politika ng distribusyon ng “sensibles,” dalumat at danas, na tinalakay ni Jacques Ranciere sa The Politics of Aesthetics (2004), ay makatuturan pa rin bagamat ang tuon ng pansin ay nailipat sa yugto ng kaisipang humihikayat at umaantig patungong praktika/aksyon.

Umabot na tayo sa nagpagkasunduang punto. Ang prinsipyong umuugit sa bisa ng representasyon sa iba’t ibang midiya at sa nakasentrong-sabject sa rason/katwiran ay inusig, nilitis, at hinatulang walang silbi sa pagpapaliwanag sa krisis ng modernismo. Hindi lumaganap ito. Nakakulong pa rin ang akademikong teksbuk nina P. Flores at Cecilia de la Paz (1997) sa pagdiin sa pormalistikong paradigm kung saan “teknik at imahinasyon” ang nakatampok. Bagamat nakadawit sa panlipunang usapin, mahigpit pa rin ang bigat ng subhetibong pagkiling mula kina Kant kung saan ang hatol-estetika “cannot be other than subjective (1963, 4; tingnan din si Collingwood 1953). Napapanahon na ang paghuhunos. Kailangang sariwain ang kamalayang pangkasaysayan upang matalikuran ang dogmatikong ugali ng sistemang umuugit sa paninindigang makasarili at pananalig sa batas ng negosyo’t pamilihan.

Simula pa ng kilusang Dada, suryalismo, Constructivism, Cubismo, hanggang Pop Art, Fluxus (kabilang na si Yoko Ono) at Minimalism, unti-unting naagnas ang pagtitiwala sa isang ordeng matiwasay kahit nambubusabos. Sumalisi ang udyok ng aksidente at pagbabakasakali kaakibat ng anarkiya ng walang regulasyon sa kalakal. Sumaksi ang pagtutol sa estetisismo at komoditi-petisismo nina Yves Klein, Robert Rauschenberg, atbp. Ibinasura na ang prinsipyong expresyonista nina Bosanquet at Croce mula pa nang ipanukala nina Walter Benjamin at Lewis Mumford (circa 1930) ang mapanghamong kalidad ng makina sa reproduksiyon ng art-object. Pinagtibay din ng mga saliksik hinggil sa sining ng Silangan at primitibong kabihasnan na kailangan lamang ng ulirang halimbawa, huwarang balangkas at panuntunan upang makayari ng artipak/bagay na makasasapat sa depinisyong napagkasunduan hinggil sa likhang-sining.

 Argumentong Magkatumbalik

Dumako tayo sandali sa yugto ng Minimalism (Battcock 1968) na tumiwalag sa naghaharing Abstract Expressionism ni Pollock. Tanyag na halimbawa ang “Lever” ni Carl Andre, “Series A” ni Sol Lewitt, ang mga “Untitled” Nina Robert Morris at Donald Judd, potograpiya ni Dan Graham, atbp. Kalakip ang tendensiyang anti-expressionist, sumubaybay din sila sa konstruktibistang inhinyera ng naunang Bauhaus at Proletkult. Dagling bumulas ang konseptwalismo upang paigtingin ang depersonalisadong padron/paradigma ng konstruktibismo’t mapanirang ugali ng Dada at mapagbirong Fluxus. Hindi nagtagal, isinusog ng konseptwalistang artista na ang kanilang aktibidad/gawa ay isang pagsisiyasat sa magusot at malabong katayuan ng sining. Sumbat nila sa elitistang alipores na humuhubog ng kodigo: wala kayong katuwiran kundi puwersa ng kombensyon at minanang ugali. Tumalikod sila sa palengke/pamilihan at publikong nagumon sa konsumerismo, nakaugat sa hedonismong mapinsala—rahuyong pinakaubod sa pusod ng problematikong pangitaing burgis sa mundo ngayon.

     Balangkasin natin ang trajektorya ng konseptwalismo sa apat na bugso ng pakikipagsapalaran nito. Una, pinalawak nito ang aralin hinggil sa kaisahan at materyalidad ng obhetong tinaguriang sining. Karugtong ito ng self-reflexivity ng modernismng pumoproblema’t tumitimbang sa iba’t ibang salik at sangkap ng sining.  Pangalawa, tinanggihan nito ang kostumbreng biswal ng praktikang pansining. Isinaisantabi na ang isyu ng midya. Pangatlo, inilapat ang sining sa lugar at konteksto ng pagbilad nito sa publiko. Pang-apat, sinipat ang kalagayan ng uri ng distribusyon at pakikibahagi ng sining sa lipunan—ang usapin ng demokrasya’t pagkakapantay-pantay.

Tunay na masalimuot ang hibla ng pinagbuhatan ng konseptwalismo, pati na ang estratehiyang pagbabago nito. Buhat pa nang itanghal ni Marcel Duchamp ang kanyang urinal at iba pang “ready-made” bilang art-object simula 1913, gumana na ang generic modernismong humiwalay sa pribilehiyong midya. Wala nang espesyal na katas-diwang estetiko; impormasyon, dokumentasyon, at iba pang determinadong negasyon ng institusyonalisadong sining ang itinataguyod sa sari-saring praktikang dinudukal sa kasalukuyan. Walang partikular na materyales o pamamaraan ang iniririserba para sa paghubog sa likhang-sining.

Ikintal natin dito ang ilang tagpo sa naratibo ng konseptwalismo.  Mag-umpisa muna sa lingguwistikong palitang-kuro nina Joseph Kosuth at ang Art & Language Group sa UK circa 1968-69. Itinakwil nila ang talinong teknikal sa pagyari ng bagay na taglay ang integral na kalidad. Naglaho ang materyal na bagay na nakikita, ang biswal na produkto na nagdulot ng kabuluhan sa pagsasanib ng tiyak at alanganing sangkap nito. Binalewala na ng “readymade” ni Duchamp ang morpolohiyang artipak nina Cezanne, Manet, atbp. Idiniin ang konsepto ng kahulugang hindi nakaangkla sa reperent. Ang sining ay isang analitikong proposisyon, hindi sintetikong hugot sa karanasan—proklama ni Kosuth. Sa sipat nina Atkinson at Baldwin, ang sining ay pagdeklara ng kontekstong pansining sa metalingwistikang metodolohiya. Sinibak ang pormalismo at kognitibong biswalidad ng tradisyonal na sining, dagling pinalitan ng impormasyon/dokumentasyon at iba pang hulmahang hiram sa pinagtambal na kodigong analog/digital.

Gunitain ang proseso ng reduksiyon o demateryalisasyon ng bagay na binansagang “art-object “(Lippard & Chander 1999). Tulad nang nabanggit, nailunsad ito sa paglagay sa galerya ng mga bagay na nagsasarili. Pagkatapos, inilapat iyon sa pook o lugar hanggang ito’y mawala. Sa kalaunan, idiniin ang lamang-isip o konsepto sa halip na ituon ang atensiyon sa masasalat na sisidlan na kinaluluklukan ng kahulugan. Hindi pagmasid kundi pagkapa at paghinuha ng kahulugan mula sa anumang bagay na dinanas. Matindi’t mabalasik ang mga argumento sa diskursong metalingwistikal hinggil sa sining; ang gamit sa wika bilang makahulugang materyal/laman ay bininyagang ideya-sining.

Sining Bilang Kabatiran/Wari

Sapagkat laging sinisipi ang dokumentong “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art” (1967) ni Sol Lewitt, nais kong talakayin ang ilang tema nito. Kabilang ang mga kagrupong Mel Bochner, Hann Darhoven at iba pa, si LeWitt ay hindi sang-ayon sa “linguistic conceptualism” nina Kosuth at Art-&-Language. Binura ni LeWitt ang namamatyang bagay at ibiniling ang sipat sa prosesong konseptwal na kaiba sa expresyonistang atitudo na nakabatay sa anyong biswal. Pinupukaw at inuuntag ang isip, hindi mata, ng konseptwalistang artista na nakapokus sa ideya/hinagap ng dinamikong makinang yumayari ng sining. Lahat ng pagpapasiya tungkol sa kung paano lilikhain ang bagay ay naisakatuparan na sa proseso ng pag-iisip/pagninilay. Hindi na kailangan ang intuwisyon o pangangatwiran dahil naiilatag na ang lohikang susundin, ang tinaguriang “OS” (Operating System). 

Sa iskemang apriori, wala nang papel na gaganapin ang henyong indibidwal, ang saloobing personal, na dinakila ng mga romantikong pilosopo (Coleridge, Goethe, Schiller, Croce).  Pahayag ni LeWitt: “To work with a plan that is pre-set is one way of avoiding subjectivity…The idea itself, even if not made visual, is as much a work of art as any finished product….Those that show the thought-process of the artist are sometimes more interesting than the finished product” (1999, 13-14; sa paksang ito, konsultahin din ang kuro-kuro ni Osborne 2013). Napalitan ang kamalayang interyor ng prosesong mala-matematika na gumitaw sa ulirat, may angking lohikang nag-uudyok sa mambabasa o nanonood na lumahok sa pabrikasyon ng danas.

Sa pagkilatis ni Fredric Jameson, ang espasyo/lunan ang importante sa konseptwalistang kadalubhasaan: “Conceptual art may be described as a Kantian procedure whereby, on the occasion of what first seems to be an encounter with a work of art of some kind, the categories of the mind itself—normally, not conscious, and inaccessible to any direct representation or to any thematizable self-consciousness or reflexibity—are flexed, their structuring presence now felt laterally by the viewer like musculature or nerves of which we normally remain insensible, in the form of those peculiar mental experiences Lyotard terms paralogisms” (1991, 157). Pakiwari ko’y mali ang positistikong akala ni Jameson. Limitado ni Kant ang ideya sa palapag na penomenal, kaya di makaakyat sa kongkretong yunibersal ng sining. Dapat intindihin na hindi ang anatomya o biyolohiya ng utak ang nakataya rito kundi ang proseso ng hinuha (inference) na mahuhugot sa nailahad na direksiyon/instruksiyon ng artista. 

Pagkawala ng rasyonalistikong sabjek/awtor, sumupling ang depersonalisadong sining sa danas at panlasa ng nakararaming tao. Malaya na ang sinumang nais magpahalaga at magpakahulugan sa anumang bagay o pangyayari na pwedeng kabitan ng etiketa, “sining ito.”

Dalawang halimbawa ang maiuulat dito. Sa Following Piece (1969) ni Vito Acconci, yumari ng isang listahang naglalarawan ng publikong pagsubaybay ng isang taga-lungsod sa sinuman hanggang makarating ito sa kanilang destinasyon. Tila prinsipyong apriori ang metodo ng pagsunod sa isang iskema kasangkot ang katawan ng artista ay tuwirang notasyon ng ilang insidente. Walang naratibo, komposisyon, o pagpapasiya ng saloobin ang mamamalas dito. Sinuman na nasa lungsod ay makagaganap ng papel ng artista kung susundin ang tagubilin at panutong nailahad.

Isa pang makatuturang dating ng konseptwalistang paraan ay mamamasid sa demokratikong pagpapalaganap ng sining sa nakararaming tao, sa pagbuo nito at pagtanggap ninuman. Mapapatunayan ito sa sining ni Lawrence Weiner. Sa halip na lumikha ng mararamdamang bagay, pinahayag lamang niya ang impormasyon tungkol sa sining na aayusin. Matris ng proyekto ang mga pangungusap niya na nagtatakda ng estrukturang materyal at metodo ng paggawa. Halimbawa, “One hole in the ground Approximately 1’ x 1’ X1’  One Gallon Water-based White Paint Poured into this Hole.” Ginamit ang pandiwaring pasado sa patalastas upang ipahiwatig ang pagkatiyak ng paglalarawan at posibilidad ng pagsasaktuparan nito sa hinaharap. Ang serye ng mga ginawa ni Weiner sa Statements (1968) ay siya mismong nakadispley na sining sa exibisyon. Kahalintulad nito ang mga avant-garde iskor, “Three Aqueous Events” (1961)  sa musika ni George Brecht ng Fluxus (tungkol sa  Le Magasin de Ben ni Ben Vautier, tingnan si Kearney [1988]), o mga notasyon sa musika ni John Cage. Kahawig din ang mga iniulat na “happenings” ni Yoko Ono sa Grapefruit, pinaka-pioneer ng sining-konseptwalkasabay sa pag-unawa sa patalastas o habilin ang performans/pagsasadula nito. 

Kahit tagubilin pasalita, o kilos na inirekord sa dokumento, ang naisagawa ay isang kawing lamang sa isang mahabang kadenang metonimiko. Dapat unawain ang sinkroniko’t diyakronikong galaw hitik ng indeks-senyas at sagisag. Kasangkot doon ang komunikasyong oral, ang inilathalang instruksiyon, ang proseso ng paglabas ng deklarasyon, ang kinahinatnan, ang dokumentasyong potograpiko,  atbp. Sa maikling salita, iba’t ibang anyo o hugis pisikal ang maaaring manipestasyon ng konsepto. Nararapat ikabit dito ang kasaysayan ng sining, hindi estetikang ideyalistiko ni Kant o Lyotard. Pagnilayin ang matatag na “declaration of intent” ni Weiner na modipikasyon ng simulaing ipinahayag ni Lewitt:

      1. The artist may construct the piece
      2. The piece may be fabricated
      3. The piece need not be built

Each being equal and consistent with the intent of the artist, the decision as to condition rests with the receiver upon the occasion of receivership. (Sinipi ni Alberro 1999, xxii)

Simbiyotika ng Teorya & Praktika

Higit na radikal kaysa kina Kosuth at Lewitt ang panukala ni Weiner. Bukod sa pagbaklas sa mito ng paglikhang depende sa awtoridad ng awtor/artistang bukal ng orihinalidad, ang pagkasangkot ng awdiyens, ang demokratikong paglahok ng tumatanggap/nakatanggap ng sining, ay nakabuwag sa tradisyonal na pananaw. Lumalim at tumalas ito sa sumunod na uri ng konseptwalismo nina Daniel Buren, Hans Haacke, Marcel Broodthaers. Pinuntirya nila ang kondisyong ideolohikal ng institusyong pansining (museo, galerya, midyang sosyal), ang mga regulasyon at batas, ang kanonisadong doktrinang upisyal na nagpapasiya kung anong bagay ang ituturing na sining. Halimbawa, sa Gallery-Visitors-Profile, isiniwalat ni Haacke ang sistemang nagtatakda kung ano ang kahulugan at kabuluhan ng bagay na tinaguriang likhang-sining (Godfrey 1998). 

Alalahanin na iba ang sitwasyon ng Global South sa Global North. Asymetrikal ang tayo ng neokolonyang Pilipinas kumpara sa industriyalisadong Europa o Norte Amerika.  Sa Latino-Amerika, iniangkop ang “Media Art” sa krisis ng lipunan.  Halimbawa, ang Grupo de Artistas de Vanguardia sa Argentina ang nagpropaganda sa “Nasusunog ang Tucuman,” kung saan ang pagtipon ng impormasyon at pagpapalaganap nito sa midya (tungkol sa panunupil at pagsikil sa mga taga-Tucuman) ay magkabuklod na praktika sa sining at politika. Ibinunyag nila ang kasinungalin ng Estado. Isinakdal ang institusyon ng pag-aaring indibidwal, pati na ang ilusyon ng aliw at kariktan mula sa pambihirang art-object. Pwedeng gawing modelo ang aksyon ng mga aktibista sa Argentina. Ngunit dapat tandaan o isaalang-alang na ang sitwasyon ng neokolonyang Pilipinas ay kaiba sa iba pang bansang hindi sinakop ng imperyalismong U.S. at nagtamasa ng biyaya ng industriyalisasyon at repormang pang-agraryo.

Nang pumasok ang dekada 1970-1980, isinaisantabi na ang linguwistiko-analitikong konseptualismong nauna. Yumabong ang tipo ng postkonseptualismo nina Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Mary Kelley, at iba pa, na nagproblema sa palasak na pormalistikong relasyon ng imahen/wika/suhetibidad. Pinuna sila ng grupo nina Martha Roseler, Alan Sekula, atbp. Ipinaliwanag ng huli na ang ideolohiyang identidad ay hindi hiwalay sa lenggwaheng ginagamit. Kaya kung natanggal man ang ahensiya o kalooban ng ulilang artistang nasukol ng puwersa ng kapaligiran at nabalaho sa bangin ng “art-for-art’s sake,” pwede pa ring bumuo ng estratehiya ng interbensiyon. 

