What could be more awesome than spending a year in a foreign country while you get paid to write your book? Well, that’s what a Fulbright Scholarship offers, and today we have several Fulbright Scholars with advice on the application process. One said that what helped her most was reading essays written by former Fulbright Scholars, so she and another scholar have graciously offered to share theirs, which are pasted at the bottom of this post. And now, four scholars tell how they got their Fulbrights:
Last year at this time, I had no idea where I would be. I was just finishing up my last semester at Texas Christian University where I was studying broadcast journalism and political science. The pressure of everyone asking “So, what are you going to do after graduation” got so intense that I actually made a necklace that said “Do NOT ask me what I’m doing after graduation.” Thankfully, I only had to wear that necklace for about a week – because on April 19, 2010, I found out that I received a Fulbright grant to the Philippines. The process of applying for the Fulbright was just that – a process. I spent about four months intensely writing and revising my application based on the comments of my advisor at my university, trusted friends, and individuals in the country to which I was applying. The country to which I applied played a big role in the way in which I structured the application. I wanted to ensure that I applied to a country that wasn’t incredibly competitive, yet which at the same time would provide adequate opportunities to study my research interests.
Furthermore, I wanted to provide personal reasons for wanting to study in that country (i.e. I am half Filipino and wanted to learn about my cultural heritage). Some countries tend to favor certain disciplines or choose a certain number of each per year (ex. one journalist, one medical student, one creative writing student, and five others), so it is important to look at a country’s record of selected scholars. As a recent undergraduate, I also had to demonstrate that I had the skills and initiative necessary to complete the project since I was not working toward a degree like some Fulbrighters. I did this by structuring my resume to show enterprise and creativity as well as discipline and excellence, and writing my statement of grant purpose in a way that conveyed how passionate I truly was about the topic. A common misconception is that “all Fulbrighters are a bunch of nerds with perfect GPAs and test scores.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. The Fulbright Commission isn’t looking for students with perfect GPAs and impeccable test scores. The Fulbright Commission isn’t looking for people with genius IQs and a long list of awards and honors. Everything I have seen shows that the Fulbright Commission is simply looking for people with a demonstrated passion for their projects, well-rounded interests, unique life experiences, and a desire to be a conduit for cultural exchange and social change. While grades do matter, they are certainly not the deciding factor. Instead they are a supplement to creative projects that can benefit the host country and further cultural exchange. To me, getting the Fulbright is all about communicating your passion for a topic and ability to complete it in a logical, well-structured essay, supplemented by well-rounded interests and a demonstrated desire to be an instrument for social change and cultural exchange.
To learn more about Christina, visit her website.
Laura Joyce Davis—Philippines
About a year before I applied for my Fulbright, I only had a vague sense of what it was: something that smart, ambitious people got if they were lucky. There’s some truth to that, but I think the best thing to know about getting a Fulbright is that it takes a lot of time, work, and focus. The application process is so involved that I would not recommend anyone apply unless they have about six months (or more)* to carefully plan and network. For those who are willing to go to those lengths, here’s the process and timeline that I went through:
1. Spend several hours on the Fulbright website. The website is extensive and not as user-friendly as one would hope. Read everything you can, get a sense of why the Fulbright exists, and pay special attention to information on your country of interest.
2. Decide what and where your research will be. Your answer to the question, “Why did you come to _______?” will need to be concise, articulate, thoughtful—and more compelling than 98% of the other applicants.
3. Write a first draft of your personal statement and statement of purpose. For your personal statement (1 page), you’ll need to show how your whole life has made you the ideal researcher in the country of your choice. For your statement of purpose (2 pages), you’ll need to outline exactly what you’ll be doing for the duration of your grant, why that research is so important, and what you hope to accomplish.
4. Talk to past or current Fulbrighters. Ask everyone you know if they’ve gotten one or know someone who has. (If you have friends who are Fulbright alums, they’re a great place to start.) I sat in on a handful of webinars (info about this on the website) and attended one informational meeting in person. Some undergraduate students have colleges who lead them through this entire process. If you attend one of those, take advantage of it and feel lucky. My undergrad was many years behind me, so most of what I learned happened through conversations with alums and every professor at my graduate institution who would talk to me about the application process. If past Fulbrighters or professors will let you read old, successful essays, read them all! You won’t get your research ideas from them, but you will begin to internalize the caliber of the competition.
5. As soon as you know what and where your research will be, get in touch with people in the host country. You must have at least one affiliation (i.e. someone who will write you a letter before ever meeting you saying that they’ll help you with your research and welcome you with open arms), so call, email, text—anything that will start to forge that relationship and convince the person on the other end that you’re worth their time. I cold-called and emailed dozens of NGOs before I found the one I ended up working for. Lots of Fulbrighters are sponsored by academic institutions, so I got an affiliation with the University of the Philippines as well.
6. Send your continually-evolving essays to everyone you know who is willing to help you. If you’ve got some Fulbright alums who will look at your essays, take them up on it. Revise, revise, revise! I wrote sixteen different versions of my essays before I ended up with the final product.
