Las Yslas Filipinas in the World

San Diego Public Library

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                       

CONTACT:    Marc Chery



Central Library Hosts “Las Filipinas in the World” Book Discussion Series

San Diego, CA… The San Diego Public Library will host a Filipino Book Discussion Series: Las Filipinas in the World featuring professor John Blanco of UCSD’s Literature Department in conjunction with the 2014 One Book One San Diego annual reading campaign at 6:30 pm on four consecutive Mondays between October 6 and November 3 at the San Diego Central Library @ Joan Λ Irwin Jacobs Common, located at 330 Park Blvd in downtown San Diego. Monstress, the 2014 One Book One San Diego selection by rising literary star Lysley Tenorio, is a book of quirky short stories set amongst Filipino-American communities in California and the Philippines, a thrilling debut collection of vibrant Filipino-American life.

The series will feature books by both Filipino and Filipino American writers, including the history-making Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not) by Filipino national hero José Rizal which inspired the Filipino revolution and helped create a unified Filipino national identity. The series title Las Filipinas in the World speaks to the many complexities about the Philippines in the age of empire: over 350 years of Spanish colonization, English and Tagalog as official languages, most Christian country in Asia (the old cliché), etc.  And the word “Filipinas” in English refers to women instead of the country as it does in Spanish. The books in the series are:

October 6, 6:30 – 8:00 pm

Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not) and El Filibusterismo (Reign of Greed) by José Rizal

Professor Blanco begins the series with a discussion of the influence of Rizal’s books and their central role in the Filipino literary tradition. Come hear why Noli Me Tangere and its sequel El Filbusterismo are required reading for high school students in the Philippines. More than a century after its publication, Noli Me Tangere remains the most important Filipino novel ever published, and the most succinct symbolic drama of the Philippines at a crossroads between a decaying Spanish empire and the rise of European and U.S. imperialisms in Southeast Asia.

October 20, 6:30 – 8:00 pm

Tagalog Literature: Florante at Laura

Discussion of one of the masterpieces of Filipino literature, the epic poem: The History of Florante and Laura in the Kingdom of Albania (Pinagdaanang Buhay nina Florante at Laura sa Kahariang Albanya). Originally written in Tagalog by Filipino national poet Francisco Balagtas in 1838 while he was imprisoned by the Spanish colonial rulers.  Balagtas is so greatly revered in the Philippines that the term for Filipino debate in extemporaneous verse is named after him: Balagtasan.

October 27, 6:30 – 8:00 pm

Male Filipino American Writers

Professor Blanco discusses two classic works by Filipino diaspora writers:  America is in the Heart (1946) by pioneering Asian-American poet, novelist, and labor organizer Carlos Bulosan; and  The Man Who (Thought He) Looked Like Robert Taylor (1983) by Bienvenido Santos, an important novel about the personal and emotional experiences of Filipino migrants in the U.S.

November 3, 6:30 – 8:00

Filipina Voices: Three Works by Filipina American Writers  

Discussion of the works of three Filipina American writers including American Book Award recipient and human rights activist Ninotchka Rosca (State of War, 1988), celebrated novelist and playwright Jessica Hagerdorn (Dogeaters, 1990), and Palanca Award winner Marivi Soliven (Mango Bride, 2013).

Dr. Blanco is a professor of comparative literature, Spanish, and cultural studies at UCSD. His research interests concern the colonial roots of globalization between the 16th-19th centuries. His courses engage with these themes in and through the study of Philippine, Latin American, Caribbean, and US minority literatures and cultures (religious, political, and artistic). Widely published, he is the author of Frontier Constitutions: Christianity and Colonial Empire in the Nineteenth Century Philippines. Visit him at:

Library cardholders who would like to read the books in the series prior to the talks may borrow them from the San Diego Public Library. Online versions of Noli Me Tangere in the original Spanish, English, and Tagalog may be found at

One Book One San Diego is an eight-year-old partnership between KPBS, San Diego Public Library, and San Diego County Library designed to bring the community together through a shared experience of reading and discussing the same book.  One Book is made possible by the Linden Root Dickinson Foundation, Lloyd Pest Control, the Cubic Corporation, the Henry Fox Foundation, and the San Diego Public Library Foundation.

