Shackled Art, Gran Oriente, the Oscars and Prince

In 1921, a group of 40 Filipino seamen, members of the Gran Oriente Filipino Masonic fraternity, pooled their earnings together to purchase a three-story Victorian in San Francisco's South Park. The Gran Oriente Filipino Hotel became a community center and residence for single Filipino workers. Today, in San Francisco's overheated real estate market, the building is worth millions, and therein lies the problem. Surrounded now by trendy cafes and restaurants, the Gran Oriente is clinging by a thread to its original mission, its outdated facade an anachronism in an area racing towards modernity. As backgrounder, we are re-publishing a story written in 1996 about the Gran Oriente (see "From Here to Fraternity") as segue to the current petition by Fil-Am community members to save the Gran Oriente as a Filipino heritage site (see Partner post). 

Today in history: the 44th anniversary of the declaration of martial law in the Philippines, a turbulent period that continues to ignite politics, alliances, emotions and discourse in our homeland. We again borrow from the popular historical trivia site,, its "Ten Little-Known Photos from the Martial Law Years That Will Blow You Away." Warning: some pictures (or one in particular) may be cringe-inducing.

From the detention centers of martial law to current-day prisons in the Philippines, political detainees continue to create notable art, as literary giant Ed Maranan, a former political detainee himself, reports in "Shackled Art."

And another very different art exhibition currently showing in San Francisco is "After Pop Life," a tribute to the late musical legend Prince. Without planning it, participating Fil-Am artists France Viana and Jenifer Wofford, both injected Filipino undertones to their exhibited works. Ube and karaoke - how Filipino can you get!

In the stiff competition for Oscar nominations that is going on right now, Ma'Rosa, Filipino director Brillante Mendoza's critically acclaimed movie, is in contention for nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film. The Philippines has been sending entries to this category for decades but has not yet bagged a nomination. Rene Astudillo and David Dezern give us the dirt on how a movie gets to be nominated in "The Philippines' Long Road to an Oscar."

In our Video of the Week, ABC's The Chew features the Filipino custom of eating with your hands at Jeepney Gastropub in New York.

I hope you also read my blog this week on "That Awful Four-Letter Word."

Gemma Nemenzo

Editor, Positively Filipino