Relationshipping nations: Philippines/US fan art and fan fiction

Abigail De Kosnik

University of California, Berkeley, California, United States

[0.1] Abstract—Three fan productions are analyzed that delve into the question of what the Philippines and the United States have meant to one another, what the nature of their multifaceted involvement has been for more than a century, what Filipinos feel about the United States of America, and what Americans feel about the Philippines. Fan art and fan fiction are often laden with affect because it is the fact that fan creators are so affected by their favorite media texts that leads them to create fan works in the first place, and that makes their fellow fans, who understand the affects that inspire them, appreciate their works so deeply. Fan productions about the Philippines/United States are similarly suffused with feelings—the feelings that two nations and two peoples have for one another, which are difficult to define, articulate, and express for Filipinos, Americans, and Filipino Americans.

[0.2] Keywords—Affect; Colonialism; Fan production; Fan work; Filipino; Postcolonialism; United States

De Kosnik, Abigail. 2019. "Relationshipping Nations: Philippines/US Fan Art and Fan Fiction." In "Fans of Color, Fandoms of Color," edited by Abigail De Kosnik and andré carrington, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 29.

1. Introduction

[1.1] Fans' transformative works tend to focus on relationships between popular characters; fans call the practice of pairing two characters romantically or sexually relationshipping or shipping. Fan creators indicate character pairings with a slash mark between two names, as in Kirk/Spock. Here I examine three fan works that center not on a pairing of fictional characters but on a pairing of two nations: the Philippines and the United States of America.

[1.2] The Philippine Islands and the United States have been entangled in a relationship since 1898, when the United States won the Spanish-American War and took control of three of Spain's colonies: the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Philippine resistance fighters had joined forces with the United States military against Spain, believing that the United States would grant the Philippines independence if Spain was defeated, but after Spain withdrew from the islands and the United States announced its intention to become the Philippines' new colonial power, Filipinos launched a three-year war of resistance against US occupying forces, from 1899 to 1902. The United States governed the Philippines as a colony until 1946, and even after the Philippines became an independent republic, it maintained neocolonial ties with the United States, cooperating closely with the US military, serving as a major market for US consumer goods in Asia, and periodically being subjected to heavy political intervention and control by the US government, as when the United States supported the 21-year kleptocratic dictatorship of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos because it valued Marcos's anticommunist orientation during the Cold War. Since the 1965 Immigration Act removed quotas that restricted the immigration of Asians to the United States, Filipinos have constituted one of the largest immigrant groups to the States, but while Filipinos and Filipino Americans can never forget their long and complex history with the United States, Americans have cultivated "political amnesia" with respect to their history of imperialism in the Philippine Islands and elsewhere (Devitt 2008, 117), which has given rise to a situation in which Filipinos feel both deeply connected to the United States and largely invisible to or misunderstood by American culture and society.

[1.3] The relationship between the Philippines and the United States was represented from the start in terms of family and friendship. For example, when the United States annexed the Philippines, William Howard Taft, first American governor of the Philippines (who would later become president of the United States), "assured President McKinley that 'our little brown brothers' would need 'fifty or one hundred years' of close supervision 'to develop anything resembling Anglo-Saxon political principles and skills'" (Miller 1982, 134). From 1900 to 1902, American military officers called the Filipinos' style of insurgency "'Amigo warfare' (from the Spanish word amigo, meaning 'friend') [because the] Filipinos were friends [with the Americans] during the day or when confronted, but at night or when no one was looking, they were guerillas" working to undermine the American occupation (Ileto 2001, 110). Americans deployed a narrative of brotherhood to justify racist attitudes and an imperialist war, and Filipinos constantly enacted friendliness in order to distract from and disguise their anti-American insurrection. Thus, from 1899 to the present, the two countries have performed affection for one another, and those performances have covered over myriad other feelings, including, at times, hatred and violent opposition.

[1.4] In this essay, I will discuss three fan works that represent the complex affects that suffuse the Philippines/US relationship. The first is a fan illustration that uses the Disney animated film Beauty and the Beast (1991) as source material, depicting the main characters in traditional Filipino dress. The second fan work I will analyze is a fan fiction set in the universe of the comedy anime series Hetalia (2009–15), which personifies countries as teenagers who have highly emotional and drama-filled relationships with one another; the fan author tells the story of a college-aged girl named Amihan (the Philippines) and her romantic dealings with Antonio (Spain) and Alfred (United States). The third piece I will describe is a fan fic that places two characters from the CW sci-fi series The 100 (2014–) in a modern-day setting and portrays the white American female character, Clarke, falling in love with the half-white American, half-Filipino male character, Bellamy, as she comes to understand his struggle to learn about his Filipino roots. I build on the work of Anna Wilson (2016) and Natalia Samutina (2017) to argue that each of these three fan productions offers viewers and readers "an affective hermeneutics—a set of ways of gaining knowledge through feeling" (Wilson 2016, ¶ 1.3). In other words, by eliciting and encouraging certain affective experiences in their viewers/readers and by characterizing the Philippines/US relationship as itself heavily charged with affect, the creators of these fan works make available new or unusual ways of learning about and understanding the complicated and continually evolving history of the two nations. By extension, these pieces reveal the potential of transformative fan productions to make legible complex power dynamics between political entities in ways that may be more memorable than straightforward reportage or pedagogy, because fan productions deliver information through affect rather than trying to divorce affect from the presentation of facts, as news journalism and historical scholarship do.

