Bringing more Filipino to the project

30 05 2010

Reflecting more on the project and what it is I’m trying to do I have felt a need to address the Philippine authenticity of my practice. I am a Canadian-born Filipino, which leaves me in a precarious state of both insider and outsider to the Philippine-London diaspora. In order to ensure that I keep the project relevant to the Philippine community I have informally chatted with a number of Filipinos in London both in person and online as well as with Filipinos in the Philippines and in Canada. What I have been trying to surmise, is just what makes us Filipino? What determines the Filipino identity and how is this adopted within the diaspora?

What I came across was a lot of references to pivotal moments in history like  the People Power Revolution (a non-violent demonstration that lead to the ousting of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986) and the martyrdom of Jose Rizal (national hero of the Philippines known for his nationally unifying novel ‘Noli me Tangere’ 1887). Other seemingly less serious references to Philippine identity focussed on sports (ie. boxing, bowling and cock-fighting, whereby world champion boxer/politician Manny ‘Pacman’ Pacquiao has been exceedingly popular.

Other things that resonated with me were the numerous ‘You know you are a Filipino when…’ lists that circulate online through email and facebook:

  1. You point with your lips
  2. You eat with your hand and have it down as a technique
  3. Your other piece of luggage is a “Balikbayan Box”
  4. You nod your head upwards to greet someone
  5. You put your foot up on your chair and rest your elbows on your knees while you eat
  6. You use a rock to scrub yourself in the shower
  7. You kiss relatives on the cheek when you enter the room
  8. You’re standing next to eight big boxes at the airport
  9. You collect items from hotels or restaurants as “souvenirs”
  10. Your house has a distinctive aroma
  11. You smile for no reason
  12. You flirt by having a foolish grin on your face while raising your eyebrows repeatedly
  13. You go to department stores and try bargain with the price
  14. You scratch your head when you don’t know the answer
  15. You never eat the last morsel of food on the table
  16. You go bowling
  17. You play pusoy or mahjong
  18. You prefer to sit in the shade instead of basking in the sun
  19. You add an unwarranted ‘H’ to your name: Jhun, Bhoy, Rhon
  20. You put your hands together in front of you as if to make a path and say “Excuse, Excuse” when you pass in between people or in front of the TV
  21. Your middle name is your mom’s maiden name
  22. You like everything that is imported or ‘stateside’
  23. Your perfectly comfortable in a squatting position with your elbows resting on your knees
  24. You consistently arrive 30 minutes late for events
  25. You always offer food to your visitors

Moreover I have been directed to several quotes and sayings that many feel represent the Philippine mentality:

Ang gawa sa pagkabata, dala hanggang pagtanda.
What one learns in childhood he carries into adulthood.

Ang hindi marunong magmahal sa sariling wika, daig pa ang malangsang isda.
He who does not love the national language is worse than a smelly fish.

Ang hindi marunong tumingin sa pinaggalingan ay di makakarating sa paroroonan.
He who does not know to look where he came from will never get to his destination.

Ang langaw na dumapo sa kalabaw, mataas pa sa kalabaw ang pakiramdam.
A fly that lands on a carabao feels itself to be higher than the carabao.

Ang lumalakad nang mabagal, kung matinik ay mababaw. Ang lumalakad nang matulin, kung matinik ay malalim.
Thorns bury shallowly into one who walks slowly. Thorns bury deeply into one who walks fast.

Ang maniwala sa sabi-sabi, walang bait sa sarili.
He who believes in hearsay is a crazy fool.

Ang masamang damo, matagal mamatay.
Bad grass does not die easily.

In the end, I have been drawn to the quote below that speaks to roots and migration:



27 05 2010

I’ve just completed a short promotional video for use on the MADA10 Website ( Special thanks to colleague Kevin Fox for designing the website.

Setting up, setbacks, stethoscopes and sojourns

25 05 2010

Things have been a massive blur these last few days. I’ve been working through a location of which to ‘set up’ the installation and am looking at possible alternatives to the light and dark spaces that the MADA10 is currently assigned too. There is a hallway in between the two spaces that houses the elevators/lifts and stairwell. This might be an interesting spot to place my suitcase and display (projector won’t work here) as it is a place of transition. Still not sure though. This location may be too noisy for the installation.

Also I have been working on the promotional copy for  press kit for the degree show ( I realize the importance of getting one together to generate as much interest for the show as possible and so have taken a stab at the copy. This has proven to be a difficult task as trying to represent such a diverse group while being as specfic as possible to generate interest is a bit tricky. So far I’m at a standstill as the copy has received some unexpected resistance mainly due to its reference to the V&A Decode Exhibit.  Things are busy as it is and I’m not sure how to properly proceed with this in a way that will make everyone happy. Regrettably, I think I’m going to have to let this one go for now and see if I can help out in other ways.

In terms of the project, I have been able to procure a stethoscope from a friend/doctor and am in the process of trying to get a decent recording of my heart rate (a lot harder than it sounds). All that’s left is getting the right mic/speakers and testing the the installation in a suitcase. I have the perfect suitcase and am working on getting the little things in order: Philippine products to give the suicase weight, some flight tags and heavy stickers from the airport as well as working through the details of the final display. I’m also trying to coordinate a tutorial session with Andy to get some final feedback on everything.

