Last year, I started time travelling as a chronicle of sorts for my stay here in Puerto Rico. I randomly named this blogspace time travelling as an allusion to my interest in archaeology and travel. This has been one of the venues where I share stories to my friends and family back in the Philippines. Consider this first post I had a year ago:
I haven’t been blogging for a while though I enjoyed it a while back. I started writing online as a contributor to cyberjournalism sites. Those days, my writing output (albeit few) was mostly politically-oriented: dealing with global and local issues that I felt were important.
Now that I am transplanted from the Pacific to the Caribbean, I would like to share my insights and experiences to my family, friends, and maybe a tiny slice of the online world. This is my way of finding a cozy online getaway where I can be zen-like reflexive or just plainly be chewing the cud.
Well, I decided to blog because somehow the situation that I am in gives me a certain angle, a prism if you will, of what Caribbean life is like. So, carpe diem it is.
In hindsight, I realize that what I am writing here in time travelling–even the supposedly ‘science’ posts–were essentially an exercise in nostalgia. The ‘new’ things I encounter here in Puerto Rico somehow animate memories of home and place. For example, the sight of a monkey sleeping draws a memory of myself reclining on a hammock, the breeze gently lulling me to a sleep. The river crashing through the rocks in San Lorenzo made me relive those moments I had with the many rivers I fished in back home. This blog therefore has become a lottery sweepstakes of sort: a mishmash of the here-and-now, the past, and the what-could-bes. Every blog I wrote is randomly picked from a jumble of memories and thoughts. More often though, I always come up with Italo Calvino‘s mammoth:
The first time a girl comes to see me, let’s say it’s Mariamirella, I hardly do anything all afternoon: I go on with a book I’m reading, then realize that for the last twenty pages I’ve been looking at the letters as though they were pictures; I write, but really I’m doodling all over the white paper and all the doodles together become the sketch of an elephant, I shade it in and in the end it turns into a mammoth. Then I lose my temper with the mammoth and tear it up: why a mammoth every time, you baby! (Italo Calvino, Love Far From Home)
In spite of these limitations however, the posts here have spiraled beyond personal stories. This blog has allowed me to explore areas in anthropology, or generally in science, I have not paid close attention to in the past. This disinterestedness is quite common in the Philippines where religious fanatics still decide the outcome of certain public policies. For example, the resistance of many Filipinos to the reproductive health bill is partly due to the lack of interest in the sciences–both natural and social. In this regard, as my small contribution, I made it a point to sometimes summarize journal articles I deem important. This is also my way of helping aspiring social science students in the Philippines, especially because I know what it means to be a graduate student in a university where anthro-related journal articles are hard to come by.
During my graduate years, I utilized the meager resources of our library but I was more dependent on friends studying in US-based universities. I would send them titles and topics, then they would furnish me with journal articles for my academic papers. Also, before google scholar, google books, scribd, etc., fellow university students would download academic articles and books through torrent sites and pass it around like contraband.
It is just sad that while the Philippines has continued to churn out amazing data for scholars in developed countries, institutional help for Philippine-based departments is very few. This has led to departments being shut down due to austerity measures. In fact as of the moment, I do not know yet if I have a department to return to once my stay here in Puerto Rico is over. Our university administration has planned to close down our sociology and anthropology program and merge this with the history department. Now that I am dabbling in primatology, I will indeed be the proverbial square peg in a round hole as far as academic location is concerned.
Nonetheless, I am quite hopeful that something could still be done. Perhaps, I will go back to the backwaters of Leyte: engage in farming, do research, and write for this blog. At least, for now, time travelling and the monkeys of Cayo Santiago are keeping me busy.