Bukod sa masidhing performans ni Adrian Piper na nakasentro sa sabwatang rasismo/machismo sa Norte Amerika’t Europa, magandang halimbawa ang “The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems” (1974) ni Martha Rosler. Maimpluwensiya pa rin ang reduktibismo’t reflexibidad-sa-sarili, mabisa pa rin ang”readymade” sa Pop Art at Minimalism. Ngunit ang pangunahing tagumpay ng  konseptualismo, sa pangkalahatan, ay naisuma ng dalubhasang Benjamin Buchloch (1999) sa kritika ng institusyon, ang demistipikasyon ng burgesyang pananaw tungkol sa midya, impormasyon, publisidad, at sining. Anumang sitwasyon ay tigib ng sapin-saping kontradiksyong nagsisilbing motor sa pagsulong ng kasaysayan.

Pagbuno sa Palaisipan & Suliranin

Sa pagbabalik-tanaw sa kasaysayan ng konseptwalismo sa sining, idiniin ni Craig Dworkin, na impresario ng konseptwalistang panulat, ang pagpanaw ng awtor, ang imbentor ng orihinal na likhang-sining (naibalita na nina Roland Barthes at Michel Foucault ang pagkamatay ng awtor). Naipasinaya ng pagburol ng malikhaing awtor ang pagsilang ng “uncreative writing” sa bagong milenyo, sa epoka ng “War on Terrorism” pagkaraan ng pagsabog ng Twin Tower sa Nueba York, USA, noong ika-11 Setyembre 2001.

Sa gayon, nararapat iangkop ang tendensiya ng panulat sa daloy ng kapaligiran. Halaw sa eksperimentasyon sa wika nina Dan Graham, Mel Ramsden, Robert Barry at John Baldessari, naisuma ni Dworkin ang ilang katangiang gagabay sa makabagong panulat: hindi na kailangang magsikap tumuklas ng orihinal na gawa. Tratuhin ang wika bilang datang mabibilang, materyal na limbag. Pwedeng kumopya o gumagad ng ibang teksto na magiging iba o bago dahil iba o bago na ang konteksto—isang takdang panahon at lugar—ng artistang sumusunod sa isang procedure o iskema. Kaya ng minakinilya muli ni Kenneth Goldsmith sa kanyang Day ang isang isyu ng New York Times, ang tanskrispyon ay pagsasakatuparan ng kanyang ideya/konsepto ng sining.  Kahambing ito ng After Walker Evans ni Sherrie Levine, o ang mga collage Nina Richard Prince, Andy Warhol, atbp. 

Appropriation/pag-angkin, pagkumpiska/pang-aagaw, ang namamayaning estilo at modo ng pagkatha ngayon sa literaturang nangunguna. Sa milyung umaapaw ng kompyuter, elektronikong teknolohiya, sumagan’t kumalat ang “remix culture” ng hip-hop, global DJ kultura, sampling, mash-up, montage’ cut-up, atbp. Ginagagad ng manunulat ang “database logic” ng bagong midya,” ayon kay Dworkin, “wherein the focus is no longer on the production of new material but on the recombination of previously produced and stockpiled data. Conceptual poetry, accordingly, often operates as an interface—returning the answer to a particular query; assembling, rearranging, and displaying information; or sorting and selecting from files of accumulated language according to a certain algorithm” (2011, xlii). Ayon kay Walter Benjamin (1969), sa reproduksyong mekanikal ng modernong kabihasnan, natanggal ang “aura” sa mga pribadong pag-aaring signos ng pribilehiyo/kapangyarihan, at diumano’y naging demokratiko ang pagtatamasa ng ligayang dulot ng sining. Totoo ba ito?

Kung tutuusin, walang panganib o hamong nakasisindak sa status quo ang konseptwalismong lumaganap at hinangaan.. Nasaring nga ni Robert Smithson na naging aliporis ng sistemang kapital ang dating avantgarde: ginawa ni Warhol ang kapitalismo bilang isang alamat/mito pagsuob sa “production for production’s sake” (1999, 285). Yumaman ang mga artistang dating pariah sa Establisimyento. Samantala, ang “uncreative writing” ni Goldsmith ay nagtamo ng mayamang tagumpay, naging bantog at kinilalang sopistikadong biyaya ng pambihirang moda. Pinarangalan sila. Pihikang panlasa?  

Hintay, isang araw, inanyayahan si Goldsmith na bumigkas ng isang tula sa isang program sa Brown University, ang “The Body of Michael Brown,” na dagling naging kontrobersiyal. Hintay muna…. Pinantindi ang reaksyon sa balita na nagbunsod ng umaatikabong tuligsa, pati banta ng pagpatay sa makata. Pakli ni Goldsmith: “There’s been too much pain for many people around this, and I do not want to cause anymore” (Flood 2015). 

Sa dagling pagtaya, ang performans ni Goldsmith ay simple lamang. Ito’y pagbasa ng ilang talatang sinipi sa autopsy report ng pulisya ng Ferguson, Missouri, na pumaslang kay Michael Brown, Aprikano-Amerikanong lalaking 18 taon gulang, noong Marso 13, 2014. Pumutok ang maraming demonstrasyon sa buong bansa laban sa awtoridad. Sa itaas ng entablado ng unibersidad pinaskil ang malaking graduation photo ni Brown. Walang emosyon ang pagbasang tumagal ng 30 minutes, walang imik ang nakinig. Pagkaraang kumalat ang balita sa Internet, umarangkada ang batikos at tuligsa: “tacky,” “new racist lows,” “white elite institutions pay…another white man holding the corpse of a black child, saying “Look at what I’ve made” (Flood 2015). Pinag-initan ang Puting pagsamsam sa kahirapan ng mga Itim, ang paghamak at pagkutya sa kamatayan ng isang inosenteng biktima ng marahas na paghahari ng White Supremacy.

Masusing pag-aralan ang matapang at mahayap na komentaryo ni Anne Waldman: “I was not present, but by all reports what we seem to have is a solipsistic clueless bubble of unsupportable ‘art’ attitude and privilege.  What was Kenny Goldsmith thinking? That it’s okay to self-appoint and perform the autopsy report of murdered black teenager Michael Brown and mess with the text, and so “own” it and get paid for his services? No empathy no sorrow for the boy, the body, the family, ignorant of the ramifications, deaf ear to the explosive demonstrations and marches? Reeks of expoitation, of the ‘racial imaginary.’  Black Dada Nihilismus is lurking on the lineaments of the appropriated shadow of so much suffering” (2015).

Alingawngaw sa Kaharian ng Arte

Dagling nawala ang pretext ng kontrobersiya. Biglang nurong ni Goldsmith ang tula sa Web, at pinalitan ng isang pagtatanggol (sa Facebook) ng signature estilong pagkopya, pagputol, pagdikit, pag-angkin ng digital text mula sa cyberspace. Ikinatwiran ang ethos ng sampling, reblogging, mimesis, replikasyon, procedure ng pagmanipula, paglilipat at pakikibahagi ng impormasyon na primaryang imbakan ng konseptwalistang panulat. Maingat nating pagliripin ang paliwanag (hindi apologia) ni Goldsmith sa kanyang pagsala, paghimay at pagsasaayos ng isang publikong dokumento na pinamagatang “The Body of Michael Brown”—pinagsamantalahang ipuslit ang autopsy report upang makaani ng pansariling “symbolic capital” :

In the tradition of my previous book Seven American Deaths and Disasters, I took a publicly available document from an American tragedy that was witnessed first-hand (in this case by the doctor performing the autopsy) and simply read it.  Like Seven American Deaths, I did not editorialize. I simply read it without commentary or additional editorializing. Many of you have heard me read from Seven American Deaths. This reading was identical in tone and intention. This, in fact, could have been the eighth American death and disaster. The document I read from is powerful. My reading of it was powerful. How could it be otherwise? Such is my long-standing practice of conceptual writing: like Seven American Deaths, the document speaks for itself in ways that an interpretation cannot. It is a horrific American document, but then again it was a horrific American death (Flood 2015).

Pagtugis sa Katunayan at Kabulaanan

Masinop na imbestigasyon ang kailangan. Kabulaanan ang igiit ni Goldsmith na hindi niya binago ang dokumento. Tandisang litaw na pinili niya, sinipi at niretoke ang ilang detalye ng post-mortem examination at ipinasiyang magwakas sa maselang bahagi. Narito ang nakasulat sa report: “Male Genital System: There is foreskin present near the head of the penis. The remaining male genitalia system is unremarkable” (galing sa Office of the Medical Examiner, Dr Gershom; 2014 # 5143)  Bakit dito piniling huminto ang akda ni Goldsmith? 

Bukod sa pihikang komentaryong inilagay ni Goldsmith sa Facebook, ang pagbigkas noon ng isang puting Amerikano, sa kontekstong wala pang napagkasunduang pagsisiyasat at paglilitis kung makatarungan ang pagpaslang sa kanya, ay mapupuna. Lumalabas na editorializing at panghihimasok ang ginawa. Ipinasiya ni Goldsmith na idaos ang teatro niya sa Brown University, isang ivy-league institusyon na dating pasimuno’t yumaman sa tubo ng kalakal ng mga esklabong Aprikano noong siglo 1700-1800. Batid din ni Goldsmith na magulo’t matinik pa ang usapin tungkol sa karahasan ng pulisya—hindi maiwawaglit ang kontekstong ito, na sa tahasang asersyon ni Goldsmith, ay personal na pag-ani ng “cultural capital” (1999, xviii). Tunay na hindi makatotohanan ang pangangatwiran ni Goldsmith. Maiging suriin ang dugtong niya;

I altered the text for poetic effect. I translated into plain English many obscure medical terms that would have stopped the flow of the text; I narrativized it in ways that made the text less didactic and more literary. I indeed stated at the beginning of my reading that this was a poem called “The Body of Michael Brown”: I never stated, “I am going to read the autopsy report of Michael Brown.”  But then again, this is what I did in Seven Deaths and Disasters.  I always massage dry texts to transform them into literature, for that is what they are when I read them. That said, I didn’t add or alter a single word or sentiment that did not preexist in the original text, for to do so would be to go against my nearly three decades’ practice of conceptual writing, one that states that a writer need not write any new texts but rather reframe those that already exist in the world to greater effect than any subjective interpretation could lend. Perhaps people feel uncomfortable with my uncreative writing, but for me, this is the writing that is able to tell the truth in the strongest and clearest wa possible.

Ecce homo.  Behold the man.

Walang pasubali, hindi ito salitang humihingii ng paumanhin. Sa katunayan, isang rasyonalisasyon ito sa pagtatanggol sa kanyang tipo ng panulat. Samakatwid, ang “reframing” o pagmasahe sa dokumento ni Goldsmith ang nakataya rito. Sa malas, talaga bang na-defamiliarize ang Estadong rasista’t pasista, ang layunin ng makata na ipahayag ang katotohanan sa pinakamabisang paraan? 

Umuukilkil ang ilang tanong hinggil sa dating, sa impak ng impormasyong naipaabot. Binago niya, amin ng makata, upang magkaroon ng bisang matulain. Anong kahulugan o kabuluhan ng estetikang naipahatid nito? Ito ba ang birtud ng pagkamakatotohanan ng konseptwalismo? Katunayan ba kaninuman, sa lahat ng oras, saanmang lugar? Anong damdamin, atitudo, saloobin, ang inaadhika ng “unoriginal genius” ng makata? Kung ilalapat natin ang haka o hinuha nina Vanessa Place at Robert Fitterman na “Conceptual writing is allegorical writing” (2013,13), anong klaseng mensaheng literal at matalinghaga ang isinadula ni Goldsmith sa pagkasangkapan niya ng post-mortem report—barokong alegorya, hybrid simulacra, o tusong pagkukunwari?o

Sa anu’t anoman, mahirap maipaghiwalay ang interogasyong pang-estetika sa politikal, etikal at moral na suliraning bumabagabag sa publikong konsiyensiya.

Diskurso ng Pagkilala o Pagwalang-pansin

Tulad ng nabanggit na, binatikos si Goldsmith, ang poet laureate ng Museum of Modern Art, ng maraming kolega at manunulat sa Website ng Poetry Foundation (Conrad 2015) at iba pang lugar sa Internet at lathalain. Sa marahas na bintang na ang akda ni Goldsmith ay dokumento ng “white supremacy poetics,” kung saan naroon ang “white power dissecting colored body,”  sulyapan ang Website ng “Mongrel Coalition Against Gringpo”: “The murdered body of Mike Brown’s medical report is not our poetry, it’s the building blocks of white supremacy, a miscreant DNA infecting everyone in the world. We refuse to let it be made literary” (sinipi ni Wilkinson 2015).

Kaunting repaso. Magsimula muli tayo sa pagtutugma ng sining at situwasyon ng mundo, ang yugto ng krisis ng kapitalismong global/neoliberal. Masahol ang kalagayan ng mga taong-may-kulay, lalo na ang Aprikano-Amerikano sa mga nabubulok na urbanidad ng pasistang U.S. Mapanganib na rin ang lagay ng petiburgesyang edukado; walang trabaho karamihan ng graduweyt sa humanidades, sampu ng mga manunulat-artista, atbp. Ginagamit ang sining bilang investment, tulad ng pagtitinda ng mga likha nina Warhol, Francis Bacon, Cy Twombly, Gerhard Richter sa Sotheby at iba pang organo ng komodipikasyon. Hinirang na propesor sa University of Pennsylvania, si Goldsmith ay isa sa mga mapalad na konseptwalistang awtor na kinilala ng Establisimyento (naimbita pa ni dating Pangulong Obama sa White House).

Mapaparatangan bang nagkasala si Goldsmith sa komodipikasyon ng bangkay ni Brown? Nagkasala ba siya sa pagbebenta ng tekstong ninakaw sa Internet, at pagpuslit ng simbolikong kapital bilang “meme macho” (Goldsmith 2014)? Ano ang kahulugan ng pangyayaring ito sa larangan ng politikang digmaan sa U.S. at ligalig na dulot ng krisis internasyonal sa pagtutunggalian ng kapitalistang bansa?

Sa perspektibang historiko-materyalistiko, matatarok na may tatlong panig ang problemang hinarap ni Goldsmith (kahit hindi niya ito dama o alam). Una, ang kontradiksiyon ng pagkatao ng Aprikano-Amerikanong grupo (si Brown ay kinatawan nila) at paglait sa bangkay (“quantified self” ni Brown). Nananaig pa rin ang aparatong ideolohikal ng Estado sa pagpapanatili ng rasismo/makismo. Pangalawa, sa harap ng dumaragsang memes, bulto-bultong dami ng datos digital, labis-labis na “disposable data-basing,” blogging, identity ciphering, mabilisang programing, paano maisasaayos ng makata ang kumplikadong penomena upang magkaroon iyon ng halaga sa buhay natin?  Pangatlo, paano malulutas ang hidwaang nabanggit kung ang paraang konseptwal ay makina-ng-ideyang walang silbi, hindi utilitaryan, matipid, mahigpit ang paghawak, nais lamang pukawin ang isip, walang balisa sa pagsasakatuparan ng konsepto? Tatlong problemang dapat lutasin upang makahulagpos sa bilanggo ng burgesyang orden. 

Sa gitna ng ating pagkalito, iginiit ni Goldsmith: “Arbitrary or chance decisions would be kept to a minimum, while caprice, taste and other whimsies would be eliminated from the making of the text” (2013).  Sa gayon, hindi awtomatikong collage, pastiche, o transkripsyon ang ginanap na pagbigkas ni Goldsmith. Tunay na iyon ay interbensiyong marahas, wangis gahasa ng puting lahi sa bangkay ng aliping kulay-itim, tanda ng barbarikong nekropilya. Sa tatlong kontradiksiyong nabanggit, anong pinili’t hinulmang paraan ang sinubok ng awtor sa paglutas ng inilatag na suliranin?

Totoong hindi niyutral o walang pakialam ang manunulat sa paraan at estilo ng paglalahad. Puna ni Marjorie Perloff, masinop si Goldsmith (tulad ni Duchamp) sa paghakot at pagsasalansan ng inilipat na tekso sa kanyang Traffic: “What Goldsmith wants us to see is what the world live in is actually like” (2013, 160). Bilang isang pormang ideolohikal, nakapaloob sa kathang binigkas ni Goldsmith ang paglalarawan ng lohika ng rasistang lipunan bilang oposisyon ng kantidad (abstraktong pagkilatis sa bangkay ni Brown gawa ng Estado) versus makataong pagtransporma ni Goldsmith sa paraan ng satirikong pagmasahe sa autopsy report. Samakatwid, lumabag siya sa mungkahi ng kasamang Dworkin na ang konseptwalisting bricolage ay nakapako sa “recontextualizing language in a mode of strict citation” (2011, xlvii).