Learn about One Book One San Diego and other programs at the San Diego Public Library’s Central Library and 35 branches, find links to numerous additional resources, or search for materials in the Library’s catalog online at

Inspiring lifelong learning through connections to knowledge and each other


Las Filipinas 1014 pr

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Las Morismas de Bracho 2014 – moros y cristianos in Zacatecas

Imagine a play with 11 people — it’s not hard to do. That’s how the revival of the religious “moros y cristianos” festival in Zacatecas began, in the 1950s — a colonial festival that commemorated the Reconquest of Spain in and through a retelling of its legendary roots (particularly the romance of Charlemagne and the Twelve Peers of France). Known today as “Las Morismas de Bracho,” the festival takes place on the last week of August every year on the edge of the city. 

But let me return to our play of 11 actors. Multiply that number by 10 — that’s a lot of actors for a play, 110. Would you say a Broadway theater could hold that many actors? Decades pass, and now the number is 1100 — the only thing comparable to that would be the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Hundreds of people in a procession marching through the town, in brilliant costumes representing everything from the Jewish subjects and Roman soldiers of King Herod in Palestine to the nineteenth century Turkish forces sent overseas by the French dictator Louis Philippe in order to install a French emperor in Mexico. I did mention the medieval knights too, right?

A play with 1100 people, double that number. Double it five times. That’s (I think) 11,000 people. Add another thousand. Invite the families and friends of all those people. And let the play begin.

The festival takes place over the course of four days. On Thursday, a small troupe of actors faithful to the veneration of San Juan Bautista — patron saint of the church, whose confraternity was created in 1824 in order to rectify the dissolute and reprehensible acts that took place around the parish during the days of the festival — stage the story of John the Baptist. The play, which is done in an open air space not far from the church, tells the story of how Herod’s wife, an adultress who left her husband to be with his brother (Herod) uses her daughter Salome to ask Herod for the head of John the Baptist. Like most coloquios, there seem to be a lot of tangents that involve the Devil’s attempt to sabotage the redemption by killing John the Baptist; Herodías’s desire for fame and power (which leads to her adultery); and the play’s trovador, who in addition to accompanying the corridos with his guitar, also falls in love with Magdalena (another tangent!), and confesses that he’s the illegitimate son of an important Roman official.

Salome dancing for the head of John the Baptist

Salome dancing for the head of John the Baptist

Herod's court and solemn dance


Now what, you may ask, does all this have to do with moros y cristianos? Well, for one thing, the theme that ties together this play with the Morisma (in which Balan, leader of the Ottoman Turks is defeated by Charlemagne and his 12 Peers of France) is decapitation. Recall, the pre-Hispanic civilizations that had ceremonial centers just outside Zacatecas practiced human sacrifice, which also involved decapitation; and that as late as this past year, Zacatecas like other northern towns suffered from wars between drug cartels that resulted in decapitated heads left on the street. More directly, though, when the Ottoman Turks defeat the Christians and take the castle in the first battle, they capture the icon / statue of John the Baptist as their “treasure.” Tomorrow, when the Turks are being routed by Charlemagne, they cut the statue’s head off out of pure malice and frustration. The story ends, of course, with the beheading of the Moorish leader Balan. Decapitation brings the story around full circle. 

The costumes are quite beautiful, especially against the stark background of the field stage. Throughout the play, there were a couple of funny moments that got people laughing: one was when Herodes goads Salome to sing (she has a voice that delights the heavens), but the girl playing Salome couldn’t really sing. When she’s finished Herod insists that she sing again, she does (the song is about how she’s being worked to death singing), then Herod waxes poetic about the beauty of her voice again, and when she asks him if he wants her to sing again he pauses, and says very abruptly “No!” at which point the audience burst out laughing. I think everyone was kind of relieved, although you have to remember that the girl who played Salome must have been barely 15 years old, so no disrespect to the fantastic job she did!


