Of Jelly Treats and Inflation

At the supermarket yesterday, a kid was trying to get her mom to buy a pack of jelly treats. They’re the inexpensive kind: the kind that you would expect most moms to put in the shopping cart without a second thought. Most of us don’t buy jelly treats, but to that kid it seemed like…

Writing is Hard to Love (Confessions of a Composition Junkie)

Philbert Dy’s tweet made me think a bit. See, there’s something about “loving writing.” Ten years ago, I’d probably say that Mr. Dy is right. After all, I was a young man of 22, as eager as any impressionable young writer would have been. Now, it just doesn’t seem that way anymore. I write every once…

Over a Weekend

I woke up one day with Japan on my mind. The Japanese have a bunch of wonderful words and phrases for everything, but it’s always somehow lost in translation when you experience it here. A quick dinner at a ramen shop, for example, always starts with a chorus of “irasshaimase”—spoken in such a way that…

The Box That Bears Her Ashes

“Unpack” is a word used a lot over the past few days to describe reactions to “My Family’s Slave;” it is a verb that captures the Filipino-ness of it all. How we unpack balikbayan boxes, how we unpack things when we move homes, how we unpack things when we settle into a place like America….

Some Notes on Westjacking

May 20, 2017: Postscript here. Alex Tizon’s heartbreaking personal essay on his complicated relationship with his family’s katulong, Lola Eudocia Pulido, is making waves for all the right reasons. It is a brilliant piece of journalism. It is a wonderful breath of fresh air from the repetitive aspects of the 24-hour news cycle. It is…

Rowdy Rody

Try to bear with me here: Philippine Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte is a lot like a professional wrestler. Perhaps even for his most ardent supporters, Duterte is not exactly the most articulate or eloquent Chief Executive we ever had. But that espouses a certain kind of eloquence: one that assumes that everyone exists in polite society….

“I Am Become Death”

“We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the prince that he should do his duty, and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form, and…

Master Strokes

There are a lot of things the Duterte administration gets right about their “war on drugs.” True: like many social ills, many things about drugs can be traced to the upper echelons of society. True: many anti-drug government programs in previous administrations did not go far enough to have lasting effects. True: drugs are a…

Tricky Revolutions

In yesterday’s paper, F. Sionil José began his essay with the word “revolution,” and proceeded to discuss what he called “the Duterte revolution” in ways that aren’t revolutionary. He describes the next few years in the same way a propagandist would describe his demagogue, or how a campaign manager would describe his client: the florid…