Archive for April, 2009

“Good to see you again, old friend. Bring me fortune.”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 21, 2009 by kulturalguerilla

I say this quote from the movie “Gladiator” whenever I return to a special place after years of separation. I’m trying something new at this very moment: I just arrived in Hawai’i and I’m blogging this entry from my iPhone!

So for the next 8 days, I’m in the beautiful island of Oahu. It’s been years since the last time I was in Hawai’i. 6 years since my first time to the islands, Oahu to be exact, with my family. 4 years since Maui, when I ran the Maui marathon with the Runbutans. It’s always a good feeling to come back to the islands where I’ve refreshed my mind and soul and where I’ve had several spiritual revelations. It also feels good knowing I’m 2,000 miles closer to the homeland.

I’m in Honolulu this time around for the annual Association of Asian American Studies Conference. The topics in this year’s panels are just awesome and will mos def be getting as much as I can out of them. But what I hope this time around is dynamic panelists to go along with their dope topics. I’ve been to several of these conferences and most panelists tend to just read off their paper. Interesting topics, but dull and robotic delivery. Not a good combo.

I’m here representing with none other than my fam, Pin@y Educational Partnerships. There’s always a buzz around us whenever we present at these conferences, because, not to sound cocky, but we deliver the creativity and engagement in our panels! PEP is definitely not boring and dull when it comes whatever we do. A lot of people have already said they’re excited about going to workshops and panels. To hear that is truly a proud yet humbling feeling knowing we have had great impact in the field of Asian American Studies, particularly Fil-Am Studies.

Of course, I’ll be balancing my time here with visiting relatives, the beaches, some pick up volleyball, hiking at Diamond Head, and hopefully some snorkeling. I can’t wait to beast out on mixed plate dishes and Hawai’ian BBQ! And of course I’ll be paying respect and taking in as much of the indigenous culture as I can, never forgetting the struggle for national sovereignty of indigenous Hawai’i.

It’s also finally begun to slowly sink in that I’ll be a doctorate student this coming fall. I now realize that it’s a huge deal to my community because there’s not a big representation of Pin@ys in doctoral studies outside of medicine. I now feel comfortable in celebrating this next big chapter in my life, and what better place to celebrate than in Hawai’i! I’m just glad to be celebrating here with my PEP fam and hopefully some newly gained mentors at the conference.

I’ll be blogging about my experiences here as much as I can, filled with pictures. Mahalo!

Good Friday indeed…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 10, 2009 by kulturalguerilla

For centuries, Christianity has been maliciously used as a tool of subjugation and colonization, which is a complete and sacrilegious contradiction to the teachings of Christ. There has been a long and ugly history of corruption and violent “civilization” in the church, and learning this history has many led people born and baptized into Christianity to develop angst, anger, hatred, and bitterness towards Christianity and thus leave the faith altogether.

As a practicing Catholic, I have faced many many challenges in my activism, especially in connection to its ugly history of corruption and colonization of the peoples of Africa, the indigenous nations of what is now North, Central, and South America, Polynesia, and of my motherland, the Philippines. When faced with this challenge, I always bring it back to the teachings of Christ himself. Jesus Christ always taught love, equality, and justice. Never did he teach to kill, pillage, plunder, and rape to spread his message. In fact, he denounced these atrocities. So it’s always important to make that distinction. I always say to be critical and denounce the use of Christianity a tool for subjugation, but you can never denounce Christ for his teachings of love.

My Catholic faith is something near and dear to my heart, and yes, I still go to mass every Sunday and pray the rosary. . Being part of youth ministry since I was 13, it was my entry point into community organizing. Since then, my ministry has evolved into community activism for human rights, from the personal to global levels. On a personal and spiritual level, it has also evolved into a liberatory practice for me, and have been studying Liberation Theology for the past few years. Liberation Theology is like “flipping the script” on those who have used it for subjugation and domination. My spirituality is based on the teachings of Christ and not so much the dogmatic rules of the Catholicism, which I have found if followed too strictly, can be very limiting. I like using the Star Wars example of the Jedi Master Qui Gon Jin, whose keen yet reckless sense and views of The Force forbids him a seat in the Jedi Council, but his insight and devotion to combatting The Dark Side of the Force is formidable and invaluable to the Jedi Order.

I hope my fellow Catholics would take a more proactive stance against the injustices in the world. I’ve seen and heard too many Catholics with an “it is what it is” attitude towards injustice and just sit and pray about it for hours. Now don’t get me wrong, prayer is no doubt good and much needed. But there’s also the action part that is vital to our faith. Jesus Christ was out there on the grind with the masses and the poor, not in the ivory towers of the ruling class. He devoted as much time to works as he did to prayer. He worked tirelessly to spread his message of Love, Equality, and Justice. He spoke directly against corrupt and greedy politicians who were living off the backs and labor of the poor.

As community activists working towards social justice, we’re basically doing the Lord’s work. Serve the people, and you serve God.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Matthew 10:16-20

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:12-18

“The voice of racism preaching the gospel is devilish
A fake church called the prophet Muhammad a terrorist
Forgetting God is not a religion, but a spiritual bond
And Jesus is the most quoted prophet in the Qu’ran”
-Immortal Technique

“It’s very funny to look at a religion like Christianity and see the religious leaders of the Christian faith, so involved in politics while Jesus, their savior, was killed by politicians. Christians fail to realize that Jesus was a revolutionary that hung out with criminals and diseased people, trying to educate them on a better way of life. He spoke out against government and was killed, simple.”
-KRS-ONE

“To protect the sheep, you must catch the wolf. And it takes a wolf to catch a wolf.”
-from the movie “Training Day”

My Next Big Task…

Posted in Uncategorized on April 8, 2009 by kulturalguerilla

I’d like to share my Statement of Purpose, which I wrote as part of my applications to doctorate programs. With my next big task, with great humility, I ask that I be held accountable to all that I say I will do.

“The utmost duty of the artist—is that the artist is a committed person, that he will always take the side of any human being who is violated, abused, oppressed, dehumanized with whatever his instrument—the pen, the brush, or the camera.” -Lino Brocka

Lino Brocka, regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of the Philippines and the founder of the organization, Concerned Artists of the Philippines, speaks to my purpose in pursuing an Ed.D. His words reflected the way he made his films, that the purpose of his chosen art form was to address the issues facing the Philippines during the tyranny of the Marcos dictatorship, which is inspiring to me because his films were very critical of Marcos’s regime despite strongly enforced media censorship and rampant human rights violations in the Philippines at the time. These words are also a reflection of the way I carry myself as an artist in the two art forms I mainly engage in—dance and teaching.

I am the proud son of immigrant parents who left their homeland to escape the impoverished conditions and political corruption of martial law of the Philippines during the 1970s. My parents highly believed in the opportunities that America represented in providing hope and a future for my younger sister and me. Education was one of the main values they emphasized to me as I was growing up, and they worked to provide me the best education they could find for my sister and me. A particular passion my father had was a love for music, and he would always play his jazz and r&b cassettes at the house. This love for music rubbed off on me, and I remember and a child I would always dance to whatever music my father was playing on the radio. Little did I know that the music my father listened to would have a profound impact on me, my friends growing up, and the culture of our generation—Hiphop. Much of my childhood and high school years were spent dancing Hiphop, from breaking (commonly known as break-dancing) to Hiphop choreography.

I attended Mt. San Antonio College after high school because at the time, both my parents lost their jobs, and instead of leaving home to go to a university, I chose to attend a junior college to ease my parents’ financial burdens. I initially was a Nursing major, but after two years of coursework and an internship at the local hospital, I did not feel personally fulfilled. It was something I was good at, but not something I necessarily enjoyed. History and culture were things I was always interested in, especially those of my own as a Filipino American and of the land of my parents’ origin. I then transferred to Cal State Fullerton and decided to change my major to Ethnic Studies, emphasizing on Asian American Studies. I was immediately blown away by the wealth of knowledge I was gaining from the classes in the major. There was so much to the history of Asian Americans, particularly Filipina/o Americans, that I never knew existed. As I was taking these classes, I also kept asking myself, “Why wasn’t I taught this when I was younger?” It was then I found my calling—I wanted to be able to teach this history someday to generations after me.

