Diwang Pinay

Sunday, March 6, 2011 – 2pm matinee and 7pm
and March 13, 2011 – 2pm matinee and 7pm

DIWANG PINAY: Kasaysayan sa Likod ng Babaeng Manggagawa
The Story Behind the Woman Worker

Hunter College-Lang Recital Hall
Hunter College-Lang Recital Hall
695 Park Ave.
New York, NY.10065

Buy your tickets now!!!

Since February 2010, a group of Filipino women across generations, both age and migration, have gathered weekly to create an original staged play about migration, family and resilience. Diwang Pinay follows the story of Maria, a domestic worker in the NYC area who left the Philippines to support her family by migrating only to face challenges in a new city and figure out a way to survive. See the world through her eyes as a migrant and mother.

The process of creating this original work has bestowed a multigenerational group of Filipinas, immigrant and American-born, a unique experience to write, produce and direct stories about the lives of Filipino domestic workers living and working in New York City. This production is a collaboration between Kabalikat Domestic Worker Support Network, a program of the Philippine Forum and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE)-Gabriela USA.

View the trailer, HERE!


For a very long time, I’ve been collaborating and working with Kabalikat Domestic Workers Support Network and FiRE on producing a play about the experiences and lives of the resilient and inspiring domestic workers in our community here in NYC. FiRE and Kabalikat women have not only put together a compelling play, they have also proven that academic research and cultural work via theater arts are totally viable avenues for community-building and capacity-building of women’s leadership and organizing.


This process has brought ostensibly different sets of Filipinos, women, immigrants, children of immigrants from seemingly separate walks of life, professions, backgrounds and interests and brought them together to engage meaningfully in discussion about our community’s histories of migration and resistance. And although, many of our experiences together brought us to tears it also brought us closer to one another.

Instead of polarizing us from one another, our experiences of trauma in migration and living and surviving in the US, whether it was our own or our mothers’ or our grandmothers’, gave us a platform to see how many of these systems of displacement (forced migration, racism, sexism, homophobia, imperialism, capitalism) are ordered by capitalism’s brokenness. We were careful not to privilege one struggle over anothers’. We made sure that although we experienced these oppressions differently, everyone had a seat around the table and that she was heard. We often brought food to that table and embraced one another before we left, if not only to remind ourselves that we weren’t alone.

Responsibly and respectfully, the FilAm women in this process owned the privileges they came with and further, always negotiated the space they took up, the roles and tasks they took up and figured out a good way to let their internal (class) contradictions live in the same room as the domestic workers, whose external contradictions were so obviously about class.

At the times when my Type A would kick in and I made some quick-style decisions, both FiRE and Kabalikat women were quick to stop me and get me to engage in a more collective discussion about anything and everything. It was safe enough for them to kick me and for me to be kicked.

I think I’m most grateful about the relationships that were built across and within organizations. Women were able to share their stories, to be understood more deeply and listen to others’ stories, to understand more deeply.

For our organizations, our objectives when we set out to do this play were simple, to build stronger ties between organizations and to heighten awareness about the migrant woman’s struggle. Check and check.


Because the reality is that I am a doctoral student and that I have a dissertation to write, the process of Diwang Pinay was a critical time and opportuntiy to really immerse with Filipino domestic workers. The women and their lives, are the subject of my intellectual work but, more importantly, my political work. But the academic that I am, I think that creating this play really allowed me to think through some of my dissertation analysis.

I remember, I told Candice, the director of Diwang Pinay, that Diwang Pinay was to Kabalikat as dissertation was to me. I think of the process of data gathering and analysis to be parallel to each other. In the beginning quarter of this year long process, we engaged in journaling, mapping, sculpting and talk story to build a well of stories about anything and everything–open-ended interviewing, if I may.

Then in the second quarter, we met monthly to talk more deeply about themes that came up over and again–open coding.

