Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Para po!

Pasahero: Para sa tabi.

Tsuper: Bawal po dito, doon po tayo sa babaan.

Pasahero: Para...

Tsuper (at ibang pasahero): Bawal po dito...

Pasahero: Para!

Tsuper: Mahuhuli po tayo dito...

Pasahero: Para!!! Ang layo-layo na ng lalakarin ko!
(bumababang galit, sabay hampas sa pinto)

Boses Sa Itaas: Ale, hindi na namin problema kung malayo ang bahay niyo sa tamang babaan. Sumusunod lang si manong sa batas. Ngayon, kung magmamatigas pa iyang kokote niyong makunat umunawa na bumaba sa babaang taliwas sa tama, huwag niyo kaming idamay! Punheta.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

More Bedtime Stories

Speaking of stupidly ever after, I totally forgot to include this one time she refused to correct a very obvious mistake of hers. I do not remember the exact words so the following are not verbatim.

Pretty Lady: "Oh, that's a funny movie, Meet the Zohans!"

Guest: "I think you mean You Don't Mess With The Zohan."

Pretty Lady: "That's what I said. Meet the Zohans, Don't Mess With The Zohan, it's all the same."

No big deal, we all have our stupid moments. But to refuse enlightenment when it is presented to you? Now, that is entirely a different matter. I personally believe it is a sin. If there is something worse than ignorance, it is wilful ignorance ie: the dangerous kind.

Kumain Ka Na Ba?

Yes po.

Is it so hard to just say 'opo'?
I just do not understand why people say it or, worse, flaunt it. Can somebody help me? I am this close to calling them 'airheads'.

Celebrity Bedtime Stories: Lucy Torres

Once upon a time, Lucy Torres, in her show 'The Sweet Life', was presented by her guests pictures of their trip to Thailand. One of the pictures had Buddhist monks in their everyday robes.

The pretty l
ady said:

"Ang galing 'no! Kahit naka-sarong sila, mukha pa rin silang lalaki!" (Wow, even with sarongs on, they still look like men!)

First of all: hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Second, it is not called a sarong. Third, a sarong is also worn by men in many cultures including our own. Fourth: you are a public figure, educate yourself for crying out loud, goodness forbid that kids might believe you.

This is not the first time she has said something moronic. Once, she had continuously referred to replicas/models as 'toys' after being corrected twice and complained about a certain collectible that cost 70,000 PHP, saying it was worth the price of a good bag. Eh?

And she lived stupidly ever after.

Buy some brains, woman!

Disclaimer: This is not too say that the pretty lady is entirely stupid or is not a sensible person in other areas. My angst is simply a reaction to how she projects herself on TV. And by what she has shown me, her light is received as dim, dull going abysmally dull.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

On Religious Examination, Burning Child Witches And Islamic Homosexuality

I have been reading some really interesting stuff from my favourite blogs lately which is why I have not had the chance to update both my blog and private diary. That and, of course, the life sucking nature of my job. Anyway, here are some of them.

Islamic Homosexuality in Indonesia? by Brian

Indonesia is such a baffling country. At times it seems like the hardline Muslim faction is taking control and is successfully imposing repressive Sharia laws on the populace. Yet at the same time Indonesians are not Arabs and their traditional laid back tropical island culture is not well suited to the bleak outlook of your typical austere desert dweller.

Read rest here.

Always Asking "Why" by Catherine Noble-Beyer (author of Wicca For The Rest Of Us)

If there is only one piece of advice I can give to religious seekers, it would be this: never stop asking yourself why you do what you and believe what you believe. (...) Any ritual without purpose is pointless.

Read rest here.

Religious Interpretation of Biology by Catherine Noble-Beyer

I returned home to Detroit this week to visit friends and family. Among old acquaintances I caught up with was a friend who spoke at some length about the agonizing choice he made a few years ago to give a son up for adoption.

The process included choosing the adoptive parents from a list of candidates hoping to adopt. Some of the choices were easy for him. As an example: he immediately weeded out anyone who said God had made them barren specifically in order for them to adopt his baby. He didn't want his child being raised in that sort of atmosphere.

Read rest here.

The Sad Fate of Child-Witches in Nigeria by Brian

The people of Nigeria have sunk to a new low. The Invisible Pink Unicorn has the details on the sad tale of Nigeria's so called Child-Witch problem. It seems that quite a number of parents are beginning to blame their problems on their own children, who they claim are either witches or demon-controlled in some way. Many such children are murdered outright but the survivors, these outcast children, are filling the shelters.

Read rest here.

Update on Nigerian Child Witches by Brian

In case I didn't point it out strongly enough in that last post, these atrocities are being directly caused by Evangelical Christians who are being manipulated by their pastors and prophets. It also really needs to be pointed out loud and clear that Sarah Palin's Nigerian pastor friend, the one who anointed her for public leadership, is one of the ringleaders of this anti-witchcraft movement and that Sarah Palin herself applauded the story of his chasing a witch out of town.

Read rest here.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Closing All Hallows

As we end this three day feast of darkness and death; of passing and remembering, I offer this space to a dear friend who passed away this year.

It is true what they say. You never really get over it. You can cope but you can never get over it.

I will miss you, Noel. I wish I had spent more time with you. You know that I wanted to. Fuck work! I wish I had appreciated you more. I am sorry for being grumpy with you all the time back in high school.
And I am sorry it took this long, and at this state, for me to finally find you. It breaks my heart that I never got to see you again after 5 fat years. Do know that you were, and still are one of the bestest best friends I have known. I am sorry that it took me this long to tell you all this.