Friday, Saturday, and part of Sunday are dedicated to the main story, which concerns: a) the conversion of the Moro “giant” Fierabras (son of the Turkish emperor Balan and brother of Princess Floripes) to Christianity; b) the seizure of Jerusalem, several knights of France, and the icon of John the Baptist by the Turks, launching Charlemagne’s holy war to recover the holy relics and the city (represented by a castle at the top of a hill); c) the assistance of Floripes, son of Turkish king Balan, in rescuing the knights and the relics, out of love for French knight Gui de Borgogne; d) Charlemagne’s confrontation with Balan in a one-on-one, mano-a-mano sword fight, leading to the Turkish emperor’s death and the rescue of the castle! Now wait a minute, you might say: “didn’t Charlemagne live 200 years before the capture of Jerusalem by the Seljuk Turks?” The answer of course, is: who cares?

IMG_0504 IMG_0508 IMG_0538 IMG_0541 IMG_0579


The adaptation of the “Twelve Peers of France” isn’t out to teach a lesson in history, but impart a set of values that arise out of the understanding of a Christian universe…. Ideally, of course. Festivals never become popular because some outpost Christian missionary priest struck upon a great idea and aggressively promoted it among the locals. What might have drawn Indian converts to these stories? Janea Estrada’s recent article in La Gualdra, the cultural review of the Zacatecas edition of La Jornada (, gives us some clues: the desperation of the Indians, who died working 20 hours a day in the mines of Zacatecas; and whose numbers fell by 80% in the Americas within the first three or four decades of the conquest; the conviction that the simultaneous catastrophe that was the conquest and the discovery of silver in Zacateas led priests to believe that the Devil had relocated from the Ottoman Empire to Zacatecas, precisely one century after the Reconquest of Spain; the success at appropriating and repeating a European fantasy in order to mask the anger and bellicosity which, having no outlet, indigenous communities would visit upon one another; a legitimate pretext for continuing to practice the arts of war (similar to the history of Brazilian capoeira), through activities like juego de cañas (cane-stick game). There lies a will and an art in blurring and recombining the fragments of an indigenous universe that had been kicked to pieces, with the foreign, weak, inconsistent presence of conquistadors and missionaries outside Mexio City; until, between the danza de Matlachines ( and the Battle of Lepanto, the clash of swords and the random crack and boom of gunpowder packed into toy muskets and cannons, the question of what is ultimately “native” and “foreign” becomes a labyrinth of contradictions ( 


The final battle scene is a baroque spectacle: the Christian army forms the shape of a cross as they march in file slowly down the hill opposite to that of the castle held by the Turks. At a signal from the band, Christian troops swarm over the hill and around the cross, all descending upon the central field of battle where the final confrontation takes place. In it, Felipe II goes hand to hand with archenemey Argel Osman, and ultimately frees the captured Christian soldiers, as well as the head of San Juan Bautista. There’s a video of these two scenes here ( and 

Is the festival a placeholder for lost gods? The history of Mexico according to José Vasconcelos and the murallistas of the 1930s? Religious devotion? Or just a reminder of the state of exception having become the rule? You emerge from the day’s exercises, face and fingers black with gunpowder smoke, ears ringing, eyes stinging, drunk to hell. And all you want to do is to go back and do it again.


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Política común 5 (special issue: Carl Schmitt and the Early Modern World, edited by Jody Blanco and Ivonne del Valle) is out today!

Política común 5 (special issue: Carl Schmitt and the Early Modern World, edited by Jody Blanco and Ivonne del Valle) is out today!.

