In Translation

2017, single channel video and stills

total run time: 8:15

with poem “Hi Bata Santo Han Akon Pagbisita”

or “Once When I Visited Uncle Sugbo” by Victor Sugbo

with Marietta Calleja-Baglieri

Part of this video's text is a poem, “Hi Bata Santo Han Akon Pagbisita” or “Once When I Visited Uncle Sugbo” by contemporary writer Victor Sugbo from Tacloban, Philippines, who writes in Waray-Waray. In “In Translation” my mother, also from Tacloban of Waray descent, reads to me Sugbo’s poem at my request and struggles as it’s been a while since she spoke Waray-Waray; there is no nearby relation with whom to speak. The awkward recitation and translation from her native tongue is juxtaposed with an image of my mother and other Filipin@-Americans from various islands, performing indigenous dances from the Cordillera region, appropriated and re-purposed, at a New Jersey function. This is further layered with my (first generation American-born*) flawed search for inheritance of Waray knowledge, both via the internet and through embodied memory, as well as my longing for the rhythm of the language heard dangling around my grandmother and mother late into the night in my childhood home.

Rather than to pass judgment on Filipin@ cultural appropriation by Filipin@s or on online searches for cultural knowledge, these juxtapositions are meant to nuance and complicate the experience of assimilation, and look from varying distances at the practices that flow into the liminal space of loss of language and cultural knowledge and practice. “In Translation” asks where does that which cannot be translated reside?

*also English-only speaking, mixed-race and queer