Up & Around & About San Francisco




The Souls of Tibet,

China, & America--

Two Faces of

Beijing's Culture Wars


By Michael Chacko Daniels

It is ironic that the Asian Art Museum's current exhibit, "Tibet: Treasures from the Roof of the World," has nearly 200 sacred treasures.

In the context of the bone-chilling restrictions that the Chinese State reportedly imposes on all religions, from Catholicism to Buddhism, I see the exhibition and the publicity surrounding it to be a clever attempt to present to the world, especially the western world, a softer side of Beijing.

Or, in the words of Rinchen Tsering of Communist China's Administrative Bureau of Cultural Relics: ". . . I believe that this exhibition will contribute to a new understanding between the people of China and the United States." ['Treasure' trove, Tibetan works makes debut at Asian Art Museum, by Bill Picuture, San Francisco Examiner, page 22, June 13, 2005]

Will that understanding cloud how we view what has happened to Tibet and its culture in the last 55 years?

When we forget history we are condemned to repeat it.

When I went to see the exhibit on Saturday, June 11, 2005, a group outside the Asian Art Museum, who did not want anyone to forget that history, gave me the following statement:

"Tibet's Stolen Heritage

"The dazzling Tibetan artefacts that make up the proud exhibit are here courtesy of the Chinese government. Ancient thangkas; seals of the great Fifth Dalai Lama; rarely-seen religious objects; beautiful statues and other such stunning pieces: they speak of Tibet and its culture--both targets of China's vehement Sinocization drives since it first occupied Tibet in 1949.

"We have censored all references to the historical context of these objects, the methods that were used to acquire them, the lives that were taken in the process, and the countless other equally precious artefacts that were destroyed in Tibet under the Chinese occupation.

"The goal of the Chinese Communist regime is to construct a narrative for the world about all the things it is supposedly doing to protect Tibetan culture, while simultaneously wiping that culture off the face of the earth.

"During more than fifty years of occupation, over 6,000 monastries--the repositories of Tibetan religious, cultural and historical knowledge--have been destroyed. Today, Tibetans inside Tibet cannot celebrate their culture or practise their religion freely. Simply possessing a photo of the Dalai Lama can result in arrest, torture and imprisonment.

"See the exhibit, let it move you, but remember the culture that produced these wonderful works is being systematically eradicated. Your activism, support, and pressure on the U. S. government for action against China's policies can make a difference. We cannot allow the Chinese government to reduce Tibetan culture to a bunch of museum pieces. . . ."

FROM THE MUSEUM'S CALENDAR: The exhibition was organized by: the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, Santa Ana, California, in collaboration with the Bureau of Cultural Relics, Tibet Autonomous Region; the Potala Palace; and the Tibet Museum. Wells Fargo provided leading support.

Read more about Beijing's Culture Wars and the Liberation of China's Soul.






The Softer Side of

Muslim Pilipino Culture


By Michael Chacko Daniels

MAGUI MORO MASTER ARTISTS On May 21, I got re-introduced to Filipino music through S. F.'s Asian Art Museum's AsiaAlive program, accidentally. I had gone with T. to re-examine the Ganesh statue at the portals of the museum's South Asia section, when we were stopped by the sounds of a man beating a gong in the museum's beautiful Samsung Hall. We sat enthralled for 15 minutes listening to the sounds produced with this simple instrument. The musician was a master artist performing Kulintang (gong ensemble) music.

The following Saturday, we attended an Islamic Filipino royal wedding performed by the Magui Moro Master Artists of the Philippines. This celebratory concert of Kulintang, dance, and rituals are part of the wedding traditions of the southern Philippines' Maguindanoan region. The packed audience of adults and children were regaled with music that was intended to evoke "typhoon rain, and crashing waves, leaping and prancing warriors, and mesmerizing incantations."

