You’re My Foreignoy


You are categorically a foreigner, i.e. any other nationality but Filipino.
No Filipino blood, lineage or prior history whatsoever.
You fall madly in love with the Philippines, after an encounter through education, holiday, business – actually, it doesn’t matter how, what is important, is that you are smitten beyond tourism.

Here’s an example – meet David Finig.
We met online after being introduced by Tassos Stevens as collaborators for the Coney project London-Manila Messaging Service.

He’s an Australian theatre activist, and right now he really diehard wants to be a contestant for this game segment in the popular noontime television show EAT Bulaga! (Lunchtime Surprise).

This is his audition video:

I’ll be joining him this evening for the annual lantern parade at the University of the Philippines.

Regardless of my feelings about being called a ‘balikbayan’, apparently this is what I am now, like some prodigal daughter who has returned to The Motherland. Truth be told, on the twelfth day of being back, I’m still feeling more of a foreignoy.

Fresh off the boat


The Conquistadores

It is commonly taught and known that Ferdinand Magellan (Fernão de Magalhães), a Portugese explorer who rendered his services to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, discovered an archipelago of islands in 1521. This voyage to the South Pacific encouraged further expeditions.

In 1544 Ruy López de Villalobos and his fleet from Mexico made their way to Samar and Leyte, which he named Las Islas Filipinas to honour the emperor’s son Philip, then Prince of Asturias, who later became Philip II King of Spain and England, through his marriage to Queen Mary Tudor.

In 1565 a different Spanish expedition led by Miguel López de Legazpi officially established a colony in Cebu, though Manila was eventually designated the capital of the Spanish East Indies, as it was more strategic for what became the Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade.

The Immigrants

My maternal great-grandmother Florence Maud Whitehead Mills, half Native American and born in California, went to the UK as a nurse during WW1. She married a military Englishman named Henry Marshall. Their Londoner son, Geoffrey Howard, was born in Woolwich Arsenal, and after serving God and country during WW2, left for the Philippines to work as a textiles factory manager. He married provincial songstress Medina Masbad aka ‘Betty’, who was from a farming family of caretakers for the sugar estate Hacienda Tinang in Tarlac, owned by the oligarch Aquino dynasty.

My paternal great-grandfather Hermenigildo Atienza, was a WW2 guerrilla leader and appointed Military Mayor of Manila by the US General Douglas McArthur. He was also one of the founders of the Liberal Party in 1946. His brother Rigoberto was a survivor of the Bataan Death March, and a 4-star general Chief of Staff of the Philippine Armed Forces in the 1960s during the presidency of Diosdado Macapagal. He is buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Cemetery for Heroes). Supposedly, the roots of our surname originated from the Spanish town in the province of Guadalajara, and that our ancestor Francisco Atienza was sent to the Philippines on a Jesuit expedition in 1639.

The Balikbayan (Returnee)

I was born in a Mandaluyong hospital on EDSA. My early years were spent in Angeles City, near the American Clark Air Base. I was raised mostly in the gated community in Makati called Magallanes Village. At fourteen, I moved to the UK and lived in council house accommodation, Church End Estate in Northwest London. Now back in Manila, I find myself residing in an industrial neighbourhood in Pasig.

This is the beginning of a journey I’ve decided to call Fillipination, and since it’s the 21st century, of course there’s an Instagram account. I promise to not post hotdog legs or selfies (unless it’s with Manny Pacquiao).

Right here. Right now.

Of course building a new life will take time. I understand this.
But it doesn’t negate feeling the adjustment angst.

So, if adventures are inconveniences rightly considered, I might as well write down some early observations about my tropical home.

Arrival at the new NAIA Terminal 2 was free from drama.
My mother, worried about the ‘laglag-bala’ (planted bullets) scam, gifted me these new Samsonites. As I waited to collect my luggage, I saw that trollies were pushed right at the very edge of the carousel. This crowd made it rather inconvenient to collect suitcases, because there’s no room to manoeuvre. I wonder if it’s like this in other places, or do I have a bias about noticing this detail?

I overheard a passenger complain about the long walk from the airplane to customs. Ah yes, the pleasure of walking is definitely something I am going to miss, unless I decide to spend a whole day in a mall. Eight hours into the future, and I’ve touched down in Carmageddon town.

