Category: writing

(short stories! prose! poetry! editorials!) narratives and abstract retellings of things for imaginations to count ✍️

Instruments: Racism

Reading Time: 9 minutes

I fell in love with the internet when I discovered that everything was essentially under everyone’s control. Wikipedia, assignment go-to until it became a sleighted source. Over the past few years, I’ve racked up a thousand Wikipedia edits: not major article changes, no special permissions, no work on authoring new articles (aside from contributing to Tagalizing articles to Wikipediang Tagalog; which generally repurposes existing articles).

A selection of my Wikipedia Userboxes

Wikipedia is one of the last bastions of the internet for socially acceptable pseudointellectualism. One of my favorite forms this takes place in is when grown adults address themselves in hyperspecific stamps called “Userboxes” on their Userpages (Wikipedia’s version of profile pages), usually to address their editing quirks. Think debates over usage of the Oxford comma, who can speak more languages, infinitive usage, nativity, and 2000s-esque criticism of to/too/two usage. My page is free of complaints for now; Userpages, like articles, are editable by any user. Instead, it’s customized with boxes that encapsulate my being at 20 and look my Myspace page at 12: typing fast, obscure British academiasphere, and Death Grips. It is one of my favorite places on the internet.

Another Yale alumni’s userbox, obscured for anonymity and because I feel like this is very embarrassing.

My work has normally taken shape in subtle formatting and spelling fixes across Wikipedia’s WikiProject Women in Music, in random Philippine-centric pages (including removing the righthand-man of an authoritarian dictator on my high school’s ‘Notable Alumni’ page with friends), and Talk page discourse (the war on categorizing Aphex Twin as Intelligent dance music––I’m twenty and not ancient, so my verdict is no). Initially, I was going to go over the history of my descent into Wikipedia until I found myself marching in some camisado.

October 30th (about 12 hours behind, October 29th Eastern Time), a mostly-irrelevant Filipino band named MYMP streamed a Hallow’s Eve show on Facebook to over 50,000 viewers with the main vocalist, Chin Alcantara outfitted in blackface (he tried to dress up as Jimi Hendrix). 

As is natural with any controversy, people were eager to know who MYMP was at all.

A screenshot of MYMP’s Google Search results spiking around October 31st

Naturally, such acts need to be placed on Wikipedia for posterity. And naturally, the offender’s PR team will come in to save face, usually spawning what is known as a Wikipedia edit war.

Edit wars occur when Wikipedia contributors in disagreement over page content repeatedly override one another’s contribution. On any page’s View history, reversion is as easy as hitting Undo. While most articles are openly editable, more contentious or vandalism-prone articles are usually given a level of Protection.

A three-revert rule, shorthanded as 3RR, (WP:3RR) is informally placed within editing etiquette: “an editor must not perform more than three reverts on the work of other editors, in whole or in part, whether involving the same or different material, on a single page within a 24-hour period.” Exemptions include self-reversions, vandalism, or cleaning up violations of clear policies.

Because I am freshly twenty, I have not lost the virtue of pettiness. MYMP was consistently unapologetic and firm in not only their racist costume, but other dismissive and 

Looking into other article conventions, I wrote a new “Blackface controversy” section beneath their hefty 1,800 word biography. Another editor, Davelo15 filled in the rest of the controversy’s details.A few other Wikipedians added to it, fixing up grammar errors. This was fresh, about thirty minutes after the Facebook live video had ended. Our only source and footnote (notably, also the only linked source on the article then) was technically invalid––we had to leave it as so until media outlets picked up on the controversy. 

At about 16:09, October 30th, an anonymous user by the IP started making edits., a brief history

According to generic IP address lookups, is located in Quezon City, Philippines––the same city that MYMP comes from. Wikipedia generally warns for unregistered users designed by IPs to make an account so that they can track edits easier in wariness of dynamic IPs shared by multiple users, but something interesting was that this IP was static; meaning that it was unlikely to changed and likely held by the same individual/household.

User Contributions from

User talk:

Clicking into their Userpage, we can see that this is far from their first dive into Wikipedia.

In November 26, 2019 on the Doppler Effect, they changed a random pronoun referring to Doppler to a friend’s name.

On the same day, Cosmic microwave background was given a little change to “Planet namic”.

Forward to July 3rd on National Telecommunications Commission (Philippines), an explicitly state-ordered shutdown in the pandemic changed to reflect expiry instead of continued government attack, and removed a completely valid reference from an official government website.

This went back and forth for a few times; random section blanking towards the controversy topic without any explanation. Wikipedia automatically applies a “section blanking” tag to edits that remove entire sections on this page; it became easier and easier to spot this IP as people roared.

