Ichigo Ichie: One moment at a time

Ichigo ichie helps you discover your ikigai, or life’s purpose—because it’s only by learning to be present, to be tuned into what catches your attention and excites you in the moment, that you can identify what it is that most motivates you and brings you happiness… @ikigaibook

I used to think a lot about my future and pondering the intricacies of my past until I realised that I became in a constant stupor of some sort… The present like mere flashes of a film of someone else’s life… That’s when I realised I had to do something about it and learn focusing on each and every moment. 💛

“Ichigo ichie depends on our ability to listen, see, touch, smell, and savor every moment, doing only one thing at a time, and putting our heart and soul into it…” @ichigoichiebook

So that‘s what I did, each movement meditative bringing my awareness to my surroundings, conversations, and to the people around me. I also learned yoga during the beginning of the lockdown. Breathing exercises accompanied with movement to bring you back at present moment. 🧡

My favourite snippets of Ichigo Ichie

From early mornings walks, to making tea, having a call with a loved one, preparing meals, some considered tasks that are mundane are actually habits that are worth cherishing with our senses. This is why I became more at peace amidst this lockdown… Every activity matters as it brings us to our self grounding.

“You are your own teacher…”

ikigai #wabisabi #ichigoichie

Finding the Self through the World of Pageantry

I picked up this card on the steps of my place by coincidence year 2018 exactly on the day I was conflicted whether to join pageantry. Sometimes fate speaks to you in mysterious ways…

A Journey of Self behind the scenes of Beauty Pageantry… I used to feel shy when walking on runway shows, I feel conscious whenever I speak about my thoughts, and I feel unsure about my abilities whenever I set out to venture on something new. More often than not, on a normal day, I would stay indoors or with my closest friends before this…

“The deadlines are all piling up one after the other, as I check on my phone and pending schedules. The things that I have to do have already beaten my former lifestyle as a working student athlete. Yes, I am an aspirant, welcome to the world of pageantry.”

Pageantry is a choice for a woman to be empowered, to feel beautiful, and to have her voice heard. For someone who understands the value of these, I am honoured to partake this journey. At first, I was quite hesitant to join but that one fateful day of deciding to listen to my heart seemed to have been one of the best decisions I have ever made. My story of pageantry was also my path towards development: of learning to understand my identity and fully embracing myself. A purpose within.

“Some would even ask us upon joining the pageantry? Hey, is it even worth it? All of this? The challenges, the unknown, all these efforts…”

I say yes, not with uncertainty but with the conviction I felt upon telling myself that I will try once again, to go after a goal that has helped me in so many ways…

My abilities and confidence developed upon joining the pageantry a few years back. I learned the beauty of working with different people: on how we may have varying perspectives but it is respect that brings harmony, I gained the experience of believing in myself while trying out activities that the introverted part of myself would never be inclined to do so, and most importantly, I am graced with the opportunity to have my voice heard along with the rest of the ladies to share my story to the world, in my perfect time, a safe space…

“I was a child abuse survivor at the age of five, and it took years for me to recover and heal. But because of the people who stood by me, I have been able to fight it. I will always be grateful for I was able to take back my strength, my rights, my dignity, and my pride.”

The violence and abuse of women has been going on for a long time. It can happen to you, your friend, your sister, or your mother. It happened to me. I realised early in my life that I can be the voice and support of all women. To be the voice for those many sidelined and abused because of who they are… I want to be the very inspiration of these young girls and women. Because we share the same experience, I learned to be brave and to have a voice for them, for us, and for myself…

For over three years, I have been a volunteer for LoveYourself- a community that aims to empower and create ripples of positive change to every individual. Its community of volunteers provides free services for sexual health, mental health, trans health, and more importantly, women empowerment.

Being a part of LoveYourself also made me feel whole ever since, they respected and loved me for who I am, and as an HIV awareness Counselor I was able to guide individuals and couples to be responsible. I also became a founding member of We Stand for Women, Transcend, a transformative arm of LoveYourself for Women programs and initiatives in the Philippines. We aim for women empowerment and support for positive growth against any form of abuse. Through this initiative I get to work alongside empowered women seeking to empower others.

“You are not alone. As women, your story is my story, our story… Di ka nag-iisa. Bilang mga babae, ang kwento mo ay kwento ko. Kwento natin.“

Speak up because it is your right. Speak up because more voices mean more voices to be heard. Speak up because someone is listening. We are here to help women find their voice so that they too, can transcend beyond their hurt and above their pain.

“And most of all, speak up in order to inspire and change your life and others for the better.“

At the end of the day, one constant lesson that I learned more through pageantry is that peace only comes from within, through loving others and ourselves. The way we sincerely connect to other beings even amidst a competition of any sort that is. We are sentient beings that deserve love and respect.

