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.