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Magbago: Philippine Dogs of Change

A paper presented at the Association of American Geographers National Conference, Seattle, WA, April 2011


This paper discusses Philippine Dogs, an in-progress video project of mine that examines the multi-faceted position of dogs in the Philippines. As a visual artist, Filipino American, and dog trainer, I explore the condition of Philippine dogs as metaphorical for that of postcolonial and diasporic Filipinos and Filipino Americans. By extension, I am also greatly invested in examining and presenting possibilities for embracing animal subjectivities.

Philippine Dogs explores parallels between animal subjectivity and postcolonial subjectivity within the Western modernist project. "Philippine dogs," referred to as "streets dogs" (askal) in the contemporary vernacular, have begun to assume the new moniker aspin, "Filipino Dog." The new name rejects old implications of homelessness and wandering; it also denotes self-awareness and belonging while owning a national identity. While the aspin may harbor a mongrel history like the Philippines itself, its contemporary iteration re-inscribes conceptions of cultural hybridity. Who is to judge the "street dog," what they are or where they may come from?

Although the video is currently in progress, my paper discusses the issues under consideration, and my presentation includes screening excerpts from the piece. Animal welfare concerns, pet keeping, and dog breeding are topics presented in footage from the Philippine Animal Welfare Society, World Animal Day 2010, an animal blessing on the Feast of St. Francis, a dog show, and an interview with a dog "owner." The video adopts a narrative, documentary format but its point of view is decidedly autobiographical and personal.

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