Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 12.23.30 AM<<< This is a piece of mine that was published in the Nov/Dec issue of Canada’s Briarpatch Magazine >>>

The controversy around the temporary foreign worker program (TFWP) hit in late spring while I was doing fieldwork for research on Canadian mining in West Mindanao, Philippines. My mind quickly became entangled in the systemic knots that lock together seemingly disparate issues.

At what locals call Ground Zero in Zamboanga City – where urban warfare between Muslim separatists and the army one year ago claimed lives, destroyed a neighbourhood, and has left tens of thousands homeless – there hung fresh ads in the streets about finding work abroad.

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<<< *note: the below was originally delivered as a talk at THIS Human Rights Day event in Toronto >>>


photo by afelipe

2014 has been a hellava year.  We have seen our communities besieged by horrible new atrocities, the continuance of others, and the growth of public rage.  From the continuing occupation of Palestine, to the never-ending war on terror.  From the police impunity seen in the the murders of Michael Brown & Eric Garner, to the continuation of the two tiered justice system for our First Nations sisters and brothers.

Meanwhile in the Philippines climate change disasters, partner with militarization, the return of US bases, attacks on activists and the poor, and a worsening economy to increase the peoples suffering. And here in Canada (where the Philippines has been the number one source country for migrants since 2009) we’ve seen legal changes that seek to punish migrant workers for the sacrifices they are forced to make due to poverty

Against all this our peoples have been fighting back.  Through acts of anger and acts of organized resistance. (more…)

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ABSTRACT:  In late 2012 the small-scale miners (SSM) of Mt. Balabag in Zamboanga Peninsula (Mindanao, Philippines) were forcibly displaced to make way for a large-scale Canadian mine. In operation since 1995, their workers were earning relatively high incomes. For the SSM elite they saw their industry as an economic and cultural boon for the impoverished local population. Yet, in reality, the educational achievements of the youth, investments in land and/or homes, and monetary savings remained low for the majority of the SSM workers.

While it is a fact that the entry of the foreign mine was detrimental to their socioeconomic futures, a question remains: Why didn’t their previously high incomes have a positive influence on their overall socioeconomic status?  Or more simply: Why aren’t they ‘better off’ after small-scale mining than before?  In fact, there is indication that the opposite may be true; that their experience with mining actually resulted in a downturn especially in a cultural sense as reports of community issues with social vice and domestic violence have have increased.

My presentation, based on early examination of my fieldwork findings from the summer of 2014, will examine these issues through the lens of Henri Lefebvre’s dialectics of space (seen as a component of the relations of production—simultaneously social and spatial) and how they impact everyday life.  The physical space of Balabag and the surrounding region, contrasted with the imagined space produced through the experience with mining, and as represented in the lives of the workers created a social reality quite different from expectations.

The ramifications of this study go further than simply one mine site, but inform the struggle towards development for the Global South and beyond.  The roots of poverty will be seen in dialectical relation to qualitative changes in space itself.


I write this in darkness, well candlelight.  It’s the second blackout of the day (called a ‘brownout’ here for some reason—I like to pretend its some ironic homage to skin colour).  The neighbours next door are singing American pop songs to each other as orange light flickers from their window.  Speaking of Americans, I saw one in front of the airforce base earlier, well I assume the white guy in fatigues was American. (more…)


My cousin laughed and smiled when I gave my condolences for her ex who they believe was “salvaged” (a term for summary execution) by the police a couple years back.  He was found beaten, threat slit, and with a friend who had a nail drilled into his forehead.  Other members of the local fam were equally nonchalant.
Just then theirpreschool aged kid ran by laughing, cutting in and out of the congestion of cars, tricycles (motorcycle taxi’s), pedestrians, and the street stalls that pack into this side road by an overpass in Quiapo, Manila.  He was playing with his other cousins, including my god daughter who was born on my second trip to the Philippines in 2005.  This was the audio equipment  sector of the market (karaoke machine parts mostly), and the music cut in and out as people sampled machines, and storekeeps tried to attract customers.  The scene was an audio, visual, emotional cacophony, and tensions were high–the police were there.   (more…)

* I am currently back in the Philippines for the summer, this is my first of hopefully regular blog entries…

** translation notes: Kuya=Older Brother, Tito=Uncle, Lolo=Grand dad, Ate=older sister


My Philippines knows that America has never been our friend.  But the Philippines is also made up of many who see things another way.  Both coexist, and both are made up of the people that I still hold out hope for, that I still believe can stand on their own two feet, even if it means working up the nerve to take what it deserves.

So yeah.  Obama came by the other day.

The US presidential visit came and went on 28-29 April and most people were very welcoming of him and the new PH-US Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement to surrender more sovereignty over to kuya USA.  “America the good.”  The Philippines is one of the few countries left in the world that generally still believes this. (more…)

Here in Canada, pls consider donating to Sagip Migrante for disaster relief in the Philippines. I work with them personally and know that your donations will go directly were it is needed.


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