Maselan ang detournement o paghuhugis ng nakumpiskang teksto sa Internet. Hindi naiba ng “re-framing” ang konteksto ng diskursong kumbensyonal. Nakapokus din sa reduksiyon ng liping Aprikano sa sukat ng genitalia, kaya ipinabulaanan ni Goldsmith ang stereotype sa pagwakas ng kanyang pag-ilit sa medikong ulat na normal lamang ang seks ni Brown—“unremarkable” genitalia (Wilkinson 2015).  Sa mismong pag-uulit ng rasismong kategorya, salungat sa kanyang tangka, dinulutan ng positibong bantas ang gawing rasista: ang tao ay katumbas ng kanyang anatomy/biyolohiya. 

Subersiyong Radikal o Kompromisong Liberal? 

Kakatwa ang kinalabasan sa ronda ng impormasyong kumalat. Sa kumpas ng diumano’y pagdaramay ni Goldsmith sa trahedyang pagkabaril sa inosenteng sibilyan, nabigyang-buhay rin ang liberalismong ideolohiya ng burgesyang uri—isang ironikal na pagbalikwas ng balak, parikalang di tangka. Ipinagtibay ang teorya nina Balibar at Macherey na ang literatura ay “imaginary solution of ideological contradictions” (1996, 285). Nadulutan ni Goldsmith ng isang tanghalan, mise en scene, ang di-malulutas na kontradisiyon ng burgesyang lipunan sa paraang huwad: ang rasismo ay bunga lamang ng teknolohiya/abstraksyon, na maireresolba sa humanistikong pagtingin kay Brown bilang ordinaryong tao. Mapinsalang ilusyon ito. Alalaong-baga’y hindi kailangan ang transpormasyon ng institusyon, ang di-makatarungang paghahati ng poder at yaman, ng karapatan at katungkulan, sa lipunang naghihiwalay sa mga may-ari ng kapital/produktibong kagamitan at pulubing uri ng mga trabahador, pati gitnang-uring petiburgis. Samakatwid, pinaikot lamang ni Goldsmith ang neokonserbatibong doktrina ng mga panginoon ng sistemang kapitalismong global.

     Sa perspektibang ideyalistiko/metapisikal, maituturing na repormista ang prinsipyo ni Goldsmith (sampu nina Dworkin at mga kapanalig) sa pagtutol sa ortodoksiya ng romantiko’t mistikal na pagkilala sa awtor. Ang tipo ng mapanghamig na suhetibidad ay batayan ng burgesya-kapitalistang orden. Makatwiran din ang tatlong negasyon (ng obhetibidad ng likhang-sining, ng midyum biswal, at ng autonomiya ng art-object) na iniulat ni Osborne (2002, 18). Nagbunga iyon ng uri ng sining/panitikan na gumagamit o kumakasangkapan sa umiiral na diskurso/teksto sa midya upang mabago ang mga institusyong pang-araw-araw. Kabilang si Goldsmith sa pag-repunksiyon at sirkulasyon ng normatibong doxa tungkol sa identidad at karapatang pantao na masasagap sa cyberspace. 

Ngunit, sanhi sa limitadong kaalaman, natigil doon sa produksiyon para sa sariling kapakanan. Nasaksihan ang kaunting “defamiliarization,” birtud ng mapanghimagsik na kritika, pero walang pagtakwil sa institusyon at estrukturang pampolitika. Walang pasubaling may simpatiya si Goldsmith sa protesta ng mga biktima ng karahasan ng pulisya. Ngunit hindi magkapareho ang sinulat na preskripyon at ang aktwal na pagsasagawa nito.  Hindi nagampanan ni Goldsmith ang tungkuling isinabalikat nina Rosler, Haacke, at iba pang sumuri, gumalugad, at kumilatis sa di-makatarungang relasyon ng kapangyarihang nakapaloob sa sistema ng institusyong nangagasiwa’t kumokontrol sa sining/panitikan, sa buong aparato ng kultura/ideolohiya. Naibunyag na ni Charles Harrison ang “utopian fantasy” (2001, 38) ng rebolusyonaryong programa ng avantgarde kilusan na nagsimula pa kina Andre Breton, Duchamp, Mondrian, Joseph Beuys, Minimalism, Fluxus, hanggang kina Adrian Piper, Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, atbp.

Mapanganib na suliranin ang pagkaligta sa mediyasyong diyalektikal ng gawaing manwal at intelektwal. Walang direktong korespondensiya ang transpormasyon sa literatura at sa ekonomyang pampulitika. Maisusulit dito na ang malaking kamalian nina Dworkin at Goldsmith, pati na rin ang kanilang taga-suportang si Marjorie Perloff, ay walang pakundangang pananatili sa burgesyang kuwadrong humahatol: ang awtor bilang “unoriginal genius,” at wika/diskursong kumbensyonal bilang niyutral o sariwang salik/sangkap na maihuhugis sa anumang direksiyon, di alintana ang nagtatakdang kasaysaya’t ideolohiyang nakabuklod doon. 

Bukod dito, partikular din na hindi iniuugnay ng konseptwalismong aprubado ang institusyon ng museo, galerya, mass media, at akademyang makapangyarihan sa pagtakda ng paghahati ng lakas-paggawa ayon sa means-ends rasyonalidad ng burgesyan orden. Ito nga ang dahilan ng bangguwardyang pagsisikap na siya ring nagtutulak sa konseptwalistang eksperimento (Burger 1992). Sa kabilang dako, maihahalintulad ang transisyonal na katangian ng kalakarang ito sa trahedyang Griyego na, sa loob ng reaksyonaryong porma, sinikap nina Aeschylus, Sophocles at Euripedes na ipasok doon ang pinakarasyonal, demokratiko’t materyalistikong paninindigan ng progresibong uri ng panahong iyon (Thomson 1974). Masinop na pagliripin ang diyalektikang pagsusulit na matutuklasan sa mga nobela nina Lope K. Santos, Faustino Aguilar, Amado Hernandez, Lazaro Francisco, Efren Abueg, Lualhati Bautista, Jun Cruz Reyes, atbp (San Juan 2004b).

Tungo sa Palatuntunan ng Pananagutan

Siyasatin natin ang ibang semiotika bukod kay Saussure at mga dekonstruksyonista. Ang malaking pagkukulang ng kritikang institusyonal ay isang bagay na mapupunan kung susundin ang pragmatikong tagubilin ni Charles Peirce hinggil sa kahulugan ng konsepto/ideya:  “a conception, that is, the rational purport of a word or other expression, lies exclusively in its conceivable bearing upon the conduct of life; so that, since obviously nothing that might not result from experiment can have any direct bearing upon conduct, if one can define accurately all the conceivable experimental phenomena that the affirmation or denial of a concept could imply, one will have therein a cmplete definition of the concept” (1998, 264; iniksamin ang kumplikadong semantik ng konsepto ni Lewis [1929, 411). Ipinag-uugnay nito ang teorya at praktika, udyok na pumapatnubay din sa avantgardistang awtor  Nakaugat din ito sa paniwalang ang sining na buod ng mapanlikhang simbuyo’t kakayahan ng tao ay hindi mauunawaan sa pagkahumaling sa intuwisyon, bisyon, organikong porma ng ekspresyon, atbp. Sa halip, dapat idiin ang konsepto/ideya ng sining bilang “polysignificant language dealing with specific types,” at walang silbi ang dakdak tungkol sa porma/anyo/hugis kung walang “eidos or dianoia or idea or concept,” susog ni Galvano della Volpe (1972, 180). 

Sa Pilipinas, bukod sa nasubukan nina Angelo Suarez at kapanalig, pambihirang makakita ng masugid na pagdukal sa konseptwalistang teritoryo.  Ipauubaya ko sa iba ang pag-ulat sa iba pang pagsubok post-konseptwal. Magkasya na munang banggitin dito ang ilang proyekto ng awtor sa gilid ng pagsasalaysay sa naratibo ng konseptwalismong Kanluran, na baka makatulong sa kilusan laban sa imperyalismo’t oligarkyang kasabwat nito (San Juan 2004b).  

Malayo na ang nalakbay natin mula sa katipunang Alay Sa Paglikha ng Bukang-Liwayway (2000). Alinsunod sa panukala nina Peirce at Della Volpe, sinikap naming umpisahan ang konseptwalismong pakikipagsapalaran sa ilang tula sa koleksiyong Sapagkat Iniibig Kita (2004a) at Kundiman sa Gitna ng Karimlan (2014), at lubos na nilinang sa Ambil (2017; tingnan ang rebyu ni Labayne [2018]) at sa Wala (2018). Tinasahan din ang paraang Oulipo sa kathang “Trahedya/Komedyang Moro-Moro sa Mamasapano” (Wala, edisyong 2016, limbag ng Polytechnic University of the Philippines Press, pahina 47-51). Mula sa panghihimasok sa typograpikal na bihis ng tula (imitasyon ng praktika ng concrete poetry, Mallarme, Weiner), suryalismong eksperimentasyon, at iba pang sinubukang palatuntunan, tumawid tayo sa paghiram/pagkumpiska sa mga salawikain at sampling ng bugtong, pati na modipikasyon ng ilang kanonikal na akda. Sa paraan ng alegorikong montage, sinubok ding ilapat ang minimalistikong metodo ng serye o reduksiyon, parikalang pagputol sa kanonisadong teksto, pagkopya ng dokumento ng isang biktima ng tortyur at pagsipi sa midya at diskursong antropologo (tungkol sa alegorikong pahiwatig, konsultahin si Buchloch (2006; Godfrey 1998). 

Mailap ang dating/resepsiyon sa neokolonya. Puna ng ilang guro na mahirap mabatid ang pinakabagong eksperimentasyon ng mga estudyanteng nasanay sa sukat at tugma nina Jose Corazon de Jesus, Ildefonso Santos, Baylen, Hernandez, Abadilla, Antonio, at iba pang putahe sa mga teksbuk. Ibig sabihin, nagumon sa tradisyonal at makalumang sining/panitik ang lasa’t ulirat ng kasalukuyang awdiyens sa paaralan, huwag nang idamay ang hain ng Anvil Publishing Co., at iba pang lathalaing pangkomersiyal. Sintomas ito ng malaking agwat sa pagitan ng libo-libong kabataang sanay sa Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, at mayoryang nakaabot lamang sa elementaryang 4th grade.  Bantog tayo sa texting at malling sa buong mundo. Sanay na tayo sa blogging, remix, plagiarism, pagmudmod ng “fake news” ng rehimeng Duterte. Nasa gitna na tayo ng “postconceptual condition,” ayon kay Osborne (2018) kung saan ang kinabukasang virtual ay narito na sa aktwalisasyon ng karanasang umiigkas. Nahihimbing pa rin ang madlang kamalayan sa ilusyon ng malahimalang espiritu ng guniguni, ng malayang imahinasyon, ng biayaya ng mga anghel at dwende, ng kalikasang walang maliw… Magdasal at magtiwala sa kapalaran, sa mapanuksong tadhanang magpapadala ng remitans mula Saudi, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Hong Kong, Los Angeles.… Subalit paano tayo makaaahon mula sa kumunoy ng gawi’t ugaling mala-piyudal at burgis, palasuko at taksil sa bayan?

Ano Ngayon ang Dapat Gawin?

Makitid at mababaw pa ang kabatiran sa proseso ng avantgardistang sining tulad ng matutunghayan sa saliksik nina Burger, Poggioli, Raymond Williams, Berger, atbp. Postmodernistang pakulo ang hilig ng mga intelektwal sa U.P., Ateneo, De La Salle University, at iba pang babaran. Dumulog tayo sandali sa forum ng Daluyan (Espesyal na Isyung Pampanitikan 2016) tungkol sa “Mga Proseso ng Paghagilap sa Bago at Eksperimental.” Hinagap nating makatagpo ng ilang manunulat na interesado sa konseptwalismong pagsubok sa gitna ng pagkarahuyo sa Internet, elektronikong midya, Visprint, naglipanang workshops. Nabigo kami, tila nasayang ang pagkakataong iyon. 

Sari-saring life-style/fashion ang pinagkakaabalahan liban na sa krisis ng neokolonyang lipunan. Pinagtuunan ng pansin ang elektronikong midya at kontra-gahum na estilo. Hindi iniugnay ang praktika ng sining/panulat, at institusyon ng gobyerno, akademya, atbp. sa sitwasyon ng bansa (liban na sa nakahiligang pagsambit sa programa ng Kaliwa). Sumasalamin ito sa limitasyong nasulyapan sa praktika ni Goldsmith. Hinimay ni Roland Tolentino ang hanay ng mga sektaryang grupo o barkada  (Rejectionists, Reaffirmists) ng mga ilang pribilehiyong nilalang sa daloy ng pakikibaka, pero walang diagnosis kung bakit nagkaganoon, at ano ang nararapat gawin upang makabuo ng kontra-hegemonyang mobilisasyon ngayon. 

Naipayo nina Marx at Engels na ang kasaysayan ay “tendentious” bunga ng engkwentro ng sala-salabid na puwersa—katambal ng homo faber ang homo ludens sa mga larong panglinggwistikang sinubaybayan ni Wittgenstein (Morawski 1973, 46).  Kaya kung realistikong reporma ang kailangan, hindi ito nangangahulugan na itatakwil o magbubulag-bulagan sa mga bumubukong pagsisikap bumalikwas sa kalakaran. Kailangan ng realismo ang propetikong bugso ng mapagpalayang sensibilidad. Napatunayan na sa diskursong historikal-materyalistiko ni Max Raphael (1980; naisakatuparan sa mga dula ni Bertolt Brecht) na diyalektikal, hindi tuwiran, ang pagsulong ng kasaysayan at ang trajektorya ng mapanlikhang dunong ng tao. Bagamat sa analisis nina Marx at Engels hinggil sa “tipikal” na sitwasyon (isang kongkretong yunibersal, susog ni Georg Lukacs [1970]), hindi singkronisado ang katotohanang relatibo sa partikular na bagay at ang absolutong katotohanan na sumasaklaw sa malawak na bahagi ng kasaysayan. Resulta nga ang sumablay na neoavantgardismo ni Goldsmith (Weibel 2013) at postmodernistang art-komoditi na inilalako sa Sotheby,, Bloomingdale, at Facebook.

Sa pangwakas, ang lokal na artikulasyon ng postkonseptwalistang proyekto, sa palagay ko, ay nabuhos sa masang pagkilos—demo laban sa kontraktwalisasyon, EJK, drug war, pagbomba sa Lumad, atbp.—maliban sa namumukod na akda ni Angelo Suarez, Philippine English (Beckwith 2015). Gayunpaman, hindi masasagkaan ang daluyong ng transpormasyong lumalaganap, sa ekonomya, politika, kultura. Maaring walang katubusan sa ating panahon. Paurong ang ibang saray, pasulong ang iba—sa magulong prosesong umaandar, ang triyadikong elemento ng realidad, senyas/signifier, at interpretant (signified) na bumubuo ng kahulugan sa komunikasyon (ayon sa semiotika ni Peirce [Short 2007), ay muli’t muling magbabanyuhay at magdudulot ng panibagong pagkilala sa praktika ng sining katugma sa bagong sitwasyon ng buhay. Kasaysayan at kolektibong pagsisikap ng sambayanan ang magtatakda sa direksiyon ng kasalukuyang pakikipagsapalaran at destinasyon sa kinabukasan.


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Contemporary Global Capitalism and the Challenge of the Filipino Diaspora

By E. San Juan, Jr

Professorial Chair, Polytechnic Universiy of the Philippines

They kept saying I was a hero…a symbol of the Philippines.  To this day I keep wondering what it is I have become….