2. Beauty and the Beast fan art: "Ang Maganda at Ang Halimaw"

[2.1] The first Philippines/US fan work that I will discuss is a work of racebending fan art. Racebending fan works appropriate mass media and replace white characters/actors with characters/actors of color; in other words, they bend the race of well-known white characters so that they are markedly, visibly, nonwhite.

[2.2] "Ang Maganda at Ang Halimaw" ("Beauty and the beast" or "The beauty and the monster" in Tagalog) is a 2015 illustration by James Claridades, aka squeegool, posted to his Tumblr account ( (figure 1). Claridades's social media accounts list his gender as male and his location as Manila, and his Tumblr and Deviant Art sites are full of Philippine-themed drawings, so we might assume that he is a Filipino artist based in the Philippines' capital city. The caption beneath the Tumblr post of the drawing reads: "'Ang Maganda at ang Halimaw' late post of my Filipiniana version of Beauty and the Beast yes, beast has Carabao (Philippine water buffalo) horns." As of this writing in November 2018, the post has over 8,100 notes (on Tumblr, notes are the sum of a post's likes and reblogs).

Beauty and the Beast from the 1991 Disney movie dressed in traditional Filipino costumes, Belle wearing a full yellow pleated skirt, wide-sleeved yellow blouse with lace collar, and pink-red shawl, with a yellow sampaguita flower in her hair, and Beast wearing a light blue shirt with elaborate embroidery and a dark blue formal suit, with a saint's medallion around his neck.

Figure 1. "Ang Maganda at Ang Halimaw" ("Beauty and the Beast" in Tagalog) by James Claridades (aka squeegool), 2015. Fan art based on the iconic image of Beauty and the Beast from the 1991 animated film, transforming Belle and the Beast into Filipino characters, wearing traditional Filipino dress instead of eighteenth-century European formal wear. The caption beneath the Tumblr post of the drawing reads: "'Ang Maganda at ang Halimaw' late post of my Filipiniana version of Beauty and the Beast yes, beast has Carabao (Philippine water buffalo) horns."

[2.3] "Ang Maganda at ang Halimaw" is instantly recognizable to any Disney fan as an illustration based on the main characters of the 1991 animated Disney film Beauty and the Beast (dir. Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise). The female figure's brown hair and partial updo, her facial features, and her wide yellow-gold skirt all closely resemble the attributes of Belle, the titular Beauty of the 1991 film. The animal-man's wavy brown pelt, horns, claws, hooves, two-legged stance, and incongruous formal attire bear striking similarities to the features and dress of the Disney movie's Beast. However, Maganda, Claridades's version of Belle, has a darker complexion than the Disney princess, and she wears a yellow sampaguita flower in her hair (the sampaguita is the national flower of the Philippines), while Belle's coiffure lacks floral adornment. Most notably, Maganda wears not an eighteenth-century French ballgown as Belle does but a nineteenth-century traditional Filipina formal style of dress called a terno, consisting of four pieces: "the camisa (blouse with sleeves), the saya (skirt), the panuelo (a cloth worn over the camisa), and the tapis (worn over the skirt)" (Burns 2011, 203). Claridades explicitly marks Halimaw, his refiguration of the Beast, as a Philippine water buffalo, called a carabao, instead of a cross between a North American buffalo and a bull, as the Disney Beast seems to be. Just as Maganda has a darker skin color than Belle, Halimaw has darker, curlier fur than Disney's Beast. A golden religious medallion, an accessory commonly worn by Filipino men, hangs around Halimaw's neck. Although Halimaw wears a European-style suit similar to the Beast's, beneath Halimaw's black suit jacket, he sports a light blue barong tagalog, a traditional formal shirt for men in the Philippines.

[2.4] The terno and barong tagalog are, according to Lucy Mae San Pablo Burns (2011), "the Philippine national costumes" (209), belonging to the broader category of Filipiniana, that is, styles of dress that strongly evoke Philippine national identity (204). Claridades describes "Ang Maganda at ang Halimaw" as his "Filipiniana version of Beauty and the Beast," demonstrating his consciousness of the significance of the clothes in which he depicts the heroine and hero. One of Claridades's accomplishments with "Ang Maganda at ang Halimaw" is the insertion of Filipino characters into the American media archive. Claridades's piece offers a racebent Beauty and the Beast, transforming white Disney characters into brown Filipino characters. As Zina Hutton states, racebending can provide "a necessary form of representation for folks in fandom that may otherwise not get to see themselves in media" (quoted in Klink et al. forthcoming, 131, 134–35). However, I also understand the illustration to be more than a tacit criticism of Hollywood's exclusions. The fan art also merges Disney, a symbol of the United States, with Filipiniana, representative of the Philippines, in one image, and calls upon the reader to consider the meanings of that merger.

