Abstract Marivi Soliven’s 2013 novel, The Mango Bride, depicts the intertwining stories of two Filipinas in a melodramatic plot of buried secrets and repressed pasts. The novel echoes other recent texts and films by Filipina/os about transnationalism, many of which have melodramatic structures. This article argues that melodrama is a useful mode of representing transnational Filipina/o life because it encapsulates a temporality of displacement and delay that reflects the technologically mediated community and alienated laboring subjects that constitute the transnational Filipina/o subject at the present juncture. Melodrama’s ethical worldview, as evidenced in Soliven’s novel, poses a challenge to contemporary globalization by positing a time-space beyond global capitalism and its mediations. However, The Mango Bride’s melodramatic arc is ultimately frustrated by how class inequalities in the Philippines and the global capitalist system of which they are a part disrupt the figure of a unitary subject who might otherwise achieve moral satisfaction through melodramatic redemption. This article extends contemporary Marxist interpretations of the time-space of capitalism by Noel Castree and Neferti Xina M. Tadiar to the field of genre studies, in an attempt to understand why diasporic Filipina/o fiction may opt for melodramatic excess in its representations of transnational life. Marivi Soliven’s 2013 novel The Mango Bride narrates the story of two Filipinas who find themselves forced to emigrate to the United States. As the novel slowly reveals, although they are unaware of each other’s existence and come from very different stations in life—one is exiled by her wealthy family due to an accidental pregnancy and covert abortion, while the other leaves due to economic hardship—they are cousins. While still a manuscript, The Mango Bride won the 2011 Palanca Award Grand Prize for the Novel, one of the most prestigious awards for literary novels by Filipina/os writing in English. In awarding the prize, Chief Judge J. Neil Garcia compared Soliven’s novel to the actual lives of the Philippine people as they are dispersed across the globe: “[I]n its unapologetic adherence to the conventions of a soap opera, [the novel] approaches, quite uncannily, both the actual and the imagined in Filipino/as’s unwittingly melodramatic lives” (qtd. in “Reviews”). Given that approximately one-tenth of the population of the Philippines (roughly nine to ten million people) is currently living and working abroad, the question of transnational affect and affections becomes a crucial point in how Filipina/os narrate their own lives.1 For Garcia, and by extension the Palanca jury, the affective life of the Filipina/o diaspora is melodramatic, although unintentionally so. Ben Singer outlines the conventional melodramatic plot of classic 1930s and 1940s Hollywood cinema as centering around a sympathetic heroine, . . . the pathos of misplaced love and obstructed marriage, generational friction and the pressures of filling an impossible maternal space, . . . the dignity and difficulties of female independence in the face of conventional small-mindedness and patriarchal stricture, and, above all else, the pathetic nobility of self-sacrifice. (38)The Mango Bride follows this outline almost perfectly, with one glaring exception: it has two sympathetic heroines. Although Singer’s description limits itself to narrative fiction, Garcia’s pronouncement suggests a mode of experience well beyond the merely cultural and, in doing so, approximates Christine Gledhill’s description of melodrama as a mode that refers “not only to a type of aesthetic practice but to a way of viewing the world” (1).2 Peter Brooks has argued that melodrama is typically a “drama of morality” that seeks to “‘prove’ the existence of a moral universe,” proof that became necessary with the secularization of society brought about by the French Revolution (20). Yet how did melodrama come to structure the experience of Filipina/o migration and transnationalism so thoroughly that it appears even without (and maybe even against) the will of those who experience life in this way? As I explore below, the melodramatic conventions of The Mango Bride and the worldview they embody rest on historical occlusions and deferred revelations. Soliven’s novel, with its nonlinear narrative, coincidences, revelations, and simultaneities, reveals that the “melodrama” of Filipina/o life results from the asynchronous temporality imposed by the entanglements of Philippine class society with globalized capitalism. The Mango Bride’s tight adherence to melodramatic conventions suggests a resolution based in the imposition of a moral justice that transcends the vagaries of quotidian life, but the novel never achieves such a resolution. The desire for a morally acceptable future forces the novel to break from generic conventions in