~End

https://loveyourself.ph/asha-gutierrez-a-founding-member-of-transcend-by-loveyourself/

https://malaya.com.ph/index.php/news_entertainment/taguig-throws-full-support-behind-asha-gutierrez/?fbclid=IwAR37wLlcI6AYxFy7_cyGIj3RhWML4Od-KnrXXybXchq6N6QDEmAPWWYDpcc

https://malaya.com.ph/index.php/news_living/boosting-trans-health-service-delivery/?fbclid=IwAR3dJib-suUOCNFHLp_k4H8aZSc7PB7cPdUxQL6Ldumynu-VhbQ0PZeB1OM

My look for Gala Night for Miss World Philippines 2021

The Women’s Baths by Ulfat al-Idlibi

Rewritten in a postmodern technique of magic realism:

Our household was troubled by the uncanny: my grandmother, who passed away last week at the age of seventy, still exists within our presence. Her voice is still imminent amongst the whispers of the wind. As the leaves of the Black Mulberry tree make subtle movements, her laughter emanates from the sounds of the tiny bells hanging from the low strung branches of the ancient tree. Everyone was afraid—my mother the most given that she always antagonizes my grandmother by refusing all her puny requests, my father now avoids going to his chair under the Black Mulberry tree, and our maid won’t go to the restrooms at night anymore. Everyone is afraid with my deceased grandmother except me. For me, she is an endearment, a treasure who inspires my calling.

Grandmother is a strong-headed woman. She does not take no for an answer. She insists on taking a bath at the start of each month at the public baths as she requested for assistance of our maid. My mother, appalled would say, “but the market baths has been destroyed more than decades ago!” To which my grandmother replies, “It is gone, only to those who think it is gone.”

I enjoy waiting for my grandmother to go home from her imaginary visits from the baths, she tells me such lively stories about the colorful ambience of her visits from each bath. The baths were made of silver tiles, the maids were gentle water nymphs, and the warm water in the golden tubs were covered in vanilla musk and luminescent Jasmines. The bath was owned by the Goddess Atargatis, a beautiful mermaid who welcomes all Syrian women to pamper themselves alongside her. It did not matter that is was not real—as my mother objectively points out every time she shakes her while overhearing grandmother’s recount on her experience, even when it was more beautiful than any other realistic imagery.

Three days before grandmother passed away, she bestowed upon me a gift. It was a large wooden trunk filled with silken linens called Damasks. Surprised, I gasped when she gave me this box because she always polished the box and never lets anyone touch it. From the linens, she produced a bundle of red velvet embroidered with pearls and sequins, white towels lined with silver thread, and a wine-colored bath wrap decorated with golden stars. These were all magnificent and they were mine to keep. That day, I felt like I have won the lottery with my new acquirement of linens.

I still remember our last evening with grandmother. She sang me a song from my bedside chair. As my eyes began to close she said, “In your dreams, you will always find me, my dear child.” I could not stop thinking about this as days passed by. It was an enigma to me that I would not solve. What dream? Why find me? Grandmother did not scares me, instead, she intrigues me.

One day, I woke from a silent whisper brushing my ears. Wondering, I yawned while looking out of my window. The sound seems to be coming from the Mulberry tree, as the whispers rustled amongst its leaves so I carried my shoes on the way outside and crept outside silently barefoot as not to wake up anybody. As I went out, the whispers became stronger. It was not just a whisper—it was some kind of chanting coming out of the tree. As I approached, there were glowing embers of petals on the path as it led to a door I never noticed before. My curiosity urged me to enter to a place that might be just a figment of my imagination, or even my insanity.

There were little orbs that lit up the passageway inside. They were beautiful—glowing balls of fire levitating above the ground. The air underground was also cooler I noticed as my drops of perspiration vanished. The explanation to this revealed itself eventually when I heard a splash. The corridor ended with a golden chamber. In the center was a statue of a mermaid. It was made of diamonds except for her ruby set eyes. I touched them, and with a click the statue moved slowly to expose to me a view that was unbelievable: grandmother’s description of her favorite baths. The floor was golden and there were baths made of silver tiles on the hemisphere of the hall. I can smell the strong Jasmine scent as its petals floated on the smooth flow of the water. At the end of the hall was a waterfall and below it sitting with a serene smile on her face was the most stunning woman I have ever seen. She looked exactly like a breathing replica of the mermaid statue.

Everyone around me was smiling while the unwinding chants resonate around with the warm fragrance of the petals and musk. There were water nymphs everywhere—beautiful and gentle they enacted the role of bath maids as they crooned a soft chanting melody. “This is the sound that woke me up!” I thought. They were pouring vanilla musk oils on the people enjoying the baths. One water nymph approached me and asked if I can give her my robe. Baffled, I looked down and to my surprise saw that I was wearing the wine colored bath wrap decorated with golden stars, the one that my grandmother gave me. I whispered, “This is my grandmother’s…” To which the maiden nymph replied with a smile, “Yes, she is here. She has been waiting for you…” I followed her, my heart beating rapidly.

Grandmother was sitting in one of the baths, her head rating on the edges. She was smiling in a way that made her seem like she got everything she ever wanted. In short, it was a look of pure contentment. “Hi dear, so you have finally decided to visit!” she greeted me with her eyes closed. The pool of water was filled with the scent of Jasmine and musk. I closed my eyes as I inhaled the sweet tantalizing scent. That’s when I decided to sit beside the bath with her.

The bath was owned by the Goddess Atargatis, a beautiful mermaid who welcomes all Syrian women to become assured with their own femininity against the harsh obligations of the real world. Here, everyone is allowed to do whatever they please as long as it does not result to hurting another being. Now, I finally understood why grandmother insisted on visiting this place. It was an escape from the harsh realities of one’s existence. This was a place of freedom, self-identity, and peace. I told her, “I want to live here forever,” to which my grandmother opened her eyes and replied, “No dear. This is a place that needs to exist within you at all times.” She then gave me one of the floating petals. She pressed the blossom on my palm and touched my forehead. “Goodbye, dear. Remember everything.” as she sent me back to my own realms.

