August 1, 2008


I passed the Tagalog test (sigh of relief)... Can you just imagine how humiliating that would be to fail in something I use frequently?

Now the next step is to handle the paper work...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 7:03 PM | Comments (0)

July 1, 2008

Tagalog Test for a Native-born

Why did a person, who was born in the Philippines and grew up there for 9 years, take the Tagalog language proficiency test at BYU (Provo)?

the person I'm talking about is Me (if that wasn't obvious)... most of you know that I'm trying to complete a master's program in Folklore (in the hopes of supplimenting my BA in creative writing [English])... one of the requirements in a Master of Arts (MA) degree is proficiency in TWO languages...

Originally, I planned on brushing up on my Spanish and making this count for my second language... last semester, I reviewed and took the Spanish placement test and I passed the Spanish 1010 level, which meant that I had three more levels to complete before I'm considered proficient (SP 1020, 2010, 2020?)... in an ideal world where I have more time (more than two years), this task can be easily accomplished...

HOWEVER in the REAL world where I teach two classes and take two classes in my program, I gain opportunities and lose some. I'm building up my CV-resume and picking up skills with the teaching and at the same time I'm not able to focus time in studying Spanish... the few down times/break I have is just that, few and rare- I still have to be SANE. So during these few breaks, I do what sane people do: take a break!

I reached a point where I had no problems accepting a Master of Science (MS) instead of a MA (I figure that after I complete my program and I have more time, I can continue practicing Spanish and maybe there's a test out there I can take to show proficiency and I can show this "certificate" to my future employer) But my colleagues still kept saying that MA is better (favored) because of the language requirement (another skill)...

I was about to just settle for the MS when one of my friend/colleagues (who went on a mission in the Philippines and spoke/studied Tagalog) suggested: "Why don't you take the test for Tagalog?" BYU in Provo was offering this test (Tagalog as a subgenre of Spanish)... and he gave me the website to find out more information...

Can I do this? I thought to myself... I went to the website. It was clear that BYU students who spoke Tagalog was exempt from taking this exam. But I'm a USU student, and reading between the lines, there is a chance for me because the website states that other institutions may have a different policy for language profiiciency...

with hope, I went to the director for the graduate program for the English Department here at USU to clarify this idea... The issue of "NATIVE SPEAKER" came up. I asked him how USU defines "native speakers"...

my rational: yes I was born in the Philippines, and I grew up there for 9 years, the highest formal education I received in the Philippines is 2nd grade... after that I went to the U.S. from 3rd grade to the present, I've had an American education... in both situations whether speaking Tagalog or English, listening/writing/reading Tagalog or English, I still struggle, I still miss the nuances in both language (eventually I get it but it doesn't come easily)...'s where the situation gets knotty (for my case specifically), during the meeting with the director we tried to figure out which test I should take... if Tagalog is considred my native language, then that means technically I can take some sort of TOEFL test... if English is considred my native language then I can take the Tagalog test... here's where it gets tricky, the director pointed out the discriminatory nature of testing a native on the procifiency of his native language, he brought up a good point: if a Tagalog speaking person is being tested on Tagalog, then why aren't Americans tested on English to show that they're proficient in it?...

Here's another factor in my case, I'm a graduate instructor (GI), and one of the requirements for being a GI is being proficient in English; if I weren't then the English Department wouldn't have hired me. The director pointed out that taking the English proficiency test would be pointless because I already surpassed this requirement when I was hired ... at the end of that meeting, we sort of settled on the idea that I'm BILINGUAL... right now the director is writing a letter to the dean of graduate studies about my case...

I wonder if the bilingual factor was considered in the clause "proficiency in two languages"... if I don't take Spanish, if I passed the Tagalog or English test, would I still get the coveted MA?

Weeks passed...

I haven't heard from the director (I'll email him next month) but I still took the Tagalog test last Saturday June 28 with my friend (I took it because the testing site is in Provo [2 hours from Logan at least] and I don't have a car, and it was only $30-- it's an investment- if this is succesfull then I save TIME and I get an MA instead of a MS, and if it's not, then it's ONLY $30)

I still have to REVIEW my Tagalog... it was sort of fun, I just listened to most of my Tagalog music cds, and I read this humorous/satiric Tagalog with English book about culture of and problems in the Philippines called "Bakit Baligtad magbasa ng libro ang Pilipino?" by Bob Ong (Why do Filipinos read books backward [upside-down]?)... I sort of wanted to do more, for example, read Tagalog news and watch Filipino TV on-line, do some chatting with my missionary friend who spoke Tagalog... but I waited until the week of the test to get SERIOUS about this test (I couldn't believe that I was going to take the test)...

I listened to Tagalog music when I woke up, while I graded, while I read, while I cooked etc.... then I read Ong's book everyday at least 20-30 pages a day (getting through this book was difficult but it helped me with vocab and grammar- while reading this book, I found it easier to read it when I read it outloud or in whispers...

on the day of the test, I woke up at 4:30 am, my friend with his family, and I left Logan at 6:30 am... we were supposed to be at the testing site 20 minutes before 9... we arrived 3 minutes before 9... the test was scantron- multiple choice, listening, and reading comprehension...

I thought the grammar's difficulty was okay... it was a bit tricky because I got confused between formal and informal... then when I started to overanalyze it too much, I ended up second-guessing my answer/instinct... I followed the old/ sometimes irrational adage "If it sounds right, then it's correct"... sometimes I whispered the phrases so I could hear it (it's amazing how audio can make meaning clearer)...

the listening was okay... there were funny moments especially when the questions and answer choices were sort of absurd that they're funny... the test takers laughed (they undertood and caught the absurdity)... once again, the only time I had difficulty was when I overanalyzed-- sometimes rather than paying attention and listening to the dialogues, I'd make up my own dialogue and finish the dialogue OR sometimes I'd construct the dialogue based on the choices of answers the test provided... Luckily I stopped this habit and focused (hopefully not too late)...

the reading comprehension part was the most difficult... I had to translate 12 passages, each passage got longer and the vocabularies got bigger (the nice thing was that the passages dealt with some cultural aspects of the Philippines: values, religion, weather, foodways, literature, history, etc.- nice cultural review)... the annoying thing was that it took FOREVER translating the passages, and they'd only ask three questions or so--)

a good test-taker would just look at the question and look for "key phrases"- I didn't feel comfortable doing this because it's been a while since I took a formal test on Tagalog... so I translated sentence by sentence-- the advantage of doing this is that the information is retained longer in my brain, and I feel more confident in answering the questions and if I'm not then I know where to find the information in the passage...

translating was fun... when the passage was short, i translated it to the best of my ability following English grammar rules... but the longer and more complicated the passages became, I forgot about the grammar and I focused on the idea (somehow the translation started looking like choppy poetry)... I started taking shortcuts (using letters to designate names, or Mars and Venus symbols for gender, slang, etc.)...

I finished the test 20 minutes before time was up (11:45)- I decided to re-check the grammar section... If I pass, I hope this could replace the language requirement for my program so I could receive a MA instead of a MS...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 12:49 PM | Comments (5)

June 27, 2007

Authentic Though not Exotic

I finally finished Fernando Nakpil Zialcita's book Authentic Though not Exotic: Essays on Filipino Identity.... I started reading this last year when I was in the Philippines but I didn't finish (senior year got in the way).

I liked the author's approach in defending his argument. He used food, art, history, anthropology and others to prove the existence of an authentic Filipino culture/identity. In the end, I was convinced, and I had a better appreciation for my Filipino-ness.

general sentiment
Usually when you're in a culture/ you belong to a culture, there are biases and prejudices you accept/don't question--- then you grow up, get your education and you started to see paradox/hypocrisy. You can rebel and go against this hypocrisy and be an outcast, you can accept it and prolong its existence, you can ignore it etc., you can do nothing or something, or you can try to understand it so you can better face it/handle it...

I went through all of these possibilities growing up as a Filipino, a Filipino abroad, and in a mild sense I'm still experiencing these possibilities as a Filipino American.

Here are the questions that Zialcita tackled:
How do you categorized Filipinos and Philippines as a nation?
Because of the Eastern and Western influence, Is the Filipino culture confused/bastardized?
How can Philippines be authentic when she is imitative?