7. Make sure you allow plenty of time to get (unopened) transcripts, letters of recommendation, and all of the other basic stuff that the application requires. The deadline is in October, but you’ll do yourself a favor if you can complete most of the application by September so that all you have to do is upload your very best versions of your essays once they’re ready.
8. Once your application is submitted, you’ll have an interview, most likely with professors from your most recent academic institution. This is nothing to sweat, but you will do well if you have done your homework about the country you’re headed to and can humbly articulate why they should send you there.
9. Wait. You’ll be notified in January if you make the first cut, then in April or May (or perhaps earlier) if you make the final cut or are an alternate. If you’re an alternate, don’t despair. You may still get it (I did)!
*I was working about 60+ hours a week at a very stressful job when I applied, so I’m not suggesting that you need six months to do nothing but apply for the Fulbright, only that you will need to be very busy and focused during that time, not letting a single day go by without doing something to prepare your application. If you’ve ever done a graduate school application, think of that much work—and then triple it.
To read more about Laura’s project, visit Free Is A Verb.
Erika Martinez—Dominican Republic
I first heard of the Fulbright when I worked for a study abroad organization, but the former grantee was an anthropologist. I wrongly assumed that the fellowship was only available to scientists and historians. Then, right before I began my MFA at Mills College, I met a Fulbright scholar from Egypt who was in the Bay Area to study performance poetry. I also met a former Fulbrighter who’d gone to Mexico to do research for his novel. Realizing that the fellowship was available to writers, I decided to apply after obtaining my graduate degree. I was interested in going to Santo Domingo to do research for my memoir, but the list of previous Fulbrighters to the Dominican Republic showed that artist grants were never funded to that site. In order to increase my chances of success, with the help of my advisor, I developed a project that would be considered academic and prove to be beneficial for the host university. I proposed to edit an anthology of Dominican women writers. Conversing with former Fulbrighters, seeing sample essays and project proposals, attending teleconferencing information sessions sponsored by the Institute of International Education, getting the support of the Fulbright campus coordinator at Mills, and working closely with my advisor who had served on the Fulbright selection committee were all crucial to preparing a successful application.
My suggestions to those interested in applying is to come up with a project proposal that makes a clear and convincing argument for why the nine months abroad are essential for completion—use grant headings. It is also extremely important to describe why the project is beneficial for the host country and how it fosters international understanding. I also remember my Fulbright campus advisor’s tip for the curriculum vitae: this is not a creative nonfiction piece describing the challenges you’ve faced, make sure that the prose demonstrates your achievements up to now because the committee wants to believe that the applicant will bring more success to the program.
To learn more about Erika, visit her website.
Patricia Justine Tumang—Philippines (Creative Writing, 2008-09)
A year after completing my MFA in English and Creative Writing from Mills College, I found myself unemployed and struggling. My dream was to write a novel about the Philippines, the country of my ancestry, but I felt I had limited options with no income and a rising stack of bills.
My MFA thesis advisor told me to consider applying for a fellowship through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, a nine-month research grant funded by the U.S. State Department, so I could make my dream come true.
It took me three long months to prepare my application. I attended several Fulbright information sessions at the Institute of International Education (IIE) in San Francisco and networked with other Creative Writing applicants—a few of us formed a workshop group and gave each other feedback on our application essays.
I studied the Fulbright website meticulously. I took a Tagalog class at a community college. I downloaded Fulbright podcasts on my iPod and listened to them while washing the dishes or commuting.
I researched online for potential archives in Manila that would have the resources available to support my project. I emailed these institutions to ask them if they would consider writing me a letter of support. I bought calling cards and followed up with incessant calls. (Yes, I became that annoying, determined caller much akin to a telemarketer.)
I asked friends and colleagues who were former Fulbright scholars if they would share their essays with me. I examined these essays and noted their strengths. I met frequently with the Fulbright Program Advisor at my alma mater for feedback and support.
I wrote several drafts of my essays till I felt that they addressed the following in the most succinct manner: how my project exemplified cross cultural exchange and mutual understanding; that the resources I needed were only in the Philippines and not in the U.S.; why I was the best and only person who could do this specific research project; and, how my past experience (study abroad, independent research, published writing, etc.) and education had prepared for this opportunity. I included a nine-month timeline of my projected research and writing.
I submitted a 10-page writing sample that contained themes similar to what I wanted to research in the Philippines. I got grilled during my campus interview and the panel gave me invaluable feedback (and recommended me). I collected my three letters of recommendation and submitted them along with my application and essays.
I waited three months before hearing from IIE that I passed the first round of judging. Then, after another three months, an acceptance letter arrived in the mail. I was elated. The entire process took nine months, the same length as my grant.
