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.


Gladys said...

(i'm casting an anti-jinx spell right now) i cannot wait to read this story!

rxhix (the key word of mah magical spell)

Gladys said...

oh, i forgot to say, sunny's book, displaying filipinos, talks about photography and the census in early colonial philippines, too, and he did it before rafael did! -- in fact, rafael cites sunny's book more than a few times in the endnotes for chapter 3. hee hee.

barbara jane said...

yeah, that's the thing, right? the rendering benign of this history so that what you saw on those folks' wall was to most a random curiosity.

like gladys i too can't wait to read this story. it's like what marianne and i were talking abt the other day, how images and words may stay with us for a long time quietly and not emerge in a written piece until much later.

acnebk. this is ilocano.

ver said...

Thanks for the encouragement, you two. BJ, I used to think I had to write down every image/situation/etc. that I wanted to one day work with, i.e. the importance of a writer's notebook or whatever. But the weird thing is that so few of those chronicled things has come to life for me. The stuff I end up turning into stories is the stuff I never wrote down that is—for whatever reason, for me—unforgettable. This knowledge doesn't keep me from buying countless notebooks, though!

I'm sure that anti-jinx spell is gonna come in handy, G.! And, yes, OF COURSE: Sunny's book. Duh. Duh. Duh...

inbmmtk (blog language for 'idiot!')

ver said...

Lest I was misunderstood...those "duhs" were directed at myself, not Gladys!!

ethsvbay (inability to communicate effectively via blog comments)

Gladys said...

eh, you can "duh" me if you want. these things tend to roll off my back. i'm a turtle like that.

plus i just finished my spanish exam and am breathing again. i feel confident about it, but i am now casting an anti-jinx spell..."oxggr."