1. How do you categorized Filipinos...?
If I remember right, Zialcita compared Filipino culture to Latino culture in a sense that blood, facial features,looks and other biological factors do not unite the Philippines... because of centuries of mixing- Spanish/European mearchants mingling with the natives, Chinese/Asian merchants doing business, marrying for money/alliances etc. ...

there is not one "Filipino look"- a Filipino can look Chinese, Japanese, African, European, Pacific Islander- maybe mannerism, habits, beliefs/ideals, and likes/dislikes may somewhat link the Filipinos together- of course there's the ideal- light skin (sign of purity/ high social status, not tanned by the sun during manual labor), "matangos na ilong (literally translated to sharp nose)" ... this is a bad ideal people still strive for, it's not as bad as in the colonial/ancient days... (you'll be surpirsed how some people are discriminated against because of the color of their skin)... usually if you have the smarts or the talents or the money the color of your skin is overlooked... the light skinned Filipinos still continue to have advantages today (even if it's not written in a lawful stone) especially in the Entertainment business (F-ollywood).

the irony is that the "true" Filipinoes (in a sense that they were the first to settle in the islands before it was discovered by Europe or other explorers) might not even call themselves Filipinoes... they might even have a different tribe name (if they believe in the concept of tribes)... and if they exist, they're probably hidden from the influence of today's globalization...

2. Because of the Eastern and Western influence, Is the Filipino culture confused/bastardized?
-when I was in third grade, I got mistaken for a Chinese kid because of my black, bowl-cut hair and somewhat chinky eyes...
-around sixth grade, my nose became more "prominent" /wider, texture of my hair changed growing more upward and coarse (not so flat and silky)... social study lessons made me and my classmates more aware of the world... their curiosity noticed the incongruity in my last name and my somewhat chinky eyes.. some thought I was Mexican with Indian/Aztec blood
-in highschool, my Spanish teacher commended me for rolling my "R's" ever so effortlessly and she questioned my Spanish-sounding last name... I told her that Spanish colonization influenced Philippines and its national language, Tagalog.
-a funny story, in college one of my friends couldn't tell what nationality/ethnicity I am. so he thought I could have the perfect spy career (because I can have different disguises)...

I eat white, plain rice (very Asian)... for the most part, I'm obedient to my parents/authority (Confucious teachings of filial duty and respect for authority- very Chinese), I like siestas, fiestas, I'm Catholic (even if not practising) [very Spanish], yay for extended family (Tribal influences?), I like to be an individual, I believe in freedom/liberty/justice (Western), even though I'm Catholic in a land which became a haven for Puritans, I'm still interested in Japanese transcience and buddhist enlightenment (American freedom of choice/of religion)... even though these are superficial listing of what I like and some of my personality, I think one of the Filipino traits that I've hold on to/retained is being able to adapt and integrate/take the best traits and make it my own... this is one of the main things I still remember...

when I was in the Philippines, there were instances when I was labeled an arrogant/headstrong American and sometimes in the U.S. I'm perceived as "meek" and spineless because I don't have the American bravado/effrontery... I'm not a schizo, but I always have to be aware of my environment and be able to adapt to the different cultural norms...

3. How can Philippines be authentic when she is imitative?
Zialcita might have said that colonization was sort of a good influence on the Philippines (not in the sense that Zialcita was pro-discrimination/slavery/imperialism and other bad connotation of colonialism). He decided to highlight the good side of colonization, such as public education (even if it's the Western system), the arts and culture, cuisine, ideal sense of justice in courts and trails (not arbitrarily ruled by the chief/ forest spirits etc.)....

colonization is sort of like a catalyst for unification/awareness of a bigger world outside the island/ maybe of physical evil not merely spiritual- petty tribal warfares maybe ceased, people focused on a "bigger" enemy... if they didn't unite, they allied themselves with the "enemy"--- just some ponderings

the Philippines is like a microcosm of the world... if you traveled around the Philippines, you'll see Chinatowns, copies of the Great Wall of China, Buddhist temples, Chinese cemetaries... Spanish churches, indigenous folk art and housing, native cleverness of land architecture (rice terraces), Islamic mosque and minarets, Arabian dressings, Western clothes/franchise such as McDonalds, towns named after famous U.S. cities such as New York, ... a long time ago it was labeled as the Gateway to the Orient (especially Manila), a great stop for Merchants looking for bargains... every culture/country/nationality that went to the Philippines/colonized it/ransacked it/helped it, every one of them or at least most of them left their impressions on Philippines (or at least her people adapted what they liked from these un/friendly visitors/rulers)

at first this may appear simply as imitation HOWEVER Zialcita pointed out that people in general wouldn't imitate/borrow something they don't believe in or can relate to. Why would they adapt something against their nature? (or something offensive to them). He also pointed out that other older civilization, such as French, Japanese, Roman etc., did the same thing as the Philippines. They borrowed from their predecessors and made it their own.. what the Philippines is doing is perfectly legitimate to the eyes of written history. Philippines is evolving but still pretty young, only around 100 years old; now contrast this nation to Cnina and its history and civilization)