If you’re considering applying for a Fulbright Fellowship, I offer no prescription; I can only say that these steps worked for me. In some cases, qualified scholars don’t make it to the final round because of limited funding. If you don’t get it, apply again. The process requires diligence and determination. I had to believe that this dream was attainable if I wrote it into being. I worked hard. I asked for help. And I waited.
Patricia Justine Tumang is an editor and freelance fiction and magazine writer. Co-editor of the Seal Press anthology entitled Homelands: Women’s Journeys Across Race, Place, and Time, she was awarded a 2008-09 Fulbright Fellowship to conduct research for her novel in the Philippines. The recipient of a 2007 Hedgebrook Residency for Women Authoring Change, she earned an MFA in English and Creative Writing from Mills College in 2006. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications and she was the former literature editor at Hyphen, a magazine about Asian America for the culturally and politically savvy. Originally from California, she has made Manila her home.
When I applied for the Fulbright, I really didn’t know what to expect beyond not expecting to receive it. I had just completed my first year of doctoral studies at the history department in Johns Hopkins and spent the summer trying to figure out how to make an historical anthropology study of food in the Philippines into a compelling proposal. And I was also a little masochistic since I was also applying for it in the middle of my comprehensive exams year, so it wasn’t exactly the most stress-free period in my life. Nevertheless, the grant’s mission of international academic exchange as well as the opportunity to conduct research for my dissertation in the country of my parents birth drew me in.
I rationalized the process by considering my entire Fulbright application as another five-unit graduate seminar class, with all of the work and time commitment that entails. I reached out to friends who had been awarded the grant before and asked for their advice. I watched IIE’s online videos and read their suggestions pages. And most importantly, I interviewed with the Fulbright administrators at Hopkins and incorporated their critiques and suggestions into my essays. After what must have been 20 drafts of the personal statement and project proposal, I dropped off a thick envelope in the mail and waited. I was on a two-week roadtrip with friends when I learned that I had indeed received the grant. It has changed my life in so many ways that thinking back to two years ago is almost like looking at a completely another person. I’ve had the opportunity to research in archives American have never been to, to make new friends and colleagues throughout Philippine academia, and speak to and learn from Filipino students in lecture halls throughout the country.
There is no magic bullet or perfect formula for getting the grant. Each proposal is different and each applicant comes with different qualifications and resumés. But the one commonality that I’ve observed in all the Fulbrighters I’ve met is the courage to pursue studies that are incredibly unique and seemingly impossible to conduct in the nine-month grant period. So my one piece of advice is really pretty simple: propose to do something that you love.
Alex Orquiza is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He was awarded the Fulbright fellowship for the 2008-2009 to conduct research for his doctoral dissertation on food and cultural exchange between the US and the Philippines from 1898-1946. He received his BA in history at UC Berkeley, his MA at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and has lectured at Kings College, Cambridge, the University of the Philippines, Diliman Center for International Studies, and has delivered public lectures at the Asian Culinary Forum of San Francisco and Food and Hospitality Manila. He is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and watched the entire San Francisco Giants 2010 World Series championship run live, with most games beginning between three and five in the morning Manila time.
AND NOW … THE ESSAYS
Laura Joyce Davis, Philippines, Creative Writing
I didn’t set out to write about slavery. I didn’t even want to know about slavery. It was simpler not to admit that it was all around me—in a Berkeley Indian restaurant, at a nearby Oakland strip mall, only a few clicks away on the computer screen. It was easier to believe that it could never be a part of my story.
From the first novel I penned in purple ink as a twelve-year-old, I’ve been searching for a story of my own. Growing up with siblings who wanted to be doctors like my dad, I was the melancholic middle child with a wandering internal compass. As a teenager, I went to Central America on three separate occasions to do volunteer work, and to see if Guatemalan tin shacks or an El Salvadorian girl’s smile would get me closer to knowing myself.
In high school, at an age ruled by insecurities, running fast helped me escape them. I ran to the state championship, to an athletic scholarship, through travels to Eastern Europe and beside future Olympians, but still couldn’t run from wondering who I was. I’d written front-page stories for the college paper and worked in a Senator’s office, but nothing made me feel as alive as running—until my first creative writing class. Those 45 minutes concluded a discussion I’d been having with myself a decade: I was going to be a writer. The only question was, what about?
I looked for the answer in Australia, where I worked with teenagers struggling with drug addictions, sexual abuse, and worse; in Thailand, where I taught English to Thai students; in my MFA program at Mills College, where the professors who inspired me most were Elmaz Abinader, an Arab-American activist, and Yiyun Li, who was dubbed “the Ernest Hemingway of our time.” My stories won the graduate school’s fiction award two years in a row, and a few were published—but my personal narrative was still untitled.
Questions of purpose were starting to chase me again, when instead of finding my story, a story found me: inspired by a friend’s real-life anecdote, I began a novel about Deaf culture. Through my research for The Sound of the Sun, I befriended Deaf scholar Robert Arnold, who encouraged me to bring the story of a forgotten minority to the larger world. I was humbled by the task, but also honored as I found a new way of seeing, stepped into a culture with its own beautiful language, and was given a new name.
