The Philippine-American Educational Foundation (Fulbright Commission in the Philippines) hosted the final presentations of three American Fulbright scholars for academic year 2014-15 last Tuesday, May 12, 2015 from 1:30 until 4:00 in the afternoon at the PAEF office. The three presenters namely; Jason Reblando who is an artist and photographer based in Chicago and Bloomington-Normal Illinois, Joseph Legaspi who works at Columbia University and resides in New York City, and Grace Talusan, a writer and writing teacher based in Boston enthusiastically presented their research outputs.
The first presentation entitled; “Home Away From Home: Benefits and Losses of the Filipino Diaspora” was discussed by Jason Reblando. During his four-month Fulbright research fellowship, Jason Reblando has been producing a photographic survey of different aspects of the Filipino diaspora and how Filipinos stay connected to their homeland. From balikbayan boxes to remittances, Filipinos maintain relationships with their home despite the social hardships and geographic boundaries that separate friends and families. With subjects ranging from the families who experience the benefits and absence of an Overseas Filipino Worker to the bureaucratic processing of OFWs, Reblando’s photographs examine how OFWs are changing the Philippine landscape and Filipinos’ relationship to home.
Joseph Legaspi was the next one who discussed about his research and it was entitled; “Home and in the Diaspora, a Non-portrait and a Poetry Reading”. He returned to the country of his birth as a Fulbright scholar and poet to investigate the current state of Filipino poetics. As a hyphenated American, he attempts to explore the cultural dynamics, similarities and differences between Filipino and Filipino-American writing in terms of aesthetics, approach to language, craft, subject choices and most intriguingly, in dealing with identity. As he believes that poetry maps the emotional landscape of people, of mankind, his study has given him means of understanding the complicated Philippine psyche, scarred by its varying colonial past. Moreover, by painting a portrait of a creative writing program—Silliman University’s in Dumaguete, Negros Oriental— he endeavors to illustrate the institutionalization of creative writing in the Philippines, whether, like in America, the proliferation of workshop culture has permeated not only academia but the zeitgeist. Essentially, he came to realize that he could most effectively broach the subject of Filipino and Filipino-American poetics by approaching it as a poet; this homecoming for a long-absent, conflicted son dealing with his sense of duality and longing through his humble art.
The last presenter, Grace Talusan discussed about BPOs. “The Golden Headset: The Lives of BPO Workers” was the title of her presentation. She discussed that as the business process outsourcing industry (BPO) in the Philippines has over one million employees and grows at a rate of 20% annually. The economic impact on the economy is profound, but who are the individuals at the other end of the phone line? With a large percentage of clients in the U.S. and the Philippines 12 hours ahead, Filipino BPO workers are temporal or virtual migrants, seeking better economic opportunities while their families sleep. The economic benefits are great, but what are the personal costs to workers’ lives? Research into the personal stories of BPO workers illuminates both the sacrifices and benefits of wearing the golden headset.