Bingo for Anthropologists of Color (AoC)

Artist Statement

We arrive at these professional meetings, met by an overwhelming wave of whiteness. The stories that academics tell are often about the sorry repercussions of colonial pasts that may be retraumatizing. Yet when it’s our turn to tell our story, some of us worry about the possible aftermaths of our tears and “drama” on our careers. Someone tells you that you might be too close to your subject of study. Some of us come in, with ancestral languages almost forgotten. Someone tests your language skills and intimacy with your heritage. “Where are you really from?” Some of us come certainly impressed by (perhaps partly jealous of) your borrowings from cultures that we had to shed as civilizing imperial projects launched into modern subjects. Someone recites to us an unsolicited reading list. Did we hurt your sensitivities when we said the classics need rethinking and that you need to begin to cite us too? Some of us did not make it to the meetings. Visas delayed or rejected – not enough proof of legitimacy, miscalculated wait times, background checks taking longer than usual? For now, shall we critically humor our shared grief, pain, tragedies? Bingo! – Dada Docot

The AoC Bingo Card may be downloaded and revised for your use.


Taking the Long Route: Ethnographic Metacommentary as Method in the Anthropological Film Practice

Abstract of article forthcoming in Current Anthropology, 2019

This article introduces “ethnographic metacommentary,” an experiential, processual, and protracted approach to ethnography. My proposed method goes beyond stating complexity as the defining characteristic of an anthropological project, visual or otherwise. To demonstrate the method, I write an ethnographic metacommentary of my three-minute film “Performing Naturalness” (2008), which is about the surveillance of foreigners in Tokyo. A number of contexts on the film are explored — the political situation from which it arose, the background of the experiment chosen for the project, and genealogies of art practice. The method includes the process of “furtherings” — self-reflexive explorations that unpack aspects of the project that often retreat from anthropological ethnography. Overall, in the process of writing this ethnographic metacommentary, this article explores the nuanced experiences of Filipinos in transnational migration, contributes to the conversation on contemporary Philippine conceptual art and its relationship with anthropology and film/art practice, and fleshes out difficulties of representation in collaborative projects due to differences in intentions and locatedness. I show how ethnographic metacommentary is a productive thought process that fleshes out ruptures in the filmmaking process that are often concealed from the audience, and even from the filmmakers.

#HindiOke 2: Maligaya Sana Ang Pasko (Christmas Would Be Joyful)

This project was proudly done in collaboration with RESBAK.

Click here to watch the video.


In mid-December 2017, RESBAK called for video submissions from Filipinos based overseas for our second Christmas music video. We received an overwhelming number of contributions from Germany, the Netherlands, China, France, Australia, USA, UK, Sri Lanka, and Japan.

From these, and in collaboration with RESBAK artists and allies, we were able to produce ‘Maligaya Sana ang Pasko’, attesting to how Filipinos all over the world united this Christmas season to call for justice for victims of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

We express our solidarity with their families and advocates for rights, justice and life.

This is RESBAK’s second HindiOke project. Taking off from karaoke videos, HindiOke encourages all to dare sing and take action about realities that we should never be okay with.

Maligayang Pasko!

#HindiOke 1 Christmas In Our Hearts (Reloaded)

This project was proudly done in collaboration with RESBAK.

“Christmas In Our Hearts (Reloaded)” takes after a song by the same title by Jose Mari Chan — one of the most enduring original Filipino music compositions about the Christmas season in the Philippines. The collaborators who worked on the video, however, in no way intend to demean or disparage the song but hope to connect it to the spirit of the birth of Christ which is to bring hope to the suffering Filipino masses.

This video is the first of many works that artists of RESBAK (Respond and Break the Silence Against the Killings) plan to produce in the campaign against the killings.