I first heard about modern-day slavery from a friend taking a graduate course on the subject. I was troubled by what I learned, and for a year I steeped myself in research, ignoring the nagging voice inside that kept telling me I needed to write about it. I had taken a job coaching collegiate running at Mills, and was wondering why the threads of running and writing—which seemed unrelated—continued to weave through my life.
I finally understood their relationship when I began to write my second novel, Fear and Trembling, about modern-day slavery in the Philippines, a country notorious for human trafficking, but with abolitionists doing effective work to fight it. I was counseling one of my athletes to use running as a physical outlet for her grief, and at the same time reclaim a body she had been ashamed of since being raped in high school. Meanwhile, my husband and I had decided to fulfill a longstanding dream to move to the Philippines for a year to fight modern-day slavery and complete research on my novel. If running was an effective coping mechanism for my athletes, it could a powerful tool to help Filipina trafficking victims as well. With my pen in one hand and my running shoes in the other, I hope to learn from the women I meet, search for hope in the unexpected patter of feet on the ground, and tell the stories that, I have realized at last, are more important than my own.
STATEMENT OF PROPOSED STUDY OR RESEARCH
Laura Joyce Davis, Philippines, Creative Writing
Fitness, Fiction, and the Fight against Modern-Day Slavery
With a Fulbright fellowship for 2010-2011, I aim to research human trafficking in the Philippines, specifically prevention and rehabilitation efforts by non-governmental organizations (NGOs). My focus will be twofold: first, research will be essential in completing my novel about modern-day slavery, Fear and Trembling; second, I will found and manage a fitness group to help rescued women reclaim their bodies and spirits. These two activities will achieve one goal: to support and encourage victims of human trafficking, and to increase awareness and inspire action both in the United States and abroad.
Free the Slaves, a Washington, D.C.-based NGO, states that slavery is nominally illegal in every country in the world—yet law enforcement is inconsistent, so slavery is practiced in some form almost universally. According to Kevin Bales, the world’s leading modern-day slavery expert, there are more slaves today (27 million) than ever before. Traffickers lure women and children with promises of jobs, but in the end victims’ freedom is sold in exchange for their bodies. As Charles Jacobs of the American Anti-Slavery Group puts it, many middle-class Westerners ignore modern-day slavery because it is not “their” story; most of us relate neither to traffickers (those with no value of human rights) nor to victims (those with no money or hope). By writing Fear and Trembling I hope to show that slavery touches us all, and it will take all of us to stop it; by starting a fitness group, I aim to help victims rediscover hope.
In 2008, the National Bureau of Investigation cited the Philippines as one of the top five source countries for trafficking victims; 80% are females under 18 years old. Despite being a source, destination, and transit country for trafficking, the nation has largely escaped media attention. Fortunately, NGOs are doing exemplary work there, and part of my interest in the Philippines stems from wanting to work with those serving as models for NGOs and individuals worldwide. My nine-month stay will be divided into four stages: observation, research, outreach, and exploration; to prepare, I am taking Conversational Tagalog with Professor Leo Paz at City College of San Francisco, as well as reading Filipino books, newspapers, and blogs.
While continuing language study and auditing classes, I will work with Dr. Sylvia Estrada Claudio, a medical doctor, feminist counselor, and the Director of Women’s Studies at the University of the Philippines. She has agreed to mentor me through my research and writing, and her extensive activism in women’s reproductive rights will guide my work. I will also volunteer with three additional affiliations, all of whom have been enthusiastic and instrumental in my preparations: Samaritana in their outreach to prostituted women, Third World Movement Against the Exploitation of Women (TW-MAE-W), which partners with the U.N. Economic and Social Council to assist sexually exploited women and children, and Hope Christian Fellowship’s Cesar Vicente Punzalan, a political veteran and leader in church-state dialogues, who has served on the national presidential commission and has agreed to put me in touch with the cabinet secretary in charge of the government’s commission on human trafficking.
For many trafficking victims, their bodies have been degraded to vehicles of suffering; their self-esteem is as battered as their limbs. In this context, the physiological and emotional benefits of exercise—from endorphin release to cerebral blood flow to depression or anxiety treatment—can have a transformative power for former slaves robbed of any physical joys.
My years of coaching running have prepared me well to teach exercise’s benefits: during my time at Mills College, I taught women (half of whom had no prior experience exercising) to run not simply for physical betterment, but for holistic wellness and coping with trauma ranging from financial hardship to being disowned by family to rape. I also founded an after-school program for inner-city girls suffering from abuse and neglect. Drawing from these experiences, I aim to form a fitness group for trafficking victims, with weekly conversations about life skills such as goal-setting, healthy body image, and exercise as a means of healing.
