Sunday, June 22, 2008

Creating and Celebrating Philippine Arts and Culture!

The 17th Annual Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture (FPAC) will be happening September 6-7 at Point Fermin Park in San Pedro, CA! Please visit the site at

The homey Kat Carrido came up with the brilliant idea of writing about our favorite FPAC moments. If you aren't familiar with FPAC, then you're missing out on an incredibly vibrant community event that brings together over a thousand artists and 25,000 audience members at the most beautiful park in California.

DJ Phatrick and Bambu power posing in front of FPAC crowd (2007) Photo credit: Ernie Pena

When I first attended FPAC in 2005, I was most immediately surprised that the festival was organized by a cast of multigenerational members of our community. I was feelin that, because other large-scale Filipino community events seem to always be dominated by Filipinos of the older generation--which is not inherently bad. But, I believe neglecting second and third generation Fil Ams in community-building efforts mutes the creativity, energy, and perspectives of vital dimensions of the Filipino community. Plus, the voices of younger generations have a more up-to-date assessment of the community and can often contribute fresh ideas to the changing and transforming dynamics of any community. Therefore, including the collective voices of elders, parents, young professionals, and youth makes community-building ever more effective. Although every year can improve in certain aspects, FPAC has a healthy balance of elder, immigrant, 2nd/3rd generation, and youth components.

Pilipino Artists Network Pavilion murals (2007) Photo credit: Ernie Pena

Another aspect of the festival which I admire is the clear focus of the organization: arts and culture. Unlike other large-scale Filipino community events, which often dwell on beauty pageants or talent shows, FPAC makes known its priorities, and is consistent with its mission. The good folks at FilAM Arts (the non-profit the runs FPAC) understand that art (visual, dance, music, crafts, poetry, literature) develops and transforms culture, which in turn can transform the state of our communities. In fact, compared to other ethnic-based groups in California, community-support for Filipinos come largely in the form of arts-initiatives.

Performers share their craft on the mainstage (2007) Photo credit: Ernie Pena

I love FPAC! So what's my favorite FPAC moment? I would have to say it was when the Visionaries closed-out FPAC 2006. The youth were pumped in the front and the Visionaries were bangin all the anthems. The stage and the crowd barely dangled off the seaside cliff, the sun slowly setting into the ocean. Although the environment was incredibly serene, the energy of the crowd pulsated.

Before they did their last song, the Visionaries asked the youth to put two fingers in the air in a gesture of peace. As they did this, the Philippine flag waved in the sea breeze. I don't know what to say about the politics/meanings of the moment (are we at peace? what are the varying representations of the Philippine flag? etc.), but it was a gorgeous moment. Those questions could wait for later. That was my favorite FPAC moment.

If you been to FPAC, what was your favorite moment?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

SCHOLAR SPOTLIGHT: Kristia speaks on Black/Brown speech

Meet Kristia, our featured scholar! She studies language flexibility among Black and Brown folk and hip hop heads. I'm glad people are writing on topics like Black and Brown shared cultural/political spaces. I remember having a small conversation with my cousin about "triple consciousness" among Brown people, so this topic has a special meaning to me. Schola holla!

You can check out Kristia's writings on Doorknockers, where she really bridges the classroom and the street. Her writings are accessible to young and old heads, college-bound or not. Give it a knock!

Who is Kristia?

What a question. Well, I am a young hip hop head, I am a woman, I am Filipina, I am multilingual. I make poetry but hate a lot of shit that passes as poetry/spoken word. I used to make paintings and sculptures - but now I hustle so there is less time for that.

I am an academic on hiatus. I studied cultural anthropology and loved it. I graduated in May 2007.

Who introduced you to hip hop culture, and when?
Nobody in particular introduced me to hip hop. I was born in SF, raised in SF till I was 11. And I was Filipino. Basically - it was inevitable. Hip hop is what we were raised on, it was also what was deemed appropriate for Black and Brown kids. All the Filipinos and Asian kids (the majority of my neighborhood at the time) loved hip hop. This was our cultural practice, this was our adaptation of Black arts into our own life.

Most interesting to me, is my mom never censored hip hop. I listened to the most explicit shit as a kid in the car and she never banned it. She ain't a hip hop head, but in a way she's responsible for my relationship with hip hop.

I understand that at Bard College you really focused on language. What specifically was your focus, and why do you think it's important to study this?
I focused on language in the last 1-2 years. Before that I was lookin at graffiti, movement and travel. I also spent a lot of time lookin at the freestyle as a hip hop verbal form - and in my opinion, a prime example of hip hop's democratic nature. Not democratic like the party, just democratic in the way it creates a open dialogue and structures it. Feel me?

My senior thesis was a study of language use. I studied the languages spoken by hip hop heads - mostly Black and Brown hip hop heads, a few White. I was lookin at the ways Black and Brown folks speak a multitude of languages to navigate everyday life, a ton more compared to White folks. We speak one way to our parents, to our teachers, to our coworkers, on the block, etc. At it's core, I was lookin at how hip hop heads have to put on and take off their hip hop-ness, to get to college, to get a job, to negotiate a parent-teacher conference, to deal with a homie's parole testimony, whatever the fuck it is.

Why's this important? It is important because we live and our youth are living in a time where how we speak, how we act is racialized on a whole other level. This shit affects how far we get, how much we get paid, what our children get access to in life. I mean, understand there is research showin that Hurricane Katrina survivors are being discriminated against by the sound of their voice. If they "sound Black" they're being told that housing isn't available yet, they're being put into homeless, into poverty. Straight up.

It's important because I, like the youth I work with, was told that to sound 'White' was 'good,' was 'smart,' was everything positive. To insult, to disrespect, and to dispose of the language(s) of Black and Brown people - is to say to them that they themselves, their very being, their cultures, their expression, is somehow lesser.

Many of these languages we speak are called (by White folks) "bad English, "incorrect," "slang," etc. What we learn from the past and present research of many folks - mostly Black brothas and a few older White men - is that Black English is a language. It has a grammatical structure, patterns, etc. straight up.

What I struggle with now as a youth worker is trying to show the students that the point is not to change how you talk. The point is to understand that the different kinds of English you speak, the languages you may speak at home with family, etc. are valid forms of expression. Not one is perfect. There is no such thing as perfect English. It is a language, it changes all the damn time. But as people of color, it is most advantageous to you and your family to master different languages and dialects for different situations. If I'm tryna get a discount at the Filipino bakery from an elder I'm going to speak a specific kind of Tagalog, but if I want to negotiate a situation where a cop is tryin to harm a brotha or a sista, I am going to use a very academic White English as I list all the illegal things the cop has just done and what I plan to do about it as I memorize his badge number. Feel me?

Naturally what is needed is big structural change in schools, which is actually happening very slowly. The cultural worlds that our youth bring to the classroom need to be shown respect and value. But, in the meantime, we gotta keep it real with our youth. For many their concern is how to get paid, how to live, how to get out the hood (which is also a way of saying "get out of poverty") - and that's real. My concern thus becomes, how can we get you "out the hood," without you losing yourself in the process.

You lived a large part of your life in the Philippines, New York, and now you live in San Francisco. What are some of the differences you noticed about hip hop culture (among Filipinos or not) in these different parts of the world?
Dang dude, very good question. Filipinos in the Bay are spoiled as hell. Spoiled by liberalism, by the sheer numbers of Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders they got as neighbors, and by the history of our peoples all over the West Coast. Out in NY, we hustle to prove ourselves in hip hop, we work to find each other in substantial numbers, and we face a whole different kind of America. The cops are different, the White folks are different, and the inner-city poverty is different. Visit NY and you will see why they are so hard, it's not sheer coincidence. Racism like that, cold winters like that - you'd be hard as hell too.

Don't get me wrong though. AmeriKKKa is AmeriKKKa regardless.

But Filipinos are known out in the West Coast. And that makes a huge difference. Nobody questions what I'm doin at a show, why I'm in front, or why I go buckwild. Nobody asks what I am out here either. They know.

In the Philippines, as you see in most of the post-colonial world (AKA ex-colonies), hip hop is on a whole other tip. It's like crazy imitation-based on one hand, where they copy whatever they see Black folks do on MTV minstrelsy. And on the other hand, in the hood, it is raw, it is never in English, and it is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen in your life.

Hands down.

(Fil-Ams who don't speak their parents language/dialect, this is #1 reason for you to learn. Forget just talking to your Lola. You need to go to Manila and see hip hop LIVE. You'll never call it dead again.)

What are your feelings of hip hop culture today? What role do you see Filipinos playing in the culture?
Hahah, that first question, man...Shit, that's everyday life. We are hip hop. We keep it going. And I am trying. I am a woman, I am a woman of color, and I am young. You're asking me how I feel about hip hop right now? Look at how I am represented, where I am allowed to have access, how I rapped about - and then ask yourself, as a male hip hop head, how I must be feeling. It's hard yo.

Filipinos have been here since the get. I'm not worried about us being left behind. It's crazy to think about the Jabbawockeez as our mainstream-debut too. Anyone who's a head, knows Filipinos have been well represented as breakers, as DJs, and to lesser degrees as rappers and writers. But to see us on big time tv like that, it is a trip. It is a fuckin trip. Within the past 5 years more and more Filipinos have been getting mainstream acknowledgement.

And that's cool. Cause back in the days, we just hung onto QBert. And the myths that Nas was half-Filipino. That was where we got our pride.

What are the next steps in Kristia's life?
I be tellin my peoples that I'm tired of academia, and they just laugh. They tell me I'm an academic no matter what. I sound like one, I overanalyze like one. It's whack. I will go back to school sooner or later - that's kinda inevitable. Gotta hustle. Our people deserve the best, and the revolution is a slow process. So in the meantime I gotta move on up, cause when the day comes that I'm ready to have a family, my children will get the best I can give them.

To dwell in your poverty - that's bullshit. There ain't nobody from the ghetto who actually wants to stay broke. My Lola cleaned White folks' houses all her life, my mom's a professional and has even cleaned White folks houses. They did that for a reason - so that I would never have to against my will. Now for the record I have a few times in the past. But the point is that I have the option to bigger things with a college degree, to bring resources to my communities - and best believe that the more I have under my belt, the more I can do for our folks.

As for now, I live and work with youth in SF. When I first came back I was such a hater, I compared everything to NY. I grilled everybody and walked hella fast. Now I still grill boys when I like them - that's permanent. But I walk slower, I chill more. And that's what I'm doin right now. I'm good here. I have so many ill Black and Brown people around me, the environment is so much more conducive to organizing for our people. I do community organizing with Filipinos - which is so different from in NY where I rolled deep with a mostly Black and Latin@ group of student organizers. So even though I'm goin to back to New York for the summer, I'll be right back here in August and I plan to stick around for awhile.

Roc the Mic Right by H. Samy Alim
English with an Accent by Ros Lippi-Green

Fil Am Famous: Is dance how we'll "get noticed"?

Veteran popper Bionic, and the crew Supreme Soul. Will they be Americas Best Dance Crew?

**UPDATE: "Bakit Why does their research on "Pil-Ams and ABDC"**
Filipino America's Best Dance Crew
Where Did the Filipino Go? Here!
Asian Pride on MTV! But Where Did the Filipino Go?
In Those Genes?

"Seriously, who isn't pinoy on this season?" the homey Jian says. Indeed, the brown ones have returned with a hungry vengeance for street dance supremacy.

West Coast stand up!
I was just watchin the West Coast auditions of Season Two of America's Best Dance Crew, and looks like the Fil Ams are dominating once again, but this time they reppin even harder in the West! I'm thinkin the crew Supreme Soul, with the popping icon Bionic, is gonna take it home. (Here is info on Soul Sector, Bionic's crew).

Team Millenia (Fullerton, CA) shouting out Filipinos in the ABDC audience

The question is: how long will it last? Also, is dance phenom how Filipinos will "get noticed" as a huge, integral, and dynamic part of the U.S. (historically and demographically)? (After dance fame, will the next thing we'll be known for be the untold genocide and violence inflicted on us that were erased as members of the "Forgotten Asian Americans"? I ask this sarcastically, but a dreamer can dream). I'm tired of Filipinos being everyone's best friend growing up. We're everyone's best friend who also scuffed up yo kitchen flo.

Back to ABDC:

Did Shane Sparks just say "Traditional Filipino candle dancing"?

Did Christine from Team Millenia just give a shout out to "FILIPINO!!" (Your mom rocks, girl.)

Did Mario Lopez just say, "Pinay, in the house"?

Did Lil Mama just stutter "Filip-Filipino-Filipinos dancing"? Is she suggesting the moves Christine does in Filipino candle dance a reason Christine couldn't "flex"? (wtf)

Even though we got mad Pin@y heads on the show, is there a Filipino/Asian fatigue on these dance shows? Team Millennia, who did great, did not make the cut. The group that won over the Fullerton-based (whats up Titans) Fil Am dance crew was Fanny Pak-- a fun, but gimmicky and flashy 80s-ironic group who shouldn't have won. Damn Filipinos taking over, so I guess MTV met its Fil Am quota.

East Coast stand up! Although not as saturated with Pin@ys, the Pin@y-presence is still felt on the East side. Gotta give a shout out to the Boogie Bots, some of whom are FIND (Filipino Intercollegiate Network Dialogue) fam out in Virginia and Maryland. I hope they go far, and give shine to the often neglected East Coast Pin@ys.

That guy looks like my cuzin. Boogie Bots, connecting like Voltron on ABDC.

So what do you think?

QUESTION ONE: How long will the Fil Am shine on ABDC last?

QUESTION TWO: Is there a Filipino/Asian fatigue on these dance shows?

QUESTION THREE: Are Pin@ys going to "break into public consciousness" through reality TV show dance? Is that even something we should care to do? Or is the underground the most ripe arena for creativity and subversion?

(This is a side note, but I'm soooooo stoked that street dance is exploding. It's always been bubblin under--like b-boying--but it's unbelievable that street dance has become so popular and a cash cow for dance studios/street dancers.)


Ok. Ok. I didn't watch the full episode I guess, so i didn't peep Super Cr3w till now. Just watched it. They dope! Brought out the acrobatics and powermoves from jumpstart. And yes, they got Pinoy boys. Did Lil Mama just say they brought it back to the 80s? Aren't those newish?

Will Super Cr3w take it all?

Yes, yes! Also SoReal Cru! Damn, i gotta watch the whole episode before writing bout this sht. Congrats SoReal!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Million Deaths? The "America" in Filipino

"Result of Mount Dajo Fight- Those in the Trench are 'Good Moros'" (1907) from The Forbidden Book

Who Are You? A Survey of the Fil Am Self

Street Dance, Time Travel, and a Zoo
The Owners, the Workers, and the Street

Today, I attended a local Philippine Independence Day festival. It was humungous! So many lovely people.

But something stuck out on this otherwise beautiful day-- the complete reverence towards U.S. militarism (which is typical in many Filipino events like this), such as the patriotic recital of the American National Anthem, the ceremonial raising of the American flag (along with the Philippine flag, I think right behind the American one), and the heavy presence of U.S. military recruiters.

Philippine Independence. What a funny concept that we celebrate in June (and July). Just how “independent” is the Philippines?

I was reading this article "A Million Deaths? Genocide and the 'Filipino American' Condition of Possibility" by Dylan Rodriguez in the anthology Positively No Filipino Allowed. Basically, I think Rodriguez is arguing that “Filipino Americans” need to be critical of the blind and dangerous embrace of “Americaness” by Filipinos, given the very violent history inflicted on Filipinos by the U.S. military, and the very real cultural genocide in the islands.

In today's political atmosphere, what irks me is the total historical erasure of the U.S. aggression in the Philippines. The Iraq War is not the second Vietnam, but the third Philippines (the War on Vietnam being the second Philippines). This is why we should be weary of blind American patriotism, because the “freedom” and “pride” that Americans feel (regardless of ethnicity) comes at the expense of the “collateral damage” of U.S. conquest: our existence as a Union today is by virtue of U.S. violence in the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Mexico, etc. The very notion of being an “American” is always shaped by who is "not American." And as Rodriguez suggests, the very death of some people (Filipinos, Indians, Blacks) always constitute the life of wholesome Americans.