order to demonstrate the impossibility of moral justice within a capitalist world system. Ultimately, The Mango Bride’s melodramatic arc is frustrated by how its transnational setting, premised on the entanglements of class inequalities in the Philippines and the global capitalist system of which they are a part, disrupts the figure of a unitary subject laboring in homogeneous time and space, a subject who could achieve moral satisfaction in their own life through melodramatic redemption. The Mango Bride, when it was published in the United States, was included in Penguin’s New American Library (NAL) Accents imprint. These novels are selected, according to the publisher’s copy, for how they “touch on subjects close to a woman’s heart, from friendship to family to finding our place in the world” (Soliven i). The NAL Accents imprint thus provides a window onto a world already coded with confusion and placelessness (“finding our place in the world”) and feminized affect (“a woman’s heart”). Yet, as commodities designed for and marketed to women (the “our” of the quotation above), titles under the NAL Accents imprint also specifically gender and mobilize female readers in the routes of capitalist exchange that structure the book’s own distribution and consumption.3 The NAL Accents version includes a discussion guide for book clubs with several questions about familial and romantic relationships and two questions about class and its role in the production of transnationalism. Neither of the questions regarding class offers any more information about existing class conditions in the Philippines or the United States than the scant information provided by the novel itself. The discussion guide’s lack of detail about the contemporary Philippine economy, combined with the fact that Soliven has become a popular speaker at fund-raising events in the United States for domestic violence prevention, suggests that the book is targeted at those who want to understand “the world” as a problem specifically of “a woman’s heart” rather than of the Philippine political economy and its relation to the United States. Francisco Benitez, discussing contemporary transnational narratives in Philippine cinema, links the consumption of narratives of overseas laborers to the production of the remittance economy on which the Philippines depends. According to Felipe Salvosa, up to 10 percent of the Philippine economy in 2014 came from remittances from Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). OFW has become a catch-all term for people with Philippine citizenship working abroad, usually on short- or long-term contracts, many of which have been orchestrated by successive Philippine governments since the 1970s.4 Benitez claims that by watching the experiences of fictional OFWs on film, Filipina/o audiences, especially OFWs, “apprehend and labor through images to both consume and create their narratives of subjection and subjectivity” (261). To the extent that this can be said of all narrative arts, the “unwittingly melodramatic lives” of Garcia’s judgment appear as likely to be the producers of melodramatic texts as to be represented in these narratives. The Mango Bride’s primary theme is, as the title suggests, marriage migration, not contract labor. However, as Andrea Lauser points out, “the multiplicity of roles as wives, mistresses, workers, mothers, daughters and citizens” that mail-order brides inhabit extends an analysis of their position into that of the OFW (88). As they labor on their own subjection and subjectivity, mail-order brides, like OFWs, are both the laborer and the commodity of a new type of productive system. Neferti Xina M. Tadiar demonstrates that these subjects are simultaneously “desubjectified living labor” and “the perfect commodity (indefinitely self-regenerating)” (Fantasy-Production 121). These similarities link marriage migrants to OFWs in more than superficial ways, as both are what could be called commodity-subjects in a transnational system that Tadiar names “fantasy-production.” Within a fully globalized market, as Stavros Tombazos writes, individual laborers should not be seen—as in classical economic theory—as drivers of market forces, but, instead, labor has become the subject, and “individuals (particular productive activities, and so on) are simply its organs” (29). Organically related to the global labor market and subsumed within its temporal logic, OFWs serving as domestic helpers “do not have time, they are time” (Tadiar, Fantasy-Production 123), in that they are exported as generalized labor rather than for the specific actions that they may perform as laborers. This is not to say that the activities of individual OFWs are not a part of their concrete experience, just that their exchange-value—the price their labor commands on the market—is based on their embodiment of abstract labor time rather than