Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hey Jealousy 2007

Hey Jealousy 2007
Originally uploaded by TheBosslec.
Went out on the town last night with some cousins from here and from back home. We spent some time at a bar called Absynthe in Makati's Greenbelt area where they serve, unsurprisingly, absynthe for Php450 a shot. After my cousin Blake let himself into the DJ booth and "MC'ed," we moved on to Heckle and Jeckle, sort of an ex-paty bar near the Makati Red Light District.

The band at Heckle and Jeckle was playing laid-back versions of your favorite 90s alt rock. We were there late enough to catch the band getting drunk people to sing on stage to "compete" for "free tickets to Hong Kong." After a couple girls who were far more drunk than I was went up to sing, I took the stage and delivered Hey Jealousy 2007 which, let me just say, was pretty good for having a scratchy throat from screaming at people in the bar and a few drinks. It was so good that girls even came to talk to me. Real girls. And in the Philippines, that's actually an operative distinction.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Productivity in the Tropics

So I'm sure you've heard of what I call the "it's too hot to work" thesis that suggests countries in the tropics suffer from a lack of development since the climate is not conducive to exerting one's self. In the Philippines, the "it's too hot to work" thesis was in full operation during the American period where the more temperate mountain city of Baguio was seen to replenish the energies of American soldiers who had to toil in the lowlands. I'll spare you the details, but you can read about it in Warwick Anderson's Colonial Pathologies.

In any case, being on my own has -- at least for the past three days -- amplified my productivity. I've been going to UP a hour earlier, staying an hour later, and leafing through really dusty documents with a roll of tissue paper to sop up my allergy-induced archive snot (I will recount to you Jose Rizal's encounter with American tourists tomorrow). I've also been calling up people like crazy to set up interviews. Tomorrow, I'm going in again to do a few library searches for books I can't check out myself, but would look good on a wishlist.*

But today, I shoved all the old Rizal books to the side and konked out on my desk. Then, after I woke up, I shifted upright, put my feet up on a plastic chair and fell asleep again. And then, I went back to sleeping on my desk. I think I napped for about 20 minutes in total and while I was slightly embarrassed, everyone else in the office was asleep either at their desks or on the little couch we have in the research area. Those of you who know of my exploits in the SSRL (and Zimmer and 008) wouldn't find this little fit of narcolepsy out of the ordinary, but I consider it a prize for having read a bunch of Social Democratic Party documents and sneezing all morning.

But I have been making some significant headway this week with interviews, research, and clarity of thought that I think is the result of having been here for two months and finally getting a sense of how the history of the past thirty years played itself out and how people have tried to fight the Marcos and then cope with the very awkward democracy that followed. Part of doing fieldwork well, I guess, is staying awake. Part of the rewards for doing good fieldwork is a nice nap. And in the tropics, it's arguably more comfortable.**

As a nerd and an introvert, I'm inclined to engage in trivial pursuits that I think are best captured in the Chilean slang term for "nerd": "girasintornillo" literally someone who turns a screwdriver without a screw. My aunt's apartment is cavernous compared to where I was living on Ives Street last year and with only me here most of the time, I find myself plunking out the notes to Chicago's "Will You Still Love Me" on my aunt's piano so I can challenge myself to sing the song without straining myself. If you recall, after Peter Cetera left Chicago to start his solo career, Jason Scheff took over as bassist and singer in 1985 because, well, both of them sing like they have no balls. But, Jason has maybe a sliver of a ball because he doesn't sing like he's inhaled helium which equals me only having to hit an A above middle C in my chest voice and then "smoothly" singing the notes higher than that in falsetto.

If my aunt's neighbors remember anything from this month, it'll be the lyrics to "Will You Still Love Me." If I remember anything from my trip to the Philippines, it'll be how I sat on the toilet every morning trying to support my breathing while taking a crap, just to see if I can do it. And, of course, since I don't know how to support my breathing very well (but oh do I know how to take a crap), crap comes out of both ends of me. And there ends this entry's scatalogical metaphor.