***In spite of the anthropological jargon, I still understood this book and I enjoyed reading it; for me it had a different and novel perspective/approach on Filipino identity. A while ago I was so proud of my Spanish blood (my dad always tells me we had Spanish blood). Then I learned about the evils of colonization, I wasn't proud of my Spanish heritage. I tried embracing my indigenous roots; this was going to the other extreme because my ideas of indigenous were the people who lived in the mountains of the Philippines- of course this was wrong on my part, because my ancestors were from the lowland region of the Philippines, where they were most likely directly exposed to the Spanish... now I'm somewhat at peace, I'm just happy that I exist, I don't doubt my dad about our Spanish blood/heritage even if I only have .002% of it left flowing in my bloodstream ( I just don't think that that knowledge will be passed on to the next generation and risk life to die/beheaded for lying- misrepresentation)

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 4:19 PM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2007

Reminiscing Philippines (P.I.) Part I -- Weather

I can't believe that a year ago, I was in the Philippines (I missed the times with my family and all the excursions I went to whether it was the mall or another province). A year ago from today, (as written in my journal) I was on my way back to Manila from Pangasinan, where my uncle lived. I visited him and while there, I also visited the Hundred Islands searching for folktales....

On June 11, 2006, my cousin Charmaine and I woke up early to catch the bus- it was departing around 4 a.m.- the previous night, we just took a nap.

In the P.I. waking up 3 in the morning in order to travel is the norm. The reasons for early departure:
a. no traffic (traffic can be really bad in most of P.I.; it's as if there was an accident everytime there's traffic but really the roads are congested and most are two lanes- there's not a lot of highways in P.I.)
b. cool weather (nobody wants to get stuck in traffic in a humid day on a bus/jeepney without airconditioners)
c. more room (early bird gets a seat in the bus)

I remember the early morning, it's dark, the stars are slowly disappearing, you know it's not night, you can feel in your heart the approaching sun...crickets tiring from singing, silhouettes of clouds roaming (sometimes thundering, flashes behind but never falling letting go of the rain)... my uncle's son waited with us patiently until we got on the bus... on the bus, I watch the sky change colors... i eventually fell asleep missing the sun rise...

quick facts about Philippine Weather and seasons-
the seasons are divided into two (with lots of nuances)- it's either sunny or rainy
the summer which starts around March is really hot but when it gets to around May, it's still hot, but the sun's intensity is bearable, based on my experience, it wasn't as humid, it was dry heat... around August it's the rainy season/monsoon.... the change sometimes is so sudden... around June, it was mostly sunny, the sky was clear blue not hazy, there were fluffy cumulus clouds rolling forming canyons through the day and disappearing by night... thunder rumbled, growling but never fully roaring rain drops but when August came, the sunny days disappeared. It was overcast all the time sometimes for weeks, it was depressing, once in a while the overcast will break momentarily and you get to catch a glimpse of the sky (it was a happy moment), and soon it's overcast again.

In June the rain is intermittent, it would fall for a couple of minutes and then afterwards the sun dries it up, it's as if it didn't rain at all- the sucky thing about this intermittent June rainfall, is that afterwards, it's very muggy and humid- the rain was momentary relief from the heat, but the humidity afterwards, which was very icky, lasted longer...

in August, when the rain falls it falls... instead of shredded paper, the rain falls in sheets of paper, thin walls of water... this is called the monsoon season or "bagyo"... I remember being spoiled with the sun and blue sky and then the bagyo came- it's horrible traveling in the rain, traffic increase, there's mini floods (this is not good when you're wearing flip flops walking through dirty water overflown from the canals)... one day I was visiting a musuem, while walking towards the FX stop (transportation- buslike taxi, cheaper than taxi but more expensive than jeepney, but it has airconditioning), I got caught in a downpour, good thing I brought an umbrella... the good thing with this type of rain is that you can see where it's originating from... so in a way you can "outsmart" it (if the wind is blowing the rain west, go east to avoid it or at least wouldn't get as wet)... the bagyo rainfall is stronger and longer but it does stop and as soon as it stops, thats the time to start walking to the nearest FX stop or other transportation...

the best time to travel to the Philippines (besides the cool December), is during the warm and somewhat breezy May and June... the forecast is mostly sunny and dry with rare scattered shower... thunderstorms at night but short in duration... hear God bowling every night, and his angels applausing his strikes, which flash and light the night sky...

as Kuya Kim, the weather man, always say, "Ang Buhay ay whether weather lang" which roughly translates to "Life is like the weather"- (aside, you can only plan/predict so much and next thing you know, you're in the middle of a downpour or you're enjoying the breeze, blue sky and sunny days...)

