Death by Subtweet: Frankie Pangilinan and Her Dream Meme Revolution
Can the revolution be twitter-fied?
Frankie Pangilinan contains multitudes. She’s a recording artist with a new kickass love-cum-heartbreak single Battlescars, which is making a number of ripples through Spotify, the media-verse and the internet.
She’s an aspiring writer, with a substantive Wattpad account chock-full of stories complete and incomplete building further her beloved Arkoverse—this (deep breaths) highbrow-lowbrow fantasy alternative reality concerning connected sets of re-imagined Filipino-American nobles who fall in love, cast spells, geek out over the Eraserheads and win Formula One races with Magic. There’s also her upcoming magazine—Simone Says—and her ever-constant Twitter presence. The subtweeted “revolution” leveled at our beloved “rodi” slots in here.
imagine making yourself dinner in your tiny apartment and tucking yourself into bed with a warm blanket only to get a notification informing you your parents are arguing daw. it’s not either of your parents, it’s not your sister, not the dog,
— frankie pangilinan (@kakiep83) December 1, 2019
She “thanks God” for both “the internet and [her] insomnia,” which enables her to “call her mother about the most mundane things” (like us!), “send [her] dad all his favorite Viber stickers” (somewhat like us!) and “Facetime her siblings for every Grand Prix” they watch together (maybe not like us!). Her mom and dad are stories unto themselves, of course. Layers upon layers.
Peel them all back, however, and you’ll find that the common thread with all the Frankies out there—the writer, the recording artist, the Twitter account—is that she’s connected and continues to seek connection. She cites youth voter registration as a severely underlooked local political issue. She muses on the internet as this one-of-a-kind “place to communicate…on a scale so large.” It’s wondrous and profound and…a lot, really.
Think of the interview presented below not as a conversation between Frankie and the interviewer, but rather the sketching out of connections between Frankie online and Frankie, somewhat offline. We’ve taken the liberty of pulling up Twitter threads AKA “receipts” in the hopes that they’d shed more light on Frankie as she is—and in the process, maybe, a bit more on what it means to be a young Filipino navigating and forging identity through the many multitudes this perilous digital world has in store for us.
Wonder: You’ve garnered quite the reputation for your (pardon the pun) “frankness” online, with respect to your musings, all things pop culture and local politics. Tell us about your “Twitter origin story,” if you may.
Firstly, I would NEVER condemn a great pun, so you’re very much pardoned. The first account I ever made was dedicated to supporting a bunch of punk/alternative fans—that handle still exists now as just a vague, free space for the little, niche obsessions that give me joy (so it’s my secret nerdy space—and of course, then, will forever remain entirely secret).
The truth is that Twitter appeals to me because I have always had a simple love and appreciation for the art of stringing words together. I think about ten million things per second, and writing has always been my favorite way of coping with the incessant brain chatter. It has always been this sort of a pretty trash can, which houses a plethora of my scattered thoughts and midnight musings. It just so happens that people seem to be paying attention now. The thought is mildly terrifying.
W: As a young Filipino living abroad, what do you think is the value of being online both in the broadest and most literal sense of the word?
Let’s get this out there—I love the Philippines so much that I sing about it in the shower and cry myself to sleep at night when the entirety of Cutterpillow comes on shuffle and I can’t share its beauty with my Caucasian roommate (whom I love and should probably stop speaking Taglish to. I’m sure she’s had enough of me snapping my fingers sharply at her in midair as I try to conjure up a translation that refuses to come—does anyone know what naman is in English? Patulong naman pls lang?).
In all seriousness though, it’s a priority of mine to stay informed—which is where social media comes into play above all else. Back home, I talk over the news with dad and study all his readings and notes.
Here, living abroad, it’s my responsibility to keep track of current events. New York is a very political place, but with discourse ranging [wildly], I try to ground myself in the reality that my own country is struggling to much greater lengths. Filipinos can’t worry about the many facets of politics and cultural issues when they’re worrying about their next meal. I intend to learn and grow from a global position and bring back an amassed store of new knowledge back with me where I can apply it contextually.
how can we seriously attack people for not being woke when there are a good 20% of filipinos living under the poverty line?? the first on the hierarchy of needs is basic food and shelter, then they can worry about school and education. we need to have empathy not anger.
— frankie pangilinan (@kakiep83) October 13, 2019
W: Let’s talk about internet “wokeness”—and “call-out culture,” by extension—given that these ideas are elements you interact with quite often on a day-to-day basis. What about it do you feel works/doesn’t work in the context of our world—and the powers that be that govern it—today?
When I think about cancel culture, I like to think about the People Power revolution where Filipinos actively came together to say a collective “you’re cancelled” to a dictator and successfully took back their rights and sovereignty.
Kidding aside, I think it’s important for people to hold one another accountable—especially those in power. That being said, we can [also] help one another in doing so—and [I believe] those in influential positions must take up the duty of fostering integrity, honesty, equality and love.
The only part that irks me about this culture is that it’s become a means for some to derive a sort of misplaced moral superiority when it comes to things easily remedied. Inherent goodness should never be a competition—we should strive to be better people for the simple value of being better ourselves, not better than anyone else.
That being said, as aforementioned, certain cases are exempt from this leniency (extreme cases require extreme—but just and fair—measures). Please do immediately cancel all murderers, sexual predators, racists and corrupt officials.
