Archive for June, 2008

Filipino-Canadian

We were watching Star Search a few years ago when I pointed out to my kids that one of the young contestants was a Filipino. My middle son, who was about six or seven, quickly quipped:

Him: No, he’s American. He’s from Chicago.
Me: Okay then, he’s Filipino-American. Much just like you are Filipino-Canadian.
Him: But I’m Canadian, mommy. I was born here.
Me: That’s true, Ryan. But you are also Filipino because me and daddy are from the Philippines. And just look at you. I know you are not as dark as your brothers and me and daddy, but you look Filipino.

And I think that’s when we started going to Folklorama. To introduce them to our heritage and culture.

The other day, my youngest son, who’s ten, was telling me how they were talking about Canada Day (July 1) at school. So I thought I’d check with him if he still understands that he’s Filipino-Canadian.

Me: You know that you’re Filipino-Canadian, right?
Him: Yeah.
Me: Let’s say your teacher asks you why you’re both Filipino and Canadian, how will you explain it?
Him: My parents were born from the Philippines and then she moved here in Winnipeg. Then she had a baby. And that baby was me.
Me: Wait, why did you say “she?” You have two parents.
Him: I’m just talking about you.

I thought I’d have more fun with him. So I asked him another question.

Me: How are you different from other Canadians?
Him: What do you mean?
Me: Okay, I’ll make it simpler. How are you different from your Canadian friends, like Blake or Mitch? Give me three answers.
Him: Okay. I don’t think Blake knows Tagalog words, but I do.
Me: Let’s see what Tagalog words you know.
Him: Kulangot, puwet, buhok. (Booger, bum, hair)
Me: But Ryland, those are gross words, okay maybe except for the last one. Give me another answer.
Him: I eat rice everyday. I don’t think Blake eats rice. Also some Filipinos eat with their hands and they don’t.
Me: Oh, you mean how daddy sometimes eat with his hands? But Canadians also eat with their hands when they eat French fries or chicken strips or something like that.
Him: Also, we go to church. I don’t think my friends do.
Me: Okay, that’s three. Very good. But you know, some Canadians also go to church, right?
Him: Can I tell you one more?
Me: Sure.
Him: The colour of my skin.
Me: That’s very good. So you understand why you’re Filipino-Canadian.
Him: Yeah. But mommy, why is it Filipino first?
Me: You mean why not Canadian-Filipino instead?
Him: Yeah.
Me: Mmm. Good question. But you know how they say African-American or Italian-American? I don’t know. Maybe because it sounds better.

I was stumped. So what do you think guys? Does anybody have a better answer?

June 29, 2008 at 2:53 pm 5 comments

Undying love, delusional love, parental love and an unplanned pregnancy

Since the TV season has ended, I’ve had the chance to catch up with movies on my must-see list.

Let’s start with some of the recent DVD releases:

Love in the Time of Cholera

I thought I’d give this book a try even though I had a hard time finishing Garcia Marquez’s other book, One Hundred Years of Solitude. I read the first couple of chapters of Cholera, painstakingly and then I learned that they were filming a movie based on this book, so I abandoned it. I thought that I’d just wait for the movie to come out. Okay, so I rented the movie and now I don’t quite get what’s so great about the story. There’s this guy, Florentino Ariza (Javier Bardem) who fell in love with this lovely girl, Fermina Daza (Giovanna Mezzogiorno). But her father didn’t approve of him because he was only a telegraph operator. He kept the two apart and Fermina later on married a doctor, Juvenal Urbino (Benjamin Bratt). For fifty years, Florentino stayed in love with Fermina, but he had been sleeping with other women. “To ease the pain of his love for Fermina,“ he said. To ease the pain or was he just being horny? 🙂 Warning: There are a lot of nude and intercourse scenes. What did I tell you? So please, somebody convince me that the book is a lot better than the movie, before you give me a beating. Then maybe I will pick up the book and start reading it again and maybe finish it this time.