—Angelo de la Cruz, kidnapped Filipino worker in Iraq

The Philippine nation-state often gets world attention only when calamities—such as the recent typhoon Ondoy’s unprecedented flooding of metropolitan Manila, with thousands of homes destroyed and several hundreds killed, due to government neglect; or the nearly 100,000 refugees created by the Arroyo regime’s indiscriminate bombing campaign against the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front—hit the headlines. The Maguindanao massacre of 57 unarmed civilians by a local warlord is the latest calamity .  Meanwhile, news about the plight of twenty Filipina domestics abused as sex slaves in Saudi Arabia,  or the brutalization of several hundred Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) detained in Middle-Eastern jails, hardly merit notice. Meanwhile, the recently elected president Benigno Aquino III confronts the long neglected plight of about 100 cases of Filipino migrant workers on death row in the Middle East, 50% of the cases involving OFWs arrested in China (Migrante-Middle East 2010).  Despite propaganda about concern for OFWs, the previous Arroyo regime miserably failed to translate the $17.3 billion 2009 remittance –one-tenth of the country’s gross domestic product—into self-sustaining well-paid jobs due to flagrant corruption and sheer neglect (Jimenez 2010). OFW remittance last year represented 15 times more than new foreign direct investments, a symptom of the addictive dependency of the Philippine economy on the global capitalist system’s iniquitous division of social labor and the distribution of its value/products.

A review of the political economy of the Philippines might shed light on this facet of the global predicament of  200 million people (according to UN estimates) migrating for work outside their impoverished native lands, “spurring heated debates over national identity and border security, and generating suspicion, fear and hatred of the ‘other’ “ (Bencivenni 2008, 1). This phenomenon concretely demonstrates what Samir Amin calls “polarization on a world-scale, … the most violent permanent manifestation  of the  capital-labour contradiction  in the history of the expansion of capitalism” (2003, 25)

Three thousand four hundred Filipinos leave daily for work abroad, over a million a year, to join the nearly ten million Filipinos (out of 90 million) already out of the Philippines, scattered in more than 197 countries. It is the largest postmodern diaspora of migrant labor next to Mexico, the highest exporter of labor in Southeast Asia relative to population size. 75% of migrants are women, mainly domestics and semi-skilled contract workers, seeking decent livelihoods, for their family’s survival (Pagaduan 2006). Two thirds of the population live on less than $2 a day (The Economist 2009, 107). Over four million more leave, without proper/legal travel and work permits, for unknown destinations. About 3-5 coffins arrive at the Manila International Airport every day–not as famous as Flor Contemplacion, Maricris Sioson, and other victims of neoliberal policies. According to Connie Bragas-Regalado, chair of Migrante International, at least fifteen “mysterious deaths” of these government “milking cows” (her term for OFWs) remain unsolved since 2002, with more harrowing anecdotes brewing in the wake of the U.S.-led war of “shock and awe” against anyone challenging its global supremacy. This relentless marketing of Filipino labor is an unprecedented phenomenon, rivaled only by the trade of African slaves and Asian indentured servants in the previous centuries. How did Filipinas/os come to find themselves suddenly burdened with this collective misfortune, forced into the traffic of selling their bodies, nay, their selfhoods?  

Public records show that OFWs contribute more than enough to relieve the government of the onerous foreign debt payments to the World Bank/International Monetary Fund (WB/IMF)  and financial consortiums. In 1998 alone, according to the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, 755,000 Filipinos found work abroad, sending home a total of P7.5 billion; in the last three years, their annual remittance averaged $5 billion (Tujan 2007). Throughout the 1990s, they remitted over 5 percent of the national GNP, not counting the billions of pesos collected by the Philippine government in exorbitant taxes and processing fees. In 2004, OFWs sent $8.5 billion, a sum equal to half of the country’s national budget. In 2006, the OFW remittance was five times more than foreign direct investment, 22 times higher than the total Overseas Development Aid, and over more than half of the gross international reserves (De Lara 2008). In 2007, they sent $14.45 billion and $15.65 in 2008. For this they have been celebrated as “modern day heroes” by every president since the export of “warm bodies” was institutionalized as an official government policy.

OFW earnings suffice to keep the Philippine economy afloat and support the luxury and privileges of less than 1 percent of the people, the Filipino oligarchy. They heighten household consumerism, disintegrate families, and subsidize the wasteful spending of the corrupt patrimonial elite. They are not invested in industrial or agricultural development (IBON 2008). Clearly the Philippine bureaucracy has earned the distinction of being the most migrant- and remittance-dependent ruling apparatus in the world, by virtue of denying its citizens the right to decent employment at home. OFW remittances thus help reproduce a system of class inequality, sexism, racism, and national chauvinism across the international hierarchy of core and peripheral nation-states.

Historical  Orientation

After three hundred years of Spanish colonialism, the Filipino people mounted a revolution for national independence in 1898 and established the first constitutional Republic in Asia. But the United States destroyed this autonomous republic in the Filipino-American War of 1899-1913, with 1.4 million Filipinos killed and the islands annexed as a US territorial possession up to 1946, when nominal independence was granted (Miller 1982). The US conquest perpetuated the feudal landlord system by co-opting the propertied elite that, together with comprador/middlemen traders and new cadres of well-tutored intelligentsia, served as the colonial, and later neocolonial, administrators (Constantino 1978). The Philippines offered abundant natural and human resources, together with what US policy-makers originally desired: strategic military bases for trade with China and a geopolitical outpost in the Asian-Pacific region. By 1946, thoroughly devastated by World War II, the Philippines emerged as a reliable U.S. dependency, with its political, economic and military institutions controlled directly or indirectly by Washington. Up to today, the Philippine army operates as an appendage of the Pentagon, its logistics and war-games supervised by Washington via numerous treaties and executive agreements, as witnessed by ongoing joint U.S.-Philippines “Balikatan” war exercises, legitimized by the anomalouos Visiting Forces Agreement (Diokno 1980; IBON 2005; CENPEG 2009). Despite official denials, the US exercises hegemonic sway over a neocolonial formation so thoroughly Americanized that many Filipinos today believe that moving to the U.S. metropole is the true fulfillment of their hopes and dreams. 

The U.S. nation-state after September 11, 2001 remains alive and well. US imperialism today might not have formal colonies in the old European sense of territorial possessions (Pease 2000), but (as Eric Hobsbawm [1994] recently pointed out), nation-based finance-capital practiced “the collective egoism of wealth” that coalesced vestiges of “national self-determination” with the new politics of ethnic identity that characterized the transition from the “Age of Catastrophe” (from World War I to World War II) to the “crisis decades” of the Cold War and beyond. Even the cosmopolitan electicism of Saskia Sassen (2008) which extolled cyberspace as “a more concrete space for social struggles than that of the national formal political system” (2008, 90), could not explain the sudden disappearance of the once legendary Sub-Comandante Marcos’ Zapatistas from the transnational arena, nor the place-based national-liberation movements (the Maoists in Nepal, Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution; Evo Morales and indigenism in Latin America; the New People’s Army and the Moro struggles in the Philippines, etc.). So much for the anathematization of national-liberation struggles in a time when NATO and US military continue to inflict genocidal havoc in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Palestine, and other countries in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia.

With the Cold War unfolding in IndoChina, and the worsening of economic stagnation and lower rate of accumulation  in the core capitalist countries by the seventies, the Marcos dictatorship worsened the country’s underdevelopment. Structural problems, such as unemployment, inflation, chronic balance of payments deficits, onerous foreign debt, and widenening social inequality are symptoms of the persisting US stranglehold.  For over half a century, the US established the legal and political framework that transformed the country into a raw-material exporting economy and a market for consumer goods, with a semi-feudal land system and a bureaucrat-comprador-landlord governing bloc subservient to U.S. dictates (Villegas 1983; Bauzon 1991; Pomeroy 1992). The import-substitution scheme briefly tried in the fifties and sixties quickly gave way to an export-oriented development plan at the behest of the WB/IMF.  In the latter 70s, IMF-imposed structural adjustment programs to promote “free-market capitalism” (such as tourism, export-oriented light industries in Export Processing Zones, currency devaluation, etc.) imposed by the latter agencies and the state’s local technocrats plunged the country into a profound crisis (Schirmer and Shalom  1987, esp. Chs. 7-8; Klein 1999). Because of the severe deterioration in the lives of the majority and serious foreign-debt problems, Marcos initiated the “warm body export”—the Labor Export Policy (LEP)—with Presidential Decree 442 in 1974,  followed by the establishment of the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) in 1983 and the mandatory sending of remittances through the Philippine banking system—a stop-gap remedy for a world-systemic crisis of profit/capital accumulation.

For the last four decades, the Philippines has been plagued by accelerated  impoverishment as a result of the decline in wages, severe chronic unemployment, rising cost of living, inflation, and huge cutbacks in social services.  Neoliberal policies known (“the “Washington Consensus”) maintained the cycle of crisis and systemic underdevelopment, rooted in the iniquitous class structure and the historical legacy of political, economic and military dependence on the U.S.  These provide the framework for the increased foreign penetration and control over the national economy, the unremitting dependence on raw material exports and (since 1970s) of human resources (Fast 1973; IPE 2006), coupled with the deteriorating manufacturing and agricultural sectors caused by ruinous trade and investment policies. “Free market” development schemes packaged with “trickle-down” reformist gimmicks implemented by successive regimes after Marcos have precipitated mass hunger (Lichauco  2005).  As Pauline Eadie (2005) has cogently demonstrated, the role of the Philippine state in perpetuating poverty and aggravating  the exploitation of Filipino citizens cannot be discounted, no matter how weak or “failed” in its function as a mediator/receiver  of supposedly neutral global market compulsion.

By 2007, there were 9.2 million Filipino workers scattered in 197 countries,  over 9% of of the total labor force. Permanent OFWs are concentrated in North America and Australia, while those with work contracts or undocumented are dispersed in West Asia (Middle East), Europe, East and South Asia, and as sea-based workers (roughly 250,000). The situation of Filipino migrant workers in the United States has been adequately explored in various studies (San Juan 1998, 2009; Espiritu 2003).  Grace Chang (2000) has investigated the plight of Filipina caregivers, nurses, and nannies in North America. A recent write-up on the horrendous condition of  smuggled Filipino caregivers in Los Angeles, California, may illustrate one form of modern slavery (Alimurung 2009). Why do Filipinas easily succumb to labor traffickers?  About 700,000 men, women and children are being trafficked to the U.S., but OFWs are quite unique in that the Filipino’s deeply colonized mentality/psyche privileges America as “the dream destination,” an intoxicating way out of poverty. 

Most OFWs today (46.8%) are service workers: household or domestic helpers, maids or cleaners in commercial establishments, cooks, waiters, bartenders, caregivers and caretakers (IBON 2008). Although most are professionals with college degrees, teachers, midwives, social workers, etc., they are generally underpaid by the standards of their host countries—a sociopolitical, not purely economic, outcome of core-periphery inequity. OFWs work in the most adverse conditions, with none or limited labor protections and social services otherwise accorded to nationals. Whether legal or undocumented, OFWs experience racism, discrimination, xenophobic exclusion, criminalization; many are brutalized in isolated households and in the “entertainment” industry (Komite 1980). They are deprived of food and humane lodging, harassed, beaten, raped, and killed (Bultron  2007; Taguba 2002). Meanwhile, the families left behind suffer from stresses and tensions in households lacking parental guidance; often, marriages break up, leaving derelict children vulnerable to the exigencies of a competitive, individualist-oriented environment (Arellano-Carandang et al 2007). These are all symptoms of the logic of class and national inequality operating in a hierarchical world-system, not objective, neutral effects of a temporary dis-equilibrium of the free market due to illegitimate political and social interference.

Victimization of Filipinos (via insults, beating, starvation, rape, quarantine, murder) by employers from Europe to the Middle East to Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan have been documented in detail since the seventies when the export of “warm bodies” started. The fates of Flor Contemplacion, Sarah Balabagan, Maricris Sioson, and others—several hundred OFWs languish today in jails in the Middle East, Taiwan, Malaysia, etc.–have become public scandals and occasions for venting mass indignation. But the Philippine government officials either refuse to do anything substantial, or deliberately ignore the reports, dismissing them as untypical or trivial.  Consequently, on April 8, 2009, the UN Committee for the Ratification of the Migrants Convention deleted the Philippines from the list of model states complying with the UN Convention mandating countries to protect the rights of their migrant citizens.

Agony of Deracination

Amid the tide of barbarization attendant on the putative benefits of flexible, neoliberal capitalism, we have witnessed a paradigm-shift among scholars of the emergent Filipino diaspora. Critical intelligence has been hijacked to serve vulgar apologetics: for example, the employment of Filipina women as domestics or nannies to care for children, old people, the chronically infirm or disabled, and so on, has been lauded as altruistic care, embellished with a philanthropic facade. With most female domestics coming from impoverished, formerly colonized societies, it is clear that the traditional structure of global inequality among nation-states operates as a crucial determining factor. One can no longer deny that the buying and selling of “third world” bodies is a legacy of the unjust and unequal division of international labor in both productive and reproductive spheres (Petras 2007).. This “global care chain” (household work managed as a profit-making industry) has been described by, among others, Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Hochshild (2006). But their picture is vitiated by a telling omission: the status/rank of the Philippines as a neocolonial dependency, without the capability to enforce its sovereignty right and safeguard the welfare of OFWs.

     The stark disparity is sharply delineated by Bridget Anderson in her penetrating critique, Doing the Dirty Work? Opposing scholars who streamline if not euphemistically glamorize the job of caring, Anderson exposes how domestics from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and other subaltern nations function as “legal slaves.” Anderson  shows how this came about through the economic conquest of third-world societies by the profit-driven industrialized North. This has given the middle class of the First World “materialistic forms of power over them” (2000, 149). She deploys Orlando Patterson’s conceptual distinction between the pre-modern personalistic idiom of power and the materialistic idiom of power under capitalism. She defines the employer/domestic relation as a master/slave relation. The employer exercises both forms of power: “the materialistic because of the massive discrepancy in access to all kinds of material resources between the receiving state and the countries of origin of migrants; the personalistic because the worker is located in the employer’s home—and often dependent on her not just for her salary but for her food, water, accommodation and access to the basic amenities of life. The employer uses both these idioms of power, and both idioms are given to employers and reinforced by the state” (2000, 6).  Viewed systemically, the global capitalist structure enables the exploitation of poor countries by the rich ones, and the exploitation of the citizens of poor countries by citizens  of the global North (either male or female) through immigration legislation, even criminalizing migrants who assert their human rights.  Earlier, institutionally imposed norms of race, nationality, and gender served to naturalize the migrant worker’s subjugation. But in the new field of globalized capital, the lack of citizenship rights and the status of subordinated or inferiorized nationality/ethnicity both contribute to worsening the degradation of third-world workers. 

     But there is something more pernicious that eludes the orthodox scholastic. What Anderson argues is that domestic work commodifies not only labor power—in classic political economy, labor power serves as the commodity that produces surplus-value (profit) not returned to or shared with the workers–but, more significantly, the personhood of the domestic. Indentured or commodified personhood is the key to understanding what globalization is really all about. Consequently, what needs to be factored in is not only an analysis of the labor-capital relation, but also the savage asymmetry of nation-states, of polities that hire these poor women and the polities that collude in this postmodern slave-trade. Economics signifies nothing without the global sociopolitical fabric in which it is historically woven (Munck 2002). Brutalized migrant labor throughout the world thrives on the sharpening inequality of nation-states, particularly the intense impoverishment of “third world” societies in Africa, Latin America, and Asia ravaged by the “shock doctrine” of “disaster capitalism” (Klein 2007). 

Race, national and class forces operate together in determining the exchange-value (the price) of migrant labor. The reproduction of a homogeneous race (in Europe, North America, Japan) integral to the perpetuation of the unjust social order is connected with the historical development of nation-states, whether as imagined or as geopolitically defined loci. Historically, membership in the community was determined by race in its various modalities, a circumscription that is constantly being negotiated. It is in this racialized setting that European women’s positioning as citizen acquires crucial significance. This is the site where third-world domestics play a major role, as Anderson acutely underscores: “The fact that they are migrants is important: in order to participate like men women must have workers who will provide the same flexibility as wives, in particular working long hours and combining caring and domestic chores” (2000, 190). This is the nexus where we discern that care as labor is the domestic’s assignment, whereas the experience of care as emotion is the employer’s privilege.  The distinction is fundamental and necessary in elucidating the axis of social reproduction rooted in socially productive practices. Such a vital distinction speaks volumes about migrant domestic labor/care as the key sociopolitical factor that sustains the existing oppressive international division of labor. This crucial distinction undermines all claims that globalized capitalism has brought, and is bringing, freedom, prosperity, and egalitarian democracy to everyone.

