Discover more from Commonwealth Cafe
The Commonwealth Cafe newsletter will be a little different from the website, but I’m not sure exactly how, at the moment. In other words, I’m wingin’ it. I feel like I’ve changed a lot from the time I first put together that website—a lot more jaded, for one thing—but who isn’t, at this point? So, let’s see what happens. Oh, and I’d love to present contributors (i.e., articles relating to AAPI and ethnic newspapers, past and present) on this site.
For now, here’s a bit of information about the graphics on this site:
First, why the pissed-off carabao logo? It’s a nod to artist Jorge Pineda, whose cartoon drawing of a mad, kicking carabao graced the masthead of the satirical Philippine newspaper, Lipang Kalabaw, circa 1907.
But “lipang kalabaw” also refers to a plant (Dendrocnide sp. of the nettle family Urticaceae). The plant has been used as a way to cure afflictions; you whip someone with the branches, which causes a painful rash that somehow (?) provides a cure. If you know more about this plant, please let me know in comments!
The Lipang Kalabaw’s goal was to provide a helpful, but necessarily “painful,” and satirical “thrashing” to whoever needed it (for example, certain Catholic friars, Philippine politicians, as well as American politicians, anthropologists, and military, among others). You can see the “cure” being graphically applied in the masthead of Lipang Kalabaw (pdf thanks to Internet Archive).
This is not to say that the content of this newsletter will be generally grumpy or satirical—although, the fact is, some of the most interesting writing coming out of the ethnic press has been fueled by anger and frustration, as well as the intent to spur change.
I’ll let the texts lead me.
Second, a note about the banner that heads up the emails:
Cafes and restaurantswere common meeting places for Filipino editors and writers in the U.S. during the Depression era. They often gathered in Chinatown and Manilatown cafés to write, offer feedback and criticism, read and share news, chat, argue, and commiserate over coffee and meals. In “Look at All These Women,” Carlos Bulosan mentions the crowded Commonwealth Café on Temple St., one of many that he frequented. “Commonwealth” held another meaning for Filipinos then, aside from the “common good.” It also referred to the liminal, unequal status of the Philippines as a “Commonwealth” of the United States after its colonization and during the “waiting period” for independence from 1935 to 1946.
That’s all for today.
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Sometimes spelled “Lipag Kalabaw.”
Thanks to Alex Fabros of the Filipino American Experience Research Project for permission to use the Union Restaurant photograph in the header, and to FANHS Monterey Bay & Tri-County area for their support. Masthead images for The Three Stars and The Filipino Students’ Magazine are from the microfilm collection at UC Berkeley.