I shall see you again, brother.
You will always be in my heart. Wait for me at the Great Shade. But not yet.

By the way, I really appreciate you visiting me that night. Thank you for forgiving me. I love you.

Those gone before, you who wish me good, hear me; guide and guard me, and when the time comes, greet me. You are neither blind nor deaf to this life I live; you did yourself once share it. I come to you in love and trust. I seek to honor you.

Ancestors, you who came before us and were the roots of our line, we ask you to come again into our lives so that we may share in your wisdom and love.

Beloved friends who went before us, we ask you to come again into our lives so that we may once again laugh with you and stand strong together through turmoil.

Dearest children who have gone before us, we ask that when you are ready to be reborn you find happiness.

The wheel of the year turns, and as we pass through the darkness together, we ask that the memory of love stay strong and that we can treasure each time that we are together, whether in this life or another.

Prayer by mothercrone

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Naturally Emotional

Man's inherent nature is to be curious, gentle, intimate, responsible, enthusiastic, sensual, tolerant, courageous, honest, vulnerable, affectionate, proud, spiritual, committed, wild, nurturing, peaceful, helpful, intense, compassionate, happy, and to fully and safely express all emotions.

When will we stop training him to be otherwise?

Credit: Gordon Clay

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Oh Danny Boy, Oh Danny Boy, I love you so

This song, an unofficial but popular anthem for the Irish and their descendants in America and Canada, never (and I mean never) fails to make me cry inside (and sometimes outside) whenever I hear it. The song has been interpreted by many listeners as a message from a parent to a son going off to war or leaving as part of the Irish diaspora.

Oh Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountainside.
The summer's gone, and all the roses falling.
'Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide.

But come ye back when summer's in the meadow
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow,
'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow.
Oh Danny Boy, Oh Danny Boy, I love you so.

But if you come and all the flow'rs are dying
And I am dead, as dead I well may be,
You'll come and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an Ave there for me.

And I shall hear, though soft your tread above me,
And then my grave will warmer, sweeter be,
For you will bend and tell me that you love me,
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.

Alternative lyrics for last two lines:

And you'll not fail to tell me that you love me,
I'll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.

Michael Londra sings it beautifully here. Yet again, I cannot help but jerk a tear. Perhaps it is because, other than having a soft spot for themes of war and departing kinsmen (a recurring theme in my family's history), I may be Irish after all, yeah? Tee, hee.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Jesus Freaks

Dear Jesus,

I did you service yesterday. There were two evangelists on the bus. They said they were spreading your message. I seriously doubted whether they really knew anything genuine about you but I took their word for it. But then they started talking about that "hell place" again, saying they were doing us a favour by blessing our souls should our bus crash the moment they were forced to get off the bus without preaching. It seemed that they were holding onto this book that was conceitedly self-titled. They claimed that you wrote the words there. But I doubt you did. In my heart, I would like to believe that you can write better fiction than that.

They promised us they would not be asking for money. Just plain preaching. Just some good old "you're going to rot in the afterlife for thinking for yourself and not trusting the KJV". But the retards asked for money anyway. So I told that they were lying sacks of shit for deceiving us like that. All those years of English politeness and restraint turned into Irish rage.

But it was fun. It felt good standing up to them. Jesus, please send me more of them. Next time I promise to be more polite and less hot headed and ask real questions such as "Do you understand what you are talking about?"

Your thinking fan, not your blind groupie,

Monday, 8 September 2008


I loved the noble way you blushed,

and loved your fine, perfect form.
I loved your clear blue eye,
your way of speech, your skillfulness.

Ferdiad of the hosts and the hard blows,
beloved golden brooch,
I mourn your conquering arm
and our fostering together.

You were a sight

to please a prince;
your gold-rimmed shield,
your slender sword.

The ring of bright silver

on your fine hand,
your skill at chess,
your flushed, sweet cheek,

Your curled yellow hair

like a lovely jewel,
the leaf-shaped belt
you wore at your waist.

You fell to the Hound,

and I mourn, little calf.
The shield didn't save you
that you brought to the fray.

Shameful our struggle,

the grief and uproar!
O fair, fine hero
who shattered armies
and crushed them under foot,
golden brooch, I mourn.

'Tis the lament of the greatest Irish hero that had ever lived, Cú Chulainn, to his dearest friend and brother of the heart, Ferdiad. As youths, Cú Chulainn and Ferdiad formed a deep and loving bond. Years later, and after long separation, they were pitted in battle against each other by the machinations of Medb of Connacht. They fought for three days, each night Cú Chulainn sent Ferdiad leeches and herbs to heal his wounds, while Ferdiad sent him a share of his own meal. Then on the fourth day, Cú Chulainn calls on his mysterious weapon, the gáe bolga (lightning spear), and Ferdiad was killed. Cú Chulainn mourned him in these words.

Many may have forgotten you, Great Gael. But I have not. May Macha the Terrible curse all those who dare mock your love.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Will You Rap For Your Tribe?

Sannion tells us that in Israel they get folks rapping about the holocaust and the survival of the Jewish people over heartrending violins whilst in the States they have P. Diddy and Jay-Z bragging about their bling and bitches for the umpteenth time; baffled that they wonder why the rest of the world considers America to be morally and culturally bankrupt.

I say the same for both his country and (its long-time colony) the Philippine Islands. In Slavic countries like Russia, Poland and the Ukraine they have metal bands like Arkona singing about their heritage, ancestors and gods in their folk dress. And what do we have here? Lame wannabes and their senseless songs in either signature Valley Girl fashion or Afro-American street wear.

