Friday, May 27, 2011

NEWS: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is buzzing in Yahoo! Search for an unusual reason: his eating habits. The social network pioneer told Fortune Magazine that he is challenging himself to eat more responsibly and sustainably. He's not separating himself from meat; he's getting closer to it. "The only meat I'm eating is from animals I've killed myself," the 27-year-old billionaire told Fortune. "It's easy to take the food we eat for granted when we can eat good things every day." So far he's slaughtered a goat, slayed a pig, and boiled a live lobster. The response around social media has been positive. Many say they applaud his thoughtful way of eating.
Slaughter, slay… sounds bad, eh? I can name a few hundred of friends—good tax-paying citizens, cool and responsible families, and peace-loving human beings—who own small farms and… well, also “slaughter and slay” animals that they raise, so they could feed their kids and neighbors.
Something is wrong with this news, huh?
I believe what we should be concerned about--and should spend more energy on--is to protest the wholesale and massive “slaughter, slaying, and boiling” of humans and environment in war, just because humanity love drinking OIL instead of toxic soda and contaminated bottled water. Imagine the extent of devastation wrought by war and big business annihilation in rainforests and farmlands that are so far away from our comfort zones… and here we are blabbering about the so-called political-incorrectness or “inhumanity/cruelty” of our reality-TV mentality.
If some people want to eat meat that is murdered by a minimum wage earner with 3 kids in Birmingham, Alabama, or killed by a billionaire who, well—just committed genocide to animals that he gobbles up, or some people prefer a healthy diet of hummus, tempeh and tofu, organic fresh produce and non-antibiotics meat products… so be it. Good eating, be happy. Let's leave them alone in peace and quiet while they enjoy their dinners.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

WHEN I write love poems, my flow seems unaffected, freefalling, easy. The creative moondance isn’t so constrained, guarded, or pondered so deeply—like my usual high-handed, mostly politically-charged, sermonizing writings. It’s relatively hard to judge a love poem as incorrect or self-righteous, judgmental or condescending (like what I usually get when I discuss/argue a sociopolitical discourse). Love poems are very private and personal yet they easily, effortlessly cut across a wider audience—irrelevant of cultural background, ideological leaning, sexual orientation, or age level. Everybody can freely own them… And I like my work to always tread that wavelength—so that I can reach more humanity…

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

MANY times when I am asked—or I’m motivated—to speak my mind about how I feel about America (or the west in relation to east/Asia/rest of world)… I’m left with two natural options.
[1] KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT, stay glued in my “ethnic” community’s comfort zones, and “mind my own business.” Bothersome… since, this would mean that – if I opt to be safe and silent and distance myself from what’s going on around me, that’d be tantamount to willingly plastering a duct tape on my spirit’s mouth. Have you ever hogtied your own hands and arms on a concrete picket fence? Probably, you did—but clamming up our own mouths is gross self-abuse. Sado-masochism.

ERGO: Beyond the popular thinking that a proverbial evil came with colonization and invasion, somewhere—I also saw a light of wisdom that inched through the cracks when the beautiful, articulate White Man landed in the islands (of my birth). With a saintly smile painted across his immaculate face, the White Man persuaded the Brown Man to come out of his warm, easy shell—and inspired/coaxed/motivated the native dude to speak his mind and trade crafts, arts, food, merchandise and all that good stuff—with him and the rest of the world. Beautiful synergy.
So White Man, Brown Man talked.
In no time at all, the White Man provided a gorgeous ship for the Brown Man to reach America. The Brown Man farmed the earth for apples and grapes, cleaned frozen fish for canned food, leveled the mountains to usher railroads, hopped in another kind of ship to help fight his friend’s adversaries in war, etcetera etcetera.
While doing work, most Brown Men chose to keep quiet and minded their own business… Yet, some were thinking otherwise. They saw the beauty of speaking their minds out—in music, poetry, art, media, activism—despite the risks and dangers and discomfort that “free speech” may invite. The sublimity of speaking one’s mind is a hallmark of American Democracy, they reckon—but why is it, as a koolcat dude named Cat Stevens once sang, “… from the moment that I could talk, I was ordered to listen.”
So, the Brown Man was called so many English words that he never knew before: Judgmental, critical, condescending, rude, narcissist, arrogant, disrespectful, egoistic, inconsiderate, loud, unreasonable, holier-than-thou, one-tracked-mind, asshole.
Sadly (or fortunately), I belong to that Brown Man Group. 

