Tabi Tabi Po

December 12, 2009

Growing up my grandma used to tell me these stories. Rather these stories that served more as folklores, which deemed too far-fetched for me to be believe. There was this other “world” she would describe to me, a world where vampire-looking half man-half horse creatures existed. This was a world where mythical creatures were alive enough to play tricks or place curses on Filipinos unaware of their existence. Anytime I tried to leave the house at night or go on vacation in the Philippines, she assured me these creatures were hidden anywhere in forests or open fields. For some reason, she was always adamant in describing to me these other beings. At one point I began to wonder if my grandma was just gullible or if these stories she was describing actually existed. It wasn’t until last month where all I’ve only envisioned or dreamed up in this “world” was introduced to me again through forms of art expression.

This is the same ingenious world created by curator and artist, James “gaNyan” Garcia at San Francisco’s 1:AM Gallery. Formally titled as Tabi Tabi Po(“please excuse me“), gaNyan brings life to traditional Filipino folklore and brings attention towards the victims of Typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng. Serving as both a commemoration of Philippine culture and a benefit for the typhoon victims (percentage of the art sales will be donated through BAYAN Philippines and BALSA), gaNyan’s notion is to bring the community together through cultural expression. Through the works of 40+ artists hailing from the Philippines, Norway and the U.S., mythical creatures such as the Manananggal, Aswang, Tikbalang and the Dwende are illustrated into existence altering what our minds had only imagined into unique crafted works of art. gaNyan describes this exhibit as “a space for our community to just have a dialogue about our culture. A way for Fil-Ams and immigrants to connect or reconnect to the Philippines through Filipino Folklore creatures.

The gallery is seen through the eyes of artists such as Allison Torneros, Chris De Leon, and Mark Canto, a few whom identified with the myths by utilizing different mediums. From acrylic to knitting to wood burning to building a makeshift bahay kubo, this exhibit is filled with patterns of Philippine culture – a theme often unseen in many exhibits today.

Originally opened for the public on November 13, 2009 Tabi Tabi Po has since raised a great amount of attention in both the Filipino community and beyond. Myx TV and SF Weekly have already covered the show. This success has created a healthy discussion and appraisal for Philippine art, tradition and the culture as a whole. What was created in only a few months, gaNyan’s imagination of bringing life to these mythical creatures has altered all our fantasies of folklore into some reality.

For once what few Philippine people have been known to see has finally connected those few who’ve only heard about these myths together in an evergreen of conversation amongst an appreciation and a better understanding of these traditional myths.


Blue Scholars.
Native Guns.
Deep Foundation.
Power Struggle.
Rising Asterisk.

What do these Fil-Am hip-hop groups all have in common?

These are individuals who create rhymes to create change. The choice of weaponry are their words, words split into verses to fight fear and give voice to those who stay silent. These are emcees that manifest words for the sake of awareness producing songs that deem another art form possessive of activism.

I first stumbled upon Fil-Am Hip-Hop when my friend passed me a CD. It was titled: “Barrel Men.” The first thing I asked my friend was “Barrel Men? Are these guys Filipino?” He responded and told me, “Yeah, how’d you know? They’re called ‘Native Guns.’” Immediately by just looking at the title I knew this Native Guns album was going to possess sounds I’ve never heard of. First track I listened to was “Ain’t Afraid.” Upon my first listen, I noticed the words they spit were straight fire. They didn’t spit about money, hoes and luxurious cars. They instead took on a more political role in their music. Whether it was about Philippine politics or American politics, Native Guns created songs that clued folks in on real issues. It wasn’t much surprise after I had done my research though. After googling their names, I discovered that both Bambu and Kiwi have community-organizing backgrounds. They both worked with communities in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. They both were activists in their own right. Music was just another way for them to express themselves to raise that awareness. I felt this to be an interesting trait for an emcee. Mainstream radio rarely plays songs with this form of substance. Before these guys, I had never heard of Philippine issues being addressed in music.

Another group I feel possesses these same characters is the Hip-Hop duo from Seattle, Blue Scholars. Their emcee, Geologic is a former organizer as well. When I interviewed him recently, he explained to me, “Community organizing in it of itself is a struggle – one of the largest struggles. Whatever we do, it’s gone beyond the notion of the stereotypical ‘activist.’ And being an artist and a musician and finding out that culture plays in a movement, it’s always what pulled me in. It’s the issues that pulled me in. Knowing that things got fucked up. The history of colonization and Filipino discrimination we face in the States. It’s that fire.” Geo reassured me that is why he chose to revolve his music partly about community issues. He felt that as an activist he can go beyond just doing work in the community physically, but he can also spread more awareness across the world through his craft.