The observation stage will help me assemble the cultural backdrop for my novel: the attitudes toward womanhood, family and gender roles, the value of children, and other social mores that often contribute to the supply side of slavery. I have discussed the challenges of a fitness group with the Samaritana leaders, and foresee initial skepticism from women who view exercise as frivolous in the face of more basic needs like safety and food. I hope to show these women that exercise can empower them to achieve even basic needs, and will approach my project with the flexibility necessary for any beneficial cross-cultural experience.
The research stage will include revising my research questions, drawing from both the university library and prior research done by Dr. Claudio, and investigating the political response to trafficking with the help of Mr. Punzalan. I will begin interviews with trafficking victims, NGO workers, and politicians, and lay the groundwork for the fitness group. My research questions will include these: How do you view yourself and your ability to achieve? What options for work and education did you have as a youth? What benefit, if any, do you see in athletic exercise? The answers to these questions will shape my novel revisions, and help me to convey the reality of slavery in the Philippines.
During the outreach stage, I plan to launch the fitness group, which will include running and bodyweight exercises that require no equipment or gym, as well as conversations about the broader life benefits of exercise. Nike has agreed to donate shoes and clothing to make this project more feasible. The heart of this stage will be my work with Samaritana and TW-MAE-W, assisting them in efforts at prevention and rehabilitation.
The exploration stage will be devoted to assimilating both the fitness group and interviews into writing my novel (which includes the story of a former slave who finds healing through running). I will conduct evaluations through individual conversations and written feedback, and teach the women tools for personal and athletic growth to continue life-long progress.
My primary goal is to learn about successes in combating human trafficking and modern-day slavery, and to promote those ideas through publishing my novel so others know how to join the fight. My desire to assist trafficking victims in the healing process will support and aid my research, and my hope is that my work will assist current efforts to move toward a world where everyone is free.
* * *
Christina Durano, Philippines, Journalism
A hot dry wind whipped through my hair as I stood at the entrance to Amani Baby Cottage in Jinja, Uganda. The scorching African sun beat down on my back and the sound of children screaming reverberated in my ears. As I stepped through the gate, a boy, no older than four or five, ran toward me and clasped my shirt, begging to be held. I set down my camera and lifted the emaciated child into my arms. From the bruises on his body, I could tell he had been abused until his arrival at this haven. To think that he was one of the “luckier” children bewildered me. At least he had not been taken as a child soldier for the Lord’s Resistance Army. Documenting the stories of Francis and other orphans in an AIDS-stricken Ugandan village was not what most college students would have envisioned as their ideal summer, but it was mine. What started as a 10-day family safari quickly evolved into a lifelong quest to end social injustice by telling the stories of the socially exploited to a culture incognizant of such issues.
I didn’t always want to be a journalist. When I was younger, I dreamed of stardom. I considered being an actress on Broadway, an internationally-known politician, and a Nobel Prize-winning doctor. The cardinal elements of curiosity and a desire to learn the truth were always there, but it was not until 7th grade that I found my fit in broadcast journalism.
Five months after the 9/11 disaster, I toured Israel for three weeks. One afternoon while my family and I peacefully enjoyed tea in the West Bank, my grandmother called from Oklahoma. The coverage of Israeli violence she had just seen alarmed her, and she wanted to make sure we were safe. At that time, however, more murders were occurring per capita in New Orleans than in Israel, yet the media sensationalized each of Israel’s disturbances while not even mentioning more intense episodes in our own nation. This was my first encounter with “broadcast bias.” Ever since, I have desired to present people with unbiased news and give them all sides of the story so they can make their own decisions about what to believe.
A series of broadcasting opportunities confirmed that journalism was the discipline I should pursue. The CBS News-London Bureau internship particularly shaped my career goals by giving me the opportunity to see how international journalism worked. I’ll never forget when the riots in Greece broke out. It was a relatively slow December day in the newsroom, but as soon as we heard about the uprisings, the office flew into action. Within a period of two hours, we had conducted interviews with witnesses, booked a correspondent’s flight to Athens, written a web story on the incident, and done a live feed to The Early Show. Following that experience, I dedicated myself to exploring the discipline of international affairs as it relates to journalism.
Each of these experiences has shaped me and given me unique insight into my future, ultimately confirming that my life goal is to be an agent of social change. Undoubtedly a Fulbright to the Philippines would do the same. Researching the role of media in the People’s Power Revolution will enlighten me as to exactly how I can affect societal transformation through my profession as Filipino broadcasters did in 1986. By interacting with Filipino journalists and politicians from the martial law era, seeing revolution-day broadcasts, and studying primary sources under the purview of a Fulbright, I will be able to better understand media’s historical role in social change and thus fulfill my personal and professional goal of changing the world through political reporting.
I am more than a journalist. I am not merely curious, persistent, and passionate about learning the truth. I don’t just have an insatiable desire to present information in the most efficacious and perspicuous way available. I am different. I refuse to turn a blind eye to societal ills. I am dedicated to bettering society by shedding light upon mankind’s atrocities, whether they be in Africa, Asia, or America. I am a voice for those who cannot speak.