[2] I SPEAK MY MIND—the way I feel it.  While many favored (and took pleasure) from my words, some vehemently resisted them. While I heap praises and acceptance about/to so many stuff and things—ie FREEDOM—in America, I also pose so many contradictions and anomalies around it. But it all sums up to: As we savor the freedom to agree, we also exalt the freedom to disagree. Take it or leave it—everybody has their own community and sectors and friendships and cults and religions and circles to dance around with.
When people speak their minds in a social forum or work of literature or media that is shared with the public, I don’t believe it is an imposition of political advocacy, religious dogma or personal aggrandizement. We speak because we have a mind that beats and functions as deliverer of messages. If we are mute and deaf, we will find a way to express our inner truths… Unless we let the nuzzle of a  gun or the blade of a machete to express that truth, “speaking”—no matter how people’s ears reject them—is a gift of humanity.
I doff my hat to those who dared let their spirits fly with words than those who choose to be nice and quiet… Wake up and speak!

Monday, May 9, 2011

BELOW is a reaction/elaboration to a previous comment on my Facebook page—in regards one of my poems. Here is the poem—adapted from a Diane Burns poem of the same title:

Ask Me a Personal Question

You are puzzled and want to know.
No, I'm not Chinese. Not Thai, not Hmong.
No, not Mexican or Puerto Rican.
So you think I am maybe American Indian;
an Indian, but not from India.
So you think we are extinct?
A Navajo. Sioux? Or maybe just Indian.
But sorry, I can't make it rain tomorrow,
check the Weather Channel out.
I don't know how to powwow
and I haven't been to a sweat lodge.
No, I don't know where to buy Navajo rug
real cheap. My necklace, I didn't make this,
not at all. I bought it at Wal-Mart,
and this came from China.
No, we don't drop on our knees
at a tip of a hat to pray to our God.
But we do pray to a God with a face
and body like yours.

So you also think I am Filipino.
from the Philippines; but sorry,
It is not a province in India.
Although sometimes you think
I am not actually Asian,
you do believe that I drink sake at sunup
instead of coffee, when all I want
is Heineken or red wine.
No, I don't eat snakes or crickets.
And certainly, I don't eat dogs,
except when it's Super Bowl weekend
(but, of course, I am only kidding).
I don't use chopsticks or my bare hands
when I chow down lasagna at Olive Garden either,
and I read Kafka and shakes my hip
to Li'l Wayne and Foo Fighters
just like my homeys in South LA.
I also know how to negotiate Interstate 40
without a GPS. But I don't listen to the wind's
direction either.
I do speak English--yes, I do
I am sorry that you can't make out any sense
from my weird accent
but like my friend in Tennessee,
I just love the sound of her words
each time she talks--
sometimes that's all that matters.

Yes, some of us maybe American Indians
and Filipinos do drink too much.
But some of us don't even drink Corona Lites
or Diet Pepsi.
We did not come from Mars.
This is not a stoic look.
This is just my face.

by Pasckie Pascua
(with apologies to Diane Burns)