But when it comes to [relatively] lesser [wrongs], we cannot resort to simply turning our backs on opportunities to help better individuals. To be overly critical of others instead of making the effort to try and understand contextually is irresponsible, selfish and an entirely entitled approach. People change. People grow. We are imperfect. It’s okay to be—so long as each one of us actively strives to be better.
Love as a Kind of Prayer
W: I went through a few works on your Wattpad account and on your Twitter account @kakiewrites and couldn’t help but note the overwhelming prevalence of love as their governing theme. What about love, as both a theme and an experience, makes it so worth writing about in this day and age?
One of my favorite writers, Simone Weil, said that attention taken to the highest degree is prayer. When I think of these sentiments, I think of love as a kind of prayer. I’m very religious, so I don’t necessarily mean this in the worship sense. What I mean to say is that love is earnest, unconditional and devoted—and we don’t pay attention to people because we love them, we love them because we’ve paid attention. To truly love involves extracting a portion of ourselves and dedicating it to the affection, consideration, perception and close observation of another.
It is universal. Sacred. Good. And it’s all I ever want, all I ever seek to convey. So yes, my writing is deliberately full of it, and it always will be. No one will ever be able to fully understand love, but it is my ambition to understand it as best I can. It’s the one thing which will ceaselessly remain worth writing for, with and about.
W: Who amongst all the characters in your Arkoverse would be most likely to: 1) make it as a Formula One driver, 2) be really, really into the Eraserheads and 3) be the most deeply immersed in the First Quarter Storm student activism movement?
- Make it as a Formula One driver: Oof. That’s a tough one. Arko won in Monaco from P13 but only because he cheated (just a little) and, without his magic, would’ve definitely failed miserably. Scarlett loves a fast car, she’s a quick driver and she’s an avid fan of the races, but single-seaters are really grueling and the level of commitment one has to have in order to succeed—no, the answer is Samantha Alvez, the actual F1 driver.
- Be really, really into the Eraserheads: I love this one because canonically, Eliza and Romeo are! Mio’s mixtapes would never be complete without a significant dose of Filipino music, but the Eraserheads were always their favorite. I think about this a lot that it’s embarrassing to be rambling about now. But seriously, that’s how Romeo really learned Filipino—he’d give Libby French lessons and then demand full translations of the songs. They raised Bash & Arko to love them, too, and Kailan is one of their songs!
- Be the most immersed in the First Quarter Storm activism movement: Let’s put it this way—the Cades would have never allowed Martial Law to have happened in the first place. But, let’s say it happened [in the] present-day [historical timeline]: Sebastían in all his lawful-goodness would be at the very front lines with Eliza and Arko following closely behind. Catapang-Delgados are rightfully patriotic like that.
W: In a newspaper review of your newest single Battlescars, your vocals were described as “husky” and “chilling.” How would you sum up your voice in your own words—vocally, musically, literarily, visually, otherwise?
I found it so difficult as a kid to come to terms with the fact that my voice was getting deeper and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. I taught myself to harmonize at first listen just so I could sing along to songs on the radio without immediately needing a Strepsil.
And then I heard Amy Winehouse and remembered all the great jazz singers who came before her like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald—all of whom had voices with power, depth and not just in the upper regions of their respective registers. I found it truly interesting that [the paper] said all those wonderful things because on Battlescars, I’m singing much higher up than I’m usually comfortable doing.
Biriteras have such grace and poise in their technique that I always felt extremely insecure about being unable to match that standard. But I think it’s always important to recognize that such insecurities can be sources of strength. I grew up a lot and realized my voice is more than its range—it’s what I do with it (both in the literal and figurative sense).
W: As a follow-up, I’m particularly intrigued by the line “veterans of our fathers’ wars.” What were the driving forces (or the meanings) behind the use of the words “veterans” and “wars?”
I remember incredibly distinctly when I wrote that line, which is why I’m surprised it’s the one you brought up. I was referring to personal wars as well as worldly ones. I meant that deep hurting is something we’ve all experienced. We hurt in relative ways, all equally valid. And on a more “big picture” note: Many of the world’s issues have been the same for our forefathers, our ancestors.
Poverty, inequality, polarizing politics—it’s all already in the history books. It always somehow finds a way to reemerge, and we are just as much affected by these “wars” as those who came before us. Which all means, then, that we are genetically and naturally destined to endure. We must.
– cute sounding
– angsty enough lang
– NOT TRANSPHOBIC
– genderless (aside from the ‘fathers’ wars’ line, because only men have started wars)
– now on spotify: https://t.co/LWc40L120N
— frankie pangilinan (@kakiep83) January 17, 2020
W: The internet as a space to share your fandoms and interests vs. the internet as grand marshall/shepherd for some “greater” political wokeness—which ultimately wins out, in your book?
I think it would be ultimately unhealthy were one to prevail over the other. Humanity is, to me, perceivable in two parts—the individual and the group. The internet is a wonderful place to communicate and share information on a scale so large that such a system may never be replicated again. We’re all magically connected, through both the joys and woes of life.
W: To end things on a lighter note, would it be alright if we asked you to write us a quick haiku in ode to Chicken McDo?
how blessed i am to know you
cursed are those who don’t.
Words Jedd Ong
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver