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Thu, Mar 08, 2001 06:22PM -0600

I spent much of the week basically retagging journal entries, rewriting stylesheets, and figuring out makefiles. You won't notice much of a difference and sometimes I wonder why I bothered, but hopefully it'll make things easier in the future.

I've also been helping Julie with the maganda magazine archive. There's nothing there yet, but we hope to have it up by April. What is maganda? Well here's a link to the old site, which hasn't been updated for nearly five years now. It was still up the last time I checked. Maganda is a student run literary magazine at UC Berkeley featuring Pilipinos and Pilipino Americans. It is one of the few on-campus publications that have run continuously since 1990. Besides contributing, I've done copy-editing, layout, and I was managing editor for issue 11 my senior year at Cal. It's really not until now that I realize how much I miss it, and how I really tend to read every thing with an editor's eye. Well, you know what they say, those who can't write edit. But it really brings up my career crisis into sharp relief. I know it's possible to fuse a literary career with a career in medicine. But the question is, is it possible for me? The two guys I'm familiar with who have done it seem like pretty extraordinary individuals (Louis-Ferdinand Celine and Jose Rizal) and at times like this, I wonder if I'm just massively deluding myself. Best not to dwell, I suppose.

Anyway, reading all these old issues have made me think about my cultural identity again, and what it means to be Filipino. And I get all poetophilosophical. Is ethnic identity supposed to be normative? If not, what is the importance of ethnicity? I ask this because I've always felt like I've never fit in. It was really brought to my attention last night, when someone randomly IM'ed me. Like I've mentioned before, my ICQ nickname tends to attract attention for some reason. Anyway, it was really neat, conversing partly in Tagalog and partly in English, and I realize that it's not exactly typical that, 2nd generationer that I am, I feel pretty comfortable with it. It takes me a while to get warmed up, and I probably don't have a fluency level much higher than a Pilipino fourth-grader, and my cousins in the Philippines always make fun of me (they say I talk in slang, meaning I don't have a good grasp of grammar, and my accent is atrocious, and I talk in indirections a lot.) But I think I feel more at ease with it than a lot of my 2nd gen peers. Not to say that I haven't met any 2nd gen'ers who know how to speak Tagalog, but usually they've spent some a lot of time in the Philippines, so they've learned it in it's natural environment.

But the point of it is this: I'm obviously not 1st gen, not even a 1.5'er, and not even a ex-pat (slang for "expatriate"--you'd be surprised how many 2nd gen Filipino Americans are in med school over there). So it's kind of ludicrous for me to pine for this mythic past in the homeland. Not to mention that my mom's family is hyper-Americanized, maybe as far back as my grandfather's generation. These are true believers of the American Dream. Despite my cynicism, I really can't deride it completely. And my dad really doesn't keep good contact with his family. And yet of my stateside, West Coast, 2nd gen kith and kin (there are really only five of us), I'm probably the most comfortable with being in the Philippines.

On the other hand, I can't say that I have a lot in common with my 2nd gen peers. Obviously, you can take stereotypes only so far, but it's not much of a reach to say that whatever you think is a stereotypical 2nd gen Filipino American, I'm not it. I probably have more in common with the truly assimilated, in the sense that I'm a believer (OK, more of an agnostic) with regards to Western Civilization and its traditions and such, but on the other hand, I've always been aware of the tragic history of My People„¢, and the sacrifices that my parents and relatives have had to make, and the racism that they've had to face. I am standing on the shoulder of giants.

So I sometimes blame my mishaps on truly being in-between generations, born on the wrong side of the ocean, and not savvy enough to fit into the mainstream, whether as a color-blind American striving for that Dream, or a person-of-color forged and molded by oppression. A man without a country, without a tribe. How can someone like me leave his mark?

In any case, this regurgitation of personal history has rekindled my interest in world history, and sometimes I marvel at the fact that Filipinos scarcely mention Spanish history at all. The Empire that was Spain has pretty much been swallowed up by Time, maimed mortally by the British and finally euthanized by the U.S., and the mass amnesia isn't limited to just Filipinos. But it's interesting to note that, almost always, the conquerors were once the conquered... Even the U.S. suffered ignoble defeat at the hands of the British in the War of 1812 (despite the creation of the national anthem), with Washington D.C. burning to the ground. Spain started off as a colony of Rome, then a tributary of Islam, and ended up being the conqueror of the Americas and of the Philippines before slipping into dotage. Britain was once the extreme edge of the Roman Empire, brutally subdued by Julius Caesar, then conquered by the Anglo-Saxons, and then the Norman French. Rome was a peripheral city to the vast Greek Empire that splintered in three, a puny city-state of little importance. So you see, you can't trust revolutionaries all the time. They may claim to strive for freedom in the beginning, but power abhors a vacuum, I guess. Within the blink of an eye, the oppressed becomes the oppressor, and at times like this, I wonder if anyone really believes in freedom. No, that's not true, the world isn't as horrible as that. But the people who actually stand up for freedom usually end up dead of unnatural causes.

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