MOST of us, especially Americans, came from so many ethnicities/bloodlines… Same with Filipinos—we are very mixed (Austronesian, Malayan, Spanish, American, and other Asian-Pacific lineage)—and our (acquired) sensibility/sensitivity are influenced by colonizers (Spain and America) and other people who traded business with us in the past, up to the current times. The Philippines’ strategic location in the South China Sea is very significant as trading post for sailing/wayfaring merchants and refueling station and defensive fort during war for the US, primarily. But then, that’s an entirely different discussion, although significantly related to my point.
Main subject, my poem: Am I offended by questions/queries about my ethnicity? It’s more a question of how these questions were formulated or delivered. Let me cite two contrasting sets of questions/questioning (in public) posed to me:
(1) “What is your ethnicity? You have an interesting face…” A young lady at Westville Pub (where I usually hang near my `hood in Asheville) asked me. I noticed that she’s been staring at me for minutes. It was an honest curiosity… which is fine. Many Americans are not aware or well-informed of ethnic/tribal backgrounds of people beyond whites and blacks (Afro-Americans). I taught or lectured in public schools here and I am a bit fascinated and mildly surprised that many (American) youths thought that the Philippines is a province in India or a part of Hawaii, some even believed the country is located in South America. So when they see a Filipino who look like white or Chinese or Mexican, they get confused. So I explain… (Besides that, as I suspected, the Westville Pub lady thought I was Native American Indian, “but not really, I think…”)
(2) “Do you know how to speak English?” / “Do you have cable TV and computers in the Philippines?” / “Do you eat dogs in the islands?” Surely, these questions reek of ignorance—it sort of dismisses Filipinos as illiterates and/or savages. I must admit that some Filipinos dine on dog meat—but it isn’t a sweepingly simplistic issue of carnivorous disregard of animals just because most Americans treat their pet dogs as intimate members of the family. In the same way as some Hindus or East Indians don’t eat cow meat and Muslims don’t eat pork, there is always a cultural/religious/creed-related reason to people’s behaviors, eg some northern tribes in Luzon island (in the Philippines) regard dog meat as medicinal, eg some Vietnamese people regard cobra blood in the same light… Otherwise, what’s the difference between dog meat and hog meat when it comes to food… So when defensive or offended “ethnics” counter-charge: “So you don’t eat dogs, but you justify your wars, instead?” the counter-slurs remain unabated.
One time, I was reading a New York Times at a subway in NY. A white man was kind of ogling at me and/or the newspaper on my hand. Then he asked me, “Do you understand English?” So I glared back at him and said, “Yes, I do. I am Swedish.”

QUESTIONS like those exemplify ignorance and sometimes connote a suggestive air of “I am better than you, you don’t even know how to eat the decent way or understand simple English…” I get a lot of these… One time, when I was reading in an open mic in Los Angeles, a white lady—a former university professor at that--approached me (in two different occasions) and offered: “Why don’t you just let someone else who speaks the language better read your poems?” 
For me, that is gross insensitivity. Obviously, based on my accent (which isn’t really that bad, my friends say)—I am a foreigner. I was translating my (cultural) truths on a borrowed language. I wasn’t teaching English 101 or selling vacuum cleaners to an Orange County house… We need to know other people by being sensitive of/to the truths within and not just look at spoken language/nuance on a superficial way, or based our reaction only through our sociocultural standpoint. I don’t want and cannot speak with the same accent as people who were born, grew up and educated in the US. My accent is a product of what/who I am. When I recite my words, these are more human sounds, music—a juxtaposition of sounds, cultural sounds…
The lady ex-professor, she asked me (after I told her, I came from the Philippines, a former colony of the US and a country that is practically guided/governed by Washington’s foreign policy): “Do you speak English in the Philippines?” My response: “Why don’t you google it?”

Friday, May 6, 2011


I CAN STILL remember, so vividly – a distressing and ghastly, but poignant sight… One rain-drenched late September afternoon of my childhood, as I wandered my 5-year-old worth of sensibility at a typhoon-ravaged ricefield from outside my weeping windowpane, many years ago… Claws and talons gallantly hoisted like flaming arrows and spears, a mother hen shields her infant from a tenacious dahongpalay (ricestalk viper). She’s ready to fight to the death—but, no—no deadly fangs or menacing thunderstorm can take her child away, as long as she’s there. I watched in frightened awe as the hen bravely staved off the equally intent ferocity of the snake, and then successfully drove the slithery intruder away. After a few seconds, however, mother fowl shook, fell, and slumped to death. Fatally bitten, bloodied and weak, yet she managed to stand her ground and to protect her little child, to her last breath—till the viper crawled away, blood oozing from its beaten body.
Painfully heart-wrenching, spontaneous, survival instinct. A Mother dies so that a Child lives. I wondered out loud, in perplexed innocence, at that instance—does my own Mother love me that way, too? Will she fight for me, die for me—to protect me from clear and present danger?