[2.5] It may not be immediately obvious that a Disney film should be understood as a stand-in for the United States as whole. However, Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells argue that Disney has long encouraged its fans to think of "Disney as [a] metonym for 'American'—clean, decent, industrious" (1995, 3), and Steven Watts (1995) chronicles how "Disney's postwar movies…legislated a kind of cultural Marshall Plan. They nourished a genial cultural imperialism that magically overran the rest of the globe with the values, expectations, and goods of a prosperous middle-class United States" (107). The Philippines has been flooded with American media products since the turn of the twentieth century, so Filipinos have been particularly impacted and influenced by the cultural imperialism that conflates Disney with Americanness.

[2.6] I mentioned above that traditional Filipiniana fashion signifies the Philippine national identity, but it is important to consider how that style of formal dress has been used, and by whom, in Philippine history. The terno and barong tagalog worn by Maganda and Halimaw in Claridades's fan art harken back to the preferred formal wear of the Philippines' most famous and notorious first couple, the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda (figure 2). Burns (2011) writes, "In the 1970s, the Marcoses actively reenvisioned Philippine history through their own lives and made good use of the terno in these nation-remaking efforts. The then-Philippine president/dictator Ferdinand Marcos and first lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos popularized the terno and the barong tagalog. The terno, for a particular generation, is almost synonymous with the deposed president's wife. Dressing played a role in what the Marcoses declared as the 'New Society,' where the terno and the barong tagalog [were] instrumental in fashioning the image of the modern Filipino and democratic Philippines" (205). Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos wore the terno and barong tagalog frequently and popularized these garments as markers of Filipino tradition, in order to signal that they were leading the Philippines into a bright future while continuing to honor the country's past. Of course, as history has shown, the Marcoses did not stand for modernity and democracy in their country but for extreme socioeconomic inequality, corruption, cronyism, and authoritarianism (Hamilton-Paterson 2014). Given how strongly these traditional styles of dress are associated with the Marcos dictatorship of 1972–1986, we must look closely at Claridades's "Ang Maganda at ang Halimaw" illustration and ask whether and how this image invokes or references the Marcoses.

[2.7] One marked difference between the terno worn by Maganda in Claridades's drawing and the ternos worn by Imelda Marcos during her husband's rule and long afterwards is that Maganda does not wear the butterfly sleeve terno associated with Imelda. (The exaggerated standing butterfly sleeves that Imelda favored are clearly visible on her gown in figure 2.) Instead of butterfly sleeves, Maganda's gown has the "tulip-shape sleeves of the nineteenth century" terno (Burns 2011, 203).

President Ferdinand Marcos and first lady Imelda Marcos of the Philippines dressed in traditional Filipino costumes, 1984. Marcos wears a white shirt with elaborate embroidery and black pants, and Imelda wears a formal red gown with embroidery and high pointed 'butterfly' sleeves.

Figure 2. Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, 1984. President Marcos wears a barong tagalog, and first lady Marcos wears a terno with butterfly sleeves, a style of dress so closely associated with her that one of her nicknames was "steel butterfly." Photo by SSGT Marvin D. Lynchard, USAF. Public domain.

[2.8] Alfredo Roces states that the butterfly sleeves, which are pleated to stand up sharply at the shoulders "to create the impression of a butterfly on tiptoe for a flight" (quoted in Burns 2011, 203), were invented in the 1920s by designer Pacita Longos. The twentieth-century terno—Imelda's style of terno—is a one-piece gown, distinct from the nineteenth-century terno with its four-part construction. Because Claridades clearly renders his Maganda wearing a nineteenth-century terno and not a twentieth-century terno, fans who see the illustration (and who know Filipino fashion history) grasp that they are not meant to associate this Filipina beauty with the beautiful but sinister Imelda Marcos. Maganda is dressed to evoke pangs of nostalgic longings for an imaginary Philippine past, a time before the 1898 Spanish-American War, before the 1899–1902 Philippine-American War, before the period of US colonization of the islands and before the postwar era in which the United States shored up the political life of its puppet Ferdinand Marcos (Karnow 1989).

[2.9] And yet, the Marcoses, and the fraught, complex relationship between the Philippines and the United States, are not completely absent from Claridades's artwork. Let us consider "Ang Maganda" beside figure 3, a photograph of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos standing with US President Richard Nixon and first lady Pat Nixon.

Black-and-white photograph of Richard and Pat Nixon and Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, the men wearing traditional Filipino dress shirts and the women wearing traditional Filipino formal gowns.

Figure 3. Pat Nixon, Imelda Marcos, Richard Nixon, and Ferdinand Marcos, 1969. The US president and first lady stand with the Philippine president and first lady. Both presidents wear a barong tagalog (traditional Filipino dress shirts), and both first ladies wear ternos (traditional Filipino formal gowns). National Library of the Philippines (distributed by Philippine Presidential Museum and Library). Public domain.