In the third quarter, we sat down together, all of us to start writing the important scenes we wanted to show the world, the messages that domestic workers wanted to convey about their lives and work–closed coding. In this third quarter, we relied lots on the indigenous knowledge of domestic workers about working in a new city, charting out migration patterns and more. We depended on FiRE women’s abilities to transcribe and technological dexterity to record and document the stories. This closed coding–the process of exacting the themes that were most relevant and interesting to domestic workers–also became the markers for me about the themes that could and, might very well be, the chapters to my dissertation: transitions to working as a domestic, computer technology’s significance to migrant motherhood; a “chosen” diasporic family, the need for me to go to the Philippines to interview families left behind.

Lastly, in these last few months, rehearsing the scenes, lines and images we wanted to portray felt like repetition that is bound up in trying to internalize and understand the argument in a disseration.

And although I don’t have hundreds of pages to give to my dissertation committee, I feel like that the generative elements of this production is about the logic in which we went about figuring out how to do this but also in the relationships it built–meaning that the intellectual work that I’m about to produce isn’t some removed theorization. It is based on, came from and collaborated with the very community it is about.

Lil Letter to Wayne


Georgia is taking lead from Arizona.

This makes me sad, but it also makes me wonder about how much realer does anti-immigrant sentiment have to get before we call it racism–and well, just wrong.

Epifanio De Los Santos

Context: I just got back from the Philippines. Like. Yesterday.

All of us climbed into a van headed to Quezon City, all 12 of us. As we passed by “Our Lady of Peace” and made a right onto Edsa, my sister, Alexie, asked our aunt, MamaNes, “What is that?”

She began to tell us the story of EDSA, 25 years ago. She talked about how everyone came out to the streets to let their voices be heard against the dictatorship. She remembered how she took her 9-year old daughter to the streets on one of the last nights of the protests in fear that she wouldn’t be able to get back home that night, she had decided that the rally was important enough for her daughter to skip school for. She turned to my mother and remembered how swollen her ankles were from walking so far and how big my mother’s stomach was, pregnant with my sister. She reminisced about the lightness she felt in the streets with the people there, how people and restaurants would bring food to offer it to the random strangers who held down the protest lines; and how Nanay, my grandmother, insisted on taking pan de sal, pancit, sandwiches and water with her to the rally to give out to the protesters. MamaNes remarked at the spirit of giving that held the protesters together, from the shrine to Cubao, so close to toppling the dictator that held them apart for so long. People Power. The electricity of it not only successful at ousting a dictator, but more importantly, bringing people together in unity for a purpose, to restore life.

Yesterday was EDSA People Power 1’s 25th anniversary.

In the wake of Egypt’s People Power, and Libya’s growing resistance and the resonance across the Middle East and North Africa, it is fitting to think about the consequences and lessons learned from EDSA, if only that struggling peoples can find the strength to carry out the change they have truly intended and manifested through mass mobilization.

25 years after People Power, the Philippines is bereft of substantial social services. The costs of daily goods are consistently out of the reach of common people. Peasant and landlord systems are concretely in place in a majority of rural areas in the Philippines. And when I say majority, I mean, most of the Philippines. Like, people still live in huts with no running water. Needless to say, development is uneven. Makati condo skyrises v. nipa huts. It’s like 2011 and 1950 is all going on at the same exact moment. Migration is the only option for most Filipinos and the migrant industry is the flimsy stilts on which the Philippine GDP is perched upon. To add insult to injury, most Filipinos working abroad are working low-wage jobs and are exploited and abused at an alarming rate.

A list of few among many. So these are all rehearsed and, as a matter of fact, common knowledge now. Even to Filipinos who participated in People Power 1. They all know this is how it is. These facts are actually the reasons why People Power 2 had to happen.

But the question remains, why and what went wrong? No simple answers here. And really, this question deserves a dissertation length explanation.

But for me, and my blog, and my jetlag, and you my  wordpress readers, here are some of my thangs:

People power wasn’t followed by People’s Governance

I think that the mass mobilization on EDSA 15 years ago was botched when a government and governance didn’t follow its inspiration from the outcry and demands of the Filipino people. Then, the democracy that was inserted in was influenced heavily by US political leverage that was already in place via the 1940-shennanigans aka Philippine independence. The economic decisions and strategy development leaned on foreign investors and capital. So when could the Filipino people really say what they wanted and how they wanted their own country to be run? Nevaaa.

