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But seriously, folks: it's all about dialogue...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Mr. Smith went to Subic

Howie Severino writes about some reactions and discussions regarding the Marine rape case.

Marine Convicted of Rape in Philippines

From SFGate:

Marine Convicted of Rape in Philippines
By PAUL ALEXANDER, Associated Press Writer
Monday, December 4, 2006 11 38 AM

Printable Version
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(12-04) 11:38 PST MANILA, Philippines (AP) --

A young U.S. Marine faces 40 years in jail after being convicted Monday of rape in a landmark case that has become a symbol for women's rights and national sovereignty in the Philippines.

Makati Regional Trial Court Judge Benjamin Pozon rejected Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith's claim that the woman was a willing partner, saying she was too drunk to have consented to having sex.

Three other Marines were acquitted of complicity for allegedly cheering on Smith in the back of a moving van.

As the verdict was delivered, cheers and applause broke out in the courtroom, and the 23-year-old woman began weeping as supporters embraced her. "I'm sad that three were acquitted, but I'm also happy because one was convicted," the young woman, who is Filipino, told ABS-CBN television in a telephone interview.

But as the convicted Marine was exiting the courtroom, a scuffle broke out between U.S. Embassy guards and Philippines police as both tried to take Smith away, underscoring the territorial dimension in the case which has consistently made front pages in the past year with lurid details. Filipino guards eventually secured the Marine's custody.

The U.S. Embassy had retained custody of Smith during the prosecution, in line with a treaty governing foreign troops in the former American colony after the closing of U.S. bases in the early 1990s. Although the joint military pact paved the way for U.S. counterterrorism training and was credited with helping local forces make gains against Muslim extremists, some Filipino groups have protested the 1998 pact, claiming it gives U.S. servicemen favorable treatment.

The 23-year-old woman accused Smith, who had just participated in joint military exercises, of forcing himself on her in the back of a moving van after a night of drinking at the former U.S. naval base at Subic Bay. She claimed three Marines cheered him on, before he dumped her on the street with her pants around her ankles.

Smith, 21, of St. Louis, countered that the young woman was a willing participant.

He was ordered to pay her $2,000 in compensatory and moral damages. The other three Marines were charged in the case, but were acquitted and immediately headed back to their unit in Okinawa, Japan, where they could still face military discipline.

The scuffle came as Smith was taken away in handcuffs to be fingerprinted and photographed and to undergo a medical exam. A Philippines police official said it appeared there had been a misunderstanding over whether Smith would remain in U.S. custody during a subsequent appeal. The judge ruled that he would be temporarily held in a Philippines jail in Makati, Manila's financial district.

Zozimo Paredes, head of the Philippines' Visiting Forces Agreement Commission, said the agreement is clear that Smith will have to stay in the Philippines until his appeals are exhausted. He may also have to serve his sentence in the country.

About 100 protesters gathered outside the courthouse, chanting and singing "Bayan Ko," or "My Country," a popular nationalist song. They waved a banner that demanded justice for the woman and the scrapping of the Visiting Forces Agreement.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

U.S. men and foreign women face roadblock in walk down the aisle

An article on the new Imbra law from the International Herald Tribune/New York Times:
U.S. men and foreign women face roadblock in walk down the aisle

By Eduardo Porter The New York Times

Published: October 17, 2006

PALM COAST, Florida Adam Weaver thought everything was set to bring his Colombian fiancée, Yesenia Meza, to the United States.

But Weaver did not count on being hindered by a congressional effort intended to protect women from potential abuse by American men who seek brides from other countries on the Internet. In June, the federal immigration service froze 10,000 visa applications for foreign fiancées because they did not conform with a law that had gone into effect in March.

Weaver and Meza, who were expecting to be together here by now, were caught in the net.

"Smuggling a ton of cocaine into this country," Weaver fumed, "is probably easier than bringing your fiancée."

The law, known as the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act, or Imbra, is intended to give foreign women and the U.S. government more information about the men who seek so-called mail-order brides.

