Dear Barbara Jane Reyes,
Thank you for this rich and well-written article. I have lived in South East Asia for 15 years, and have travelled widely in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia, my immediate neighbors — but never in Burma. (Aung San Su Kyi has asked me not to support the junta with my tourist dollars, and I’d do anything for her!) I haven’t managed Vietnam yet either, but there’s no doubt in my mind that I will find there one of the most vibrant, life-affirming cultures in the world. I also have no doubt that Vietnam will soon be the leader in continental SE Asia, and I don’t mean just economically either. I mean intellectually, artistically, and above all in the quality of life.
Having said all that, I have a strange confession to make: I’ve never been there but I still like the Philippines the best — just based on the people I’ve met from there all over the world, in America, in Asia, on ferries, in diners, students, bar girls, nannies, doctors, NGOs, roustabouts, one Shakespearean actor and even one Blue Grass guitarist! And yes, I’ve found a beauty, vibrancy, and sense of personal freedom in people of Philippino origin that’s quite unique. And the extraordiary thing is that the qualities I so admire seem to be in each and every one of them without exception regardless of their citizenship, education, or station in life.
And I love especially their wonderful kitsch, their glamor and mixing up of media, metaphors, metatarsals, moxies, munchies and feathers. I was brought up in New England and was taught there was such a thing as ‘Good Taste’ that ‘Everybody’ knew — well, that’s completely gone in me now, washed away with my Puritan birthright, thank God. Now I want fairy lights with everything, jingle bells on my hairpiece and funny little pandas on my desk and all over my altar. Indeed, what fills me with wonder is the genius of Filipinos wherever they live to make everything that glitters pure gold — and here’s your article and I can say, yes, including what I was also brought up to call ‘our’ English language. And now I just say PPPLEASE!
This is a wonderful poet, R. Zamora Linmark — how I wish Tom, Desmond and myself were there on Harriet to join you in the discussion. And the whole topic of “communications and miscommunications” — truly wonderful.
But don’t worry, even though we’re not there we’re still following on Scarriet. So stay tuned here too!