I feel this is a common trend for Filipinos today. I may be taking a leap in generalizing, but I feel Philippine people have been known to be creative in some way. If you were trace back in history we’ve been innovative with our meals, our clothing and especially our way of thinking. This connection between music and activism reminds of Jose Rizal and his written pieces that sparked a revolution and fight against injustice in the Philippines. Groups just like the ones aforementioned reminded me that art is a form of activism that we must embrace and use it to our best ability for change, positive change.

Deep Foundation – “Children of the Sun” (remix)

The effect of Typhoon Ondoy

December 12, 2009

On September 26, Typhoon Ondoy (internationally recognized as Typhoon Ketsana) made its way through the Philippines hitting Metro Manila and northern provinces. Within just a few days Ondoy has put the country in distress flooding streets and neighborhoods, submerging cars and crops, and overflowing two dams. This dramatic strike of pouring rain has devastated over 319, 211 (Bayan USA) families causing many to leave their homes and climb on top of their rooftops in hopes of safe cover. Escalating to what is seen as the worse typhoon to hit the Philippines since 1967, the country has announced a state of calamity.

With damages that have reached about $100+ million so far, ruined properties have left families in both the Philippines and the United States in much despair.

17 inches in 12 hours equivalent to a month’s worth of rainfall in one day
Philippines: 455mm of rainfall > Hurricane Katrina: 350mm of rainfall
Over 25 regions submerged under water
Winds reaching up to 50mph
2 million
affected, 567,000 evacuated
At one point, 80% of Manila was under water
360 killed, 38 missing (Oct. 1, 2009) with numbers rising significantly…

= The heaviest rainfall in the Philippines in 42 years.

Now imagine your whole world submerged under water. With rainfall blurring your vision you attempt to look around but all you struggle to see are faces of fear and despair. As you try to stay afloat and keep the water below your head, your options ware down. Every drop of water pouring down deems as a flowing hourglass of your existence. Slowly and painfully, you watch the water rise and overtake the only house you’ve lived in. Slowly and painfully you force yourself to breathe and stay calm as every inch of your home immerses in rainfall. As the water continues to rise above your waist, you are quick to think and left to hope there’s some way someone can save you.

For the victims in the Philippines this nightmare has become their reality.

This is something I wrote after I found out the typhoon hit the Philippines. I couldn’t help but feel remorse towards the situation. Immediately, I thought about my family back home; the family I hadn’t seen since I was 15. So I did what other families must have done, I picked up my phone and called my family to check up on them. Then after I hung up, I realized their voice wasn’t enough to sooth me completely. I realized after talking to them I wanted to know not just how my family was doing in the Philippines, but the whole country as well. That was when I began to research and focus all my attention towards the Philippine news stations and websites to keep me updated.

That same week, Val and I were invited to go to an emergency typhoon relief efforts meeting where several Bay Area Filipino organizations came in collaboration to discussion what could be done immediately. Then during the week, Val collaborated with University Ministry on campus seeking for the whole campus and beyond to recognize the issue at hand. That’s when I tried to do everything I could. I wrote an article about the typhoon, helped organize drives and made sure I was doing whatever I felt I could do to help even though I’m not within reach. I felt it was my responsibility to do so, to encourage folks here to be aware and stay aware.

Several days later, my prayers and blessings still continue to go out to my family and the families out there in the Philippines, because I believe that although we may not be in reach physically we can still make a difference.

Yesterday, I came to the realization that despite the growing pains that school, work and obligations throw at me – I am still lucky to be living in America. Why? While I was coming to this realization, the spiraling wrath of Typhoon Ondoy poured over a months worth of rain within 12 hours in the Philippines. There are at least 284 dead or missing as Metro Manila struggles to pick itself up from one of the country’s worst flooding in 40 years.

Whenever I read about how the Philippines gets randomly hit by these disasters I think to myself – why does MY motherland always get the raw end of the deal when it comes to natural disasters. I mean, I know that the country is smack dab in the middle of typhoon and earthquake zone – but does God really need to keep hitting them with the volcanoes, hunger, poverty, and political corruption too? Now that I think about it – maybe this flooding is a sign for the Philippine is start anew – like how God flooded the world when Noah built his ark to start all over again.