There is always the great Francis Magalona of course. But the likes of him are close to extinct. May the Diwata help us.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The Great Dance Of Peace

This is one of my favourite dances ever (i
n addition to Singkil and Irish step dancing, of course). The T'aep'yeongmu (literally "great peace dance") is a Korean dance with the function of wishing a great peace for the country. It is usually danced by a queen and her ladies but sometimes a king may join in as well. It is particularly peculiar because whilst the dancers are dressed as royalty the steps and music however are very mudang or shamanistic.

Below are links to a couple of short clips. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
At a theatre
At a fashion show
At a temple
At a summit
At a palace
At a gala

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

To Each His Own Accent

I write this because I've just about had it with the unnecessary stigma (and ignorance) associated with the way I talk. Pay attention to the content, not the accent, goddamnit!

1. Which British accent?
I'm quite famous at the workplace as the guy with the "British" accent. With that I've often been tempted to ask, which one? As any Brit will tell you, there's no such thing as a British accent ... no typical accent to represent the whole of the island. Britain has a ridiculous amount of different accents and each has their own distinct stereotypes. Today, we have Kelvinside accents (Glasgow "Posh"), Dubliner (Colin Farrell), Brummie (Ozzy Ozbourne), Bristolian (Vicky Pollard), Cockney (Michael Caine), Mockney (Jamie Oliver) South-Welsh (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Scouse (The Beatles), and the list goes on. Basically, every region has its own accent. In some areas people can tell which village someone who lives nearby is from by listening to them speak. These stereotypes are sadly hard to escape on British TV. American TV largely avoids this by not distinguishing between different regions of Britain at all.

Now, I actually don't have a British accent per se. To be precise, it's an English accent: the standard, non-regional form called Received Pronunciation (RP). The term "received" originally meant "that which is generally accepted" or "that accepted by the best society". It's a cultivated variety, a bit controlled, certain words are supposed to be said in a certain way to be considered RP. It's also non-local which means it's not confined to a specific geography. And it isn't ethnic, either, which means you don't have to come from English parents. Notice how many "theatre-trained" Americans such as Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) as well as Australian actors like Geoffrey Rush use this accent (or a form of it) instead of their own regional varieties.

2. I'm not British and I don't have to be.
See above: RP is non-regional and non-ethnic. I don't have be from anywhere or be anyone else. Filipinos forget(?) that RP is an international standard just like General American. As a matter of fact, RP was already the international standard (and the only one at that) ages before any American accent was heard outside the Atlantic.

3. Stop arguing Merriam-Webster pronunciation with me.
Because I use Ox-bridge. And arrogant as it may sound, we were first. Now, imagine you're in a spelling bee, and they have you spell "the quality of an object or substance with respect to light reflected by the object". Will it be "colour" or "color"? I used to always use just colour, but had to grudgingly use color at certain times. School teachers can be a little inconsistent around here and it can get annoying. Some will teach you it's "programme"; some "program". The historical mixture of British and American teaching models has given countless Filipinos the false impression that all English dialects are ultimately the same stuff, and you can use their grammar and spelling rules interchangeably.

Today, there are currently two international standards as far as dictionaries and teaching methods are concerned: the elder British (Ox-bridge) and younger American (Merriam-Webster). Canada is somewhat torn between the two whilst Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa follow British standards almost fully. All other non-native varieties also follow either. Singaporean English follows British, Philippine English follows(?) American, Indian English follows British, etc.

4. Look, I can't go any more neutral than this.
If you work for a call centre, you are bound to hear the absurd notion of "the" "neutral accent". Neutrality will always be relative. Neutral from whose perspective? They should be a lot more specific, really. Something like: "Team, because you're Filipinos and we're going to speak with Americans, it would be best to use a compromise between their General American and your own ugly local accents, okaaay?"

As far as my ancestry is concerned, my accent can't go any more neutral than this. This is my neutral accent. I'm pretty Euro-centric.

Let's put it this way: If I were a Scot from Edinburgh, the neutral accent to me would definitely be Edinburgh Scottish (and even there, you're bound to hear variations). This is why many Manilans think they're "accent-less". Because they live in the capital and their dialect (Manila Tagalog) is the basis of the standard (Filipino). Had the capital been in Batangas City, saying 'ala e' would be standard, wouldn't you think?

5. You've got an accent, too.
Despite popular belief, we all speak with an accent. It's all a matter of perspective. The unaware speaker naturally finds his own accent quite "accent-less". Our neighbours in Manila might not realise it, but they all speak with a distinct Manila Tagalog accent which, as a Caviteño, I find quite dull and lifeless.

6. Philippine English is not wrong.
Some American-educated Filipinos including those "re-educated" in call centres think that the localised variant of English (ie Philippine English) is wrong. Philippine English may not be an international standard but it's not wrong, either. We can't say that one variety is more correct than the other, especially when English is such a pluricentric language. It's perfectly fine to use Philippine English! 

A fair warning, though: Your audience is key. Unique phrases in Philippine English may be interpreted differently when speaking with foreigners.

7. Respect regional differences.
The father is not the son. Whilst it's true that Australian and New Zealander are both primarily descended from 18th century London English, and that the more affluent Aussies and Kiwis actually use a form of RP, the islands of Australia and New Zealand however have native varieties of their own. And it would be best to respect these differences.

And because I'm bad with endings, I'll stop here.

Last modified: 4 March 2011

Friday, 4 July 2008

Keffiyeh Blues

My friends, this is the keffiyeh which is also called the shmagh. This cultural item of the Arab world has been worn by its makers and their inheritors for many years now, not only to protect their faces from harsh elements but also as an emblem of their culture. And especially for those around the Levant, the keffiyeh has been a symbol of Palestinian solidarity.