MOST OF THE 40+ years of my life, I didn’t really spend with my Mother or with my other four brothers and four sisters. I was always the kid-on-absentia, the incurable loner, deep thinker – always the one who opted to be isolated, physically far but near enough to feel the parental warmth and affection that weren’t necessarily, exclusively directed to me but nevertheless geared toward all of us, collectively, the nine siblings.
Since a child, I always preferred to exist independently from my immediate family—I’d rather travel and live with distant relatives and friends in far-flung barrios, “hideaway” mountain cities, coastal/beachfront villages… Hence, I jumpstarted my journalism career at age 14 so I could always have an excuse to be away. My voracious wanderlust spirit didn’t subside even as I willingly, freely, and deeply immersed myself in my work as years passed by. Yet, I know that I tried my darndest best to spend most summer months and Christmastimes with my Mom and family, either in our ancestral house in Quezon City, a bustling suburb of Manila, or in the many towns and cities that my Dad hustled most of my younger bros/sisters and my Mom—although most times I was somewhere, not home. When I started traveling to the far southern islands of the Philippines, and eventually in other countries—many times, my family didn’t even know where I was. Amazingly though, my Mom always had ways and means to find out.
When the 9/11 tragedy struck New York City, my Mom thought I was stranded in Manhattan, or worse, caught inside World Trade Center—where I was supposed to take the Path Train towards Newark Airport on my way back to North Carolina on that fateful Tuesday morning. It was never my practice to call my family… and at that time, I was (as usual) fighting with my Dad. I didn’t want to communicate…
Whenever she had the chance, my Mom never failed to reassure me that she’s always praying that I’d be safe wherever I choose to be, and I always believed her… Days before 9/11, when she found out from a friend, that I was flying to NYC (from North Carolina) for a gig at CBGB, she prayed so hard for my safety.
Imagine how many nights, how many days, how many years did my Mother pray to God so that I’d be safe, protected, taken cared of… I was always the warrior without a weapon, the madman who discovers purpose in life only when I am healing the wounded, speaking/writing for the downtrodden—and that, I could only satisfy that sublime thirst for life on the dark side if I hit the road. So my Mom was always far away from me, somewhere, praying and praying that God never forsake me.
Deep in my heart, I actually believe—till now—that God or The Blue Sky God/dess is watching over me, all through my triumphs and tribulations, bad deeds and good deeds... as what my Mom told me.
From a very young age, I accepted that, indeed, I was clearly the odd-kid-out in the family. With eight other siblings running around the house, I believed and understood that my parents, especially my Mom, simply didn’t have enough time to pay attention to my rambling inquisitions about life, my grand tales of fantasized adventures, and such and such. My Mom always listened, quietly—although, many times, I insisted that she should listen more to my stories.
My Dad loved cars, electricals, and yardwork – but I chose to spend hours and hours inside the library or in my room, writing my little dreams down on those crazy sheaves of bond papers that my Mom scrounged from everywhere, or I simply fed my small-mind with black&white Christopher Lee-Peter Cushing horrors or Cowboy-Indian movies or Huckelberry Finn stories, almost every night. One persistent wish that lingered in my young mind was that – Mom would, one day, give me more time… just her and me.

MY MOTHER didn’t have a profession or a career, although she managed to get to the freshman year of a Law degree and she once worked as a part-time travel agent and unsuccessfully managed a family business or two. But she was always obediently and attentively watching my Dad, whatever my Dad ventured to frolic on or dabble about. Her life was simply Dad and the kids…
In those years of insecurities and vulnerability, a profound and beautiful sense of tenderness and forgiving humanity continually exuded from my Mom’s heart. She was a martyr, the self-sacrificing Wife and Mother who will always sit there by the porch, patiently waiting for the Husband and the Children, coming home from work and school, with a ready smile and caring touch. She was always there beside us kids, all of us, whenever one is sick… never mind if it’s just a slight summer fever. So much so that having a fever or flu was something that I actually hoped I always had—so that my Mom will surely be there beside me.
I remember those days and nights, when I was a child, when she tenderly wiped my forehead with lukewarm cloth all through the night, waiting for my temp to fizzle down… It was the same attentive, patient Mother who spent days and nights—for more than a month—sitting beside my bed in a Jersey hospital after a surgery in 2000. The same warm hands, the same soft voice. In those moments, I never accepted or allowed visitors. I preferred to have her, all by myself – for, after all these years, finally—I had her to myself.

