Wednesday, August 30, 2006

more from KidHero

This was added to Patricio's myspace blog.

UPDATE 8/29/06:
So I was planning to post my first batch of answers today to some questions from the public. The truth is that NO ONE has emailed me any questions. It seems internet folks are more interested in blogging and making their arguments based on the open letter alone than asking the source. While I think some of the dialogue in these forums sparked by this is enriching, it bothers me to see personal attacks made on others based on their grammar or background. I never made these videos to see my community fighting from within and it hurts. Brother vs. Brother. Sister vs. sister. Sister vs. brother. I had hope to have a more controlled and healthy platform for this dialogue, but I feel its out of control. People are misinterpreting the letter. Haters are created. This whole thing is now on TV. And in the end, im on the outside looking in, unfocused, confused, and my spirit broken... Imagine how much more powerful this open letter would have been if we had addressed this letter "elsewhere" as a united front.

For a letter addressed to me, AJ, and Apl, I feel we should have addressed this first before it was made public. I see professors I respect and one whom I actually fought for signing this letter. I see younger sisters of people I know on this. Yet not one of them bothered to communicate with me beforehand. Even after my private response to them, only 2 of the authors replied. Is anyone curious why there are 2 versions of the video? Why did it take me over a year to get these videos made?

Talk about the issues and express your opinions. But if you actually believe myself and the producers were out there to intentionally promote a negative representation of our sisters, then you really need to do your research first...

from Christina DeHaven

This was taken from here.

Dear Community,

As one of the producers on the BEBOT and APL Song videos, I would like to respond to the recent comments circulating about our work. If only the writers of this 'open letter' knew how hard Patricio and his team worked to make even ONE version of the video come to fruition.
People in our community are notorious for expediting their criticisms about one another, usually before knowing all the facts and what lies beneath the surface.

First off, our efforts with this video are over a year in the making. When we first pitched this project to the Black Eyed Peas, Patricio had one treatment in mind, "Generation One", based on the historical manongs of 1930's Stockton, California.

Since it is a pop-dance song, the suggestion was to create a more contemporary alternative. Something shiny and sexy, typical of other videos and similar music. What people do not know is that he initially passed on the project because he could not find it in himself to objectify Filipinas, by doing your average 'booty-shaker' video.

Patricio was able to strike a compromise by doing two versions: his 1930's period-piece, and a contemporary dance video done with as much subtlety as possible.

Nevertheless, people are bound to criticize our work, especially for the things that it lacks. As a member of the community, involved with a non-profit organization that seeks to promote the positive image of Filipino/Fil-Am women (, I do not take offense to the video and its supposed portrayal of Filipino women as 'highly sexualized'. I just don't see it. Have these people really seen the true definition of 'highly-sexualized'? Have they seen MTV lately? These videos performed by artists of color (I won't single out just one), singing about their 'ethnic pride', while standing in a sea of greased-up, bikini-clad women. And while we haven't come close to mimicking these videos, why are we being criticized for exhibiting even a drop of sexuality?

Though I understand some of the argument posed in this complaint, I think that most of these comments can be aimed at all men and women, and not just Filipinos. In fact, I don't see anything in this video that can be classified, by a mainstream audience, to be just 'Filipino'. Why can't we argue that the behaviors in this video can be applied to all people? Or is it just because the faces are our own?

Anyone who is familiar with our work has seen our dedication to Filipino American History. Not only are we comprised of artists and musicians, but we are also active participants in the community; serving as educators, activists, and in other leadership capacities. But while we strive to be a voice for the community through our work, we still have an equal amount of loyalty to our personal endeavors as artists, and as filmmakers.

If anyone sees this video as an example for the community, then they have completely misunderstood our purpose. It is a music video for a popular dance song called BEBOT. We chose to use an all Fil-Am cast because the song is spoken in Tagalog and it involves Filipinos. It was not our intention to make a statement or representation on behalf of the entire Filipino/Fil-Am community. If it were to serve this purpose then it would be a completely different project.

I doubt that a mainstream audience will view this video as an explanation of our culture as a whole. I also don't think it is right to put that responsibility in the hands of one filmmaker. Perhaps if there were more artists putting out an abundance of work for the mainstream, then we would have more out there to compare and contrast all the different aspects of our community.