Lastly I’ve been plugging away at the final paper that is due at the end of June. A little early (maybe) but I have planned a little ‘sanity sojourn’ to France to visit an old friend and maybe get some prespective on things again. I tried to time it with the coming bank holiday as to not miss much. It will be nice have this time with the family on the Mediterranean and I’m certain I’ll feel more refreshed and ready for the chaotic few weeks ahead!

Finding the ‘Filipino’

22 05 2010

Throughout this project I have been faced with several positive challenges. I fully expected growth, change and development intellectually from my academic research and creatively through my artistic exploration. What I didn’t expect to face were new challenges in my own identity.

I’ve spent several years now writing and making art around the Philippine diaspora and have been quite comfortable in the lines I cross and intersect as a Filipino-Canadian. I am a Canadian born Filipino and my Tagalog is rudimentary. In Toronto, I created work about a community I grew up with and truly felt part of this group despite my language limitations. In Paris and Tokyo I felt I could relate to the PI communities as we shared a common outsider status as both myself and the community I was documenting felt equal levels of cultural inaccessibility mainly due to language limitations in French and Japanese. It is a little different in England, where English is the lingua-franca and my North American accent allows me societal access that many of the PI-London community do not have.

These significant differences in power as well as my recent research into theories around identity from Mandan Sarap, Homi K. Bhabha, Rasheed Araeen and Benedict Anderson have changed my perspective on the position I situate as a diaspora artist documenting ‘his’ diaspora. These last 10 months living and trying to integrate into life in London has been trying and separate from research into the PI-London community. I have found that settling in to life in London has not only been about finding the Filipino diaspora culture of childhood, but also finding the things that I could relate to specifically as a Canadian. Eating Filipino stews like munudo and caldereta have been just as missed as maple syrup and Tim Horton’s coffee. When I miss ‘home’, I call Canada. When I call the Philippines, it is to call family who are visiting the Philippines from Canada. As this project progressed and as I became more comfortable with life in the UK, I became more aware of just how outside the London-PI community I really was.

What resurfaced was the question: what is Filipino about this project? How can I create a piece of work that speaks to this diaspora and to my experiences of being part of the Philippine diaspora (albeit doubly displaced)? Am I just an impostor when I approach Filipinos in London as I am actually a Canadian? Who are the true Filipinos, the people who have just migrated to London and still carry tans and accents from ‘home’?  What of the generation of Filipino-Londoners who have grown up in England and know more of the UK than they do of the Philippines? Just what makes us all still Filipino? Is my child who is half Filipino, half French/Irish Canadian still part of the Philippine diaspora?

What resulted from this probing was a combination of informal interviewing, personal recollecting and academic research into the idea of ‘Filipino-ness’. In this particular project I have decided to use a very popular Filipino saying that speaks to Filipino roots in the context of migration:

“Ang hindi marunong tumingin sa pinaggalingan ay di makakarating sa paroroonan.”

(He who does not know to look where he came from will never get to his destination. Unknown author)

I came across several other quotes from asking around, many of which were written by national hero Jose Rizal, but this saying seemed to speak directly to my project and to the experience of the Philippine diaspora.

In this process I have also come up with the title of this installation: Tahanan. Tahanan directly translates to home in English, but the word is loaded with other subtle meanings. Home is the place where your family and loved ones reside and in Philippine culture this usually includes a massive strata of cousins, aunts and uncles that would be considered by most western presets as ‘extended’ or ‘far removed’. Growing up in Canada, I spent more time with my 3rd cousins living near me and visiting from abroad than I did with the neighbourhood boys and for this I can relate to this concept of Tahanan- a conceptual home that exists in the hearts of many Filipinos.

Tweaking the Pd Patch

20 05 2010

I have been working on refining the Pd patch I designed as an image engine/video mixer for the project. So far I am quite happy with how it is looking.  As patches go, it’s not overly complicated: mainly a video mixer and an audio feed for a contact mic. The rest is connecting the dots and getting creative with where I put the mic. If anything, I could work on smoothening out the ‘pulsing’ effect. I’ll do this once I’ve settled on the mic/speaker combination I am going to go with and how it all works within the environment of a suitcase.

PD sketch for Final Piece

Projector Test

18 05 2010

This is a test on the studio projector (800 x 600 resolution). I quite like the look of things in general. The colours came out better than I had expected but I think I will play a bit more with increasing the ‘pulse’ of the video. I will also need to figure out how to lessen the lag between generated sound and video reaction.

Plan C: working through interactivity

17 05 2010

I have moved from a HRMI to an IR motion sensor to both flex and bend sensors but have not yet been fully satisfied the resluts. So now I am on ‘Plan C’.

I have worked through a very interesting pulsing effect with a few ‘objects’ in Pure Data. I have tested this sketch with my latest video and I am really liking the results. The Pd sketch uses an audio input from a mic and translates it to a pulsing of the movie. I am thinking that if I place both a mic and speaker (playing a pre-recorded heartbeat) within the suitcase I will be able to achieve a nice pulsing in the video, a level of interactivity from the inevitable ambient noise from the audience and stay within the theme of home is where the heart is!

This is a sample of some of the first tests I did with making the visual pulse with noise. In the video I snapped my fingers.