Memento Mori

They were five total strangers, with nothing in common, meeting for the first time. A brain, a beauty, a jock, a rebel and a recluse. Before the day was over, they broke the rules. Bared their souls. And touched each other in a way they never dreamed possible.For a majority of the 1980s, my familys suburban home in LA’s San Gabriel Valley became a way station for our personal  family reunification  program, as one wave of recently naturalized kin sponsored another set of newly immigrated family members. At the height of this era, my parents and I were joined by two other families ““ four siblings in their twenties and their retired father, another middle-aged cousin, her husband and their two toddler children. In this intergenerational and transnational household, our lingua franca became American and Filipino popular culture. From the family room, a television blasted the day’s cycle of programming ““from the morning news toDonahue, from afternoon soaps toDynasty  and  Dallas. Over the sound of running showers and blow dryers in the morning, the bathroom radio blared out Boston,  38 Special  andRush. Crackling through the living rooms turntable coffin on the weekends, a double LP of provincial songstresses Pilita Corrales and Susan Fuentes torch songs and the smooth sounds of Nat King Cole and the Platters marked the twilight time of a lazy afternoon.

In 1986, our televisions screen was filled with the faces of students, nuns, and mothers fed up but still peaceful in protesting the Marcos dictatorship. Before the massacres atTiananmen Square, these otherwise feminized, domesticated masses faced off with military tanks and machine gun-toting officers. Before Shane and Jenny, they brought to the globe another “l” word””Laban””through the digital display of simply a letter. In those uncertain political times, this visible public of revolutionary possibility brought me closer to my Philippine-born cousins””the ones who grew up inMetro Manila’s Project 4, smoked hash at UP (University of the Philippines) while reading the Communist Manifesto, left their country with accounting and nursing degrees only to end up in America working at the McDonalds on the corner of Amar and Azusa. This spirit of unlikely banding and bonding that I shared with my cousins was best captured onscreen in John Hughes detention hall classic.

To this day,  The Breakfast Club  still holds a special place in my heart because it gave me models of intercultural exploration and alternative counterpublics that my 12-year  old self could understand. A lot of it may have had to do with the fact that, despite wanting to call MTV mine, my main source of pop culture was syndicated television and KTLA seemed to love playing John Hughes’  Brat Pack-filled flick at least once a year. A lot of it may have also had to do with the fact that, in middle school, I chose to spend afternoons in detention with my friends ““ the other kids who spoke multiple languages in their homes, fought the shame of moms packed lunches everyday, and would rather draw comics, write stories and rhymes, and crack jokes than sound off the same roster of dates and names from somebody elses U.S. history, year after year. Like the Schermer High School quintet, what we found in a seemingly abject event (detention) was the potential for outsider camaraderie and  scattered belongings, a room of our own built precisely because we broke the rules and didnt fit in.

The fantasies of adolescence and revolution share a similar affective relationship to time “”their presents paradoxically angst or anxiety-ridden but full of hope. What brings together the 1980s of Hughes and Aquino is how they rested upon the potentiality of the visual, creating imagined communities in their wake. In an era before tweets and RSS feeds, before even emails and texting, the imaginary time lines of adolescences  Neverland Club  and revolutions  People Power  could only be interrupted by late breaking news and reruns. Perhaps, more than anything else, what some of us mourn in the death of these two individuals is the loss of that imagined innocence — a simple past viewed through rose-colored glasses, made pretty in both pink and yellow. – (CBB)

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