Imports include Marks & Spencers, Top Shop, Uniqlo, John Lewis, and the first Tesco. No Netflix or Amazon Prime though, so am discovering Plex and other ‘alternatives’. Turns out Olympus cameras aren’t available too. Drats, I knew I should have bought that OM-D during that Black Friday sale…

The Philippines is predominantly a texting country. I am navigating between Pre-Paid or Post-Paid, Globe versus Smart. In any case, I can’t even use my iPhone right now, because of some iTunes issue. It has taken me five frustrating Live Chat sessions with O2; customer service likely BPOs in India (an assumption based on the names of the gurus). Currently I have a spare Nokia burner, and am considering the unofficial services of Greenhills.

I can get used to the Eh-men, rather than Ah-men. However, I’m saddened at not being able to shake people’s hands when you say ‘peace be with you’. Apparently it’s a legacy from the SARS outbreak to abstain from touching other people. It feels weird to just nod. I like shaking hands as a form of greeting.

As I was trying to resolve my ‘SIM card not valid’ problem, a woman next to me, who was also having her mobile fruit fixed, interrupted to ask “Are you an Atienza?” – guessing she must have seen my surname at the registration pod, I affirm I am, and she further inquired whether I was related to a particular name, which didn’t ring a bell, but I replied with “most likely” given the size of our clan. A quick post on the family facebook group later confirmed my kinship with Camp Atienza.

While the UK government voted to bomb Syria…
The hot topic here is the presidential race, parodied into a Game of Thrones scenario. There’s also the traffic, that’s a given. It’s like how the British always talk about how bad the weather is, with the occasional jubilant celebration when it’s reasonably good.

There are no police or ambulance sirens. Seriously. On the one hand a relief, as it was constant back in The Big Smoke, but it worryingly suggests this city doesn’t have as active a police force, since officers are underpaid and understaffed. I also hear the whirring of the aircon, electric fans, and yes, roosters crowing in the mornings.


This is my present reality.
And that’s what I need to be. Present.
I have a vision, dreams, plans, people yet to meet…
but it’s about one day at a time,
as much as the impatient side of me wants a montage.

Here’s to finding the silver linings and appreciating the the pixel life, plus it’s Christmas soon.

Oh, and The Beach. I must get some Flotsam & Jetsam asap.


The Writing’s On The Wall, or Blog, or Facebook

Destiny is when…
You discover
that your childhood MJ-obsessed FFF1 (Franco-Filipina Friend)
with the Department of Tourism
arrives in The Big Smoke,
on the day your other FFF2 (First Filipina Frenemy)
officially becomes a British Citizen.
Because #migrantsmatter

The 3 of Us,
the Top Nerds of the school we-loved-the-best that sounds like jism,
we’ll be wickedly cackling together til sunrise
for White Mischief’s Heaven and Hell Halloween Ball
– a geisha, a black cat and the queen of hearts
(insert emojis here)

I’m spending my last month,
An art and history tour guide
maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner

and I’ll end with time travelling to GMT ground 0
to say hi and goodbye to Samuel Pepys
for Plague, Fire and Revolution
hash*. tag. world domination

Going Underground,
to the industrial Evil Lair 2.0
disguised as a suspect concrete Job Centre Plus,
with the rainbow logo of a ghetto borough council,
here be unicorns, dragons and lions.

Goodnight moon.
Goodnight North Wheezy estate.
Goodnight Porsche and Audi.
Goodnight Big Brent Baby Bruv
and his Islamic opponent on the X-Box
“When we watching Bond with Mrs Sel Top Girl?”
Goodnight Green *Toker.
Sleep because toMOrrow you have early EDMs!


A Conversation about the Unicorn in Blade Runner

“The restored dream to my mind unarguably leads to the revelation of Deckard’s true nature as a replicant; Gaff’s origami unicorn shows his otherwise inexplicable knowledge of Deckard’s most unknowable inner thoughts. I’ve always been very happy with that (I was never entirely happy with the original cut and was blown away when I first saw the Director’s cut) and haven’t ever felt the need to look much beyond that, as aesthetically for me it sounds the perfect balance between revelation and beautiful ambiguity, ditto Ford’s wonderfully understated reaction at the end.

