Monday, February 27, 2006

How Do I Love Thee, Adobo?

Chicken adobo. Chicken adobo. Chicken adobo.

If there is a better antidote to heavy rainfall and a case of the "dulls," I do not know what it is. It's simmering on the stove right now. In an hour, I'll put on the rice and all will be well. I will no longer be sore from having stood at the top of a snowy mountain (okay, small hill) and countless times seating, steadying, and then pushing dozens of children down on their various pieces of plastic. I will not have a runny nose and gunk in my throat from the inn's bizarre idea of a heating and a/c unit which blew either furnace-hot wind or arctic-freeze wind into the room. All the laundry will be miraculously washed, folded, and put away. Neatly. My children will stop emptying the linen closet of blankets and strewing them everywhere and pointedly ignoring my pleas to stop with a distinterested, "Mom. We're playing a game."

These are the sorts of dreams inspired by that heady aroma of chicken, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and bay leaf. Whether they come to pass is not important. What's important is that at this moment, I believe they will.

When my brother cooks his adobo, he does what I deem unthinkable: throws in chicken livers. He thinks it's really funny when I eat one. The first time this happened, he served me all gallant-like (to make sure an actual piece of liver wound up on my plate) and then watched me carefully until I'd taken a bite of one. Then all nonchalant-like he goes, "So, how is it?" Wanting to be all polite-like, I said, "Really good." Then he was all, "That was chicken liver! That was chicken liver! Hahahahahahahaha!"


But I knew something wasn't quite right. While I was saying, "Really good," I was thinking Hmmm. This chicken tastes like it had a rough life. And no doubt it had; I just didn't want to taste it. I should note that besides the liver, it was good adobo.

But enough of this. It's time to do the laundry.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

What Time Of Year Is It When...

...I fret about hats to the extent that I really ought to be sedated and hospitalized for twenty-four hours?

...I must deal with—horrors!—nature?

...I must share one room with my family and always end up reading in the bathroom at one o'clock in the morning?

That's right, darlings, it's time for a trek up the mountain to take part in the neighborhood ski trip. Once again the entire inn is ours, and 'round about midnight in the bar it becomes painfully apparent that the thinnest of lines separates parents' behavior from that of their children, especially if the former have indulged in one too many hot toddies.

As the group's only practitioner of teetotalism (alcohol gives me nothing but hives from the shoulders up, a throbbing headache, and bloodshot eyes—so pretty!), I come home with stories about which no other living human being is aware.

And I keep it that way.

Needless to say...

...I love the neighborhood ski trip.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"A" For Effort

Fed up—fed up, I tell you!—with everything and anything taking precedence over my sitting down to actually write, I turned my proudly Filipino nose up at the thought of the gym (I don't seem to be making much headway in that department, anyways) and the errands I really should have run this morning at the grocery store, Target, Trader Joe's, and Morrison's School Supplies.

Instead, I printed out two stories that need revisions, sat my arse down at Copenhagen Bakery with a Diet Pepsi and my iPod, and went to work. I ended up concentrating on only one of the stories because I was listening to In The Sun, which was written by Joseph Arthur and then recorded in multiple versions by Michael Stipe with Coldplay, Chris Martin, and Joseph Arthur. I'm deeply—perhaps even embarrassingly—moved by the song, and while I was working, I realized that it sounds the way I want my story to read. So I just kept listening to the different mixes over and over again while I wrote. All proceeds from the sale of the song(s) benefit Katrina survivors, by the way; the money goes directly to Mercy Corps via Stipes' In the Sun Foundation.

Anyways, it was a good 90 minutes. And even though I can't be sure if I created anything of worth, I can at least say I tried. Today.


More pix and commentary on the Beauty & Power conference at Joanne's and Noel's!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Beauty & Power

On the Shoes (because you know you need to know):

If it takes you more than one guess to figure out whose shoes these are, I am ashamed of you! Ashamed!

On the Writers:

All I can say is if you can avoid having to read right after Noel Alumit, you should do so. Because by comparison, you are—to put it kindly—nothing but a 25-watt lightbulb. And if you know anything about lightbulbs, 25-watts ain't much.

Upon being introduced, Noel popped out of his chair (where he had been sitting in a deceivingly demure manner) and proceeded to launch into a hysterical riff on the importance of the Miss Universe pageant to his life and, indeed, the life of every gay man on the planet. Then came an equally funny discussion about The Importance Of The Final Question and how Miss Philippines blew her chance at the crown in 1994 (was it 1994?) when, in response to the question, "If you could be any fictional character, who would you be?" she answered..."Supergirl." Lordy.