The political economy of globalized migrant labor involves the dialectics of production and reproduction. Following an empiricist line of inquiry, Rhacel Salazar Parrenas  examines the racial and class dimensions of OFWs in what she quaintly terms “the international transfer of caretaking” in Rome and Los Angeles (2005, 113).  While she calls attention to the gendered system of transnational capitalism, she downplays the racialist component and scarcely deals with subordination by nationality. This is because  Parrenas construes “class” in a deterministic, economistic fashion.  Her focus on the “patriarchal nuclear household” displaces any criticism of colonial/imperial extraction of surplus value from enslaved/neocolonized reproductive labor. Indeed, the fact of the caretakers’ national origin is erased, thus evading the issue of national oppression (for an eclectic view ignoring U.S. imperial reach, see Santos 2009). The slavish condition of indentured reproductive labor scrutinized by Anderson is not given proper weight. We need to examine how the dynamics of capital accumulation hinges on, and subtends, the sustained reproduction of iniquitous social relations and exploitative inter-state relations.  Unlike academic experts, Anderson foregrounds social reproduction at the center of her inquiry, allowing her to demonstrate how gender, race, and nation are tightly interwoven into the mistress/domestic class relationship. In effect, the Filipina domestic is what enables European/North American bourgeois society and, by extension, the relatively prosperous societies of the Middle East and Asia, to reproduce themselves within their nation-state domains and thus sustain capital accumulation with its horrendous consequences. 


In Quest of Filipino Agency

Postmodernist scholars posit the demise of the nation as an unquestioned assumption, almost a doctrinal point of departure for speculations on the nature of the globalization process (Sassen 1996). Are concepts such as the nation-state and its exclusive territoriality, sovereignty, nationality, and their referents obsolete? Whatever the rumors about the demise of the nation-state in the wake of September 11, 2001, agencies that assume its healthy existence are busy: not only the members of the United Nations, but also the metropolitan powers of the global North, with the United States as its military spearhead, have all reaffirmed their civilizing nationalism—disguised as humanitarian intervention–with a vengeance. 

In this epoch of preemptive counter-terrorism, the local and the global find a meeting ground in the transactions among nation-states and diverse nationalities while the sharing of hegemony is negotiated among the metropolitan powers. Their instrumentalities—the World Trade Organization, NATO, IMF/WB, and assorted financial consortia—are all exerting pressures on poor underdeveloped nations. They actualize the “collective imperialism” of the global North (Amin 2003; Martin and Schumann 1996; Engel  2003). Citizenship cards, passports, customs gatekeepers, and border patrols are still powerful regulatory agencies. Given the power of the nation-states of the U.S., Japan, UK, France, Germany, among others, to dictate the terms of migrant hiring, and the administered circulation of wages, passports, rent, and other instrumentalities, the Philippines cannot rescue millions of its own citizens from being maltreated, persecuted, harassed, beaten up, raped, jailed, and murdered (Africa 2009). Violence enacted by the rich nation-states and their citizens hiring OFWs prevail as the chief control mechanism in regulating the labor-market, the flows of bodies, money, goods, and so on.

My interest here is historically focused: to inquire into how the specific geopolitical contingencies of the Filipino diaspora-in-the-making can problematize this axiomatic of multiple identity-creation in the context of “third world” principles of national emancipation, given the persistent neocolonial, not postcolonial, predicament of the Philippines today (San Juan 1996; 2006). Suffice it here to spell out the parameters of this transmigrancy, an evolving transit narrative of neocolonials: the profound impoverishment of millions of Filipino peasants and workers, the extremely class-fissured social order managed by local compradors, landlords, and bureaucrat-capitalists who foster systematic emigration to relieve unemployment and defuse mass unrest, combined with the hyped-up attractions of Hong Kong and other newly industrializing countries, and so on. The convergence of complex global factors, both internal and external, residual and emergent,  has been carefully examined by numerous studies sponsored by IBON, GABRIELA, Center for People’s Empowerment and Governance (CENPEG), and others. We may cite, in particular, the studies on the devalorization of women’s labor in global cities, the shrinking status of sovereignty for peripheral nation-states, and the new saliency of human rights in a feminist analytic of the “New World Order”  (Pineda-Ofreneo and Ofreneo 1995; Yukawa  1996; Chang 2000).  In addition to the unrelenting pillage of the public treasury by the irredeemably corrupt oligarchy with its retinue of hirelings and clientele, the plunder of the economy by transnational capital has been worsened by the “structural conditionalities” imposed by the WB/IMF (Villegas 1983; De Dios and Rocamora 1992; Quintos 2002). 

Disaggregation of the economy has registered in the disintegration of ordinary Filipino lives (preponderant in rural areas and urban slums) due to forced migration because of lack of employment, recruiting appeals of governments and business agencies, and the dissolution of the homeland as psychic and physical anchorage in the vortex of the rapid depredation of finance capital. In general, imperialism and the anarchy of the “free market” engender incongruities, nonsynchronies, and shifting subject-positions of the non-Western “Other” inscribed in the liminal space of subjugated territory. Capital accumulation is the matrix of unequal power (Hymer 1975, Harvey 1996; Yates 2003) between metropolis and colonies. The time of alienated daily labor has so far annihilated the spaces of the body, home, community, and nation for OFWs. The expenditure of a whole nation-people’s labor-power now confounds the narrative of individual progress in which the logic of capital and its metaphysics of rationality have been entrenched since the days of John Locke and Adam Smith.

Gatherings and Dispersals

 In the 1980s and 1990s, diaspora studies emerged as a revision of the traditional sociological  approach to international migration and the national process of modernization (Cohen 2008). Because of globalizing changes in the modes of transport and communications (electronic mail, satellite TV, Internet), diaspora communities appear to be able to sustain their own distinctive identities, life-styles, and economic  ties to their homelands. Accordingly, the static territorial nationalisms of the past are deemed  to have given way to a series of shifting or contested boundaries, engendering  notions of transnational networks, “imagined communities,” “global ethnospaces,” “preimmigration crucibles,” etc. (Marshall 1998, 159). These notions emphasize the complexity, fluidity, and diversity of migrant identities and experiences, foregrounding personal narratives and the popular culture of diasporic communities rather than structural, unidirectional economic and political influences.

The term “diaspora” usually designates “a minority ethnic group of migrant origin which maintains sentimental or material links with its land of origin” (Esman1996, 316). Either because of social exclusion, internal cohesion, and other geopolitical factors, these communities are never assimilated into the host society; but they develop in time an idiosyncratic consciousness that carries out a collective sharing of space with others, purged of any exclusivist ethos or proprietary design. These communities might embody a peculiar sensibility and enact a compassionate agenda for the whole species that thrives on cultural difference (Keith and Pile 1993; Clifford 1997). Unlike peoples who have been conquered, annexed, enslaved, or coerced in some other way, diasporas are voluntary movements of people from place to place, although such migrations also betray symptoms of compulsion if analyzed within a global political economy of labor and interstate political rivalries.  Immanuel Wallerstein (1995) suggests that labor migrants (like OFWs) can challenge transnational corporations by overloading the system with “free movement,” at the same time that they try to retain for themselves more of the surplus value they produce. But are such movements really free? And if they function as a reserve army of cheap labor wholly dependent on the unpredictable fortunes of business, isn’t the expectation of their rebelliousness exorbitant? Like ethnicity, diaspora fashioned by determinate historical causes has tended to take on “the ‘natural’ appearance of an autonomous force, a ‘principle’ capable of determining the course of social action” (Comaroff 1992).  Like racism and nationalism, diaspora presents multiform physiognomies open to various interpretations and articulations. 

One sociologist argues that OFWs are revolutionizing Filipino society, pushing the political system “toward greater democracy, greater transparency and governance” (David 2006), a foolish judgment given the corruption and inequities attendant on this labor-export program acknowledged by everyone. Lacking any dialectical  critique of the dynamics of colonialism and imperialism that connect the Philippines and its people with the United States and the rest of the world, mainstream academic  inquiries into the phenomenon of recent Filipino immigration and dislocation are all scholastic games, at best disingenuous exercises in Eurocentric/white-supremacist apologetics. This is because they rely on concepts and methodologies that conceal unequal power relations—that is, relations of subordination and domination, racial exclusion, marginalization, sexism, gender inferiorization, as well as national subalternity, and other forms of discrimination. What I want to stress is the centrality of waged/commodified  labor assessed and valued within the global political economy of commodity exchange  (Garnham  1999). In the field of current globalization studies, the Global North-Global South duality has not extinguished the crucial theoretical role the concept of the nation/nationality plays, in particular the asymmetries of nation-states and the varying role the state plays in regulating the economy and planning/implementing social policies within specific territories (Nixon 1997; Sader 2010).

Has the world really become a home for OFWs,  for indigenes who inhabit a group of 7,100 islands, “one of the world’s most strategically important land masses” (Demko 1992)?  Globalization has indeed facilitated the mobility of goods, services, information, ideas, and of course peoples. It has proceeded to the extent that in our reconfigured landscapes, now grasped as liminal or interstitial, old boundaries have shifted and borders disappeared.  Everyone has allegedly become transculturized due to Americanization or Disneyfication in actuality or in cyberspace.  Representations of transnationals or transmigrants materialize as mutations of expatriates, refugees,  exiles, or nomadic travelers (such as Filipino “TNTs,” fugitive undocumented Filipinos). Given these transformations, the reality and idea of the nation and of national sovereignty have become contentious topics of debate and speculation (Ebert and Zavarzadeh 2008).  They constitute a theoretical force-field  comprised of notions of identity and their attendant politics of difference,  normative rules of citizenship, nationality, cosmopolitanism, belonging, human rights, and so on. It is in this context of globalization, where ethnic conflicts and the universal commodification of human bodies co-exist in a compressed time-space of postmodernity, that we can examine  the genealogy and physiognomy of this process called the Filipino diaspora, the lived collective experience of  OFWs.

Encountering  OFW  Singularities

At the beginning of this millennium, OFWs have become the newest diasporic community in the whole world.  They endure poorly paid employment under substandard conditions, with few or null rights, in the Middle East, Asia, Europe, North America, and elsewhere. It might be noted here that historically, diasporic groups are defined not only by a homeland but also by a desire for eventual return and a collective identity centered on myths and memories of the homeland. The Filipino diaspora, however, is different. Since the homeland has long been conquered  and occupied by Western powers (Spain, United States) and remains colonized despite formal or nominal independence, the Filipino identification is not with a fully defined nation but with regions, localities, and communities of languages and traditions. Perceived as untutored, recalcitrant strangers, they are lumped with familiar aliens: Chinese, Mexicans, Japanese, Pacific Islanders, and so on. Newspaper reports have cited the Philippines as the next target of the US government’s global “crusade” against terrorism—tutelage by coercion. Where is the sovereign nation alluded to in passports, contracts, and other identification papers? How do we conceive of this “Filipino” nation or nationality, given the insidious impact of US disciplinary forces and now, on top of the persistent neocolonizing pressure, the usurping force of quantifying capital and its reductive cash-nexus ? 

According to orthodox immigration theory, “push” and “pull” factors combine to explain the phenomenon of overseas contract workers. Do we resign ourselves to this easy schematic formulation? Poverty and injustice, to be sure, have driven most Filipinos to seek work abroad, sublimating the desire to return by regular remittances to their families. Occasional visits and other means of communication defer the eventual homecoming. Alienation and isolation, brutal and racist treatment, and other dehumanized and degrading conditions prevent their permanent settlement in the “receiving” countries, except where they have been given legal access to obtaining citizenship status. If the return is postponed, are modes of adaptation and temporary domicile in non-native grounds the viable alternatives for these expatriates, quasi-refugees and reluctant exiled sojourners? 

The reality of “foreignness,” of “otherness,” seems ineluctable. Alienation, insulting treatment, and racist violence prevent their permanent resettlement in the “receiving societies,” due to implicit genetic or procedural norms of acquiring citizenship. Or to a traditional ethos of purist self-privileging. OFWs are thus suspended in transit, in the process of traversing the distance between coordinates of their journeys. Because the putative “Filipino” nation is in the process of formation in the neocolony and abroad, OFWs have been considered transnationals or transmigrants—a paradoxical turn since the existence of the nation is problematic or under interrogation, whereby the “trans” prefix becomes chimerical.  This diaspora then faces the perennial hurdles of racism, ethnic exclusion, inferiorization via racial profiling, and physical attacks. Can Filipino migrant labor mount a collective resistance against globalized exploitation and racialized ostracism? In what way can this hypothetical diaspora serve as a paradigm for analyzing and critically unsettling the corporate-led international division of labor and the consolidation of reified ethnic categories as the decline of hegemonic bourgeois rule  unfolds? 

At this juncture, I offer the following propositions for further reflection and elaboration. My paramount thesis on the phenomenon of the Filipino dismemberment is this: Given that the Philippine habitat/dwelling-place has never cohered as a genuinely independent nation—national autonomy continues to escape the Filipino people subjected to a repressive tutelage—Filipinos are dispersed from family or kinship webs in villages, towns, or provincial regions first, and loosely from an inchoate, even “refeudalized,” polity. This dispersal is primarily due to economic coercion and disenfranchisement under the retrogressive regime of comprador-bureaucratic (not welfare-state) capitalism articulated with tributary institutions and practices. The network of patriarchal clans/dynasties in a partly nationalized space unravels when women from all sectors (peasantry, ethnic or indigenous groups, proletariat) alienate their “free labor” in the world market. They are inserted into a quasi-feudal terrain within global capitalism. While the prime commodity remains labor-power (singularly measured here in both time and space especially for lived-in help), OFWs find themselves frozen in a precarious, vulnerable status between  serfhood and colonizing pettybourgeois households, or incarcerated as slaves in Japan, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere. These indentured cohorts are thus witnesses to the unimpeded dismemberment of the inchoate Filipino nation and the scattering of its traumatized fragments to various state-governed policed territories around the planet. 

From a postmodern perspective, migration is sometimes seen as an event-sequence offering the space of freedom to seek one’s fortune, experience the pleasure of adventure in libidinal games of resistance, sojourns sweetened by illusions of transcendence. For OFWs, this ludic notion is inappropriate. For the origin to which the OFW returns is not properly a nation-state but a barangay (neighborhood), a quasi-primordial community, kinship network, or even a ritual family/clan. Meanwhile, civic solidarities are gradually displacing the old ones. In this context, the Philippine state-machinery (both sending and receiving  states benefit from  the brokerage transaction) actually operates as a corrupt exploiter, not representative of the masses, a comprador agent of transnational corporations and Western imperial powers, enabling the infliction not simply of feminicide but genocide. The Philippine ideological state-apparatus in effect functions as an accomplice of the U.S. prison-industrial complex with its multinational accessories and connections. 

What are the myths enabling a cathexis  of the homeland as collective memory and project? They derive from assorted childhood reminiscences and folklore together with customary practices surrounding municipal and religious celebrations; at best, there may be signs of a residual affective tie to national heroes like Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, and latter-day celebrities like singers, movie stars, athletes (the boxing champion Pacquiao), charismatic TV personalities, and so on. Indigenous food, dances, and music can be acquired as commodities (epitomized by the ubiquitous “balikbayan” [returnee] boxes) whose presence temporarily heals the trauma of removal; family reunification can resolve the psychic damage of loss of status for those enduring lives of “quiet desperation.” In short, rootedness in autochthonous habitat does not exert a commanding sway; it is experienced only as a nostalgic mood. Meanwhile, language, religion, kinship, the sacramental resonance of neighborhood rituals, and common experiences in school or workplace function invariably as the organic bonds of community. Such psychodynamic cluster of affects demarcates the boundaries of the imagination but also release energies  that mutate into actions serving ultimately national-popular emancipatory projects. 

Alienation in the host country is what unites OFWs, a shared history of colonial and racial  subordination, marginalization, and struggles for cultural survival through heterogeneous forms of covert resistance and open rebellion. This is what may replace the nonexistent nation/homeland,  absent the political self-determination of the Filipino masses. In the 1930s, the expatriate activist-writer Carlos Bulosan (1995) once observed that “it is a crime to be a Filipino in America.” Years of union struggle, united-front agitation, educational  campaigns, and political organ

izing in interethnic and interracial coalitions have blurred if not complicated that stigma. Accomplishments in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s have provided nourishment for communal pride. And, on the other side, impulses of “assimilationism” via the “model minority” umbrella have aroused a passion for eclectic multiculturalism divorced from any urge to disinvest in the “possessive investment in whiteness” (Lipsitz 1998). However, compared to the Japanese or Asian Indians , Filipino Americans as a whole have not “made it”; the exceptions prove the rule. Andrew Cunanan (the serial killer who slew the famous Versace) is the specter that continues to haunt “melting pot” Filipino Americanists who continue to blabber about the “forgotten Filipino” in the hope of being awarded a share of the now disappeared welfare-state pie. Dispossession of sovereignty leads to moral and ethical shipwreck, with the natives drifting rudderless, some fortuitously marooned in islands across the three continents. Via strategies of communal preservation and versatile tactics of defining the locality of the community through negotiations and shifting compromises, diasporic subjects might defer their return—unless and until there is a Filipino nation that they can identify with. This will continue in places where there is no hope of permanent resettlement as citizens or bona fide residents (as in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and elsewhere) and a permanent danger of arrest, detention, and deportation–the disavowed terror of globalization. 