COMMENTARY My first introduction to the Muslim influence on Filipino music and dance was when I reviewed a performance of the Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company in San Francisco for The Asian Student [November 16, 1969], a former publication of The Asia Foundation. In that review, I praised the performance of the Bayanihan troupe for its grace and beauty, but had this comment:

"Most of the dancers and directors of the troupe [the Bayanihan troupe] are Christian, as is the Philippine nation. . . .

"The dances of the Christian Filipinos were full of the joy of life; there was a charming softness to the graceful movements. This was in sharp contrast to the power and unsmiling, stately grace displayed in the Muslim dances.

"It reinforces the belief that the Bayanihan has yet to discover the full spirit of the Muslim Filipinos; and that the fear of the Muslim tribes, engendered in the Christian Filipinos by the Spaniards for four centuries, retains its hold, as can be seen in the emphasis in the Muslim dances on those traits that made the Christians fear the Muslims. However, it must be said that this is a cultural failing rather than an artistic one."

Watching and listening to the Magui Moro Master Artists at the Asian Art Museum in May 2005, I got some of the softness of Muslim Filipino culture that I missed 37 years ago in the Bayanihan dancers' performance, but not enough, which is more a comment on my preference for the softer side, even of warriors, than of anything else.

[USEFUL INFORMATION CULLED FROM THE MUSEUM'S PROGRAM NOTES MAGUI MORO MASTER ARTISTS: TENG EMBA--Kulintang (gong ensemble) musician; descended from a long line of Pilipino (Filipino) musicians; winner of the National Music Competition for Young Artists at age of six in 1982; joined Kalilangan Dance Company in 1999; he is in high demand for festivals and healing rituals. KARATUAN SANGKAY 'DATUAN' KALANDUYAN--Master of the kutiyapi (two-stringed lute), palending (flute), and gandingan ("talking" gongs); toured Asia, Europe, and North America; performed with Grace Nono, Lilang-Lilang Kulintang Ensemble, and others. DATU GUTIERREZ MANGANSAKAN II--Descended from Buayan and Maguindanao sultanates; filmmaker, writer, and scholar; winner of the 2001 Gawad CCP Independent Film Award for his film House Under the Crescent Moon. FAISAL MONAL--Master choreographer, dancer, musician; member of Salamindanao Dance Company, the Sining Kotawato Dance Group, and Bai Raquel Pandatum Magalona's Kalilangan Dance Troupe; winner of numerous street dancing championships. AKMAD SIAO--Master artist in Maguindanoan dance and music; winner of numerous street dancing competitions. YOLANDA MANGULAMAS--An expert in Maguindanoan culture, including cuisine, rituals, and indigenous practices; member of the Bangsa Moro. USEFUL INFORMATION ENDS]

The performance was co-sponsored by KulArts (www.kularts.org). KulArts was founded 20 years ago by Alleluia Panis, Marcella Pabros, and Robert Henry. According to the KulArts website, the organization's mission "is to inform and expand the understanding of American Pilipino culture through works that address contemporary issues in our community; to preserve the spirit and integrity of ancient Pilipino art forms; and to nurture the artistic development of Pilipino American artists." [May 31, 2005]


Viewed in the Tenderloin &

Near Grace Cathedral

Preparing Litterland-by-the-Bay

For United Nations

World Environment Day Conference


To check on the success of Mayor Gavin Newsom's campaign to reduce San Francisco's litter--a big health, safety, quality of life, economy, and jobs issue in this major tourist destination that has become comfortable with litter and human and animal waste--I have been using "the micro test," which is based on the principle that the micro will reflect on, and be a reflection of, the macro.

I perform my micro test regularly in two neighborhoods--the city's world famous Tenderloin and the block on Taylor Street between California and Pine Streets, just down from the majestic Grace Cathedral, a major religious and architectural landmark.

Checking out the Tenderloin on May 21 and 28 on the way to the Asian Art Museum and the Public Library's main branch, I found that the good Mayor failed the micro test. I was convinced that the only way I could give the good Mayor a passing grade would be if I walked with my head in the clouds.

