Friday, August 23, 2013

Jeeps, Jeepneys, and Jeepney Hermeneutics

Mark Lewis Taylor, during the 2000 Society of Biblical Literature meeting, celebrated the publication of the Dictionary of Third World Theologies (Virnia Fabella and R.S. Sugirtharajah, eds.) and called it "A Dictionary for Resisting Empire." For him, the volume summarizes critical reflection arising from people's movements in resistance to "empire," i.e. to the hegemony of Western powers whose metropole centers seek an ever-strengthened global power to subordinate and control each and every facet of the lives of masses of peoples. For him, the book preserves and marshals the archival power of Third World peoples' own discourse of resistance and liberation. To this developing archive I have proposed one model of Filipino decolonizing reading, jeepney hermeneutics. If the Filipino jeepney is a “resistant reading” of the U.S. military jeep, then jeepney hermeneutics is a "resistant reading" of the Bible. Biblical Studies is one area that remains a stronghold of colonial scholarship, especially among Protestant Churches. Many Filipino social scientists call this collective condition of the Filipino psyche as colonial mentality. Historian Renato Constantino traces it to the systematic mis-education of the Filipinos. Theologian Eliezer Fernandez argues that the Philippines can be called a "mental colony" of the United States of America. The late Fr. Carlos Abesamis, SJ, had argued that nothing is the matter with foreigners doing foreign theology (for themselves). The issue is that Filipino theology is a photocopy of Euro-American theology. Jeepney hermeneutics challenges this colonial mentality in biblical studies by drawing on the Filipinos’ legacy of resistance. From mortar shells to church bells, from implements of death to instruments of music, from jeeps to jeepneys, Filipinos have turned weapons of mass destruction to symbols of mass celebration. The colonization of biblical studies, especially in the field of hermeneutics, among Protestant communities in the Philippines requires no special pleading. Thus there is the need for a decolonized hermeneutics—a jeepney hermeneutics. Jeepney hermeneutics acknowledges the depth and the breadth of meanings represented by the Filipino Jeepney as symbolic of a people’s ability to beat swords into ploughshares.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Remembering FPJ

Most Filipinos love stories, telling them, listening to them, or watching them. Filipinos who do not enjoy movie watching are quite rare. I remember the moviehouses in the barrios where we used to go during summer vacations. Most of these had double programs. Your ticket bought you two movies to watch. A few had triple programs. We saved up for those triples, especially if they starred the late Fernando Poe Jr. who should have turned 74 today. We came in before lunch and came out six or so hours later. My kuya (older brother) and I are FPJ fans. In grade school I saw my kuya, on two occasions, apply the FPJ rapid-punching technique on two bullies bigger and taller than him. The technique worked. I was 7 when I first went to see a movie by myself. It was FPJ’s Asedillo. It was the first movie I saw that painted a totally different picture of America, and Manuel Quezon, and the period of American occupation many among our elders, even today, longingly call “peacetime.” It was the movie that introduced me to the Sakdal uprising of the 1930s. I was in high school when I saw Aguila. I consider it one of the best movies Philippine cinema has ever produced. Aside from FPJ, it had Christopher de Leon, Jay Ilagan, Sandy Andolong, Eddie Garcia, Johnny Delgado, Charo Santos, Amalia Fuentes, and a host of top caliber artists. Basil Valdez sung the theme song. The 3 ½ hour movie presents a stark portrait of Philippine society and offers at least four ways of dealing with its reality: join the underground, go to America, learn to deal with it, or live with the indigenous communities. If you haven’t watched Aguila and Asedillo. Go and do so. Then you will know why those who call FPJ the Arnold Swarzenegger of the Philippines don't know what they're talking about. And as you watch Asedillo and Aguila (both are available online), remember that FPJ was busy helping prepare relief goods for distribution on the night he suffered a massive stroke. Better still, we can remember FPJ's birthday by celebrating our birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions by reaching out to those whose only hope is God, by contributing the best we can offer to those who need God the most, by being each other's keepers the best way we can. Especially today.