Dropping Pacquiao

I don't know if I could ever be considered a Manny Pacquiao fan. I always wanted him to win, but being a fan implies positive feelings of support or a participation in excitement and joy. Mostly, what I felt was dread. During the height of Pacquiao's winning streak, I was worried about how this would all end. As a Filipino, I could not his significance to the people around me or the entire archipelago of the Philippines. I joked that should he ever lose, there would be a string of suicides in Manila, but underneath the hyperbole I believed the core of it. I didn't enjoy the suspense of his matches, or at least, I enjoyed them the way one might enjoy a horror film. The eventual victories were just sighs of relief until the next stressful bout.

It's not a reasonable way to think by any means, but I've come to understand it as part of having an identity, whether it's based on ethnicity or hometown or shared hobbies. It's not purely that Pacquiao was Filipino, and therefore, I was obligated to emotionally invest in his career. It's just that I recognized a common ground, and that made him relatable, likable, and inclined to transpose all my hopes & dreams onto him (if you want to deconstruct it that far.) It would have been the same if I found out he listened to Titus Andronicus or read Batman comics. For a group starving for representation in even the most inconsequential of venues (So You Think You Can Dance! American Idol! Top Shot?) every chance to root for someone that looks like you is a gem.

Of course, this kind of identification has boundaries. Comedian Hari Kondabolu has a great bit where, upon deciding that there are now plenty of Indians in American mass media, he now feels free to openly hate some of them. While I don't think I've personally reached that level of saturation, I understand the idea of divorcing those that don't line up with the rest of your identity. There are figures you'd think I would identify with (Say, half-Filipino singer Bruno Mars), but they do things that I absolutely don't see myself in (cheeseball R&B songs). My tendency as a minority participant in pop culture has been to relate to someone until they do something that says, nope, sorry, you can't.

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PCN Workblog 5: Epilogue

Credit: Nicholas Lee

It is done.

Although the first workblog was written roughly 300 days before PCN, the official PCN day count ended at 348, just short of a year. But if I want to be honest with myself, planning for PCN began in the very back parts of my brainspace two years ago. Back when I was attending script meetings to figure out what PCN 2008 was going to be, ideas kept trickling in that would later become PCN 2009. I wrote them in my notebook. I fleshed them out on the drive home. I transferred them to a notepad file.

Then later it was there, on stage, in costume and awash in a light special. It's a strange process. From incubation to fertilization to the violent birth pangs until eventually and finally, it is done. Something so introverted, so personal, is outside of my heart. It exploded out of my chest like so many alien parasites and has hopefully burrowed into yours.

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PCN Workblog 4: Sleepless

I am, you might say, in the thick of things. I'm at the part where the work starts to drain you, just a little bit. Most of the drain comes from keeping all the work in mind. What you still need to do, what you need to prepare, what you need to buy: these are the things that dominate my head in a vicious cycle. The actual act of directing and deconstructing? That's fine. Sometimes, doing it for four hours straight is a bit mentally exhausting, but I've survived so far. The weight of everything else, well, I'm starting to get sick of that.

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Essay | Wretched

As a child, when I found out that the Philippines was a former colony of the United States, my first thought was, "Cool." They don't teach you what colony means or what colonialism is in school. Your frame of reference is the American Revolution - you think it means a distant governorship, maybe some taxes charged, but otherwise, everything remains unmolested. Colonialism doesn't mean violence, it doesn't mean the manipulation and systematic molding of people. In school, "colony" is just an empty term meaning, "part of."

So it was "cool." Cool, because it meant I wasn't really an Other anymore. It meant that I didn't have to represent this strange, foreign outside image and that I fit in to the mainstream like everyone else. That I should be accepted as one of them. I was glad. I felt normal.

This was the outcome of a one hundred year plan. The stage is set like this: There was a random smattering of islands in Southeast Asia. Seven thousand, give or take, populated with different peoples, different ethnic groups, different languages and tribes and religions. Spanish explorer Magellan tries to sail across the world, but crashes into one of the islands and gets a dagger the liver for his trouble. Trade goes through with the Chinese, with Muslims, with their neighbors, and various parts of the island show the influence.

Fast forward. A guy (well, a king) named Philip sees thousands of islands and over 70 different languages and decides to draw a border around all of them and call them his own. With no regard for their own ethnic borders and unique culture, the Spanish forced the creation of a single nation out of many. King Philip decides to name the nation, and thus the people, after himself. Their message was Catholicism. The fever caught on everywhere except in the very north and the very south.

Fast forward, again, this time roughly 500 years. The people have taken the name Pilipino, or Filipino, derived from Philip, or Felipe. They finally fight off the colonizers. A revolutionary and polymath named Jose Rizal uses the term Pilipino as a personal identity, to much controversy. In some ways, it's an inspiring call to unity, a call for one people with the singular purpose of fighting off their oppressors. In other ways, it's an acceptance of the colonialist structure forced upon them.

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A Culture of Disconnect

Since the 1970s, Filipino Americans in college took it upon themselves to make themselves feel more Filipino, whatever that meant to them. What was clear was that there was a void, a disconnect, and a wish to be closer to that archipelago a whole hemisphere away. What followed is a quiet phenomenon. It was an annual show that incorporated dance, drama and music all through the prism of Philippine culture.

Today, generations later, it continues with every new class, eager to sink their teeth into the connection and the experience. At my school, we've done 19. The biggest of the Filipino clubs, Samahang at UCLA, has just put the cap on their 31st. It's become an annual mainstay of Filipino clubs, spreading even to High Schools, to other ethnic groups, to the point where it becomes a culture in and of itself. It has warranted academic analysis, study and research papers. This attempt to represent Philippine culture became one of the few things that belonged solely to Filipino American youth. Not Americans, not Filipinos, not even our immigrant parents. Just a specific subset of educated, young, Filipino Americans with little to believe in.

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