BUT THEN – despite all these, I never thought my Mother understood my language or spirit or my dreams. But does it matter? All I knew was, like a loving Mother, she supported EVERYTHING that I did. She never protested or even tried to control my decisions—even though, many times, it meant that she had to worry endlessly for the safety of my well-being.
My Mother has always been a Catholic Conservative but she never pushed her religious convictions or even her personal beliefs on anything—she was a follower, she was for something that makes us all kids and my Dad happy, it’s as simple as that.
I remember one day, when my brother Alberto (17-years-old at that time), came home with a drunken prostitute and declared, “She will be living in our house from now on.” My Mom simply said, “Okay, if that’s what you want.” All my sisters vehemently protested but Mom pacified them all by saying, “That makes your brother happy, please understand him. He loves her...” When three of my other brothers got into all kinds of trouble, from drugs to neighborhood brawls, she’s the one who instantly encashed money and bailed them all out, no questions asked. In her old age, there were many instances that she even lied to us about buying her medicines… she kept money all year long so she can readily buy birthday and Christmas gifts for her growing number of grandchildren. After her heart bypass in Philadelphia in early 2002, we tried in vain to convince her to stay more years in the US so she’d get better medical treatment… but she always whined and was constantly sad because she said she couldn’t stand being away that long from her grandchildren in the Philippines.
I remember when the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos’s soldiers raided and padlocked our newspaper office in 1982, and I (against the soldiers’ order) decided to remain inside the building to make sure that no “bad documents” will be planted by the military that could be used against us… my Mother stood vigil outside. I was very young, and I haven’t even had a clear grasp of the danger that I just got into. But she waited and waited outside, with a rosary on her hand… I can remember the tearful sight of my Mom—scared, tired and relieved—when I finally emerged from the building and into her waiting arms…
I never thought my Mother’s incessant tears, and low, meek voice were proofs of defeat or fragility. She is the strongest woman—deep within—that I’ve ever known in my life. It’s primarily because she had the most potent of resolve to love, and commit to it, like it’s all that matters in this life. Without that love that was freely and selflessly given out to us all her children – without that indefatigable, unswerving love for my Father, we don’t have a family at all. We wouldn’t survive the hard times—all nine kids—given all of my Father’s miscues and mishaps.
When my Dad worked in Saudi Arabia for almost ten years, only visiting home one month each year, my Mom stayed faithful to him and responsible with all of us. My other brothers and sisters recall that there was never a day or a span of five or six hours straight that my Mom was away from their sight. She was always present around the kids… she wouldn’t even have a 30-minute afternoon coffee with a male friend.
That strength in my Mom’s beautiful vulnerability and staunch loyalty are the power that melded us all—because it was coming from sincerity and honesty, not from practical reason, but from sheer love and devotion, straight from the heart. For me, that is the Force that should stay within humanity—a love that can’t be swayed or broken or crushed. Love is strong, real love isn’t physical so it can never be broken or destroyed… My Mother had that kind of Love – which makes her an embodiment of true human strength.

MY MOTHER passed away on Aug 6 in a Manila hospital—around 1 or 2pm in Asheville, on a “Bonfires for Peace at Pritchard Park” day. Almost at the same time, last year, she slipped into a coma following an almost fatal stroke… On both occasions, the rain fell all over downtown Asheville like fresh tears from heaven, halting my “beautiful madness.” My brave and courageous Mother survived more than 12 months of physical pain, emotional sacrament, spiritual misery—to assure me that, when she’s finally gone, her strength will envelope my journey and my dream should be, will be realized. That’s what she told my eldest and middle sisters Tess and Alma months before she finally went away.
The Sky wept that day… My Mother knew all through her almost 70 years of life on earth, that nothing will stop me from pursuing what I set to pursue. I was always the odd-kid-out in the family, who opted to “run away” and seek my peace in humanity—in turn, I turned my back on my family. Yes, indeed, it took Divine Intervention, like the benevolent rain, to stop or make me pause from my neverending journey, to tell me, “Please, remember, you have a Mother…”
A Mother will always be—ever be—around to nurture, nurse, heal, reenergize their children, no matter what, in whatever course in life the kids choose to venture… Right or wrong, a Mother stands upright and brave to their children’s choices. My Mother, for once, never questioned why I had to take to the hills and commune with the underprivileged, why I had to leave my people because I believed it’s only in America where my calls for peace and justice will be heard. Even though she couldn’t comprehend what was it in my grandiose lunacy that keeps me going, she always said, “Be careful… I am proud of you.”
When a copy of an article (at the Mountain Xpress) written about me reached her in Manila, it was like I “came home,” my sister Alma told me. My Mom’s brain halted by medication, a tube stuck to her neck, nevertheless her heart was very articulate—she ran her fingers across my photo in the article and pressed the magazine to her chest, and muttered, without words, only her lips moving, “That’s my son… my son.”

