detail from Labels for Hair Ribbons by Manuel Ocampo a delectable selection of oriental appetizers
Wednesday, April 04, 2001


: . What Jessica, no iridescent crocodiles? No flowers as big as fists?:

“It's an ongoing soap opera, a movie, a tragicomic human drama of epic proportions…”
“We Filipinos are a forgiving people—perhaps too forgiving—and many of us seem cursed with short memories. Yet nothing about the Philippines—its resilient, generous, witty people or its garish, show-biz politics—can be easily explained. This is an archipelago of contradictions—hybrid, vibrant, big-hearted, messy.”
“Manila, where I was born and raised, a once lush, elegant city by the bay, is now a sprawling mix of five-star hotels, crumbling cathedrals, teeming squatter settlements and megamalls bursting with the ubiquitous lures of the West: Gap boutiques, Starbucks kiosks and McDonald's restaurants. All this conspicuous consumption in a country where the average laborer is lucky to earn five dollars a day!”
“One never knows whether to laugh or cry, and that's exactly the point. A few nights ago, a young man who had traveled all the way to New York from the Philippines approached me after a performance of the stage adaptation of my novel ‘Dogeaters.’ There were tears in his eyes. ‘Will this cycle of corruption and misery ever end?’ he asked, taking my hand. There was an urgent tone to his soft voice. He didn't tell me his name; I didn't ask. The assumption was that as Filipinos we shared something immediate, painful and deep and that there was no time for polite chatter. ‘Of course it will,’ I said, after a long silence. ‘The Philippines has known better and deserves better.’”

Yuck. In The New York Times Op-Ed page no less. To this my friend Sophia can only add:

“I motioned for him to stand. He made an attempt to kiss my ring. But I waved him off. I laid my hands on his head. 'Father forgive them for they know not what they do!’ And absolved him of his sins.”

I’m not sure if I’m violating some copyright law but since I paid the Times $2.50 for this article here is the full text of Jessica Hagedorn's Op-Ed piece free of charge.

If anyone ever doubted that Jessica Hagedorn wanted to appoint herself as the West’s Native Guide—to speak for Filipinos and to represent the Philippines—then this should be proof enough of her ambitions. And nothing can better demonstrate what is deeply wrong with Jessica Hagedorn and her work. Here she follows up on the final line of the play ‘Dogeaters’ (‘My soap opera of the Philippines continues’) and Art, political or not, segues neatly into ostensible Politics. Many Philippines-based critics have long ago accused Jessica Hagedorn of reveling in the very exoticism she wants to denounce. And here, true to form, she seems more fascinated than concerned with Philippine affairs. All political action (and works of art for that matter) buzzes with internal contradiction. All political action, while beholden to real life and cold hard facts is spurred, in some measure, by fantasy, by deep desire and deep disdain for a vast pantheon of (necessary) fictions. This is why Hagedorn’s work, though fraught with irony and quick to lampoon all the sacred carabaos in Philippine life is nevertheless besotted with tableaus of the archipelago so breathless and so laughable as to seem lifted from the books of colonial chroniclers. If Jessica Hagedorn were able to offer us truly incisive commentary on Philippine society then perhaps her little spasms could be brushed off as minor flaws, pardonable offenses. But she doesn’t. Instead she delivers nothing but caricatures, cheap sentiment, and silly platitudes (Who isn’t contradictory? Who isn’t messy? Etc…). Jessica Hagedorn wants her Philippine soap opera to end but she’s hooked. And as Native Guide, she’s invested in the show’s long run. And like her character Rio Gonzaga, she has her class and her US visa and her roundtrip ticket to help her flee from the set if things get out of hand. But unlike Hagedorn and unlike myself, most Filipinos don’t have this luxury. Still Jessica Hagedorn adds insult to injury by choosing to paint Philippine life as a hopeless case and Filipinos as a passive people who can live (and live it up) colorfully even in hard times. “One never knows whether to laugh or cry, and that's exactly the point,” writes Hagedorn. The point of what? "The Philippines has known better and deserves better," she concludes. Deserve from whom? Poor tragicomic people. Objects of endless fascination. Viewed from a safe distance no one can even do anything for them because no one knows what to do. And certainly they can’t do anything for themselves.


: . night vision

the girl fits her body in
to the space between the bed
and the wall. she is a stalk,
exhausted. she will do some
thing with this. she will
surround these bones with flesh.
she will cultivate night vision.
she will train her tongue
to lie still in her mouth and listen.
the girl slips into sleep.
her dream is red and ranging.
she will remember
to build something human with it.

Lucille Clifton


: . re: my friend Yong-Soon’s question after visiting this site—‘When was the last time you went to confession?’ To the two other people out there who actually read this blog, my apologies. I’ll try not to get too carried away next time.

: . Andrew Sullivan on Gay Marriage and on Matthew Shepard. More on this soon.

: . Bill to ban the term ‘Oriental’ passes Washington State House of Representatives. Thanks Julia. This better not be a hoax.

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