their skill in any given area. Thus, although they may perform myriad duties ranging from driving, childcare, sewing, tutoring, nursing, and sex-work, for example, the determination of their wages is based on the presumption that this work is fillable by any laborer regardless of training. Through the global marketing of their bodies as abstract labor power, OFWs experience the condensation of both particular (useful) labor and abstract labor (laber power) in their own body.5 In this manner, the consciousness of OFWs—and by Lauser’s extension, that of the mail-order bride as well—marks the historical shifts of labor time that constitute the present era of transnational capital, aided by technological methods of communication that render global distances immediately traversable. However, although their labor may be easily replaceable, their affective ties remain stubbornly individualized. Ann Cvetkovich argues that nineteenth-century American melodrama helped structure women’s affective lives as both a symptom of and the solution to their complex social relations, including the spheres of politics and labor. More recently, Sara Ahmed theorizes how a social collective can be constituted into “being” through the projection of “feeling” onto others and, in particular, how “love”—one of the primary emotions registered in melodramas such as The Mango Bride—simultaneously evokes hope and nostalgia for a unitary nation in the face of a perceived threat (131). For Filipina/os living in the diaspora and those left behind, popular narratives of love and loss embody the oscillation between the futurity of hope and the pastness of nostalgia that link them temporally to the (national) collective from which they remain spatially distant. This may be the reason for melodrama’s “unwitting” (to cite Garcia’s praise of The Mango Bride) role in Filipina/o life. At our contemporary historical juncture, melodrama is nothing less than the individual’s experience of desires for the future and longing for the past compressed within abstracted time as measured by contracts, calendars, and clocks. The “excesses” typically associated with melodrama (in comparison to realism’s economy of expression) represent the experiential life of the contemporary commodity-subject, where “a fusion between labour and (abstract) time” coincides with “a fusion of the moment of production and the moment of appropriation” under conditions of transnational displacement and shared affect (Martineau 122).6 In other words, Filipina/o life becomes melodramatically excessive because of the condensation of time that Filipina/os experience through life and labor as a part of a nation where a tenth of the population is always living and working abroad. If narratives of the nation and the realist novel both share what Benedict Anderson calls “homogeneous empty time” (24), The Mango Bride’s thematic, rather than chronological, organization and its two protagonists’ recursive and overlapping diegesis record the failures of realist exposition to represent accurately the individual experience of transnationalism. The first focal point of the story is Amparo Guerrero, who is exiled to the United States because of an abortion that her lover manipulates her into having. Later, readers find out that Amparo’s maternal uncle, Aldo Duarté, was exiled to the States for a child his lover did give birth to, Beverly Obejas, the other protagonist of the novel.7 Beverly, who lives in poverty, is secretly sustained by hush money from Amparo’s family but decides to escape her meager existence by signing up for Filipina Sweethearts, an international matchmaking service catering to white male clientele from Australia, Europe, and the United States. Beverly gets engaged to a former US Marine named Josiah and moves to within a few blocks of Amparo’s apartment in Oakland, California. After she gives birth to their only child, Josiah begins to beat her. In the climax, Amparo, who works for a telephone interpretation service, receives Beverly’s 9-1-1 call in which she can be heard threatening Josiah with a gun. Recognizing her voice and knowing that she lives close by (although not knowing of their familial relationship), Amparo drops the phone and runs to help her, only to arrive too late: Josiah and Beverly have killed each other. When Amparo tries to help the investigating detective get in touch with Beverly’s only surviving family, she realizes that Beverly’s aunt, Marcela, is Amparo’s former nanny, and all the secrets that have led to the tragedy come pouring out of the various relatives. Meanwhile, in the final twist that returns to the very first sentence of the novel, Beverly’s aunt, who is still a housekeeper for the Guerrero/Duarté clan, stabs Amparo’s mother over having kept the secrets so long that it cost her niece her life. This nonfatal injury is largely ignored, however, since no one in the