STATEMENT OF GRANT PURPOSE
Christina Durano, Philippines, Journalism
Filipino Broadcasters in EDSA 1: An Analysis of Media as a Conduit for Social Change
With a Fulbright grant to the Philippines, I hope to study journalism at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. While in the Philippines, I will examine media as a conduit for social change, using the 1986 People’s Power Revolution as a case study. Although Ferdinand Marcos was legitimately elected president of the Philippines in 1965, he declared martial law in 1972, suppressing freedom of speech and the press, dissolving congress, and shutting down media outlets critical of the government. In February 1986, over 2 million Filipinos gathered at Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) in Manila, to protest Marcos’s authoritarian regime.
Many believe the 1986 government overthrow would not have been possible without the Filipino broadcast media. As former University of the Philippines president Francisco Nemenzo stated, “Without Radio Veritas, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to mobilize millions of people in a matter of hours.” Immediate government destruction of the primary radio transmitter during the revolution indicates the authority of this statement. Marcos’s use of government-controlled MBS Channel 4 and the ensuing rebel overthrow of the station further supplement the claim that the media played a crucial role in EDSA 1.
Although researchers have studied the People’s Power Revolution and media’s role in social change independently, few have conducted studies about the role of the media in this specific event. Furthermore, since most research about media in civic transformation deals with change over a long period of time, the People’s Power Revolution offers a unique opportunity to examine the role of broadcast media in a complete social upheaval in a short time span.
This project will not only provide insight into how media affects social change in the Philippines, but also reveal how media in countries currently under authoritarian rule can affect rapid social change. In this way, it will help journalists across the world understand how they can personally impact their communities and promote civic justice. I hope that by providing an in-depth look at media’s role in the EDSA 1, I can spark an international movement to promote social justice within the field of journalism and thus promote cross-cultural understanding.
If selected for the Fulbright, I will analyze the role of media in EDSA 1 and answer five central questions: 1) What was the role of the media in the People’s Power Revolution and overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos? 2) How did the government lose control of the media? 3) Would the revolt have played out in the same way without broadcast media? 4) How did the people use media to promote their coup? 5) Considering the results of the previous questions, how can journalists today use media to promote social change?
For the first two months of my tenure as a Fulbright scholar, I will study books and documentaries from and about the Marcos regime and People’s Power Revolution, as well as establish connections with potential interviewees through university sources, station employment records, and political office data. My next two months will be spent interviewing political authorities, civic activists, news reporters, news producer and directors, and media analysts from the era and examining broadcast news reports from Radio Veritas, MBS Channel 4, GMA Channel 7, BBC Channel 2 (subsequently ABS-CBN), RPN Channel 9, and IBC Channel 13. To accentuate project feasibility, the scope of radio and television reports to be examined will be limited from August 21, 1983 (the day opposition leader Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino was shot by the Marcos militia on the tarmac after returning to the Philippines from exile) to December 1986 (10 months after Marcos was overthrown). I will spend my fifth and sixth months as a Fulbright scholar analyzing my information. Broadcast reports can be quantified by the types of television shots (from below/above, “unflattering,” wide shots, close ups, etc.), types of sound bytes (amount/type of sound bytes from each side), editing style (cutaways, amount of tracks vs. sound bytes, cover video for sound bytes, etc.), writing style, reporter inflections, and story length. After compiling data, I will spend the last three months of my stay at UP producing a comprehensive report that answers each of my five questions. Considering my experience as the primary researcher for an extensive interview-based journalism thesis and research assistant for a political science study, I am confident my skills will be sufficient to conduct this study.
For this project, I will work with Dr. Elizabeth Enriquez, vice chancellor and broadcast journalism professor at University of the Philippines-Diliman. When I visited UP last May, I talked to Dr. Enriquez about my project and she agreed to help in any way possible. As a former Fulbright scholar to the US herself and Filipina journalist, Dr. Enriquez agreed to help me find interviewees for my project, gain access to primary and secondary sources, and select relevant classes about Filipino broadcast history, culture, and politics to audit. Furthermore, Dr. Enriquez has already published books and scholarly articles about the history of broadcasting in the Philippines and hopes to write her next book about broadcast media in the Marcos regime, providing a unique opportunity for our collaboration. Additionally, UP has formally offered to sponsor my project and provide me with access to all university libraries and resources necessary for the project.
Conducting research in the Philippines, particularly Manila, is crucial to the success of this project since the majority of Filipino politicians and journalists from the People’s Power Revolution still reside in the country. Conversing with these individuals and learning about their experiences in EDSA 1 will give me an unparalleled chance to interact with the local community. Not only can I glean information from their experiences, but I can also share with them my knowledge of American journalism. Furthermore, broadcast reports and other primary sources that I seek to examine are archived in the Manila metroplex and essentially inaccessible from the US. Without access to these primary sources, I would not be able complete a thorough analysis of media in EDSA 1.