No on asked what they needed

For a government to figure out what things they need to work on and what thing they need to start doing, shouldn’t someone do a thorough assessment of what people need and want? I’m not sure if there were any comprehensive analysis of the national needs and problems of the Filipino people. If the Philippine government published such a document, please forward it to ya girl.

“Those who look outside dream, those who look inside awaken.” Carl Jung, said that. (And I also saw it on a subway poster earlier)

I think post-dictatorship times makes all this room for civic engagement and new democratic space, but if the outlook of those who are in positions of power is towards how to compete in the global capitalist game, then things get all screwed up. Really the above quote is about those–like national bourgeoisie, land lords and ruling elites of the Philippines–who look outside–meaning to foreign and external forces and capitalists–will always be dreaming of trying to get where the big dogs are at. But really a good start could be to look inside–to the Filipino people themselves, what they need, how they want things to be run.

Ok, last thing for tonight, this outside dreamers and inside awakeners idea really resonates with me. The whole time I was in Manila, I really took notice to how much inefficiency there was in the malls, banks, restaurants. All of the places that were disguised as first world development. All of the places that looked like wannabe-American.

And then, when I was in the Visayas, in the rural areas, I noticed all the ingenuity Filipinos had in working their land, building boats, living on such meager means. Building outriggers, boats, houses, rainwater collectors, so much more, from out of what they had at their arms reach.

When Filipinos try to look outside, and be like other people, it is a hot mess. But when I saw them understand their needs, master their surroundings and build from there, wow. That’s gotta be something.

People power, man. Power to the people, cuz we did it twice. Third time’s a charm.

Arizona Wannabes

I remember a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to write my fury about Arizona banning ethnic studies from its classrooms. I thought about writing how institutionalized racism has become, how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, life and activism has become perverted to fits some diversity-colorblindness thing. And really, how sad I am about this.

Until. This.

To me what’s depressing is not only do people agree with Arizona’s xenophobic, nativist legislators, but the people that agree have influenced or are the people who run shit.

In times of economic crisis and turmoil, I wonder why the spotlight of hate has it in for immigrants. Why not Wall Street bankers who are still reaping bonuses from when they delivered the American economy to collapse? Why not corporation CEOs that continue to wreak havoc on our environment in the name of ‘green’ capitalism? Why not the governors who consistently ignore the protests against cuts that are slashing young people’s rights to education?

Trying to make sense of this mess means I’m thinking more and more about why this rise in xenophobia remains silent, lurking and deadly.

Like a guy that follows you in the dark and everyone can see him but no one gives you a heads up. (Rude!) I digress.

I think at a certain point these copycat legislation and Arizona wannabes are kept quiet because immigrants may be considered a new “Other,” an unrelatable population, people that the broader public really can’t have an affinity with. I wonder how this came about, what has brought immigrants to this place of un-relatability? So much so, that folks wanna expel them from this avowed “country of immigrants”?

Ok, that’s for the Right in this country. But the left, progressive, social justice folks may also have a hand in this. The immigrant issue is silenced because I think we have a weak analysis of framing it in terms of race and racism. Maybe we don’t want to call it that on national news reports, or write editorials calling it what it is. But why? The institutionalization of immigrant discrimination is only a new modulation of racial segregation, as immigration date becomes the new way in which human worth and value is measured. Instead of measuring blood, we are measuring citizenship. And we should all lambast this as today’s version of racism, and it should be on the television everyday, and people should be furious about it. But why aren’t we doing it?

Maybe the immigrants should turn to the birds too.

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Secrets DO make friends

Happy new year, dear blog readers!

I haven’t posted since last year, yes. Took a little break. But, no worries, here I am back to get it in, in 2011!

First post of the year, a bit about Wikileaks by the homie, Slavoj Zizek.

It’s a fun and interesting read about the whole dripping drama of secrets and lies. He even starts with a bit about The Dark Knight. Who doesn’t love a movie-made-into-reality example?

Interestingly enough, Zizek also argues that secrets and lies do make a international polity polite. The whole sensationalized epic that is Wikileaks and Julian the A., is really about a public shaming, confirming what we’ve known and tolerate and concede to. That is, capitalism is ruining everyone’s lives. Well, except for the few elites. But they know that we know that they know.