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Política común 5 (special issue: Carl Schmitt and the Early Modern World, edited by Jody Blanco and Ivonne del Valle) is out today!

pclogo Browse by Issue > Volume 5 (2014)

Title Author(s)
Reorienting Schmitt’s Nomos: Political Theology, and Colonial (and Other) Exceptions in the Creation of Modern and Global Worlds Blanco, John D.; del Valle, Ivonne
Francisco de Vitoria, Carl Schmitt, and Originary Technicity Bentancor, Orlando
Primitive Spiritual Accumulation and the Colonial Extraction Economy Nemser, Daniel
From Lines to Networks: Carl Schmitt’s Nomos in Africa More, Anna
The Return of the Pirate: Post-colonial Trajectories in the History of International Law Policante, Amedeo
De-centering Carl Schmitt: Colonial State of Exception and the Criminalization of the Political in British India, 1905-1920 Pincince, John
Schmitt and Foucault on the Question of Sovereignty under Military Occupation Shimabuku, Annmaria
Nomadism and Just War in Fray Guillermo de Santa María’s Guerra de los Chichimecas (México 1575 – Zirosto 1580) Sánchez-Godoy, Rubén A.
La simultaneidad en la historia global Rabasa, José
Preface to The Planetary Tension Between Orient and Occident and the Opposition Between Land and Sea: reorderings and reorientations Blanco, John D.
The Planetary Tension Between Orient and Occident and the Opposition Between Land and Sea Schmitt, Carl
Alessandro Fornazzari, Speculative Fictions: Chilean Culture, Economics, and the Neoliberal Transition. Pittsburgh UP, 2013, 158 pages Beverinotti, Matías
Ignacio M. Sánchez Prado, Intermitencias americanistas. Estudios y ensayos escogidos (2004-2010). UNAM, México, 2012, 347 pages Ángeles, Francisco
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Asian-Americans and US imperial wars of aggression

I was attending a talk in History given by guest speaker Simeon Man. The title of the talk: “Aloha, Vietnam,” conveyed a bizarre paradox in the history of Asian Americans, who played a significant role in the granting of statehood to Hawai’i in 1959, but who also contributed to developing the military industrial complex there after World War II. Some of these Asian Americans, who either volunteered or were forcibly recruited (like the Japanese Nissei) to fight in the Pacific War, returned to Hawai’i after the war and became prominent civic and political leaders. But a part of their development of Hawai’i’s economy involved a tourist industry geared specifically for military servicemen working on one of the many bases on Oah’u; and the appropriation of hinterland for military training. In fact, the 42nd Infantry Brigade, which was conscripted to serve in WWII but also in the Korean and Vietnam wars, specialized in training for tropical climates and guerrilla warfare. They would build these mock villages, get Asian American soldiers to play the role of “the enemy” in the villages, and stage these mock battles and skirmishes.
While Man’s larger point was interesting enough (how Asian American narratives of citizenship and earning our rights can’t be separated from our collective indirect and direct participation in US colonial and imperial wars in Asia from the Philippines to Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia), I was drawn to a particular example of “racial liberalism” in wartime that he mentioned: how the US recruited and employed Filipino doctors and nurses from the Philippines to service the US military hospitals in Vietnam, and to tend specifically to injured Vietnamese civilians. The idea was that winning the “hearts and minds” of Vietnamese would involve finding ways to preempt the Vietnamese from seeing the US presence as a foreign one; and (therefore) regarding the Vietnam war as a racial one instead of an ideological, Cold War. The My-Lai massacre put an end to that charade; just like Abu Ghraib put an end to the farce of the Iraq war as a war of liberation. Despite US attempts to distance themselves from the colonial war formerly waged by the French, we could not disavow our complicity and desired participation in the imperial legacy.

But the recruitment of Filipino doctors and nurses in Vietnam illustrates how complex Filipino attitudes are to our former colonizer. Consider exhibit 1: that many Filipinos remember the Pacific War as a war of liberation against the Japanese, forgetting that:

the Americans had waged colonial war against the Philippines while it was trying to win its independence from Spain;
the US promised the Philippines independence only because China turned red (and the idea of opening a China market through the Philippines went up in smoke), and because Filipino migrant workers in the US were organizing labor unions and stirring up racial tensions among poor whites on the west coast;
the reason why the Japanese Empire targeted the Philippines in the first place was precisely because it was a US colony (or “commonwealth”);
the US firebombed Manila and destroyed most of it, knowing full well that the Japanese had been all but defeated in the Philippines and elsewhere