Lars and the Real Girl

What can I say? I love Ryan Gosling and I think he’s really good in both drama and comedy.

Lars and the Real Girl is a funny but heartwarming movie about Lars, who is very shy and pretty much keeps to himself. One day, he brings home his fiancé, Bianca. The thing is, Bianca came out of a big wooden box. And she’s not alive. She’s a life-sized inflatable doll, and she’s anatomically correct. Lars’ brother and sister-in-law suspect that there’s something wrong with him so they consulted a psychiatrist who told them that Lars has a mental illness – delusion. They are told to go along with it. Later on, the entire town also goes along with it. I love the character development towards the end.

My favourite quotes:

Dagmar: It’s such a comfort sometimes, just to have somebody’s arms around you. Don’t you think?
Lars Lindstrom: No.
Dagmar: It feels good.
Lars Lindstrom: It does not feel good. It, it hurts.
Dagmar: Oh, like a cut, or bruise?
Lars Lindstrom: Like a burn. Like when you go outside and your feet freeze and you come back in and then they thaw out? It’s like that. It’s almost exactly like that.
Dagmar: Same with everyone?
Lars Lindstrom: Uh, not really with Bianca. But everyone else.

Reservation Road

I tried to rent this movie on the first week that it came out on DVD. But Rogers Video didn’t get copies only until recently. I don’t know why this movie didn’t get as much buzz as I think it should have. It’s probably because of the review that I’ve read on Rotten Tomatoes. “While the performances are fine, Reservation Road quickly adopts an excessively maudlin tone along with highly improbable plot turns.” I looked up maudlin in the dictionary and found this meaning – tearfully or weakly emotional; foolishly sentimental.

Well, I didn’t find Reservation Road tearfully or weakly emotional, though I agree that it is such a heartbreaking story. It is about two fathers. Ethan (Joaquin Phoenix) and Dwight (Mark Ruffalo), the son of one was killed in a hit and run accident. The story follows the agony of one father and the grief his family has to go through after the death of the son. It also follows the guilt of the man who run over this boy and how he is torn apart. He wants to turn himself in but that also means that he’ll lose his only boy.

Yes, I shed a tear or two, but I wasn’t crying the whole time. Powerful performances from Phoenix, Ruffalo and Jennifer Connelly, who played the victim’s mother. Dakota’s little sister, Elle Fanning also stars in this movie. She’s good, too.

Juno

I’ve only read good reviews about this film and I like it too. It’s a sweet story about sixteen-year old Juno (Ellen Page) who finds out that she’s pregnant – the result of a one-time sexual encounter with her friend Bleeker (Michael Cera), in the infamous chair. What would you do if you were in her shoes?

At first she thinks of abortion, but she couldn’t get through with it when Su-Chin convinces her that the fetus already has fingernails. The next option is to give the baby up for adoption. And then find suitable parents for the baby. And so at only 16, she’s already making adult decisions. As she goes through her pregnancy, she understands the adults in her life, a lot.

My favourite quotes:

Vanessa Loring: Your parents are probably wondering where you are.
Juno MacGuff: Nah… I mean, I’m already pregnant, so what other kind of shenanigans could I get into?

Dad Mac to Juno: In my opinion, the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you, the right person will still think the sun shines out your ass. That’s the kind of person that’s worth sticking with.

June 21, 2008 at 5:44 pm 7 comments

At the elevator

It was a cold winter morning when I saw Karen Ridd, one of my former supervisors, at the lobby of the building where I work.

“How are you this cold morning?” I said.

“Good. How are you?” she said.

“I’m fine. Thank you,” I replied.

Then from around the corner appeared Ate Ces, holding a cup of coffee.

“Oh, hi Cat,” she said.

“Hello. Early morning coffee, eh?” I said. “I think I’m also gonna need one today.”

The elevator opened and we all went in. And so did another lady I didn’t know. Just before the door closed, Ate Lits came in.

Aba, ang aga mo yatang nagsimula ngayon,” she said. Yes she was talking in Tagalog.