Zizek says, “What WikiLeaks threatens is the formal functioning of power.” An interesting argument he makes is that Wikileaks’ threat isn’t the information, it is the subversive and non-normative way in which Assange and his organization decided to challenge power.

Why I wanted to post this article is really to start off a discussion about Zizek’s closing sentence:

Through actions like the WikiLeaks disclosures, the shame – our shame for tolerating such power over us – is made more shameful by being publicised. When the US intervenes in Iraq to bring secular democracy, and the result is the strengthening of religious fundamentalism and a much stronger Iran, this is not the tragic mistake of a sincere agent, but the case of a cynical trickster being beaten at his own game.

What do you think, dear reader?

English Only Never Works

Nurses in central California have sued and won a case against English-Only discrimination in their workplace.

In the Center for Place, Culture and Politics seminar a few weeks ago, Bill Fletcher, came in and spoke about how racism in the US is inherently tied into American foreign policy and thus American immigration policy. And I, like most of the seminar’s participants, agreed with him.

Then I wondered why this isn’t always the way that we talk about racism in America, and especially now, what with all the anti-immigrant/racist things going around. Anti-immigrant fervor isn’t very different from racism. And although the permutation of this racism is inadvertently structural and institutional, aka immigration reform. We still gotta call it what it is.

In light of the contemporary climate of colorblindness and “diversity,” I’m happy that these nurses can claim this win.

Analog Girl in a Digital World

On the front page of the NYTimes is an article about the role of technology and student learning/teacher’s teaching. The article has an alarming affect, I was nervous about my use of the nets and computer devices as soon as I reached the bottom of page one. And then I continued. The author, Matt Ritchel, cites some neuroscientists who believes that the internet isn’t as harmful as TV and that multi-tasking is stimulating for the brain.

Nonetheless, educators in the article say that high schools are being corroded by technology, teachers are caught in the middle, as Ritchel puts it, “…computer or homework? Immediate gratification or investing in the future?”

As an instructional technology fellow at Macaulay Honors College at CUNY and someone who’s taught classes at Hunter college, I’m also in the middle. I think that engaging students’ lay wisdom of technology, their dexterity in multi-tasking and quick response could be a good platform to innovate education.

However, I also think that its harder for teachers to carry out traditional lesson plans with long reading and homework because the generation of ADD just can’t sit still. For the most part,I’m not also sold to the idea of online-ing classrooms, making face to face teaching and learning time obsolete. I’m not sure why, I don’t love the idea of wholesale giving up my teaching to the nets. I suppose education on the internet is of great interest to the neoliberal university, and the shrinking of an intellectual public is a part of neoliberal  ideology (ala Jurgen Habermas) but outside of those initial reactions, I don’t have any deep political reasons for it (but I should).

So, I’m asking you, readers, help?

Hip hop better than homework

Today, Asian Journal’s Dennis Clemente wrote a bit about why Fil-Ams aren’t doing well in school. And, it really, really sucks.

I know my last post is about the study of culture in sociology,  the dangers of its circulation and, its internalization. And voila. Here it is, operationalized to talk about me, my fam, my community, my people. Big woop.

There are a number of things wrong with Clemente’s take and the NAFFAA study, he so relies on:

1. Filipinos and the collective black

Eduardo Bonilla-Silve wrote a book called Racism Without Racists where he effectively argues that Filipinos belong to the “collective black” in the US racial order and, I would argue, the US social imagination. He goes to argue (and back up with real data, unlike the vague, unknown source of data in Clemente’s article) that racial inequality in the US persists because the liberal project of colorblindness and thinking that we’re all equal in the land of the brave, actually works off of the very racial stratification institutions choose to ignore.

We can’t ignore that Filipinos as well as other Asian Americans who are, in a sense, “blackened” (either by US foreign intervention in their countries–Vietnam, Burma, Laos, hella other Southeast Asian countries) aren’t also doing as well as the poster-child (East) Asian groups. It’s not just us. It’s a problem with race in America. It’s a problem with a global racial ideology that first migrated to the Philippines by way of US benevolent assimilation.

