Tag Archives: Counterhegemony

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT WE ARE (Remix-Response 2010)

9 Sep

“If you want to know what we are WE ARE REVOLUTION!” – Carlos Bulosan

And we still are kasama…

If you want to know what we are,

We are People Power beyond yellow shirts and U.S. sponsored dictators

and popular presidents,

the energy of beautiful short victories and the persistence in the day-to-day.

If you want to know what we are,

know the crack of tinikiling sticks, the footed dialogue with the floor,

trembling the spirits to an intentional sound that exits stage left

and reaches a new language from a bullhorn,

We are

the dreamers, dancers, lovers, artists exhausting their individuality,

B-boys becoming men, the storm of ones and twos, melodies yearning to be reawakened.

If you want to know what we are,

We are the hurt demanding release,

we are chest heaving, identity crisis bearing, and tippy toed against a vertigo fall,

running through an educational system

teaching us little

at high cost.

We are still students, sardined in your classrooms,

We carry the hazy memory, the subtext of your American History books,

The subtext that yells and screams on the way to your standardized tests.

You know us, the walking-breathing-flesh-archives of an unwanted history that incriminates you

with more blood,

the spirit that haunts your water board torture.

We are the shaky science that is enraged and tired-eyed.

If you want to know what we are,

We are hands domesticated, but not still.

We are the workers praised as modern day heroes,

but in the same breath

are the murdered, the disappeared, the illegally arrested when we labor to serve the people.

Only heroes in your eyes when we pay for the debt-foolishness,

when our work sustains your cycle.

Remember, the sister, taken, and, tortured,

her spirit is not broken

is not silenced.

She remains that deathless counterpart


and determined.

We are the voice that never died,

that is not pacified by the distance of the pacific.

We are surviving, but surviving isn’t enough.

We are Revolution, abducted into a fantasy world and sometimes abducted.

our voice co-opted, words of Hope and Change contested on auction blocks, on the presidential line.

We are the invisible blood stain on your tax dollar

We, speak, a, missing, silence,

And if so we will connect these silences

arm in arm,

language over language,

So that this silence never seems still, So that this silence never seems quiet, but waiting,

Waiting and calculating the time.

We are


Surface you 21st century Gabriela Silangs

Surface you young Bonifacios

Unravel that which is contained in your risen fist,

Unravel that

which is contained

in your risen fist,

a testament


song incomplete,

a song


whose next note

shall be played by the person next to you,

and the next, next, next, next…

The Awakening of Melissa R.

27 May

Blog author foreword:

The good news is that Melissa Roxas, the recent abducted Filipina American activist, has sinced surfaced and is with her family members in Manila.  Little is known on the status on her physical condition.  Roxas was abducted along with two fellow activists Juanito Carebeo and John Edward Handoc.  Though Carebeo has surfaced, Handoc is still missing.

The following is an undated email message written by Melissa Roxas published by the excellent online news magazine bulatlat


PUBLISHED ON May 26, 2009 AT 7:41 AM

Roxas, the Filipino-American activist who was abducted along with two others on May 19, purportedly wrote this undated email message. Bulatlat.com is reposting it because it provides a glimpse into her character and might help explain why an American like her would be spending time in the remote villages of the Philippines, trying to help the poor.

I want to share a story that particularly moved me about 14-year-old Adel. Adel was ten years old when her parents, were abducted and murdered by Philippine military soldiers. Her father, Expedito Albarillo was an active coordinator of Bayan Muna (a progressive political party list) in the town of San Teodoro, Mindoro Oriental. Her mother, Manuela, was an active member of Gabriela (a progressive women’s organization) in the same town. Adel told the story of how her mother hid her so the military would not know she was in the house. She heard her mother tell the military soldier to wait until she can get changed but the soldier told her not to bother because she would be killed. She peeked from where she was hidden and saw a soldier hit her father on the leg with a gun because he refused to come with them. Adel said she watched the military drag her parents outside the house and to the nearby hills. She said she felt very afraid, terrified. Later she heard successive gunshots from the direction where her parents were brought and she went outside to go find other family members in the town. They sent a team to look for her parents and when they later found them, she said they were shocked to find the bodies in the state they were in. Her father’s left eye was gouged out with a knife and gunshot wounds were found on his armpit and side. Her mother’s neck was shattered due to a gunshot below her left eye and she had other gunshot wounds in her armpit.

After the incident Adel had to go through therapy because of the trauma. She is only one of the many children that lost their parents due to military aggression. Eden Marcellana, then secretary general of Karapatan became her second mother, as Eden was to many families who became victims of human rights violations. But because Eden was outspokenly critical of the string of human rights violations cases committed against hapless peasants, Mangyan families and leaders and members of progressive groups in Mindoro, she too became a victim of kidnapping and murder. Adel and other children lost their second mother and the area lost another dedicated human rights worker.

