Monday, August 17, 2009

Comments

Big brouhaha over health care and a public option for medical insurance. I’m wondering why no one has pointed out that the fear over “socialized” medicine is actually corporate fear of losing one of the shackles that keep people at wage slavery. One memorable moment I had in Holland was talking to this 40-year-old fan of John Cheever (he was fascinated that I had met Mr. Cheever) who was preparing to quit his job to contemplate “serious questions about life.” Having a public option might just tempt so many people to forgo work designed to enrich CEOs and retire to contemplate the meaning of existence.

My doctor is so overworked I try to make appointments only once every two or three years. It’s because he accepts the cheaper kind of medical insurance, so his office is always full of “ethnics,” as it were. His doctor-partner just left, he tells me with sorrow; and did I know any doctor who would be willing to partner with him? His home, he tells me, is on the other side of the city but he opened his clinic close to my neighborhood because he wanted to serve his people. He is Argentinean. I tell him I had a friend who was a “disappeared.” He says me, too. Eight of the medical personnel rounded up with him during the bloody coup were killed.

So I tell him about being in Camp Crame during the Marcos dictatorship. Then, as I was leaving, having completed my check-up, he says, I’m pleased to meet you. He’s been my doctor for a while but I knew what he meant.

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Big brouhaha over the $20,000 dinner hosted by de-facto President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at Le Cirque on 58th Street, Manhattan. The dollar amount translates to some one million pesos – quite a price for a country where four of ten Filipinos go to bed hungry. My response is a little off; I keep wondering what the hell they ate – human flesh? Was Hannibal Lecter the chef?

In any case, the gustatory connoisseur among us go to Shanghai Joe’s in Chinatown, where the soup dumpling tastes like it’s worth its weight in gold but considerably cheaper.

The $20T dinner made me feel so embarrassed over my preferred comfort food, arroz caldo – eaten when I’m distressed – which cost like $5.95 in any Pinoy joint here that I uncorked a bottle of ice wine, a gift from the last time I lectured in Canada and which I’d learned since then cost $50 for the equivalent of two glasses of wine. Ice wine comes in teeny-weeny bottles. As it went down my gullet, I thought: well, jeez, I worked so very hard for this ice wine, I might as well drink the thing, considering that those who don’t work as hard spend $20T for a meal.

Conspicuous consumption being contagious, it was a good thing there was only one bottle of ice wine. Do you now understand why the Philippines is always in massive debt?

13 comments:

Sheridan said...

The Philippines and Filipinos are a constant source of puzzlement. They gave the world people power -- which changed regimes in many places, for better or for worse, but CHANGED those regimes. Meanwhile the Philippines and Filipinos seem mired in the quagmire of the same rulers. How come?

Ninotchka Rosca said...

The problem is that we of Philippine ancestry don't understand the concept of the Other. Hence, we of a blood, a nationality, a class, a gender, a group, etc. -- whatever comprises the basis of one collective identity --always enables the Other, whoever & whatever that may be, to throw us into disarray.

Btw, this software dropped one "is" in this post -- as in "is considerably cheaper."

Anonymous said...

OMG! Arroz caldo is my comfort food too! I love arroz cadlo!

Ninotchka Rosca said...

Yup! Best arroz caldo I ever had was prepared by Minerva Tantoco years ago. Haven't had one as good ever since.

Anonymous said...

OMG! Ms. Rosca not only are you one of my favourite authors and activists but we love arroz caldo too! I love all the forms of congee. BTW...this dumpling soup sounds interesting....

Ninotchka Rosca said...

Dumpling soup is soup inside a wonton bag. The ingredients are frozen, wrapped in thin wonton dough and steamed. You make a small hole in the dough-bag and suck the soup out. It's one of the great delights of life, especially in winter. Shanghai Joe in Chinatown NY has the best ever!

Anonymous said...

I think Filipinos do have a sense of the "Other"-dare I say it-"balik bayans." I find it odd that Filipinos have alienated themselves from their greater community instead of finding strength in unity. It is unfortunate and very hurtful that Filipinos alienate and discriminate other Filipinos with the concept of balik bayan. I understand that some who are balik bayan have caused Filipinos to hate them. Some balik bayans return as fully fledged subordinates of white capitalist supremacy. Their conspicuous consumption and conceit and even racism inspire resentment from other Filipinos who are also victims of the same white capitalist hegemony . I had my own experience with being a balik bayan when I was in the Philippines a few years ago. I followed my parents instructions to speak only in Tagalog and avoid acting like a tourist. Nonetheless, they spotted us as balik bayans. They were kind to us when they had something to sell. Outside the shops, however, we were clearly not treated with the same hospitality as the white tourists. Sometimes I wonder if the preferential treatment to whites in the Philippines was not hospitality at all but fear.

Lu said...

Ninotch, let me know when you are coming over to Los Angeles, I will make you the original pancit molo, a Visayan delicacy. How's Minerva, Racquel? Been out of the loop for decades.

Donna Salonga said...

Hi Ninotchka, I was led to your blog by a link from Gabnet. I am a college student just beginning to learn about her culture. I wanted to comment to you to say thank you very much for blogging about these kinds of issues. I am from San Francisco, California and would like to know if you can help me, is there any information you have of how I can help the PI here in America. I am hoping to join the Gabriela network.

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