Panalangin Para sa Pinatay ni Marcos

Co-written by UBC poets Karla Lenina Comanda (UBC Main) and Rina Garcia Chua (UBC Okanagan), the “Padasal” is a reformulation of the prayers recited and performed in the Philippines to honour the departed. But the late dictator is not among our beloved, and the UBC PSS firmly believes that he does not deserve to be laid to rest with the rest of the Philippines’ real heroes. Therefore, in the case of the “Padasal,” the ills and excesses of the Marcoses are recited, while the names and courage of those killed, tortured to death, and disappeared, during the Martial Law period in the Philippines are repeatedly invoked. By remembering the names of the martyrs of Martial Law, we seek to re-inscribe into our memory the sacrficies they have done, so that our will for action may be strengthened and our commitment to continue the struggle be re-affirmed.

Philippines as a Field Site: Research Reflections

Scholars who recently returned from carrying out field research in the Philippines will share their experiences, challenges, and insights in an intimate workshop setting to stimulate dialogue, develop new lenses, and foster a multidisciplinary approach to Philippine related studies.

Filipino Farmers as Participants in Climate Resilience Research
Amber Heckelman, a PhD Candidate in Integrated Studies in Land and Food Systems, will present her use of participatory methods in carrying out climate resilience research among small-holder rice farmers.

Anthropology of the Hometown: The Anthropologist as Returning Absentee Resident
Dada Docot, PhD Candidate in Anthropology, will reflect on the intertwined metaphors of decay of the home and of the absence of a house’s residents in the age of global migration.

Provisional Province: Refiguring the “Filipino” Hospitality at the Interstices
James “Gym” Pangilinan, a PhD Student in Geography, will discuss history and politics of Palawan as it relates to Philippine nationalism and its significance as the “last frontier” in the Philippines.

The Poetics of Tambay: Hanging Out with the Lolas
Karla Comanda, a MFA student in Creative Writing, will share her experiences conducting research on her own family and the life narratives of surviving comfort women.

The forgotten archives of “big data” on 20th Century Filipino mass media audiences
Teilhard Paradela, a PhD Candidate in History, will recount his experiences in visiting neglected and unwanted archives in Metro Manila.

The Immigrant Experience as Resource for Art Production: Patrick Cruz’s Homecoming Exhibit at Vancouver’s Centre

Here in Canada, more than 40,000 Filipinos became permanent residents in 2014, and this means that the Philippines is now a top source country for Canadian immigration. In fact, only since 2004, the number of newly granted permanent residence permits for Filipinos has already tripled (Canadian Immigration Newsletter 2015). These numbers do not automatically imply visibility, with Filipinos often concentrated in underpopulated rural towns. Filipino participation in the public domains of politics, media, scholarship, and art also continues to be minimal. We often enjoy hearing about the wonderful successes and resilience of our immigrant friends, and celebrate such achievements, but empirical findings also tell us about the continuing struggles in several aspects of everyday immigrant life.

Researchers have written about the Filipino-Canadian youth’s lower educational attainment than their immigrant parents (Kelly et al. 2011). Looking deeper into this alarming regression in the educational attainment of immigrant Filipino-Canadian youths in Vancouver, May Farrales and Geraldine Pratt (2012) report that among the reasons for this is the interruptive effect of temporary labour programs on the educational trajectories of immigrant children. For example, Farrales and Pratt found that the Filipino-Canadian youth’s academic performances and educational attainment are often disrupted by their ambiguous placements in English as Second Language classrooms. This delay in the students’ academic advancement is often complicated with issues of migration. They found that because the youth have to deal with lengthy separation times while they wait in the Philippines to be sponsored by their mothers, their educational advancement also gets suspended.*

Michael Jackson (2013), an anthropologist of everyday life, writes of migration itself as a “rite of passage.” A migrant passes through several stages, in the process committing to new transformations, adding to his or her mindset new layers of acquired experiences and knowledge. The University of British Columbia Philippine Studies Series (UBCPSS) met Patrick Cruz, last year’s winner of the prestigious RBC Painting Competition, during one stage of his own rite of passage. This was the time when he worked at fast food chains frying chicken, mopping floors, and washing dishes. One time he told us that he was fired from a cake shop on Granville Island for his tardiness. One day, he excitedly told us that he found a better job, this time as an assistant window designer, and he could finally apply his talents honed at Emily Carr. But that is just an anecdote that I wanted to share because I think it’s a little interesting, but also symptomatic of what both Filipino migrants to Canada, and Filipino-Canadian youth themselves often experience.

