Starting a business in a recession

What a hot mess! In 2009 there was a recession in the US and I lost my day job. I cut expenses and reinvested back into my young venture. I tried a bunch of shit to see what resonated with myself and people. Trial and many errors during this time. I also took side contract gigs managing customer service for a startup and process consulting for a finance company. It was tough starting something new in the middle of all the challenges. 10 years later, we’re faced with something worst. Through this, I’m seeing folks innovate and move forward accepting the reality that will create a better tomorrow for themselves and community. Keep pushing forward

Cultural practice, People, and Coronavirus

There are some schools of thought where the cultural practice is above everything. I disagree – The people should be above the practice as it’s them who decide if you’re a cultural practitioner in the first place. Sure, you can practice by yourself or with your circle friends. However, that goes against the mission of every practitioner whose ultimate goal is to save and pass on an endangered culture. The people can shut down your practice by disowning you.

That’s not to say do whatever the hell people want, but people are complex. Changing all the time, not changing, stuck in toxic ways, happy, sad, going back, etc. You get the idea. These are attitudes and emotions that a cultural practitioner has to deal with. I can see how it can be a physical and emotional drain to deal with people with their uninformed comments on Instagram. It’s especially gut-wrenching if you’re not a people person or introvert. That’s where the beauty of a diverse circle comes into play. You’ll need someone in your circle that has these people skills. Someone savvy to the everchanging modern youth culture that can communicate clearly with compassion. A solo cultural practitioner is not sustainable.

An example of being about the people, not the practice is today. Right now, as I’m typing this in Grammarly, the Coronavirus is wreaking havoc in all our lives. Even if you think this is all bullshit being perpetuated by the “Fake news media” guided by the invisible Illuminati, the reality is that people are concerned. The fear may not even be specifically about themselves or their family getting sick, but the fear of the interruption of their daily lives. The very real effects of the socio-economic situation require compassion no matter what the root cause is. Manufactured or not. Childcare, jobs, health, are real concerns right now.

Personally, I’ve been affected by 3 events canceled with 4 more possibly affected. The 3 cancellations resulted in significant monetary losses. Yes, I’m disappointed, but if I abide by “People, not the practice,” I understand. On the other side, some culture bearers make their living servicing people, so they’re affected as well. I’m privileged enough that I have a backup for situations like this. I’ll go into planning for culture bearers in another post. Address the elephant in the room. Stay safe

Instagram filters as an educational tool

I’ve only been developing Instagram filters for less than a year as an exercise to disrupt myself. In this short timeframe, I’ve learned that it’s a powerful tool for conversations around culture, technology, and context. Conversations lead to understanding. Understanding leads to compassion. Compassion leads to peace. Peace leads to clarity.

Last December, I did a talk at General Assembly in San Francisco, California, about how I’m using AR filters (Spark AR) to educate about cultural traditions from the Philippines. I created a filter called Yakan Pagkawin/Tanyak Tanyak that recreates a traditional ceremonial face painting typically done at weddings. The water and flour are mixed and applied with bamboo reeds. The moon and stars patterns represent everlasting love. The woman on the left is Evelinda Hamja, a master weaver of the Yakan tribe from the southern Philippines using the effect and the one on the right is an aspiring IG make-up artist who applied the make-up based on the filter I created. It was quite the dynamic to see someone from a remote tribe use a digital version and then someone from a metropolis applies it in a traditional way.

To get started on creating your own filters, check out the Spark AR website. Here are some of my favorite AR developers on IG for your inspiration.
French Signer
Paige Piskin
Anon A. Mister
Mitsuko Ono
Ommy

Get cancelled

If you’ve been in your game for at least a year and haven’t knowingly been canceled by anyone, you’re playing it too safe. I’m a big believer in experimentation. It leads to new ideas that you wouldn’t get while sitting still. You must learn how to disrupt yourself before someone disrupts you. 

While it might hurt being canceled, try to understand why if possible. 

Being canceled leads to some of the following understandings: 

  • Strong opposition to your view on a specific subject.
  • What if you’re wrong?
  • Did the canceller provide you with new ideas?
  • How did it make you feel? 

One memorable cancelation was a couple of years ago, I was running what’s called an A/B split testing experiment on IG stories. A/B testing is a method of comparing two versions of a message or product app against each other to determine which one performs better. 

If I remember correctly, the subject was around how people question the impracticality of cultural practices. How to make writing pre-Philippine script, tattooing, weaving, Kali, etc as your source of income. and comparing it to everyday “practical” Philippine endeavors like Duterte’s war on drugs and bleaching one’s private parts in hopes to attract a mate for a better life. Except I didn’t say private parts. I wanted to test a racy message vs a safe one. That resulted in using Vagina vs Pussy. During the safe post 24 hour period, the responses were meh. The racy one got better engagement and one reply that was disappointed with my choice of words. I went back and forth with them to understand more. For some reason, I felt compelled to let them in on my experiment. Let’s just say they weren’t happy and felt personally manipulated. I was quickly blocked, AKA canceled!  

I’ve been doing A/B tests for years testing what email subjects, graphics, models, and what apparel generates more sales. This was the first time I had strong feedback on one of my tests. I like to think that most people that follow my work know that I joke around, provoke, and experiment. Obviously, not all know. I believe that if you brand yourself an experimenter, you might be able to get out of some sticky situations in the future. 

When Whang Od dies

At around 102 years old, the beloved Apo What Od, aka the oldest mambabatok (tattoo practitioner) in the Philippines, will eventually pass away. I’ll admit that thinking of this and even writing about it can seem like a downer, but as someone fascinated with death, I couldn’t help think about what might happen. This will kick-off a ripple effect around the “Filipino” tattoo industry, cultural practitioners, social media, and government. Here are my predictions on what will happen. 

Whang Od mural in Buscalan, Kalinga

No shit

  • People will post their pictures with Whang Od along with their tattoos telling stories of their trip.  
  • Tribute portrait artwork all over social media and murals. 
  • The enterprising will sell shirts with her image with symbols popular in Buscalan. Then people will call them out for capitalizing on her death. 
  • There will be endless news programs and mini-docs on TV telling the same story over and over. 

Interesting

  • Grace and Elyang will be elevated and continue the tattoo tourism in Buscalan. The trips to the province will slow-down, causing the local economy to decline. This will force Grace and Elyang to do more work in Manila, where the money is. 
  • The younger tattooists, like Joanne, will take on more of the workload to fill the gap.
  • Machine tattoo artists start to tattoo patterns found in Buscalan. A few will attempt to hand-tap using the souvenir tools.
  • A book will be written about Whang Od by someone from UP
  • She will get some government recognition other than the Dangal ng Haraya. 
  • A practitioner named Piper of Atawu Tattoo Tradition from Cebu will be more recognized. 
  • Some Fil-Ams will return home to continue and evangelize traditional tattooing. This will include educating about patterns in different parts of the Philippines and how they relate to our cousins in the Pacific. This person will also gather current hand-tappers outside Kalinga and teach them how to make traditional tools with boar’s tusk. When that happens, they’ll be called fake, cultural appropriators, and not even a real Filipino. 

WTF!

  • There will be a showbiz tribute on a Sunday show complete with dancers painted with patterns.
  • The flashboard currently used will expand to Korean Hangul characters.
  • There will be a white guy that will specialize in hand-tapped Kalinga patterns. 
  • The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines will declare the popular designs and the 3 dot signature as the property of the Kalinga tribe.
  • With the increasing number of people attempting to hand-tap, the government will implement a law that only allows it practiced in Kalinga or limits the practice.
  • People will get mad about this post because they think that it’s negative and may have somehow contributed to her death. 
  • There will be a movie about Whang Od portrayed by a Mestiza…Oh wait, there was a TV show that already did that.

Baybayin is dead, long live Baybayin!

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I’m back on the Blog after a couple of years to discuss death and disruption. I’ve always been fascinated with death. One of my early childhood memories was watching a VHS tape of Faces of Death. I was a compilation of clips of people getting into accidents, beheadings, etc. You know, normal stuff you see on the internet now. Back then, it was more of a shock factor.

As I got older, I became interested in dying cultures in Africa and Asia. It was natural I would somehow connect death with Philippine cultural practices. My first instance was a section of my Intro to Baybayin book in 2009, where I had a section titled “The Death of Baybayin.” About four years later, I was taking part in a Super Bowl street fair. After talking to about 50 people and explaining the basic script history, it wasn’t resonating. Maybe it was my voice or lack of eye contact. Maybe it was the story I was telling. It was then; I decided to experiment with using a strong absolute term like DEATH. Death is a bulldozer that forces conversations. I learned when you use strong terms; you get strong reactions with strong emotions. Strong emotions cause action. Action kicks Idea’s ass all day long. Death = Action

Even though this was only a few years ago, much has changed in the “Baybayin scene.” Interest has increased every year. This is measurable with data from my FB Baybayin page and private group.