As artists, criticism comes with the territory. But I can't help but find some of these accusations to be unjustified. I hope that the people who wrote this statement are not making their life's work out of criticizing each and every Filipino artist. Because if they are, then let's go after other artists for their supposed exploitation of Filipinos and the hyper-sexualization of Filipino women. How about Nicole from the popular burlesque-show-turned-pop-sensation the girl thingycat Dolls? She's Filipino. How about 19 year-old Cassie, who sings that song with actual lyrics that boast "...They heard I was good, they want to see if it's true...". She's Filipino too.

Here's a project: I would like to see these academics write a dissertation that compares and contrasts all Pinoy artists that are out there today, and see what they come up with. I think it is unfair to single out the efforts of one person, like Patricio, who has done so much over the years to support this community.

Their criticism is heard, but not supported by me.


a KidHero discussion

This is an excerpt from this discussion

Re: My opinion...
2006-08-29 02:46 am UTC (link)
It's amazing to read all of this in blogs and sites that i find just by typing in my name on Google. The dialogue is rich here but honestly, do people think I'm hard to contact at all? I'm not Steven Spielberg. I'm just an email away. On the BEBOT website and on my mailing lists, I have invited everyone FROM DAY ONE to ask me questions because I knew even before this open letter was created, exactly what I was getting myself into. There's a problem when I see so much discussion here about our work and yet I've only gotten only 3-4 emails with questions. It's like a party you were invited late to but everyone's already talking about you even before you arrive. It really makes me not want to share my experiences and just shut up. Was there ever an open letter created about our work on THE APL SONG 2 years or any help to use the video as a tool to educate folks about the Filipino veterano and their equity? That was an even bigger struggle! No, because its only the negative stuff that makes for a worthy discussion and public spectacle.
(Reply to this) (Parent) (Thread)

Re: My opinion...
2006-08-29 10:43 pm UTC (link)
"It's like a party you were invited late to but everyone's already talking about you even before you arrive. It really makes me not want to share my experiences and just shut up."

I'm not completely convinced that the last response was from the director or one of the producers. It seems pretty misguided to think that the discussions about the "Bebot" videos are solely about the artists' creative merits or personal efforts.

I'm happy to see this dialogue occur. As a Filipino American artist myself, the territory we're all working with here is plagued by histories of misrepresentation, racism, and explicit sexism. All of which, are not at the responsibility of an individual artist. Rather, progressive artists (particularly those within popular culture) are always negotiating hegemony.

The dialogues I find most interesting to me, are the honest comments on whether the absence of tackling the exploitation of Filipina women worth breaking into the mainstream.

In no way do I think the letter or most of the criticisms were intended to discredit the artists' abilities. The video obviously displays amazing work, tremendous organizing, professional character, and a clear progressive effort. Rather, this is going to be a perpetual dialogue as long as the art of Filipino Americans (and Americans in general) feel the urgency to challenge patriarchy, racism, and heteronormativity. All of which, I believe, are bigger than "Bebot".

"It's bigger than hip-hop"

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

On the meanings of "bebot"

This brief article in YES! magazine by Jose "Pete" Lacaba was posted on the Plaridel listserv, and a response to it (also included below) came from someone else on that listserv:

Showbiz Lengua 35: Bebot
Posted by: "Pete Lacaba" [...]

Mon Aug 28, 2006 9:35 pm (PST)

Jose F. Lacaba


When the American hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas came back to the Philippines in July for a concert at the Araneta Coliseum, the media were quick to point out that their most recent album, Monkey Business (2005), contained a track titled "Bebot."

That's right, bebot--as in girl, woman, the female of the species. And it isn't just the title that's in Tagalog. The entire song is in Tagalog!

Sample lines, from the rapped refrain:

Bebot bebot
Be bebot bebot
Be bebot bebot be
Ikaw ang aking
Bebot bebot...

Okay, it's not exactly Balagtas, but "Bebot, bebot" does have a hypnotic bebop beat to it, like "Hello, Garci."