We visited the sites where some of the victim’s bodies were found and also saw photographs of the scene. All the delegates professed their determination to tell the whole world about what they saw because these crimes against humanity have to stop. Adel and her older brother continue the work that their parents had begun and continue to condemn the militarization of countrysides and expose the crimes of the military and Arroyo administration. Even after having lost her parents, and her friends to these heinous crimes, Adel continues to work for change in the country, continues to defend the working poor, peasants, and those who the government have let down. All of the delegates, including myself, drew so much inspiration from this 14 year old girl and we asked ourselves, for us who do not live under direct repression, what can we do? And all vowed to remain dedicated to telling these stories and put pressure on our own governments to stop support of the Arroyo regime.

Unfortunately, this story is only one of many from the island of Mindoro and throughout the Philippines. Even the ISM team from Mindoro experienced different forms of harassment from local police and military as we traveled through the area. We experienced harassment at checkpoints and were followed—we got a taste of what locals must go through everyday. Many testimonies were heard by the other four teams who visited Hacienda Luisita, Central Luzon, Samar Island in Eastern Visayas, and Surigao del Sur in Mindanao.

Throughout this trip I cried many times and was deeply affected by such injustice. Also outraged that here in America, our taxpayer dollars are going to support repressive regimes like Arroyo’s. The U.S. provides financial support and training for Philippine troops. I am outraged that instead of using our hard earned tax dollars on helping the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, it goes abroad to fund wars of aggression in Iraq and the Philippines.

After this experience I began to really understand why people say that Philippines is in a current state of undeclared martial law. The Arroyo administration and the military act under a culture of impunity – immune from any punishment and immune from the rule of law that they say they are defending. Like the Marcos years (Philippine dictator until 1986), people’s civil rights are compromised and any opposition to the government is crushed – except that Arroyo is using the pretext of the “war on terror” to suppress legitimate dissent. Like what happened in Hacienda Luisita, where striking sugarcane workers and peasants were asking for better wages and benefits, were massacred by the military and local police. What justice is there for the victims? Until now they are still fighting for those benefits and until now there has been no punishment for the military and police.

Thank you for listening. At this point, I feel my responsibility is to tell as many people as possible about what I’ve seen, and as a writer write as much as I can about what I’ve seen. And most importantly take action.

I remain profoundly changed by this experienced and hope that even with these poor poets words, I can help spread awareness about these issues and tell the stories that were entrusted to me, that literally was paid for by the victims with sweat and blood.

Thank you fellow poets. Please keep in touch. I miss you all.

Much love,
Melissa R.

Exit Music (For the People)

24 Mar

Radiohead fans might know the blog title comes from the song “Exit Music (For A Film)” off their seminal album OK Computer.  This blog is not a fan blog, though I am a fan.  I will be dealing with issues of Art and Culture, but not in its traditional mainstream sense.  If I am talking about art I will most likely focus on the sociopolitical context that underwrites it.  I will try to tackle many subjects as I can.

“Pessimism of the intellect, Optimism of the Will” – Antonio Gramsci

The motivation for this blog is expression, not just personal expression but expression towards something: conscientizacao or conscientization/critical consciousness expounded by the Brazilian Educator Paulo Freire.  Hopefully by addressing certain topics I will generate new knowledge for myself and others, which will lead to action and intervention in the world (personal and collective levels).

“Exit Music (For A Film)” was made for the motion picture soundtrack of Baz Lurhmann’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. 


Exit Music (For A Film)

Wake from your sleep,
the drying of your tears,
Today we escape, we escape.
Pack and get dressed
before your father hears us,
before all hell breaks loose.

Breathe, keep breathing,
don’t lose your nerve.
Breathe, keep breathing,
I can’t do this alone.

Sing us a song,
a song to keep us warm,
there’s such a chill, such a chill.

And you can laugh a spineless laugh,
we hope your rules and wisdom choke you.

And now we are one
in everlasting peace,

we hope that you choke, that you choke,
we hope that you choke, that you choke,
we hope that you choke, that you choke.


The song is based on the scene in the film where Juliet was going to kill herself.  According to the authorial source himself there is a separate meaning.  Thom Yorke (lead singer/writer) said this about the song: ““I saw the Zeffirelli version when I was 13 and I cried my eyes out, because I couldn’t understand why, the morning after they shagged, they didn’t just run away. The song is written for two people who should run away before all the bad stuff starts. A personal song.”