Thus, I woke back on my bed. The usual state of my room: strewn books on the floor, the windows opening, to let in the wind. I was shivering, in my cold dark room. Unfortunate as it was, the alluring of the whispers from the outside was already gone. The floating orbs under the Mulberry tree have vanished as well. Alone, I peered from under my bed sheet covers and began to question my own sanity. Being in a dream has never been this real before I pondered. If only, only, there is one thing that can make me believe…

A gust of wind, and I smell it again: Jasmine. I pulled back my covers quick and sat on my bed eyes wide open. That smile. The dream. And then it was there, luminous, peering between my fingers. The truth that I needed. The same petals in the fist of my hand. A tangible dream worth believing…

~End

(Written on March 2017)

Travel Bliss

Travelling helps us reflect on inner bliss, a contemplative empathy for others, and a yearning to become more spiritual with oneself and the world. In the video that I watched, “Japanology: The Shikoku Pilgrimage,” By Peter Barakan, I was impressed with the path’s serene and calm enlightenment. It made me want to experience it as well for the sacred chants and the visits of all eighty-eight temples bring about a time to reflect and contemplate about one’s life. It is actually called the path of awakening. For me, this is the preferable excursion as it teaches us more about ourselves.

I had a similar experience of spiritual reflections a year ago, I went to Vipassana, a practical technique that teaches one how to lead a more positive, balanced, and peaceful life. It was founded by Gautama Buddha which he passed on and taught to others the ancient techniques of meditation as an “Art of Living.” Vipassana means to see things as they really are.

In this camp, we were not allowed to talk for ten days straight, use gadgets, communicate with others, read books, write anywhere, or do any sort of distraction. We had to take silent sits along with other spiritual seekers for hours without moving as much as possible or standing up. The purpose was so one can focus from within. It was really effective. I believe that this was one example of a spiritual opportunity during my travels. Travelling lead to self-reflection that teaches humility, the acceptance of other people, and the efficiency to change.

Reading the Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred by Phil Cosineau supported my strong leaning towards the state of travelling while finding spiritual peace and understanding. In Phil’s trip to Cambodia with his brother, he was able to experience highly emotional encounters such as meeting a Buddhist nun. It moved him given that he felt that she was in some way suffering but in my opinion, she was actually at peace with herself. He described this encounter as an embodiment of the god of inexhaustible compassion. In travelling, I have met numerous people who gave me a similar kind of feeling. It is some sort of inner connection with other people that changes and links us forever. Human interaction, when in-depth, is exceptionally important.

The sense of wonder and the gratitude in learning so much was prevalent in his travels. “In the uncanny way of spiritually magnetised centres of pilgrimage, I felt a wonderful calm exploring the derelict pavilions, abandoned libraries, and looted monasteries” (5). Travelling is about finding these snippets of bliss from the unusual corners of the world.

To travel is to see the world, (to feel, smell, and sense it in every way) to travel is to keep promises, (to yourself and to others) and to travel is to experience life in its spirituality as one moves forward. (or more so, to live in the beauty of the present) Such as the pilgrim who travels to shrines and holy places. “Pilgrims are persons in motion—passing through territories not their own—seeking something we might call completion, or perhaps the word clarity will do as well, a goal to which only the spirit’s compass points the way” (14). Travelling it the act of removing the feeling of emptiness within and towards the liberation of the self.

(Written on October 2016)

Essay on Robin Hemley & Mohezin Tejani

Reading Hemley’s essay, helped in grasping one’s cultural consciousness and its present undergoing change due to modernity. “Before we left for Manila again, Pakoran’s daughter Susan handed Laurie a short essay she’d written in her native language. Laurie had asked Susan to write the essay, not because he wanted to encourage her as a budding memoirist, but because he wanted to see how much Ilocano (the language of the lowlanders) had infiltrated the local Bontoc language—many words, it turned out.” Asides from that there were other things that were changing in Guinaang—the people’s beliefs or perceptions.

There was a quick-witted tone in which he hears about Guinaang and how they behead people, the grotesque stories he has been hearing about. However, he was able to contradict this tone when he almosts got beheaded by a wire himself. Hemley has a way of making his stories both frightening and funny. His synchronous style of writing showed the ideals of the economic and personal despair that was happening in Guinaang, that the development is being integrated but not properly, that the people are slowly decaying such as the old tattooed lady and Pakoran with his spirits. In this place however, the acceptance of life and death prevailed. In this travel, Hemeley had an experience of being mortified by this. “It seemed somehow infested with mortality and I didn’t fancy myself a connoisseur of death. I wanted to go back to my land, where my people recover, where they never die.” The Guinaang’s chanting and calling of spirits declared their acceptance and respect for their own culture and with death itself.

His descriptions about nature made the essay discernable. “The road climbed steadily through the pine forests. The mountains, deeply grooved with the few ridges but many drop-offs into abysses of varying degrees, shot up at formidable angles from the valley.” Reading this kind of style about recounting and writing nature views is a rarity for me. He has a way of making one envision the place through simple yet effective words.

There is a captivating method in which Hemley’s story portrays his characters. He has the ability to make them realistic. He personalizes them with their flaws and values at the same time. Such as Pakoran for he has the uncanny skill of a storyteller yet he lives a life of an alcoholic. There is this way of his that makes it horrifyingly comical, “Pakoran, dressed in a G-string and a short sleeve shirt with a collar, plunked himself down in our midst, flush with good cheer and Ginebra San Miguel.”