As everyone in these parts knows, the songwriter and one of the founding members of the Black Eyed (a.k.a. Allen Pineda Lindo, a.k.a. Allan Pineda), on whom Malacañang has bestowed a Presidential Medal of Merit--has a Filipino mother and takes commendable pride in his Filipino heritage.

But the dude left the Philippines when he was 14, sometime in 1988 or '89, so I can understand why he sounds a little bit retro to me, using a slang word that I haven't heard in a long time.

Words, as the poet T.S. Eliot once put it, "slip, slide, perish, decay with imprecision." That's especially true of slang, which is, by definition, ephemeral.

The word bebot obviously derives from babae, which probably began as reverse slang, ebaba, and has since undergone various slang permutations: ebubot, babong, bobits, bobitski. (Maybe even babe comes from babae, the way pussycat and mother hen are supposed to have evolved from pusa and inahin. That's a joke, okay? Not everything the Lenguador says in this column should be taken as gospel truth.)

Lalaki underwent a similar transformation, though it produced fewer variants: kelolot, kelot.

Bebot and kelot, unlike the other abovementioned variants, are probably still understood by today's generation, but they're hardly ever heard in actual usage nowadays. At least, not where I hang out.

So what's the word today's tambays and phrasemakers use in place of bebot? Take your pick: chick or tsik, chickababe, girlylet, tita, lola, kawimenan. To cite just one example (from the FHM Bullboard webpage, "Aba... pag na-try ng mga tsik dito ang mga bullboys, wala na silang hahanapin pa."

Of course, by resurrecting bebot and passing it on to the worldwide audience that buys Black Eyed Peas CDs by the hundreds of thousands, just might make the word current again in the home country. Then maybe we can ask the Pussycat Dolls, whose lead vocalist has Pinoy blood, to do the same for kelot.

2006 September

And a reply:
Re: Showbiz Lengua 35: Bebot
Posted by: "Ramon Sunico" [...]
Mon Aug 28, 2006 11:12 pm (PST)

Senyor and fellow kelot--

Just want to check if your experience of *bebot* (the word, the word) is similar to mine. I still use it with my contemporaries who went to various high schools (Lourdes Mand., Ateneo, San Beda etc) during the 60s. In fact, I even have an aunt who used to be a mean silkscreening hippie from the university belt whom the whole Sampaloc branch of our clan calls Tita Bebot. It's her nickname after all, and for us, it evokes coolness rather than hotness. Now even her apos call her Lola Bebot.

Did it have connotations that the female it was applied to was "hot" or "cheap" i.e. paka?

I ask because I just received an email query (perhaps you did too) about the word, adding that it is being translated in the States as "hot chick" which I think is an ummm overenthusiastic translation.

I'm aware of course that a word's meanings and connotations change over time just as Tommy Eliot says but am just curious when the "hotness" attached itself to the term.

I wonder if apl.d.ap's (and his critiics') usage of it constitutes a case of Fil-ams re-establishing the word's currency but, at the same time, changing its original meaning. Sort of like how words like titi, suso and puki acquired vulgar connotations after the prayles had their way with us. (Thank God for karpinteros, kanteros, mekanikos and tuberos who still use titi as a neutral term [that part of a hardware assembly that goes into a corresponding butas].)



Nothing is more beautiful than a word fitly spoken.
-- Harold Arlen quoting Marcus Aurelius

PS. one other variation is bebits.

Monday, August 28, 2006

"Bebot" In the Classroom

Liza Erpelo, an instructor at Skyline College, has created a class assignment using the "Bebot" videos and the Open Letter. Click here and scroll down to check it out.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Early responses, received August 23

E-mail from Ryan Canlas:

Just wanted to send along a response/comment on the statement you signed.... I myself have only recently seen the two "Bebot" videos. I have to admit, though, that when I first heard the song (my sister has the "Monkey Business" album), and then after that when I heard "Bebot" on the radio, I thought it was commendable that a) Ap did another song in Tagalog, and b) that the Black Eyed Peas would release it as a single and that the radio station here in San Diego would play it. But I didn't think much of the song. The lyrics aren't that deep, and, to be frank, I don't like the Black Eyed all.

