Youngsters in Delano, California's Philippine Weekend Parade
Philippine Weekend in Delano, California is supposed to be all about Filipino society in America. Or is it? At Cecil Avenue Park I saw very little in the event structure that made me think of Filipino culture. The parade harbored cultural glimpses of beauty pageants, floats, and more…
People gather on the shady side of the parade route
Get the best Halo Halo and slushies in Delano
I grabbled a hot dog and a vanilla Coke and wandered downtown and people-watched. I snapped a few photos including of the parade itself: the beauty pageant floats, the children in cultural dress and the walking martial arts team…
What is the Filipino-American dream?
Yet at the park I saw a big inflatable tunnel and slide, a rock climbing tower, booths that represented businesses such as real estate and banking, and merchandise such as sunglasses and silk-screened clothing. Food barely represented any Filipino culture with only one booth designated for cultural food.
The taming of the new Filipino-American dream?
The lone Filipino food booth
At least one maker of Filipino foods was refused a booth at the event.
Other food booths at the event represented Kettle Corn, Thai food and Chinese food. Tell me if I’m wrong, but I thought this was a Filipino cultural event, not an Asian cultural event. Instead, the event mimicked the Americanization of the culture of business with glimpses of Filipino culture sprinkled throughout dances and a festive Saturday morning parade.
Headed to the Filipino-American food both
The line at the Filipino food booth was the longest, and so the event could have benefited from more Filipino food booths. I peeked in the back of the tent just to see how hard folks were working… and yes, they were.
Prepping ingredients for Halo Halo
I was also refused a booth where I planned on promoting literary arts about Filipino culture. I had hoped to talk to youth to find out just who some of the Central Valley Filipino Central Valley poets might be. Instead, I did see some rather empty slots, a booth jammed with politicians: the Parras, who are not Filipino, nor represent Filipino culture other than possibly through common-shared American interests. They were there for votes. Can’t blame them for being politicians. Yet you have to ask if a Latino-politicized event is a Filipino cultural event.
Pete Parra helps politicize Philippine Weekend
Is someone in this car responsible for the lack of culture
at Philippine Weekend? Did someone not return a phone call?
Political motivation behind not filling all booth space?
Missing was the Filipino historian from last year who was on a mission to create awareness of Filipino farmworkers in American history, and also missing was the booth promoting Filipino-American novels and history books from last year. I heard the historian didn’t even show up on the second day last year. Was no one at this Filipino cultural event interested in history and the arts other than through traditional dance?
I would have stayed for both days had I got a table OK’d.
A political octopus disguised as a cultural event?
And it’s not that I mind not having a table, although I would have loved to promote the literary arts through my short story, Pinay printed in Metamorphoses, and through the novel I’m working on with a working title of Mamao. What I minded was the politics involved that prevented me from having a table where cultural interaction could have taken place, where I could have learned and helped guide poets and literary-minded Filipino-Americans with my expertise, knowledge and love for cultural literary arts.
Through a contact I couldn’t even get a return call; so, no table at the event was allocated to help promote Filipino cultural literary arts; a sad day because of unspoken politics, no doubt.
I attended the festivities, and though I saw thousands of Filipinos, and mixed Filipinos, I’m not so sure the event was cultural as many hoped. The reality is the Americanization of Philippine culture and a dislocated youth from their own past. It happens in any transplanted culture to the Americas.
QYORK represents the Americanization of Fili-youth. Their music is an often politicized
Hip-Hop journey through the American and Filipino-American landscape
Americanized? We’re all Americanized. But we do want to learn culture through more than the few traditional dances. People want to read, to discuss, to capture through other artforms: film, literary, theatre, fine arts.
In the end I drove around Delano, to historic sites and down Glenwood Street to see remnants of the old Delano Chinatown/Filipino section. I snapped photos and asked about old bars, restaurants and pool halls where a certain old manong and his old friends hung out…
Possible site of Agbayani Village
*Agbayani Village may be on the west side of town...
Old building from labor camp now at historical center?
Boarded up remnants of gambling hall, pool hall, restaurant?
Americanization boarded up for post-modern fast food culture
Old Delano transformed into new youth culture?
Some people call this area Chinatown because there were several Chinese restaurants
We drove past farmland where workers ate Table Grapes off vines, not thoroughly washing them, and bearing children who entered a world of cancer clusters and racism, a world where education meant escaping small town Delano—not a bad town, but a farming town where Filipino generations fell into conflict about old traditions versus new…
Here’s a few paragraphs from an early draft of the novel I’m working on. It's the story of a young girl and how her generation conflicts with two other generations of Filipino-Americans:
By N.L. Belardes
Dust filled the air on the drive home along County Line Road. As the van rocked and bounced I imagined a boat sailing through Delano, California, skimming upon a lonely river, spitting up particles of itself, even letting out an occasional cough as we moved along vine covered shores toward the coming darkness. I strained to look to the north, for the silhouetted wings of a monster flying low over the grape vineyards. As we headed away from the sun I could see the fields stood empty of workers. Leaves glistened under a dying day; the sun sunk its glowing eye in a far western Central Valley rim of coastal mountains; heat waves rippled along the sun’s curvature like golden welling tears. Even so, the falling sun didn’t keep me from looking over my shoulder. If there was another glowing eye, I was convinced it was that of the mamao.