I also found a great significance upon reading Mohezin Tejani’s Fruits of Childhood. His perception of Africa as his home brought me a sense of recalling the beauty of nature and home. “The sun’s warmth, after the heavy dawn shower, has brought plants and insects to life.” His description about his childhood in Uganda captured his longing for nature and its effect to his being. His memories were a call from his painful and wonderful past, as he tries to contemplate on his homesickness as he travelled around in Thailand with his friends. “Missing Africa always depressed me, so I decide to go along with them to break free of nostalgia’s black hole.” He tries to find a sense of belonging even from far away. “My yearning for Africa is forgotten, replaced by a multilingual chatter and the green scenery rolling by.”

I can relate to what he was trying to say, the idea that food can actually bring back memories of your home and your childhood. When I read this, “The simple growth of seeds has the power to animate memory, to unify past and present.” I envisioned the place where I grew up right away. The time when I was out all day: laughing, playing, and being carefree.

I lived in Parañaque and our garden had three large aromatic mango trees. The smell of this fruit, whenever I smelled it, brought me back to my younger days. I have gotten flashbacks of running down to our small hill, carrying sticks, and climbing the trees so that I can read a book on top of the shady comfort of our mango tree. I would stay there for hours, oblivious to what was happening from below. I had my own world up there, usually getting lost in one of my Harry Potter books. Just like Mohezin himself, I had memories in my childhood that made me feel sentimental and away from the outer world. I go back in time with a magical sense of wonder and amazement. “Give me the smell of a childhood flower, the taste of a forgotten fruit, and Zap! I am back to the land of my birth, back to the patch of grass we called our soccer field, and the constant drone of cicadas in the banyan trees” There is this perception that everything before was like a fairy tale story: captivating, astonishing, and yet far away. His yearning for the fruit, gave me the realization that in a sense that it is not the fruit itself that he wishes for but the memory of being back home again, or more so, the feeling of being young and happy again. Whenever I sense a scent from my childhood, I tend to remember my strongest emotions and then I begin to remember what it was like before in detail.

When he finally found his Jambura homeland fruit in Thailand as “luuk wah,” I became conscious that each of us yearns for the feeling of home. A place where we belong. A place of family and being a member. “The assistant passes the bowl to my friends who, again, find the taste not to their liking. I couldn’t care less. I am back in Uganda, on a dirt road across from my house, playing games with my childhood friends in a jambura tree. We are playing “tree-tag” among the high branches.” This correlates with my own experience whenever I see an ‘Aratiles’ or a Muntingia tree, it makes me relive all my childhood memories with a warm feeling that makes me smile. I still remember its cherry-like shape as it rolled on my palm and its sweet succulent taste. I would close my eyes with an inner tone of delight. I still see my childhood buddies as they waited for me to climb down the tree and give them some of the little treats. This is how our senses bring us back to memory. They have a power to recall our joys, our pains, and our pasts. It is enabling enough to remind us that each one of us should always aim for this feeling of serenity, unwinding, and bliss. “Africa, it seems, is still deep within me, despite thirty years of globetrotting.” This short story, I daresay, is about finding one’s sense of home away from home.

Written on November 2016

Gender Studies: Finding One’s True Identity

Gender studies allow us to rethink and reshape our lives.

It enables one to question and understand the existence of terms like “sexuality” and the history that they possess. It creates a sense of openness towards each individual through education. To respect each individual despite the differences they may have; it is where they learn to accept diversity as the norm of today and help create a future of inclusivity.

Discovering different aspects of ourselves helps us piece together our identity. For example, “What or who do we truly desire?” This question should be answered in averse to the ‘biased’ perspective of certain constructs. As Blumenfield and Raymond assert, “Sexuality as more than merely a behavior but is rather an aspect of personal identity which strongly influences the ways people live their lives and view the world at large. The term “heterosexual,” “homosexual,” and “bisexual” are then, labels which refer not only to sexual behaviors but also to the persons who engage in those behaviors” (77).

Such is the importance of having a strong sense of identity for one’s self. Through finding one’s identity, it is easier to positively define and perceive oneself. Michael Tan confirms that the medicalization of homosexuality is a modern ideal (203). Learning this enables us to realize that it is a social construction and therefore be careful about what it claims to be true. This opens up the eyes of the public to the misconceptions that society has created towards the idea of homosexuality. Also, discovering this can help homosexuals feel if not at home, but at least safe within their own society. Without the perceived notion of believing that there is something wrong with them, they are given a chance to live a better life.

Gender studies give us the opportunity to explore different depths amidst our own familial, cultural, or social expectations. To realize what it can be to tackle or understand one’s own identity and personal gender preference. As Garcia said, “Good or bad this is truthfully — this time truth is a provisional and more persona’s fiction — how gay life in this neocolonized world ought increasingly to be seen” (xv). Our own identity should never subordinate to the viewpoints of the society in itself. Genders do not merely tackle one’s gender. It reflects one’s own experiences regarding race, ethnicity, class, and globalism. To see ourselves as part of the community and gain feelings of belongingness and motivation.

