Wednesday, August 30, 2006


R & V started first grade today. We decided to split them up, and despite the vocal protestations that were a staple of our summer days ("You'll never tear us apart! We'll always be together! You can't do this!"), they ended up marching into their respective classrooms without a peep. If you knew them personally, if you knew, for example, that great swaths of the day can evaporate without them ever closing their mouths, then you would find this as remarkable as I do. And they are in school for a full day now, as opposed to coming home at lunchtime like they did last year (I glanced over at this year's crop of Kindergarteners, by the way, and found them very...short), which means that they are away from me far more than they ever have been. And though I knew this intellectually, I clearly hadn't dealt with it emotionally and, well, the whole thing fissured my stony little heart. Luckily, I have one more on the backburner, and she just happens to be—with the exception of her father—the world's best most excellent breakfast companion:

She just sits and eats and drinks and chats. No fidgeting, no whining, no can-we-go-let's-go-I-want-to-go. She makes observations about passers-by ("Oh, look! She's very sassy."), greets familiar faces, looks askance at the newbies who approach us. We fell immediately into our old routine. After breakfast, we fed the parking meter and continued down the street to the stationery store, where she always stocks up on stickers, bookmarks, and random plastic things (today it was a combination pencil sharpener and spinning fan). Then it's on to the bookstore, where we read some new things together but where—strangely—she mostly likes me to read books we already have at home. Finally, we window-shop our way back down the street, climb into the car, and head home so she can put her stickers to use. One day I'll have to tell her how much comfort these simple things afforded her rather brokenhearted Mom.


New and interesting posts/links over at About Bebot—A Collective Review. In one of them, I believe I am being chastised for my previous post. All I can say in my defense is..."if you've got breasts, stick it out and be freakin' proud of it!" Come on now. Someone would have had to tie my hands behind my back to keep me from saying something. And even then, I probably would have called the Nesting Ground Corporate Office and dictated a post to my staff of eager assistants, who would have loyally uploaded it on my behalf. And then I would have realized that there is no Nesting Ground Corporate Office and I would have leaned over my desk, clamped a pen between my teeth and pecked out something, somehow. Even if it looked like this: "slcoewidkg! nos;ktied! lol! s3k;rer;asl?"

'Cuz, well, that's just me.

Monday, August 28, 2006

I...I'm Just...I...Well. Okay, Then!

I don't generally make public fun of anyone except our current administration and Mariah Carey. And I don't intend to start now. It's just that when I checked out Patricio Ginelsa's blog for the latest and greatest in "Bebot" comments, I found the following (the comment has since disappeared into the ether, which is probably the way I should leave it but, really, why should I be one of the few who had to suffer through its reading?) made by someone whom—according to her MySpace profile—is a 32-year-old woman living in Ilinois:

Filipinas should be proud of what their momma gave them! Nothing wrong with dancing sexy! The video is about BeBOt! for crying out loud ! Why is sexy so wrong? Many Filipinas are gifted with beautiful bodies, we should all celebrate that and be confident! if you've got breasts, stick it out and be freakin' proud of it! Dance sexy and be happy and let'z all rejoice our "b-e-b-o-t-n-e-s-s"!

Talk about missing the point entirely. Or maybe it's me? Maybe I've lost my sense of humor entirely. Maybe i just need to calm my reactionary ass down and "dance sexy and be happy and...rejoice in...'b-e-b-o-t-n-e-s-s.'"

Friday, August 25, 2006

And Unicorns Are Real.

Please. President Bush and EWM (that's Evil White Man) Karl Rove are participating in a contest to see who can read the most books this year. George has apparently finished sixty books, which puts him ten ahead of EWM.

I want to make a joke. I would love to make a joke. I'm in a joke-y mood. I appreciate a challenge, though, and to make a joke here would be, well, too easy-peasy even for me-sy.