 In general, OFWs will not return permanently (except perhaps for burial)  to the site of misery and oppression—to poverty, exploitation, humiliated status, despair, hunger, and lack of a future with dignity. Of course, some are forcibly returned: damaged, deported, or dead. OFWs would rather move their kin and parents to their place of employment, preferably in countries where family reunification is allowed, as in the United States, Canada, and so on. Or even in places of suffering and humiliation, provided there is some hope or illusion of relief and eventual prosperity. Utopian longings can mislead but also reconfigure and redirect wayward travels sojourns, and adventures—historical moments connecting specific trends and actualizing the concrete dynamic totality of a world freed from inherited necessity (Ilyenkov 1977). 

Filipino nationalism blossomed in the late 1960s and 1970s, but suffered attenuation when it was rechanelled to support the populist elitism of Aquino and Ramos, the lumpen populism of Estrada, and the thoroughly corrupt Arroyo regime. With the re-appointment of the Arroyo-holdover Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and do-nothing bureaucrats in the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration, President Aquino III signaled its determination to uphold the free-market neoliberal status quo the keystone of which is this unconscionable labor-export policy (Migrante International 2009). The precarious balance of class forces at this conjuncture is subject to shifts in political mobilization and calculation, hence the intervention of Filipino agencies with emancipatory goals and socialist principles is crucial and strategically necessary. Especially after September 11, 2001, and the Arroyo sycophancy to the Bush regime, the Philippines (considered by the US government as the enclave/haven of homegrown “terrorists” like the Abu Sayyaf) may soon be transformed into the next fertile “killing field” after Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Recently, a coalition of migrant workers and professionals called Migrante International together with other sectors organized rallies in Manila and other cities to protest government neglect of OFWs. (Makilan 2007; Elllao 2009; De Jsus and Hongo 2009; Olea 2009). This front mobilized millions in the Middle East, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and cities in Europe and North America. Millions denounced U.S. diplomatic and military interventions (covert action, low-intensity warfare, and its attendant atrocities of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances of ordinary citizens) against the Filipino people’s struggle for self-determination and social justice—a united-front praxis distinguishing the cumulative strategy of winning hegemony via the praxis of historic blocs.


Identity Matters

 In this time of emergency, the Filipino collective identity is going through ordeals, undergoing the vicissitudes of political metamorphosis and elaboration. The Filipino diasporic consciousness is without doubt an odd species, a singular genre: it is not obsessed with a physical return to roots or to land where common sacrifices (to echo Ernest Renan) are remembered and celebrated. It is gradually being tied more to a symbolic homeland indexed by kinship or sutured to organic mores and communal practices that it tries to transplant abroad in diverse localities. In a moment of Babylonian captivity, as it were, dwelling in “Egypt” or its postmodern surrogates, building public spheres of solidarity to sustain identities outside the national time/space “in order to live inside, with a difference” may be the most viable route (or root) of Filipinos in motion—the collectivity in transit, although this is, given the possibility of differences becoming contradictions, subject to the revolutionary transformations enveloping the Philippine countryside and cities. It is susceptible also to other radical changes in the geopolitical rivalry of capitalist interests based on nation-states. But it is not an open-ended “plural vision” characterized by arbitrary border-crossings, ludic alterities, and contingencies. There is indeed deferral, postponement, or waiting. Meanwhile, history moves on in the battlefields of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao where a people’s war (with its Moro component) rooted in a durable insurrectionary tradition rages on. This drama of a national-democratic revolution will not allow the Filipino diaspora and its progeny to slumber in the consumerist paradises of Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Milan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, or Sidney. It will certainly disturb the peace of those benefiting from the labor and sacrifices of OFWs who experience the repetition-compulsion of uneven development and suffer the recursive traumas of displacement, marginalization, and dispossession. 

Caught in the cross-currents of global upheavals, one can only conclude with a very provisional and indeed temporizing epilogue to a narrative still unfolding. Filipinos in the United States and elsewhere, mis-recognized by a hegemonic Western dispensation, are neither “Oriental” nor “Hispanic,” despite their looks and names; they are nascent citizens of a country in quest of genuine self-determination. They might be syncretic or cyborg subjects with suspect loyalties. They cannot be called ambivalent “transnationals” or flexible trans-status agents because of racialized, ascribed markers (physical appearance, accent, peculiar non-white folkways, and other group idiosyncracies) that are needed to sustain and reproduce white supremacy in historically racialized polities.  Anderson (2000) has cogently demonstrated how the international labor market consistently racializes the selling of Filipina selfhood; thus, not only gender and class but, more decisively, national identities articulated with immigrant status, denigrated culture, and so on, are reproduced through the combined exploitation and oppression taking place in the employer’s household. Slavery has become re-domesticated in the age of reconfigured laissez-faire corporate schemes—the vampires of the despotic past continue to haunt the cyber-domain of finance capital and its brutalizing hallucinations. 

The trajectory of the Filipino diaspora remains unpredictable. Ultimately, the rebirth of Filipino agency in the era of global capitalism depends not only on the vicissitudes of social transformation in the US but, in a dialectical sense, on the fate of the struggle for autonomy and popular-democratic sovereignty in the Philippines. We find autonomous zones in Manila and in the provinces where balikbayans (returnees) still practice, though with increasing trepidation sometimes interrupted by fits of amnesia, the speech-acts and durable performances of pakikibaka (common struggle), pakikiramay (collective sharing), and pakikipagkapwa-tao (reciprocal esteem). Left untranslated, those phrases from the philosophical vernacular address a gradually vanishing audience. Indeed, the register of this discourse itself may just be a wayward apostrophe to a vanished dream world—a liberated homeland, a phantasmagoric refuge—evoking the utopias and archaic golden ages of prehistoric myths. Wherever it is, however, this locus of memories, hopes, and dreams will surely be inhabited by a new collectivity as befits a new objective reality to which Susan Buck-Morss, in her elegiac paean to the catastrophe that overtook mass utopia, alludes. She envisions a future distinguished by “the geographical mixing of people and things, global webs that disseminate meanings, electronic prostheses of the human body, new arrangements of the human sensorium. Such imaginings, freed from the constraints of bounded spaces and from the dictates of unilinear time, might dream of becoming, in Lenin’s scenario, ‘as radical as reality itself’ ” (Buck-Morrs 2000, 278; Fischer 1996). 

          Homelessness and uprooting characterize the fate of millions today—political refugees, displaced persons, emigres and exiles, stateless nationalities, homeless and vagrant humans everywhere.  Solidarity acquires a new temper. In the postmodern transnational restructuring of the globe after the demise of the socialist experiments in the Soviet Union and elsewhere, the Philippines has been compelled to experience a late-capitalist diaspora of its inhabitants. Diasporic labor exchange, a novel sociopolitical category (preponderantly female) transported to the markets of various nation-states, in particular the Middle East, is the new arena of hegemonic contestation.  Drawn from petty-bourgeois, peasant, and proletarian roots, OFWs are leveled  by their conditions of work (de Guzman 1993). Unilaterally enforced labor contracts partial to the employer—the matrix of this inferiorized alterity–defines the identity of Filipino subalterns vis-a-vis the master-citizens. They are the proles and plebeians of the global cities. 

Meanwhile, the urban centers of the global North, also cognized as the putative space of flows (of bodies, commodities, money, intellectual property, and so on), prohibits these subalterns from carving a locale for their sociality. For these deracinated populations, their nationality signifies their subalternity within the existing interstate hierarchy of nation-states (emasculated but not yet fungible nor defunct) while money (yen, petrodollars) permits them the prestige of cosmopolitan status. This auratic profile is reinforced by the whole ideological apparatus of consumerism, the ironically betrayed promise of enjoying appearances or semblances (Haug 1986). The commodity’s promise of future bliss never materializes, remaining forever suspended in giant billboard advertisements, in TV and cinema screens, in fantasies, in the passage of “balikbayan” boxes. For foreign observers, the almost but not yet globalized city of MetroManila exudes an illusion of consumerist affluence, sporting the postcolonial mirage of hybrid spectacles in megamalls and carceral Disneylands amid the ruin of fragmented families in squalid quarters,  swamped with petty crimes, drugs, prostitution, and other degrading symptoms of anomie. OFWs congregating in the malls, public squares, and railroad stations, may be the most intriguing parodic spectacle of this new millennium prefigured by Guy Debord’s (1983)  “society of the spectacle.”  In their alienation and deprivation, Filipina  “slaves” of  uneven combined development may constitute the negativity of the Other, the alterity of the  permanent crisis of transnational capital.  This position does not translate into the role of an international proletarian vanguard, but simply intimates a potentially destabilizing force—OFWs act as dangerous alien bacilli, eliciting fear and ressentiment— situated at the core of the precarious racist order. They also sometimes march under left-wing anti-imperialist slogans and socialist platforms. If the Other (of color) speaks, will the disguised slave-owner/ “master” from the global North listen? 

Extrapolating  Agendas

What needs urgent critical attention today is the racial politics of the transnational blocs to which we have been utterly blind, obsessed as we have been with “classism.”  This approach construes “class” in deterministic fashion, congeals it as an attitudinal modality replete with the nuances of patron-client interaction, with amor propio, and so on (on gender struggles, see Eviota 1992; Aguilar 2000).  Filipinos have been victims of EuroAmerican racializing ideology and politics, but characteristically we ignore it and speak of our racism toward Moros, Igorots, Lumads, etc.  Race and ethnicity have occupied center-stage in the politics of nationalist struggles in this postCold War era.  OFWs need to inform themselves of the complex workings of racism and chauvinism subsumed in the paternalistic Establishment pluralism of  the industrialized states.  On this hinges the crucial issue of national autonomy, pivoting around the question of whether a dependent formation like the Philippines can uncouple or delink from the predatory world-system in order to pursue a different, uniquely Filipino kind of non-competitive sustainable growth and a radically liberatory kind of national project.  Perhaps the trigger for a new mass mobilization can be the awareness of racial politics (articulated with nationality) as a way of restaging the national-democratic struggle in the new framework of neoliberal market discourse–unless there emerges in the global North a powerful socialist/communist challenge to the corporate elite. The prospect of radical social change remains uncharted, criss-crossed with detours, beguiling traps, and blind alleys where signs of the future are perpetually spawned.

. Since  my primary intent here is to offer heuristic propositions on the nature of the Filipino diasporic subject and its capacity for transformative agency, I will hazard to conclude with large generalizations and hypotheses.  

By virtue of its insertion into transitional conjunctures—from Spanish feudal-mercantilist colonialism to U.S. monopoly-capitalist domination—the Filipino diasporic subject is essentially a historic bloc of diverse forces.  Inscribed within the socio-historical context sketched broadly earlier, this bloc/subject is necessarily contradictory, a product of uneven and combined development. Its trajectory may be inferred from the layered dimension of its historic rootedness in a semi-feudal, comprador-sponsored, bureaucratic formation and its exposure to the dictates of the neoliberal market.  Such dictates, as we’ve noted earlier, ushered this neocolonized subject-bloc to situations of indentured servitude, serfhood, or  virtual slavery, as witnessed by Sarah Balabagan’s ordeal, Flor Contemplacion’s hanging, and the fate of “entertainers” owned by criminal syndicates such as the Japanese Yakuzas  (Beltran And Rodriguez  1996; Torrevillas 1996).  One may speculate that this collective subject manifests a constructive negativity as it struggles to free itself from quasi-feudal bondage and from slave-like confinement. Given the uneven, disaggregated  process of diasporic mutations suffered by OFWs–a removal first from a semi-feudal, tributary formation to a capitalist regime that commodifies their personhoods—the struggle of this bloc (OFWs and their allies) will have to undergo a popular-democratic phase of renewal: regaining migrant-workers’ liberties as persons with natural rights (as defined by the UN Charter, UN Convention on Migrants, etc.). After all, their cause is fundamental: to regain their right of livelihood expropriated by a minority privileged elite. But this stage coalesces with the struggle to assert the right to collective self-determination and representation, either as a national/popular bloc or political community defined by common principles and goals (San Juan 2007; 2009).  This assertion is the struggle for popular-democratic hegemony in the Philippines and in places wherever OFWs may be found or discovered. 

Uneven and combined development distinguishes this struggle. This has been foreshadowed by Karl Marx’s multilinear social dialectic that has been distorted by bourgeois and orthodox into a dogmatic economic determinism, as recently argued by Kevin Anderson (2010). The essentially contested concept of globalization, and its corollary notions of postcolonial transnationalism, civic cosmopolitanism, Eurocentric hybridity, and kindred scholastic bromides cannot expunge the realities of class and third-world origin from local and cross-border conflicts (Callinicos 2003; Dirlik 2007). It is in the context of this ideological debate that I have framed my speculative reflections here on the adaptive and creative nature of Filipino nationalism, a political force whose dynamic élan is responsive to the changing alignment of political and social forces in the Philippines and around the world where about 10 million OFWs are scattered and mobilizing every day. 

Amid the sharpening rivalry among capitalist states/blocs and the upsurge of anti-immigrant racism and neofascist populisms in Europe, North America, and newly industrialized regions, one may discern two contradictory impulses are unified in the Filipino nationalist project of countering imperial hegemony: the separatist one of national independence,  and the integrationist one of unity with universal secular progress/world socialist revolution (see Genovese 1972). This process of engagement  would be historically contingent on the fluctuating crisis of global capitalism. Essentially, Filipino dislocation on both levels—as a people colonized by US imperial power, and as a quasi-nation subordinated to global capital, in the process of uneven development (Mandel 1983)—constitutes the horizon of its project of  affirming its identity as a historic bloc of multisectoral progressive forces. This bloc will play its role as a revolutionary protagonist in the political terrain of a united front against disciplinary neoliberalism (Gill 2009), in an era when US hegemony (political + military) is yielding to a multipolar global arrangement. Filipino nationalism thereby acquires critical universality as part of a universal anti-capitalist trend with a long internationalist record of struggle (Lowy 1998).  Perhaps the Filipino people, claiming their sovereign right to a historically specific position in the civilizational arena, would then become  equal, active participants in a worldwide coalition of forces against monopoly finance capital and its local agents, be they labor recruiters, neocolonized bureaucratic states, financial consortiums, or transnational institutions like the IMF/WB, WTO, or even a supra-national entity like the UN controlled by wealthy industrialized elites. Only in this process of active solidarity with other subordinated or excluded  peoples will OFWs, given their creative integrity and commitment to self-determination, be able to transcend their deterritorialized fate in a truly borderless world without classes, races, or nationalities. We envisage germinating from the combined ideas and practices of OFW struggles an alternative, feasible world without the blight of  class exploitation and gendered racialized oppression—the concrete totality of an emancipated, commonly shared planet satisfying human needs and wants.


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THE FILIPINO DIASPORA: Emblem & Symptom by E. San Juan, Jr.




Speculations on the Filipino Diaspora:
Recognizing Ourselves in OFWs; or Progress Over Our Dead Bodies

E. San Juan, Jr.
Polytechnic University of the Philippines

In the era of “post-truth” and “alternative facts,” can we still talk intelligibly about 12 million Filipinos scattered abroad? And multiplying by the hour? Over four million reside in the United States (not including the million or so TNTs or undocumented aliens, which count among others the famous Jose Antonio Vargas). Other Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are distributed as follows (these figures need constant updating): Saudi Arabia: 1,029,000; United Arab Emirates: 477,000; Canada: 820,000; Japan: 226,000. The main source of remittances, now totaling $29 billion (about 10% of GDP), are Ger- many, Hong Kong, Japan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, UK, and the United States (IBON).