I think one should know that before wearing the blasted thing.
Quite unfortunately, many people today are ignorant of this. Ghastly. To them, it is just a pretty coloured scarf. I hope they at least know what it is called and where it comes from.

I just do not believe in fashion for the sake of fashion. Ultimately what we wear should have use. If you are not going to use the bloody thing for shielding your face from sun, dust, or wind - what the fuck is it for?

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Sumer Is Icumen In?

It is the twenty second of June in the Philippines, just two days after Helios reached his zenith. How am I supposed to enjoy Midsummer with all this rain?

But then again, had I been in Sweden or Greece today, I would be missing the July rains all the same.

So this is the price one pays for being a bi-cultural miscegenate, eh? Emotional ambivalence for the seasons!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Male Homosexuality (and Gender Crossing) in the Philippines: Shared History and Stark Differences

Homosexuality versus gender crossing. Why is it so bloody hard for this country to differentiate the two? Today I, once again, cross-post another person's wordiness into my own little niche of ramblings.

Whilst I am not too sure if we believe in the exact same things with regard to sexuality (I have yet to find out), I am driven by some sort of moral and/or intellectual obligation to nevertheless pimp his historical commentary below to all of you who may or may not have had the chance to stumble upon his writings.

Male Homosexuality in the Philippines: a short history

The folk wisdom that Filipinos are a gay-friendly people must have first been mouthed by a wide-eyed tourist one lazy orange afternoon, assaulted by the vision of flamboyant transvestites sashaying down Manila’s busy sidewalks in broad daylight. Swiveling their hips from side to side, nothing seemed to threaten these chirping damsels except their heavy pancake makeup, which could run at any moment under the sweltering tropical sky.

By J . Neil C. Garcia

When visitors to the Philippines remark that Filipinos openly tolerate and/or accept homosexuality, they invariably have in mind effeminate, cross dressing men (bakla) swishing down streets and squealing on television programmes with flaming impunity. This is sadly misinformed. To equate Philippine society’s tolerance for public displays of transvestism with wholesale approval of homosexual behavior is naive, if not downright foolish.

While cross dressing exists in the Philippines, it is allowed only in certain social classes and within certain acceptable contexts, among entertainers and parloristas (beauticians) for instance, and during carnivalesque celebrations and fiestas. In fact, Filipinos have yet to see transvestism as legitimate in ‘serious’ professions – male senators filibustering from the podium wrapped in elegant, twotoned pashminas, or CEOs strutting around open-air malls wearing power skirts and designer leather pumps. Second, and more importantly, cross dressing is very different from homosexuality: the one does not necessarily entail the other. Observed more closely, the two have very different stories to tell.

If their society was truly tolerant of (male) homosexuality, then Filipinos would see not just flaming transvestites shrieking their heads off in TV sitcoms and variety shows, but local men, sissy or otherwise, frenching and erotically manhandling each other in steamy ‘gay telenovelas’. There would be as many gay pick-up bars as straight bars, and both the femmy pa-girl and butchy pa-mhin would be able to display affection in public.

At the heart of the idea of homosexuality is sex, no matter the sartorial style of the persons indulging in it. Thus, to historicize homosexuality in the Philippines, we must recognize the fundamental difference between gender and sexuality. More specifically, we need to disarticulate the presentist and commonsensical connection between gender transitive behaviors and the identities of bakla, bayot, agi, and bantut [1] on the one hand and the discourse and reality of homosexuality as typically ‘gay’ same-sex orientation and/or identity on the other. The history of the former stretches into the oral past not only of the Philippines, but the whole of Southeast Asia. The latter is a more recent development, a performative instance and discursive effect of the largely American-sponsored biomedicalization of local Filipino cultures.

Gender crossing
We know from Spanish accounts of encounters between conquistadores and the archipelago’s various indios that gender crossing and transvestism were cultural features of early colonial and thus, presumably, pre-colonial communities.

Local men dressed up in women’s apparel and acting like women were called, among other things, bayoguin, bayok, agi-ngin, asog, bido and binabae. They were significant not only because they crossed male and female gender lines. To the Spanish, they were astonishing, even threatening, as they were respected leaders and figures of authority. To their native communities they were babaylan or catalonan: religious functionaries and shamans, intermediaries between the visible and invisible worlds to whom even the local ruler (datu) deferred. They placated angry spirits, foretold the future, healed infirmities, and even reconciled warring couples and tribes.

Donning the customary clothes of women was part of a larger transformation, one that redefined their gender almost completely as female. We may more properly call them ‘gender crossers’ rather than cross dressers, for these men not only assumed the outward appearance and demeanor of women, but were granted social and symbolic recognition as ‘somewhat-women.’ They were comparable to women in every way except that they could not bear children. Cronicas tell us they were ‘married’ to men, with whom they had sexual relations. These men treated their womanish partners like concubines; being men, they had wives with whom they had their obligatory children.

Gender crossers enjoyed a comparatively esteemed status in pre-colonial Philippine society simply because women enjoyed a similar status. Women were priestesses and matriarchs who divorced their husbands if they wanted, chose their children’s names, owned property and accumulated wealth.