I also became heavily involved with the Pilipino American Student Association (PASA) at Cal State Fullerton, and one of its main functions is the annual Pilipino Cultural Nights (PCN), a cultural production in which we told our history and experiences as Filipina/o Americans through acting, dancing, and singing. Through PASA, I was also introduced to a community that would forever have a deep impact on my life just as much as learning about my history did—the Hiphop dance crew community. PASA at the time sponsored a Hiphop dance crew called Team Millennia. I joined this crew and danced with them at numerous competitions, showcases, and community events. Through dancing with Team Millennia, I was also able to connect with several other crews and special individuals who would become my lifelong friends. It was in this close-knit network of dancers and dance crews with a shared passion for dance where I learned the value of community building. I also noticed that the majority of membership in the dance crew community happened to be Filipina/o American. I thought this was so significant to the history and experience of Filipina/o Americans, yet there has been very little study on this phenomenon.

Being an Ethnic Studies major, I decided to research this further. So after graduating from Cal State Fullerton, I took a break from dancing to focus on doing this research by pursuing a Master’s degree in Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University. I made the strong participation of Filipina/o Americans in the dance crew phenomenon the basis for my master’s thesis, “The Rhythm of a Nation: The Filipin@ American Movement in Hiphop Dance.” In my thesis, I argue that although Hiphop dance is a popular form of artistic expression and entertainment, Filipina/o Americans have used Hiphop dance as a space for critical cultural production and community formation. Since my study was the first of its kind, my research relied heavily on primary resources, who were mainly my dance contemporaries. I traveled throughout California, connecting with my old dance peers and the newer generations of dancers, gathering their stories and experiences. I also built my thesis on the theories of individuals who have done extensive work on performance studies and community formation. We all share the same sentiment, that dance is not just a hobby for us, but a way of life that is a significant part of our culture.

During my graduate studies at SF State, I found a second passion in teaching, which I hold equal value as my passion for dance. I became a student-teacher of Pin@y Educational Partnerships (PEP), which is a service-learning collaborative teaching pipeline of San Francisco State University’s Asian American Studies Department. PEP partners with San Francisco public schools and the Filipino Community Center located in San Francisco’s Excelsior neighborhood. Under PEP, I was mentored by its founder, Dr. Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales, in teaching Ethnic Studies and Filipina/o American Studies at local San Francisco high schools and at City College of San Francisco. Some of the goals of PEP are for our students to learn their history in a safe and creative space, contextualize the content to their own personal experiences, and have them reflect what they learn using their creative talents. PEP accomplishes this by praxis of critical pedagogy, in which we allow students to think critically about their education and their situations, pose problems and find ways to solve them through circular exchange of ideas between the teachers and students. My experience with PEP and its praxis of critical pedagogy has greatly influenced the way I teach my classes outside of PEP. Through PEP, I was introduced to a community of educators, community organizers, and artists working towards social change, cultural pride, and community improvement. I became involved in several community organizations, participating in campaigns for immigrant rights, full equity for the Filipino World War II veterans, ending gentrification in San Francisco’s low-income working class neighborhoods, and stopping human rights violations in the Philippines and all war-torn countries. With all the work I have done as a community organizer, I found that all the campaigns I participated in are all Human Rights issues, which I will continue working to address as long as I live.

All these experiences have made me the person I am today. As an educator, I teach the history and culture of Filipina/os and Filipina/o Americans in order to understand our current experiences and issues. As a community organizer, I participate in campaigns that address and seek to correct Human Rights issues faced not just by Filipina/os, but all people, personally, locally, and globally. And finally, as an artist, I simply create, and encourage the creativity and harnessing of my fellow artists. These are the things that encompass who I am—Conscious, Committed, and Creative, all which I believe are what make a true artist. An artist is conscious of the experiences faced by all people, all cultures, and all communities. An artist is committed to his/her art form and to the audience, community, and students he/she serves. And an artist is creative, finding innovative ways to convey a message within his/her creative pieces that reflect his/her consciousness and commitment. This is also why I believe teaching is an art. A true teacher does not simply disseminate information, but finds creative ways to teach the curriculum and content and helps the students harness their creative talents to reflect what they learn, in whatever the space is—the street corner, the community center, the classroom, or the stage. This is true throughout the history of virtually all cultures. The sage, the shaman, the poet, the dancer, the chanter, the musician—all were teachers and all were artists.

