Thesis (almost) it

Thesis defense is in two days and I can’t believe that in a short span of time, I would have already completed the last requirement needed for the completion of my AB Communication degree. Since our research was about the representation of religion in Philippine indigenous ethnic groups, it required going on-site in a chosen community to apply the dynamics of photography and visual representation.

Drawing inspiration from ethnographic studies, we spent two days and a night with an Aeta tribe in Capas, Tarlac. The experience was truly life-changing and I promised myself that I would be back for my Nanay Josephine and Tatay Jesse in the near future.

The following photos are outtakes from the immersion / data-gathering visit Miles and I made last September 8-9, 2012 in Sitio Alunan, Brgy. Sta. Juliana. 

The 4×4 jeep that took us to the foot of the mountain and the carabao that carried our stuff along for us during the hike.
The girl in the middle is Anny, Miles and I’s foster sister during our stay.
The kids of Sitio Alunan who made the stay extra memorable.
Dreadlocks out of soft stems!
With the “Alicia Keys” of Alunan and Olivia, both of whom initiated and helped create the dreadlocks I had on that day. Don’t you just love their beautiful tresses?
The Manalo Family. We’ll be back, Tatay Jesse and Nanay Josephine! Maraming salamat po sa pag kupkop niyo sa amin.


Sitio Alunan is a small village atop the mountains of Tarlac and Zambales. Situated near the perimeter of Mt. Pinatubo, it takes roughly 1-2 hours to get through the lahar-stricken terrain via a 4×4 jeep ride plus another 45-90 minute hike to the village itself.

All photos from Miles Atadero.

Di mapigilang luha

Photo from the 2004 March for Women's Lives, t...
Photo from the 2004 March for Women's Lives (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Di Mapigilang Luha” (Tears that could not be held back)

I cried in my Feminism class today. I will forever hate myself for letting my emotions get the best of me, but for those who know me well, you’d know that I do not possess the ability to hold back my tears.

The class was talking about abortion and throughout the entire meeting, I was all clammed up. My values were being challenged and I was being put in a vulnerable state–I literally felt like I was sinning just by sitting in that room, or for some weird reason, God would strike lighting and punish me for absorbing these words. But then I decided I would not let the moment pass. Kabang-kaba ako, nilalamig at di mapakali (I was nervous, cold, and restless)–it was best for me to shut up but I knew that it was easier to forgive myself for breaking down than it was if I’d just shut up completely. I just knew I had to say my piece.

It was 5 mins before the bell rang and I was the last one to say my piece on the topic. The question went a little like, “Do you think it’s murder to kill a fetus? Do you think the fetus is a person? Do you think abortion is necessary and how does that protect the mother? Do you believe that women should have a choice?”

I immediately raised my hand and began my point of not having to have to label all these beliefs in black and white. While they use scientific arguments (e.g. the fetus is scientifically not a person because it does not have a brain, etc. etc.), I raised the point that before considering science as a basis for judgment, cultural backgrounds of certain groups of people must come into play. I was going to digress more about the upbringing that both religion and family ties impose on us, Filipinos, but my mind drifted off to thinking about my education and the education of the young people in Manila who were just like me.

I started tearing up and eventually went on to crying because I realized that my education did not give me the other side of the story. I was crying because I was shaken, yes, but a part of my tears were also because I was opened to the truth that the Philippines was not even close to being a progressive nation. In elementary and high school, Health class didn’t teach us anything other what we already knew and topics like sex, abortion, contraceptives and the like were discussed in passing and if the topics did come up, it was considered as taboo, or bad, or yes — a sin.

I do not denounce my religion because I am a firm believer of my faith. I just hoped that I learned more from my education without religion having to hinder the content of what I was to absorb. The class today taught me so much things not only about abortion, but also about the concepts of being open to a different perspective and knowing when to filter what you hear and learn. I wish I had a lot more knowledge on these things, rather than having a limited scope of ideologies now that I’m 20. As I am writing this, I realized that another reason for my crying was because I can’t believe I actually went on with life without questioning what’s given to me– I have passively assimilated that the idea of this is “wrong” and never bothered to look at the other side.

I know that my stance on the RH Bill is an inevitable question that may rise from this entry, so let me clear that I am pro-RH Bill with revisions (contraceptives and sex education) but am against abortion. However, I now respect the views and opinions of everyone on the latter as opposed to my earlier thinking that it was a “sin” mainly because I’ve received so much understanding from my class today. Although I still hold on to my faith and will forever do, I support the plight of these women all over the world to have a say to what their body goes through and fight for having a choice. I would personally not go through with an abortion because it is against my personal values, but I can proudly say that I’ve earned an entirely new level of respect for those who fight for it. ‘To each, his own’ and I’ve realized that we shouldn’t be quick to judge because we do not know the battles behind the faces we interact with.