Spanish machismo
This was the state of affairs when the Spanish arrived. Over the centuries, as the status of women progressively deteriorated, gender crossing in the traditional sense became more and more difficult, with the gender crosser suffering from the ridicule and scorn which only the Spanish brand of medieval Mediterranean machismo could inflict. From being likened to a naturally occurring species of bamboo called bayog, the native effeminate man (bayoguin) in the Tagalog-speaking regions of Luzon slowly transmogrified into bakla, a word that also meant ‘confused’ and ‘cowardly.’ Unlike his formerly ‘destined’ state, kabaklaan was a temporary condition away from which he might be wrested, using whatever persuasive, brutally loving means. Nonetheless, despite Catholicism – with its own sacramental frocks worn by its ‘men of the cloth’ – and three-hundred years of Spanish colonial rule, cross dressing, effeminacy and gender transitive behavior never really disappeared in Philippine society.

Western sexualization
The American period, in which arguably the Philippines remains, saw the expansion of the newly empowered middle class, the standardization of public education, and the promulgation and regulation of sexuality by means of academic learning and the mass media. This discursive regulation inaugurated a specific sexological consciousness, one that was incumbent upon a psychological style of reasoning hitherto unknown in the Philippines.

We can reasonably surmise, following academic accounts of how Western psychology took root in the Philippines, [2] that this ‘sexualization’ of local mentality, behavior and personality accompanied English-based education in America’s ewly acquired colony at the eginning of the twentieth century. The force of this imported ‘psychosexual logic’ has grown and become entrenched since then; present generations are subjected to levels of sexual indoctrination unheard of in previous decades. In other words, by virtue of American colonialism and neocolonialism, Filipinos have been socialized in Western modes of gender and sexual identity formation, courtesy of a sexualization that rode on different but complementary discourses of public hygiene, psychosexual development, juvenile delinquency, health and physical education, family planning, feminist empowerment, gay and lesbian advocacy, and the corporally paranoid discourse of AIDS.

The next sexual order
The result is a deepening of sexuality’s perverse implantation into the local soil, accompanied by the exorbitation of the ‘homo/hetero’ distinction as the organizing principle in the now heavilyfreighted sexual lives of Filipinos, especially those in large urban centers where Westernized knowledges hold sway. Thus, the effeminate bakla is also the ‘homosexual’: a genitally male man whose identity is defined as a function of his sexual desire for other men.

Nonetheless, it’s important to qualify that residual valuations of gender persist, and have simply served to modify the new sexual order. For instance, though the bakla has sex with the lalake (‘real man’), for many Filipinos it is only the former who is ‘homosexualized’ by the activity. This means that the process of sexualization, while increasing in alacrity and perniciousness, has not been consistent. In fact, the process has been skewed towards the further minoritization of what had already been an undesirable, effeminate, ‘native’ identity: the bakla. While the terms bakla and homosexual are far from congruent, many Filipinos use them interchangeably because they entail the same social effect: stigmatization.

While his effeminacy and transvestic ways place him in a long line of exceptional and ‘gender anomalous’ beings in Philippine history, the present-day bakla is unlike any of his predecessors in at least one respect: he is burdened not only by his gender self-presentation, but also, and more tragically, by his ‘sexual orientation’, an attribute capable of defining his sense of self.

During the Spanish period, a religious discourse of ‘unnatural acts’ grouped under the rubric of sodomy was halfheartedly propagated through the confessional. Such acts were nevertheless temporary and surmountable, a weakness to which heirs to Eve’s original transgression were vulnerable. Sodomy was not a discourse of identity but of acts: non-procreative, non-conjugal and ‘non-missionary’ acts that were committed by men with men, women with women, and men and women with animals. Even so, the gender crosser’s sexual predilections for and acts with men simply attended – and did not determine – her redefined status as ‘womanlike.’ This status denoted what was more properly a gendered rather than a sexualized form of social being.

By contrast, as though coping with his swishy ways in a helplessly macho culture was not enough, the bakla must now contend with the private demons of pathological self-loathing, primarily on account of his intrinsically ‘sick’ desire. Nonetheless, the pathologizing of the bakla into and as a homosexual has resulted in encouraging narratives of hybridity, appropriation and postcolonial resistance from ‘politicized’ Filipino gay writers and artists. These ‘gay texts’ demonstrate how the very people who have been pathologized by the American sexological regime are ironically enabled by this very stigma.

We may therefore conclude that ‘gay identity’ and ‘gay liberation,’ as Filipino gays currently understand, live and champion them, are as much the ascriptions of these histories of cross gender behavior and homosexuality as the expressions of the various freedoms and desires these selfsame histories have paradoxically conferred.

1. These are culturally comparable words for ‘effeminate homosexual’ among the Philippines’ Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilongo and Tausug ethnic communities.
2. See: Alfredo V. Lagmay, 2000. ‘Western Psychology in the Philippines: Impact and Response’ in Journey of a Humanist. Quezon City: College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of the Philippines, 163-180.

The article was originally posted here: www.iias.nl/nl/35/iias_nl35_13.pdf

And yes, I do agree with him a lot.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Save the Kalash

Quote begins:

ON THE north-west tip of Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan's Nuristan province, Chitral has long been thought a possible refuge for Osama bin Laden.

Rendered almost inaccessible by the high peaks of the Hindu Kush range and narrow valleys, its secret mountain routes make it easy to dodge between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This district of North-West Frontier Province is the home of the Kalasha, a unique pagan community that has lived in the area for 2,000 years or more, and it is boxed in by an increasingly militant Islam. Thinly populated, Chitral covers 15,000 sq km, with war-torn Afghanistan to the north and west, and the extremist strongholds of Swat and Dir to the south.

This week, Afghan intelligence sources again named the area as a probable hiding place of the al-Qaeda leader. According to locals, bin Laden sheltered with a Kalasha family for some time during his first Afghan jihad, against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. With his now much more severe ideology, he would not be able to live easily among these polytheistic people, whose men and women mix freely.

