a master of something

I’ve been really itching and aching to study again. I’ve become very politicised lately but I don’t know how to use my art as an instrument for my politics. At the same time, I don’t want to use art merely as a political tool. I still want it to be about craft and telling compelling stories and interesting characters. I can’t seem to merge both in my writing. When I actively think of my politics when I’m writing, it shows. And I’m so against preachy or overtly-political art. It feels manipulative. It has to be seamless. I don’t have the skill and artistry to do that effectively yet.

But I’ve been watching a lot of movies and television shows, a lot of times with my Dad, and we talk about the content but also the craft and the technical aspects of filmmaking. So there’s a level of study going on there.

But I need more perspectives. I want more perspectives.


My book of World Literature, and all the textbooks I’ve kept over time, is no longer enough — I need to go back to school. What I want to know has to be learned in a school setting.

So I’ve been looking at scholarships to study abroad. Full scholarships because God knows I can’t afford to pay for the costs. Europe seems like the best option because a full scholarship there means my health insurance will also be covered and they are open to people living with HIV. They have suitable provisions for people who share my condition. It’s going to be expensive but there are full scholarships available. Competition will be tight but it will be worth it.

I’ve been playing with this idea for years now but I never apply because I was never really sure if I can do anything worthwhile with what I will end up learning. I always felt that it was such a personal and selfish reason, my wanting to study abroad, and that taking a scholarship that was meant to foster better international relations would have been wasted on me, who just wanted to improve my own self.

But now, I’ve been very, very affected by what happened in Orlando and the recent bombings of Turkey and Iraq, and also Brexit and even the possibility of Trump winning the US election. I am so moved to write about these things and to engage but I find myself inadequate in what I know and in my skills to properly frame my questions in my art. I need to improve and I need to get better.

I saw Whiskey Tango Foxtrot recently and was so moved by that film. Also Our Brand is Crisis. Movies about men and women from first world countries whose lives are changed when they come in to a foreign land and impact on the developing country’s social-political structures. I want to be able to write movies and books and poems that do that; intersect with global culture. And the Philippines is such an interesting intersection of Eastern and Western culture. We haven’t freed ourselves completely of our colonial impressions and are still struggling with our concept of nationhood. We have people from all over the country who work all over the world and are somehow ingrained into foreign cultures — domestic helpers, nurses, teachers, caregivers, entertainers — and they bring back so much to their families in the process.

It is the intersections of culture that really fascinates me now, so much so, that I want to take up Cultural Anthropology and learn more about how culture intersects with each other, how contemporary civilisation has chosen which norms to discard and which to keep and how to proceed forward.

I imagine that if I had an academic understanding of the inner working of human civilisation, that I could create artworks like poems, books, or film, that can breach cultural impediments and broker a level of peace or understanding. At the very least, I want to get people to ask questions or to see their own humanity in someone else’s eyes.

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I wrote this Tweet in 2013 and I think that this is what is happening to me now, I’m ready to snap.

I need to know more. I want to know more. I am ready to go back to school. I want to get a Master’s Degree and improve the way I engage with the world as an artist. This is no longer about me or for my own reasons.

I think I’ve settled and become comfortable with my idea that I am an artist. I’ve dealt or I’m still dealing with my personal demons. But to elevate myself as an artist, I need to expand my scope and involve the contemporary world. I’m no longer focused on making personal statements about myself. I now want to make statements about the world. And for that, I need this. I want this.

I wanted this since I graduated from college. I wasn’t ready in my twenties. Intellectually and emotionally, I wouldn’t have been able to survive navigating through foreign lands with such an impressionable character. I would have been changed completely by my surroundings. In my late twenties, I could have gone but I had just finally become a whole person. I finally got rid of the bad people and the bad habits of my youth and I need to get comfortable in being who I was. And then HIV happened when I turned 29 and it derailed all my plans for studying abroad.

But now I know and I’m sure that I’m emotionally and intellectually ready for this. Now I just have to work at getting better, healthy again, and I’m ready.


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