But when I saw the videos, some of the inherent problems of the song (which the writers of the statement addressed), which weren't that apparent to me upon first and second listen, became clear, the biggest one being the invocation of some sort of Filipino American-ness qua the hot Pinay. Beauty, hotness, all thatˆˆI don't mind when it's empowering, since the invocation of beauty oftentimes among racial minorities is an index to and impetus for some mode of solidarity and even radical action. But when the voice and the image comes primarily from a man, and when the song itself does little in expressing the articulations between, for instance, beauty, feminity (or feminism?), and community building, a huge gap remains as to what kind of a community is being invoked, and who the putative community that is the object of the address actually is. What happens is that the gap in this logic is filled in an almost de facto fashion by the status quo, i.e. the male, heterosexual community and voice.

(And here I won't go into the problems I have with the Black Eyed Peas, which I think is symptomatic of not only the song, but the two videos. Let's just say I find them a little too willing to be marketable as a "multicultural group.")

I actually found the Generation One video a little more disturbing, and for the following reason: the dime dancers, as far as I could tell, were all Pinays. The celebration of the "bebot" figure and the representation of what is basically an elided moment of U.S. labor history are two thoroughly incompatible modalities, and so what happens is that what does get elided in this, for me, irresponsible depiction is the racial dynamics between the male Filipino laborers and the *white* female dime dancers, a dynamic that was responsible, among other things, for producing not only the stereotype of the predatory Filipino, but also for many of the lynchings that took place back in the thirties, the justification for which was precisely the form of racialization that the sexual dynamics of "migrant labor" (to use an anachronism... or maybe Stateless labor would be better as an all-inclusive term to include even today's proletarian topology) precipitated. This concrete and material history, as an object of thought and discussion, is what is foreclosed from the start by the Generation One video. So it's only "natural" that this elision of the history of the production of the Filipino male stereotype manifests itself in the Generation Two video's depiction of Pinay *and* Pinoy sexuality in the terms of the status quo.

Anyway, that's my two cents. I'm glad all of you sent the letter to the filmmakers and to Ap. Hopefully, they'll take it inot consideration next time.


E-mail from Marlon Esguerra:

Hi all,

I'd like to thank everyone who drafted this letter to Apl, Patricio Ginelsa of Kid Heroes, and Xylophone. I completely agree with the points made in the letter. I believe that the issues brought up strike at the heart of contradictions that have unfortunately embedded themselves in the FilAm identity.

I will keep this short and just say that dialogue (intergenerational, between those in the academy and not, between artists/practioners and not, and between FilAm communities in different regions, etc.) is imperative. In reading the letter (which no doubt was drafted to present complicated points as informally as possible), there exists a danger of two things: 1) skating the ultimate issue of the song and the videos as a form of patriarchal, hetereosexist, sexual violence and not indicting Apl, Partricio and Xyl fully and 2) skating the issue that it literally "took a village" to create those videos and thus many people consented to this abuse of power and control.

I believe that in this case, between indictment and consent is a unique opportunity to go to the source. Has there been any direct contact with Apl, Pat, folks in Xyl? Have comments been sought from anyone in the video? Kiwi? Bambu? Rhett? In regards to the song and the videos, we know in what direction the best intentions went. Again, I thank you for the letter, which is vigilant and true. What direct action and personal contact is being made to open up the possibility for change? What responsibilities are you charging the FilAm community with through this letter?


Marlon Unas Esguerra
Poet & Teacher
Chicago, IL



Comment from Chris Danguilan posted on The Wily Filipino:

Given the radical feminist critique of "Bebot", I am curious as to why the author of this open letter has not gained the imprimatur of Gabriela? I would very much like their comments and criticisms of the video.

Initially, I have to agree with the premise of the foundation of her/their argument. That being the historical international objectification of Filipinas into the sexualized roles of prostitute, stripper, mail order bride, etc. However, I fail to see how valid its application is to said video.

For example, who in version 2 was the whore and who was the virgin? I don't doubt these identities existed (in fact, I would argue that any fictionalized scenario wherein there were more than two female players you could find such comparisons) it just would have been nice if the author/s could have fleshed (no pun intended) that out a little more. I am afraid it is a little too simplistic and a little heavy handed to say that here the Filipina is sexualized, rather than identifying the dancer's as sexy Filipinas. In addition, I am slightly offended that the mother is considered asexualized by the author/s. It assumes that all full figured mothers over the age of 40 are sexless. I feel that is all too often the intrepretation of most people under the age of 30, and more the author/s' in this instance.

