How the Founder of The Aswang Project, Jordan Clark, Infiltrated Our Sacred Ancestral and Academic Filipina/o/x Space

Of Sea and Venom by Trinidad Escobar (detail for Slicing Tomatoes)
Image: “Of Sea and Venom” by Trinidad Escobar from her forthcoming graphic novel by FSG


Vocals by Elsa Valmidiano

penned by The Aswang Warriors, a collective comprised of Pina/xy artists, authors, poets, and academics who have served the Filipina/o/x community (named thus far: Bea Hayward, Elaine de Guzman, and Elsa Valmidiano; we respect that the four remaining authors choose to remain anonymous for their privacy and safety)

We are the daughters of the Aswang whom the colonizers didn’t burn.

The disclosure of the individual identities of our collective Aswang Warriors is pending authorization from the authors themselves due to safety concerns. Author names will be disclosed upon the author’s choosing which can be done anytime. The fact that the authors who collectively penned this article feel that their safety is at risk should be a strong indication of what kind of following Jordan Clark encourages.

To open the space, I start with a poem:

HOW DO YOU CONJURE ANCESTORS

How do you conjure
ancestors who run
when you try
to conjure them
hiding away
what they cannot hide

if they revealed themselves?

I play old Ilocano love songs—
Ti Ayat Ti Maysa Nga Ubing,
O Naraniag a Bulan,
Pamulinawen,
Manang Biday,
begging their eternal joy

but they run.

I sense an ancient pain
they’d rather erase which
erases them too in the
process, than have me,
their descendant, immortalize
the rapes, the manipulations,
the abuses, the gaslights.

I chase after them, conjuring
the trauma of my origins
but also a perpetuation of
their ancient pain
that threatens to erase
me too.

Come, ancestors,
we will
fight for all of us
to live forever—free.

We won’t take apart Jordan Clark’s Instagram apology, but for the sake of time to demonstrate Jordan Clark’s Rachel Dolezal moment, not through physical appearance but through the written word and ironically the lack of physical appearance (has anyone ever seen a recent picture of him after an extensive Google search or ever wondered?), we will discuss two articles at length. These articles appear on The Aswang Project website not only bringing forth problematic issues regarding gaslighting, the white gaze, and the condescension upon our intelligence and heritage, but serious ethical offences of plagiarism also come to light.

The Term _Filipino_ by F. Landa Jocano • THE ASWANG PROJECT

The first specific article examined is, “The Term ‘Filipino’ By F. Landa Jocano,” that blurs the lines on whether Jordan Clark is directly quoting Jocano, or allowing us Filipino readers to assume he is Filipino by using the following language:

  • “our country”
  • “our prehistoric past”
  • “our ancestors”
  • “our heritage”
  • “our dignity”
  • “our cultural traditions”
  • “Let us”
  • “our past culture”
  • “we need to liberate ourselves”

Upon reading these phrases with the PDF provided, even if he is quoting Jocano, at quick glance to the indiscriminate and casual reader, it can’t be ignored that the language on its face appears to pass as his own and allows us Filipino readers to naturally assume that when he uses the first person plural, he is speaking as if he is a part of us.

Is he quoting Jocano directly? There isn’t any wording to suggest that the text is lifted exactly and directly word-for-word from Jocano except to say, “Below you will find Jocano’s take of the term ‘Filipino.’” I have no idea nor do I have immediate access to Jocano’s Filipino Prehistory: Rediscovering Precolonial Heritage to find the page where this exact language appears. Proper use of MLA citation, APA citation, Chicago citation, or whatever citation is available in Canada, would have been necessary since The Aswang Project has been suggested as a valuable resource among our academic circles. And aren’t sources Jordan Clark’s primary fondness?

Not only does Jordan Clark make us believe he is Filipino with his use of the un-cited first person plural, but serious considerations of plagiarism arise while The Aswang Project’s followers might cite to this article in their academic papers.

Also, if you look at the bio for this article which one of our Aswang Warriors printed out just in time, you will see Jordan Clark’s bio of May 10, 2021, that still reveals his racial ambiguity and not the doctored extended version yet.

We could safely assume Jordan Clark was Filipino-Canadian.

