How COMELEC Disenfranchised Me

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Even though I am the only one in my family with a Voter’s ID, complete with biometrics, I couldn’t vote. Why? Because no one could find my name on either the precinct or master list.

What made it worse was that between 5am and 8am, I got sent from my precinct to the help desk and back. At the voter’s assistance desk, the COMELEC rep found my mom and my sister, but not me. Everyone–poll watchers, teachers, student volunteers–was nice to me, and one person even told me not to feel nervous. But they really couldn’t help me. They were just doing their jobs, and those jobs do not entail protocol for when a registered voter cannot be found in the precinct or master list. Even the poll watchers were complainjng about how inefficient it is to look through a printed list instead of a computer. My dad finally told me we should just go home after the reps at the voter’s assistance desk couldn’t find my name. They were too busy to help and I would’ve just wasted my time and breath complaining.

I walked out of that elementary school crying. It’d been a long morning and this is just the latest string of misfortunes and disappointments in an already shitty month. (Oh and by the way, we lost our power as I was writing this.) And now my name may be used in whatever election scam will probably hit the nation this year.

The best thing I can do now, no matter who becomes president, is to be an even better citizen of the Philippines than I ever was–from abiding even the most minor of rules and ordinances to actively supporting causes I care about. That goes for all of you. We can’t count on one man or woman to “save” us. We need to save ourselves. If you want to believe that change is coming, then remember that it comes from within.

Because apparently, not even COMELEC can change how I and maybe so many other people didn’t–couldn’t–vote today.

Portrait of the #WriterMom as a Member of the Working Class

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“Although the labor conditions of motherhood and artists are both bad, the system maintains its power by teaching us to blame ourselves. Mothers spend a great deal of time feeling anxious and guilty that we’re not doing it right. Artists spend a great deal of time feeling insecure, discouraged, or fraudulent. Both groups would be served by understanding that these labor conditions are so terribly under-resourced that they set us up to fail or to always feel like we’re failing. If our lives as moms or artists aren’t going well, we are taught to believe it’s our personal deficiency, when it’s actually a function of the society’s structure.”

Aya de Leon

writermomIn an election year, and this election in particular, there is more talk than ever about class. On one extreme, we have Bernie Sanders, talking about revolution and remedying income inequality. On the other extreme we have billionaire Trump who represents the interests of the rich (to the degree that he represents anyone but himself), but is popular among poor and working class whites, particularly men. In this way, Trump is simply a caricature of the Republicans’ usual strategy, using racism and sexism to get poor and working class people to vote against their own self-interests. Our society is founded on this principle, this strategic manipulation of the white working class to accept terrible labor and living conditions.

For women, this manipulation has conditioned us to buy in to our labor being exploited and invisible. Inside of this mythology, I’m not spending six hours doing arduous emotional and domestic labor…

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The Good Friday homily that melted my heart

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Very timely for Holy Week, if you are Catholic. A Jesuit discusses how people cannot handle so much love and how they fight outrageous love with outrageous hate.

EvilEmperorSerge

Below is the homily that Fr. Arnel Aquino, S.J. gave today at the Gesu for Good Friday.

I didn’t get to hear this in person. I only stumbled on this when my friend, Harvey Parafina, posted pictures of the sheets of paper it was printed on. I was very moved by the words that I immediately had to type them out. I can only imagine how much more moving this would have been to have heard this in person.

Thank you very much for sharing this online, Harvey. It’s exactly what this time for reflection is all about and what I needed to hear on a night like this.

Waa

A Good Friday Homily by Fr. Arnel Aquino, S.J.

A couple of months ago, ISIS took a video as they incinerated a Jordanian pilot in a cage. My friends said the internet was awash with the footage, but I resisted the temptation of…

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Book Review: ‘News Hardcore: Hukbong Sandatahan ng Kahaggardan’ by Manix Abrera

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WARNING: This review will get personal.

Back in 2013, when I was new-ish at my previous (and first-ever) job at GMA News Online, I once spent an entire day reading Manix Abrera’s News Hardcore from the first strip to the latest. Concealing my laughter became a struggle.

News-H-cover

Image from Visprint.