It is one’s right to be respected and hopefully, accepted by the other. Gender awareness is important given that it teaches us to realize that each gender has its right to exist. Such as the Filipino gays who are mocked and derided as a lesser being called, ‘bakla.‘ This makes the word into a derogatory lesser meaning. They are even considered as a funny joke or an amusement. Apart from that, gay existence has become an inherent problem to others due to religious beliefs of misconception. Michael Tan expresses this concern, “In society such as the Philippines, we face a double dilemma where religious dogmatism condemns what used to be “normal” (not necessarily normative) behavior as sinful” (209). The coming out process of the gay, thus, becomes a challenge due to prejudiced constructions.

This highlights the importance of gender awareness. Its benefits will pave the way for future generations to be more open-minded. The Philippines and its traditions can well be prosperous with both not only economical but also spiritual while simultaneously accepting gays, lesbians, transgenders, and other genders. Our country is adamant in its beliefs such as having a head or breadwinner in each home, the man, while the woman takes care of the children and does tasks at home. By better educating the youth today through gender studies, our future can be much more liberal and non-restricting, a vision of an accepting Filipino community.

(Written in the year 2017)

References:

Bergman, David. Homosexual Discourse. University of Texas Press, 1991.

Blumenfield Warren and Diane Raymond. Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life. Beacon Press, 1993.

Garcia Neil. Philippine Gay Culture: The Last Thirty Years. University of Philippines Press, 1996.

Tan, Micheal. “Sickness and Sin: Medical and Religious Stigmatization of Homosexuality in the Philippines.”

Ladlad: An Anthropology of Philippine Gay Writing. Anvil, 1994.

Robert Hass: On Poetic Relevancy

Robert Hass in his book Twentieth Century Pleasures: Prose on poetry essay emphasizes the importance of what is necessary in poetry writing. In the chapter named “One Body: Some Notes on Form”, he argues that everyday experiences and practices are the most efficient to use on one’s own writing of form. He induces that the schema of one’s own perception is what actually matters when writing. “Though predictable is an ugly little word in daily life, in our first experience of it we are clued to the hope of a shapliness in things” (56). 

Hass tells that poetry forms made him remember the moments in which the life phrases of children accentuates the power or sense of daily sequence with one’s own perception on things and events in life. He exemplifies the point in which babies look around when they first came home from the hospital with protruding eyes that seemed to want to absorb everything around them as a way of recognizing themselves. Here, Hass tries to prove the idea that there are strong feelings of wonder and repetition which each newfound experience. It is, actually, the psychological basis for the power and necessity of artistic form.

Further showing the idea of one’s own recognition of surroundings Hass says that, “One would gradually have the sense that looking-out-of-the-eyes was a point around which phenomena organized themselves; thinking this is going to happen and having it happen might be, then, the authentic source of the experience of being, of identity, that word which implies that a lot of different things are the same thing” (57). He says that the first experience of form is the experience of one’s own formulation. Examples given that demonstrate this thought is firstly the poem “The drunken boat” by Arthur Rimbaud because here the persona imagines his own perception on what Europe is like.  The other example would be “The lost son” by Theodore Roethke because he depicts the natural elements into portraying another meaning by using his own point of view.

            Hass focuses not of poems about form but instead focuses on thinking about the form of the poem and the shape of its understanding. He concludes that it is the shaping itself that becomes the equivalent of the poetry presence. Because the tone and the imagery alone cannot compromise without this presence of understanding. Hass points out that the play “The Sphinx’s Riddle” made by Oedipus was an example of lacking this significant concept. Oedipus was able to narrate with a well tone and show images yet was not able to have an occuring poem because of its lack of perception of being a part of the idea/story that the persona should support. “In this poem, he found an interesting perception, an important perception, but the stance has thrown him off himself. He has not found for himself the form of being in the idea” (59). Here, he was able to explain as to why the poem did not exhort the feeling of being seen or felt.

Hass has the belief that the sense of form should be both the echo of that experience and a clue to the larger rhythms of a possible order. It means that it should be original yet it should be clarified as to which perception it was derived from whether from himself or from someone else. “It seems to me, rather, that we make our forms because there is no absolute continuity, because those first assurances are broken. The mind in the act of recovery creates” (63).

In regards to form, he first brings about the value of seeing or perception over the the musicality of the poem along. Hass said that, “Meter has the authority of a profound formal order. I think the human voice without music required it; otherwise it was just individual noise in the universe” (67). He refutes the idea that musicality alone makes a poem worthy. Stanley Plumly criticized that contemporary verses prioritize tone just like Browning did in his dramatic monologues. However, these were not monologues but are stories made by the poets based on their own lives. This shows that tone has the capability to indicate one’s own personality.

Pin on Poets and pOETRY

In regards to images, Hass expresses that images have the competence to make a memory alive, “Images are powers” (303). It is a relation to one’s own perception or the ‘individual revelation’ in which the physical components become images. It is the representation of one’s experience properly from what is happening in one’s life. It is what keeps writing alive and memorable.

Hass recalls on the stories told to him by a deceased old friend as he noticed that the stories in itself created power for it gave him a better understanding of his friend’s totality of being. The stories made Hass think that, “It seems to me that we all live our lives in the light of primary acts of imagination, images or set of images that get us up in the morning and move us about our days” (303). Images are the claiming of this trait in which it is both a recreation of the conscious and the unconscious. It is the making of stories from what can be seen from the world. Such as what Buson did when creating lasting meaning in imagery, by capturing the necessity.

Images make a story concrete. They give a strong impact to the readers because of the nostalgic concept derived from them. Images create a sentimental retention that creates a lasting effect. “And it is something like that, some feeling in the arrest of the image that what perishes and what lasts forever have been brought into conjunction, and accompanying that sensation is a feeling of release from the self” (275). This strengthens the idea that readers vote for the poignant strong imagery because of its eternal facet.