Moving along to the second article which started this investigation as to the identity of The Aswang Project, it was a trans Pinay sister who was deeply upset by the article titled, “LAKAPATI: The ‘Transgender’ Tagalog Deity? Not So Fast….” The tone of the headline alone already elicits an adverse stance to invalidate this trans goddess, which immediately led my friend to investigate who runs The Aswang Project.

LAKAPATI_ The _Transgender_ Tagalog Deity_ Not so fast… • THE ASWANG PROJECT

I too re-read the Lakapati/Ikapati article he posted though I had glossed over it the first time before I knew the identity of Jordan Clark. After I found out he was white, I decided to do a closer reading and upon inspection after a second, third, and sixth re-read, it was impossible to ignore the white gaze of the article as he compared Lakapati to Greek mythology. If we are to do a constructive comparative analysis of Filipino mythology, then why not compare it to a non-white mythology? Why default the comparison to a Eurocentric gaze as dead as Greek mythology and what a Greek comic playwright like Aristophanes thought about intersex beings in mythology as if androgyny has an all-encompassing meaning for all mythologies, even indigenous ones?

One of the problems with the article in discussing our mythology is that Jordan Clark relies heavily on written sources and a Eurocentric comparison, when there are always considerations to be made when our culture is, by and foremost, an oral tradition, and he hasn’t shown any attempts to interview any of our peoples who carry on the mythology through their oral traditions.

Even with the Boxer Codex, one of the oldest anonymous written sources of the 1590s with regards to describing the various ethnic groups of the Philippine Islands—Cagayans, Visayans, Tagalogs, and Moros—the anonymous colonial author takes a fundamentally negative view of our ancestors quickly: “The beliefs held by the Visayans regarding the origin and beginning of the world are ridiculous, riddled with a thousand absurdities” (p. 336) as found in the most recent translation of the Boxer Codex in 2016 by editors George Bryan Souza and Jeffrey Scott Turley.

Despite the detailed ethnographic descriptions, the specific motivations for authoring the Boxer Codex was not some altruistic gesture to record the various ethnic groups of the Philippines but to record the activities of conquest regarding the early days of European overseas expansion. This is not to say historical documents are to be totally discredited, but these documents need to be read with a keen eye for questioning, “Who is being excluded?”

I disagreed with Jordan Clark’s reasoning of the trans origins of our mythology when we look at the prefixes of Laka versus Ika for our trans goddess’s name, where he argued they were different deities who weren’t trans. It’s like saying siya (Tagalog) and isu (Ilocano). They mean the same thing: “they” in different languages.

Jordan Clark concludes, “I truly believe that the decolonization, feminist and LGBTQIA+ movements have assisted greatly when it comes to understanding and claiming the pre-colonial identity of Filipinos. However, occasionally the desire to create a point from historical documents overshadows the information presented and creates new challenges for those revisiting the past.” The problem I have with this statement is the term “historical documents.” Who’s to say that the information in historical documents is even reliable, accurate, and infallible that we need to bow down to them in revisiting the past, especially when those historical documents are penned by European authors who hold their own predilections and prejudices, which are then presented to present-day Filipina/o/xs of the Diaspora who are trying to piece together a past from historical documents that are told exclusively from a white gaze? Maybe the desire to create a point from historical documents doesn’t overshadow the information presented, but rather parses out, questions, and examines what and who has been excluded, omitted, or minimized in these historical colonial documents in the first place.

Also, there’s no mention to the Babaylan anywhere when he discusses Lakapati except his own opinion which he’s trying to pass on as truth. While he initiates the article with, “I am also presenting this article as a starting point for discussion,” this does not absolve him of how he chooses to present the article under a white gaze. It’s gaslighting.

I too had a problem with this line in his Lakapati article: “However, in mythology, the term [hermaphrodite] is relevant. Androgyny has sometimes been encoded in ancient religions and mythologies as a symbol of the old human and the next coming race.” This line alone captures a white man’s opinion, not a truth. First of all, whose mythology? Greek mythology? Filipino mythology? It’s not my default that the two should be associated as equal or related. I don’t know the purpose of androgyny in our mythology, specifically speaking, Filipino mythology, as that is reasonably up for debate, but if we are a culture with Babaylan roots, then androgyny could be indicative of an egalitarian condition or gender fluidity between men and women. Why does androgyny in Filipino mythology have to be presumptively lumped into meaning “the old human and the next coming race” in this analysis about Lakapati?