Exhibit 2: when Filipino veterans and US citizens who assisted the Americans during World War II were deprived of the same benefits as all other veterans, they had to resort to the same appeals to their patriotism and sacrifice, and continue performing their unconditional loyalty to the US decade after decade, knowing full well that their congressmen and senators considered them aliens and foreigners just trying to seize a privilege to which they were not “entitled.” It’s like being caught in this vicious, masochistic cycle, where the indefinite suspension of your rights only further compels the demand for unconditional sacrifice and loyalty.
Exhibit 3: Filipinos feel indebted to the American colonial system for forcing us to learn English. Today, one of the reasons for Filipino employment in the international service sector is our competence in English. But if US education was such a boon, why do the majority of Filipinos only get jobs in the service sector? Why are apologists for US education so certain that Filipinos wouldn’t have learned English, or any other language for that matter, if not for the (mis)fortune of colonial conquest and imperial rule? I mean, did Rizal really need a Spanish colonizer to learn Sanskrit, Russian, German, French, and English? One could even go further: is it possible that the cultivation of indigenous languages at the expense of an imperial language might have fostered a greater investment in regional economies and local governance, instead of full-on absolute surrender to the international division of commodity specialization, World Band and IMF stipulations, and the impunity of oligarchs and their private armies? In the luminous words of Cuban martyr José Martí’s famous speech “Nuestra América,” the author declares: “We make wine with bananas; but even if it is bitter, it is still our wine!” There is much to be learned in that essay, which inspired generations of leaders and statesmen.
This brings me to the final point: I always thought of Filipino employment in the US health services industry as something of a sacred cow, untainted by either US imperial designs or colonial mentality. I always just assumed that Filipinos were just naturally good doctors and nurses; that the US just happened to have a shortage of these positions during the expansion of the medical industrial complex in the 1960s; and, voila, the 1965 Immigration law allowed Filipinos and other Asians to come to the US and begin their lives on steadier footing than the agricultural laborers, GI War brides, and Filipino servicemen that had preceded them. My parents were part of that generation: they came in 1965, spoke English fluently before ever stepping foot in the US, eventually bought a house in the suburbs, everything. It never occurred to me that even the incentive to cultivate Filipinos into a professional class for export was tied to a larger narrative. But then, that’s the American in me. After all, how many countries offer their citizens the bonafide right to remain ignorant about the world and its people, as well as each other and ourselves, our histories and itineraries across centuries and hemispheres? Aude sapere, as the old crank from Königsberg would say.


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Stochasticity Unbound. In Praise of Jimi Hendrix and George Harrison


In my “FAQs on the Theory and Practice of Literature” class the other day, we were reading this essay by historian of science Michel Serres called “Turner Translates Carnot.” The essay looks at Joseph Turner’s paintings as capturing the paradigm or “epistemic” shift brought about in Europe by the Industrial Revolution.


He argues that the new model of knowledge in Turner’s wake depends on the awareness, scientific calculation, and harnessing of stochastic forces, which can be juxtaposed with an older model of knowledge and technology based on the understanding and application of fundamental laws and principles of nature (think Bacon and Newton, and Kant’s 1st critique here). Horse vs. horsepower. Of course, it need not be said that in this respect, Serres’ interpretation of the Industrial Revolution parallels Marx’s interpretation of social revolution in the nineteenth century: “the revolutions of the 19th century” he said in 18th Brumaire (I’m loosely paraphrasing) “have to let the dead bury their dead. Before, the phrase exceeded the content. Now, the content exceeds the phrase” (sic). In a similar vein, Foucault had a longer (and long-winded, but also good!) extrapolation of this idea in Les mots et les choses. Out of the analysis of wealth, natural history, and the study of grammar come the three “positivities” of labor, life, and language, by which the “human sciences” are organized: economics and management, the health sciences, and philology.
Anyway, I was looking around to find an easy illustration of a “stochastic” art in popular culture. Computer generated art seemed boring, so I turned to the use of feedback in rock music. I played them a song by My Bloody Valentine called “To Here Knows When,” where Kevin Shields uses a couple of pedals creatively to create a force field of sound, almost like a tsunami wave, that he directs in these pulsating modulations of feedback.