            Images create balance between the sense of being arbitrary and being a fact. An image that is connected to one’s own experience and expressed by using metaphors or relating your story from another story. Here, it creates a greater impact of imagery and understanding. An example of this was the commentary of Buson about the life of poetry, “The high stage of my dream hovers over the withered fields is impossible for me to reach” (276). Buson refers to the writing and experience of another writer named Basho whose poem also talks about a similar sensation:

   Sick on a journey,

my dream hovers

    over the withered fields

Here, Hass shows that Buson’s work creates a strong emotional effect as he used a sense of incompleteness of existence and its capacity to create a better image. “It is one of the conventional phrases of seasonal reference that almost all haiku contain. It identifies the time as late fall. Here it also means, I think, “the traditional phrase ‘withered fields.’ ” His dream wanders in the world and in the poem indistinguishably” (277).

            Upon reading the essays of Hass, I realized that writing poetry is not as simple as it sounds. You cannot just write it without creating a structure first. You need to have the awareness of form and proper imagery as well while connecting to yourself and to the other’s perspective. It is about making art from your daily experiences. You cannot create a work that lacks musicality and concrete perspectives of one’s own experience.

~End

Amazon.com: 20th Century Pleasures (9780880015394): Robert Hass: Books

Written on: July 2016

Plato’s Republic: A Dialogue of Ethical Politics

             Plato’s Republic focused on the argument of what constitutes the being of a good person. It also tackles the definition of Justice and reflects this question on both the political and personal aspects of a human being. His strategy was to develop ideas on the primary notion of the ideal society, politics, and justice while deriving comparisons on individual justice. Up until now, Philosophers and other scholars still study and write about Plato’s observations and debates. As a Literature writer, I find his theories enlightening and helpful.

            Plato inspects in his dialogue the question: “Is the just person happier than the unjust person?” and “What is the relation of justice to happiness?” In these two central questions of the discussion, Plato’s philosophical concerns in the dialogue are both in the ethical and political facet. 

            Plato wanted to define justice and to define it in order to show that justice is of great importance. He was able to do this by a definition of justice that appeals to human psychology, instead of recognizing behaviors. His questions were: “Why do men behave justly?” Is it because they fear societal punishment? Do the stronger elements of society scare the weak into submission in the name of the law? Or do men behave justly because it is good for them to do so? Is justice, regardless of its rewards and punishments, a good thing in and of itself? Justice is always accompanied by true pleasure. Justice becomes desirable for it offers a just life of order and harmony. Justice is good because it is connected to the greater good, which is the Form of the Good.

Student Work Summary of Plato's Republic-Book VIII ...

            In Books II, III, IV Plato establishes justice like the one that maintains harmony in a political body. A perfect society has three classes of people—the producers, the warriors, and the rulers. A society becomes just when the relations between the classes are right. For this to be possible, each group must perform its proper function, and each must have the right position of power. To be able to this, the rulers must rule fairly, the warriors should protect respect the notion of the ruler, and the producers should implement the skills given to them for the benefit of the society.

Justice then, seems to be a concept of profession: a principle that each class should fulfill their role given to them and to not interfere in other roles.

            Plato emphasized here that to understand human beings, one has to be aware of the three parts of their being: the rational part, the emotional part, and the appetitive part. This was his way of making an analogy of the human soul.

The appetite is considered the largest aspect of our tripartite soul. It awakens our desire for pleasures such as eating, drinking, or engaging in a sexually gratifying activity.

It is important given that these desires are what keeps us alive: we need to eat to be alive and we need to propagate for the continuation of our human existence. Plato considered this to the sole part that needs money in order to satiate one’s desires. To control this, reason or rationality is needed to balance harmful excessive desires. The Republic by Plato explains the human person’s attributes and its relativity on their motives to act upon something.

Historical Context for Plato's Republic | The Core Curriculum

Modernism over Colonialism

Ananta Pramoedya Toer’s “This Earth of Mankind”

            “This Earth of Mankind” is a story that speaks of the conflict between modernism and colonialism amongst the Dutch and Indonesian relations. A story consisting of  both the rapid change and the stagnant ideals of the characters, it is a story that conflicts on the issues of power: gender, sex, and humanitarian rights between the Natives and their Colonizers. The protagonist, Minke, becomes the narrator of this inequality as he becomes a victim of an unjust constitution that favors the Dutch over the Natives. He becomes a vigorous character as he notices not only the faults of his oppressors but also the ineffective demeanor of his own people, including himself. “I am sure that everyone will know how I felt at that moment: angry, furious, annoyed, but not knowing what I had to do. In such matters I was still a snotty-nosed little boy” (328). In the end, even with his integrity in writing, noble Javanese ancestry, and adequate education he was powerless over the Dutch just like the rest of the Natives.

            In the first part of the novel, Minke admires the Europeans and Americans. There is the notable education, machinery, zincography, and the many latest discoveries that they have to offer him. He is in awe of the technologies and other conveniences that are being created for the humanity. Here, he ponders on the meaning of what it means to be modern. “Modern! How quickly that word had surged forward and multiplied itself like bacteria throughout the world. (At least, that is what people are saying) So allow me also to use this word, though I still don’t fully understand its meaning” (18). This excerpt shows the naïvety of the protagonist as he has yet to understand that these benefits have their drastic drawbacks: that the colonizers offer these commodities in exchange of taking over them, getting more capital, and acquiring power.

