May and Memory-Making
There is so much in the making of memories and in the telling of truth in relation to that moral act of memory.
For one, our stories, the ones that live for all time, are grounded on that capacity of memory to keep those that matter to us as peoples, as communities, as narrators.
They say that we are all stories and that if we are not stories, we are nothing.
And in this May of our recession-filled lives, there is nothing grander, there is nothing more sublime, there is nothing more redeeming than our ethical engagement with truth-telling and memory-making in that delicate dance we call ‘story-making’.
For the Filipino community in Hawai’i—and by extension, in the diaspora—the month of May is a riot of fiestas and flower offerings for the many religious rituals that give reason for the diasporic communities to gather and re-gather in celebration and collective reminiscing of the homeland.
In more ways than one, the religious, such as the Flores de Mayo festival, comes as an excuse to gather and gawk at the spectacle of ternos and tiaras that both glitter in the sun and give some measure of success for the wearers.
The month of May becomes an occasion of prayer, too, what with the santos going around as was done in the Philippines in the past when diaspora was not yet in the lexicon of everyday life of Filipinos and when leaving the homeland, whether forced or voluntary, was some form of punishment as it was also a form of banishment to the strange and the unfamiliar, to the alienating and the foreign, and to that relentless rite of rooting an re-rooting in a land not your own.
While we admit that the fiestas that we stage in our diasporic communities are sometimes far better in administration and management than the ones we have back in the homeland—and far better sometimes in terms of its popular cultural appeal, what with popular singers and popular television personalities coming to entertain and thus, coming to enthrall and make us forget in many ways the tragedy of everyday life in the home country and in the adoptive land—these fiestas need rethinking as they should be.
For unless they tell us of our duty to truth-telling particularly of that broad story of why many peoples of the Philippine have left the homeland to eke it our in other places, these fiestas will fall flat in the general scheme of things, and will end up as empty exercise of a stage show whose meaning lasts only while the spectacle lasts.
For unless these myriad of activities that highlight Philippine popular culture become themselves instruments of consciousness that make us see and hear and feel and sense and touch critically of what we need to understand about our life as a collective, in the Philippines and in the diaspora, what we do will simply turn out to be one of those endless spectacles that will leave us empty-handed in the end.
Because what we need really are cultural instruments and programs that make us remember our responsibility to tell the truth of our being members of the collective in light of our engaging and rich diversity, in light of our need to preserve the memory that will make us celebrate both our sameness and our difference—and in Hawai’i and in the diaspora, our triumphs against all odds, with both triumphs and odds equally recognized, remembered, named.
For truth-telling ought to be part of our commitment to our collective story.
For memory-making ought to make us morally engaged with our history.
Both truth-telling and memory-making are intricate parts of the same act of telling who we are as a people across time.
Published, Observer, May 2009