Since Pres. Corazon Aquino’s administration, these remittances have functioned as “mana” of a fabled cargo cult for us. It has solved the perennial foreign-debt burden, allowed the oligarchic few to continue to live in luxury, and the rest of 103 million folks to submerge/sublimate their misery in spending the money sent by their parents, children, relatives, in endless malling, consumption of mass-produced goods and the illusions (films, telenovelas, etc.) manufactured by the global culture industry (San Juan, “Over- seas”). Aside from myriad cults and New Age panaceas, the repeated artifacts of techno- cratic advertising in social media and films, act now as the proverbial opium of the mass- es. Supplemented with the police and army, the coercive agencies of class-divided soci- ety, they function as the efficient instrument of political control and moralizing discipline.

This tally of the diaspora is forever incomplete, given the uninterrupted dispersal of Filipino labor-power around the world. I am quite sure there are Filipinas in Africa, Latin America, the Russian Federation, India, and other parts of the world, not to mention thousands of Filipino seafarers circulating around the world’s oceans—we have met them in cruises to Alaska, Hawaii, the Baltic, Mediterranean, Caribbean, and wherever laboring bodies and their intellectual byproducts are needed for corporate profit accumulation. They are needed also to reproduce the asymmetrical social relations in the various soci- eties, as well as the geopolitical inequity in the hierarchy of nation-states.

We know at least some of them, our overseas relatives or friends or acquaintances, residing in some corner of North America, the Middle East, Europe, Hong Kong, Singa- pore, Taiwan, Japan or other parts of Asia and Africa, including hundreds of cruise ships. We find them as far as the North and South Poles, working, living, surviving. I personally encountered some of them in Rome, Italy; Tripoli, Libya; Thessalonica, Greece; Taipei, Taiwan, and all over the United States, thousands of miles away from their homes in

Metro Manila, Ilocos, Cebu, Iloilo, Samar, Leyte, Davao, Sulu, etc. from any of our 7,000 islands (San Juan, “Toward Filipino”).

In Quest of the White Whale?

In Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick, one encounters specimens of the colo- nized Indios such as Fedallah sprung from the “watery prairies of Asia, near the Manilla isles” (Takaki, 288-289). In that microcosm of racialized U.S. society, the Pequod, where class and caste defined the place of the crew members, the despotic Ahab, in pursuing the fetishized whale, the profit-wired “machine-like monster,” dooms the whole society. It is an allegory of industrial capitalism in its adventurist booty phase, a few years before Theodore Roosevelt compared the Filipino insurrectos to the savage Apaches during the Filipino-American War (1899-1913). Today, Filipino seamen dominate the intercontinen- tal marine thoroughfares, serving the white-supremacist corporate Empire, while being victimized by pirates and druglords. There are rumblings of mutiny and other rebellions, smoldering beneath the deck of cruise ships and cargo tankers.

About 3-4,000 Filipinos leave every day, according to IBON reports. Over a mil- lion per year decide to cast their lot by traveling and residing somewhere else, as domes- tics, caregivers, or seafarers. About 3-5 coffins of these OFWs arrive at the Manila air- port, with others suffering mysterious deaths. The latest I read was Felma Maramag from Tuguegarao, Cagayan, who was killed by two Jordanians. Of course, the famous victim of this practice was Flor Contemplacion, followed by others less celebrated: Sarah Bal- abagan, Maricris Sioson, and others executed for defending themselves or framed by criminals—Mary Jane Veloso is the latest—with hundreds languishing in foreign jails (Pineda-Ofreneo and Ofreneo; Parreñas).

In 2008, according to media tabulations, OFWs remitted $15.65 billion; in less than 10 years after, the figure rose to $29.7 billion, about 10% of the gross domestic product (Migrante International). It is more than enough to sustain the economy where the privileged patrician minority enjoys their power and wealth over the staggering poverty and misery of the majority. The genie of this modern “cargo cult” sprang from Filipinas in Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Republic, UK, and the U.S.

We don’t need to rehearse the origin of this phenomenon, a scattering and disper- sal of part of the “body politic,” diaspora conceived as “hemorrhage” of a disrupted body. Is any emergency triage possible? Whence this symptom of a problem that, in its classic provenance, was ascribed to victims of the Roman Empire, the original Jewish diaspora? When the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, the inhabitants were driven out, violently deracinated, and deported to other parts of the Empire.

We also don’t need to rehearse the dull, somewhat eviscerated “facts” of its origin. The Marcos dictatorship started the flow of migrant workers in 1974 with its Labor Ex- port Policy (LEP). From then on, the neocolonial State institutionalized this last-minute escape of people from dire straits to solve the unemployment problem and provide a safe- ty valve from angry, desperately anguished citizens (Beltran and Rodriguez). We have now entrenched bureaucracies in the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and other State agencies. Henceforward, the flow has been managed according to scientific, updated Taylorizing schemes. It has been systematized, bureaucratized, technologized. We have systematic compilation and accumulation of data about them—”alternate facts”? “Post-truth” veri- ties? Or just the humdrum signs and emblems of Foucault’s famous “biopower” rolling along in streamlined, computerized, cauterized fashion?

Within a global business platform, the exchange and circulation of migrant labor/ bodies have been more intensively subjected to administrative, regulatory biopower. This is chiefly in the interest of plotting market prices and currency exchanges, part of the at- tempt to rationalize an inherently anarchic market. In the age of Trump, terrorism, Brexit and the fear of refugees from the wars in Syria, Africa, and elsewhere, have triggered the frenzied call to purge the US body politic of illegal immigrants, prohibit the entry of pol- luting virus, and build a wall to ward off Mexicans. This is a symptom that migrancy of populations is a global problem (Anderson). The much-touted speed-up of communica- tion and travel, the uncircumvented flow of money, bodies, etc., have now struck a moral nerve at the heart of the Empire. Or has it?

Mapping Driftwood, Salvaging Driftwords

In the first chapter of my book Learning from the Filipino Diaspora (2016), I tried to explore some of the thematic cultural ramifications of the OFWs. We cannot con- tinue to console ourselves with Cory Aquino’s praise of OFWs as “mga bagong bayani.” This is the anodyne for the national predicament, the ideology of pride in being “global servants” or most trustworthy subalterns of the Empire. Can we continue to suffer this patronizing rubric? Is it bribery and ironic blandishment for an embarrassing if not shameful emergency that has become a national disaster?

In retrospect, the haunting question is: How did we come to find ourselves scat- tered to the four corners of the earth and somehow forced to sell our bodies, nay, our selfhoods as commodities in the world market? How can we continue to lament our plight by the rivers of Babylon? Perhaps the ethical-aesthetic implications of this topic can be epitomized by Angelo dela Cruz (Gorospe 118). If you will recall, he was the truck driver who was kidnapped in Iraq during the US invasion, which led then Pres. Arroyo to ban travel in that war-torn country after 9/11. Many defied the ban and said they would rather dare travel to Iraq to work and be killed instantly, rather than suffer a slow death by hunger in their beloved homeland.

Does this existential quandary evoke Thoreau’s reference to “lives of quiet des- peration”? The pathos of this national predicament is captured by Angelo dela Cruz’s re- sponse after his release by his kidnappers in July 2004 and catapulted to world-renown by the mass media and Internet. This is what our “bagong bayani”/new hero confessed to the media: “They kept saying I was a hero… a symbol of the Philippines. To this day I keep wondering what it is I have become.” It is a cry of existential poignancy—what can be more painful than deracination, uprooting of your body from the ground that sustains you? It evokes the testimony of one OFW who confessed that parting from one’s children moments before he flew away is like gutting out your entrails, literally a disemboweling. It resembles birth, the trauma of separation from the nourishing matrix. Such is the agony of the desterrado, uprooted, deracinated, unmoored, shipwrecked, flotsam and jetsam (Arellano-Carandang et al.).

It is indeed a national predicament, and a personal worry for some—perhaps a happy relief for many who continually wait for mana from abroad. In any case, it is now more central than incest (the Oedipal syndrome) or family feuds intervening with roman- tic couples (Romeo and Juliet). It confronts us more ubiquitously, demanding urgent ex- planations. Why engage with this historical phenomenon or process of the Filipino dias- pora in literary and cultural studies? Do we consider it a theme, subject or topic, of liter- ary works (novels, essays, poems, plays)?

Or do we use it as a conceptual framework in which to re-think the questions of meaning, nature, identity, psyche, the relation of private to public experience, and our na- tional destiny? Is the idea or theme of the diaspora a more effective way to do “genealog- ical analysis,” that is, interrogating common sense and naturalizing norms so as to expose them as historical/discursive constructions? Why diaspora instead of national-democratic revolution, anticolonial struggles, desire for true autonomy and genuine independence?

It is not a question of either/or. Rather, it is a question of handling a new genre of interdisciplinary studies. By the nature of its historical parameters, its thrust is analytical and speculative. Its fundamental aim is a critique of common sense, normative values, naturalized categories about citizenship, national identity and destiny. It seeks to unravel the given social meanings and received paradigms that construct the truth of human be- ings, the truth of experience and social life. It challenges the hegemony of the business/ comprador elite based on the cash-nexus, the alienation fostered by the objectification of all human ties and by instrumentalizing everything. In short, it is a new pedagogical ap- proach to re-orient scholarly and creative inquiries in literary and cultural studies (San Juan, “Reflections”; Aguilar).

Triangulating the Pedagogical Terrain

Actually I would propose using the theme of the diasporic experience as a way of connecting all these other topics about nation, travel, transculturation, etc. so as to pro- voke an alternative way of criticizing and valuing our reading and writing experience. We may hope to engage with diaspora as a heuristic device to stimulate alternative approach- es to the orthodox Establishment pedagogy that repeats the same institutional norms over and over, deadening our critical faculties and defeating the purpose of learning and think- ing critically about ourselves and our relations. We need to transcend the limited formal- ist, purely aesthetic or moralistic modes of reading and interpreting in order to situate the literary work/art-work in the context of the lived experience of authors, readers, and communities of interpreters. The urgent task is to perform a cognitive mapping of the subtexts of those real-life contradictions given symbolic/imaginary resolutions in literary artifices and other cultural artifacts. We need to grasp the “structure of feeling” that en- ables the art-work to exert its own efficacy, its singular resonance in our lives (Jameson; Williams).

But before giving suggestions for curriculum development, it is necessary to frame this within the context of the educational institutions in our country and the posi- tion of the Philippines in the international polarization of intellectual labor.

We are a neocolonial formation defined by the contradiction between the exploit- ing minority elite and the exploited majority. We suffer from dire underdevelopment, whose symptom—unemployment/underemployment—stems from the lack of industrial- ization, failure of land reform, immiseration of the countryside, and thus the escape to countries abroad for work and even permanent settlement. We suffer from severe social inequality due to the historic legacies of colonialism, the preservation of an oligarchic system of property relations, and hence the unequal distribution of wealth and power (Constantino; Lichauco). We have not acquired true independence and established gen- uine democratic institutions and processes.

The escape via Marcos’ Export Labor Policy from the nightmare of the historic colonial legacy is agonizing, a tearing-apart of families, marriages, communities. It is tragic, painful, infuriating, and hopefully transformative. One is reminded of the Rizal family being evicted from their homes in Calamba at the end of the 19th century, out of which El Filibusterismo evolved, as well as the Katipunan. We recall many revolutionary heroes (such as Apolinario Mabini, Isabelo de los Reyes, and others) banished to Guam, Marianas, Hong Kong, and other prisons or quarantines for desterrados outside the Philippines.

Crisis of the Neocolonial Formation

By its inner logic, the capitalist market of international labor proceeds through cyclical crisis, devolving to fascist, militarized barbarism. After the disaster of 9/11 and the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere, this business of warm-body-export

has become more acute because of the precarious “underdevelopment” of the country. We are dependent on an erratic global labor-market subject to unpredictable disruptions. We are vulnerable because of our unstable socioeconomic situation. We live in a violent over- determined formation where profound socioeconomic inequalities prevail (for a recent survey, see Miranda and Rivera; also regular socioeconomic reports from IBON).

President Duterte’s regime is a symptom of these manifold inequalities. We have, among others, a serious drug problem whose current militaristic-authoritarian solution has led to over 12,000 Filipinos killed, half of whom are victims of vigilante or police criminality; there seems to be no justice for them (Coronel; Dalangin-Fernandez). We have violent confrontations between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (oriented to fol- lowing U.S. dictates) and the New People’s Army, between the government and various Muslim groups, foremost of which is the Abu Sayyaf. But all these are symptoms of what I have already mentioned: the persisting social injustice and inequalities inherited from our colonial/neocolonial history (Sison). These contradictions can only be resolved by promoting the counter-hegemony—that is, the moral-intellectual leadership of the pro- gressive bloc of nationalist, people-oriented forces—over against the conservative, reac- tionary bloc of landlords, corrupt politicians and bureaucrats, and fascist military and po- lice.

On the topic of violence, I am not referring to conflicts between individuals, among psychologically troubled persons resorting to force to resolve quarrels. We have, overall, the legacy of structural violence due to unresolved grievances and historic penal- ties imposed on Lumads, non-Christian groups, and of course the contractual workers, poor peasants and fishermen, and slum dwellers—millions of our citizens, victims of con- tinuing structural violence due to unemployment, lack of housing, medical care, educa- tion, and other vital needs necessary for humane existence. What can academic studies on diaspora contribute to understanding and elucidating the causes of this pervasive violence in our society?

Beleaguered Ivory Towers

In this setting, our educational system, configured by the colonial and neocolonial pressures of U.S. political-cultural hegemony, has been geared to supplying other coun- tries with trained personnel: doctors, nurses, engineers, architects, lawyers (our lawyers and tax accountants function like call-center personnel, doing work for offices abroad). Our educational institutions do not match the needs of our economy; they serve to pro- duce human labor-power for other countries in line with the unequal distribution of power and wealth among nation-states as a result of historical rivalries.

All over the world, including the Philippines, the emphasis on science and tech- nology has marginalized courses in the humanities, history, and other social sciences. General education for civic responsibility and rationality has been subordinated to a qua-

si-vocational training, or training to acquire specific skills needed to perform technologi- cally defined tasks in business society. We need to resolve the contradiction between the alienating individualist business ethics dominating our lives and the humanist, emancipa- tory ideals of our revolutionary tradition (Lanuza).

Commodified scientism has trumped the humanities in the academy. This applies to cultural and language studies in general. The teaching of English, within the larger de- partment of literary or cultural studies, is now geared to producing teachers for high school and colleges to prepare youth for work abroad, or for employment in prestigious local corporations or bureaucratic careers. No one would be insane enough to say we are preparing them to be scholars in our own literature (either written in English, Filipino, or the various languages). Previously the nationalist tendency in University of the Philip- pines and elsewhere was to encourage M.A. and Ph.D. students to focus on local authors and local cultural traditions in art, music, theater, etc. No longer is this the case, for a long time now, since I took my Bachelor of Arts degree in 1958.

Toward Conscientization

For this occasion, I limit myself to reflecting on the possible academic usefulness of exploring this historic conjuncture in our country. Here are a few reasons that we can discuss regarding why the historical phenomenon of the diaspora (in this case, the OFW as contemporary reality) can be useful in revitalizing literary/cultural studies in the Philippines. We can engage in arguing how a critical pedagogy can be developed by way of deliberating on the problems of OFWs. The following observations might schematize for the benefit of those unfamiliar with this topic the ethico-political implications of the modern diaspora problematic:

1. Diaspora unsettles what is taken for granted, deemed natural or normal, cus- tomary, respectable. It purges habitual conformism, devotion to stereotypes, and fixation on group-thinking. What do migrants, expatriates, émigrés, refugees, and exiles have in common? Distance from the homeland, the natal surroundings, and the taken-for-granted habitat.

Removal from the customary space/place of living is certainly distressful and dis- orienting. Being put in prison was a common experience for rebels like Balagtas, the Cavite mutineers, the Propagandistas (Marcelo del Pilar, Lopez Jaena) and the deport- ed—Rizal, among others, together with thousands during the Spanish colonial period. When the United States conquered the islands, those who refused to swear allegiance to the United States were deported to Guam, the famous ones being Gen. Ricarte and Apoli- nario Mabini who produced his immortal memoirs, La Revolucion Filipina. One can treat Rizal’s two novels as works of exile, just as Villa’s poems and fiction, and Carlos Bu- losan’s entire body of work, particularly America Is in the Heart, as well as many short


stories by Bienvenido Santos, NVM Gonzales, and other exiled artists (San Juan, Be- tween Empire).