I sometimes do that. Got to watch out when I do, though. Don't know what excretion I'll step on or what deal I may be bumping into in the Tenderloin.

On Taylor, between California and Pine, going up the steep hill, it's hard to keep my focus at sidewalk level and prevent it from moving heavenward. The litter on the uphill stairway and the western curb--which has strewn litter composting around the front wheels of the parallel parked cars, week after week--tempts me to block out the ground view and set my sights to where San Francisco meets the stars.

On Wednesday, June 1, 2005, the sidewalks are a bit cleaner as I walk down Hyde Street through the Tenderloin to my favorite market--the Heart of the City Farmer's Market at the United Nations Plaza.

Finally, I think, the Mayor is having an impact. He's pulling it together, at least in the Civic Center's backyard.

Don't get me wrong. I am rooting for Gavin Newsom's success. After two older mayors, who had the focus on everything else except the heart of San Francisco, its Tenderloin--where many immigrants, elderly, and children live, I wish the young Gavin Newsom all the best in both his housing first and anti-litter campaigns.

Isn't his Project Connect with its objective of mobilizing an army of volunteers with broomsticks and clipboards a brilliant strategy to overcome the Culture of Neglect? Undoubtedly.

It's only when I get to Seventh and Market, loaded with direct-from-the-farmers produce, and discover a clean, quiet corner, about half-a-dozen bike patrol police officers, and the complete absence of the usual folks conducting quick transactions and blocking sidewalk use by pedestrians, that I realize I have been suckered by the municipality's preparations for the United Nations World Environmental Day Conference in San Francisco.

The Believer retreats, the Skeptic rises and says, It's only the usual sprucing and spiffing-up and general rousting that goes on when the world's focus is on everyone's favorite city, this most beautiful city in the world--our Litterland-by-the-Bay.

I recommend the "micro test." Check out your favorite corner, even your own. Let Newsom know.

That's the news on Newsom from San Francisco. So long, for now. [June 8, 2005]


St. Brigid of Van Ness & Broadway

Saving a Church that Has

Survived Two Earthquakes

And Two World Wars


Check out the following quote at: http://www.st-brigid.org/


"St. Brigid is more than a religious institution. It is a cultural and architectural landmark in the Marina, Pacific Heights and Russian Hill neighborhoods. To drive a wrecking ball into this magnificent place would be a loss to the city on the order of the destruction of the famous Fox Theater in 1963 – and a bad choice the entire city would lament for many years to come.

"St. Brigid was determined eligible for the National Register of Historic places in October 1995 and is listed in many catalogs of the city’s historic buildings. It has been an important center for the city’s Irish community.

"Closed since 1994, the building is a repository for many treasures including an exceptional pipe organ constructed specifically for the church by the Italian firm of Fratelli Ruffatti, stained glass from Harry Clarke Studios in Dublin, Ireland, fine terra cotta detailing specially made for the building, and statuary by the noted Irish sculptor Seamus Murphy. The faces of the 12 apostles, on Murphy’s statues on the front of the church, are the leaders of the 1916 Irish Easter rising.


"This perfectly preserved example of Richardson Romanesque architecture has stood at the corner of Van Ness and Broadway since 1900, surviving two earthquakes, the great depression and two world wars. Now it is in danger."

 ______   *   ______


And the following

Popular History Pages


____________ * ____________


A Grand Rapids Popular History


Pages from New River Free Press, 1973 to 1977


Your Friendly Guide to Urban Survival & Improvement:




Signed, Limited Editions

An avid reader's comment about

Michael Chacko Daniels'

handcrafted books:

"The books are beautiful,

they look like little treasures."

--Brenda Coleman

Each copy is

a work of art in itself.

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Anything Out of Place Is Dirt
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Split in Two
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Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 at 07:11PM by Registered CommenterMichael Chacko Daniels | CommentsPost a Comment