Thursday, July 30, 2009

women and battery.

Emotional abuse is perhaps the most common form of abuse that women suffer from and yet, we wouldn't even acknowledge that it is there. That it is real. That our own partners are sometimes doing it to us. We think that it is normal that our spouses sometimes lose their temper, insults, tease, and/or isolate us. Or is it really? Normal, that is.

In Dutch society, it is quite normal for women to talk straightforwardly (to the extent of being abusive) to their partners. This kind of behaviour is equated with "emancipatie" (emancipation). If you talk rough, you are stoer (tough). If you are tough, you are emancipated.

And so, some Western women have this idea that Western men who marry Eastern women are weak and weaklings. They can't handle the liberated Western woman, therefore they have to find a subservient wife that they can boss around. And where do you find these women? In what they call, " Third world countries" where women seem desperate to get out of their miserable state.

To some extent, this is probably true. I observe western men married to Filipinas to be more manipulative, controlling, aggressive, even insulting sometimes. There are Western husbands who do not allow their Eastern wives to take care of the finances at home. They have to ask for allowance from their husbands. And they have curfews!

There are also those men who blame, terrorize, and demand. Whether intentional or not, this kind of behaviour leads to repeated incidents so that verbal harassment becomes "normal."

As years go by, the abuses become more severe, destroying the very core of a person... her self-image... her self-esteem.... her self-confidence. These women begin to feel insignificant, unlovable, unworthy, and they think that they deserve to be punished and blamed whenever something goes wrong. Some even suffer from panic attacks.

Indeed, how do we counter the negative messages that we receive almost everyday? How do we protect ourselves emotionally from our abusive partners? How do we minimize the impact of the abuse if we are subjected to constant yelling, intimidation, criticism, and being ignored most of the time? We can turn the other cheek or accept defeat or interrupt the flow of painful thoughts by being kind to ourselves, BUT at the end of the day, we know that we are too exposed to the abusive person to even hide or run.

As educated as we are, our logic dictates that we deserve to be treated well. We know that a disregard for one's feeling has a deep and profound effect on that person. But what do you do when you are trapped in this kind of relationship?

I wish I knew.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

highland people.

Netherlands is a very flat country. Having grown up in a city where the Sierra Madre mountain range of Luzon ends, I plead guilty for longing for the mountains every now and then.

This reminds of a story.

Once, I was hiking somewhere in Benguet. I met and saw many Igorots. I wondered why Igorot men could squat for hours and hours on the roadside, doing nothing... saying nothing. But they all do this certain movement once in a great while. They would face the mountain ... almost yearning for something... and they would welcome what seems like a whisper from the goddess of terraces. As an outsider, I never really understood this mountain culture.

My friend Cheryl is and has always been proud of her Igorot heritage. (Our friendship has nothing to do with my search for Filipino identity though.)

While I could trace my ancestry 4 perhaps even 5 generations back, Cheryl.... well, Cheryl's ancestry probably goes as far back as the Lakays and Apos... maybe, even Lam-ang himself! I envy her.

I wonder if it were possible to make a claim that people like myself embody the idea of a people of the world unified to function in a single society.... or as in my case, a single body. You know, globalisation in one person. lol... I am afterall part Spanish, Chinese, Mexican, Indu-Malayo-Polynesian. I am what you call, a Filipino. Or is this globalization phenomenon purely for economists and journalists?

A former colleague once told me (during one of those many coffee breaks we had! lol) that it was not enough to be a native of this country, to call oneself a Filipino. He also added that it is not our claim that our national history had shaped our identity because our colonial experience unified us as one. The term our referring to lowland Christian people.

Such colonial experince which probably had a nominal impact on our tribal mountain brothers. Note that I used nominal and not minimal. You see, nominal means insignificantly small whereas minimal means smallest in amount and degree.

These highland peoples who were involved in tribal wars, and not our revolution.... our political upheavals... our Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo..... such nacional development influenced by alien cultures. And yet we are too proud to make that claim. That we are the Filipinos, and they....? They are the Igorots.... the Kalingas... the Agtas..... the Tagbanuas..... the Mountain people. Or is that really the case?

Most of all, what struck me about the Igorots is that: their music and dance movement, and even weaving design haven't changed through the centuries. The tapis I wore to Cheryl's wedding, is still pretty much what Igorot women wear these days. And mind you, that wedding was back in 1991.

As for the mountains.... their gods and goddesses will protect them. Like they always did.

Monday, July 13, 2009

MJ and the Dutch

People are still talking about him. Television talk shows are still airing old concert tours; his life's work, analyzed by everybody. Music stores are still crowded with fans, rushing to get a copy of this-and-that dvd. My sister-in-law even spent more than 3 hours deliberating on the life and charity works of Michael Jackson last Saturday.

In this country where freedom of speech and freedom to be heard are held sacred by everyone, the passing of Michael Jackson and his life's work became the perfect venue to have something to talk about.

On April 30 this year, there was an attempt on the lives of the Royal family members. Eight people died, including the guy who was behind the wheels. It rocked this tiny European country. People were shocked; some were angry, some were apathetic, and others were scared.

I was not here then, but I can imagine that it gave the Dutch people every reason to have something to ponder and wonder, and talk about.

You see, Dutch by nature, are caring but cold and distant. They like to talk about trivial matters, yet they never take the time to stop and really talk. Or at least, that's what they try to project, and how I perceived them to be.

BUT when there is a threat to the Queen's life...... or someone like Michael Jackson died, talking becomes easy for everybody. So easy infact that anyone can be an expert on the subject. Some even give extensive reports on his psychological state. Claiming this-and-that fact as the ultimate truth behind who the man really was. And yes, everybody has something to say.