[2.10] In this 1969 photograph, both presidents wear barong tagalogs and both first ladies wear ternos. The Nixons publicly embody the United States' alliance with, and backing of, Marcos's presidency by donning the Filipiniana fashion favored by the Marcoses and allowing themselves to be photographed with the Philippine first couple. (However, interestingly, Pat Nixon's terno is multipiece and has tulip sleeves, characteristic of the nineteenth-century version of the dress, rather than the butterfly sleeves characteristic of Imelda's ternos. Is the American first lady here subtly establishing some distance between herself and Imelda?) Filipiniana thus served not only as Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos's favorite style of costume for their performances of modern leadership and good governance of the islands but also as a costume that could be put on by US officials for performances of the closeness of US-Philippine relations. George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all sported barong tagalogs on official visits to the country (Jeneverre's Travels 2017). Thus, the Marcoses succeeded in establishing Filipiniana as the defining costume of their performances as national leaders and of the performances of US presidents as maintainers of the supposedly long-lasting Philippine/American friendship.

[2.11] In light of these many public appearances in Filipiniana costume by heads of state intending to reinforce the Philippine/American relationship, Claridades's "Ang Maganda" illustration cannot be said to be completely devoid of references to the Marcos dictatorship or to the complicated history of connections between the two countries. Above, I interpreted "Ang Maganda" as a refutation or evasion of the Marcos era, but the fan work can also be read as a wish for a better Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos than the Philippines got, a wish for a Filipiniana-clad first couple whose beauty and finery would have been matched by their honesty, fairness, and sense of justice—in other words, a wish for Filipino leaders who would have been as uncomplicatedly good as Disney heroines and heroes. Yet another way to interpret Claridades's piece is as a wish for Maganda and Halimaw to take the place of both the Marcoses and Nixons in the 1969 photograph in figure 3, for the animated figures to take back the terno and barong tagalog from the dictators as well as from their Western enablers, and to again render the often-toxic Philippine/US relationship as a magical combination of American animation and Filipino embodied traditions, an intertwining of two cultures that honors the value of each one. "Ang Maganda" can be seen as representative of a desire for a Philippine/US relationship that is not rooted in destructive military, financial, and political entanglements nor in the imposition of US media and culture (with its privileging of whiteness and Euroamericanness) on the Philippines, but instead takes the form of an appealing mix of two seemingly opposite aesthetics: Filipiniana + Disney. Philippines/US could have been more of a romance between seeming opposites, not unlike the tale of Beauty and the Beast (with the countries occupying both the beautiful and beastly roles in different respects), rather than a perennially troubled colonial and neocolonial dynamic.

[2.12] "Ang Maganda" provides a means by which Filipinos can access wistfulness, rage, sorrow, yearning, and regret over the way that the story of the United States and the Philippines has unfolded. Samutina (2017) argues that fan fiction can help readers to know themselves better, and that this fostering of self-knowledge should be highly valued: "Fan fiction readers read by immersing themselves in the text and internalizing—allowing it to become inseparable from the self. Realization of one's (at times rather diverse) emotional needs through experiencing the text is practiced here as a version of the 'care of the self': in other words, as one of the methods of self-cognition and emotional development" (260). "Ang Maganda" shows not only that fan productions can serve fan readers and viewers as mechanisms that allow them to know themselves and their emotional landscape, individually, but also that a fan work that references larger political themes (and indeed, what fan work doesn't?) can work against large-scale, structural silencings and assist a people in uncovering and articulating their feelings about their own disempowerment, which can be a collective form of self-care, self-cognition, and emotional development—valuable and necessary remedies for some of the wounds inflicted by historical oppression.

3. Hetalia fan fiction: "A Modest Woman"

[3.1] The second fan work about the Philippines/US pairing that I will discuss is a fan fiction story titled "A Modest Woman," written by Sasha Landau and published on AO3 ( in 2011, which takes place in the universe of the Japanese anime Hetalia: Axis Powers (2009–2010, dir. Bob Shirohata). Hetalia is a humorous animated series that personifies entire nations as individual teenagers with distinctive personalities. Hetalia's creator, Hidekaz Himaruya, has given human names to the characters, so Italy is called Feliciano, Germany is Ludwig, America is Alfred, and so on.

[3.2] The Hetalia fan fic "A Modest Woman," tells a story about three nations: Spain (whose name is Antonio), America (or Alfred), and the Philippines, which is a character that never appears in the Hetalia series but whom Landau personifies as a girl named Amihan. Landau is a white American who was only 15 years old when she wrote the fic; she did a prodigious amount of research into the Philippines' colonizations by Spain and the United States in preparation (she offers a summary of these histories in a long Notes section that follows the body of the story). Though Landau is not Filipino, her eagerness to immerse herself in Philippine history and to create a fan work based on her findings shows that the urge to understand colonial and postcolonial relationships is not only felt by the colonized peoples but also by some members of the colonizing group.

[3.3] "A Modest Woman" centers on two ships or pairings: Philippines/Spain and Philippines/America. Above, I argued that the fan art work "Ang Maganda at ang Halimaw" could be interpreted as a wish for US-Philippine relations to be more of a courtly romance and less a tangled knot of political, cultural, and financial promises, impositions, and transactions. "A Modest Woman" literalizes the concept of the United States and the Philippines being romantically involved—but depicts that involvement as complex, multifaceted, often confusing, sometimes terrifying, just as the alliance between the two nations has been over the past hundred and twenty years.