“You’re my princess, Neneng,” Papa smiled. I called grandpa, Papa, and my daddy, Tatay. Don’t let that confuse you. I called mother, mother and grandma, grandma, though I am still often called Neneng, which means baby girl to my Filipino family. We often traveled together as a close family unit and were on our way home from picking table grapes off the six-foot tall grape trellis lining the fields just off County Line Road.
Papa seemed especially happy as he sat and wiped his hands with a handkerchief. He smiled to me and out the window as if he were in defiance of the very mamao herself. I leaned my chin into my hand, my fingers touching my lips as I stared. In a low voice Papa whispered, “Don’t put your fingers in your mouth, Neneng.” He was leaning close and I could feel his breath on my ear. I pulled my fingers away but continued my search.
I thought I could hear her flying low, swooping her wings in a frightening beat that made a distinct clacking noise; wak wak wak her great wings went as she searched with drooling jaws for the taste of me, and more appropriately for her, the taste of my liver. That’s the mamao’s feast. It’s what mother said she would take, what legends say: the aswang, the manananggal, or our tagalog slang version, the mamao who tears into liver flesh with vampyric intentions. She would scrape it right out of my body with her long talons. But only if I wasn’t inside the house before dark. That’s what both mother and grandmother said. In the meantime what did she do in the day? Hide in the vineyards and poison the fruits with her long mosquito-like appendage? Like a skunk maybe she sprayed the fields… Or would she just sip the juice from each orb like water-blood as she hid in a hole in the earth, her wings folded around her like a suit of snake scales? No, unlike my liver that she would like to feast on I was certain she was a contaminator. She would spread her sickness across the entire valley, each grape her victim; only if she weren’t so bent on finding me.
For a moment I thought I saw her. I opened my mouth to scream, thinking her black wings had stretched above distant fields, naked as they flapped and searched for me, perhaps even waiting for me to leave the steely safety of Tatay’s car. Papa sat next to me. He looked wizened in his little black glasses with his eyes staring from beneath a head of grey hair. He held one arm around me while I nuzzled into his plaid shirt, right into his armpit and against his steely blue and silver pen that he always carried in his front shirt pocket. “Look at that plane, Neneng,” he said. “There is no mamao above the vineyards today. Don’t act so afraid.” And so the shadow transformed. What I thought could be a mamao was just a bi-plane possibly headed to Porterville or some farm property hangar.
The only refreshing thought other than the monster being a plane was that I could play in the fields and not get caught in the next day’s early morning light by any mean field workers. Only if my cousins wanted to go. They always loved to go.
But the day darkened as we drove along and for now I was consumed with thoughts of the mamao and what she might take from my insides. I was maybe five years old. Car lights drifted past as if boats jumping from island to island. And soon sleepiness fell on me too.
That’s how early childhood was for me: being afraid of the approaching dark, afraid of the mamao that my mother and grandmother put in my head when I was so filled with energy. And so I threatened to run into to the vineyards.
“You can’t go there,” mother said one day after my cousins and I wanted to play in the fields. It had grown late in the afternoon; there was barely any more light left to sneak across the street into the vineyards; yet it was still too early for me to believe a monster would come and gorge on my insides.
“No,” grandmother agreed. “The mamao will eat you up! And what it doesn’t eat, it will leave on a hill of bugs!”
That afternoon I went and sat in the backyard. There we had a pool where no one swam. What good is a swimming pool if you can’t use it? Didn’t matter, none of us in the house knew how to swim. Not even Tatay. I thought maybe Papa knew from when he was a little boy in the Philippines, or as a young man harvesting sugar cane on Oahu. Weren’t those tranquil lands of jungle rivers and lakes? And in the San Joaquin water once flowed in a giant system of lakes fed by many rivers. In hydrants and deadly canals crisscrossing the Central Valley with a deadly force as rivers fed their hungry arteries. Few dared go there. And Papa was now so old it didn’t matter. I couldn’t imagine a pair of swim trunks on his skinny old body. He in his khaki pants, with his notebook and scratched glasses; and me wondering as I always did about what Papa’s life had been like.
I picked up a rock and threw it into the swimming pool, wondering if there were fish inside and watching the water change into a greenish-brown color from the tainting of rocks and dirt. My cousin, Johnny stood nearby. Barely older than me, he threw rocks into the water too. He was like a brother to me. For the first few years of my life we lived in the same house as many Filipino families have had to do when trying to make ends meet. My three younger brothers were nowhere nearby. They were far too afraid of the water and its creepy unknown depths to even stand near the edge.
“I wonder if there are fish in there,” I said.
“That’s dumb. There’s no fish in there. Just a mamao. It’s going to eat your head!”
“Stop it!” I yelled, wanting to push him into the water. Usually I punched kids who made me mad. And that went for my cousin too. Just because he was older than me and a little taller didn’t mean I couldn’t sock him in the stomach and watch him cry. I almost did but for once I held back my anger. I knew I could get in trouble, especially if he were eaten by the pool’s hidden mamao.
2008 nick belardes