But that wasn't all. No, that wasn't all. He ended by staging his own beauty pageant using two audience volunteers. There were crowns bestowed, much cheering and hooting from the audience, and a triumphant final walk by the winner (while the runner-up declared he wanted a "dance off!" to redeem himself). Noel took a bow to much applause.

And then it was my turn.



Next, Ms. Barbara Jane "I-Am-a-ROCKSTAR-and-all-my-books-yes-I-said-ALL-my-books-including-not-just-my-new-award-winning-volume-but-my-first-book-too-completely-sold-out-that's-right-bow-down" Reyes read her stunning poetry, including new work from Diwata. Such a pleasure to hear. And you better bet I purchased my red-hot copy of Poeta en San Francisco. This from the Eastwind Books team, who displayed a veritable bounty of Filipino and FilAm literature. BJ has the proof right here.

Jean was next with a memoir of sorts, in which she recalled the process of writing a piece on the "social box" phenomenon that was a staple of dances in Filipino-American communities through the 1960s. I was rapt, as I'd never heard of this ritual in which young Filipinas were displayed and then presented to the highest bidder for a turn on the dancefloor. The girls kept half of their bid price, while the other half went to the organization sponsoring the dance. Isn't your head spinning already, what with all the implications of such a practice? Well, join the Nesting Ground Club, because my head pretty much remained in the same reeling state throughout the rest of the day.

On the Academics:

(with advance apologies for oversimplification and outright butchering of ideas)

For a non-academic such as yours ever so truly, I needed to perform a certain amount of decoding before I could begin to really hear what each of the presenters (the exception being Madame Dawn Mabalon, whose style is easily accessible to the layperson) was saying. They were, by the way, all brilliant—and, yes, beautiful—Filipinas, plus Roland Tolentino, a Visiting Fellow from the Sociology Department of the National University of Singapore.

I took dismal notes (words like "hegemony," "discourse," etc. do not flow easily from my pen!), so I will rely on memory and just shout out a few of the many things that have stayed with me:

• Dawn Mabalon's admission that her family undertook an unprecedented campaign of "graft and corruption" to win her the title of Miss Antipolo Something-Something at the tender age of nine. OMG, her pictures were priceless.

• Dawn's descriptions of the ways in which some Filipinas chose to resist the considerable familial pressure to take part in these ubiquitous contests.

Shirley Lim discussing how the women who participated served as symbols of "ideal female citizenship" and how the Filipino community's ability to organize and then—through its periodicals—issue sassy gossip reports (okay, she didn't actually say "sassy reports") about such pageants/social occasions was in a sense proof that it was ready to participate in "modern culture."

• Evelyn Rodriguez ticking off the basic criticisms thrown at the notion of current-day Filipina-American debutantes and their $12,000 (average price in Evelyn's study) parties, one of which is the thought that middle-class families should not be spending such a sum on what could arguably be called a frivolous one-night-only event. But, Evelyn pointed out (among other things), nobody tells wealthy people what to do with their money; why should it be different for the middle-class? This is a thought (I'm slightly embarrassed to admit) that had never crossed my mind. So there you go.

Liz Pasares articulating the idea that racial discourse is pretty much non-existent for FilAms. We are, after all, chronically miscrecognized (who among us—tell me!—has not been forced to endure a prolonged inquisition from some idiot who cannot stop with the "Are you (fill in the blank)? No? Well, are you (fill in the blank)? Um, how 'bout (fill in the blank)?") and—I hate this—invisible.

• Liz's discussion of how FilAm movie directors cast their female leads.

• I think this was also Liz? Say it with me: Filipinos are ethnic chameleons.

Roland Tolentino on "Imeldific Beauty." There's no way around the fact that Imelda, beyond being evil, is just so damn fascinating. At the end of his presentation, Roland played an interview with one of her coutouriers, who nonchalantly announced that many of the women who worked for him creating unbelievably intricate beadwork for Imelda's elaborate gowns eventually went blind. This was interspersed with an interview of Imelda espousing her very special thoughts on the importance of beauty. Which is, apparently, even more crucial to life than...eyesight.