Anyway, in the newspapers they say that despite the flooding, extra police have been deployed to prevent looting in communities abandoned by fleeing residents. Many people have been complaining that relief aid has not been coming fast enough and conditions are worsening. Call me a sap but all I can think of when I read this are those thousands of homeless orphaned children on the streets trying to survive without the care of their parents. Or the old lolas and lolos who can no one to help them trudge through the muddy streets just so they can get food. Or even the fact that thousands of families are now left with almost nothing and have to build themselves up again from the rubble.

The one silver lining amidst this chaotic disaster is that the Filipino people never cease to amaze me is their ability to be courageous in times of despair. On TV, news crews interviewed a young woman in the middle of Metro Manila. Apparently, her and her 76-year-old wheelchair-ridden grandmother were stuck on their roof as floodwaters were rising. She thought they were both destined for death as they said their Hail Marys. Then, out of nowhere, her neighbors come to her help (risking their own lives, by the way) by carrying her grandmother and escorting her from danger.

My prayers and hopes tonight will be for those who were affected by this tragedy. Though, I have no doubt – the Philippine will rise from this crushing defeat and keep on keeping on.

typhoon ondoy

Mysterious Mindanao

December 9, 2009

You would think that since it is the largest island group of the Philippines, there would be more information on the indigenous people of Mindanao. Unfortunately, there was not. What little knowledge I was able to gather is the following:

The final region of the Philippines is Mindanao, at one time early in history inhabited by the Maguindanaon. Mindanao is the southern most island group and the largest of the three. The native tounge spoken in this island group is Cebuano.

That and I was able to find a few blogs, with pictures. My favorite was the followind described as Maguindanaon women doing a traditional dance:


It is a shame that there is not more information about these people and their native land. However, it is sadly not a suprise that the information is so scarce. Filipino history is mostly written by the outsider and seemingly starts with Spanish colonization. But this is not the case, as we know. Thus, this is my challenge to you to dig deep- waaaaaay deep- to uncover the history that has been lost. And write about it! It is so important that we know these things and have a variety of research to read so that we can get down to the truth. To know where people come from, their history and past, the beautiful and the ugly. It must be known. So do it to it and search that “lost and found” box of history until every piece has been claimed!

Mmm .. Pancit Canton!

December 9, 2009

Pancit Canton

There is no doubt that Filipino cuisine has an array of cultural influences including the Malay, Chinese, Spanish and Americans. Aside from the Spanish, the next biggest influence on Filipino food were the Chinese traders who sailed across the South China Sea around 300 AD and by 1000 AD, they were already on a regular trading pattern with the Philippine islands. By the 1400, the Chinese had become an established part of the Philippine culture. In this, they were able to contribute their influences to cooking that is most notably recognized through a well-loved dish amongst Filipinos around the world – Pancit – especially Pancit Canton.

Now, you could be the typical contemporary Filipino and just cook yourself some of this delicious stuff using Lucky Me brand’s instant pancit canton – but what fun is that? It’s affordable and easy to prepare – two things every Filipino likes to hear whether they’re preparing for a baptismal party or just coming home from the fields. Here are some of the ingredients you’ll need and a recipe to help you:

Pancit Canton


  • 1 whole chicken, hacked into pieces, boiled in a big casserole with one medium sized onion, 2 sticks of celery and pepper corns. Cover chicken with enough water. Remove meat from bone and don’t forget to save the stock!
  • 1 lb pork, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 cup shrimp, cooked, deveined and unshelled
  • 1 can straw mushrooms
  • 1 can water chestnuts
  • 1/2 head of bok choy (pechay) or 1/2 head cabbage, sliced into julien (sp) strips
  • 1 piece of carrot, julienned a few pieces of snow pea pods
  • 1/2 lb mussels or scallops (optional)
  • soy sauce to taste
  • patis to taste
  • salt to taste
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chrushed
  • 1 medium sized onion, sliced ground black pepper, fresh if you can
  • oil for frying
  • 1 or 2 packages of pancit canton or a package of vermicelli or angel hair pasta. If you really can’t find pancit, try egg noodles – although they may be soft, or spaghetti if you’re that desperate
  • 4 or 5 green onions
  • 1 lemon


Heat oil in a pan (or wok if possible). Sautee garlic and onion slices until the onion is transparent. Add chicken and pork. Cook until pork is brown. Add half of the chicken stock. Boil for about three minutes. Add salt, soy sauce or patis to taste. Also sprinkle some ground black pepper. Simmer for about another three minutes. Add shrimps, mushrooms, carrots and other ingredients except the noodles itself. Simmer for another 3 minutes or so (covered). Add the remaining stock. Adjust the taste with salt, pepper, patis and soy sauce. Add the noodles. Mix thoroughly until noodles are soft.