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 7:37 PM | Comments (1)

September 7, 2006

Top 5 things you can't live without when you're in the Philippines

Hello all, today I celebrated Philippine Day (basically I decided to sequester a day this week to put aside my homework from my classes this semester and dedicate it to reminiscing and digesting the wonderful memories of summer).

Never fret I still did some academic stuff. I read some materials on Folktales to help me with my honors project.

here are the top 5 things to bring if out of the blue you decided to go to the Philippines (which are all based from my experience)

1. Umbrella/ hat
2. Insect repellant
3. Sunblock
4. Smaller bills
5. Cellphone (with an open line)

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 11:09 PM | Comments (0)


5. Cellphone
Make sure your cellphone can have an open line. Cellphones are great especially if you get lost in a country you're not familiar with. I didn't get lost thank goodness. My aunts gave me great directions so I always found my way.

5. Cellphone
Make sure your cellphone can have an open line. Cellphones are great especially if you get lost in a country you're not familiar with. I didn't get lost thank goodness. My aunts gave me great directions so I always found my way.

Philippine people are in the top 10 when it comes to fast texting and all those text lingos and shortcuts. My cousins and aunts can text a short short story using slang and text lingos.

Since my cell phone wasn't an open line, I ended up borrowing one of my cousin's cellphone (for emergency if I'm really really lost).

Cultural tidbit: The cellphone system is different there. For example, here in America most of us pay monthly for the phone bills (family plan and share minutes). Most of the cellphone industry in the Philippines engendered the carpe diem adage. They mostly provide prepaid services, for example, unlimited texting for two days. They call this "loads" which can come in different peso values (P25- P150 etc.). Texting is cheaper than calling (one text can equal 1 peso while one three minute phone call can amount to 7 pesos). This is why most people in the Philippines use texting for economical reasons.

a Filipino person can have 1 to 3 sim cards each with its own numbers (if you don't frequently use these sim cards, they can expire). The sim cards work like this-- any sim card can receive any incoming calls or messages but you can only respond if you share the same network as the receivng person. For example people with Globe sim cards can only have outgoing calls to Globe members.

It's complicated, I'm just glad that I didn't have to resort to using cellphones as much.

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 10:53 PM | Comments (1)

Smaller $ bills

4. Smaller dollars bills
One of the joys of traveling is exchanging currency. In the Philippines, 1 dollar is estimatedly equal to 50 pesos. You can exchange your money in Baco de Oro or in most department stores (like SM). If one institution doesn't exchange your money then you try the next one. They're pretty quirky and strict with money. I had several episodes with this.

4. Smaller dollars bills
One of the joys of traveling is exchanging currency. In the Philippines, 1 dollar is estimatedly equal to 50 pesos. You can exchange your money in Baco de Oro or in most department stores (like SM). If one institution doesn't exchange your money then you try the next one. They're pretty quirky and strict with money. I had several episodes with this.

You have to fill a form, present an i.d., if you're exchanging hundred dollar bills you have to write the code number of the bill. It's diffucult to exchange larger bills (they are suspicious and wary about them). In most cases they fear that it's fake.

One time a lady wouldn't exchange my hundred dollar bill because "it looked too new" or "the water mark is visible when it's not supposed to be" or "the uv scan is not picking up the water mark" or "it's too wrinkly." When this occurred I tried to go to the bank. They used the same excuse with an added advantage. Since my bills were suspected, they gave me the option to open an account, deposit the money and in 8 days withdraw it. This didn't make sense to me, my rational- if my hundred dollar bill wasn't good enough to be exchanged at that moment why was it okay for me to deposit it to an account so later I can use it?

The bankers told me that my suspected bill will go through some scrutiny so if it's fake, they can track me down.

At one point I got desperate and exchanged the twenty dollar bills in my wallet and the cashier didn't even question them (even though they were wrinkled and old). The other hundred bills I had, I gave to my aunt to exchange because she has better luck. Her back up plan was to deposit it in her account and then take it out.

Smaller bills are less of a hassle.

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 10:52 PM | Comments (0)


3. Sunblock
It's common sense to bring sunblock to a tropical island. I did bring one, I just didn't use it as often as I should have. My reason was I wasn't outdoor much. I would be in a mall or a relative's house or 6 hours in a bus trying to get to the province. So for the most part I was shaded from the sun (plus I started using hats and umrellas more frequently).