Additionally, before committing to buying Jordan Clark’s newest book promotion of Ferdinand Blumentritt’s DICCIONARIO MITOLÓGICO DE FILIPINAS (Dictionary of Philippine Mythology), I looked it up and discovered something troubling. This is a book that is written by an Austrian man (granted he was the “BFF” of our Philippine national hero Jose Rizal) but this white Austrian man had never even stepped foot in the Philippines. That historical fact is problematic. I am aware that there are 2nd, 3rd, 4th generation, etc. Filipino/a/x-North Americans of the Diaspora who have understandably never stepped foot in their Motherland, but the fact that our cultural nuances and languages and traditions and food and music are passed down through our families even if we’ve never stepped foot in the Philippines, is not to be analogous to a white man who writes about us and has never had our experiences nor has ever visited our Motherland.

If we know anything about the history of our archipelago, we know first off that any Spanish and/or European anthropological and ethnographic analysis of our people is to be regarded as suspect. We’re talking about a white European power that came into our country and restructured our peoples and independent tribal governments, almost nearly eradicating the existence of the Babaylan altogether with nearly 400 years of colonization and proselytization.

We realize if one really wants to conduct a thorough investigation of the verisimilitude of every word of The Aswang Project, one will really have to take up the exhaustive task of taking it apart word for word and logging these instances.

Some of us in The Aswang Warrior Collective are married to white cis men who know very well not to claim themselves an expert on Filipino culture. Being married to a Pinay doesn’t vicariously make you an expert nor do you ever have the right to say “our ancestors,” no matter how much you research all the books and sources you want.

My own grandmother was illiterate so she was never going to have some written source to give anyone if she passed down any folklore to me or to us. She only had the stories and ritual within her body when she was alive.

As Jordan Clark ends his Lakapati article with these words, “I won’t tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do when it comes to finding their cultural belonging, but I would encourage you to take pause before assigning, changing, or combining things so they become simpler to understand in today’s confusing world,” it’s downright ironic, condescending, and dare I say, gaslighting. “I won’t tell anyone” but he is telling us, and even assuming that our intention is to “assigning, changing, or combining things so they become simpler to understand in today’s confusing world,” when maybe our purpose is not to assign, change, or combine, but to exhume what patriarchy and colonization erased in the first place. The white patriarchal gaze likes to believe that feminist and LGBTQIA movements are a thing of modern-day invention, when maybe we as modern-day Filipina/o/xs of the Diaspora are just trying to return to our pre-colonial feminist and LGBTQIA natural environments before patriarchy and colonization took all of that away, erased it, and made us believe half a millennium later that patriarchy has always been the default. If we know anything about the Babaylan, we know patriatrchy was not the default.

If we are to truly decolonize our pre-colonial history, then it’s time to truly own our history and not facetiously hand that responsibility over to a white man who hasn’t been forthcoming about his own whiteness.

The thing about our mythology, unlike Greek mythology that has been dead for thousands of years which Jordan Clark likes to default to as a point of comparison, is that our mythology is a living mythology.

Oral Tradition is a premise when it comes to examining our living mythology. Oral Tradition in most of Jordan Clark’s articles is not even a thought at all, but erased where he relies first and foremost on historical documents penned by white Spanish colonizers.

Just because our ancestors did not speak Spanish does not mean our ancestors were illiterate. In fact, our ancestors had a beautiful script called Baybayin.

Just because our ancestors may have been illiterate does not mean that they did not carry a wealth of ritual and knowledge in their voices and bodies. Their communication was not limited to text but through the beautiful knowledge, brilliance, and stunning memorization of song, dance, food, music, games, visual art, textiles, sculptures, superstitions, anting anting, tattoos, chants, and funeral lamentations that live on in their descendants in spite of colonization, proselytization, imperialism, and exodus.

We want our community to deeply examine these issues before we accept any sources as infallible.