News Hardcore at first followed the adventures of a newbie journo and then branched out into the experiences of her co-workers in the difficult but noble profession of news. The comic was only about 150+ strips at the time. Even if I couldn’t (yet) relate to a lot of what was going down in the comics–from the failure to hail a cab to going to work during outrageous typhoons–I told myself and my officemates that this would make a great book and I’d buy it if it was. Little did I know that one day, Manix would email me a strip every week, that I would have to upload these comics onto the GNO website myself, that we would meet in conventions here and there, that he would give me a copy of 14 to review.

Flash forward to 2015, two years and a few odd months later, to the November Komikon. Manix was at the head of a long line of people who wanted autographs on News Hardcore: Hukbong Sandatahan ng Kahaggardan. I was not the same girl who read 150+ comic strips in one afternoon during some downtime from work: no longer naive, no longer a journalist, and preparing to leave my second job to move into my third, I’d left my fulfilling but ultimately toxic media job behind. But I still wished to have a hard copy of News Hardcore because no matter what happened to me next, the fact remains that my time in journalism has become an indelible part of me. (Spoiler alert: I did not buy a copy. Manix gave me a review copy for free.)

The truth is that my last six months at GMA were fraught with anxiety, stress, office politics, and the beginnings of a year-long depression. There came a point when I cried during a car ride to work–my body’s way of telling me that I did not want to be there anymore. Remembering what was good and what I loved about the job became an unreachable dream. In the months after, I even stopped listening and reading to almost all kinds of news because I would remember some small thing that brought on so much boiling anger and resentment.

I read my physical copy of News Hardcore not in one sitting, as during that day in 2013, but in bursts between tasks at work, breaks, car rides, and an hour before going to bed. I noticed that I laughed more during this second reading than I ever did during the first. I could recognize myself and my former colleagues in beautifying yourself after coverage upon coverage; in gossiping about &#%$@^*@#% grammatical mistakes and other ridiculous writing sins committed by contributors; in trying to get HR to reimburse a hellish commute fee. I remember going to work the Saturday after Typhoon Yolanda struck, having to return gifts over P300 in price, pushing through a crowd just to get an assignment done. I remember having moments to myself on the rooftop or in the bathroom, not exactly questioning my life choices but taking stock of my life thus far anyway. I remember all the chats with my colleagues about what we really like to do beyond office hours (actor, writer, photographer, comic artist…there were many of us with other hobbies). I remembered all of it, laughing (and cringing a little).

It’s been a year since I left GMA. It’d be an understatement to say that coping with the fallout, the near-constant rush of triggering memories, the slow climb back to a place that isn’t dark and so far down from an exit, hasn’t been easy. But I have done it, and I just so happened to read News Hardcore in a better frame of mind and under better circumstances. This book helped remind me that there were some good times, great memories, moments I could be proud of. And that yes, there are things I miss about the job, moments when I wonder what would have happened if I had stayed and the situation had been better. This book also helped me realize that that chapter of my life really has ended and that I am done wallowing in pain. Thus, reading this book is a wonderful way to go full circle.

I don’t know if I can offer an objective review of the book and its contents (is there even such a thing as an objective review?). But this is what News Hardcore means to me, and I am so glad it played such a significant part of my life.

Now all that’s left to ask is, kailan kaya yung volume 2?😀

Dear Punks and Speculators

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New solarpunk anthology coming up! Call for submissions TBA.

Sunvault

Join us as we reach for the sun and into the soil. Solarpunk takes its place in line with Cyberpunk and Steampunk as a new way of thinking, a new word to define a generation’s genre. As humanity faces an ecological tipping point, we are ready for stories of the peoples living during such tipping points, and the spaces before and after them, the stories of those who fought to effect change and seek solutions, even if it was too late.

These are our stories, whether they are set in the future or in a new land.

Upper Rubber Boot Books will be publishing this short story anthology in spring of 2017 edited by us, Brontë Wieland and Phoebe Wagner.

This anthology will be funded via a Kickstarter, which we will be announcing before long. We’ll be paying SFWA rates for original fiction.

The anthology will focus on the aftereffects of environmental disasters, but…

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Why I’ll Never Be a Witch in Harry Potter’s World: Language, Politics, and the Elitism of a Magical Education

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Pottermore via Hypable

Pottermore via Hypable

I.