Facebook Page
Facebook Discussion Group

Scripts have frequent exposure in news programs, social media, and even movies. New advocates have popped-up in the Philippines to expose scripts to a new generation.

For years, I, along with others, have championed the term Baybayin kill the erroneous Alibata term. Now it’s time to kill the term Baybayin. This will be a much more difficult task because there isn’t an obvious replacement…yet but maybe there shouldn’t be. As a refresher, Baybayin is a term that means to spell. It’s not a name but a description of an action. Maybe there shouldn’t be a name, and it should be called whatever the term is for writing/spelling in someone’s local language. More on this on another article. The timing of this also coincides with the recent activity around the National Script Act AKA the Baybayin Bill.

As I mentioned above, Action beats Ideas. Here are my action items:
– Move the Baybayin.com blog domain under blog.Kabuay.com. I’ll keep the domain as a landing page because people will still use the search term. I did something similar with an Alibata domain landing page.
– Acknowledging the issues with the term when conducting lectures similar to what I’ve done with prePhilippine and preFilipino.
– Get rid of the Baybayin School branding in my upcoming BalaySchool.org project.

Baybayin is dead, long live Baybayin

EVENT: 7/29 Workshop – San Francisco

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7/29 at the Bayanihan Center in SF
For just a $10-20 donation learn about FIVE different art forms from some phenomenal Bay Area, SF based Pinoy artists:

12 – 1 · Baybayin with Kristian Kabuay
Workshop on the native ancient writing system, Baybayin

1 – 2:30 · Improv with Aureen Almario & Joe Cascasan
An intro to the art of improvisation ~ the exploration of “letting go of fear” & group collab AND Sketch Comedy with Granny Cart Gangstas Sketch comedy writing workshop with the all-female sketch comedy group Granny Cart Gangstas

2:30 – 3:30 · Eskrima with Gregory Manalo
Learn the basics of Maestro Sonny Umpad’s Visayan Style Corto Kadena Eskrima System

3:30 – 5 · Comic Storytelling with Raf Salazar
Watch a special comics demo, and learn about storytelling through the art of comics with group exercises

Baybayin Flashcards

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/baybayin/ancient-script-flashcards-save-an-endangered-writi/widget/video.html

I’ve launched my latest project: Baybayin Flashcards
The pre-sale is currently live on Kickstarter. <—Click here to purchase

BACKGROUND
Baybayin is an endangered writing system from the Philippines prior to Spanish colonization. Last June 2016, I was in the remote Mangyan village where I met elders of the the last tribe that still use the script. They were down to their last teacher! With success my first book, An Introduction to Baybayin and a coloring book for kids, a follow-up was needed to help my students memorize the characters. The 1st thing that popped in my head were the ABC flash cards I was exposed to as a kid.

THE PROJECT
A set of 18 flash cards of each of the characters of the writing system. There’s 3 vowels, 14 consonants and 1 info card.

EVENT: Workshop 3/26 @ Oakland

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This is for a pilot monthly Baybayin workshops. This initial session will be two parts: 1) “An Introduction to Baybayin” covering an overview of the script history to the modern context and 2) A hands-on activity with an in-depth overview of characters and techniques.

While the topic will be geared towards beginners, those who already know how to write the basics will learn my systematic techniques on strokes, teaching and transliterating.

At the end of the session, you’ll learn about:

  • The basic history of the script
  • How the script is being used today
  • How to write the basic characters
  • A technique that allows you to quickly translate words

You’ll get

  • A workbook
  • Paper
  • Calligraphy pen
  • Pencil

More details and register at my preFilipino.com online store

Event: Asian Art Museum 3/5-6 @ San Francisco

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I’ll be back at the Asian Art Museum in SF 3/5 & 3/6 for a large scale‪#‎baybayin‬ performance with my kulintang friends (Kulintronica & Titania Buchholdt) playing while I write. I’ll also have art on display and short talk. This is a collaboration with international Japanese calligraphy artist Aoi Yamaguchiwho’ll have taiko drumming. You won’t want to miss this!
https://www.facebook.com/events/1128208747219633/