Foreword to the Penguin Classics edition of Nick Joaquin, in Fiction Advocate

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Duterte and our revolutionary history

3SPANDEAD

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I wrote in response to the historical allusions that troubled me as Duterte defended the killings committed under his presidency. It was published by CNN Philippines, the full article here.

“It was as if the country was caught between two mirrors, and thus in that doubling, our tragedy as a nation was made infinite. Caught between the trauma of our history and the trauma of our present, Filipinos were gaslighted. An abuser condemned an earlier abuser of the nation in order to sanction his own abuse. I found myself reeling, wondering if I had misunderstood why the country had waged revolution in the first place. This infinite regression of trauma is not for the weak of mind: but it weakens us. It further destabilizes our vague memory of that revolutionary past…

Duterte’s rant has teeth — but no virtue.

The slippery slope of his self-serving rage is that, on top of having bare knowledge of our history, now we must also misapprehend its ethics.

Via Duterte’s pique, our history becomes mere trapo — a ragged cloth to wipe off spittle from a foaming pikon mouth.

But most of all, his rage misreads our history as blind nationalism. His is history as neurotic fetish, egotism’s scar — not space for reflection.”

 

Foreign Policy asked me to write an editorial on the visit of President Obama to Manila

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Here is the opinion piece: “Imperialism 2.0,” in Foreign Policy. Note that the backdrop in the picture, a kind of chilling mirror of this modern event, is Juan Luna’s painting “Pacto de Sangre” (or Blood Compact: in that case between Sikatuna and Legazpi, in this case between Barack Obama and Benigno Aquino III).

“Just as Anderson asks us for whom Rizal imagined he was writing,

so the agony of every writer is: for whom do we imagine we write? The monolithic implication of the question is misleading, as if “audience” must be a singular unity. As if we are not a country and a world of irredeemable multiplicity. Filipinos laugh at people who do not use “perfect English” — just as Americans in classrooms are often bothered by people who say “ax” instead of “ask” — but few Filipinos are concerned about their lack of interest in Cebuano, in the same way whites are unconcerned about their inability to spell an African-American person’s name.”

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Thoughts on Rizal and Ben Anderson in LA Review of Books

My essay, written a while ago but just oddly rediscovered by me (so embarrassing, really, since I promised Ben a long time ago I would do this review, then I did, then I forgot I had done it!). But the wonderful Los Angeles Review of Books published this updated version:

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