[3.4] At the beginning of "A Modest Woman," Amihan (the Philippines) is introduced as a university student who is cooking a late-night supper for herself in her apartment, reflecting on her romantic liaisons. Amihan first considers her relationship with Antonio (Spain): they met when Amihan was a young girl in primary school. Amihan lacked confidence and friends, and Antonio took her under his wing, integrating her quickly into his social network and showering her with attention. They began to date, but as they grow older, Amihan begins to question whether she should break up with Antonio, because she asks herself, "Will I always be this way? Will I always be so…looked after?"

[3.5] Soon after her breakup with Antonio, Amihan meets Alfred (the United States) at a party. Alfred instantly takes a proprietary attitude toward her, giving her a nickname that she does not particularly like (Ami), calling her cute and short though she resists this description, and asking her to dance but not waiting for her response before he gets her on her feet. Alfred quickly begins to pursue Amihan romantically, and when she rejects him, he "simply laughed." This laugh, at first, "had made her blood run cold—he was laughing at her? Was it her destiny to never be taken seriously?" But then, Alfred puts her at ease, telling her that it's fine if she doesn't want to date him "but that doesn't mean I'm going to give up." And he laughs at her again.

[3.6] Amihan thinks back on her acquaintance with Alfred: "Part of her had been terrified, and part of her had been pleased" by Alfred's attention at first, but "[i]n the end she really had no choice" but to become friends with him, because "Alfred proved to be unrelenting." What ensues is a relationship that Amihan knows is friendship and suspects may be a romance, even though she is reluctant to call it that. She enjoys many of Alfred's traits: "Alfred was always bursting with energy, and whilst some called him over-bearing, she couldn't help but be drawn to it. It was like he was her own private sun, showing her color and light and warmth, things she hadn't realized she had been missing. She found him charming. He made her feel very alive." But however much Amihan likes Alfred, she calls their relationship a "strange bond" and refuses to think of it as romantic:

[3.7] At some point it had become obvious that technically what she and Alfred had would be called dating, but at the same time that seemed not quite the right thing to call it; she felt very close to Alfred, and could honestly say by now that she felt some sort of love for him…but it wasn't as if they were bound to one another. Perhaps what they had really could be considered dating, and she was just too stubborn to say so—still rooted in the wish to be independent.

[3.8] The story ends with Amihan and Alfred still locked in ambiguity. Amihan hears that Alfred has been asked out by another girl, but then he texts her to say that he would rather take Amihan to the movies than go on a date with someone else. Amihan agrees to see the movie with him the following day, and when she puts her phone down, she smiles to herself, thinking, "It may be selfish, but just let us stay like this a little longer. (Just a little longer.)"

[3.9] Both colonizations are represented in the fan fiction as consensual liaisons based in affection rather than as brutal conquests, which may lead the reader to assume that the author is ignorant of, or may wish to excuse, the various forms of violence intrinsic to both colonial periods. However, upon closer examination, the author does represent the Philippines' relationships with Spain and the United States as asymmetrical and imbalanced, not by writing the colonizing nations as overtly abusive but by characterizing Spain as highly paternalistic and condescending toward the Philippines and by depicting the United States as covertly coercive and controlling toward the Philippines while ceaselessly courting it (her).

[3.10] The story captures well what Zeus Leonardo and Cheryl E. Matias (2013) call "Spain's paternalism and the United States' imperialistic tutelage of the Philippines" (6). Amihan's chafing against how Antonio treats her like a child, though presumably he loves her, dramatizes how, "in the eyes of the Spanish [colonizers], the natives [of the Philippines had to] be saved from themselves, like children who do not know what is good for them" (Leonardo and Matias 2013, 8). In historical analyses, the United States' colonization of the Philippine Islands is often described as a continuation of Spain's paternalism. But in Landau's fic, the Philippines/US relationship differs from the relationship of Spain/Philippines in key ways. Amihan thinks of Alfred as far less controlling than Antonio was; she thinks that Alfred is courting her with fun and adventure, and she must decide whether or not to accept Alfred's suit. But the reader readily deduces that Alfred does not really give Amihan the option of refusing him. As soon as Alfred meets Amihan, he makes clear that he believes that she belongs to him. He establishes ownership over her by giving her a nickname she does not ask for and dislikes and by inserting himself into her space and time. Alfred tells Amihan that it's fine if she doesn't want to date him but that he won't give up, and then he proceeds to behave as if they are dating anyway, which convinces all of their friends and even Amihan that they are indeed romantically involved. Alfred's invitation to Amihan to meet him at the movies at the end of the story, and her agreeing to go, alludes to the popular Filipino saying, "300 years in the convent and 50 years in Hollywood," which refers to Spain's subjection of Filipinos via the Catholic Church and the United States' subjection of Filipinos by means of saturating the Filipino market with American films, popular music, and literature (Watts's cultural imperialism). In other words, Alfred may frame his advances as a courtship in which Amihan has the ability to accept or reject him, but at every point in the story, Alfred decides how their relationship will go and either strongly influences Amihan to bend to his will or creates conditions that make it impossible for her to choose otherwise.