Have a good weekend, all. And don't forget to check out About Bebot - A Collective Review when you have some time. FYI, my favorite person of the week is Kiwi.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

More Bebot

1) Two folks from the University of Washington have added their signatures to the Open Letter:

Kiko Benitez
Assistant Professor, Comparative Literature
Univ. of Washington

Rick Bonus
Associate Professor, American Ethnic Studies
Univ. of Washington

2) Please check out the the new About Bebot: A Collective Review blog. Eventually, you'll find the various responses to the letter collected here. So keep checking back! For now, there's a link to Patricio Ginelsa's blog at My Space, where he has posted the letter and asked for comments.

3) Patricio (a fellow Daly City-er!) has e-mailed us privately, and asked that the communication remain private. As much as I think sharing the exchange would benefit the discussion, I know we need to honor his request.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Open Letter re: the "Bebot" Video(s)

[ANOTHER UPDATE: So, folks, there is much ado about this letter in cyberspace at the moment. The undersigned are looking for a spot to collect the responses. Said responses are, as expected, both supportive and extremely harsh. The latter is disappointing, as the letter was, more on this later]

[UPDATE: Thank you to Luisa Igloria and Aimee Nez for adding their signatures!]

To, Patricio Ginelsa/KidHeroes, and Xylophone Films:

We, the undersigned, would like to register our deep disappointment at the portrayal of Filipinas and other women in the new music videos for the Black Eyed Peas’ song, “Bebot.” We want to make it clear that we appreciate your efforts to bring Filipina/o Americans into the mainstream and applaud your support of the Little Manila of Stockton. However, as Filipina/o and Filipina/o American artists, academics, and community activists, we are utterly dismayed by the portrayal of hypersexualized Filipina “hoochie-mama” dancers, specifically in the Generation 2 version, the type of representation of women so unfortunately prevalent in today’s hip-hop and rap music videos. The depiction of the 1930s “dime dancers” was also cast in an unproblematized light, as these women seem to exist solely for the sexual pleasure of the manongs.

In general, we value’s willingness to be so openly and richly Filipino, especially when there are other Filipina/o Americans in positions of visibility who do not do the same, and we appreciate the work that he has done with the folks at Xylophone Films; we like their previous video for “The Apl Song,” and we even like the fact that the Generation 1 version of “Bebot” attempts to provide a “history lesson” about some Filipino men in the 1930s. However, the Generation 2 version truly misses the mark on accurate Filipina/o representation, for the following reasons:

1) The video uses three very limited stereotypes of Filipina women: the virgin, the whore, and the shrill mother. We find a double standard in the depiction of the virgin and whore figures, both of which are highly sexualized. Amidst the crowd of midriff-baring, skinny, light-skinned, peroxided Pinays – some practically falling out of their halter tops – there is the little sister played by Jasmine Trias, from whom big brother Apl is constantly fending off Pinoy “playas.” The overprotectiveness is strange considering his idealization of the bebot or “hot chick.” The mother character was also particularly troublesome, but for very different reasons. She seems to play a dehumanized figure, the perpetual foreigner with her exaggerated accent, but on top of that, she is robbed of her femininity in her embarrassingly indelicate treatment of her son and his friends. She is not like a tough or strong mother, but almost like a coarse asexual mother, and it is telling that she is the only female character in the video with a full figure.

2) We feel that these problematic female representations might have to do with the use of the word “Bebot.” We are of course not advocating that Apl change the title of his song, yet we are confused about why a song that has to do with pride in his ethnic/national identity would be titled “Bebot,” a word that suggests male ownership of the sexualized woman – the “hot chick.” What does Filipino pride have to do with bebots? The song seems to be about immigrant experience yet the chorus says “ikaw ang aking bebot” (you are my hot chick). It is actually very disturbing that one’s ethnic/national identity is determined by one’s ownership of women. This system not only turns women into mere symbols but it also excludes women from feeling the same kind of ethnic/national identity. It does not bring down just Filipinas; it brings down all women.

3) Given the unfortunate connection made in this video between Filipino pride and the sexualized female body both lyrically and visually, we can’t help but conclude that the video was created strictly for a heterosexual man’s pleasure. This straight, masculinist perspective is the link that we find between the Generation 1 and Generation 2 videos. The fact that the Pinoy men are surrounded by “hot chicks” both then and now makes this link plain. Yet such a portrayal not only obscures the “real” message about the Little Manila Foundation; it also reduces Pinoy men’s hopes, dreams, and motivations to a single-minded pursuit of sex.