In 2011, the UBCPSS started to take shape, with the primary goal of bringing together a small group of friends and professional contacts, and creating a space within UBC for conversations on the Philippines, and Filipino-Canadian issues. Patrick came to the first planning meeting – I don’t know how he knew about it – and he later found himself here in UBC, attending the academic and community events we organized.

With the UBCPSS, Patrick co-curated at least three multi-media art exhibits. This series of exhibits was collectively titled “Mahal” – the Filipino word which translates to “love,” but it also means “costly” or “expensive.” The exhibit played on the paradox of migration as maybe an act of love which may also strain familial relations, as also discussed in the book Families Apart co-authored by Gerry Pratt and the Philippine Women Center of BC.

The first Mahal exhibit was held in October 2011 at the Yactac Gallery, and was co-curated by Patrick and Chaya Go, with the theme of exploring the desires which carry Filipinos and our immigrant friends across borders.


“Rebulto, sculpture by Patrick Cruz (Philippines/Canada), for Mahal 1 at the Yactac Gallery


Francisco‐Fernando Granados (Guatemala), for Mahal 1 at the Yactac Gallery

MAHAL number 2, which opened in January 2012 at the Lobby Gallery of the Liu Institute, featured works by transnational Filipino artists, with the aim of showing the multiple facets of the migrants’ experiences.


Installation by Patrick Cruz, for Mahal 2 at the Lobby Gallery, Liu Institute for Global Issues


“Home-Made Revolutions” by Chaya Go, for Mahal 2 at the Lobby Gallery, Liu Institute for Global Issues

The third and final installation of the MAHAL series was co-curated with Edsel Yu Chua and its theme was on the act of transnational gifting often practised by overseas Filipinos. Balikbayan or homecoming boxes are large gift boxes incrementally filled by overseas workers, which, once ready, are sent to families back in the Philippines via sea cargo. For the third installation of Mahal, instead of releasing a call for artworks, the co-curators released a call for the members of the Filipino community in Vancouver to ‘submit’ things they wanted to send to their loved ones in Manila.

                          Boxing of Gifts at the Yactac Gallery, 2012

Eventually, two balikbayan boxes were filled, and then sent to a partner art gallery in Manila, where the boxes were then opened, and the items received by their recipients who attended the exhibit and boxes opening.

                          Opening of Gifts at Kanto Gallery, 2012.

Finally, please allow me to briefly comment on Patrick’s winning piece in the 2015 RBC painting competition, in which he problematizes the idea of time in relation to the process of painting itself and in relation to immigrant life. Patrick calls his work “Time Allergy” – what he also drives at here, I think, is the alienation of the migrant’s time through its control, monetization and regulation. Asked about his move to Canada ten years ago he tells me, “Isinalang kami dito, galing Kamias,” which roughly translates to “we were moved here, from Kamias” – Kamias being the neighbourhood that his family still considers to be their home. That home is now host for the Kamias Triennale. It is not however a complete translation because the word“isinalang” refers to the act of putting something over burning fire. To be isinalang means to be put in a state of uncertainty, and maybe even of agitation. Patrick did not have to look far for resources from which he could understand the experience of temporal disjuncture brought by mobility. What fuels the desires that could temper the patience of Patrick and his family as they wait for visa decisions, only to be rejected in all three rounds of applications?