[3.11] What makes "A Modest Woman" a fascinating representation of the Philippine's history with the United States is that it points to the complex affects experienced by a colonized peoples for their colonizers. In the story, the Philippines' attitude toward both nations can best be summarized as ambivalent and complicated. She both loves and resents Antonio; she appreciates him and she desperately needs to break away from him. She feels attracted to Alfred, she sometimes enjoys being with him and sometimes doesn't, she explicitly tells him that she doesn't want to date him and yet she falls into a pattern with him that cannot be called anything else. When he asks her to the movies, she wants to go, and while she still doesn't want to be romantically involved with him at the end of the story, she does pray for their relationship, ill-defined as it is, to continue. Importantly, Amihan does not envision that bond as one that will last forever—she enjoys Alfred, but at no point does she want to marry him or make any sort of long-term or even a very serious commitment to him. This story works to express a set of affects and attitudes experienced by a colonized peoples for their colonizer beyond either organized resistance or delusional admiration.

[3.12] This fan fiction tells a story of a relationship that is a mixture of many different moods and positionalities between the two nations. The Philippines has been forced to develop a strong fandom for US culture (De Kosnik 2018), and Filipinos want to keep enjoying that culture, but they have no wish for their culture to merge or disappear completely into a globalized form of Americanness. The Philippines has been a free nation since 1946, but the United States has never let it slip out of its sphere of influence and has at times dictated arrangements that the Philippines has, in essence, had no choice but to accept. However, the Philippines has not understood itself to be the loser in these transactions, even if it is the weaker partner. Rather, Sharon Delmendo (2005) characterizes the postcolonial US-Philippine agreements as means by which "both countries seek to achieve the benefits of an officially disavowed neocolonial dynamic" (5). That is, the Philippines and the United States outwardly maintain that they are not deeply involved, but they are and they have been since the turn of the twentieth century, and they both want that involvement to go on. It is this strange interconnection between the Philippines and the United States, which is at once formal and informal, known and unknown, real but disavowed, coercive but framed as consensual, that Landau captures in her fan fic.

[3.13] Above, I argued that Claridades's "Ang Maganda" fan illustration sparks a variety of affective responses in the viewer and in doing so has the potential to help not only individual fans but Filipinos as a collective to access and identify their own feelings about the source material (in this case, the source text is the Philippines/US relationship), which Samutina (2017) frames as practices of self-care and self-knowledge (260). Landau's "A Modest Woman" fic does a similar kind of affective work, work that aids the individual fan reader but also contains concepts and frameworks that can be useful to Filipinos as a group. Wilson (2016, ¶ 2.4) writes that a fan writer's "imaginative projection of a [character's] backstory increases both her and her readers' emotional understanding of the character's canonical actions and further develops empathy and intimacy with the character." Along these lines, "A Modest Woman" invites Filipino readers and those interested in the Philippines (who is the main character of the story) to know the country more deeply, to better grasp the multifaceted nature of its relationships with its colonial powers, and to feel more for the Philippines than they might have otherwise. In this way, fan works like Claridades's and Landau's "increase…readers' emotional understanding" of the canon, that is, the history, of the Philippines. They effectuate, to slightly rephrase Wilson, a learning through feeling about a country that is largely considered to be only a minor player in global politics, economics, and culture. This heightened knowledge of the Philippines can counteract, in some small measure, the absence or marginalization of colonized, indigenous, darker-skinned, and Global South peoples in world history textbooks and curricula. If readers finish Landau's fan fic only with the vague impression that the Philippines' double colonization resulted in Filipinos having contradictory, confusing, powerful, and long-lasting attitudes and feelings toward the Spanish and American governments and peoples, that would be a more nuanced comprehension of those nations' interactions than is taught in most classrooms.

4. The 100 fan fiction: "These Arbitrary Islands That Define Us"

[4.1] The third and final Philippine/US fan work that I will discuss is a fan fiction titled "These Arbitrary Islands That Define Us" by an author named Thea, posted on Tumblr ( in 2014. Thea's Tumblr profile states that they live in Metro Manila, so it is likely that they, like Claridades, are Filipino. The story is based on a television series called The 100 (The CW, 2014–), a sci-fi action-adventure drama in which a group of people try to survive on postapocalyptic Earth. Two of the leaders of the group are Clarke, a girl who is 17 at the start of the series, and Bellamy, a man in his early 20s. Clarke is played by white Australian actress Eliza Taylor, and Bellamy is played by another Australian, Bob Morley, who is half-Filipino and half-white. Although Taylor and Morley are Australian, they and all of the actors in The 100 use standard American accents, and the series takes place in what is currently the state of Virginia in the United States, so Clarke and Bellamy come across as culturally American.