Earlier this month, the Kalasha celebrated their spring festival, Joshi, with a verve and passion that few cultures, ancient or modern, could match. Men and women danced tirelessly to a pounding, primeval drum beat, haunting singing and rituals so old that their meaning is almost lost.

The women wear long black dresses with vividly coloured embroidery, their hair in long plaits and regal headdresses decorated with shells. Garish belts and layers of brightly coloured necklaces add to their exotic appearance. This is not a special costume for Joshi – it is what they wear every day. On their cheeks are painted dots and tattoos.

There are only about 3,000 Kalasha left now, pushed into three tiny valleys within Chitral by the advancing tide of settlers. There, they struggle to keep alive their faith and way of life, with creeping technology, poverty and the spread of Islam pushing their culture to the edge of extinction. But last week's Joshi showed Kalasha traditions remain strong and utterly unlike anything seen in the rest of Pakistan – perhaps unlike anything anywhere in the world.

"This is a religious ceremony. It celebrates spring. It is not a festival, it is much more than that – there is a spiritual meaning behind it," said Tach Sharakat, a Kalasha man, who is one of the few members of his community to receive a foreign university education.

One legend has it the Kalasha are the descendants of the army of Alexander the Great, who invaded India in the third century BC. No-one really knows their origins. Their religion may, in fact, be one of the early beliefs of the Indo-Persian area, embodying an early Hinduism and pre-Zoroastrian faith. They are known as kafirs – infidels – to most Pakistanis, but call themselves Kalasha.

Mr Sharakat thinks he is in his late twenties, but, as the Kalasha do not record birth years, he and other members of his race can only guess at their age. They do not have a written language, so all knowledge has been handed down by word of mouth.

That is why celebrations such as Joshi are so important to the Kalasha. It is a way of passing on their culture to younger generations. While it is easy to be mesmerised by the joyous dancing, round and round, the really important message is coming from within the circle, where old men in long golden coats sing and chant the Kalasha beliefs and narrate their history. The dancers then take up the song.

These are a people who love drinking wine – banned in Islam – and who can freely choose their husband or wife: arranged marriages are the norm in Pakistan. The women make no attempt to hide their faces and dance with gaiety in public, a sight now so rare in increasingly conservative Pakistan that it is shocking for most of their countrymen.

Bewildered Muslim tourists from other parts of the country, typically groups of men, stare at the festivities, seemingly unable to fathom that this, too, is a religion. Islamic culture is totally dominant in Pakistan and religious minorities are few. It seems it is lurid tales of the Kalasha women that have brought them here, confusing the women's freedom for free love.

"We marry who we like," said Gul Shaheen, a young teacher. "And there are no class distinctions in the marriage match. It does not matter if you are rich or poor. If a girl is ill-treated, she can leave for another man."

The three-day festival moves from valley to valley, with the Kalasha all gathering in one place each day, for the singing and dancing.

One reason the culture has been preserved is its geographical isolation. But that is coming under threat from domestic tourism – few foreigners venture to Chitral since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Much more serious disruption will follow, from the opening of a simple land route into Chitral, through the Lowari Tunnel, which should be completed by the end by next year.

This article was originally posted here.

More pictures and information on the Kalasha at wiki, BBC News, and Picture It.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

A Different Kind of Meme

My kind of meme. Random and ranty.

  1. There are a thousand ways to say something. Pick the best of the lot. Try at least.
  2. I am so sick of this Who Is Gayer Than Who shite. Definitely worse that yesteryear's Who Is Straighter Than Who. We are supposed to expand from the accomplishments of our forefathers, not outdo their stupidity.
  3. Back in the days of our mothers and fathers, they only had two sets of godparents. I am proud to say that I have the same number. Nowadays people take 10 pairs! What, will these 20 godparents be able to religiously look after their godchild's development on a regular basis? Sounds like someone is banking on gifts. Go have a baby shower.
  4. At the foot of many wedding invitations I tend to see this: "Your gift is appreciated but we prefer cash." This phrase makes it sound as if they are running a business.
  5. Any true love is sacred in itself. I do not need a priest or minister to consecrate what is already sacred.
  6. It throws me back a bit me to hear people talk about how their crushes are yummy and delicious. A wo/man is not a piece of meat. The word 'sexy' is enough for me.
  7. I do not understand why one's choice of sexual partners should matter in a beauty contest. I think Gay pageants are silly. Have you ever heard of a Straight pageant?
  8. Why is it that instead of dealing with urgent societal issues in regard to sexuality, Gay magazines offer only pictures of half naked men? Is sex the only thing that matters nowadays?
  9. I wonder why Playboy excludes men in their portfolio. A real playboy would play with both sexes. Same with Playgirl. Stupid repressed, heteronormative society!
  10. I think it is bigoted to claim that the likes of FHM are "Men's Magazines" and yet they only limit themselves to the desires of heteronormative men. I mean, they are repressed for crying out loud! They are not exactly healthy specimens.
  11. That bleeding Axe™ commercial is a problem too. Is it every man's dream to be surrounded by skinny girls and get laid? That is so American.
  12. Like I always say, if chain mails were true, I should have died a hundred times by now. And in a hundred different ways.
  13. So what if actress-X is pregnant? For many women, pregnancy is bound to happen. Be surprised if an actor gets pregnant! Now that would be news.
  14. I think John Lapuz is stupid. I could make you an essay if you like. He really is.
  15. I lost faith in Ernie Baron back in 199x when he listed Methuselah as the oldest person who had ever lived. (Rubbish! I might as well list Herakles as the strongest demi-man!) And when he mispronounced Samhain as 'sam-ha-een' claiming him to be the Lord of Death. (It is pronounced 'sow-en' and it is not a being but a festival.)
  16. I do not think it is anyone's business if Piolo Pascual dates or dated Sam Milby. This country is so backward.
  17. I think the Mike Enriquez style of reporting makes mediamen look cheap and retarded. ("Dalawang motorista nabundol ng truck, tumilapon, nagkalasog-lasog, nagkagula-gulanit, patayyyyyyy!!!") What ever happened to the BBC way?
  18. I applaud Kap's Amazing Stories for trying to have a local version of National Geographic. I just wish they would try harder so as not to suck/sod too much. Can local television sink any lower?
  19. A society with a multiplicity of Gods brought us tolerance - not just religious tolerance, but intellectual tolerance. Monotheism killed philosophy, burned down the libraries, and brought us the Dark Ages. That is the record. (credit:Todd Jackson)
  20. I think one way to salvage Wicca from the Fluff Movement is to break from the illusion and fallacy that Wicca is ancient and holier that way. Even if it was, do you not think it would need more than age to establish its credibility?
  21. May Day is so not Beltane. The former is Germanic, the latter Celtic. Get your facts straight.
  22. I think the man who has been making all these pop bags and shirts with Nazi-style swastikas on them should be examined for supporting Adolf Hitler. The people who wear them unknowingly should be hanged for ignorance.
  23. I sincerely hope that Bench™ knew what it was doing when it printed the Gautama Buddha's face on its shirts. Can they promise all the serious Buddhists out there that for each shirt sold the Buddha would not get misrepresented?
  24. I want to name my children with names that mean something. Naming your kids after a jumble of letters, pointless and without legitimate origin, will earn you no respect from them should they grow up intellectually elevated.
  25. I think the nouveau riche social-climbers who think speaking Taglish makes them sound sophisticated are making themselves look quite the opposite. Oh, make tapon na yourselves off a cliff. Go. Now na!
  26. I think I am done for this post. Amen.