* My appointment at the Third World Studies Center hasn't been processed yet, but even as a fellow I'm not allowed to check books out at the library. At least I won't have to pay Php50 every time I go in.
** Though it's finally raining here.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Roxy Contemplating Her 3rd Birthday

Roxy Contemplating
Originally uploaded by TheBosslec.
I'm all moved into my aunt's apartment at Rockwell in Makati. She'll be gone for about a month and so I'm to enjoy my "independent living" as she calls it. She'll only be back for two weeks after that, and then she'll be heading off to Italy for three weeks, so it looks like I'll be back here (or will I even leave at all?)

Anyway, today we celebrated my niece Roxy's 3rd birthday. Maybe since I haven't been to a little kid's birthday party for years, I don't know what's "in" anymore, but apparently you don't eat the cake after you blow out the candles, nor do you open presents in front of your friends. Roxy's sort of a funny kid too, very aloof at 3 years old. She took, well, a couple months or so to warm up to me, but now we're buds.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Number of Presidents Met: 1

I stayed at my grandma's house today, my last day before I move to my aunt's apartment in Makati for the duration of her time in Peru (about a month). I got up with every intention to blog about the past two weeks -- Baguio, basketball with my cousin, etc. -- but of course I decided to watch Animax and half-read Benedict Anderson's new book, Under Three Flags.

This afternoon I went to an art exhibition at St. Scholastica's Archive-Museum by Cory Aquino, former president of the Philippines. Quite a few "distinguished guests" were there: Cory, of course; her son Noynoy, a senator; Manila mayor Alfredo Lim; etc. (or in tagalog "atpb.") As usual, with this socialite shit I felt out of place and I was happy to be a fly on the wall, but it turns out that my aunt is good friends with Cory Aquino's first cousin, so she introduced me to Cory's daughter Ballsy (I kid you not), to Noynoy, and then to Cory herself.

I was able to tell Noynoy and Cory about my dissertation topic, broadly described as "middle class politics," to which both suggested there aren't any middle class politics. Cory's response was interesting. She talked about her husband's assassination and how he hardly knew that his death would bring thousands to the streets and catalyze a revolution. Similarly, she said that no one had told her she would become president, then added that she hoped she'd be remembered for having improved democracy (clearly) and stepping down when the time was right, she said with a bit of a knowing smile (jabbing at GMA). The people at EDSA, she said, weren't thinking about class, but they were acting spontaneously, acting in the name of all Filipinos. She then suggested I go to the Aquino Museum in Tarlac.

The concept of spontaneity seems to be cropping up a bit. I had it in my more complicated formulation of my hypothesis that got bogged down in too much temporal theory. I think I've settled, though, on the idea that events happen and people come to grips with their occurrence with theories, explanations, etc., of which middle class theories are one. It does jibe with my assertion that class does not inhere in anything -- economics, culture, etc. -- without interpretation and expression.

But anyway, granted that Cory and Noynoy had more important people to talk to and that we weren't in an interview setting, I was a little disappointed about their approach to the middle class. I guess I was expecting at least a little more abstract thinking about the topic, but I didn't expect them to deny the middle class had a role, even when the "best" analyses of the EDSAs pin the middle class squarely in the middle (ugh, terrible sentence) of those protests.

I talked to Sister MaryJohn Mazananas, the prioress of Saint Scholastica who was a rather radical nun during martial law, spending time with the NPA, trying to educate her fellow sisters, joining arms with the left in the streets, etc. She was pretty intense and she talked about how the Philippines is undergoing de facto martial law, what with the extrajudicial killings mostly against leftists and the new terror law.

So to conclude, I met a president, she was gracious, I was humbled, and nuns are pretty serious. Also, I ate a lot of sushi -- the best part of these society events.

I want a taco. Hard-shell or soft, U.S. or Mexican, I just want a taco. I saw someone selling tacos on the Ateneo campus the other day, a student stand. It was a folding table with a few taco shells, still in the plastic. I think there was a small pot on the grass next to him, ostensibly filled with taco meat. He had clearly not sold anything in awhile, slumping in his folding chair, fanning himself. I thought the thing looked dubious, so I didn't indulge.

So tomorrow, I'm going on the prowl for a taco. A good taco. A good taco in the Philippines. I expect something good since there were links between Mexico and the Philippines during Spanish times, though I think the taco arrived here with the Americans. In any case, history will not matter: only tacos will matter.