Needless to say, it’s best played loud, it’s like this sonic roller coaster. It got me thinking: when did musical artists start incorporating feedback into their music as a central element in the composition? My first guess was Jimi Hendrix, although he can’t have been the first….


I’m going to have to do some surfing and research on this question. In the meantime, though, I flipped through my playlists and played one of my all-time favorite Beatles tunes you’ve never heard, because they never play it on the radio: “It’s All Too Much,” written by George Harrison. Interestingly, even though it was Paul McCartney who first came up with the idea of fooling around with tape loops, which the Beatles used in an original way in “Tomorrow Never Knows” from Revolver, I think it was George Harrison who found the most creative ways to incorporate the feedback drones and screams, as well as tape looping, into his music [postscript: I read a recent thread where someone said it was actually Paul who played lead guitar on the song, although someone else claims that some of the feedback was pre-recorded and then played backwards]. My theory is that he saw them as compatible with his new exposure and taste for Indian music and Indian tonal systems. Both represented a radical departure from the Western tonal system, but could be combined with it in different ways. Listening to “Only A Northern Song” and “It’s All Too Much” off the Yellow Submarine album, you can hear George trying to put all these elements into conversation.
You would probably ask: “who has the time to come up with all that?” But the Beatles did: after years of playing ridiculous hours in German pubs and then cranking out albums only months apart, they told the world to f— off and spent the last half of the 60s in music studios experimenting with music and sound. Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles should occupy two chapters in the history of feedback, their success at making feedback an actual aesthetic that was picked up and developed by psychedelic bands all over the world. All the indie bands of the 80s and 90s like Sonic Youth, Pavement, the Swans, and Mission of Burma (but also Prince) all loop through that bizarre transculturation of Indian music and the stochastic art of drone and feedback. It’s a trip.

(Postscript: Well, I didn’t have to go far in my research! Here’s the Wikipedia post for “Feedback”:

Early examples in popular music[edit]

According to Allmusic‘s Richie Unterberger, the very first use of feedback on a rock record is the introduction of the song “I Feel Fine” by the Beatles, recorded in 1964.[4] Jay Hodgson agrees that it was the first chart-topper to showcase feedback distortion, created by John Lennon leaning a semi-acoustic guitar against an amplifier.[5] The Who‘s 1965 hits “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” and “My Generation” featured feedback manipulation by Pete Townshend, with an extended solo in the former and the shaking of his guitar in front of the amplifier to create a throbbing noise in the latter. Canned Heat‘s “Fried Hockey Boogie” (off of their 1968 album Boogie with Canned Heat) also featured guitar feedback produced by Henry Vestine during his solo to create a highly amplified distorted boogie style of feedback. In 1963, the teenage Brian May and his father custom-built his signature guitar Red Special, which was purposely designed to feedback.[6][7]

Feedback was used extensively after 1965 by the Monks,[8] Jefferson Airplanethe Velvet Underground and the Grateful Dead, who included in many of their live shows a segment named Feedback, a several-minutes long feedback-driven improvisation. Feedback has since become a striking characteristic of rock music, as electric guitar players such as Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, Dave DaviesSteve Marriott and Jimi Hendrix deliberately induced feedback by holding their guitars close to theamplifierLou Reed created his 1975 album Metal Machine Music entirely from loops of feedback played at various speeds. A perfect example of feedback can be heard on Hendrix’s performance of “Can You See Me?” at the Monterey Pop Festival. The entire guitar solo was created using amplifier feedback.[9]

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Christianity from out of Asia


Who would have thought that St. Josaphat would be such an effective tool for converting Asians to Christianity during the 17th and 18th centuries? Well, the Jesuit missionaries did. Of course, nobody knew until centuries later that the life of St. Josaphat, a legend that became popular after the 10th century, was based on the life of Siddhartha Gautama, aka the Buddha!

(Postscript: here’s a great post on the story:

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