Now post something in response to modern society. Hah.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Explaining Polytheism To An Atheist

At brandondedicant the author Brandon writes: "This is a conversation culled from the Neokoroi list. Unfortunately the thread was quickly hijacked by a flamer, and didn't get as many responses as might be hoped. Still, since He Epistole is short on submissions currently, I thought it might make for an interesting article." Here I add my answers (with a bit of modification to the format).

Aldrin - How would you explain your religion to an irreligious person, an atheist or a person who has never experienced religion?

An atheist colleague asked me this today: "Honestly, I really have no idea what your beliefs are and how it is different from traditional theism. All I know is that you are a polytheist (Greek/Roman gods). If you could elaborate on your belief... Are your god's sentient? Influence the earth today? Answers prayers. Makes themselves known to men and women? what makes you think they exist instead of say, the Hindu gods. Are they still gods in the traditional sense then? Is it deistic?"

How would you have an atheist understand/relate to our viewpoints as 'ethnic polytheists'?

The Atheist Interviews Todd Jackson, Brandon in Japan, and Aldrin Tanos

(a somewhat imaginary conversation)

Atheist - Thanks for taking the time to speak about your polytheism.

Todd - One of this can only be answered for yourself.

Brandon - I'll try to answer as best I can, speaking only for myself of course.

Aldrin - How is my theism different from traditional theism? I'm not sure what you mean by 'traditional theism'. I know for one that belief patterns can be extremely complex, that they cannot be so easily boxed as to how they should be be practised by individuals. But I suppose my theism is different from Mainstream Christian theism in the sense that I don't believe in the "supernatural". Everything that happens is natural. Everything has a rational explanation in nature. However this is not to say that rational experiences are to be devoid of spirituality. Thunder and lightning are natural phenomena with obvious rational explanations to us modern folk but at the same time a paganus like myself would certainly find something spiritual in watching them 'work it'.

In regard to the Greekness of my theology, I worship the Gods in a Greek approach amongst many understandings (I am a syncretist) but they are not really Greek. The gods are the gods. Raw forces of the universe. The only difference between my stand and that of the conventional western atheist's is that I try to build personal relationships with these forces and that I anthromorphise them guiltlessly.

Atheist - If you could elaborate on your belief... Like your version of the Nicene creed.

Todd - This isn't a credal religion. Hellenismos varied from city to city, and from era to era, over at least hundreds of cities and 1500 years. This creates a need for experience, for experiment. Instead of creed, Hellenismos has philosophy, myth, and prophecy - each of which requires interpretation. This process is the prehistory of modern science.

Brandon - Yes, as Todd said, it's not a credal religion. It's an orthopraxy (emphasis on practice) rather than an orthodoxy (emphasis on belief). I work with my gods, rather than believing in them per se. Let me explain that a bit:

For me there's a crucial difference between "believing in" and "working with" the gods. Strictly speaking, I don't believe in the gods, I suspend disbelief. Then I work with them as if they were distinct, real-existing entities, just seeing what happens. Philosophically this view is called Pyrrhonian Skepticism: in the absence of compelling evidence for or against a claim, the rational thing to do is suspend belief either way, and carry on in a spirit of inquiry.

I find that polytheism provokes a powerful response in me. Perhaps it is psychological, perhaps not. Whatever it is, it provokes a clearer and more compelling response than henotheism, duotheism, monotheism, etc. Being able to address a deity as a distinct, unique being in the world, not unlike a person, accesses something very basic and primitive. Call it anthropomorphism and I won't argue. It may very well be. At any rate, as a result, more of my being is stimulated in ritual. It just comes more natural, and provokes a more holistic response. And it allows for a more steady, grounded focus.