            This favourable tendency of Minke towards the Europeans instantly changes upon his meeting the Native Nyai Ontosoroh and her beautiful half-breed daughter Annalies Mellema. From here, his change of perception evolves into a tripartite perspective: The Natives, The Dutch, and himself as an individual who depends on both parties. He began to have a change of understanding on gender as he observes the superiority of the Nyai. “She was amazing this nyai: The people and everything around her were indeed in her grip, and I, myself, too. From what school had she graduated that she appeared so educated, intelligent? And she was able to look to the needs of several people at once, with a different manner for each” (49). Minke observes the magnificence of Nyai Ontosoroh as her demeanor contrasts her identity as a female Native concubine. She debunks his ideology that women, especially Native women, are illiterate and dependent.

As Niekerk observes, To some extent, the novel develops its own vision of gender, tries to conceive of the role of women in society differently, and eventually seeks to translate its findings into an ideology” (86). Nyai becomes an antithesis of such weakness as she does her best to overcome Dutch Indonesian’s system of discrimination and inequality through her hard work, grace, and intellect. Modernity becomes imminent in this part of the story as Minke’s ideals change into a more feminist approach. “I could not restrain my curiosity to know who this extraordinary Nyai Ontosoroh really was” (74). Nyai’s distinctive characteristic even stimulated him to write about such a phenomena in his newspaper article work.

However, contrasting the ideals of her own actions, Nyai Ontosoroh refuses to let go of her identity as a concubine and a slave believing that it is for her own betterment to accept her place in the society. “The wounds to my pride and self-respect still haven’t healed. If I remember how I was so humiliatingly sold . . . In this, let me be the only victim; I’ve already accepted my fate as a slave” (94). Nyai Ontosoroh, tries her best to defy the society’s negative label towards her yet she also fails to perceive herself as a person who is worthy of everyone’s respect and acknowledgement. She becomes an example of modernity’s ineffectiveness towards colonialism. Niekerk asserts, “Eventually the reality of being the property of a colonialist, of being primarily a sexual object, will catch up with her” (84). Her own sense of modernism did not guide her to strongly reinforce herself against the colonialist’s power of labeling her as a concubine.

Religion will always play a big factor on one’s strong sense of idealism. It is one’s faith, one’s belief on how things should be done, as dictated by a higher calling or God. Therefore, most deem that it is one’s main duty to follow this. Modernity can become a futile thing besides such a belief. A scene that I found most appalling in this novel was the scene when Herman Mellema’s legitimate son Maurits Mellema confronted his father with harsh criticisms about his preferred life in Indonesia:

  “Even if you married this nyai, this concubine, in a legal marriage, she is still not Christian, you, sir, are still more rotten than Amelia-Mellema-Hammers, more rotten than all the rottenness you accused my mother of. You, sir, have committed a blood sin, a crime against blood! Mixing Christian European blood with colored, Native, unbeliever’s blood! A sin never to be forgiven!” (99).

Herman Mellema’s reaction to this accusation towards him was to become stupefied, speechless, and numb. Defenseless to his son’s insults, he followed after him, and left Nyai’s home. After this scene, he withdrew himself away from Nyai, who in his eyes is now a reminder of his shame of being unacceptable and wrong. Because of this scene, I believe that one’s religion can become a contradiction to one’s sense of modernity or ability to change one’s perspective. Herman Mellema was unable to change his views about the nyai as she is never considered pure in his own religion. This powerful belief was harshly reinstated to him by his oldest legitimate son.

The unprejudiced law becomes another barrier of modernism in the novel given that the laws were made out of greed, solely benefitting the colonizers. During the ending, the novel bends towards an agonizing twist, as Maurits continues to haunt Nyai, claiming his ownership over her property after Herman Mellema’s death. Given that he is of pure European blood, unlike the Indo Native Nyai Ontoseroh, the Dutch government resided all of the possessions to him. During the hearing Nyai fought not only for the ownership of her land but also for her ownership to her only daughter, Annalies. Nyai refutes the Dutch with her sentimental but accurate argument:

 “Nobody ever challenged my relationship with Herman Mellema. Why? For the simple reason he was a Pure-Blooded European. But now people are trying to make an issue of Mr. Minke’s relationship with Annelies. Why? Only because Mr. Minke is a Native? Why then isn’t something said about the parents of all Indos? Between Mr. Mellema and me there were only the ties of slavery and they were never challenged by the law. Between Mr. Minke and my daughter there is a mutual and pure love…. Europeans are able to purchase Native women just as I was purchased. Are such purchases truer than pure love? If Europeans can act in these ways because of their superior wealth and power, why is it that a Native must become the target of scorn and insults because of pure love?” (287).

However, her arguments became futile for several reasons: She is a female native concubine asking the seats of Dutch power to change their laws for the sake of equality. The Colonial Power shows its dominance to the Natives by silencing them with threats. This was also shown in the novel. “We’ve been defeated, Mama,” I whispered. “We fought back, child, Nyo, as well and honorably as possible” (359). Colonialism and its law wins over righteousness. Modernity becomes pointless in this perspective.