I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire the year I turned 11. Like so many other Harry Potter fans, I was hoping against hope that Hogwarts was real and that I’d get a letter inviting me to attend (of course, no such thing happened). But then, I read a phrase that I didn’t realize the magical potency of until years later:

Harry laughed but didn’t voice the amazement he felt at hearing about other wizarding schools. He supposed, now that he saw representatives of so many nationalities in the campsite, that he had been stupid never to realize that Hogwarts couldn’t be the only one. (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, p. 85, US hardcover edition)

So even though my eleventh birthday passed (and my twelfth, thirteenth, all the way to my seventeenth) without my ever getting a letter and I eventually outgrew the series, I could always hold on to the hope that maybe somewhere in Harry’s world, there is a Philippine wizarding school and I or some fictional character like me was magic enough to attend.

Fast forward around a decade later. The Harry Potter fandom was recently abuzz with Pottermore’s release of information on four of eight other wizarding schools (not counting Beauxbatons, Durmstrang, and Hogwarts). I breezed excitedly through the article, but in the end, it gave me so many feelings that I ranted to at least three people. Why? Because these four new schools–Ilvermorny, Castelobruxo, Uagadou, and Mahoutokoro–were located in North America, South America (Brazil), Africa, and Japan, respectively.

My hopes were crushed.

II.

I’ll preface this by saying that I am still holding out for information on the other four schools and that it occurred to me that judging this incomplete information may seem a little unfair. But even four additional new schools won’t be enough to appease my uneasy feeling toward there being only 11 wizarding schools on the face of the planet. Is the magical strain in each person so limited that only 11 schools can educate them all?

I’m going to begin by talking about Uagadou, the African school built into a mountainside and shrouded in mist.

Pottermore via Hypable

Pottermore via Hypable

It is apparently the oldest surviving school, out of many other smaller schools. That half-assed explanation almost appeased my rage, but how is it that Africa–which has 1,500-2,000 languages, an indeterminate number of tribes, and anywhere between 47 to 55 countries depending on whom you ask–has only one school of magic, which purportedly takes in students from all over the continent? And given that Europe has three schools of magic with three clearly different languages of instruction–seriously, why? What language of instruction are Uagadou’s teachers using and how are the students even getting along, especially if they are from warring tribes? What does this mean for the magical mechanics of the African brand of magic? (The same, in fact, can be argued for having only one school of magic in all of the South American continent.)

All that aside, do you notice how–and this is not new in pop culture–the Pottermore article and many of the news articles written up on it appear to be referring to Africa as if it were one country?

But hey, I’m not from any country in Africa by birth or by blood (although this person is qualified to speak further on the matter here and here), so I’m going to talk about the school that’s a little (sort of) closer to home.

Pottermore via Hypable

Pottermore via Hypable

Mahoutokoro (by the way, it is pronounced Mahōtokoro, at least get your pronunciation right) is situated on a supposedly uninhabited volcano island of Iwo Jima. Given that there is already a Harry Potter theme park in Japan, having a school there makes sense for practical reasons. But what really bugs me is, as of now, Mahoutokoro is the only magical school in all of Asia–and as the first one released, it is the best known. Of course it’s Japan–it’s the only Asian country the West seems to know, right?

(This is probably a quibble, but the fact that kids at start age seven and are given robes that change color according to your marks in class screams the Smart Asian stereotype to me.)

And the worst part is, nowhere does the text explicitly state that it takes students from all over Asia; it even says that it has the smallest population of all 11 schools. But even if it did take students from all over Asia, there are so many caveats–as someone who spent a few days in Japan, I can tell you that you’d need to have more than a working knowledge of conversational Nihonggo and the ability to read katakana, hiragana, and kanji if you want to live in Japan.

And then there’s the money. You can argue that traveling is for free in the wizarding world, but let’s not forget how much schooling costs. Do I even need to state that Japan, just like Britain and the US, is a rich nation?

III.

I have a theory as to why these schools were so short-sightedly located and why the mechanics seem so short-sighted, too. Rowling was probably thinking with the mindset of a native English speaker living in a primarily English-speaking nation–meaning, everyone speaks one language (or at least knows the dominant/common language) and so, they can all go to the same school. At least, that’s what I think must be one of the rationales behind Uagadou’s holding together such a diverse population of students. Yes, I know they don’t need wands and presumably words to perform magical acts, but let’s put magical mechanics aside and talk about practicality in education. The same goes for Castelobruxo and might probably be true for Mahoutokoro (regional dialects aside).