As I was apologizing to my class and to my professor, I thanked them for giving me a whole new set of eyes to see the world in. Not only did I learn that abortion wasn’t only a matter of life or death but human rights and choice, but I also learned that I always need to look at the other side of things to make sense of the world. I have learned that issues like these stem from the fact that people, by nature, always want to have a sense of hierarchy between right and wrong– and abortion, in this example, further triggers conflicts in society because opposing parties refuse to meet in the middle and attempt to understand. The universe doesn’t revolve around me and I knew that, but it was only today that I fully felt like I had so much left to discover, learn, and explore that Manila and my education there, no matter how great it has been, is not enough to make me a citizen of humanity.

I’d like to thank my Feminism class for being there for me and receiving me with an open mind–I am sorry for not being an open-minded person to those like you in the past, Dr. Raeburn, for understanding that I come from a completely different cultural background and appreciating the effort I put into adjusting to the new ideologies presented in class, and to Fran, Debora, Natalia and Gracie, for making me feel like I wasn’t alone and that it was okay to be shaken once in a while.

*Comments are very much appreciated as I need more conversations regarding this topic.

**This entry was written in the rawest form, just hours after the incident happened, with emotions still very fresh. I apologize for any errors this piece may have.

I did not have plastic surgery at 18

Let me take this 30 minute break before my next class begins to share an experience I had during my morning class today.

I am taking up a Communication and Culture course here in USF and today we talked about the dynamics of the perception of beauty which varies from culture to culture. What’s interesting is that the assigned reading today was Kaw’s argument on the medicalization of beauty and how Asians usually went for double eyelid surgery and nose jobs to boost their societal value. My professor also showed this video in class, which was hilarious for me because 1) it’s too early for Claudine Barretto, 2) it’s Claudine Barretto in a USF elective and 3) Claudine Barretto never really was that dark.

So the discussion went on and I contributed to mention that in the Philippines, most especially in the realm of showbiz, whitening creams have already evolved into more invasive procedures such as glutathione injections or similar whitening shots. That angle I brought in was welcomed with such interest until a particular Asian (I do not know, nor do I want to assume her exact ethnicity) classmate of mine goes on to interrupt me by saying:

“It’s not as scary as Kara puts it. It’s normal and it’s pretty widespread. I mean, it’s just  a shot, you know? People there even get it for their 18th birthday as presents–I was even considering it for myself as well.”

It’s. Just. A. Shot. Eh kung ikaw kaya i-“shot” ko?

This really insulted me because it’s from naïve and tactless people like this that countries, and in my case, the Philippines, gets put under a bad light. For one, how could these foreigners process the connection between a third world country having luxuries of facial aesthetic enhancements as “gifts” while the rest of the nation is seen globally as chained by poverty? What does that say about our nation’s priorities? I was really pissed because she spoke with such confidence as if she’s been living in Manila ever since and her views were screaming “Look at me! I’m a sheltered know it all!”

No, girl, we do not get plastic surgery and shots as presents. And no matter what you say, going under the knife is scary. Please, not because you, let’s say, visit your grandmother in the Philippines or from whatever Asian country you’re from every summer, does not give you the right to speak for the general Asian population. You may look Asian, but you are far from understanding our culture– so stop acting like you represent the greater whole.

A good kind of tired

It has been a quiet two weeks for me here on WordPress and although I’ve tried to abandon it completely, there’s just something in me that can’t seem to let this handle go. I’ve been busy with school that began with a week-long orientation and tours, and the past one was an unexpected dump of academic workload. With org work, Ateneo online classes, and myself to manage, a good sense of balance was what I really needed to get through the week.

Two weeks into Frisco, I was bumming. Now I'm just dead tired.

Kung sino mang nag-sabing petiks ang JTA, nagkakamali siya.” -JA de Lima

My friend, JA, and I have been talking almost everyday about the heavy load that universities other than the Ateneo offer to their students. USF and NUS (National University of Singapore) both require a dense amount of reading material per day, as compared to the ‘per week’ basis that we’re used to back in Manila.  Continue reading “A good kind of tired”

Wait for me, Mr. Larson

Looking forward to cuddling under the sheets with Mr. Larson again.

This photo gives a clear picture of my three boyfriends getting to know one another pretty well, with one I’ve completely abandoned altogether. I’ve been glued to my baby (yes, that’s what I call my BlackBerry) and Aroni (I do hope you get the point I tried to make in naming my laptop) for the past couple of weeks and I haven’t spent time reading for leisure.

To pick up from where I left from, I was in the middle of immersing myself in Scandinavian espionage with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson. I have meant to finish the book before the movie comes out but at the rate I’m going, I think that want may be a far-fetched goal. After chunking out an article of nearly 2,000 words for work, I felt the urge to grab the book and begin…without realizing that I’ve got a mountain of History readings to finish before Thursday comes + another 6-page paper due on Friday!

I guess I’ll have to postpone, again. Oh world, I really literally need an escape. And yes, by literally, I mean: “Please let me get back to my books. I miss them so.”