Garnish with sliced green onions and sliced lemon. Serve with lemon juice.



December 8, 2009

One of my favorite types of cuisine is definitely from the Filipinos. We have so many influences from different countries, but we managed to make the dishes better and a lot more flavorful. I especially enjoy eating the desserts or snacks we have like Taho.

Taho consists mainly of silken tofu along with arnibal, which is brown sugar and vanilla syrup. Sago, which is similar to a tapioca ball can also be added to the snack. Other flavors such as strawberry and chocolate are also out there, where strawberry syrup or chocolate syrup is used instead of arnibal. Taho is a sweet treat that I find comforting.

The vendor or Magtataho prepares the dessert early in the morning before the break of dawn. The tofu is processed like very fine custard. The arnibal is made by the caramelization of the brown sugar and the sago balls are boiled until they are translucent white. Once the preparation is done, the magtataho goes out and sells the treat.

You will find the magtataho yelling, “Tahooooo,” on the street only in the morning with two aluminum cans filled with the taho. The cans are attached to each end of a wooden beam or yoke.

The history of the dessert isn’t really defined yet. But what has been found so far is that Taho traces back to the Chinese. The Chinese version of Taho is called Douhua also know as tofu pudding. Douhua is eaten with soy sauce and can be topped with chopped green onions and other vegetables. It’s not a dessert like the Filipino version of Taho.

A cup of Taho sounds really good right about now.

Filipino Classical Music

December 8, 2009

               Filipino classical music evolved from the European art music tradition and its literature representing roughly four historical style periods, the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Post-romantic eras. This is not to say that a local concept of classical music or forms of expression of high inventive value did not exist in the Philippine island before the Spanish overthrow. Forms of develop music were in practice and continued to evolve in Philippine societies that were able to stay outside the sphere of influence of Europe and the United States. However, a colonial era ranging more than four hundred years was able to cultivate a national consciousness among the disparate and semi-independent language communities. Among various social and political conventions that were invariably adopted as unifying structures in nation making. Western derived art forms such as music were embedded and later burgeoned in the Christianized population as part of a national culture patrimony, quite distinct from the expressive practices representing ethnic consciousness and identity.

             Time-wise, the growth period of social appreciation for music as an art form may be placed in the nineteenth century, coming into full bloom at the advent of the twentieth century. It was in the 1800s that the Philippines experienced the introduction and spread of music. The introduction of the sarsuwela in 1848 and the opera in the 1860s marked a new musical era, in which Filipino musicians, trained for centuries in the craft of music making. Filipinos found their place of prominence in the secular music practice that had previously been dominated by the comedia and other forms of public enjoyments where music played minor roles.  The period also had musical organizations in the form of small orchestral groups or some bigger ensembles that played for both visiting and local music theater productions. It was through these ensembles that Western classical masterpieces became an important part of the musical life of an emerging local societal group.

              Filipino classical music prospered acceding to social and artistic boundaries taken away and reformulated through the years from the western musical culture and a Filipino self-identity.  

A never ending dream…

December 8, 2009

A dream is a wish your heart makes
When you’re fast asleep
In dreams you lose your heartaches
Whatever you wish for, you keep
Have faith in your dreams and someday
Your rainbow will come smiling thru
No matter how your heart is grieving
If you keep on believing
the dream that you wish will come true

This was the song from the Disney classic, Cinderella. Every boy, girl, man or woman has a dream. What is a dream? The dictionary defines it to be a wild fancy, a hope or a condition or achievement that is longed for; an aspiration. People dream about many things but one dream that is the most common and longed for is the American dream. It seems that so often the subject of economic standing and wealth, are said synonymously with the phrase “The American Dream”. It seems that it takes money to be happy and economic stature to be accepted; however, in my own opinion many people who fall into this trap out of ignorance will never achieve “The American Dream” they strive towards because it takes more than a country with endless possibilities to live the dream.