We do understand that Filipino America faces a persistent problem of invisibility in this country. Moreover, as the song is all in Tagalog (a fact that we love, by the way), you face an uphill battle in getting the song and music video(s) into mainstream circulation. However, remedying the invisibility of Filipina/os in the United States should not come at the cost of the dignity and self-respect of at least half the population of Filipino America. Before deciding to write this letter, we felt an incredible amount of ambivalence about speaking out on this issue because, on the one hand, we recognized that this song and video are a milestone for Filipina/os in mainstream media and American pop culture, but on the other hand, we were deeply disturbed by the images of women the video propagates.

In the end we decided that we could not remain silent while seeing image after image of Pinays portrayed as hypersexual beings or as shrill, dehumanized, asexual mother-figures who embarrass their children with their overblown accents and coarseness. The Filipino American community is made up of women with Filipino pride as well, yet there is little room in these videos for us to share this voice and this commitment; instead, the message we get is that we are expected to stand aside and allow ourselves to be exploited for our sexuality while the men go about making their nationalist statements.

While this may sound quite harsh, we believe it is necessary to point out that such depictions make it seem as if you are selling out Filipina women for the sake of gaining mainstream popularity within the United States. Given the already horrific representations of Filipinas all over the world as willing prostitutes, exotic dancers, or domestic servants who are available for sex with their employers, the representation of Pinays in these particular videos can only feed into such stereotypes. We also find it puzzling, given your apparent commitment to preserving the history and dignity of Filipina/os in the United States, because we assume that you also consider such stereotypes offensive to Filipino men as well as women.

Again, we want to reiterate our appreciation for the positive aspects of these videos – the history lesson of the 1936 version, the commitment to community, and the effort to foster a larger awareness of Filipino America in the mainstream – but we ask for your honest attempt to offer more full-spectrum representations of both Filipino men and Filipina women, now and in the future. We would not be writing this letter to you if we did not believe you could make it happen.


Kiko Benitez
Assistant Professor, Comparative Literature
Univ. of Washington

Rick Bonus
Associate Professor, American Ethnic Studies
Univ. of Washington

Lucy Burns
Assistant Professor
Asian American Studies / World Arts and Cultures, UCLA

Fritzie De Mata
Independent scholar

Diana Halog
UC Berkeley

Luisa A. Igloria
Associate Professor
Creative Writing / English, Old Dominion University

Veronica Montes

Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Assistant Professor, English
State University of New York-Fredonia

Gladys Nubla
Doctoral student
English, UC Berkeley

Barbara Jane Reyes
Poet and author

Joanne L. Rondilla
Doctoral candidate
Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley

Rolando B. Tolentino
Visiting Fellow, National University of Singapore
Associate Professor, University of the Philippines Film Institute

Benito Vergara
Asian American Studies / Anthropology, San Francisco State University

Monday, August 21, 2006

It's Kind of Sad, Really.

The girls are sitting out front playing a tambourine and two guitars (kid-sized). They are singing a medley of songs, including Chicago's "Saturday in the Park" and Maroon 5's "She Will Be Loved" (oh, Sunny, don't hate me). The goal, I believe, is to earn enough money from kind passers-by to purchase their own treats from the ice cream man. He will round the corner at any moment now, pushing his cart and tinkling his friendly dairy bells, so they are growing more and more nervous at the lack of traffic. I am convinced, though, that as long as they keep playing with their current fervor, our neighbors will creep out of their homes and pay them.

To stop, that is. Pay them to stop.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Snippy Relief

I was so snippy today. Snippy, snappy, drippy, mean.

But then I was saved.

Saved by the two crazy fools in this video. Something about the earnest, faraway looks that the guy on the left performs have managed to defunk me. The guy on the right is just annoying, but if you can bring yourself to watch for long enough, his headband flies off at about the three minute mark. The professionalism he displays at that crucial moment is most impressive. The best part, of course, is the guy in the background working on his computer.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Blow It Up

I really like this idea of enlarging an old (or at least a heavy-on-the-character) piece of correspondence and putting it on the wall. In fact, I like it so much that we're gonna do it.