family much cares for Amparo’s mother, and they all live as happily ever after as they can. The losses that every woman in the Guerrero/Duarté clan experiences link them to each other through what Lauren Berlant diagnoses as melodrama’s tendency to locate “the human in a universal capacity to suffer” (6). Representing this universality, as Sheetal Majithia argues for postcolonial melodramatic cinema, depends in large part on multi-temporality. This is most obvious in The Mango Bride through Amparo’s interpreting job. In the diegetic present from which a proliferation of flashbacks spin off, Amparo is shown constantly shifting between time zones as she interprets both simultaneously to the telephonic Other and asynchronically (in geochronic terms) to people in remote locations. As a telephone interpreter, she receives calls over the course of the novel from Oakland; Manila; Athens, Georgia; and several unnamed locations. In fact, our first introduction to Amparo occurs when her brother calls her with the news of their mother’s stabbing. She blurts out: “What time is it in Manila?” (Soliven 22). The succession of interruptions, unanswered questions, and vague allusions that punctuate the following conversation can be seen as the inability for them to “catch-up” to each other across the fifteen interceding time zones that separate them. Contrastingly, but no less intrusively, Amparo is yanked from an interpretive call with an unnamed location back to her apartment in Oakland by the mechanicity of a kitchen timer, reminding her to transfer her laundry (26). As Noel Castree comments, “Clock time has the capacity, internal to itself, of measuring difference by way of a metrical unity” (41). Every moment is identical to the ones preceding and subsequent to it, and such homogeneity provides the experiencing subject the capacity to reflect on its history and propose alternative futures. While Castree uses this claim to pry open how abstract time creates surplus value in capitalism through competitive differentiation in the production process (that is, how abstract labor time is deployed differently across competing individual capitals), Soliven highlights how this internally differentiated unity becomes the basis for the conditions of affective labor in the present era. In other words, as the OFWs' concrete labor time is measured in days and weeks in places such as Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, or Los Angeles, the product of their labor (the commodity) unifies their labor time (as abstract labor) while also folding into it the historical trajectories that have deposited them there, including Euro-American colonialism and local postcolonial oligarchies in the Philippines; personal and familial needs and desires that have compelled the commodification of individual labor; and the accumulations of capital and natural resources that have endowed certain sites with the means of purchasing labor on an international market. The clock time maintained by the kitchen timer in Oakland thus condenses multiple times—including the accumulation of capital in the Guerrero/Duarté clan that allowed Amparo to live alone and work at home, Amparo’s own labor time, and the time of the telephonic Other—all of which are tied to a fantasy of homogeneous time that the kitchen timer embodies. Amparo’s experience of time is therefore not of an individual subject who traverses differently marked temporalities but of a node of converging and—more importantly—collectively forged times. She does not exist in California alone but also and differently for a social worker in Georgia, for an automobile club member in an unnamed location, for her fellow apartment dwellers in Oakland—who “would likely cut the line and dump [their] wash in the dryer first” if she did not respond immediately to the kitchen timer (Soliven 26)—and for her brother in Manila. The temporal quality of her transnationalism is part of what prevents her life from being a mere question of cosmopolitanism, where the individual traverses temporalities and geographies of their own volition.8 The way in which she constructs her world is “always already collective in its structure but in a manner that is prior to and cannot be reduced to cosmopolitanism” (Cheah 104). Amparo’s time is constructed with the multiple Others with whom she interacts phantasmatically, as a presence not fully present, mediated by telephonic technology and urban proximity. The collective construction of the lifeworld of diasporic Filipina/os thus appears outside of their individual intentionality. This becomes obvious in The Mango Bride when, after dinner with her uncle one night, “the inevitable wistfulness for home crept over Amparo. Nostalgia always hit after she’d spent time with her sole link to the family in Manila” (Soliven 31). Here, nostalgia is both accidental and familial in nature. Amparo’s visit