2. Tests don’t always measure “smart” or “doing well”

Just because young folks aren’t doing well on science and math tests doesn’t mean they aren’t good at it. Or that they don’t enjoy it. Or that they won’t learn to love it in the future and become fruitful contributors to math and science fields.

Students doing bad at tests also means tests suck. And that teaching to a test sucks even more. And that the standardization of math and science knowledge doesn’t incorporate the actually rich creativity one needs to be a fantastic mathematician or scientist.

3. Underfunded means underfunded

Hello. See the broken California school system. Goodbye.

Sunny Vergara says it better on Facebook, “Wow, this is a pretty shoddily written article because it totally asks the wrong questions. Its only attempt at institutional critique is citing statistics about retention and the declining quality of American education in general (surprise!) — nothing really about race, or class, or the reasons why U.S. public education is so pathetically underfunded in the first place.”

4. Fil-Am culture can’t be the culprit, neither can Hispanic or Black culture

I really strongly dislike the idea that being “lumped as hispanic” can be a reason why Filipinos aren’t doing well in school. I think if we are going to rely on “culture” as the answer to a problem, it is condemning different cultures to false binaries. Brown = bad. Not brown = good. And this is just not a smart argument.

Looking at culture alone removes institutional racism and structural inequality from the formulation of why youth are disenfranchised from their own education. Blaming culture lays the blame on the bodies of brown youth who are destabilized under the conditions of institutions under them that keep shifting its plates, often for more profit and less care for student welfare.

5. Hip hop IS  better than homework

The arts have been over and again proved to be essential to learning. Outside of the arts, as an educator, in and out of traditional classrooms, I’ve seen hip hop work better than homework. So if were to pick, I’d pick hip hop any day.

xveganjoshx, my fave vegan thinker said it the best, “…there needs to be a Filipino dance/MC/karaoke/graff/avant garde performance group named ‘Hiphop over Homework.'” I’d like to be a part of that, thank you.

Culture of Sociology

A month or so ago the New York Times published a piece on the comeback of the “Culture of Poverty” in research, and latently, in popular social imagination.

A month or so ago, I really wanted to write about this; my anger and frustration with the limiting perspectives in the discipline I “belong” to or am “trained” in and my fear about this rhetoric prevailing over years of other good studies of culture in sociology that have over again rebuked this strain.

And then, of course, busy ate me up.

When I posted this on my FaceBook, my comment that accompanied it was something to the effect of–“How predictable. Just when an economic crisis is settling in and aggravating lives, the idea of blaming people whose backs bear the burden of unemployment, retreat of the state and social services comes up.”

A colleague replied that he believed in studying cultural sociology to elucidate the different ways inequality outside of economic strategies.

I’ve been simmering on that comment, and the implications of this article for a month. Here are some questions that I have in a bulleted list because god forbid I write any coherent paragraphs:

  • I think studying culture in sociology is extremely important. But I can’t help but think about how culture and economy constrain each other, among other things that constrain those. I wonder why people keep separating these categories that are core in the rubric of neoliberalism. In sociology, why do we think when someone is studying economy, we’re not studying culture?
  • Neoliberalism circulates in culture. If and when sociologists study culture, in a perspective of just showing how people live, and deriving theory inductively from the data, then are we not reproducing that neoliberal culture and bottling/booking it up for secondary consumption? And more importantly, who gets to consume it?
  • When did the culture of poverty ever stop as the way governance shapes how marginalized people are treated?
  • In what way is sociology in service, intentional or unintentionally, to neoliberalism?
  • Why do sociologists, both critical and mainstream, feel like they are not?

Sometimes, the culture of sociology upsets me. But other times, most times, I feel like the potential in scholarship and education is limitless. And, yes, I’m ending on an optimistic point so that I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time in graduate school.

Harvey “Crises, Geographical Disruptions and Uneven Development of Political Responses”

Seminar 1 – September 1, 2010

For next week’s seminar, we all read David Harvey’s “Crises, Geographical Disruptions and the Uneven Development of Political Responses,” which I’m sure will be available on davidharvey.org.