But, that said, the image of the unicorn itself is so striking, mysterious and unexpected, and so wisely left utterly ‘unexplained’, that it’s fair to wonder at. You can say on a prosaic level that it was simply more interesting and striking than showing a dream of, say, Deckard picking flowers with children, or some such, but there’s clearly a deeper resonance than just that. A key element in the book that the film rather strangely skims over is why there are artificial animals (owl, snake) at all, which is that pollution and nuclear war have wiped them almost all out, leaving people with a spiritual void they try to fill through owning artificial animals. That spiritual reverence for animal life might manifest itself powerfully in Deckard’s dream of what to us would be a mythical creature, whereas in his world all animals possess a certain mythical status. But that’s more an idea in tune with the book; it doesn’t fit well in the film, where I think it may more be an allusion to the ideas of Man as god and creator and the uncertain nature of his creation: are the replicants a doomed imperfect child or a new being that may grow to be greater than man the creator himself? They are semi-mythical creatures themselves, just like the unicorn, and as such is Deckard’s dream an image or half-grasped symbol of his growing unconscious awareness of what he really is? Such independent (un)conscience would seem to be at odds with the revelation he’s just broken to Rachel that all replicants’ memories are second hand, and Gaff’s knowledge of his dream.

So whose memory or dream of the unicorn would it be that Deckard was given? I wonder if it was a image given to him by Tyrell himself, as a whimsical symbolic ‘gift’ from his creator alluding to his true nature? I rather favour that. I think I’ve even seen someone posit that it might be Gaff’s memory/dream, but that’s too neat a fit which ignores how that just doesn’t work in every other respect.

I must say Rina, you’ve got me thinking much more about it than I thought I would when you initially asked! Such is the power of great art, I guess, which the film definitely is for me.” – TM

Silicon Beach Body Ready

One word summary: SYNCHRONICITY.

purplesime's ponderings

Down to Bournemouth for the annual Silicon Beach conference last week. Two days of great speakers, and no Dave Birss. Which was weird, because within minutes of arriving at the speakers’ dinner I was accosted and called Dave by six people consecutively. Total count over two days: 11 – including one by Nadya Powell, who said out loud, in front of the audience, she’d seen Dave at the dinner.

No Nadya, that was me.

Anyway, the conference. As you’d expect of a two-day speaking bonanza, it was a conference of two halves. Not just in the literal sense, but in the metaphorical sense as well.

Day one was upbeat, a celebration of the art of creativity and advertising and the future – or, indeed, of the possible futures. It was Chris Thorpe talking unashamedly about educating through digital entertainment systems – or 3D printers, as others call them…

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Silicon Beach, Bournemouth 2015: A manifesto

In 1784, philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote about the ‘unsocial sociability of men’.
The interwovenness of our lives is the source of our solidarity, but here too lies the root of our mutual harm.  It is this paradox in human behaviour that Technology is accelerating at an exponential rate.

This is a call to recognise not just what’s good about IT, but the bad and the ugly.
What could happen if we do more than click ‘change the world’?

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The London-Manila Messaging Service

Are you in London or the UK?

Do you have a personal connection to Manila or the Philippines?

Perhaps there’s a family connection, or you spent some time out there, or you’re just really interested: you define your own personal connection.

And then if you could ask a stranger in Manila a question, or set them a challenge– anything for which you’d care to receive a reply – what would that be?

Post your question/challenge (and your own personal connection) to

Posting deadline is Wednesday 13th May, 5pm GMT.

The London-Manila Messaging Service will do its very best in delivery, there and back.


Yes Retreat. No Surrender.

Available on the B-side of the old format vinyl of Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, is this spoken passage:

The worst part is wondering how you’ll find the strength tomorrow to go on doing what you did today, and have been doing for much too long, where you’ll find the strength for all that stupid running around, those thousand projects that come to nothing, those attempts to escape from crushing necessity, which always flounder and serve only to convince you one more time that destiny is implacable, that every night you down and out, crushed by the dread of more and more sordid and insecure tomorrows…

When you’re burnt out, overwhelmed by the heavy futility of life, and puzzled as to how to bloody succeed at something… well, you honestly want to just give up.

The problem with quitting, is it’s commonly considered a negative course of action.

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