"This is an unequal partnership where you have somebody dependent on somebody else in a profound way," said Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, who was a leading sponsor of the law. "It puts women at a significant disadvantage, in a potentially violent situation."

Reports of violence in international marriages, some of them Internet matches, have increased in recent years. In 1998, fewer than 2,500 foreign women applied to become permanent residents under the Violence Against Women Act, which allows abused wives to apply for residence without the support of their husbands. In the fiscal year that ended in September, 9,500 applied.

The government does not keep tabs on international matchmaking, so there are no reliable data on the prevalence of domestic abuse involving mail-order brides. One such case, however, involved Katerina Brunot, a Russian who was 22 when Frank Sheridan, then a 38- year-old plumber, spotted her on a European Connections Web site seven years ago.

After Brunot married Sheridan, it went downhill fast. Her husband kept her a virtual prisoner, beat her, had her put in jail and harassed her. He died in a shootout with a police officer who was trying to arrest him for stalking.

"I think the percentage of men looking for someone from another country who are violent is very high," said Brunot. "Probably most of them want to control because when you are a foreigner you sort of belong to that person."

The new law has angered many men, who rightly argue that there is no definitive evidence that violence is more likely to take place in an international marriage arranged over the Internet than in a domestic one. Unwilling or unable to find a spouse in the United States, some worry that the law could make it more difficult to find a wife abroad.

Under Imbra, dating agencies that specialize in matching American men with women overseas must first obtain information about a man's criminal record and marital history, relay it to the woman and then get her consent before disclosing her contact information. Men must also provide this information to the government when applying for a fiancée visa. Generally, applicants have a lifetime visa limit of two foreign fiancées.

Web sites offer men in affluent countries contacts with women from just about everywhere in the developing world; Brazil, Colombia, the Philippines, Russia, Ukraine and Vietnam are among the most popular countries.

The businesses vary in their approaches., owned by European Connections, based in Georgia, charges men for membership and requires a fee for sending and receiving e-mail messages.

Two others, A Foreign Affair and Filipina Ladies, organize trips to places like Bangkok, where a dozen men may meet several hundred women.

At the age of 40, Weaver, a construction manager, figured that the only American women who would be interested in him would be divorced, with a former husband and children in the background. Moreover, he said, American women are self-centered, competitive and too critical. "I would prefer a more old-fashioned girl," he said.

Last year, he found Meza, a Colombian 17 years his junior, on the I Love Latins Web site. "Her profile," he wrote in an e-mail message, "was one of the only ones that said, 'I want to know a man who knows about God.'"

Weaver bought Meza a computer, a digital camera and a high-speed connection so they could talk every day by Internet phone.

In September, he visited Meza in Colombia for the third time. "My relationship with Yesenia," he said, "is real and more valid than anything I ever had in my life."

Meza also says she is eager to start her life with Weaver. "In Colombia most men are womanizers and want to dominate women," she said in a telephone interview. "I want a loving man who will treat me like a queen."

So far, however, they have not cleared immigration. A spokesman for the immigration service said most of the backlogged visa applications frozen in June had been processed.

Supporters of the law insist they are not trying to stop marriages between American men and foreign women but say the women should be informed about what they are getting into.

Two matchmaking companies have sought to block the law in court.

Weaver, for all his exasperation over the wait, acknowledges that providing the extra information required by the law may be warranted.

So does Meza. But they do not see why they should have to suffer in the meantime.

"If men are investigated it will be good for all women," Meza said. "But when you are in love and want to go there, you get desperate." (link)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Order greeting cards by November 18

This is the work of Sharon Hing, who volunteered for Helpers for Domestic Helpers and is running a small fundraiser by turning her paintings in to greeting cards. All proceeds will go to Helpers for Domestic Helpers. More information about what she's doing and the organization can be found on this PDF, but I've pulled the ordering information and the greeting cards to this blog post for people who have trouble downloading the PDF.

Ordering information:

Send an email to SharonHing (at) by November 18, 2006 to reserve your order with the following information:
Phone Numbers (mobile & land line):
How many sets you would like:

She'll be returning to the SF Bay area mid-December and will be delivering the cards and collecting the money then. If you're not in delivery distance there will be an extra fee for postage.