I found that this reading, after a summer of turning my brain into a bowl of oatmeal at the beach, at the movies, etc., was a definitely a good way to come back to school. Here are some points that I thought were quite interesting and helpful, both politically, for analysis of the sustained crisis, and, academically, for those of us who are theorizing the crisis as it meddles and explodes in the lives of people who live in the world:

In the first part of Harvey’s essay, he breaks down the many explanations provided for why the crisis happened:

  • the failure of regulation, like state regulation in the financial sector or controls over the “shadow banking system” or regulation of “big institutions” (not really sure what this is)
  • ignoring the many warnings that markets don’t correct themselves or the hypothesis that crisis is the self-correction of free markets
  • the crisis lies in the inherent depravity of some nations and cultures, the doings of what President Lula referred to as, “white, blue-eyed and out-of-touch-male world of Wall Street”

Harvey says its a little bit of all. I think what’s helpful about this breakdown is that it get to the core of what conservatives and neoliberals point to as the root of the crisis. Of course, later, Harvey discusses the arrival of “systemic risk” in the discourse of economists trying to fix the crisis, which to Harvey, sounds a lot like Marxian analysis of chronic problem of capital–crisis. But its helpful to think about these explanations because these are the very ways politicians, still wedded to free market capitalism and authors of current racist, xenophobic policies that shape work in the US and globally, are thinking about fixing things.

Harvey then lays out a historical-geographical timeline about the current crisis which can be found here. Basically following economic insulation of particular nation-states from 1945-80, deregulation of finance capital in the early 1970’s ala Thatcher and Reagan, mobile capital and the onset of globalization, rise of international competition and a shift of power to E. Asia, effectively 2 corollaries of power that arise from that accumulation of dispossesion and the primacy of finance capital over goods, the dependence on debt and bubbles!

Always useful info, always a good reminder.

Then, he is heavy into Marx, (which I love!). “Capital, Marx insists, is a process of criculation and not a thing.”  He re-establishes in this essay that capital’s main concern is to circulate and sustain growth, aka accumulate. And in the context of the crisis he notes “potential blockages” in the circulation of capital:

  • “State-finance nexus”: the problem between finance and production capital
  • Workers organizing
  • Running out of nature to exploit (even thought Harvey argues that nature’s limits are often defined socially)
  • Labor process and laborers slowing that process down, on purpose
  • Human wants as potential barrier, the reason why capital is always in search of compound growth and innovation
  • The last one, I’m not so sure, I understand but its called “Capital Circulation as a Whole”–damn, how could that be a potential block to capital? Ahhh, I wrote capital too many times!

Ok, 2 more things.

Harvey states that, “Capital moves its crisis tendencies around geographically as wella s systemically.” And he points to how the crisis happening in particular locations didn’t affect others in some locations. For example, the burst of the mortgage bubble in So Cal, Arizona, Florida, etc. didn’t really touch Canadian and E. Asian financial institutions because the systemic dispersion of finance capital, and its disorganized organization, developed unevenly.

Last, in his theorizing about a “left alternative,” he states that the problem left movements must contend with is “compound growth for ever is not possible.” That probably sounds annoyingly decontextualized. But earlier in the essay, he argues that “tomorrow’s growth creates the effective deman for yesterday’s expanded product. The effective demand problem today is coverted into a problem of finding profitable new investment opportunities tomorrow.” He’s arguing that this logic is not sustainable.

Therefore, he recounts Marx’s “co-revolutionary theory,” a dialectical unfolding of seven facets of the body politic of capitalism, which I will not state here because its 7 more things to type.

But basically Harvey is arguing that if the identified problem is as stated above and, the currently, failings of past movements and revoutions occupy and are obstacles to left movement-building, what we need to recognize is the need for a coherent anti-capitalist, revolutionary movement. He ends his essay with a sweet thought for a Friday afternoon, “why not also say, ‘another communism is possible’?”


Migrante International

If you are or you know anyone that is a migrant and is in need of help, please go to Migrante International’s new online complaint form: http://migranteinternational.org/?page_id=1187t