A Poem for Friday: “After Reading Aquinas”, by Asterio Gutierrez

In celebration of this special week*, our poem for (Good) Friday combines theology and basketball like only a Filipino poet can:

“After Reading Aquinas”, by Asterio Gutierrez

They say we fear what we do not understand
but it isn’t his Summa Theologica that scares me
so much as his six-foot-eight, 350-pound frame
that some say was just 8% body fat. The same
was said of Shaquille O’Neal and we all saw what he did
to every center who stood in his way of proving
he could win a championship. If we were to meet
in heaven I’d swear I’d understood him perfectly
but then again would God really save me
after I’d just compared St. Thomas to Shaq!

It has been said, succinctly and accurately, that Filipinos have lived “three hundred years in a convent, followed by fifty years in Hollywood.” The question now: Whither next?

(First published in the Philippines Graphic. You can find more literary work by Aste on his online archive. His latest short story, “The Big Man”, will be published in Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 6, and will be featured on this blog, shortly after the book comes out in June— look for it in your local bookstore!)


(*This year, Holy week also happens to be the NBA playoffs opening week. Special, indeed!)


A Song For Friday: “Pinoy This Way”, by Mikey Bustos

Sung to the tune of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”, and true to the original’s spirit: “Today we’re celebrating/Being a Pinoy this way!”

“Pinoy This Way”, by Mikey Bustos

It doesn’t matter if you’re Pinay or if you’re P-I-N-O-Y.
Just point with your lips, pare
’cause we’re Pinoy this way, baby.
Use your eyes… If it was snake it bit you already!

My Mama scolded me when I was young, when I said I hated school.
She said “You know the land where we come from,
every class is always full.”
Because in Philippines education is never taken for granted,
no it’s not, along with food, work, and medication,
we know they all come from God.

Back home, a land far away,
Where we work hard every day,
It makes us grateful, baby
We’re Pinoy this way
Where you will need pamaypay
As temperature rises high
You have not lived ’til you live like a Pinoy this way.

Nothing ever goes to waste,
Appreciate, don’t throw away
Baby, we’re Pinoy this way!

Say my prayers everyday,
Bless to all the elderly,
We always say “po” cuz
We’re Pinoy this way.


(Emphasis mine. Lyrics lifted from the full version here.)

Meet Mikey Bustos, a 30-year old Fil-Canadian with an angelic voice, which took him to the Top 10 of 2003’s Canadian Idol. He turns out to be quite a comedian too, and an amazing YouTube video-cranking machine. His Pinoy tutorials are a must-see!

I, for one, can’t get enough. Thank you, Mikey, for sharing the Filipino experience with the world, with humor, intelligence, honesty, and pride. Keep ’em coming!

(Update: Found Lady Gaga’s “country-style” version of the song, arguably more beautiful and powerful than the (electro-synthetic) original: “Born This Way” (The Country Road Version). “Don’t be a drag, just be a queen”— and sing along!).


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A Poem For Friday: “Uncommon Denominators”

This week’s poem is dedicated to my fellow Filipinos in the sciences, and to everyone involved in building The Mind Museum:

“Uncommon Denominators” by Patrick Rosal*

I add up the times I’ve fantasized about
women I’ve seen but never spoken to
and divide that by the hours
I drive past cemeteries and add again
the weight of breath in your mouth
measured in the ancient Tagalog word for yes
—but the number always comes out the same

So I subtract the moon
and the smell of incense on Good Friday
trying to connect Planck’s Constant
to the quantum moment between
a candlelit flick and the back of your neck
setting aside my 7 dreams of having sex once
with Tyra Banks who tells me God
You Filipino guys know
how to make love to a woman
and even if I tally the 10,069
channels launched by satellites
which have an asymptotic relationship
to the count of stones cast
from a sinner’s fist raised
to the power of eight million punch-clock
stiffs heading home late
still the number comes out the same
and when a beggar pirouettes
along an expressway’s center lane
swearing this won’t be his last
cigarette (smoke rising from
the rust in his moustache ) I suddenly know
the acceleration of a falling body
has little to do with slipping
a mother into the ground or
a whole greater than the sum of its parts