Which means that, until information on the other schools come to light, in Harry Potter’s canon, every other Asian in Asia cannot go to magic school

(Side note: the Patil twins are Indian in heritage, but they might as well be white [the Goblet of Fire movie does a better job of at least displaying their heritage by giving them Yule Ball dresses of an Indian design]. If there is no magic school in India, this seems to imply that Indians need to travel to England, their ex-colonial master, in order to get a magical education.)

Because I am a writer who can attribute her love of fantasy chiefly to the Harry Potter series, this revelation regarding the canon led me down the road to a worldbuilding exercise.

So, going by the language rationale and judging by the schools’ tendency to be housed in ancient temples or royal landmarks (not so sure about Uagadou, sorry), if there were to be a school in South East Asia (SEA) that took in students from all over the region, it would most probably be in Malaysia, with Thailand, Cambodia, and Indonesia tied for second place. I am thinking of Malaysia because it’s such a melting pot of cultures and because as a former British colony, English is widely spoken and the SEAsians can best understand each other using English. If there were ever a Philippine school, it would probably be in a Spanish colonial building on Siquijor (well known as our Witch Island) and the medium of instruction would be primarily English, given our past as an ex-colony of the US.

But this tends to ignore how each SEAsian nation has its own mythologies, cryptozoologies, and brands of magic. Because of its archipelagic geography, the Philippines alone has many brands within its own culture–for further information, read Paolo Chikiamco’s essay “Philippine Magic: A Course Catalogue” in vol. 1 of LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction. But for now, here are Paolo’s words on the essay.

LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction vol. 1. Image from LontarJournal.com.

LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction vol. 1. Image from LontarJournal.com.

My solution to that problem: make a magic school for every country. If you want to learn about another country’s magic system, the Castelobruxo entry clearly states that there is an exchange program.

IV.

Argument: Chill out, these are just books!

Maybe, but I clearly recall instances of several churches burning copies of the books because they purportedly influence children to engage in Satanistic practices or whatever. Whether a “good” book or a “bad” book, books have power. Specifically, her books made me want to write my own. Specifically, I am a fan trying to engage with a series that was a huge part of her childhood with the rhetoric of an adult. As we say in my country, walang basagan ng trip (or roughly, “let’s each have our fun”).

Argument: Much of the Harry Potter series is already problematic, so why bother dissecting it when others already have?

I know it is. I love other problematic works of literature, like Lord of the Rings, but sometimes, I ponder on what it could have done better. My friends and family can be problematic too, but I love them and I often think on their flaws. am a problematic person and I definitely think on my own flaws (that’s why I’m such an anxious, neurotic person). I am trying to make sense of something that is known to a lot of people because I am trying to figure out what it means for me. 

Everyone who isn’t the right skin color or gender or sexual orientation has a story that serves as their entry point to the diversity talks. I thought for a long time that I was one of those people who read stories about white people’s adventures and didn’t have any strong feelings on invisibility toward them because on some level I knew that their problems and cultures were so far away from my own so as not to concern me. But I felt a strong push when I read an article on the 11 wizarding schools because Harry Potter was one of the few books that burrowed deeply into my psyche as a child, and now, I am confronting what makes the series problematic head-on, in much the same way that a child comes to terms with the fact that his/her parents are not gods.

Argument: The books were written a decade before the diversity and race talks became mainstream, so don’t critique it using modern standards.

Literature majors do this kind of thing all the time for the senior thesis, so why can’t I do this for fun? But that aside, the existence of Pottermore and the continual release of new information regarding the world of Harry Potter means that it will be subject to criticism using modern-day standards. The fact that Rowling revealed that there are Jewish wizards:

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And gay wizards with the outing of Albus Dumbledore (who became asexual later in his life), means that she is acknowledging the incredible diversity of the Harry Potter fandom. But it’s not enough.

Argument: The fact that there are schools other than Hogwarts means that Rowling is trying, so shouldn’t you be thankful for that?

am thankful for that. But look here, though she names one Jewish wizard, where are the others? Though she says that Hogwarts is a great place to be gay, where are the other queer characters in the series? I honestly expected better from her, given that in her graduation talk called Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination, she states that she was

as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless.

And that she used to work for Amnesty International, where she encountered many refugees of African countries. I don’t want her to stop trying. As a long time fan, I want her to try harder.