Pop culture tends to idealize the love between Romeo and Juliet.  A definite “innocent” love between youth, not yet tainted by the world.  The focused aspect of an archetypal innocent love obfuscates the political implications of sociopolitical conflict.  News flash for people, the play is a tragedy and not comedy.  The play may idealize this innocent love in the foreground but it is constantly haunted by its violence, and in this case, Romeo and Juliet cannot escape the rivalry between their clans.  A very pessimistic play indeed.

Thom Yorke is far from a mainstream pop song romantic.  However, his solution to play rubs me the wrong way (don’t worry fans I still dig the music).  There is an anti-romantic romantic in me that disagrees with Thom.  Though I enjoy the song, it speaks to a fashionable individualist idea of love, what I call “love bracketed”. 

It is a nice idea that two lovers can escape and live their lives separate from the blood feud.  However, questions arise. What happens to the other people in the story, their families and the people caught in the middle of the blood feud?  Though it may seem that the text privileges this love as a supreme example.  However, they do die at the end.  The protagonists succumb to the injustice of the social realm.   

There are many films and artistic examples that follow this line of escapism.  Using Romeo and Juliet as an example, it would be much more productive if an artist can use the ideas in the play to challenge the social injustice within the text. So instead of Romeo and Juliet planning to flee, the two would be brave and stand up to the blood feud.  Idealistic? Yes, but art has to traverse this idea of an escapist love, or this promotion of the individual or lovers investing in themselves instead of challenging that which oppresses them and others.  This idealized love bracketed away from social conflict is a narrow concept, detrimental to collective people power. 

So what?  Why is this important?  I for one do not believe in the idea of “art for art’s sake”.  When one deploys meaning whether it is through the medium of art or criticism, it is always for someone and for some purpose.  Though the intention may or may not be to disable sociopolitical action in mass numbers, the constant (re)production of art promoting the ideas of escapism and Hollywood conceptions of love will continue to reinforce a pessimistic outlook on society, one that people cannot change because the monster (blood feud, and or U.S. Hegemony) is too big. 

The blog is named after that song because I believe we should move beyond the idea of the song.  Furthermore, there are other ways you can read the title “Exit Music”.  Another way of reading the title, that is productive in relation to social justice, is that it can also read like someone declaring music to exit, for it to go away. Thus “Exit Music” taking the idea of the death/disappearance, more specifically the disappearance of art.  The reading of the statement this way has its relation to the film movement/genre Third Cinema.    

About a year ago or so I came across the Filipino filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik  on the internet (I have yet to see his films).  Through him I was introduced to the film movement/genre that is known as Third Cinema.  Third Cinema sets itself apart from other forms of cinema due to certain formal aspects and most of all its sociopolitical commitment.  The movement/genre stands in contrast to what is called First Cinema and Second Cinema.  The former is the film genre that promotes bourgeois values, passive audiences, escapism, and individualism.  Second Cinema could be considered to what we may deem “Art House Cinema”, “Auteur (author) Cinema”.  It stands in contrast to the First, but is generally centered on individualism by enthroning personal expression.  Furthermore, it is centered on the cult of the Auteur, as the master of the text. 

It is safe to say that both first and second cinema films are not void of political content, but still fall victim to individualism, spectacle, escapism, and personal expression.  Third Cinema on the other hand very stringently espouses an anti-colonial political stance and seeks to decolonize the film, the filmmaker(s), and the viewer.  This is not to be confused with Third World Cinema (film from the Third World), although Third Cinema films are typically made by people from the Third World or what is known today as the Global South.  It is aimed at inspiring and promoting mass political activity to the viewer. 

I was inspired by this idea of art production.  Moreover by this particular view on art:

“It is no longer a matter of replacing one school with another, one “ism” with another, poetry with anti-poetry, but of truly letting a thousand different flowers bloom. The future lies with folk art. But let us no longer display folk art with demagogic pride, with a celebrative air. Let us exhibit it instead as a cruel denunciation, as a painful testimony to the level at which the peoples of the world have been forced to limit their artistic creativity. The future, without doubt, will be with folk art, but then there will be no need to call it that, because nobody and nothing will any longer be able to again paralyze the creative spirit of the people.

Art will not disappear into nothingness; it will disappear into everything.” – Julio Garcia Espinosa

What I adopted from the artistic movement was to try to reproduce this same attitude in my own critical-creative (I don’t believe in the division between the two) writing.  I particularly adopted Espinosa’s idea of “disappearance”.  This is the impetus of this blog, to challenge common sense wisdom attached to U.S. Hegemony and other oppressive formations.  The aim is not for progressive democratic ideas to disappear by leaving this earth.  I would very much like for such ideas to proliferate throughout society.  The intention is for these ideas to disappear into becoming something else, transforming the common sense of fashionable liberal multiculturalism, which sustains racial, gender, and class oppression.