On the Organizers & Their Merry Band of Volunteers:

Really, I cannot say enough about the fabulousness of Gladys and Joanne. They worked so hard taking care of everyone and keeping everything running smoothly, all while maintaining their sense of humor and looking lovely. The day was just as Jean described it: filled with warmth (despite the temperature!) and laughter. All due, of course, to the organizers and their extremely smart, fun, and energetic support team (hi Fritzie! hi volunteer who employed telekinesis to make one l'il puto topple from the pyramid!).

And now for pictures of something other than shoes...

Gladys welcoming attendees:

BJ wowing the audience:

Jean taking us inside the "social box":

BJ & La Fritzie:

With La Fritzie:

With Noel Alumit:

Noel & Shirley J. Lim

Wonderful conference volunteers including La Fritzie & Ms. Telekinetic:

The right side of the room, during the break:

The left side of the room, during the break:

BJ has more photos for your viewing pleasure right here.

And now...I should probably go find my children.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

All Of Which Is Just Another Way To Ask: How Can I Wear My Feathered Heels If It Rains?

Barbara Jane is the first to broach a heady subject: how will we choose to present ourselves at the Beauty and Power in Filipino/American Communities Conference on Saturday? (The one you're coming to, right? Right.)

Every choice—from lipstick color to shoes—seems a little loaded, especially now with all the goings-on at Your Filipina Penpal! In the end, I'll do what I always do, I'm sure: I'll go as the me I most prefer the outside world to see, as opposed to the Mom Me or the Dork Me or the Tired Me or the Dinner With Friends Me. Maybe it's the Pretend Me. Who knows? I'm completely confused at the moment.


I've been tinkering with the story I'm going to read, smoothing out the awkward moments, swapping out one word for another (and then putting the first one back), adding bits here and there, staring at the screen. It's my favorite part of writing, I think: when it's all there and you just nudge it around until it's as close as you can get to what you see in your head. Not quite fancy enought to refer to as "process," I s'pose, but that's what I do.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Monday, February 13, 2006

Here, Doggy

I'm not a huge fan of dogs or animals in general (yes I'm well aware, thanks, that this reveals a deep flaw in my humanity), but Weez has a new puppy and he's just so darn...cute isn't even the word. What's the word?

Here's Mateo.

Monday Bits

The posts just keep coming over at Jean's brainchild, the ingenius and subversive Your Filpina Penpal! (I love the exclamation mark...). I'm itching to contribute, I tell you; my fingers are fluttering above my keyboard, poised for play. Maybe tonight.


I just found out this morning that longtime cyberworkshop pal, Dr. Susan Evangelista, will be a panelist at the Carlos Bulosan Symposium at the Library of Congress in April, where I'll be sweating profusely while reading "Bernie". It's always such a silly little kick to finally meet in person someone who has only ever existed via e-mail or the blogosphere. I should mention that I am so pleasantly surprised and grateful for the generosity of Our Own Voice, which is sponsoring both my flight and accommodations.


Strange. Tomorrow will be my first session serving as a tutor in the afterschool Kindergarten tutoring program. That is not the strange part, though. The strange part is how semi-terrified I am to be a "teacher" to eight kids for forty-five minutes. It's not that reading aloud (in fact, I love reading aloud to wee ones), playing alphabet bingo, and working on phonemic awareness stuff is particularly grueling. It's the knowledge of how easily the eight of them—if they only realized—could organize their very own Mutiny on Veronica and overthrow the entire thing. I'll let you know how it goes.


In more school news, I've hit a bit of a snag in my capacity as Latino Outreach-er. Following the super fantabulous science event at which the delightful Professor Jeanette Medina made chemistry and whatnot soooo accessible, I asked the parents to fill out an evaluation. One of the questions was which topic(s) they would like to see covered in future presentations. Well, almost everyone requested a math workshop so that they can learn how to help their kids with their homework. I'm stymied because of the logistics involved: four different grades (I'm assuming K and 1st grade parents don't need help), four interpreters, plus the after-hours cooperation of the entire (already overworked/underpaid) staff. It's sort of a huge thing. So I'm thinking on that.


And, well, that's all.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Beware the Trampoline

I took the girls for a playdate at their friend A's house on Wednesday. As usual, the big draw was A's trampoline, which I've grown to like because it's only about three feet off the ground, is netted (of course) for safety, and isn't very big. Much of the scare factor simply doesn't exist. The weather was summer-like and everyone was bouncing happily, leaving A's mom and I plenty of time for chatting. And then...and then...Lea jumped right out of her skirt.