Each set contains one of each design for a total for 4 cards.
1 set - $6.45
2 sets - $10.95
3 sets - $16.40
For orders of 4 sets or more, please request a separate quote in your email.

100% of all sales will go directly to Helpers for Domestic Helpers.

Design #1: I Learned to Speak Up

Gouache on paper. Swept Aside series. 2006. Sharon E. O. Hing
On the back:
Many domestic helpers endure difficult working conditions in order to provide for their own families. One worker who was denied food by her employer says of her ordeal, "It's so hard for me because I have a family and three children at home whom I support by working in Hong Kong." These women, who are often victims of exploitation by employers and employment agencies, remain resilient in the face of such adversities.

Design #2: And My Worth Was Explicitly Numbered

Gouache on paper. Swept Aside series. 2006. Sharon E. O. Hing
On the back:
Domestic workers are often subjected to unreasonable demands in attempts by some employers to monitor every aspect of their lives. The absurdity of the demands and the lengths to which some employers go to repress their helpers reflects a lack of respect for these workers. The irony is these workers often play an important role in the care and upbringing of their employers' children.

Design #3: Tagged

Gouache on paper. Swept Aside series. 2006. Sharon E. O. Hing
On the back:
There are currently 220,000 domestic helpers living in Hong Kong. As a group their presence is undeniable, but they are rarely acknowledged as a crucial element of Hong Kong's economic and cultural success. Their contributions have allowed the city to prosper, yet they are rarely respected and properly acknowledged for their immense contributions to the lives of all Hong Kong residents.

Design #4: Forced Bet

Gouache on paper. Swept Aside series. 2006. Sharon E. O. Hing
On the back:
With their packed lunches in plastic bags and often a deck of cards in hand, domestic helpers line the streets of Hong Kong for a day of relaxation on Sundays, transforming any shaded area into multi-purpose meeting points. Despite their dmanding jobs, many find time to do volunteer work while others find solace in community and religious groups. As workers and community members, their presence enriches the culture and social fabric of the city.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

greeting cards benefitting domestic helpers

I got this from my brother's friend:

Dear Friends,

As some of you know, for the past year I have had the immense privilege of volunteering at Helpers for Domestic Helpers (HDH) in Hong Kong, a legal aid organization dedicated to providing the city's 220,000 domestic helpers with legal assistance and counseling. ( This experience has been profoundly moving, and I recognized that I could begin to express my appreciation for this amazing organization with a small-scale fundraiser. I started several series of paintings about the women's often harrowing stories of injustice for my personal record keeping and as a means of processing and coming to terms with their experiences; however, I realized that in sharing these pieces I could help to educate the public about the often overlooked contributions of these workers. Four of these paintings are now featured on greeting cards, which provide a bit of information on the lives of domestic helpers in Hong Kong as well as the work of HDH.

The four designs are non-holiday specific, have blank interiors, and hopefully you will find them appropriate for any type of correspondence. Because we have full sponsorship of the production of the cards, every cent of every sale will go to continuing the important work of HDH.

The cards will be on sale at card fairs and bookstores in Hong Kong, but thanks to the magic of modern technology they can also make it off the island to you. If you are interested in purchasing a set, please email me at your earliest convenience so that I will be sure to bring then to you when I return in December.

All designs, more background information, and an order form can be found in this handy

Please also feel free to print up this information and share it with your friends and colleagues.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your support throughout this entire adventure and I look forward to seeing you all soon!

With love and respect,


Super quick info...more can be found in the pdf:

According to the Hong Kong Immigration Department records, there are 220,000 domestic helpers living in Hong Kong. Filipinos comprise 55% of the foreign domestic helper population and the remainder is made up primarily of Indonesians, Indians, Sri Lankans and Nepalese nationals. Most of them are women and as a group their presence in Hong Kong is undeniable, but they are rarely acknowledged as a crucial element of Hong Kong's economic and cultural success as a city. Their presence has allowed the city to prosper and they have helped to raise Hong Kong's next generation of leaders in the community. As opposed to being lauded for their work, however, they are often victims of discrimination, injustice, abuse and exploitation.