We want our community to be safe from white infiltrators who seek to minimize us and our fellow communities of color.

The harm that takes place under white supremacy isn’t always a burning cross on your lawn. White supremacists can also seek to inject their opinions into our sacred ancestral spaces as truth.

With that said with regards to the injection of white supremacist opinions as truth, we’re going to visit The Aswang Project’s Twitter page.

Jordan Clark racist towards Filipinos ISO Japan

Wow. If Jordan Clark knows anything about the Philippines’ historical relationship with Japan, and if he really empathized with us as a white cis male ally, or wait, is this when we all believed that he was still Filipino, oh whatever the case, he would not have made this extremely insensitive joke on Twitter. Japan has had a long presence in our Motherland. When eventually World War II arrived, Japanese soldiers ended up raping and torturing our grandparents and our great-grandparents, and made 66,000 Filipino men, who were our grandfathers and great-grandfathers, march in the Bataan Death March. Either The Aswang Project had a really bad intern that week and should’ve been fired as Jordan Clark likes to claim that The Aswang Project is comprised of a group of people, or Jordan Clark penned that tweet himself when any right-minded Filipino would probably not have made that joke knowing our traumatic history with Japan.

Next up, and I promise this is the last tweet because I just can’t do many. It’s this tweet about President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

Jordan Clark_Duterte Sympathizer Tweet

The tweet says that Duterte declares 2021 as the year of Filipino pre-colonial ancestors and April 27 as a special day (working) in the country. First of all, why does Jordan Clark know President Duterte’s entire name and decides to tweet that? I’m trying my best not to curse, but who cares what Duterte says. He has killed over 30,000 Filipinos in the name of his drug war, and to remind you, it’s also the COVID pandemic with limited access to vaccines in the Philippines. Why would you even tweet about Duterte at all? Duterte isn’t white but he represents a system of oppression and dehumanization, which when it comes to oppression and dehumanization, is just another facet of white supremacy in our world that is exercised through individuals regardless of their own race.

Oh, and just in case Jordan Clark is considering a libel or defamation suit against The Aswang Warrior Collective:

“The SPEECH Act bars U.S. courts from recognizing or enforcing foreign libel judgments unless certain requirements are met, including consistency with First Amendment safeguards.”
SPEECH Act Protects Against Libel Tourism, Enacted by the 111th United States Congress, Effective August 10, 2010

And just to add since “white supremacist” is used quite often where relevant, “Court rules that being called a white nationalist is not a defamatory statement of fact.”Brimelow v. New York Times Company, No. 1:2020cv00222 – Document 32 (S.D.N.Y. 2020). Since Jordan Clark has stated his fondness for sources, which we all know from articles he specifically penned on The Aswang Project, I’ve provided the US court ruling citation for him and for my Filipina/o/x community, and I want to clarify under the court ruling that the terms “nationalist” and “supremacist” are interchangeable for the sake of language here. I personally prefer the use of “supremacist” as it just, I don’t know, has a nice ssssss sound. And Filipinos, you can do it with me. Ssssss. Oh, Jordan Clark, we don’t know if you know what that sssssss sound means, but it’s meant for you.

We are all leaders. We are Babaylan and Aswang warriors living in a patriarchal world that didn’t destroy us.

I want to close this space with a song by Bruno Mars. I know he has a dual heritage of Filipino and Puerto Rican, but he is also Filipino. We also want to acknowledge the intersectionality of music from the Black community that influences Bruno Mars’ music with R&B, Funk, Soul, Reggae, and Hip Hop.

When I see your face
There’s not a thing that I would change
’Cause you’re amazing
Just the way you are
And when you smile
The whole world stops and stares for a while
’Cause girl, you’re amazing
Just the way you are

Much love and light, always. May the ritual and magic of our Babaylan ancestors always give us strength and always lead us Home.

Maraming salamat. Agyamanak unay. Salamat kaayo. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you so much for singing along.

***

References

Souza, George Bryan and Jeffrey Scott Turley, The Boxer Codex: Transcription and Translation of an Illustrated Late Sixteenth-Century Spanish Manuscript Concerning the Geography, Ethnography and History of the Pacific, South-East Asia and East Asia, Leiden: Brill, 2016

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