with her uncle provides the conditions for homesickness to arise, although neither of them will this into existence. Benito Vergara, in his study of the Filipina/o and Filipina/o American community of Daly City, California (twenty miles from Amparo’s fictional apartment in Oakland), states that in his interviews with immigrants to the United States, memories were “unwillingly pulled up to the surface only at inopportune (or unfortunate) moments” (47). Homesickness is therefore not “a positive act of recollection, of active longing,” but is instead “an uncontrollable remembering of an undetermined set of associations” that come from “outside one’s self” (174). Nostalgia for home is an evocation of another world, both alternate and lost, to that of the diasporic present, a predicate of experience that nonetheless has been effaced from consciousness. Homesickness is thus brought about by objects that have traveled the globe and remind the diasporic subject of her “home.” At the same time that they evoke homesickness, these objects (including persons) also assuage it, according to Vergara, by bringing the past into the present (177). Vergara’s research posits homesickness as an unintended consequence of the travel of bodies and objects in transnational space. Through homesickness, the diasporic subject returns symbolically to a homeland purified of the dynamics of the transnational present by the chilling effects of nostalgia. Homesickness at once consolidates the transnational subject’s belonging to their diasporic landing site and performs a version of the native land shot through with an imagined past. Amparo’s ultimate return to the Philippines reveals how her transnationalism is only possible as a result of the severing of her cousin Beverly’s connections. After all, Amparo only returns to Manila after Beverly is killed at the hands of the latter’s husband, a death distressingly common among Filipina mail-order brides (Rosca). The fact that Beverly’s death prompts Amparo’s return suggests that Amparo can only successfully navigate the transnational field by revealing the secrets that her family holds as objects of national belonging. Such a plot suggests that the economic inequality that forces Beverly to leave the Philippines requires a “fix” in the United States, the “land of Oprah’s confessional tales” (Soliven 29). The return to the Philippines’s former imperial metropole is what allows the past to be resurrected and reconciled. The problem is that this reconciliation affords uneven redemption: although Amparo’s mother, Concha (Duarté) Guerrero, is lightly stabbed, none of the Guerrero/Duarté clan that had enabled Beverly’s poverty is legally punished, nor do any of them suffer the violent deaths visited on both Beverly and her mother, Clara, who is killed by a train that runs next to an open-air plant market. The lack of utopic comeuppance for oppressive forces makes The Mango Bride seem an unsatisfying melodrama since the melodramatic narrative typically relies on a stark moral vision. Manichean morality has been at the center of melodrama since it gained popularity after the French Revolution of 1789. As modernity moved away from the consecrated values of the church, and social roles no longer contained the assurance of moral clarity that they once had, melodrama proposed “the existence of a moral universe which, though put into question, masked by villainy and perversions of judgment, does exist and can be made to assert its presence and its categorical force among men” (Brooks 20). Most scholars therefore explain the moral polarization of melodrama as a means to convey “the stark insecurities of a modern life in which people found themselves ‘helpless and unfriended’ in a post-sacred, postfeudal, ‘disenchanted’ world of moral ambiguity and material vulnerability” (Singer 132).9 The hidden moral universe of melodrama provides a compass for subject formation, forming the self through orientation to a spectral image that operates in a world beyond this one, an ideal of moral purity and action. Through the values of honesty and transparency, the self is exposed to the assessment of (also presumed-to-be morally pure) Others, redeeming the audience by cleansing them of secular anxiety. To admit the existence of a morally ideal self would require Amparo to recognize her privileged position in the global economy since this positioning compromises her ability to justify her life. She achieves this during the phone call in which she tells Marcela about Beverly’s death, when she finally acknowledges that Beverly is her cousin. Amparo’s sudden realization feels like “layer upon layer of scaffolding fall[ing] away from the pedigree her mother and grandparents had worked a life to uphold. The exalted Duarté image had been no more than a scrim for years of deceit” (Soliven 311). This acknowledgement strips away the pretense of honor