International Sex Trade in California

The SF Chronicle ran a four part special report on the sex-trade industry in California. This one in particular focused on the Korean community and the Asian masseuse parlors that create the front for brothels. The article tells the story of one woman who was able to get out, but who got in after becoming enslaved by her credit card debt back home. They call San Francisco, the "mecca", for sex trade, with a few pushing out into the suburbs.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Jumping Ladies of Lebanon

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Open Letter re: the "Bebot" Video(s)

To, Patricio Ginelsa/KidHeroes, and Xylophone Films:

We, the undersigned, would like to register our deep disappointment at the portrayal of Filipinas and other women in the new music videos for the Black Eyed Peas’ song, “Bebot.” We want to make it clear that we appreciate your efforts to bring Filipina/o Americans into the mainstream and applaud your support of the Little Manila of Stockton. However, as Filipina/o and Filipina/o American artists, academics, and community activists, we are utterly dismayed by the portrayal of hypersexualized Filipina “hoochie-mama” dancers, specifically in the Generation 2 version, the type of representation of women so unfortunately prevalent in today’s hip-hop and rap music videos. The depiction of the 1930s “dime dancers” was also cast in an unproblematized light, as these women seem to exist solely for the sexual pleasure of the manongs.

In general, we value’s willingness to be so openly and richly Filipino, especially when there are other Filipina/o Americans in positions of visibility who do not do the same, and we appreciate the work that he has done with the folks at Xylophone Films; we like their previous video for “The Apl Song,” and we even like the fact that the Generation 1 version of “Bebot” attempts to provide a “history lesson” about some Filipino men in the 1930s. However, the Generation 2 version truly misses the mark on accurate Filipina/o representation, for the following reasons:

1) The video uses three very limited stereotypes of Filipina women: the virgin, the whore, and the shrill mother. We find a double standard in the depiction of the virgin and whore figures, both of which are highly sexualized. Amidst the crowd of midriff-baring, skinny, light-skinned, peroxided Pinays – some practically falling out of their halter tops – there is the little sister played by Jasmine Trias, from whom big brother Apl is constantly fending off Pinoy “playas.” The overprotectiveness is strange considering his idealization of the bebot or “hot chick.” The mother character was also particularly troublesome, but for very different reasons. She seems to play a dehumanized figure, the perpetual foreigner with her exaggerated accent, but on top of that, she is robbed of her femininity in her embarrassingly indelicate treatment of her son and his friends. She is not like a tough or strong mother, but almost like a coarse asexual mother, and it is telling that she is the only female character in the video with a full figure.

2) We feel that these problematic female representations might have to do with the use of the word “Bebot.” We are of course not advocating that Apl change the title of his song, yet we are confused about why a song that has to do with pride in his ethnic/national identity would be titled “Bebot,” a word that suggests male ownership of the sexualized woman – the “hot chick.” What does Filipino pride have to do with bebots? The song seems to be about immigrant experience yet the chorus says “ikaw ang aking bebot” (you are my hot chick). It is actually very disturbing that one’s ethnic/national identity is determined by one’s ownership of women. This system not only turns women into mere symbols but it also excludes women from feeling the same kind of ethnic/national identity. It does not bring down just Filipinas; it brings down all women.

3) Given the unfortunate connection made in this video between Filipino pride and the sexualized female body both lyrically and visually, we can’t help but conclude that the video was created strictly for a heterosexual man’s pleasure. This straight, masculinist perspective is the link that we find between the Generation 1 and Generation 2 videos. The fact that the Pinoy men are surrounded by “hot chicks” both then and now makes this link plain. Yet such a portrayal not only obscures the “real” message about the Little Manila Foundation; it also reduces Pinoy men’s hopes, dreams, and motivations to a single-minded pursuit of sex.