3. Sunblock
It's common sense to bring sunblock to a tropical island. I did bring one, I just didn't use it as often as I should have. My reason was I wasn't outdoor much. I would be in a mall or a relative's house or 6 hours in a bus trying to get to the province. So for the most part I was shaded from the sun (plus I started using hats and umbrellas more frequently).

I aslo didn't consider sunblock much because I have darker skin. It took awhile before I feel the effects of the sun (I'm more careful now). Also most sunblock are sticky, which is bad because it reacts to the humidity.

My sunburn issue happened when I visited Hundred Island, in Pangasinan (it's called a hundred island because the department of tourism decided that 100 is a magic number- in reality there's 123 small islands in this tourist area-- but recently it has been reported that global warming had sunk one of the islands so now there's 122 or 99). The water is cerulean and clear, clouds were in different shapes and puffs- it was beautiful. I snorkeled and I would have tried kayaking as well (even though I haven't tried it before) but Chinese tourists rented all of them.

On our way home, in the boat ride, I felt that I was glowing (not because I was elated and relaxed). I was glowing because my back shoulders got burned-- it was sensitive to the touch- this experience became more memorable...

Always wear sunscreen, especially in tropical beaches....

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 10:51 PM | Comments (0)

Insect Repellants

2. Insect Repellants
Paradise lost due to mosquitoes, cockroachers and other creepy bugs. The trick is to have several types of insect repellants because once the predatorial insect gets used to the repellant then you're at their mercy.

2. Insect Repellants
Paradise lost due to mosquitoes, cockroachers and other creepy bugs. The trick is to have several types of insect repellants because once the predatorial insect gets used to the repellant then you're at their mercy.

Now I have a better appreciation for mosquito nets. For the first couple of weeks I became the favorite cuisine of mosquitoes and other insects that like to bite people. My aunt said that since I was balikbayan (term meaning 'returning Filipino'), the mosquitoes liked my blood more. This is a weird phenomenon, while my leg received a blitz of bites, my cousin's legs are for the most part flawless (sometimes one or two bites but usually nada).

As the weeks pass, the mosquitoes got tired of my leg so they decided to move in my arms. At one point I was naive to think that if I don't bother them, then they won't bother me (once again wrong). They bit me without any discrimination. So everytime I saw one, I just splattered them. Superstition- one time I killed a fat one, full of blood which exploded like ink blots on my palm, I think it was a queen mosquitoe or head honcho, the next day I found another blitz of bites that ran across my arm. My aunt speculated that the lover or spouse of the mosquito I killed decided to have their revenge on me.

my suggestion bring "off" lotion, they're easy to apply and they come in original unscented and tropical scent. But they only last for four hours however when you're asleep, you wouldn't care much. Also rubbing alcohol stops the itching but be careful, can cause scarring.

The cockroaches in the Philippines are giants because of sun's radiation (this is why I became appreciative of my cousin's cat, Ming. He didn't just kill off the mice, he also terminated the cockroaches). The cockroaches have wings and a regular adult is less than 2 inches long. You can kill them by stepping on them (but that's so disgusting) or throw shoes at them or ask your cousin to do it for you (the important thing is that they're dead). One time I saw a cockroach, and it looked like it was on hydraulics. Rather than the flat look, its hind legs were slightly raised higher than ther front legs- it was walking around.

Depending on where you are in the Philippines, some cockroaches are not shy at all. You know how most insects will wait until it's dark before venturing in the houses of humans. I've encountered cockroaches that walk on broad daylight, some are not even afraid when the lights are turned on (usual reaction for insects are to scurry when new movements are detected- no, not these cockroaches, they'll pretend that they're dead, stay still and hope that the human doesn't see them-- but they're pretty obvious like black oval markings on white marble.

I've become acquainted with house lizards. I used to fear them for their mysteriousness. They'll be lounging on ceilings near flourcent lights and all of a sudden they'll wiggled their way to the other side. I didn't know why they did that, I thought they were just psyching out their human co-habiters. I learned that they did that because they were eating all the mosquitoes flying near the ceiling. They became my protectors and bestfriends. They guarded me from the vampirish bites of the mosquitoes.


Posted by Michael Diezmos at 10:49 PM | Comments (3)


1. Umbrella or hat. Cultural thing - umbrella can be used both in sunny days and rainy days. I was reminded of the dual use of umbrellas. This was so because in Pennsylvania I remember, (when I first came here in the U.S.) people would stare at me when I used an umbrella while walking outside during the summer. Being assimilated to Pennsylvanian culture I started not carrying umbrellas around. The weather wasn't so hot either (because of being farther away from the equator).