Of course, other vandalism highlights popped up through the night, quickly reverted by me or other editors. I was not at all a neutral editor, but outright vandalism would ruin the work we put in –– the page would be at risk of complete rollback from a more powerful user. There were some politics in play.

Users with Rollback rights can revert edits back on a page, ignoring conflicts. Quicker than Undoing edits, rollbacks don’t require the user to look at the revision list/diff or save of edits––useful in quick and fast-moving pages.

Instruments: Racism; added in by my friend that I berated after laughing, promise

A rewritten version of the controversy, using less than ideal language.

The more I looked into the page after working to copy-paste our collaborative section back, the more I would be bothered by the undisturbed amount of “fluff” across the article. It was clear that the MYMP page also functioned as the artist’s self-biography (WP:FAMOUS), listing no sources and being littered with calls for citation, irrelevant junctures and asides, and negatively-written stories of past band members departing. I chunked out about 1,000 characters of fluff in my first go and slowly started whittling the page down even further: deleting irrelevant paragraphs, condensing sentences, and following the Wikipedian manner of due weight and neutrality (WP:DUE). When weight is measured by relevance and presentation in reliable sources and not by Wikipedia editors or the general public, it was easy to justify the fluff removal since the biography was largely sourceless.

Removing random notes about playing at an Indonesian Music Festival…

…removing awkward grammar and narrative-like descriptions of band members leaving…

…and a strange list distinguishing between Major/Minor Hits, all cover songs––as I was confident that MYMP was not responsible for The Bangles’ Eternal Flame and that song was certainly not just a “Minor Hit”; this is what happens with cover bands, I guess…

Every time  would delete a section, I would quickly undo their edit. We had far surpassed the 3RR, except I sprinkled in each of this anonymous user/PR manager’s edits with a culling of their content until nothing remained. News articles started going up about the incident, quickly picking up on the social outrage and media buzz––helping us capture some worthy references. To ensure that content on retrieval is stored and saved as-is, we used the editorial practice of archiving news articles to ensure that they would be retrievable at any time, at the state of capture.

Timely, since a more seasoned Wikipedian stepped in earlier in the revision history to outline that Facebook isn’t a “good enough source”.

Each careful edit would be incised carelessly by the anonymous user with the same IP address. Sometimes, they would take material down in minutes. Towards the end, they began getting a bit sloppy––missing chunks of text to delete, leaving behind haphazard paragraphs and changing the name of the section to gibberish.

The unregistered account had nothing to add but “deleted a racial content that was added”, over and over and over.

Soon, their Talk page was filled with warnings directly citing edit wars and the dangers of shared IP addresses. 

At the end of the night, a seven-year-old Wikipedia administrator ended the mini-war over a hundred edits and 25 repeated rollbacks.

User:Scottywong protected MYMP providing reason as “Persistent vandalism”, now only letting users with autoconfirmed or confirmed access unto the page. This was all hastily done with the template {{pp-vandalism}}.

Registered accounts are given autoconfirmation if they’re more than 4 days old and have made at least 10 valid changes.

Interestingly, a previous user without permissions attempted to apply protections to the page as well using {{pp-protected}} templates, to no avail. This was reverted by a bot (User:MusikBotII, operated by MusikAnimal running to fix pages, likely watching the Recent Changes section). 

Wikipedia is built around/with the principle that anyone can edit it, and it therefore aims to have as many of its pages as possible open for public editing so that anyone can add material and correct errors. However, in some particular circumstances, because of a specifically identified likelihood of damage resulting if editing is left open, some individual pages may need to be subject to technical restrictions (often only temporary but sometimes indefinitely) on who is permitted to modify them. The placing of such restrictions on pages is called protection.

Protection can be applied to or removed from pages only by Wikipedia’s administrators, although any user may request protection. Protection can be indefinite or expire after a specified time period. WP:PP

This silent war made no use of the Talk page, and was a mildly unjust campaign undoing years of fluff that have been left on a musical page classified as a “low-importance biography”. MYMP’s racist actions are immortalized, at least for now, their PR agent/intern/superfan silenced, and their article rid of fluff, and risen to administrative notice from the minute-apart edit warring. I was definitely no neutral party either as I conversed with editor friends with untraceable connections over Discord, encouraging them to make their first edits (hence xxpunkgothxx and Instruments: racism) as they discovered how easy it was to contribute and shift the narrative (it was primarily us, the Filipino-American 6’11” Davelo15, and meddling moderators here and there). 

I’m left to wonder––how many more pages are blatant autobiographies? In lesser-explored regions of Wikipedia like in English-Filipino articles, how much misinformation and faux-neutrality is left? How many people witness unfairness on Wikipedia but are intimidated by the rules that slip by? Why must it be the last edit that declares history?

(But I now know that everyone really looks to Wikipedia at the moment of catastrophe.)