However, in the end of the novel, Minke has revolted against the Europeans. This is unlike the former Minke who once admired the Europeans with innate excessiveness:

“Is this how weak a Native is in the face of Europeans? Europe, you, my teacher, is this the manner of your deeds? So that even my wife, who knows so little about you, lost all belief in her… This Earth of Mankind little world—a world incapable of providing security even for her. Just one person” (358-359).

            Because of this understanding, a recognition of liberty appears before the future of the Native Indonesians. Minke’s renewed sense of nationalism becomes heightened due to the inequality that he went through. The succeeding sequel of this novel emphasizes on revolutionary ideas and motives. Colonialism, only then, becomes a fragile idealism, as people with strong character and reason voices out the many wrongs of Colonialism towards the entire wronged population. This becomes the efficiency of modernity. “…modernity is the result of a process of modernization” (81). Modernity  becomes a new way of thinking towards independence.

This Earth of Mankind by Pramoedya Ananta Toer - Reading Guide ...
This Earth of Mankind

Note: Written on July 2017

Sa Aking Panalangin

A Concept of what it means to be a Filipino…

              For my great Southeast Asian novel, I choose the Philippines as my designated country. I want to write about my own country through the lenses of the Filipinos who are struggling with poverty, crime, and injustice. I hope to exhibit these problems in a way that is profound yet ambivalent at the same time. I will immerse the characters of my novel into dealing with the realization that it is only within themselves that they can start changing. I also want to show the behaviors of Filipinos that currently affect the country in a positive and a negative way.

              The title of my novel is Sa aking panalangin”  It is translated as “In my prayers” in English. I selected this religious phrase given that religion is a huge aspect for most Filipinos. The title becomes an argument throughout the story given that the characters would choose to pray for their own problems to go away instead of finding a solution for themselves. The problem was always directed toward an external cause.

                The main protagonist is  Mahal, a young woman of nineteen who deals with poverty, discontentment, and unachievable dreams. She aims to change her nationality. She hates that she is a Filipino for she believes that it hinders her success. “Kung sana lang ako ay pinanganak sa Amerika o kahit sa Japan. Mas maganda sana ang aking kinabukasan. Kahit saan mas mabuti na, basta hindi dito.” The novel tells the life story of the protagonist and yet it is mainly congruent to the state of the Philippines as it reflects on its inability to change and improve for the better.

             The first chapter talks about the protagonist Mahal. She was named Mahal or ‘expensive’ by her parents because she was born in a hospital, a costly unavoidable situation given that she was born prematurely. She grew up usually hearing her parents complain, “Puros gastos ka na lang simula nung pinanganak ka….” Growing up, she recounts the depressing situation of living in Lanao del Sur. Food was not a problem but education and proper employment were scarce. At the age of sixteen, she ran away with her paramour, Ian to Manila. They aspired to work and save enough money so they can work abroad. As Ian passionately said, “Alam mo naman di ka magiging masaya dito. Puro gulo at away na walang solusyon ang nagaganap dito. Walang pag-unlad, pati ikaw mahihila pababa!”

               However, hating your own country becomes a reflection of your identity. This hate indicates the inability of accepting oneself. Mahal was able to experience this dilemma upon talking to a white girl from Sweden during her work as a cashier. She said, “Pagtingin ko sa salamin, nakita ko ang katotohanan: ang aking pagkatao ay walang sinabi sa kanyang kagandahan.” She started to excessively use beauty products. She aims to change her appearance to match the desired Western or European beauty. In my novel, this also becomes a metaphor for the present state of the Philippines as we depend on external support from other countries.

                   The plot of the story starts when Mahal catches Ian selling drugs in Tondo. He argues that this will help them earn enough money to migrate. Things got worse when Ian was caught and shot during a drug raid. Arrested and taken in as a prisoner, Ian was given a chance to redeem himself from fewer years in jail if he can name his comrades. In an act of pure betrayal, Ian names Mahal as part of his illegal drug trafficking operation.

               Spending time in jails is a terrible experience—but the impact is emphasized in the Philippines. I have been inside Muntinlupa Bilibid Prison before. This experience changed me as I realized how hopeless everything seems from the inside. Some men were even shackled with neck braces, while their limbs were chained as well. Their eyes were cast downwards while staring into empty spaces. This inspired me to write something about the situation of most Filipinos, the disregarded tales that no one bothers to look into.

               Mahal’s ability to change her perspective towards hating her country becomes a challenging possibility for me. Unfortunate countless events seem to follow her in her own country. However, she seems to remember her identity as a Filipino during her stay in prison. As she reflected on her childhood, “Marinig ko lang ang tunog ng motorsiklo, masaya na ako. Naiisip ko pauwi na ako sa aking tahanan, si Papa humihilik at si Mama nagluluto.” The familial loving trait of Filipinos is widely portrayed in this scene, as she reminisces and appreciates the memory of her parents back home.

              The core of my novel is the essence of acceptance, of seeing the ceaseless beauty amidst the despairing reality of the Philippines. Her name, Mahal, morphs into ‘Love’ over its supposed ‘Expensive’ connotation. As Mahal celebrates after her three year release from jail, “Kung alam ko lang dati, na lahat naman ng bagay ay may ganda at gulo.” She decides to go back to her homeland as she positively brings change to her community. This novel is a story of nationalism, family, and redemption. It also tackles issues of politics, religion, and relationships. The character Mahal becomes a metaphorical symbol of the Philippines. In the end, her country is her home— a place that she needs to nurture and grow.

File:PHILIPPINE FLAG WITH SKY BACKGROUND.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Written in August 2017