“Time Allergy” by Patrick Cruz, 2015 RBC Painting Prize Winner

Already studying Painting at the University of the Philippines, Patrick’s move to Canada meant adapting to an academic schedule that is quite different from the educational system in the Philippines. This meant for him a regression, a re-orientation of the self again as a high school student, which was for him a strategic move to begin from scratch – earn new friends, maybe even slow down the race of time towards becoming a racialized adult immigrant where, as Patrick says, one typically gets caught up in a “cycle” of doing odd jobs that nobody else wants. Embedded in Patrick’s works, as well as in the RBC submission, is his intense engagement with his own personal and familial mobility. His works tell us about what anthropologist Dorinne Kondo calls the “things that matter deeply,” but these things that matter at the very personal level also reflect social and collective histories of other people in the diaspora.

We are glad to welcome Patrick in this homecoming to Vancouver – the mention of “home” here evokes affects of sorts. In the exhibit that will open today at the Centre A, Patrick’s works, chaotic, loud, visually noisy, painted in untamed colors and bold brushstrokes, takes a leap from the narratives of marginalization and invisibility of Filipino-Canadians. His take on the diasporic experience is not unlike a collage based on the self-reflexive problematization of the immigrant experience, taken as a valid resource for cultural production. His work as collage is cluttered with the history of multiple colonizations of the Philippines. They are a reflection of the layering of his enculturated values from the Philippines, with the more rigid and structured immigrant experience. It is only on very rare occasions though that such renderings of one’s subjectivities and of immigrant life can be transformed into a public conversation.

The Things That Matter Deeply

(I delivered this short talk during the “Exploring Truths through Research and Art,” a workshop for PhD students interested in integrating art practices in their academic work. The event was organized by the UBC Transitional Justice Network, and held at the UBC Liu Institute for Global Issues last September 20, 2012. Other speakers were novelist Shyam Selvadurai and visual artist Ashok Mathur. For more information on the questions we tried to address during the workshop, please click here.)


Hi! Good afternoon! There are four sets of questions prepared by Julie and Katherine for this workshop. I hope to address the first set, “How can we use art as a methodological practice in our research?  What are the challenges we should consider when interweaving art and social research?”

Self-referential, self-reflexive art sometimes can be perceived as postmodern solipsism by the scholar, who in her ivory tower, seems to be disconnected from the rest of the world. It is also possible to do art involving your subject, with the danger of being perceived as misrepresenting, if not exploiting the subject. I think that these are two dangers or challenges that we will continuously grapple with as social science researchers using creative methods. I proceed to cite examples from my attempts at using art and film methods in my research on Filipino overseas migration – aware of these two dangers.

One fascinating example from the Philippine conceptual art scene is Poklong Anading’s Ocular. It is an installation consisting of video and photographs. The video at first looks like a mere documentation of Hong Kong’s cityscape. In the photos in the same exhibit, however, Poklong removed digitally the image of his now-deceased mother from the photographs she sent back to the Philippines over a period of 11 years, while working in Hong Kong as a domestic helper, leaving only a black negative space as a powerful metaphor perhaps for her absence and long-distance motherhood. These photographs and the video piece were projected onto all four walls of the gallery, depicting Poklong’s painstaking attempts to piece together fragments of his mother’s life overseas. The striking contrast between the absence of Poklong’s mother and her friends in the portraits, and the presence of the shadows cast by the gallery visitors on the video projection is haunting – the work presents to us a painful reality lived by the artist himself.


Anading-Ocular2  Anading-Ocular3


Poklong Anading’s “Ocular” (Photos from Anading). More information on Ocular here.


Embedded in this work such as Poklong’s is an intense engagement with personal histories. We can discern an art practice that is deeply influenced, if not carved out of, one’s lived experience, for example through work with ideas and materials sourced from within the artist’s own homes and life stories. Such examples from the Philippines have provided me with avenues for self-introspection in my attempts at making art, and later, at applying art practice in my academic work. This brings me to a brief presentation of my old projects. I think that it is through these reflections that we discover what could be better ways of crafting narratives through the intimate act of crafting our selves.