But again, that's just my belief, and I wouldn't say it's necessarily prevalent among the majority of polytheists.

Aldrin - I nod at Todd. Belief and practice for many modern pagans are not credal. Most of us believe that religion is experiential, experimental, and philosophical. Continuous thought, analysis, evaluation, and scrutiny of what one believes in is greatly encouraged.

Atheist - Are your gods sentient? Influence the earth today? Answer prayers? Make themselves known to men and women?

Todd - Yes, yes, yes and yes.

Brandon - I work with them that way, yes.

Aldrin -

Are my gods sentient?

I would believe so, swearing by personal experience, but I might find difficulty in proving that to the lot, so I will not. The sentience of gods (albeit non-human) are through personal interpretation.

Influence the earth today?

Yes, of course, as they have always had - do not (e.g.) thunder and lightning influence the earth today? Think of god as a synonym of force.

Answers prayers?

Prayer is not always about "asking something". In fact, to me, prayer is more of reflection, meditation, focus, grounding, etc. Asking for something would be a petition, one form of prayer/ritual. I do not believe in asking external forces for personal desires. Not always. Prayer to me is not faith but acknowledgment. The gods will not do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. By praying for safety every time I commute from my place to the office, I am not throwing the responsibility to some external force - I am acknowledging the fact that it is a dangerous world beyond my home and that I have to be extra alert, and practise cunning wit to ensure my safety. The God of Travellers protects those who keep their senses open on the road.

Makes themselves known to men and women?

Yes, they make themselves known day by day. At every point in our lives. They are there. But whether one translates their presence as sentient or not or what-have-you is subject to personal interpretation (yet again). If my history is correct, Yahweh was originally a Canaanite storm god (originally a Hurrian version of the Babylonian-Sumerian Ea-Enki, merged with the Canaanite El Elyon, Yam Nahar, and Baal Haddad). He was vengeful and arrogant to some people but could have been compassionate to others. No one can say for sure whether storms are vengeful or compassionate of course. At least not in the human sense. Yahweh, or Zeus for that matter, is just the way he is. It is in our various interpretations of him that differ.

Atheist - What makes you think they exist instead of say, the Hindu gods?

Todd - You're expressing this in Abrahamic formulas. The ancients, whether Hellenic, Egyptian, Indian or other, did not understand themselves as "following different religions" or even, necessarily following different Gods. It was always understood that the God spoken of as Dionysos in Hellas might be known under other names elsewhere.

And it was always understood that when one experiences the presence of a God and names that God Apollon, one is being only relatively accurate; the Gods cannot be fully known. So that Hellenismos means not yielding to a dogma - on faith - but walking into a vocabulary, inserting oneself into that vocabulary.

Brandon - And exclusivity is not implied. Just because the Greek gods exist, it doesn't mean other gods don't. Furthermore, we are not duty-bound to worship gods just because they exist. Quite to the contrary, we worship the ones that call to us, or that we feel called toward, and that we establish a relationship with. So even though we worship Greek gods, we don't have to also worship Hindu gods, Chinese gods, and so forth.

The precise relationships between gods of different peoples gets complicated. All kinds of theories have been proposed through the ages, and in the end it comes down to your personal interpretation. As Todd said, some ancient Greeks--though not all--were inclined to believe that foreign gods might be the same Greek gods worshipped under different names. Other polytheists, such as the Egyptians, saw god-names as able to be combined and separated somehow, sometimes worshipped as Amon-Ra, other times as Amon and Ra. So, it's complicated enough just comparing different polytheistic traditions. If you throw monotheist traditions in there too, where some traditions are making mutually exclusive claims, then it really gets fun.

Aldrin - I nod at both of you.

Atheist - Are they still gods in the traditional sense then?

Brandon - That depends what the traditional sense is, I suppose. If that means classical monotheism, where gods are characterized by omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience, then no they are not that way. If the traditional sense just means real-existing beings, in some respect outside the self, rather than some manner of allegory or archetypal expression wholly within the self, then yes, they are gods in that sense.

Aldrin - I am not sure what you mean by this. My understanding is that people have different ideas on what 'gods' are.

Atheist - Is it deistic?

Brandon - Again, that depends on the meaning of deistic.

If deistic just means theism again, i.e. divine beings really existing, as opposed to an atheistic or agnostic or other view, then yes, they are deistic.

If deistic means deism, i.e. a divine creator that does not interfere in the laws of nature, then no, they are not deistic. Mythically speaking, polytheist gods may or may not have created the world (in many traditions they just gave it its current order). They do act in the world. "Interfere" would be an unfair word though. IMO they are part of the world, not unlike us. They don't stand outside of nature, like a divine watchmaker. They grow out of it, just as we do. And when they act, they act through the laws of nature, not against them. For just about any phenomenon that a polytheist might express in divine terms, there can likely be found a "natural" or "scientific" explanation, without reference to deity. The difference IMO is what happens to the polytheist as a result of his/her working with divine terms--the "powerful response" mentioned above. This, in polytheist terms, is a divine blessing received, the power of communion.

There may be those who believe in miracles in the strong sense, as the impossible happening, divine will as against the laws of nature. But I know nothing of that. I speak for myself.

Aldrin - Wiki says: "Deism is the belief that there is a God that created the physical universe but does not interfere with it."

If this is what you mean by deism then, no, my belief system contains very little deism.

Atheist - Well, thank you for your opinions.

Brandon - Hope that helps.

Todd - In the Gods.

Aldrin - Those are not my best answers up there, but I tried. Fraternal feelings to you.