2. Diaspora interrogates the idea/discourse of homeland as a fixed territory. It generates a new subjectivity or agency, the nomadic in the process of imagining and re- fashioning a new habitat. It lends significance to the notion of deterritorialization, made famous by Deleuze and Guattari’s treatises, Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus.

In this context, our present homeland is a neocolonized one, conquered at the cost of over a million Filipinos killed, quarantined and exploited since 1899. Is there another space/time one can designate as homeland? The Albania of Balagtas? Rizal’s forest or wilderness where the tulisanes retreated? We also encounter this in many novels from Francisco Lacsamana’s Anino ng Kahapon to Macario Pineda’s Makiling to Amado V. Hernandez’s Bayang Malaya and Jun Cruz Reyes’ Etsa Puwera. If the homeland is a utopian future, what is the present Philippines comparable to? Can it be prefigured or condensed in a negative trope of the “Pearl of the Orient Seas,” its flamboyant and osten- tatiously hygienic malls as an image of dystopia?

3. Diasporas evoke the power of imperial occupation—the Roman Empire for the Jewish, European colonialism for African slaves transported to the New World; imperial inroads into China, India, Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, etc. Wars, pogroms, fascist programs of internal ethnic cleansing—they all foreground the saliency of racism/racializing ideology, white supremacy, as justification for occupation and subjugation of non-white popula- tions. Our current diaspora is a product of imperial subjugation by the United States, and by the modernizing impact of global capitalism and its neoliberal ideological agencies, in particular the liberalized labor-market and its stockpiling of mass-produced consumer goods and services.

The recruitment of Filipino workers for the Hawaiian plantations is the inaugural moment. We were neither citizens nor aliens. Called “nationals,” Filipino bachelor-work- ers drifted from place to place, establishing solidarity with other ethnic/racial groups via strikes, collective resistance, networks of cooperation for survival and fighting back. Un- able to return, most Filipinos settled in the United States and Canada, just as many today are settling in Italy, UK, Germany, and countries allowing temporary stays and/or family reunification.

4. Diaspora foregrounds the phenomenon of moving commodities—body ex- ports—embodying labor-power for the global capitalist market. Diaspora thus introduces into our theater of critical analysis and judgment the nature of commodifying bodies and personhoods, as well as psyches, dreams, illusions, the unconscious. Quanta (quantity) replaces qualitas (quality) as measure of value, in that exchange-value acquires para- mount import over use-value, or at least eclipses the latter on which it is parasitic.

Identity Perplex

Filipino domestics and/or caregivers have replaced biological mothers of the host employer, becoming surrogates and maternal Others in which Filipino nationality/colo- nial speakers of English become valued as contributors of symbolic capital. The Singa- porean film, Iloilo, can be viewed in this light. We do not yet have something like Gertrude Stein’s Three Lives that would portray Filipino nannies as singular actants or character types in a new genre of Menippean satire. The latest imbroglio surfaced con- cerning an expatriate’s remorseful revelation that the family’s maid called “Lola” who lived with them for many years was actually a slave, though others claimed that (follow- ing Michel Foucault) she maintained her dignity and self-respect all along (Solow). Shades of the lord-bondsman dialectic in Hegel’s Phenomenology of the Spirit?

There are indie media films or documentaries already dramatizing this Filipina predicament, including those on Flor Contemplacion. However, we are also swamped with sentimental melodramas like Milan, Dubai, and various commercialized replica- tions. But in truth, these confections are narcotics to distract us. The Filipino diaspora is not a stage for compounding dreams and fantasies. For one, it is definitely not a transcul- tural or transgendered dilemma but, rather, a labor-capitalist dialectic with a classic class- conflict matrix. Thus this particular loci resonates with universal consequences and world-historical ramifications.

5. Both sexuality and racial identity are brought into the stage when embodied in diasporic characters/figures. Diaspora heightens our awareness of the significant role that racial markers and gender makers play in configuring our role and place in the in- ternational setting. This explodes the homogeneity of the Filipina as exotic Malayan/His- panic subject of patronizing discourse—as in mail-order bride advertisements—made so- phisticated by Eurocentric scholars, whether Filipinos, American, etc. The fashionable rubric of “transnationalism” acquires poignant ambiguity in the case of Filipinas meta- morphosing into syncretic, hybrid or ambidextrous protagonists in social encounters far from the homeland.

6. The actant or performative role of diasporic Filipinas in literary and cultural discourse reminds us again that humanistic studies today (aesthetic, ethical inquiries) are no longer compartmentalized into strict taxonomic categories. They are by historical ne- cessity interdisciplinary complex speculations, blending historical, sociological, political, anthropological, linguistic, philosophical, etc. They challenge the old positivistic, narrow- ly empiricist philology, as well as the once dominant formalist New Critical approach.

Reconstructive Cartography

In the United States and Canada, the Civil Rights struggles in the Sixties and Sev- enties, together with the feminist, youth and multiethnic struggles, forced a drastic revi-

sion of the canon. They unsettled scholastic categories inherited from the Victorian era. They destroyed the entrenched white-supremacist standards of quality, ushering in au- thors/readers from ethnic, gendered and racialized outsiders. Filipino scholars were of course influenced by these trends; but they simply expanded the offerings and authors. They did not effectively change the formalist/individualist approach that excluded politi- cal readings and historicist critiques. We still await canon revision and reflexive dia- logues on methods and procedures to synchronize what we are doing in the classrooms with what is happening to our students and teachers in the larger society outside the acad- emy.

Again, the aim of introducing this framework of the Filipino diaspora is to reori- ent our vision/sensibility regarding our individual responsibility in society. It is to initiate a re-thinking about ourselves as a people and as citizens of a nation-state with a specific history. It is to kindle a conscientization of our minds and loobs/souls beyond the rigid paradigms of traditional patriarchal-feudal society (Eviota).

In reflecting on the export of souls/bodies, a postmodern version of the Faustian wager, we are forced to scrutinize the inventory of our national identity as a palimpsest of codes, the key to which has been lost and must be found, invented or recast. Antonio Gramsci wrote this thought-provoking passage about the problem of self, identity, ethos in his Prison Notebooks (1929-1935), which we need to ponder as the propaedeutic slo- gan for the day:

The starting-point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and is ‘knowing thyself’ as a product of the historical processes to date, which has deposited in you an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory. Therefore it is imperative at the outset to compile such an inven- tory (324).

A corollary to this proposition is Gramsci’s notion of culture not as a simple ac- cumulation, or indeed a dry-as-dust inventory of facts, dates, information culled from li- braries, etc. We pride ourselves in being cultured, being knowledgeable or well-informed about a million facts, items summarized in tomes and whole archives. But this hoarding, as those familiar with Paulo Freire’s teaching know, is nothing but the banking system of education, thoroughly based on the logic of accumulation in business society, our present- day neoliberal free-market global order.

In contradistinction, Gramsci proposes an entirely radical definition. He contends that culture “is an organization, discipline of one’s inner self, a coming to terms with one’s own personality. It is the attainment of a higher awareness, with the aid of which one succeeds in understanding one’s own historical value, one’s own function in life, one’s own rights and obligations” (324-25). Fundamental to this is the acquisition and cultivation of a historical awareness, a historicizing sensibility, attuned not just to our

personality but to our place and participation in our specific time and place, in our soci- ety. This awareness will be actualized in the narratives we construct of our journey to- ward national independence, exercising genuine sovereignty.

In my view, reflection and inquiry into the discourse of diaspora, the investigation of discursive practices of what we may call the habitus of diaspora, can induce in us that historical awareness and reflexivity required to usher us into what Immanuel Kant called the age of autonomy, when we no longer need tutors and can think for ourselves and ac- cept responsibility for our choices and actions. This thinking will be realized in our di- verse narratives of homecoming. Can this solve the dispersal, scattering, disruption of our body politic? Can this provide jobs for millions so that they do not have to leave their families and homes? Will this solve the wound of division, heal the fissures and cracks in the body politic?

But, on second thought, in the neocolonial situation, the body politic has never been really unified or homogenized—except through consumerist regimentation and the vicarious fulfillments induced by State ideological apparatuses. But somehow a visceral urge surfaces in the diaspora. When Filipinos meet in the plazas of Rome, Hong Kong, Taipei, Los Angeles, or Singapore, they incorporate the lost homeland in their exchanges, rituals of eating, singing, playing, the repertoire of bayanihan and pakikisama, etc. They perform the communicative utopia that Habermas dreamed of recreating in the European Community. For them, any moment or any fissure in the continuum of time, the Messiah may appear.

As the Messiah tried to console his companions before his final departure, we may follow in his wake. The Messiah will be there when one or two of his comrades gather wherever and whenever they find themselves—remembrance materializes in such encounters and thus reconstitutes the dismembered body. Diaspora may trigger these acts of remembrance and ultimately deliver collective redemption. The study of diasporic writing may be construed as an act of remembrance and collective deliverance.

Rhizomatic Analysis in Action

At this point, I want to illustrate the phenomenon of neocolonial disintegration and ideological reconstitution of the “third world” subject as a symptom of uneven capitalist hegemony, in a fictional account by a Filipina author who writes in Filipino, the national language. Consider this an experiment in symptomatic hermeneutics (see Balibar and Macherey). Fanny Garcia wrote the story entitled “Arriverderci” in 1982 at the height of the Marcos-induced export of Filipina bodies to relieve widespread immiseration in all sectors of society and curb mounting resistance in city and countryside.

Garcia’s ascetic representation of this highly gendered diaspora yields a diagnostic illustration of postcolonial schizophrenia. In the opening scene, Garcia describes Filipina

domestics in Rome, Italy, enjoying a weekend break in an excursion outside the city. One of these domestics, Nelly, meets a nondescript compatriot, Vicky (Vicenta), who slowly confides to Nelly her incredible experience of physical hardship, loneliness, and frustrat- ed ambition, including her desperate background in her hometown, San Isidro. Vicky also reveals her fear that her employer might rape her, motivating her to inquire about the pos- sibility of moving in with Nelly whose own crowded apartment cannot accommodate Vicky. Spatial confinement resembles incarceration for those who refuse the oppression of live-in contracts, the latter dramatized in Vicky’s earlier experience.

Dialogue begets intimacy and the shock of discovery. After trust has been estab- lished between them, Nelly learns that Vicky has concealed the truth of her dire situation from her relatives back home. Like others, Vicky has invented a fantasy life to make her folks happy. After a short lapse of time, Nelly and her companions read a newspaper ac- count of Vicky’s suicide—according to her employer, she leaped from the fifth floor of the apartment due to a broken heart caused by her sweetheart, a Filipino seaman, who was marrying another woman. Nelly of course knows the real reason: Vicky was forced to kill herself to save her honor, to refuse bodily invasion by the Italian master. Nelly and her friends manage to gather funds to send Vicky’s body back home to the Philippines. When asked how she would explain Vicky’s death to the next-of-kin, everyone agrees that they could not tell the truth. Nelly resolves their predicament with a fictive ruse:

“Ganito na lang,” sabi ni Nelly, “nabangga ang kotseng sinasakyan n’ya.” Sumang-ayon ang lahat. Pumunta sa kusina si Nelly. Hawak ang bolpen at nakatitig sa blangkong puting papel na nakapatong sa mesa, naisip ni Nel- ly, dapat din niyang tandaan: sa San Isidro, si Vicenta at Vicky ay si Bising (1994, 334-335).

[“Let’s do it this way,” Nelly said, “she died when the car she was in crashed.” Everyone agreed. Nelly entered the kitchen. Holding a ballpoint pen and staring at the blank piece of paper on the table, Nelly thought that she should also remember: in San Isidro, Vicenta and Vicky were also Bis- ing.]

In the triple personas of Vicky nurtured in the mind of Nelly, we witness the liter- al and figurative diaspora of the Filipino nation in which the manifold layers of experi- ence occurring at different localities and temporalities are reconciled. They are sutured together not in the corpse but in the act of gendered solidarity and national empathy. Without the practices of communication and cooperation among Filipina workers, the life of the individual OFW is suspended in thrall, a helpless fragment in the nexus of com- modity circulation (for a postmodernist gloss on this story, see Tadiar). Terror in capitalist society re-inscribes boundaries and renews memory.

Beyond the Binary of Self and Others

What I want to highlight, however, is the historicizing power of this narrative. Marx once said that capitalism conquers space with time (Harvey 2000). The urgent question is: Can its victims fight back via a counterhegemonic strategy of spatial politics? Loading space with dizzying motion, collapsing it into multiple vectors and trajectories, may be one subversive strategy. In Garcia’s story, the time of the nationalizing imagina- tion overcomes displacement by global capital. Fantasy becomes complicit with truth when Nelly and her friends agree to shelter Vicky’s family from the terror of patriarchal violence located in European terrain. Geopolitics trumps transnational hybridity or am- bivalence when the production of space is articulated with habits, customs, daily routine of the female worker (for this insight, see Rose).

We see that the routine life of the Filipino community is defined by bureaucra- tized space that seems to replicate the schedule back home; but the chronological itin- erary is deceptive because while this passage lures us into a calm compromise with what exists, the plot of attempted rape and Vicky’s suicide transpires behind the semblance of the normal and the ordinary:

…Ang buhay nila sa Italia ay isang relo—hindi nagbabago ng anyo, ng di- reksiyon, ng mga numero.
Kung Linggo ng umaga, nagtitipon-tipon sa loob ng Vaticano, doon sa pagitan ng malalaking haliging bato ng colonnade…. Ang Papa’y lilitaw mula sa isang mataas na bintana ng isang gusali, at sa harap ng mikro- pono’y magsasalita’t magdadasal, at matapos ang kanyang basbas, sila’y magkakanya-kanyang grupo sa paglisan. Karaniwa’y sa mga parke ang tu- loy. Sa damuhan, sa ilalim ng mga puno, ilalabas ang mga baon. May paikot-ikot sa mga grupo, nagtitinda ng pansit na lemon ang pampaasim, litsong kawali na may Batanggenyo, at iba pang hatiang batay sa wika o lugar. O kaya’y ang mga propesyonal at di-propesyonal. Matapos ang kainan, palilipasin ang oras sa pamamagitan ng kuwentuhan o kaya’y pag- papaunlak sa isang nagpapasugal. Malakas ang tayaan. Mga bandang alas- tres o alas-kuwatro ng hapon, kanya-kanyang alis na ang mga pangkat. Pupunta sa mga simbahang pinagmimisahan ng mga paring Pinoy na isko- lar ng kani-kanilang order. Sa Ingles at Pilipino ang misa, mga awit at ser- mon. Punong-puno ang simbahan, pulos Pilipino, maliban sa isa o dalawa o tatlong puti na maaring kaibigan, nobio, asawa o kabit ng ilang kababayan.
Matapos ang misa, muling maghihiwalay ang mga pangkat-pangkat. May pupunta muli sa mga parke, may magdidisco, may magsisine. Halos hatinggabi na kung maghiwa-hiwalay patungo sa kanya-kanyang tinutu- luyan…. (329-330).

[Their lives in Italy resembled a clock—never changing in shape, direction or numbers.

On Sunday mornings they would gather inside the Vatican, there between the huge rocky pillars of the colonnade… The Pope would appear at a window of the tall building, and would pray and speak in front of a micro- phone, and after his benediction, they would all join their groups upon leaving. Usually they head for the parks. On the grass, under the trees, they will spread their packs. Some will circle around selling noodles with lemon slices, roast pork with catsup, and other viands. The picnic begins. Ilocanos congregate among themselves, so do those from Batangas, and others gather together according to language or region. Or they socialize according to profession or lack of it. After eating, they will pass the time telling stories or gambling. Betting proceeds vigorously. Toward three or four in the afternoon, the cohorts begin their departure. They head toward the churches where Filipino priests, scholars of their orders, hold mass in English or in Filipino, together with songs and sermon. The churches overflow, all Filipinos, except for one, two or three whites, who may be friends, sweethearts, wives, or partners. After the mass, the groups will again separate. Some will return to the parks, others will go to discos or movie houses, until around midnight they will go their separate individual ways to wherever they are staying.]

Resignation is premature. This surface regularity conceals fissures and discontinu- ities that will only disclose themselves when the death of Vicky shatters the peace and complicates the pathos of indentured domesticity. Thus we find ourselves mourning our sister, the mother of all migrants and exiles in our shrunken, suddenly claustrophobic planet when computer-armed Ahabs, now in their apocalyptic terrorizing mode, still roam and plunder the core and the peripheries of the post-anthropocene world.

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[Forthcoming in UNITAS 2018 (University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines]