Friday, January 25, 2008

Y(Our) Precious Democracy

A continuation of my previous mental note....

I had been meaning to blog about this right after our leadership training back in August, but I kept forgetting, then I didn't have time, then the holidays were up and I didn't feel like thinking. But anyway, there we were, 10 Filipinos with the rest of our neighbours from all around the region. Men and women who were already in decision-making positions and a handful of us wide-eyed (relative) youngsters.

In the opening session we were given the etymology of the word "leadership" which literally meant "go forth and die." The connotations are obviously military. A leader was someone who launched a leader was probably exclusively a man. A leader was a commander of an army, implying hierarchy and control. We were then asked if this model of leadership was still relevant today.

Obviously not.

In one of the sessions we were asked to name people whom we thought personified leadership. So many of the examples given were involved in wars - generals, men in uniform. Almost all were exclusively males. Napoleon, Hitler, Lenin, Mao, Ghandi, Bill Gates, etc. etc.

Asked to define what leadership meant in the contemporary world, I sat there arguing with a Bangladeshi a decade older than me. With his body language it was obvious he didn't think my views mattered much, or that he even wanted to continue discussing with me. Was it because I was younger and female? Perhaps I grew accustomed to being treated differently by Filipino males - whether younger or older, that was why I felt ill at ease.

It was surprising how the definitions of leadership given by our neighbours still hewed much closer to the old meaning. Ego-centric, top-down, masculine. My other Filipina colleague verbalised it for me, "Its amazing how our closely-held democratic values are so different."

At the farewell dinner I sat next to another Bangladeshi woman. During our small talk I had mentioned we had a female president, and I implied the generals she has surrounded herself with may be getting antsy. Matter-of-factly she says, "Well, because she's a woman and they sense her weakness." I sat there, brows furrowed, thinking of a response. I must've said something about her not being the first and so her being a woman was never really an issue. As the words escaped my lips, I felt both bewildered and relieved - that we are different, that we seem out place, that we are a unique breed.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Mental Notes

Fresh out of tutes in Chinese Strategic Thought, I go back to my little corner in the library and check Inquirer as I compulsively do whenever I go online. And what do you know this news heading jumps at me "RP-China trade volume surges to record high $30.62B in 2007."

From the same news article by a hyphenated Filipino, I learn that counting Taiwan and Hong Kong, the PRC is now our number one trading partner. GMA's foreign policy team seems on the dot as apparently she has set a record of the most number of visits a world leader has paid China. The tides are turning indeed, and this will be a Pacific century with very Chinese characteristics. Joking with my adopted family here, we say the oncoming US recession and the fact that Americans owe the Chinese is a harbinger of the times. The Chinese are by no means ready to take over the helm as the new superpower, but all projections seem to head that way. Its a not a question of "if" but "when." I knew there was a reason why I took this class. We really should stop looking so far across the ocean to determine where our future lies. The future is here. Even Australians, with a Mandarin-speaking Prime Minister, recognise this.

My Colombian-American friend G says he will steal the Philippines from Asia, because we belong with Latin America. You're Latin Asians, he says. Bizarre as this may sound, I find that this is true. I am never too comfortable with Asian Asians. I find that I am too forward, maybe too loud, too confrontational. We Filipinos know this already, that we are a mix of East and West, our WoW Philippines tourism ad even boasts the fact. But it doesn't really hit you until you are surrounded by people from the East and West and you find yourself navigating identities, cultures, attitudes and taste. Its mundane things like, the things you can talk about, the things that are taboo or not. Its the tone and volume of your voice, its the pauses between your sentences, its body language. "Racy" and "risque" things I talk about with Westerners. Literally nothing is taboo. Westerners are uber-competitive and they will argue and argue and argue to the heavens. I find this exhilarating but exhausting. When I want thoughtful give and take conversations I turn to Southeast Asians, where confrontations are avoided in a circuitous way, where people's sensibilities must be taken in consideration, when meaning can be derived not just from what passes between your lips but with context.

So, I suppose this little cultural experiment, this little slice of the world, has taught me a few things. If the East is the future, and the West the past - then we are already equipped with a culture that bridges the two.

When you are surrounded by people from all over, there's a lot of joking around, collapsing individuals with their countries. I tell G, you hate the Chinese but there's literally no avoiding them. The future is the European Union he says. That's the uppity Spaniard in you talking, I say. Key Latin American states are already forging ties with China, but don't worry, after you Hispanics have taken over the Western hemisphere, we Latin Asians will intercede on your behalf.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela

A couple of years back, before I even knew I'd even be in Oz working for an online dating company, my significant other Butch Maddul shot a docu in Cebu for a filmmaker from Iceland. The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela is the fairytale journey of a Filipino/a ladyboy. How bizarre is it that I literally see stories like hers every time I clock in for work these days?

Congratulations to Olaf de Fleur Johannesson for making it in this year's Berlinale film festival.

I will need to see the movie again to write a decent review!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Brazilian Girls - Me Gusta Cuando Callas

A rough translation care of process junkie:

You please me when you're silent because you seem absent,
and you hear me from a distance, and my voice does not touch you.
It seems as if your eyes had vanished
and a kiss had shut your mouth closed.

As all the things are filled with my soul
you emerge from all the things overrun with that soul of mine.
Butterfly of dreams, you look just like my soul,
and you resemble the word 'melancholy'.

You please me when you're silent because you seem distant;
And you seem like you're whimpering, butterfly in a lullaby
and you hear me from a distance, and my voice does not reach you:
let me become silent with that silence of yours

Let me talk to you with your silence as well
bright like a lamp, simple like a ring.
You are like the night, quiet and starry.
Your silence is that of a star, so distant and simple.

You please me when you're silent because you seem absent.
Distant and painful as if you would have died.
Just one word then, one smile is enough,
and I'm glad, so glad it's not true.

Manigong Bagong Taon!

Here's to a rocking 2008. It's gonna be great! :)