in which her family had shrouded themselves. By revealing Amparo’s uncle’s, mother’s, and grandparents’ roles in covering over their own history of crimes, Marcela tears away the false ideal of the “real” world to expose the corruption at its base. The exposure of this dishonor is ultimately what allows Amparo to return to the Philippines with Beverly’s daughter, unafraid of scandal as the past is no longer secret. Amparo’s return also reveals the unbridgeable difference between two migrant subjects, which cannot be resolved through recourse to diasporic longing, homesickness, or the identity politics of being Filipina. Amparo’s phone call across the ocean links the radical dissimilarities of her and Beverly’s respective presents in the United States to the originary crime of inequality in the archipelago. Beverly, the victim of this original crime, continues to be punished, including in her death, while Amparo—who benefits unwittingly from Beverly’s poverty, as it maintains the respectability of the Duarté image—is provided with the means to redeem her own honor by caring for Beverly’s orphaned child. Aldo Duarté’s original sin helped form the identity of Amparo and Beverly around a sedimentation of secrets maintained through the stark divide between rich and poor. The division of classes is exemplified when Beverly—who is described as looking like her mother, a former servant of the Duartés (112-13)—bumps into Concha (Duarté) Guerrero, Amparo’s mother, at a party where Beverly works as a server, and Concha fails to recognize her niece. Thus, when Marcela decides to stab Concha, it is because “three generations of Obejas women [including Beverly’s daughter, Claire] turned invisible for the greater glory of the Duarté clan” (316). Beverly’s invisibility suggests that the poor operate in a world completely other to that of the rich, even when these worlds intersect. Beverly even calls it “a parallel universe” (102). These incompatible worlds could be described, as Allan Punzalan Isaac does in relation to Filipina/o American texts, as “colonized spaces” that are “the product of imperial sedimentation and the continual interplay of histories.” Much like “the tensile plurality of temporalities” that traverses colonized spaces (American 14), Amparo is sheltered and Beverly oppressed in near equal measure by a variety of hidden and ambiguous histories whose layered effects seem to operate both simultaneously and retroactively. This plurality is the result of the uneven development fostered by the Spanish and US empires that dominated Philippine society from the sixteenth through the twentieth centuries.10 That it took living in the United States to reveal Beverly’s and Amparo’s common histories in the Philippines is itself a condensation of the out-of-sync nature of global development since it is only with that distance that their own pasts come into focus (although, crucially, only for Amparo, as I discuss below). The physical and chronological proximity of Beverly and Amparo once they move to California belies a social distance shaped by the class stratification of their Philippine homeland. Soliven captures this spatial friction shortly after Amparo first meets her secret cousin in a grocery store. Amparo sees Beverly’s face covered with bruises and speculates that it is the result of the latter’s husband. When Amparo returns home, she wonders aloud to her boyfriend, “Who even knows how anyone decides on a partner anyway? Sometimes I think the person you get depends on the luck of the draw. I could have ended up in Beverly’s shoes” (Soliven 263). Of course, she could not because the two are in the United States for different reasons: Amparo to avoid bringing the shame and scandal of her abortion on the Guerrero/Duarté clan and Beverly because of the poverty resulting from a secretive birth to a Duarté. While the reasons appear to mirror each other, it is crucial to note that while Amparo’s exile comes as the result of a combination of her own choices, biological contingencies, and patriarchal manipulations, Beverly’s migration is simply the result of being born into persistent poverty. Amparo’s invocation of “luck” as the primary cause of their differing fates ignores the fundamental asymmetry of their origins. While Amparo is oblivious, Beverly is enraged: Envy began to fester in Beverly’s gut as she paid for her mangoes. How was it possible, she wondered, for Amparo to have piled so many mangoes into her basket without a thought to the expense, as though she didn’t care that a whole roasting chicken could be had for the same price, as if she never worried about money? Had Amparo simply chosen a better man? Feeling cheated, Beverly turned homeward. (267) From her position of structural lack of privilege, Beverly sees the reason for their differing fates as choice rather than luck. Although this reduces the complexity of Amparo’s