MY MOM WAS a Mother more than a parent—her sincerity was more of devotion than responsibility, commitment than a duty. She was more of Wife than a partner—her love was eternal and ethereal than reasonable or effective. She was there, always there, to fulfill an obligation—not because she made an oath to society’s conscience, a-front the watchful eyes of religion, but it’s because she made a vow to a boundless, selfless humanity that gives without necessarily receiving. Blind and upfront even in the face of apathy, defeat, and utter vulnerability… she exorcised enough strength and power from her resilience, stubbornness, and unswerving faith to keep the Family and Marriage alive.
It is hard to pin her down because of her faults and mistakes—that are often judged and written off as stupidity and martyrdom—because her honesty and loyalty towards her choices in life are simply beyond human deduction and “educated” sense of logic. She’s like a freefalling leaf that flies and floats and wafts, depends on how the wind chooses to blow and ebb but patiently and persistently negotiates her choices of destiny with whatever situation is handed down to her… In other words, she’s not a fighter, she is a lover—her armor is her vincibility. Because of that, she survived the turbulence and cruelty of a perpetually threatened motherhood and marriage… it’s all about faith, it’s all about that unflagging belief that life is a gift, not a privilege—some God-given garden of roses that should be nurtured and caressed than watered and sheltered.
Such is a Mother. She is the inspiration, the Muse that makes us believe that Love is still possible and Family still exists. She is the Nurturer of Dreams that makes me believe that even my most quixotic madness has a destination, someone who believes in her child’s madness even though she couldn’t understand it… For, how am I supposed to understand the bond that connects a child to the mother—that was forged right from conception in her womb and carried there for nine long months, then delivered to earth with fresh blood and sweet pain? And when the umbilical cord is cut, that streak of tears running down her face as the baby screams the first cry of life—that is magic, that is love, that is the world. How am I supposed to experience that? It’s beyond me, beyond my limitations as a man…
A song says, “The time between meeting and finally leaving, sometimes is called falling in love…” For my mother, falling in love is eternity, it will only grow and grow, it’s ceaseless, it’ll carry on, on and on. She has fallen in love with Life and it stayed in her heart until the heart’s mortal beating stopped… Because of that, her Spirit will never leave this Life.

ALL OF US, within, is a child, and there will always be a time when the child goes home, looks around for warmth, for peace, for quiet—of a soft touch, a comforting shoulder, a kiss. All these will only happen, will only be possible because there is always a Mother whose hand are always open, whose heart is always ready to welcome us home, waiting… No questions asked, no words are necessary—a Mother will always be there, waiting.
So wherever I am, whenever, whatever happens… I will always be home in my Mother’s spirit. And I will always be taken cared of. I am very sure of that. Although I haven’t had the chance to fully thank her before she left… The Blue Sky God/dess is always there around me to relay my message, to bridge me, to link me up whenever I need to, wherever she may be—and The God/dess will bring me home to her heart and then I’ll let my Mother know that I thank her for letting me live in this world… a beautiful life, a beautiful love.
I’d like to heal within the glory of your love, the wisdom of your memories. Mom, thank you for making me, thank you for giving me the gift of life.

[--by Pasckie Pascua, written few days after my mother, Georgiana Ravanzo Pascua, passed away in the summer of 2005, at age 68]

Painting by Pablo Picasso