“Oh, I start at 8:00,” I said.

Hindi, siyang kinakausap ko,” she said, pointing to Ate Ces.

And then they started this conversation on how Ate Lits had been decorating her cubicle with Christmas decorations, still in Tagalog.

You have to realize now that there were five of us in the elevator. Three Pinays (female Filipinos) and two whites.

I feel awkward talking in my native language when there are non-Filipinos around. I don’t want them to think that we are talking about them. But then, on the other hand,I don’t have a problem with people of other ethnicity talking in their language if I am around. But I think if you are in a business place, such as the office, or a more confined space, like the elevator, it’s not, I don’t know what word to use, appropriate (?).

I remember one incident a few years ago when there were three of us Pinays in the washroom. Ate Lits was also talking in Tagalog at that time. I pointed out to her that there were other people around. I think she said that she didn’t care. She’s more comfortable talking in Tagalog and we were in the washroom anyway.

There were a bunch of us Pinoys that used to eat together at the cafeteria and we talked in Tagalog. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that because it was just us, all Pinoys.

When Ate Lits is at her workstation and she’s talking to a Pinoy co-worker and there are non-Pinoys around, I think she talks in English.

But the elevator incident, it didn’t look right to me.

What do you think?

June 14, 2008 at 6:42 pm 15 comments

There is a Season

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~ Maya Angelou

I have finally finished reading “There is A Season: A Memoir,” by Patrick Lane. I started reading this book back in October, but I got really busy with work when I was halfway through the book and I sort of abandoned it. Sometime last month, I picked it up again and continued reading from where I left off. I do my reading in the bus while commuting to and from work. There was a time when I thought that I couldn’t read in a moving car or bus because it makes me sick. But on our road trip to Alberta last summer, I figured out a way how to make it work for me. I just have to hold the book upright so I’m not looking down. Because it’s the looking down that’s making me feel sick. Besides, it’s getting more comfortable sitting in the bus now that there’s more room in the seats without our bulky winter jackets.

I first heard about this book on the Vicki Gabereau show when Lane was on. Lane is an award-winning Canadian poet. He was an alcoholic. He went to a treatment centre after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and when he came out, he spent a year in his garden writing about his life and his drug and alcohol addiction. As he digs in his garden, he uncovers bottles of vodka everywhere. When I watched that show, I told myself, I want to read that book. I have already read Angela’s Ashes then and I related to Frank McCourt’s story because like his father, mine was an alcoholic, too. And now, I want to read the life of an alcoholic from his own perspective.

Lane is a gifted poet. And reading his prose is like reading a poem without trying to figure out what it means. I don’t have much tolerance for poems. His narration of his past are just as vivid and as colourful as his description of the plants and the interaction of bugs and animals in his garden.

Here are just some of the excerpts in the book to give you a few examples.

I remember the bag of oranges breaking and the bright fruit falling. I can see my brothers running down the path in front of my father as the oranges bounded on ahead. They laughed as they followed the golden balls, picking up one and then another from among the fir cones and needles, desiccated ferns, and stones. I wanted to be with them. I squirmed in his arms and he laughed a great laugh and took me in his two huge hands and held me out in front of him. I wriggled, desperate to be put down. My brothers were far ahead of me on the path. They were stuffing oranges into their ragged shirts.”

The birds ignore me as I cut the fallen leaves of the Japanese iris at the edge of the pond. The leaves splayed outward on the water are like the long hair a woman throws forward to dry in the sun. How beautiful the neck of my woman when the sun touches her hidden flesh. The irises have already begun to push up their first green spears. They’ll bloom in late spring, a spray of startled blue. They have no beard, just a thin stripe of gold on the curved petals.”

Lane writes about how his parents were both alcoholics. His mother gave him sips of whisky or beer when he was a small child and his father let him finish his last inch of beer. As a child, his body already craved alcohol. He also writes about how his brother died of cerebral hemorrhage and how “in his youth and confusion, he had nowhere to put his grief.” His brother’s death was followed by others and he turned to drugs and alcohol to escape the misery of life.