This project is particularly significant to me because of my Filipino heritage. My father emigrated from the Philippines to the U.S. during martial law in hopes of finding a better life. Returning to his homeland to conduct research about media as a conduit for social change will give me a fuller understanding of my cultural heritage. If selected as a Fulbright scholar, I will make every effort to promote cultural understanding by participating in local functions, actively contributing to the university community, seeking opportunities to work with journalists and politicians in the Philippines, and writing daily blogs and producing weekly video blogs about my experiences. Additionally, my solid journalism background will allow me to produce a series of documentaries about the cultural exchange I witness. Although I already have a working knowledge of the Tagalog language, researching in the Philippines would accentuate my efforts to become fluent in my father’s native tongue.
Professionally, a Fulbright grant will be invaluable to my future. Since I aspire to be an international correspondent, ideally in the Asian region, forging connections with Filipino journalists and learning how they work will undoubtedly set me ahead of the curve. Living in the Philippines for a year will give me the opportunity to establish my regional niche and researching how media in the Philippines contributed to social change will give me a clearer understanding of how I personally can affect civic justice abroad. Ultimately however, I hope that by illuminating the role that Filipino media played in the People’s Power Revolution, I can inspire journalists across the world to dedicate themselves to becoming agents of social change.
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René Alexander Orquiza, Philippines, History Cultural and Intellectual Immigration, Empire and Identity: A Comparative Study of American Cuisine
“If you don’t mind me asking, what are you going to make with that?” asked the man behind the butcher counter. It was, admittedly, a fair question to ask since there are not many Asian kids with American accents buying tripe from Pakistani Halal butchers in Edinburgh.
“I’m going to slice it up for a soup,” I replied. “A Vietnamese soup. Do you have any oxtails, too?”
And luckily, he did. I picked up limes and cilantro, raced back to my tiny dormitory kitchen, and started making pho bo – Vietnamese beef soup with rice noodles. I dropped the oxtails and some charred garlic and onions into a pot of slowly simmering water. I then wrapped star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon sticks, and cloves inside of a cheesecloth and added them to the stock. After finely slicing filet mignon and the infamous tripe, I finally sat down at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee, a blue pen , and a paper for my historical methodology class. Enveloped by the smells of fresh beef stock and herbs, I sipped my coffee and smiled.
Looking back on this day three years later, it now seems overdetermined that I would one day be applying for a Fulbright to study American immigration history and Filipino cuisine. Food has always been my passion. My first word in Tagalog was the verb kain, which means “to eat.” Unsurprisingly, my first word in English was eat. And I’m willing to bet that I’m the only person in Baltimore who ties his chickens with a foot-long trussing needle before roasting.
But my road to American immigration history and Filipino food has not been direct. This is because I have approached everything – food, history and culture – by simply being curious and this has led me to unconventional approaches to answering conventional historical questions. During college at the University of California at Berkeley, curiosity inspired me to ask questions about the underrepresented minorities in American history. How could I not have learned about American atrocities against Filipinos during the Spanish-American War? Why were Chinese and Japanese immigrants generally wealthier than other immigrants in the United States? And what defined “assimilation” for earlier European immigrant communities in the past? But curiosity also led me to the taco trucks, pakora stands and noodle shops that line Berkeley’s streets. As I ate my way through the city, I realized these questions of ethnic history were related to these foods. I grasped that food is the most tangible way of examining change over time.
Since then, food has been my compass for understanding history and cultural exchange. Especially on that cold winter day in Edinburgh. As I travelled through western Europe after college and during my masters degree, I continually saw examples of cultural exchange in Turkish doner in London, Israeli falafel in Paris and Ethiopian lentils in Rome. Returning to San Francisco afterwards, I relished my weekly visits with my neighborhood Taiwanese grocers, Armenian tea shop owners, and Russian produce sellers. These have not been simple passing interests but signs of joining my love of history with my passion for food.
It is because of these experiences and passion that I am the perfect candidate to study Filipino food and American immigration with the Fulbright. I have food world ties in Manila through chefs and home economics professors in my family. For two years, I moonlighted as a line in San Francisco. The size of my cookbook collection rivals my history book collection. And most importantly, I have an honest desire to write about the richness of Filipino culture and its impact in the United States. For far too few people know that the Philippines has one of the most diverse cuisines and one of the richest histories in the world.
STATEMENT OF GRANT PURPOSE
René Alexander Orquiza, Philippines, History Cultural and Intellectual Immigration, Empire and Identity: A Comparative Study of American Cuisine
I would like to examine the Filipino-American immigrant experience by going to Manila and studying Filipino food. While these two topics may initially seem unrelated, I believe that examining the transfer of Filipino cuisine across the Pacific is a window into the larger experience of Filipino immigration to the United States. Thus for my Fulbright year, I would like to research both the Filipino immigrant experience and Filipino culinary history to see how economics and labor policy effect the American popular perception of Filipinos and their cuisine.