[4.2] Although Bellamy has never been identified in the show as Filipino, The 100 fans have written a number of fan fiction stories in which Bellamy explicitly discusses his Filipino ancestry. "These Arbitrary Islands That Define Us" is one such story (its author appends the following tags to the Tumblr post of her fan fic: "#I'M SO HAPPY THAT BOB MORLEY IS HALF-FILIPINO AND THEREFORE BELLAMY BLAKE IS HALF-FILIPINO #YOU CAN'T TELL ME OTHERWISE"). The fan fic is set not in the dystopian future of The 100 but in a high school in the United States in 2014. Clarke has grown up with Bellamy and Bellamy's younger sister Octavia (who is also a character in The 100) as her neighbors. For most of the story, Bellamy is absent from their hometown, as he is in his senior year at university. Clarke, still in high school, asks Octavia if she can borrow Bellamy's old English textbook, and Octavia agrees. The textbook is full of Bellamy's marginalia, much of it about the Philippines. Over the course of the fic, Clarke pores over Bellamy's writings about the Philippines, reading notes such as, "The most celebrated Visayan vessel was the warship called 'karakoa,'" "'Tagalog' itself is from 'taga-ilog,' or 'river dweller,' and our ancient syllabary is known as 'baybayin,' or 'the shore." She reads Bellamy's summary of Emilio Aguinaldo's resistance to the US occupation, which includes descriptions of brutal violence. After reading this, Clarke thinks, "It's not the first anecdote of its ilk that [she] has read in Bellamy's scrawl, this long history soaked in blood, one martyr after another, the face of the enemy changing but the nature of the fight the same. It resounds with his stubborn streak, his absolute disregard for the consequences, his tendency to strike first and ask questions later. He's a product of revolution and aftermath, a patchwork child of tragedies that she will never know."

[4.3] The connection that Clarke makes between the Aguinaldo resistance and Bellamy's anger and angst resonates with The 100 fans, as in the series Bellamy often leads his group in fierce armed conflicts against many different enemies. The fic creates a link between Bellamy's most prominent traits—his hotheadedness and his determination to defend his people at all costs—to his Filipino ancestry. But it also shows Clarke, a white American girl, learning that Bellamy's Filipino identity both makes him who he is and makes him not completely knowable to her. After reading Bellamy's reflections, she realizes that while she is learning more about Bellamy's understanding of his father's homeland, there is much about him "that she will never know."

[4.4] Thea's writing here may seem to have an essentialist bent—"He's a product of revolution and aftermath" might be taken as a characterization of Filipinos as savages or as innately warlike. But the next phrase, "[he is] a patchwork child of tragedies," establishes that the tragedies of Filipino history constitute only one patch in the quilt of Bellamy's personality. The phrase "patchwork child" can also be taken as a reference to the fact that the majority of Filipino people are mestizo, or racially mixed, and gestures to Bellamy's half-Filipino, half-white ancestry: there is an individual as well as a collective character to the patchwork. The tragedies that make up Bellamy are similarly simultaneously communal and unique to him. The successive colonizations of the Philippines by Spain and the United States, with Aguinaldo's failed war of resistance separating them by a few years, comprise a common set of tragedies for Filipinos, but Bellamy also suffers from his father's having left his mother when Bellamy was little (in The 100, Bellamy is also the son of a single mother; the identity and fate of his father remains, as of this writing, unknown to the audience). This fan fic repeatedly weaves together Bellamy as one person and the Philippines as an entire nation. The title, "These Arbitrary Islands That Define Us," indicates that Bellamy feels defined by the Philippine Islands, even though his link to them seems arbitrary, the result of his being fathered by a Filipino man, which Bellamy experiences as pure happenstance. The fan fic's strongest statement about the connection between the individual Filipino American and their ancestral country, between Bellamy's personal story and the history of the Philippines, comes in the scene in which Clarke and Bellamy see each other again for the first time since Clarke began studying the scribblings in Bellamy's textbook, when Bellamy returns home for winter break and Clarke is hanging out in the kitchen of Octavia and Bellamy's house. Clarke shows Bellamy a poem that he had written in the book and compliments it.

[4.5] "Oh, yeah," he says, with a nod. "I found that online. It's about the diaspora. You know—the migrant communities."

"I know what 'diaspora' means," Clarke says.

"No, you don't," Bellamy says softly…"And neither do I. I grew up here, and my old man disappeared before he could teach me anything. I had to learn it all by myself."

[4.6] In this exchange, Bellamy tells Clarke that though she may have become more educated about the Philippines through his marginalia, she does not truly "know what 'diaspora' means." The implication is that Clarke does not identify as a member of a diaspora herself, as white European immigrants to the United States tend to shed their immigrant and diasporic status after one generation, while nonwhite immigrants and their descendants are perpetually othered, that is, made to feel that they "are other than the norm" (Kumashiro cited in Borrero et al. 2012, 3) and "do not belong to dominant cultural or national identity groups" (Devine, Kenny, and Macneela, quoted in Borrero et al. 2012, 3). Bellamy tells Clarke sharply that she cannot know what it is to be othered, as he is, nor can she understand what it means to feel distant from a home country, as he does. Unbeknownst to Bellamy, Clarke has already come to understand that there are limits to her identification with and comprehension of Bellamy's Filipino American identity, when she earlier concluded that "she will never know" all of the tragedies, individual and collective, that define him. However, Bellamy's harshness toward Clarke—telling her that she cannot possibly know what diaspora means, or rather, what it means and how it feels to be part of a diaspora—is matched by his confession of the limits of his own understanding: "And neither do I." Because Bellamy's Filipino father did not raise him, Bellamy has had to forge his connection with the Philippines by himself, by doing research. Bellamy did not grow up with a deep knowledge of who he is in the context of the Philippines' migrant communities but, according to what Clarke recalls and what she discovers in "These Arbitrary Islands," Bellamy has been working on discovering his place in the diaspora for most of his life.