I’ve always wondered how my father became an alcoholic. Did his parents introduce him to alcohol? When did he start drinking? Was it just brought about by going out with his kumpares (friends) to these inuman (drinking) sessions?

There is this period of time that I wish I could go back to. This was the time after my father suffered a stroke. He was paralyzed from the neck down. I had been here in Canada for a little over a year. I came back home to see him, maybe for the last time, I thought. He was sent to his hometown in Atimonan, Quezon to be looked after by a cousin. I was staying in Manila then but I went down to Atimonan to spend a week with him before I flew back to Winnipeg. Only a week, when I was there in the Philippines for two months. I wish I could have spent more time with him, reminisce about the happier times of my childhood, get to know him again. Because I haven’t really spent that much time with him since he and my mother separated when I was 12. And maybe I could have asked him all these questions that were in my head. But I was distracted at that time. I was then struggling with a long distance relationship and I was trying to renew my relationship with a man who also loved his kumpares and his alcohol. But I didn’t realize it then. It was only years later after following the Dr. Phil show that I understood why I was with a man who was like my father.

It’s hard to lift myself out of the past. I find I have to go back with a will toward remembering and so understand not only why I was alcoholic and sick but also who I am now that I am sober.”

When I remember the past it is alive and it is as if it is dreaming me. Without the past I can’t learn to live in the unfolding present. This bit of history called the new millennium wants to forget, but forgetting means having to repeat everything that came before. While the past can be a burden, it is also a gift out of time. The clear moments of memory must be understood. It is only then they can be let go.”

Like Lane, I also find myself remembering the past, for the same reason that he states in his memoir. Yes, the past can be a burden, but at the same time, it helps me understand why things were the way they were, why I am the way that I am.

This morning I found a full mickey of vodka tucked under the corner of the deck in the shade of the overhanging viburnum. My hands shook as I picked it up, doubly so because it was full. The weight of the clear glass bottle, its shape, the colour of its red cap, and the dense swirl of slight oiliness in the liquid made me feel I was holding an old and trusted friend. It was all I could do to carry it into the kitchen, break the seal, and watch the alcohol chug slowly down the drain. It was like watching both ambrosia and poison vanish at the same time. How my body yearned to drink it and how, at the same time, it rebelled against the thought.”

I know my father also tried to give up alcohol at least a couple of times after my mother left him. How hard he tried, I don’t really know. Because as soon as we thought that he’d change, there he was again out with his buddies and he’d come home drunk and wasted. I do understand now that alcoholism is a disease. It’s just too bad that at that time, treatment centres were not available yet back home.

I am withdrawing from the scourge of forty-five years of drinking. Two months ago I stumbled into a treatment centre for alcohol and drug addiction. Now, I am barely detoxed. Standing here among the swordferns my senses seem to be thin glass, so acute at their edges I am afraid I will cut myself simply by touching the silicon edge of a bamboo leaf.

There is something about Lane’s struggles that connects with me deeply. No, I’m not an alcoholic or drug abuser, nor was I ever one of those. The healing process that he went through is so familiar to me. In a way, I am also going through a healing process and I also feel that vulnerability. There are many other things in his life that I can relate to. I wish I could share them all here, but this post is already getting long. Maybe some other time.

Why do I keep writing about my ugly past? Why am I airing my dirty laundry? Yes, I’ve written about it a few times before. Isn’t that enough? But I come across these stories and I find a connection with them. These stories inspire me to also share my own story. I know that there are others who can also connect to my story.

I begin to understand that when things fall apart it doesn’t mean they’re broken, it means they are forming themselves into other things.”

And I guess that is the message that I am trying to get across. Things change, so don’t lose hope.

By the way, gardeners might also enjoy reading this book because Lane describes his garden so beautifully and his gardening in such minutest detail.

June 8, 2008 at 3:06 pm 7 comments


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