We all have ways to cope, right? So I listen...... listen some more..... and more.... until my brain snaps, shuts down, and tunes in to my mental iPOD of all the Michael Jackson songs I love and oh-so cherish, starting with BEN. Here it goes....

Ben, the two of us need look no more
We both found what we were looking for
With a friend to call my own
I'll never be alone
And you, my friend, will see
You've got a friend in me
(you've got a friend in me)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Avignon, here I come!

Hubby and I are planning a road trip to the south of France.... to Avignon, Marseille, Monaco, St. Tropez, Nice, and Cannes. Never been there before but I like France...... aways had. And who knows, maybe I'll bump into Brad Pitt and George Clooney in Cannes! hehehehe So I googled Avignon. Guess what I found? It says that the city was chosen by Pope Clement V as his residence and was the seat of Papacy (instead of Rome) from 1309 to 1377.

I wondered who Pope Clement V was, so I googled him as well. Truth is, my knowledge about the subject is very limited.

Apparently, Pope Clement V (1264-1314) is memorable in history for suppressing the order of the Templars (or the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon); disbanded the Order and had dozens of them burned at the stake in Paris.

The Knight Templars however, did not cease to exist and instead became associated with legends like King Arthur and Sir Galahad, even movies such as Indiana Jones (search for the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant), and novels like Ivanhoe, The Three Musketeers, and the famous The Da Vinci Code.

This trip sounds very exciting now! Oui, oui! hahahaha

Last year, I was in Somerset to visit my highschool classmate and friend, Lumen. She knows about my passion for Arthurian legend and took me to Glastonbury Abbey. The monastery was associated with the legends of King Arthur and the Holy Grail. I walked the grounds that Arthur did. So legend or not, that trip had moved me.

Am I in search of the Holy Grail as well? Makes me wonder. hahahahaha It's probably just a coincidence, who knows? But one thing is for sure, I will definitely have a great time. For now, I am doing a crash course on French in Dutch! Oui, oui.... in DUTCH!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Thank you, Michael.

Michael Jackson passed away 9 days ago. As expected, there was massive "mourning," and opportunists took advantage of his death.

I am one of the millions (perhaps, even billions) followers of Michael Jackson's music. I first heard of his voice when I was about 6 years old. The film BEN was being shown then in 1 or 2 of the big theaters in my hometown. People instantly fell in love with the song. Radios were constantly playing it. I also fell in love with the melody. Even at that very tender age, I was already drawn to the voice.

Years later, we sang GIVE LOVE ON CHRISTMAS DAY in school. My seatmate, Jocelyn, volunteered to show the class how the melody goes. Jocelyn, however, could barely pronounce the words correctly. I could still hear her voice in my head, "why don't you gi-be love, on Christmas day.... on Christmas day oh... even the man in the street with a couple of prist, would be so happy if you would bring him love on Christmas day." lol I was 12 then. And Jocelyn,... well... she is not a native English speaker but she has a good voice.

Then came April 1984. I was staying with our relatives in Manila when Thriller and Beat It became BIG hits. Kids, teenagers and young adults were all wearing black leather jackets screaming with metallic designs, and tight, hanging jeans. (I believe this manner of dressing up was later called punk.) Everyone was imitating Michael Jackson..... dancing and singing like he did. Some were brave enough to wear his famous signature: gloves and hat. I thought they were being silly.

Then I saw the MTV. I sat there in awe ... full of admiration.... amazed..! I didn't even know, till that moment, how Michael Jackson looked like. I thought to myself, hey, he's really good! And boy, how he danced. It looked like every fibre of his being was pulsating with melody and rhythm.

That same year, I started the university as a piano major student. We were instructed to focus more on the classics. As our music professor put it, you can not serve two masters at one time; therefore there is no room for popular music in my class. I was 16 then. Very impressionable. I took everything at heart. I did not question her. I simply followed what I was told.

But even then, I had time to appreciate Heal the World, Ebony and Ivory, Bad,... just to name a few, whenever the radios on UP IKOT jeepneys were blasting out those songs.

And now, he's gone. I actually feel sad. What I can say? The man is a genius. He's our modern-day Mozart. We are blessed to have heard and seen the man perform. Although I must admit that I have only seen him on TV.

I know, many will raise their eyebrows if they hear me compare him with Mozart because as my husband has pointed out to me, Michael had a staff behind him. The same staff who created his image and choreographed his dances, public appearances, his life. One can only speculate.

But for me, he truly is our Mozart. Like Mozart, he came from a family of musician. His father, his mentor and manager. His music showcased melodies and rhythmic patterns that are way too delicate, delicious even for our taste buds. He tried and was rather successful in incorporating world's musics into his own music. That makes him a visionary. He set the trend, and others followed. Just like Mozart.

Michael Jackson started performing at a very young age. He, too, loved his baby sister dearly. He had a strained relationship with his father. And like Wolfie, he loved beautiful women...... was envied by many...... and consumed by his genius.

Someone said on CNN that Michael Jackson's death should be celebrated because he is A Celebrity... and as such, we should celebrate him. Meaning, partying and getting horribly drunk. His death being a good excuse to misbehave (?). To "celebrate" him.

I don't think I can do that. It's true that his music will live in our hearts but let's face it, we lost a music genius. He is irreplaceable and yes, it will be difficult to fill that void. Noone even comes close. Not in this time.... perhaps not even in the years to come.

So to borrow ABBA's lyrics: "Thank you for the music, the songs I'm singing. Thanks for all the joy they're bringing. Who can live without it? I ask in all honesty. What would life be? Without the songs and the dance, what are we? So I say, thank you for the music... for giving it to me"

Thank you, Mr. Michael Jackson.