Reading Time: < 1 minute

Everything I write for you
an elegy. The Mother of Exile
watched: She knows how far I
may get.

Bodies survive without water
for up to three days. So when
you left me skinsearching there,
rearing to feel a pulse, you came
to find the chest engorged.

It smelled like wax and scarcity.

In another era, only the blood
boiled counts. So surrender quietly.
Watch me undo the nerve-tears,
the fold, the thicket, the language
of pleading. We’re past consequence.

Just last year, we exchanged an act
of penitence. I grazed my ribs in
elastic and then you shaved all layers
second-before-blood. Constancy demands
us to reclaim even the minute

conditions of our birth. So I have you.

However so temporary. After the Act
our tissue stiffens. I breathe out
the purge. No secret of poverty
remains, as Mother calls this
keenness out. Your fingers left hung

by the trestle. Your vessel down the
northern hemisphere. Even the shallowest
parts of you may never come incarnate again.

To All Our Noontime Saviors

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Growing up with Wowowee, the Villar family as my backyard neighbors, MMK, and the 6/55 Lotto.

Every Saturday afternoon, I’d poke a pencil into the broken buttons of a Sony CRT, flipping from Cartoon Network to channel two. The whole household would crowd into my room, impatiently waiting for Willie Revillame to start spinning across the screen, surrounded by women in heels and miniskirts—the Wowowee dancers clapping and twirling in front of a studio audience of hundreds from all across the nation. “Sa Luzon, sa Visayas, at sa Mindanao, saan man sulok ng mundo makakasama nyo!” every line from the theme song flashing at the bottom of the screen, practically unneeded, the room clapping along. From Luzon, from Visayas, and from Mindanao, wherever in the world you are, come join in! To any outsider, he would seem like a generic, unassuming Filipino-Chinese man, but to this country, he was a savior. Everyone in the audience arrived at Manila by boat or plane or eleven-hour bus ride, all with dreams to hear his theme song, almost synonymous with reinvention. In a smile, he could give you the money to turn your life around.  My yayas, the household help that my frequently-absent parents employed to keep the family together, lived for these noontime showings. They’d convene every weekday and Saturday before getting back to folding clothes or cleaning the plastic dining table with baby wipes. I’d sit next to them and learn the way Willie worked: joking about politicians and the weather to factory workers and housewives in his audience, my yayas laughing along as if on cue. He’d pry open their story, the town they came from and how they found their way to Wowowee before handing them a thousand peso bill. When Willie lifted the mic to them for their fifteen-second story 1, it was always one of resilience.

My yayas would yell answers at the screen as Willie spun the Willie of Fortune, contestants with their broken teeth and hand towels draped over their shoulders struggling to sing the lyrics to the chosen radio tune. “House and lot! House and lot!” he’d dangle the rewards in front of them them, a nation tuned in to see them walk away with nothing or everything. “Sayang,” I’d watch my closest yaya exclaim, in clear defeat before backing up from the screen. “Alam ko ‘yun.” What a waste, I knew that. Yaya always swore that she’d be on that stage one day. Dancing along, or in a glass box with cash blowing around filling her pockets with all she could keep. I envisioned her sobbing out her life story with cameras and lights, Willie’s sympathetic hand on her back and a thousand bill slipped into her hands. I wished I could give her that.

For several years, our family never bought groceries from the supermarket, or many things at all. I remember asking my father for a 70 peso magazine for my eighth birthday and being rejected, but for some reason we always made exceptions.

In those times, I frequently accompanied my mother to work at the maternity hospital2 our family owned in Tondo, Manila. I was born in that hospital (delivered by my grandmother) and was raised in that district for the early part of my life, before my parents had enough to buy our own home and settle two hours down south. Tondo is one of the world’s most densely populated areas and is Manila’s largest city, where an estimated 4 million people live in the slums, many live on just $1.25 a day.34

After my my mother’s work5, we’d squeeze into a tricycle6 to the Tondo public market. Stall after stall in a warehouse, water dripping from the ceiling with the merged smell of every imaginable produce. This was no supermarket. My mom would buy us Coke poured into plastic bags, a straw poking out before we waded through to buy our groceries for the week. On some of these trips, my mother would ask to make another stop by our first family home7, some blocks away from the hospital. It was a crude house built of corrugated tin and thin wood, one wall of unfinished concrete blocks and a rotting door, a large 2001 calendar covering an unfinished hole. Outside, the street sung, neighbors crowded around a small television playing chimes and commercials, the sound of rancorous laughter and kids chasing dogs. We’d walk across the old street, the scent of burning trash and sampaguita8, and stop by a stall to buy a ticket for the 6/55 Lottery. In order to win the 6/55 prize, you have to hit all six numbers in any order. “Your dad was so excited, the jackpot was 30 million last Monday,” she tells me. She would always ask me for a number.