In 2002, I performed Filipina during my first stay overseas as an undergraduate exchange student in Osaka. Framed as a performance piece, I walked around different neighbourhoods, carrying against my chest a small board with the text “Filipina” written on it. My interest lay in observing how the “Others” would observe the “Other” who might be perceived as different. Since the 70s, Japan has been a major destination for Filipino women who were recruited to work as night club entertainers. The migration of Filipino women to Japan was initiated as part of the interim strategy for the Philippines to spur economic growth through remittances from overseas adopted during the Marcos dictatorship which began in 1972. This performance was staged ten years ago, when I imagined that by walking, simply wearing my skin, and self-identifying my ethnicity, could be a way to explore the strangeness of being in a land where there are gendered stereotypes related to being female, and to being Filipino. While female and coming from a family of rural-to-urban-to-overseas migrants, my privileged and stable status as a middle-class international student, was admittedly incomparable to the precarious situation of many of the Filipina entertainers in Japan. Indeed, what feelings of internalized gendered mobility and racialization did my artist statement claim to address? Poklong’s work — Ocular — which I showed earlier, is powerful because it serves as an important reminder of the weight that the “cultural force of emotions” (Rosaldo 1989) brings to a work, and which could perhaps be used to great effect in our creative projects, and even in our academic work. Increasingly, I was realizing the force of the emotive and the experiential in the conceptualization of my projects.

Non-Appearance is a work that I did in 2009 that explores the idea of one’s capacity (or incapacity) to cross or stay within national borders. Non-Appearancewas simultaneously a virtually-held performance, and a gallery-based exhibit, whose concept stemmed out of a proposal for another show, which was to be held at the same gallery in Tokyo. The original proposal was to exhibit a documentation of everyday photographs from my three-year stay in Tokyo as a graduate student. However, this could not materialize as I was refused a visa to Japan. Following this development, but determined to make do with whatever was available, I opted to still hold the show, now collaborating with the gallery director, to reflect on one’s inability to cross borders. On the opening night, one wall showed a live stream of myself, via the Internet, in my room in Manila, attending the event remotely as a testimony of my absence. On the other wall was a projection of a video-performance by the gallery director. Following my visa refusal, the gallery director volunteered to trace my steps around Tokyo and videotape the places I had anticipated to visit.

Ginza Art Lab DocumentationNon-Appearance (2009) by myself and Keiko Kamma

One of my projects in which I believe I have found the right balance was my 30-minute film, Restless. In this film, my mother travels from our hometown to Manila, not for mere leisure, but to fulfill a dream — to receive a visa to the United States. Shot in two days, the documentary follows my mother as she gets ready for the big interview, preparing to perform an “identity” that will enable her to cross national borders. She is accompanied by my aunt who had been refused a visa three times. My mother had missed my sister’s wedding, and she was desperately hoping to see in Los Angeles her first grandchild. The final cut was arrived at through several edits requested by my own extended family – for instance, the omission of any mention of my sister’s previous status as undocumented migrant for nearly a decade.

Paul Stoller (1992) writes of knowledge as “situated, negotiated, and part of an ongoing process.” I see the works mentioned so far as a way of situating my subjectivities in the continued exploration of the potential of art practices – or of the experience and production of concept-based art and research – in the dissemination of the narratives of the Filipino diaspora. I wish to suggest that subjectivities are comprised of layers of personal, social, and collective histories. Subjectivities are cumulative, and transformable, as seen in the progression of works I have introduced today. With my relatives who are migrant workers now spread across the globe, and as a citizen of a state that takes pride in its “world-class” human labour, and as a student and occasional artist who attempts to reflect on the Filipino diaspora and the diasporic experience – the possibilities for developing or contesting one’s subjectivities are endless. While these subjectivities transform over time, they remain in constant tension with the positionalities of fellow Filipinos – my research “subjects” — despite the solidarities envisioned, imagined, or at least hoped for by the author, artist or scholar. I hope to make a point how political intentionality, despite being called one of the “interesting fallacies” in art (Hiller 1985), may be part of a project that is situated within one’s explicit attempt to politicize the personal. Auto-ethnographers are oftentimes accused of navel-gazing, yet the exploration of the personal, and the blending of the intimate narratives into national and global politics, I think, is one of the ways through which we can commit and invest our very selves to projects, which as Dorinne Kondo says, “matter deeply.”