Unless, the authors/s have personally spoken with the actress how do they know that her accent was exaggerated rather than merely unfortunate overacting? I have any number of immediate family members with heavy accents and to suggest that this was feigned in the video for the purpose of amusing others at the character's expense makes a mockery of them.

Finally, the dance halls during this era in central California did exist, and make no mistake, these were church ice cream socials but were there for the pleasure of the manongs. Though historically, I doubt there were many Filipinas present as there were in the video since although immigration law at the time allowed Filipinos to enter the US, the same did not apply for Filipinas (even if they were the spouse or daughter). It could be argued that that intent of the manong's pleasure as a group was more spiritual or social than corporal (esp. considering the miscegination laws) however, I would be surprised if there was no sexual interest. I base this, in part, on past conversations with my now deceased Uncles Tony and Remy who were both Manongs. Granted, I could be wrong about the author/s intent with regard to this section of the letter as I have no idea what "unproblematized light" means. Such wording is best left to dissertations.

To close, I did not see any bleached blonde Pinay in Generation 2. I will go back and take a closer look, and try to make more sense of the open criticism presented here. I would agree that there are many inadvertant or unintentional conflicts in the content of the videos, but I would argure there is just as much in the open letter of criticism presented here.

I believe we should commend the Black Eyed Peas and in particular Apl de Ap for their groundbreaking attempt to introduce Filipino culture, community, and history into popular American culture. It would be patronizing to say that they expected more airplay by using "hoochie-mama dancers". Because you, me, and Apl de Ap know that sadly mainstream America still has shown little to no positive interest in songs sung in anything other than English no matter who any of us believe is being exploited.

Sincerely, Chris Danguilan

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Livejournal Discussion

on Lyle's (brother of Lily Prijoles) livejournal.

responses by Marlon Esguerra, Kiwi, Lily Prijoles, etc

____[one response by Lily Prijoles]____

I was there...
2006-08-24 11:03 pm UTC (link)
Would it be less disappointing if the video were made by non-filipinos? Would we be so mad? What if there was a point where the video was going to be made without us(Pat and crew)? Gen 1 idea would be trashed and it would've only been that hoochier video...but more hoochies and shiny cars.

From what I know:
after successfully completing "The Apl Song" video, it was last year when Pat had this idea to use this song "Bebot" to make this video, mainly having to do with Stockon Farmworkers in the 1930s and the Rizal Social club and the feel good house parties of today. It was 1 idea. It was a damn good idea. But, due to music industry politics and a year of give and take with the label, it turned into two videos and a COMPLETE compromise for Pat and the rest of the production crew. Pat had a vision for this video. It was feel good and exciting. It was fun and everyone was going to be invited. His original intention was NOT to only have hoochies dancing, and import cars. Granted there were attractive women on set, they weren't wearing turtlenecks and overalls. I was there, I didn't object, but I also didn't approve. But I believed in the Gen 1 video idea so much, that I wasn't going to let an industry interference scare us away from a REALLY GOOD idea. It was there. Gen 1 is the reason why I work with Pat. I'd give out a hundred million bottles of water to crew people and hours of volunteering, so that Pat can see his vision. The letter sent made Pat out to be like a pervert or something. They made us (his crew) look amateur and ignored the countless other projects we have worked on for the community. If you check out our website we have made numerous videos for Fil Am bands, musicians, singers from our community(FOR FREE), and our hardwork is reduced down to a bunch lip and leg shots, sexy dancing and an overplayed Filipina Auntie. We/he is being judged by 1 video, when our body of work should speak differently.