One part of Rodriguez’s article really stood out to me. The author’s citing of a 1902 congressional testimony of Brigadier General Robert P. Hughes is instructive:

Gen. Hughes:
They usually burned the village.

Sen. Rawlins:
All of the houses in the village?

Gen. Hughes:
Yes; every one of them.

Sen. Rawlins:
What would become of the inhabitants?

Gen. Hughes:
That was their lookout.

Sen. Rawlins:
If these shacks were of no consequence what was the utility of their destruction?

Gen. Hughes:
The destruction was as a punishment. They permitted these people [guerillas] to come in there and conceal themselves and they gave no sign…

Sen. Rawlins:
The punishment in that case would fall, not upon the men, who could go elsewhere, but mainly upon the women and little children.

Gen. Hughes:
The women and children are part of the family, and where you wish to inflict a punishment you can punish the man probably worse in that way than in any other.

Sen. Rawlins:
But is that within the ordinary rules of civilized warfare? Of course you could exterminate the family, which would be still worse punishment.

Gen. Hughes:
These people are not civilized.

Cite: Henry F. Graff, ed., American Imperialism and the Philippine Insurrection: Testimony Taken from Hearings on Affairs in the Philippine Islands before the Senate Committee on the Philippines—1902 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1969)

With plans to stay 100 years in Iraq and permanent military bases in the country, the question is can an Iraqi, like the Filipino, make an obedient "Little Brown Brother"?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

It Was Written: Projecting Filipino on the surface of skin

On the tip of resonating with our Pacific Islander fam, I've been meaning to post up on the tattoo culture which has been around here in Southern CA for about a decade. One of my students got me hip to an October issue of Filipinas Magazine. The cover story is about Tatak ng Apat na Alon ("Mark of the Four Waves"), a crew of Filipinos who are reviving their Filipino heritage (or "regaining consciousness") through elaborate tattooing. (It must be noted that a prerequisite to getting inked is a sincere effort to read up on Filipino history and culture). This is a beautiful way to express our Filipino-ness. Peep the artwork!

(Images and caption from the group's website)

KRISTIN TANPOCO (Anak) - member of the tribe. Works as a graphics designer and is also a DJ for an internet radio station called Los Marijuanos . Designed by ELLE and tattooed by BIG ROCK.

(As the website states, the "Four Waves" are a reference to four major cultural influences on Filipino people) "THE FOUR PICTURES ABOVE ARE FOUR INDIGENOUS PEOPLE FROM THE ISLANDS OF THE PHILIPPINES. THE FOUR WHO SHAPED AND DEFINED THE IDENTITY OF THE FILIPINO RACE.

From the first wave the "AFRO-ASIATICS" the BLACK Filipinos in their native tongue the AETA`s or AGTA`s. The Second the MALAYO-POLYNESIAN people who is definitely very related to the Polynesians of today. The Third that made the mix different from the south pacific is the Indic and Arabic influence. The Fourth of course is the Spanish blood that ga
ve us names with no meanings."

Tatak group photo for October 2007 issue of Filipinas Magazine

This is an amazing craft and a creative method of consciousness raising. What's really dope is that the artwork is not some generic, watered-down tattoo pattern. The artists make serious efforts to make the patterns reflect each person's story and ancestral history. Whaaat!

The homey Elle is holdin it down. Holla at him if this is something that you're curious about. Here is a little blurb from his myspace:

I am a part of a contemporary tribe called MARK OF THE FOUR WAVES (Tatak ng Apat na Alon TRIBE) We are on a mission to revive traditional filipino tribal tattoo arts that has been dying out ever since the landing of the overseers the spanish colonizations... I been thru so much and i want to dedicate myself to revive the real identity of my people... Check my photos you will see the big difference and changes i went thru, the sacrificize i had to go thru like cutting my DREADLOCKS that i had for 9 years to make a statement, that change is GROWTH