Annotation: Rafael, Vince. 2009. Your Grief is our Gossip

Rafael, Vince. 2009. Your Grief is our Gossip: Overseas Filipinos and Other Spectral Presences. In, White Love and Other Events in Filipino History: Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.

Rafael “inquire(s) into nationalist attempts at containing the dislocating effects of global capital through the collective mourning of its victims” (204). He argues that this labour of mourning “tends to bring forth the uncanny nature of capitalist development itself on which the nation-state depends” and that together with gossip, “generate(s) the structures of feeling specific (but not limited) to Philippine nationalism: the tensions…of becoming Filipino at the start of the 21st century” (204-5). The overseas Filipinos in the 21st century are the 1) balikbayan who periodically visits the motherland, and the 2) doubly victimized (by the employers while alive, and by the media once they are dead) overseas contract worker (OCW). The “shameless of the balikbayan” he writes, “turns out to be a ‘tragedy’” who like the majority of other Filipinos are “caught up in colonial delusions” (209). Corroborating with colonial hegemony, the balikbayan alsomirrors the “failure” of nationalism to retain and control the excess known as overseas Filipinos” (209). In contrast, OCWs are subject to exploitative working conditions and they often relate stories of “loneliness, deprivation, and abuse” (210). He gives as an example the “circulation of gossip,” particularly the case of Flor Contemplacion, that was commodified by both the state and the show business. Through the workings of the state and the media, the executed female domestic worker and the memory of her oppression become both a symbol of national sacrifice, and a spectacle. This spectacle of the gendered split beyond the Philippine borders, as it mobilized Philippine embassies overseas and the Philippine diaspora, but was basically based on an “economy of pity” (210) that ultimately failed to produce any concrete political action. The executed OCW who was anonymous while alive is given a new identity. Rafael says that this were the OCWs are different from the balibkayan, as while the latter “arouse envy and flaunt their failure to defer to the nation,” the former can claim to respect only in dying. As Rafael argues, such tragedies that befall migrants are manifestations of the failure of the state to provide for/protect its citizens.

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