I treasure this telegram that Lolo (on Dad's side) sent to Lola after coming in second at the Philippine Open golf tournament in 1958. It reveals a basic sweetness that I wish I'd had a chance to see more often, and it also infers a certain sadness. At forty-seven he was no longer a young man, after all. He had won the tournament thirteen times before, and I feel he must have known he would never win it again. Anyways, I don't know if you can see, but the sentences are printed on strips that were then glued to the paper:

We usually have a hard time committing something to the walls, so I'm (rather embarrassingly) excited about this little project.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Message(s) In a Bloggle

Dear Lady with the Fancy Pedicure at Pilates,

Please stop talking so loudly to your trainer. If you are unable to do that, please stop telling her how "clear" you are. How open, how honest, how free of negativity. Please stop telling her that it has taken you years to get to this place and how it was "really, really hard, you know?" And most of all, don't ever say loudly enough for anyone else to hear that if your lover were to take an axe and cut you open, he would find nothing but peace within you.


The Woman Whose Workout You Totally Screwed Up


Dear Checkperson at Safeway,

Please stop referring to me as "Mrs. Mendoza." You're close, but not really. Please stop saying, "Well, hello, Mrs. Mendoza!" and "You have a good day now, Mrs. Mendoza!" and "Where are the kids today, Mrs. Mendoza?" I appreciate friendly neighborhood customer service as well as the next, um, Mrs. Mendoza, but only if you get my name right. I am writing this message in a bloggle because I am too embarrassed to correct your mistake. And it's all your fault because you keep calling me Mrs. Mendoza with so much volume, force, and confidence. If you had just said it once, and tentatively at that, I could have gently told you my actual name.


Mrs. Mendoza


Dear Fancy Ladies at the Burlingame Street Fair,

Wow. You're fancy.


The Woman With A Denim Jacket Tied Around Her Waist


Dear NASA,

First of all, I'm sorry for your loss. Second, why not try eBay?


Your Fan at Nesting Ground

Friday, August 11, 2006

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Saboteur

Please understand that this is not a brag list. It is not a martyr list or a pat-myself-on-the-back list. It is, instead, a list that demonstrates how time and time again I fail to take myself seriously. How I constantly sabotage any time I might have available to write. And, most damning of all, how I justify it by thinking oh, but I'm being a good parent. Which is such bullshit. I could eliminate half the things on this list and still be a good parent. Anyways, here's the Unwieldy List. It's all the stuff I'm doing so far this school year:

- Co-President of the school foundation
- Marketing Chair for the big live/silent auction thingy
- Chair for Latino Outreach
- Coordinator for first grade tutoring program
- Chair for Author Day
- Webmaestro of the foundation site
- (most likely) Room parent for Risa's class
- (most likely) Room parent for Vida's class

So this list is why I went to last night's soccer meeting determined not to volunteer for anything. Not one single thing. And on the drive to our coach's house, I told the girls that if they were in the vicinity when volunteers were being requested, they were not to start jumping up and down and saying, "You do it, Mom! You do it!"

The coach has four children, and she is coaching two teams. She is also smart. The first time she asked for a Team Parent volunteer to procure the team banner, collect money for various reasons, plan the end-of-season party and perform other assorted duties, she did it casually while ticking off a list of general information. Five or ten minutes later when she asked again, she left a good twenty seconds of silence, waiting for someone to step forward. I was so proud of myself for sitting quietly. I didn't begrudge any of the other parents for doing the same; I am not the only person with an Unwieldy List.

We went over some other business before she asked for the third time. After she did so, she scanned our faces one by one while we all stared at the center of the living room rug. This lasted a manageable—though admittedly difficult—thirty seconds or so. No takers.

By the time she asked again, I was shaking with discomfort. I could not bear the interminable silence or the guilt. And so you have probably guessed by now who left the coach's house clutching the fucking Team Parent Handbook.


The team jerseys, by the way, are red with black flames. You can imagine what went through my head:

"Hell Hath No Fury!"

"The Red Menace!"

"The Devil's Advocates!"

"Blood, Sweat & Tears!"

The team eventually opted for "Fire Angels."

Which is okay.

I guess.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

In the Immortal Words of KISS

Sang the chocolate chips to the oatmeal and the oatmeal to the chocolate chips: I was made for loving you, baby/You were made for loving me...

Which is to say that I baked a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies today. But I didn't eat one. Apparently, the act of making them was what I desired; not the actual partaking of. A bit of a strategic mistake, though, since the kitchen is now sweltering.


Been hanging out at Gladys', too, to lurk while the smart girls partake in a stirring discussion about the video for the Black Eyed Peas' "Bebot."


Stayed up late, late, late last night writing (oh, and okay, for reasons I don't understand, I watched one episode of the Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency. Can you spell c-r-a-z-y?!) and am now feeling all cotton-headed-like. Must stay alert, though, because I have to take R & V to their first soccer meeting of the season. If I'm not, I might offer up some odd suggestions for their team name. I might, for example, try to get "Nosepickers" on the ballot. Or "Geckos." Or, "Beasts of Burden."

Or "The Rabid Mole-Like Creatures in the Fire Swamp from the Movie The Princess Bride."

Or "The Rats of NIMH." (Whoa. Where'd I get that? I haven't though about Mrs. Frisby & The Rats of NIMH since I was but a wee one).

Or, "Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves."

"Heartbreakers, Dreammakers, Love Takers"

"The Delta Dawns."


Let's face it.

I could keep this up all evening. And life is just a tad too short.

Time for a cookie.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Do It Myself-Ing

Never let it be said that I do not care for store-bought chips. In fact, there is a special place reserved in my heart for Reduced Fat Ruffles. But today I baked my own snacky chips, and if you don't mind my saying so, they were a whole lot of yummy.

This was a riff on a Martha Stewart recipe, I believe. I brushed corn tortillas with melted butter and spices (turmeric, cumin, la de da), sprinkled them liberally with parmesan cheese, and slid them into the oven. After five minutes, the aroma floated upstairs where the girls were playing, and before I could even taste one of my crunchy creations, they had elephant-stomped their way down the stairs, and then absconded with the pink plate. So maybe I shouldn't have taken the time to snap this particular picture. Because then, of course, I had to make a whole new batch. But at least I didn't have to share.

Okay, I'm a little shy about showing this next thing because it's not like my usual corny splurts of craftiness (valentine flower lollipops, spooky halloween tree branches festooned with goody bags, paper wallets and whatnot). You may remember that I started down my current crafty path because I was having a difficult time making progress on a story I'm writing. It has at its center a photograph taken of Filipinas (in the Philippines) during the 30s. Anyways, I set the story aside. I cooked a lot, I wrote a bunch of journal entries, I bought stuff to put together a photo album for the girls, and did other crafty/homestead stuff. Eventually, I ended up altering this image of two brothers from the island of Sulu (southern Philippines), the one on the left being—in case you can't see—a dwarf. His name was Panglima Diki Diki; his brother isn't named.

Like many of the photographs taken during the colonial era, this one has always bothered me—in the sense that I am both attracted and repelled by it—because, I suppose, of what others have already described as the act of putting Filipinos on "display," an act with implications that I often think about and which, not so coincidentally, my protagonist was grappling with in the story that had stalled on me.

Oh, geez, are you still awake?

Anyways, once I'd altered the image, it no longer bothered me. And I realized that it was because I had, in a sense, reclaimed it for myself. Which I think is what the character in my story must figure out how to do, whether literally or metaphorically or whatever, with the photograph in the story. A story which I can now...ta-da...write!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Two Out of Three

Several years ago as a thank you for allowing him to crash at our house, a person I'd never seen before and have never seen since, sent us an old book in the mail. It was San Francisco: A Pageant, written by one Charles Caldwell Dobie (he was a 3-time O. Henry Prize Winner during his day, this guy) and published in 1933. I appreciated the gesture, but have never really opened the book before. I finally did today, though, and as is my usual tendency with appropriate books, flipped (hahahahaha!) to the index to look for "Filipino." Usually, it's not there. But whaddaya know?! On page 196 I found:

All that remains of the [Barbary] Coast's previous glory are the crumbling ruins of flashy entrances that once lured the unwary to his plucking. The Thalia Dance Hall is now the Thalia Garage, and in the basement of the old Moulin Rouge an Employment Office operates in the spring of the year to sign up Mexican and Filipino help for the Alaskan fish canneries. A cafeteria occupies the site of one of the most notorious old dance-halls, while respectable Chinese families have taken possession of the transient rooming-houses which in their prime did not boast savory reputations. I suspect, in the dry days, some of its soda fountains were speak-easies in soft-drink clothing but repeal has placed them even beyond pretense. Even the contiguous territory that once threw out a diluted abandon has faded to drab respectability. Upper Kearny Street now swarms with male Filipinos. It is not precisely a Filipino quarter, for Filipinos belong to the fifty-dollar-a-month-and-found class who go out to service in private homes and run the elevators for apartment houses. They likewise go down to the sea in ships as stewards and waiters and cabin-boys. Natty, slick dandies they are, with sleek and shining hair, pinch-back coats, and twenty-four inch trousers flopping in the breeze. The poolrooms, the barber shops, the photograph galleries are always crowded with them. Filipinos seem always to be playing pool or going to barbers or having their pictures taken.

I am so intrigued by this. Yes, Mr. Dobie has affected a condescending tone and committed the sin of gross generalization. And, yes, it is clear that these Filipino men have been observed only from afar like animals in the zoo. However, there is none of the vitriol we've come to expect from Americans writing about Filipinos in the 20s and 30s. No inflammatory descriptions of oversexed Pinoys and their insatiable lust for white women, no complaints about alleged 'criminal' behavior, no reference to taking jobs that belong to others, or to their all-around moral degeneracy. Here, Filipinos are only accused of having low-paying jobs, living in cheap rooms, and being incredibly vain.

Mr. Dobie is almost surely dead by now, but on the off-chance that he's not and that he has internet access and an interest in googling his name, I want him to know that these are my maternal grandparents at their 1936 wedding in San Francisco.

Lolo was a student at USF and then worked in a shampoo factory; Lola owned her own sewing shop just off Clement St. They bought a house on 9th Ave. (purchased under the name of some Irish friends) in the Richmond District, and then two on 14th Ave. So, allow me to refute Mr. Dobie's descriptions:

1) Bad jobs? No, good jobs!

2) Bad living quarters? No, good living quarters!

3) Vain? Well...okay, yes! Based on my personal experience with Lolo—specifically his channeling of Rudolph Valentino—Mr. Dobie was spot-on there.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I have been remiss. I have failed to post about an event at which I heard my name being called from the heavens. I looked up to see the Wily Filipino himself, Sr. Sunny Vergara, waving and smiling. The venue at which this most pleasant interaction occurred was Red Devil Lounge, where the spousal unit and I coerced good pals M. & D. (also a spousal tag team) to join us for a musical romp down memory lane, 80s style.

After dinner at Le Petit Robert (do you know why I married the spousal unit? I married him because he lets me eat all his pommes frites if I wanna), we jumped into a cab and asked to be taken something like five blocks, a terribly selfish request which rightfully annoyed the cabbie. "But it's all very uphill!" I wanted to say. "And I'm wearing my feathered heels!" But I didn't because I've found that it's best to just shut up and be grateful during such moments.

Once inside the lounge, it was only a matter of moments before Animotion, fronted by my newly and astoundingly bleached-hair brother-in-law, graced the stage. As Sunny points out, the band opened with "Let Him Go." What Sunny failed to point out is the way he himself bopped his head and sipped his drink and sang at the top of his lungs. By the time they got to "I Engineer," Sunny was long gone, having skillyfully maneuvered himself to up-front-and-center, where I could just make out his still-bopping head.

Look at my crazy brother-in-law! Rockin' the Billy Idol hair! The Billy Idol sneer! The Billy Idol semi-squat! It was too fun, I tell you. At some point he assaulted the pole in the middle of the stage. Not sure what that was all about. Again, sometimes it's best to just shut up and be grateful.

{An aside to dear M.: tomorrow you will thank me for not posting our picture. It was close to midnight, after all. Let's just be fabulous in our imaginations...}