I believe that this question of popular perception is key to understanding the American immigrant experience and the acceptance of ethnic cuisine, and nothing proves this more than the popularity of Thai cuisine. Thai restaurants dot the map while Filipino food remains unknown in the United States. Thai and Filipino are two unique cuisines, yet they share preparation techniques, ingredients and flavors and are thus closely related. This suggests that it is not Filipino food per se that American society fails to embrace; it is actually the larger question of Filipino-American immigration. For Filipino-American immigration been a story of American post-colonial indifference and lack of economic opportunity. Most importantly, it has been the story of selective labor policies that favored only highly-skilled immigrants who never had plans of starting restaurants in America. So despite being the nation’s largest Asian immigrant group since the Hart-Cellar Immigration Act of 1965, Filipino cuisine has not entered the mainstream. This is in spite of the fact that there are 2.4 million people of Filipino descent in the United States, concentrated not only on the West Coast, but in heartland states like Illinois, Texas, and Nevada.
While Filipino cuisine’s lack of popularity may initially seem trivial, this absence raises larger questions about the nation’s commodification, acceptance and unwillingness to engage with Filipino culture. The ethnic foods that we choose to consume are the material expression of our familiarity, knowledge and comfort with foreign people and culture. Indeed, the simple act of eating is a tacit acceptance of the values, processes and origins of the food on the table. Thus, the fact that American society still chooses not to eat the cuisine of its largest contemporary Asian immigrant group is not just a culinary matter. It is a sign that the acceptance of Filipino culture and the preference for Filipino immigrants has not allowed for entrepreneurs, loan societies and economic support that is key to achieving popularity for ethnic cuisines in America.
While in Manila, I will research Filipino food and immigration in a variety of ways. Using the flavor principle analysis established by food scientist Elizabeth Rozin, and regional food culture theories developed by anthropologist Akira Matsuyama, I will conduct a flavor and ingredient study of domestic Filipino cookbooks and Manila public markets by tasting and noting the key materials and characteristics of Filipino food. I will also relate food to culture using the theories of food ethicist Peter Singer and the works of the late doyenne of Filipino food writing, Doreen Fernandez.
I will focus on the regional cuisines of Ilocos and Mindanao – the two areas from which the highest numbers of Filipino immigrants to the United States come. The foods of these regions are theoretically comparable to Thai cuisine since they appeal to the American palate’s preference for sourness and spiciness. All these cuisines could potentially gain popularity in the United States yet only Thai cuisine is well known. This difference in reception is even more puzzling considering that Thai immigration is not even in the top five largest Asian populations in the United States. My research so far suggests that Filipino cuisine’s unpopularity is because of the tedious historical relationship between the United States and the Philippines.
A Fulbright year will allow me to contextualize the exchange of food within this complicated history of Filipino-American relations. For the Filipino-American immigrant experience has not always been the story of success and settlement of the Oscar Handlin School of American Exceptionalism. More often than not, it has been a story of hardship, struggle and American political indifference. It has been the denial of benefits for Filipinos military veterans who fought alongside Americans in World War II, the reduction of quota numbers during the political oppression of the Marcos Regime, and the use of high-skilled labor quotas to limit the number of Filipino immigrants.
I hope to bring this intricate history of contention and economic limitation to the greater historiography of American immigration history. For this reason, the regions of Ilocos and Mindanao again take center stage for I will focus on immigrants from these two regions. I will work with Professor Fernando Zialcita of Ateneo de Manila, the national expert on Filipino immigrant identity, to examine the different economic and social motivations for Filipino immigration. While at Ateneo, I will use the university’s numerous archives and collections on immigration – resources that simply are not available in the United States. The Institute of Philippine Culture has studies of Filipino demography, geography and economics on Ilocos and Mindanao. The Center for Social Policy and Public Affairs has thirty years of domestic Filipino immigration policy literature. Finally, the Center for Asian Studies has resources on Southeast Asian regional history that for my comparison of Filipino immigration to its Thai equivalents.
The diversity of my past scholarship and my apprenticeship with my academic mentors have more than fully prepared me for the intellectual intensity of a Fulbright year. As an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, I wrote my senior honors thesis with Professor Dawn Mabalon on Filipino immigration to the Bay Area using immigration pamphlets, census statistics and oral interviews in Tagalog. At the Master’s level at the University of Edinburgh, I used comparative cultural history to study British wartime propaganda in the United States. Finally, at The Johns Hopkins University, I presented a graduate seminar paper last year that explored the historical coverage of Southeast Asian cuisine by American newspapers and magazines. I am currently continuing to build my knowledge of food history, social and cultural history, immigration history and transnational history with Professors Sidney W. Mintz, Ronald G. Walters, Melanie Shell-Weiss and Paul A. Kramer.
Ultimately, at the dissertation level, I want to apply this approach of studying immigration through food to other ethnic cuisines in the United States. Scholars have examined the history of Italian, Jewish and Mexican cuisines in America, but there still is not much work on the cuisines and history of the more recent immigrant groups. I believe that researching, working and studying in the Philippines will allow me to one day write this larger history of food and ethnic cuisine in the United States.