I am now at a point in my life where I am searching for ways to bring my two passions for conscious education and cultural production together. I have been doing both for about the same length of time, but still find a disconnect between the two. Most dancers in the dance crew community are not fully aware of plaguing social issues, and if they are, it is not reflected in their art, at least not as much as in other art forms like poetry, visual art, rapping, and singing. Often times, when dancers decide to address social issues, we feel as though we must take off our dancing shoes, as if organizing around social issues and dancing are independent from each other. I believe it really does not have to be this way. Dance has so much capacity to empower and inspire social change, and provides a space where individual and collective identities are negotiated and formed. The first time I became aware of social issues and wanted to learn more about them was when I saw the music video to Janet Jackson’s, “Rhythm Nation,” in which she, along with her army of dancers, addressed prejudice, ignorance, bigotry, and illiteracy through dance. Through my experience in the dance crew community and as a teacher, I was able to find my identity, a Filipino American educator who believes in dance as a powerful tool for conscious education. There is so much potential for dancers to create art with a social purpose like other art forms, and it begins with conscious education.

My ultimate goal is to bring these two passions together as a college professor who will not only teach, but who also will create and develop programs that encourage youth and students to learn their history and become aware of social issues, and be able to address them through dance as a form of critical cultural production. My main research interest is critical cultural production through dance as a pedagogical praxis. I also want to research how communities of socially conscious poets, visual artists, and musicians have been able to accomplish this and create a dance community similar in purpose. I feel there is a lack of emphasis on critical cultural production as a pedagogical praxis of the content and theories being taught in the classroom. It is my hope that my research interests can solve the problem of essentializing teaching through traditional forms, especially when it comes to the history and social issues of people of color, and can guide me in developing and implementing programs that encourage education through cultural production, in ways that are organic, creative, and innovative.

I have no doubts that my research interests and personal goals can be advanced by study in International and Multicultural Education, especially in the area of Human Rights Education. Artists and educators are producers of culture, and to bridge both as a community in the academy and the stage, ultimately as a professor—an artist who is conscious, creative, and committed to the cause of Human Rights Education, is the destination of my personal journey.

So, with that said…

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It still hasn’t fully hit me yet, and I’m still processing this overwhelming task. But I’m hopeful that it will be done with the people by my side. Thank you all for your support throughout the years in my journey as an artist, an educator, and an activist. I do what I do for all of you, and for the masses.

Isulong!

Kasama

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 2, 2009 by kulturalguerilla

“Kasama” is a pretty loaded word in the Tagalog language. We call each other kasama in the movement for true national democracy in the Philippines. If you translate it literally, it means “ally, comrade, partner, colleague, etc.” Over the years of being an activist for my people in the homeland and in the diaspora, I’ve realized that this term, or title as some folks may call it, is not something we just throw around for just anybody. Now, I’m not meaning to be exclusive with the term, I believe everyone can and should be a kasama. But to call someone your kasama means that they are much more to you than just a “ally, comrade, partner, colleague, etc.,” whether you’ve known each other for years upon years or just a few minutes, or even not having ever met. At the heart of kasama is love and humility, for self and for the masa (masses). My kasama Melanie D. in New York, another activist for true national democracy for our homeland, best describes what a kasama is. Thank you, my kasama!

“Love for a kasama is not love for a friend, not love for a lover, not love for family. It is a love that allows us to know each other intimately, know each other’s dreams, each other’s hopes, each other’s tragedies without having met each other because we share them. We share the love for the people, we share the hope for freedom, we grieve for the same loss. And the more I know you, the more I love you.”

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To my kasamas I got together with at this weekend’s Bayan-USA/Gabriela-USA Congress, much love from this revolutionary’s heart. Whether we’ve known each other for years, or just this past weekend, you all hold a special place in me in our collective lifelong struggle for our people. To building and working together for the next 3 years and beyond, ISULONG!