In 2010 they introduced to us the concept of the government, just in time for the Presidential Elections. I was fresh out of third grade in April and witnessed the last push of campaign season, where I was almost certain that commercial blocks ran longer than actual shows did. My parents even helped our two yayas register to vote and offered to carpool to the same precinct. Every day, our heads would be filled with presidentiables, from their songs and words on television to their posters and banners fluttering across billboards, buses, and rice sacks. Nakaligo ka na ba sa dagat ng basura? Nagpasko ka na ba sa gitna ng kalsada? My yayas garnered all they knew about the electoral process from their friends across the village and from television. They swooned over a new man—a presidential candidate named Manny Villar. They held frequent debates over who had a better theme song. (Yaya still remained loyal to Willie.) Villar ran one of the most memorable campaigns in Philippine history. The newscaster reported of his upbringing in our shared birthplace of Tondo, selling shrimp and fish in the same market. The radio gossip talked of defiance, graduating from the country’s most prestigious university with his promise to lead the Filipino to the same path. He had his miracle story.  Have you ever swam in a sea of trash? Have you ever celebrated Christmas in the middle of a road? His commercial ran over and over, filled with street children amidst Tondo—the murky Pasig River in the background. They could chime in so perfectly, “Si Manny Villar ang magtatapos ng ating kahirapan.” Manny Villar will end our hardships.

In election summer, we watched the morning news give election spiels and success stories. I learned to cook spam for lunch right before Willie’s usual skits and games. In the afternoon, my yayas paused and prayed to the 3 o’clock prayer––devotion synced across every Filipino channel while I watched them. In the evenings, we’d wait for MMK at 9 after all the dishes have been washed. We listened and cried to stories of common people and their lives turned from slums to comfort, never without struggle. One night, yaya turned to me and asked me if my parents were voting for Manny. I shrugged, but I knew the answer.

Manny Villar lived in the house behind mine. His backyard spanned over two times the space our home took up. He had (had) a pool with bridges that I could peer over from my parent’s bedroom. I would sometimes catch both my parents, dead-tired from a shift peeking over their curtains to gaze at the Villar’s backyard. “One day,” my parents exchanged. I’d join my yayas in cleaning my parent’s room and stare over at them, as they’d whisper about the extravagance of the house’s interior—details picked up from neighbors. All our drives from our village back to Tondo were plastered with Manny, him being a new face for hope. From Tondo to billionaire businessman. Once, in a traffic jam on the way home, a child knocks on the driver’s seat window begging for spare change with a “Nothing is Impossible with Manny” slogan on his shirt, the signature orange of his campaign draped across.

I remember asking my mother what it took for us to move to our home several times that summer. She never gave a clear response. Instead, she always promised us larger things: that one day, we’ll move and find home, have a garden, more bathrooms, and a washing machine. She referenced the high-rises glittering across the Manila Skyway with their exorbitant toll fees—but beautiful either way. “Maybe Makati, or at least Alabang so it won’t take you two hours to get to school from this house every day.” 

Manny didn’t win. When I went back to school in June the boys mocked the song, “Si Manny Villar ay ang dahilan ng ating kahirapan.” Swaying along like all the children in rags. The jingle left primetime commercial slots, but it never really left people’s minds. Manny Villar is the reason for our hardships. I could still see the brown and murky river, the children smiling and some even swimming across as they mocked it.

Wowowee was cancelled in July. Willie had a feud with one of the showrunners. A day later, the weekday slot was replaced by Pilipinas Win Na Win, co-hosted by the sister of our newly-elected President.

I often wonder if we ever truly achieve the Filipino dream.  

If not Willie, if not Manny, someone else will always step in. In 2016 our family closed in to the television as they swore in someone with an iron fist, who promised to end corruption and poverty and who swore away all men who would defy him—swore to kill.9 He touts his harsh upbringing, lifting Davao out of poverty and promising to save the Filipino people. Yaya watches the television, swayed by his words. “Siya na,” I watch her tell herself. This is the one.

My family never moved out. My mother still works at the same place, so we still visit Tondo every now and then. Last summer, we went by the same booth to pick up a 6/55, my parents ticking the same numbers they’ve ticked for years. All this with the street still alive with blasting karaoke, the same stalls and regional television. The block crowded around a screen, cheering and talking against the same cracking pavement and crammed homes, drinking soda from plastic bags. The ballot, the promises, the hope—all ever constant for reasons I still have yet to swallow.

I wrote this essay for a class in my Freshman Spring at Yale. Some parts are fictionalized/overblown. I have long tried to articulate how warped my view of life is from growing up with malls, gameshows, and no trust of government.