There are no words to describe how hilarious this was, so I won't even try. I couldn't laugh, though, because Lea is unpredictable at these moments. Would she cry? Would she lash out because everyone was laughing and pointing? Was I going to have to...oh, please no, with a full-on meltdown? Surprisingly, she began to giggle, rolled around in her Hello Kitty underwear for a few minutes, bounced back into the skirt, and kept right on playing.

Crisis averted.

Drama-free bouncing continued for another 30 minutes. And then...and then...Risa bounced over to the little enter/exit opening in the net to show me something and bounced right out.

There are no words to describe how hilarious this was, so I won't even try. Thank goodness she landed softly on a pile of redwood chips. There was a quiet wimper, and then an extremely loud, "I want mommy!" I scooped her up and onto my lap for a few minutes, and then it was back onto the trampoline. "You come and jump, too, Mom!" she said, trying to pull me in.

There are now words to describe how hilarious this request was, so I won't even try.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


What could be more fitting than Joanne taking the original e-flyer for the Beauty & Power in Filipino/American Communities Conference and making it over into an ultimately more glamorous incarnation? I hope you lovelies come out and join us in Berkeley for this little shindig.

Speaking of makeovers, I left the house today ready to add a few pairs of shoes to my closet. I returned home five hours later with...a bunch of books (I'm looking forward to this one in particular). Why? Because there are some truly ugly-ass shoes currently gracing the shelves. Not willing to give up the hunt so easily, I turned to the internet. Still not much luck, but I am considering these kalij plume wedge heels. The heels are covered in feathers, after all.

How about I leave it to you? Vote yay or nay, and I'll purchase (or not) accordingly. Hurry up, though; they're on sale and my size might run out...

Monday, February 06, 2006

PSA: Parent Hacks

If you're thinking in even the most fleeting of ways about climbing aboard the baby track, you should just go ahead and bookmark Parent Hacks right now. It's a hilariously (hilarious for me, I mean, since I am now safely out of "toddler" land, which is the category under which most of the hacks currently fall) practical community blog filled with all kinds of advice I wish I'd had six years ago.

For example, there is not a parenting book known to man that 1) brings to light the fact that it's difficult for a parent to use a public restroom while toting a child or 2) tells you how to deal with the situation. What do you do with the kid? You sure as hell can't put it on the floor or hand it to a stranger for a minute. Well, Parent Hacks has a solution. Kind of.

(On the highly doubtful chance that you would like to know what I personally did when faced with this dilemma, I will tell you: nothing. I never used a public restroom when on my own with a baby/toddler. Nope. Couldn't do it.)

And that, dear ones, is my public service announcement for the day.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


I am always surprised at how long it takes me to process an experience enough to the point where it becomes fodder for a story. Just the other night while reading out of Nell Freudenberger's Lucky Girls, an image floated right across my sight line (an image, by the way, which had nothing to do with Ms. Freudenberger's story—I'm so often a bad reader), a sure sign that I have at least part of a story coming together.

The image was of, well, an image. A sepia photograph taken in the Philippines, to be exact. By a non-Filipino. And beautifully framed and hung on the wall of a non-Filipino, in whose home I happened to be staying fourteen years ago. See what I mean?!

Okay, now while the image was floating, I thought of Vicente Rafael's White Love & Other Events in Filipino History because one of the essays (is this right? I have the book somewhere...) in that book was about photographs taken during the Philippine-American War. And then I recalled another essay he wrote about the 1902 census. About how large an undertaking it was, of how this tool of "white love" made colonial subjects visible and thus easy to rope in for lessons in "democracy," etc. etc. Oh, forgive me if I'm butchering all this; it is how I remember it, anyways.

So once I started thinking about the process of taking the 1902 census, it occured to me who, and under what circumstances, the photograph was taken. Fictionally speaking, of course. And then I recalled (non-fictionally speaking) how I felt when I saw the photograph. How taken aback I was to be in this very white place with these quite kind, very white, east coast, old-school conservative folks and seeing on their wall a represenatation of Filipina beauty clearly viewed as "other." (OH MY GARSH...even as I type I am remembering our host saying that his uncle was the photographer...) And then how the taken aback-ness transmogrified into something altogether different.

Long story short (hahahahahahaha!), there is now all manner of stuff squishing about my brain: objectification, colonialism, desire, theft, appropriation, identity or the lack thereof.

Nothing left to do, then, but write.