We do understand that Filipino America faces a persistent problem of invisibility in this country. Moreover, as the song is all in Tagalog (a fact that we love, by the way), you face an uphill battle in getting the song and music video(s) into mainstream circulation. However, remedying the invisibility of Filipina/os in the United States should not come at the cost of the dignity and self-respect of at least half the population of Filipino America. Before deciding to write this letter, we felt an incredible amount of ambivalence about speaking out on this issue because, on the one hand, we recognized that this song and video are a milestone for Filipina/os in mainstream media and American pop culture, but on the other hand, we were deeply disturbed by the images of women the video propagates.

In the end we decided that we could not remain silent while seeing image after image of Pinays portrayed as hypersexual beings or as shrill, dehumanized, asexual mother-figures who embarrass their children with their overblown accents and coarseness. The Filipino American community is made up of women with Filipino pride as well, yet there is little room in these videos for us to share this voice and this commitment; instead, the message we get is that we are expected to stand aside and allow ourselves to be exploited for our sexuality while the men go about making their nationalist statements.

While this may sound quite harsh, we believe it is necessary to point out that such depictions make it seem as if you are selling out Filipina women for the sake of gaining mainstream popularity within the United States. Given the already horrific representations of Filipinas all over the world as willing prostitutes, exotic dancers, or domestic servants who are available for sex with their employers, the representation of Pinays in these particular videos can only feed into such stereotypes. We also find it puzzling, given your apparent commitment to preserving the history and dignity of Filipina/os in the United States, because we assume that you also consider such stereotypes offensive to Filipino men as well as women.

Again, we want to reiterate our appreciation for the positive aspects of these videos – the history lesson of the 1936 version, the commitment to community, and the effort to foster a larger awareness of Filipino America in the mainstream – but we ask for your honest attempt to offer more full-spectrum representations of both Filipino men and Filipina women, now and in the future. We would not be writing this letter to you if we did not believe you could make it happen.


Kiko Benitez
Assistant Professor, Comparative Literature
Univ. of Washington

Rick Bonus
Associate Professor, American Ethnic Studies
Univ. of Washington

Lucy Burns
Assistant Professor
Asian American Studies / World Arts and Cultures, UCLA

Fritzie De Mata
Independent scholar

Diana Halog
UC Berkeley

Luisa A. Igloria
Associate Professor
Creative Writing / English, Old Dominion University

Veronica Montes

Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Assistant Professor, English
State University of New York--Fredonia

Gladys Nubla
Doctoral student
English, UC Berkeley

Barbara Jane Reyes
Poet and author

Joanne L. Rondilla
Doctoral candidate
Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley

Rolando B. Tolentino
Visiting Fellow, National University of Singapore
Associate Professor, University of the Philippines Film Institute

Benito Vergara
Asian American Studies / Anthropology, San Francisco State University

Friday, July 07, 2006

Filipina Website

I found this interesting website run by Filipina wives of non-Filipinos. Here's their intro statement:

Filipina Website
Filipina is an online nonprofit organization for Filipinas who are spouse, fiancee or engaged to Non-Filipinos. Prospective members were contacted through emails and chat page. And now, members from all over the world are gearing up for other venues of getting-to-know each others such as newsletter, newsgroup, chat channel, e-mail list, net meeting and etc...

Filipina structure is beginning to take shape. We invite Filipinas who are married or engaged to non - Filipino to join this friendly and exciting new horizon. If you are new to internet or have never joined a Filipina club in the past, then this organization,(group, list) is also designed for you.

We started this Filipina for the purpose of meeting other Filipinas who are in the same situation as we are.. We are all from the Philippines, and most of us are already reunited with our love ones. Members, are free to exchange each others experiences, joy & happiness, problems and cultural adjustments and the intercultural relationship itself...

But what confuses me is this disclaimer:

Please NOTE:

FILIPINA is not affiliated or associated with any Fil-Ams, Filipinas, Western-Filipina organizations, mailing lists, and groups that deals with Filipina, Filipino women, Pinay, Filipino Wives, mail order brides, money making websites and etc.
Are they critically dissociating themselves from such groups/orgs, or is this a kind of legal statement?

The network seems to be wholly social and not political, although the network also provides a space for the women to give advice about getting visas and whatnot. I also find the photos interesting. What do you all think about this site?