And if you ask what I’m doing
with 7 loaves and 4 fish multiplied
by the root of a dried tamarind tree
or the coefficient of friction
of a bullet on the brink of a rib
or the number of clips emptied
into an unarmed Guinean man
on a dark Bronx stoop I’ll tell you
I’m looking for the exact
coordinates of falling in love plus or minus
the width of a single finger
lost along the axis of your lips

(Taken from: “Uprock Headspin Scramble and Dive”, the poet’s debut collection, and winner of the 2003 Members’ Choice Award of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop.)

The Mind Museum at Taguig is a project of the Bonifacio Art Foundation, Inc. and is curated by Maribel Garcia.** Already 30 percent complete and scheduled to open in the last quarter of 2011, the country’s first world-class science museum is invitingly at hand. If you can, please help make (and keep) this vision a reality.

(*Patrick Rosal is a New Jersey native, the son of immigrants from the Ilocos region of the Philippines. His latest book, “My American Kundiman” was published in 2006.)

(**Maribel Garcia is also one of National Geographic’s “Live Curious” campaign ambassadors. You can find her weekly science column, “De Rerum Natura”, in the Philippine STAR.)

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A Poem for Friday: “Where are you from?”

“Where are you from?” by Alex Cena, Gowri Koneswaran, and Jenny C. Lares (collectively, Sulu DC)

Where are you from?

Where are you really from?

Where am I from?
Your question makes me flinch
Makes me narrow my eyes
At your narrow ways of defining me
Suspecting me of being foreign
‘Cause this phenotype doesn’t match yours
And my answer’s not what you were expecting

I live down the block, across the state, past the river
Inhaled American air in my first breath
I speak English in my dreams, out loud
Lies in the depth of my parents’ arms
Outstretched to their history
And the one we share in this country

So tell me where are YOU from?
Where are you REALLY from?

Asked by strangers, I used to say “the Philippines”, now I simply say “Jersey.” I was unaware such a simple question (when asked one too many times) can cause offense.

Now I know, thanks to an eye-opening talk by Fil-Am psychology professor Kevin Nadal.* And now I have a word for it: racial microaggression, covert or subtle racist behavior that causes psychological confusion (“Did that really just happen?”). I realized instantly that I have been on both ends of the deal. The question lingers, what do I do about it? What would you?

(Full poem here via Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry.)

(*Prof. Kevin Nadal teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at CUNY, and is the author of the research handbook “Filipino American Psychology“– the first of its kind.)


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A Poem for Friday: “The Nobodies”

“The Nobodies” by Eduardo Galeano

Fleas dream of buying themselves a dog, and nobodies dream
of escaping poverty: that one magical day good luck will
suddenly rain down on them- will rain down in buckets. But
good luck doesn’t even fall in a fine drizzle, no matter
how hard the nobodies summon it, even if their left hand is
tickling, or if they begin the new day with their right foot, or
start the new year with a change of brooms.
The nobodies: nobody’s children, owners of nothing. The
nobodies: the no ones, the nobodied, running like rabbits,
dying through life, screwed every which way.
Who don’t speak languages, but dialects.
Who don’t have religions, but superstitions.
Who don’t create art, but handicrafts.
Who don’t have culture, but folklore.
Who are not human beings, but human resources.
Who do not have names, but numbers.
Who do not appear in the history of the world, but in the
police blotter of the local paper.
The nobodies, who are not worth the bullet that kills them

(Emphasis mine.)

Eduardo Hughes Galeano (born September 3, 1940) is a Uruguayan journalist, writer and novelist. This poem hits home. I am reminded that our collective experience is unique, and universal, at the same time.

(Hat tip: Herbert Docena)