Mothers as the Clan’s “Sugod”: The Interweaving of Kinship, Gender, and Personhood in the Migration Practices of a Filipino Family

For the 2014 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, University of Toronto

Contemporary mobilities depend upon and re-enact colonization, and today’s experiences and imaginings of home and belonging are also related to these histories (Ahmed, Castaneda, and Fortier 2003). Situating women at the center of this autobiographical ethnography, I focus on the three “mothers” who have replaced the “patriarch” of the family, my grandfather, who built his career from being a street peddler during his youth, to a successful bamboo basket exporter in the 1970-90s. Going back to the roots of my family, I use the metaphor of basket-making to illustrate the complex weaving of familial practices that have enabled the mobilities of our family. “Sugod” is the Rinconada word for “base of a woven vessel,” the necessary nucleus which holds together the basket’s shape. In Tagalog, it means “to surge.” I seek to contribute to the feminist project across disciplines that interrogates the macro-historical-ethnographic narratives. Three women in my extended family hold the positions of power at the three different “sites” of home the family has come to inhabit – Nabua (Camarines Sur), Quezon City (Metro Manila), Los Angeles (California). These “homes,” like the gendered roles assumed by the three mothers, are fluid and changing, and serve the purpose of propagating kin success – success now assessed largely based on the overseas mobilities of the family’s members. This paper is an attempt to confront the messiness of home, following Linda Pierce (2005) who suggests that one of the goals of decolonization may be attained by piecing together fragments of personal history.

Ton-ton (The Descent): Returning Migrants’ Fulfillment of a Covenant in the “Town of Dollars,” Philippines


Image by SIEF. To view full program, click here.


For the 2016 Société Internationale d´Ethnologie et de Folklore’s Working Group on Migration and Mobility Workshop, University of Basel, Switzerland

The Philippines remains one of the world’s major sources of migrant labour, and Filipino workers are now spread to literally every country and territory in the world. More than 5,000 Filipinos leave the country every day for overseas work. This presentation hopes to add to the SIEF Migration Group Meeting a discussion on some of the aspects of everyday life that occurs at one of world’s major sources of human labour. Ton-ton is an annual Easter Sunday ritual that is celebrated in different varieties across Catholic Philippines. It dramatizes the meeting of the risen Christ with the grieving Virgin Mother. In my fieldsite, the ton-ton is held as a devotion to Inang Katipanan (Mother of the Covenant) that began during the Spanish colonization after a major earthquake in 1711 struck the town. Today, with many families having family members in the U.S., the town is called by its residents the “Town of Dollars.” The ton-ton has become a money-making pageant, with many of the participating families having direct connections to overseas labour. Based on anthropological ethnography (2013-2015), I investigate how these rituals can inform us about the ways in which the sacred brings together a transnational network of families in the town and overseas. I explore the ton-ton as a publicly celebrated ritual that is a site for the emergence of personalities who hold different intersecting purposes, but mainly: to fulfill a covenant. Migration studies need to look into how: religiosity and religious attachments play out in the originating locality; migrants’ attachments to folk icons are imagined to facilitate departure; the fulfilment of a covenant facilitates migrants’ family life and their anticipated homecomings. My field site is also my hometown, and I also hope to reflect on the complex positionalities in conducting an ethnography of the “home.”