1. Umbrella or hat. Cultural thing - umbrella can be used both in sunny days and rainy days. I was reminded of the dual use of umbrellas. This was so because in Pennsylvania I remember, (when I first came here in the U.S.) people would stare at me when I used an umbrella while walking outside during the summer. Being assimilated to Pennsylvanian culture I started not carrying umbrellas around. The weather wasn't so hot either (because of being farther away from the equator).

In the Philippines (since it's closer to the equator), the sun is harsher and more intense, it's common to see people walking around with umbrellas. In fact it has become some sort of fashion accesory. People will own several umbrellas in all shapes and sizes. If people are really extreme (and if they have money), they'll have one to match their outfit.

An example of this (but not to the extreme), I saw in my cousin. We were in the market place and she wanted to buy an umbrella (you'd think that the situation would be quick and simple: wrong-o!). She compared prices of the umbrella, and studied the colors (while she did this all I was thinking was just why couldn't she just pick one and get it over with already - my rational - it'll function the same way whether or not it was floral print or plaid design).

When we got home, she told my aunt that she found a bargain (in buying the umbrella). My Aunt studied the umbrella. She studied the thread linings, and commented on the poor quality of today's umbrella.

Wearing a hat makes a difference. I'm not a hat person because I find them irritating and tight (never got used to them because of my puffy hair). Before I decided to wear a hat or a viser, my black hair absorbed all the rays of the Philippine sun, I'd be wearing a helmet of heat, no wonder I got headaches. Then one day I wore a hat (wow what a difference). I didn't get any headaches and my hair isn't as dry (and damaged by the sun).

Cultural tidbit: (disclaimer- interpreting this could be done in several ways, there's implications, historical baggage and all the other stuff- so I'll just say it as bluntly as possible)-- another reason for the hat and umbrella is to protect oneself from getting dark (sure there's also getting overexposed to the sun and skin cancer issues), -- main thing (I think) is so that the person doesn't get dark.

You know how in the U.S. getting a tan is trendy (sign of summer and returning from a vacation). In the Philippines, you don't want to get a tan. You want to be as white and light as possible. It's weird how this concept is being reinforced in the Philippines- this idea goes back to colonial days. The media is also reinforcing this, in all the commercials I've seen I noticed that the actors were light skinned. There's also beauty products that campaign this idea. One slogan said "Reveal the White in You." Another "A Whiter you in seven days. There is a sense of harmony- it's not like the dark-skinned Filipinos are being persecuted. People joke about being dark, lighter whiter skin is the ideal- it gives status and privilege (especially if one aspires to be an entertainer or movie star).

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 10:48 PM | Comments (0)

August 25, 2006

The Philippines: A Trip Full of Wonder and Learning


This summer I did more than just travel to the Philippines to do my Honors Capstone Project. I did immersion learning in order to remember my roots and to reflect on my own personal growth. This trip was more than just site-seeing and spending money. I became familiar with the language, I read Philippine literature, went to museums and libraries, watched the news, attended cultural shows, and traveled throughout the main island Luzon from Laoag in the north down to Ragay in the southeast.

This trip wouldn't be complete without some downtime. I had several to have a balance between work and play (but when you like what you are doing, only a very thin line separates the two). I spent time with my family. We went to the movies and attended fiestas in the province. We had an excursion in Bohol in the Visayan part of the Philippines archipelago. I did a lot of shopping (books, clothes, shoes, and music), and I learned basic ice skating (Pre-Alpha level 1).

But not all is glitz and glamour, outside this academic bubble and privileges, I saw Poverty. There's a big gap between the poor and the rich. There's also a gamut of scandals involving of course the government and other institutions that should be serving the people (not the other way around). There's hope in the people's will to go on and to improve (using humour and entertainment to get through life's hardships). There are citizen patrols all over the Philippines and the world making differences in their fields.

I'm not an expert on any of the implied issues I mentioned above (maybe spending money J/K), but I am a student, who make observations. The upcoming blog entries will be reflections of my experience in the Philippines this summer (2006) from May 17 through Aug. 21. My own privileges limit me from several experiences for example poverty. With my background both in education and in life, I can only hypothesize, speculate, empathize in order to help (take actions) with the situations and problems the best way I can.


