Monday, June 09, 2008

Weekend Reading Featuring, But Not Limited To, Unexpected Filipinos

Unexpected references to Filipinos popped up so often during my weekend reading that I'm beginning to think the universe was sending me a not-so-coded message. Maybe it was giving its blessing on our Spring '09 travel plans (still under construction). Regardless, I feel obliged to list said references. Witness:

1) In the opening paragraph of a recent Vanity Fair article (excerpted from The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America by Thurston Clarke) about Robert Kennedy:

Two months after John F. Kennedy's assassination, Robert Kennedy traveled to Asia on an itinerary that had originally been planned for J.F.K. During the trip, he visited a girls' school in the Philippines where the students sang a song they had composed to honor his brother. As he drove away with CBS cameraman Walter Dombrow, he clenched his hands so tightly that they turned white, and tears rolled down his cheeks. He shook his head, signaling that Dombrow should remain silent. Finally he said in a choked voice. "They would have loved my brother." Dombrow put his arm around him and said, "Bob, you're going to have to carry on for him." Kennedy stared straight ahead for half a minute before turning to Dombrow and nodding. It was then, Dombrow said, that he knew Bobby would run for president...

This left me with many questions including but not limited to: For the love of God and his host of heavenly angels, which school in which town?! What were the song lyrics? Did Mr. Dombrow film the event, or was he just a travel companion? What, if any, impact did this visit have on the students of the school? Can one of the girls' school participants please step forward and relive every history-making moment so that my curiosity will be sated and if not, why not?

2) In a recent Esquire first-person sidebar account of Mike Sager's interview with the 82-year-old Gore Vidal:

...he has to be led around by his godson, a beautiful French boy with a long, frizzy ponytail. (He also has a Filipino houseboy in a white coat—who looks to be about sixty-five himself).

This left me with many questions including but not limited to: For the love of God and his host of heavenly angels, why would this Mike Sager person refer to a sixty-five-year-old man as a "houseboy?" Oh, right. Because the sixty-five year-old man is Filipino and can therefore be infantilized on a whim. What an ass. Where was I?

3) In a recent Zoetrope story, "Choice," written by Ha Jin:

I enjoyed spending time with the Mins in their comforting home. My own small studio apartment was lonely. I'd sit there by myself, reading or working at my thesis, wondering what sort of life this was. If I fell ill tomorrow, what would happen to me? If I died, where would I be buried? Unless my parents came to claim my body, I might be cremated and my ashes discarded God-knows-where. I had once known a young Filipino who was killed in a traffic accident. He'd signed the back of his driver's license, agreeing to be an organ donor; so his body was shipped to a hospital to harvest the organs and tissues and then burned, his ashes mailed to his parents in Mindanao. But that's just what I heard. I still don't know with certainty what happened to it.

This left me with many questions including but not limited to: For the love of God, etc. etc., why this detail, Ha Jin? Could this really be a statement about the invisibility of Filipinos in America, or is it completely random? Ah, but random-os-ity is not allowed in short stories! Short stories contain deliberate detail piled upon deliberate detail until a meaningful and shimmering whole is constructed! So again I ask, what's with the dead Filipino?

4) In a recent Washington Post article, "Looking to the Future, Feminism Has to Focus," by Linda Hirshman:

After the Center for New Words's diverse and inclusive "Women, Action and the Media" conference this past April, the blogosphere erupted with charges and countercharges. Bloggers like "Sudy," a self-described "Filipina of mesmerizing volcanic eruptions," declared some of the conference's female subjects to be synthetic: "I . . . don't believe that simply putting a womyn's face where a man's face once was is going to solve our problems . . . by Real Womyn I am talking about womyn of color, incarcerated womyn, migrant womyn, womyn at the border, womyn gripped in violence, rape, and war."

This left me with many questions including etc. etc.: Why would Sudy, who sounds formidable indeed, describe herself as a "Filipina of mesmerizing volcanic eruptions," when the description could be interpreted in such a way that Sudy may be thought to suffer from severe gastrointestinal issues? Or maybe I'm the only (ridiculous) person capable of said misinterpretation. This would not surprise me, not in the least.

1 comment:

luisa said...

I too have had run-ins (runs-in?) with Filipinos this weekend, and not just my family. 1. How have I not yet heard about the wondrous Arnel Pineda, fronting Journey and absolutely nailing the vocal stylings of one Steve Perry? and 2. Current had a small segment with indie band The Little Ones (they are playing the massive Bonnaroo fest in Tennessee) in which the lead singer says "I'm Filipino, so tofu's not enough."
How come everyone else is so musically inclined and I seem to have fallen short?