[4.7] The story concludes with a scene set six years after it begins. Clarke is waiting for Bellamy's flight from Manila to land in their home city; he is returning from his first trip to the Philippines, where he has met his father's family. We learn that Clarke and Bellamy have just begun to date. I propose that we can think of Clarke, a quintessentially all-American girl, as a stand-in for the United States, and Bellamy as epitomizing the Philippine diaspora, and that we can find in Clarke and Bellamy's bond yet another representation of the Philippines/US relationship as a romance.

[4.8] Bellamy struggles to come to terms with a history and culture that are lost to him, pieces of his patchwork that have long been missing. Bellamy's feeling of being separated from his ancestral home reflects the state that Leonardo and Matias (2013) call "the Filipino as exile":

[4.9] In the specific context of the United States, it is difficult for the Filipino exile to claim either the Philippines or the United States as his home…He is both/and as well as neither/nor a Filipino and American. To the extent that he has rightful claims to the history of the Philippines as continuity and belongs to the United States because he contributes to it, he is both. Yet the Filipino American is neither because the claim to a "homeland"…is denied through geographical and cultural distance from the Philippines at the same time that the land he does occupy denies him full access to its privileges as a perpetual foreigner. (13–14)

[4.10] Bellamy feels exiled from the Philippines twice over, by virtue of having been born in the United States and by not having been initiated into Filipino culture by his father, and he is exiled from the United States because he is not white and cannot identify as wholly American. Clarke, however, defies the description of the United States as a colonizing country that cannot recognize the people of its former colony as its own, a country that cannot take Filipinos or the Philippines into its heart. Clarke does not see Bellamy as a perpetual foreigner because of his Filipino heritage but eagerly absorbs what he has learned about his heritage, and she recognizes the limits of her own understanding of Bellamy's ancestral home and culture. She is an American who respects Bellamy's "both/and as well as neither/nor" nationality and admires his efforts to create an inhabitable hybrid identity.

[4.11] In Thea's "These Arbitrary Islands," Bellamy resembles a fan writer and Clarke resembles a fan reader. Bellamy is a fan of Philippine history and language and culture and writes marginalia about these subjects that is a form of fan commentary. Clarke is a fan of Bellamy and avidly consumes his fan writing, giving her a feeling of intimacy with his subject, the Philippines. Wilson (2016, ¶ 1.4) states that the reader's experience of "intimacy" with a fan text and its source matter "has an erotic inflection," and in "These Arbitrary Islands," the readerly eroticism that Clarke feels when she pores over Bellamy's notes leads to an erotic and romantic relationship with Bellamy himself. Thea thus conflates the intimacy of reading fan fic with the intimacy between fictional characters that is the subject of most fan fic. In a way, then, the story functions almost as a self-insert fic, as the fan reader is invited to strongly identify with the heroine because she is portrayed as a fan reader herself. Thea's fic invites an even more powerful affective response than other fics because it is fundamentally about the act of avidly consuming fan writing—it mirrors the reader's experience back to her as she reads the fic. One possible goal of Thea's centering her story on how reading fan work can evoke powerful feelings of intimacy and love is to encourage the reader to be especially attentive to Bellamy's writings on the Philippines. In other words, Thea structures her story so that the reader is incented to learn quite a bit about a Southeast Asian country, the relationship between that country and the United States, and that country's global diaspora, through their affective investment in the Clarke/Bellamy (or Bellarke, as fans call it) romance.

5. Conclusion

[5.1] In "Ang Maganda at ang Halimaw," a seamless blending of Filipino and American visual styles hints slyly at the misuse of the national costumes by the US government's puppet Marcos and pictures a form of international cooperation that could have been but wasn't. "A Modest Woman" shows the Philippines incarnated as a woman who wishes to extend a romance with America that balances on the knifepoint of coercion and excitement; her goal of keeping up a dynamic that fills her with ambivalence at every turn is anything but modest. "These Arbitrary Islands That Define Us" tells a wish-fulfillment story of Filipino/Americanness: a son of the two nations finds himself seen, known, understood, and loved completely by a white American, standing in for her entire nation; she loves him in and for his hybridity, never wishing to erase or ignore the limits of her understanding of his otherness. The three fan works may strike the reader as problematic in the way they refrain from open criticism of the United States' exercise of power over the Philippines, before, during, and after the period of official colonialism. However, if the pieces fail to deliver direct critique of the Philippine/US dynamic, they succeed in surfacing some of the complexity that inheres in the slash.

[5.2] These three texts also demonstrate the potential power of fan productions to teach fans about minority identities, histories, and cultures, and about the fraught and multilayered relationships that develop over long stretches of time between minoritarian and majoritarian (brown and white, Asian and American, colonized and colonizing, Global South and Global North) groups. Fan artists and authors can raise awareness and comprehension of these undertaught situations and dynamics by creating the conditions for their users to engage in "affective hermeneutics" (Wilson 2016, ¶ 1.4), learning through feeling. Fan creators who intentionally and directly play to the "ostentiatiously emotional culture" (Samutina 2017, 258) of fan communities can foster and deepen their audiences' felt connections with not only with fictional characters and worlds but also with actual places, peoples, and politics.

6. References

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