Pop Culture
-Malls (Shopping)

Cutural Center of the Philippines (CCP)
-Film Festival
-Art Exhibits
-Folk Dance

Honors Capstone Project
-National Museum
-National Library of the Philippines
-Department of Tourism
-CCP Archives and Library
-The Metropolitan Museum
-The National Bookstore
-University of Los Banos (UPLB)

Literature (Supplementary Reading Materials)
-Selected works from Contemporary Philippine Literature in English
-A Survival Guide for Visitors in Manila: Never Ever Bite into a Seed of the Lanzones
-Makata sa Cellphone (contemporary poetry in Tagalog)
-Teach Yourself Tagalog
-Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo (translated in English)
-Jessica Zafra's Twisted Flicks, Twisted 1, Twisted 6, and Twisted 7
-Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. 1
-The Mythology Class (Graphic Novel)
-Biyaheng FX: Round Trips to Pinoy Life
-Introduction in The Folktales
-Tito Alquizola's Return Flight and other essays
-PhilArt Magazine (Vol 1 No. 2 February 2006)
-Authentic Though not Exotic: Essays on Filipino Identity-
John F.R. L. Santos et al's Alamat
-Various Children's Picture Books
-Excerpts from other books related to my project

-Hundred Islands
-Great Valley Mountain Hiking
-Tagbilaran (Bohol)
-Bagui City

Philippine Tidbits
-Top Five
-Urban Wildlife

A Philippine Reality: Not All that glitters is gold
-High Unemployment
-Power abuse
-Colonial mentality
-Class Division
-Economy (money)

News/Current Events
-Da Vinci Code movie
-Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs)
-Mt. Mayon Volcano
-Terror Alert

-Being: A Fil-Am with a Pinoy Heart and an American Spirit

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 11:23 AM | Comments (4)

August 22, 2006

Culture Shock

Hola everybody!

I've landed back on American soil and wow, I'm either culturally shock at the obvious difference or I'm missing Philippines (P.I.) already...

I drove today to the Ardmore area (I still remember how to drive after a three month hiatus).... I'm actually driving rather than riding Philippine public transportation which may consist of tricycles, jeepneys, bikes, buses or FXs,

the traffic here is minimal,

the cars are not lane hopping and zigzagging like crazies- I'm not worrying about being "held up" for my borrowed cell phone, I don't see people walking on non-existent sidewalks (aka on the road with the vehicles)

the roads are wide and fixed

I'm finding speaking English weird (I'm finding myself not saying the right tense or missing articles). My pronunciation has stressed vowels everywhere. My F sounds had become P sounds and v became b. just as I'm getting used to 'dipthongs' before I left for P.I., now I'm starting from level one again...I feel shy when speaking English, it's like when I utter an English sentence the volume of my voice hits the nadir (pits of the Pacific abyss)...

the unpredictability of the weather is gone, eating taho is no longer possible, "makulit" JB et al. are at distant shores...

hopefully all are aware of the terror alert and liquid bombs... they were enforcing it, I went to at least three personal check-in place at the three airports I entered, I shouldn't have worn a belt because I had to remove it for every checkpoint, my baggage went to several x-ray machines... in Japan a guard personally checked through my hand carry full of "pasulobong (gifts)," I had to recheck my baggage once in Detriot for my transfer flight to Philly.. the weirdest thing I did was go through this stall-like scanner that shot burst of air, which came down on me from head to toe...

the only somewhat rude incident that occured to me happened when an airport official in the claiming area asked if I can read English, I said Yes. He circled the word 'food' and pointed to my pastries. I didn't declare them because the column included articles I didn't have (which were fruit, vegetables, seeds, live animals, plants etc.) I thought if I circled one thing from the list I would be implicated for the other things as well... so I was directed to follow the green arrow where a nicer officer learned of the details of my rationalization....

another incident was when an officer asked me what kind of gifts I brought home. I said toys (without thinking), and he immediately asked what kind of toys. I said dolls, stuff toys, and other souvenirs like magnets and keychains. Then the crux of his paranoia was revealed. He asked me if I had any toy guns, then jet-lagged me with minimalized brain functioning realized the whole terror alert (dah)... I felt safe either way, and I just bared with the meticulousness of it all

the world we live in?...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 1:04 AM | Comments (2)

August 15, 2006

5 more days until departure

In five days, I'll be leaving the Philippines, who knows when I'll come back here in PI....

Lots of reflections and stories to share, soon to come but right now, time is limited because I'm using the internet in per hour basis...

It has been eventful and awesome... it's sort of sad to reflect now because I'm still here and "saying goodbye is hard to do," ... summer has to end...

Posted by Michael Diezmos at 11:35 PM | Comments (4)