The cliché, “In America, you can be whatever you want,” always brings a smirk to my face. I am not a cynical person, but this just isn’t true. Yes America is a very powerful country and it offers people to dream. Unfortunately, no one I know, even me, has ever fulfilled this dream. And I know for a fact that it is not only in this country where one could dream. Does this dream really exist or is it just a mirage waiting to fool anyone and as a result get disappointed. I just do not get how people think it’s only in America that they would fulfill this dream. What is it with America? Why is it that people move here in any way possible, legal or not, and then be contented with a low paying job and live in a one-bedroom apartment with five people in it?

I believe that every immigrant who goes to the United States wants to live the “American dream” whether or not they are aware of it. Every single one of them would like to have a big house, a nice cut lawn, a wonderful husband or wife and loving children. I am an immigrant but the only difference is that I moved to America, but it was not my decision. That is why for me, to live the American dream is to leave the rest of my family, leave the country I was born and raised in, leave my best friends who I have known since my younger years, and leave the dream I once had of being proud of who I was and where I was at, my race, identity, the feeling of content. Now I know I changed. I am a completely different person and maybe because I was never used to living in a dream.

On the other hand, to me the “American Dream” is not just a dollar sign, or desk nametag, but the ability to walk into a room or a home, and know that your presence is welcomed and looked forward to. The dream is realizing that in America, we have the resources to make an honest difference. To dream for the people you left at home and hope that there is a better future for you. To be confident that people will accept you for whom you are and where you came from. It’s not just about getting the job and getting money. It is being accepted as an equal and because I contribute to the growth of this country, I can call myself American.

How come when one says, ‘to live the American dream’ it sounds right but when one says ‘to live the Chinese Dream or the Latino dream or the Filipino dream it doesn’t make sense. Why cant people have dreams that will benefit their own country? Has anyone actually lived the American Dream? Who? How? Maybe he/she can enlighten me with the answers to my questions because just the thought of it fills me up with rage.

 In relation, the recent immigration issues that is currently occurring in the United States has brought up questions and thought about what could the government do to solve the high number of immigrants in the country. I believe that whatever they are coming up with is very insensitive and it is something that wasn’t really given thought of. Immigrants help this country produce money and with more money, this makes this country more powerful so why would they not want more help and people? I do not know. All I know is that whatever America decides on the issue, immigrants and dreamers will continue to come here in any way possible, work and strive hard for the family. That what I believe is the American Dream- a never ending dream to make the future bright and wonderful FOR the family. It is a dream made not for one’s self but for the loved ones.

I am an immigrant. I dream for my family. I live for my family. Wherever I am, I will always have a dream. A dream to have the people I love, living the good life. I will work and strive for the benefit the others. And I dream in America and for as long as I live I will continue dreaming of a never ending dream…

Random Poem

December 8, 2009

I am not who they think I am.

I am not the spoiled little rich girl who lives in a big house.

I am not the girl who has a pretty pink room that has a lot of fluffy stuff

And I am a girl who lives in an apartment and sleeps in the living room.


I am just an average girl,

I am not the mean girl who shows off at school thinking I’m better than everyone else.

I am a leader and a follower.

And I make sure I am friends with my classmates.


I am not who they think I am.

I am not the innocent young girl who doesn’t know anything that’s going on around her.

I am not ignorant,

I am smart and I know the things a 20 year old should know.


I know how to deal with the pressures of adolescence.

The pressure to be thin, to smoke, to drink and to use drugs

I am only 20 but I can deal with the pressures of life because

I know myself enough to know the difference between what’s wrong and what’s right.


I am not who they think I am.

I am not a quiet girl who keeps everything to herself

Whatever they say, whatever they think, I don’t care.

I will speak, speak for myself but I WILL represent my people, the Filipinos and immigrants like me.


I will express myself in my own way

In different ways where I feel comfortable to share my deepest thoughts and innermost feelings. 


I think for myself.

And I think of others too but I don’t let them define what makes me.

Because I am the one who knows me.



I am not who they think I am.

I am not lazy and I am not spoiled that’s for sure, because I work- to have money to help pay the bills and satisfy my own needs.

I am a girl who walks at school just like everybody else.

And I may look innocent but I certainly know something.


I know that I don’t like our current president and what he does for this country.

I know what Global Warming is and what devastating effects it would have in this planet.

I care for the world and its current problems

And I will speak out my voice when silence is the only thing surrounding me.


I am loud and I am proud – to say this out loud

And all that was said above,

That’s me and that’s who I think I am…