I really appreciate that we can tell our own stories whether it's MTV fluff or the deepest most historically memorable story idea. It's artistic expression. It's THAT director's vision. What I find impressive with this project, is how limited our budget was. We could have spent everything on the video the Label wanted us to make, instead of squeezing out a second with a strong historical tie to our heritage. Pat WANTED to make his 1930s themed video, no matter what. Even with money coming out of his own pocket. (Costumes from that era aren't cheap.) No Mainstream record label was going to pay us to make a video about Fil Am history, they were going to pay us to make a video about hoochies and import cars. That's what this industry comes down to. No one was offering us thousands of dollars to make videos, and no one has been. Maybe someday, we'll have enough money so that we can truly, honestly make our own movies/videos/projects. We can continue to truly represent who we are, and how we want to be portrayed. As of now, negotiating with Hollywood about culture, remains an outside "INDIE" job.

As a pinay, as a member of the Filipino American Community, as a film maker, as an activist, as an artist, as a member of 8th wonder, as a former Gab member, as a member of Kid Heroes/Xylophone Films, as a sister, as a friend, as a person trying to make change, as an imperfect person...these are my views and only my views. People can scrutinize every little detail of my statements in this comment, but it cannot be interpreted as the views of the director individually or of the crew.

much love to my peeps supporting and critiquing,
Lily Prijoles
part time producer/part time PA/full time supporter
Kid Heroes Productions

Many of the strong Pinays invited were probably at the FAHNS conference...but that's just me.

in the kidheroes mailing list, we sent out an email of support for Benito Vergara. I guess he didn't get the email.

(Reply to this)

I was there... (cont)
2006-08-24 11:14 pm UTC (link)
oh yea... send your complaints about this posting to:
Lily P

Kiwi's Response

Kiwi (member of Native Guns who appeared in the video) responds:



Let me say first of all that I completely agree with the letter. Filipina/o pride aside, I don't think anyone can justify the way Filipina women (and women in general) were represented in those videos. Sadly, I anticipate many folks responding with "you're making a big deal out of it" or even going as far as attacking the folks who wrote the letter. But the fact is, we still live in a sexist society, and Pinays are still the ones most impacted when we talk about struggle and injustice in the Filipino community here, in the Philippines, and worldwide. So, I really don't feel that we have the luxury to poke fun at or depict Filipina women in a way that perpetuates this oppression. Instead, we have a responsibility to create spaces, in even the most minimal instances, where women can be empowered and recognized as the leaders and contributors they truly are.

So why was I in the “Bebot” video? Well, it was a personal invite by a good friend involved with the video, and the same company is also working on a video for Native Guns (for FREE), so I appreciated the gesture and felt obligated to go. In their defense, from my understanding (don't quote me on this) Xylophone originally turned down the offer to do the video, and finally negotiated a deal where they were able to mellow down (yes, mellow down) the hoochie-ness, as well as do a second version (“Generation One”) that had more of a community awareness/historical concept (Little Manila/Stockton). My general observation is that Xylophone has, on a few occasions, demonstrated an effort to do videos & films that reflect community issues as accurately as possible. That said, gender awareness and women's empowerment is still something that seriously needs to be taken into consideration and addressed in creation of these projects.

On a larger level, I feel that there (still) needs to be questions raised to the entire Filipino community about gender issues and patriarchy. Filipino culture, at least from my perspective, is patriarchal on all levels, so what has our progress been with that? What else are we doing, beyond just reacting to high-profile stuff, to continually raise awareness about and really challenge the gender issues that occur within our community on a daily basis? Within social justice and “activist” organizations even? What are we doing within our own circles, amongst friends and family, to end sexism and male supremacy?

I would like to hope that I am doing as much as possible to challenge patriarchy through my music, my political work, and my personal interactions with folks. I also want to acknowledge organizations such as babae and Gabriela Network for being at the forefront of the fight for Filipina women's rights. I really feel they have been laying the groundwork for us to be even having this discussion. I hope that we can continue to have dialogue, but more importantly, begin to create that space for us all to be able to challenge our own thinking and conditioning around gender, and strategize ways for us to be true allies to our sisters in the struggle.

Kiwi (Native Guns)

Some Responses

Please click here to read Patricio Ginelsa's post of the Open Letter (see previous post), as well as comments from other members of My Space.

Open Letter re: "Bebot" music vidoes [August 22, 2006]

"Bebot" video - Generation 1

"Bebot" video - Generation 2

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 Program & Department of English, Old Dominion University

Veronica Montes

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

(some names added after initial letter was sent out)