situation, Beverly’s basic perception is accurate: Amparo’s wealth allows her to choose her affective relations, first with the mestizo Filipino Matéo, by whom she becomes pregnant, and then with Seamus, a white man in California, whom she meets in a yoga studio. Beverly, on the other hand, seems to have no interaction with single men until Josiah selects her from among a catalog of photos.11 Their differing means of encountering romance reveal the difference in their position vis-a-vis the global capitalist economy. Amparo, which is Spanish for “shelter,” is sheltered from the most pernicious effects (and affects) of globalization. While Beverly meets Josiah through mechanical reproduction and transportation technologies, Amparo meets Seamus in the serenity of the yoga studio, a space that purports to remove the mediations between the self and the body and therefore to de-mediate experience. Wealth and love are therefore figured as a question of opportunity or, as Beverly calls it at an earlier point in the novel, “[a]ccess. That was what being with a wealthy man guaranteed. Access to the better life her mother had promised” (145). Money and gender are thus entwined in their realization of deferred futures (“the better life her mother had promised”). In the final, climactic chapters, the novel plays out her suspicions about Amparo’s having “access” through wealth, as Beverly and Josiah kill each other while Seamus accompanies Amparo on the homecoming trip that will introduce Beverly’s daughter, Claire, to Beverly’s aunt, Marcela. The irremediable difference between two daughters of the same wealthy Filipina/o clan (one illegitimate, one legitimate) manifests itself most painfully in Amparo’s surrogation of Beverly. In fostering and proposing to adopt Claire, Amparo will replace her impoverished cousin completely in the affections of Marcela, who served as a second mother to both cousins. When Amparo calls her former servant Marcela to act as interpreter for the police, she finally realizes the historical connections between herself and Beverly that mark her and Beverly as both the same and different. As the news is relayed to Marcela that Beverly was killed two days earlier, the nanny/aunt responds with, “Imposiblé . . . I just got a letter from her last week. Mali ka—you are mistaken, that must be someone else” (310). The impossibility for Marcela of Beverly’s death hinges on the distinct timeframes of the two locations as they are bridged by differing modes of technology. The transportation technology that carries letters and the telephonic technology that carries voices operate at different rates, the former linking last week’s Philippines to the present United States and the latter linking the present United States to a Philippines fifteen hours ahead. These technologies shatter the sense of homogeneous time on which capitalism relies to regulate global markets even as they enable this time. The technologies that allow Amparo to contact Marcela here also provide the remittances that continue to supply the Philippine economy. Curiously, the remittance economy is never mentioned in Soliven’s novel. Instead, Amparo and Beverly experience a “tensile plurality of temporalities” (Isaac 14) produced through technological mediation, and their present presence in the United States remains riven by the fractures of a time lived unequally by “access.” In fact, the climax of the novel demands the plurality of Amparo’s own time to make its point, as her work’s distribution of her labor across the globe leaves her unsure of the proximity of the call she receives to translate for Beverly, who lives only a few minutes from her. At this point, it is not the comfortable distance of her telephonic job but the surprising proximity of their two residences that brings the climax to its logical conclusion. A vivid reminder of how this asynchrony maintains the current capitalist infrastructure is the empty jar previously filled with bagoong (fermented shrimp paste), in which Beverly keeps the tips she earns as a waitress. The jar was sent full of bagoong by Marcela, but when Beverly tries to cook with the shrimp paste, “inhaling the scent of remembered feasts” (Soliven 269), Josiah is infuriated, and he dumps “that crap” (his words) down the sink (271). Beverly rinses the jar out with vinegar and uses it to store money for taking her and her daughter to the Philippines to escape her husband’s abuse. When Josiah discovers the secret jar full of money, he hurls it at a pantry door. Beverly witnesses this action with “the odd sensation of time slowing down as the jar left his hand, hurled in a wide arc over the counter and crashed into the bead-board panel, spraying broken glass and dollar bills on the kitchen floor” (301). The conjuncture of hoarded money and slowed-down time is the congealing of Beverly’s affective labor. Hoarded money, as Castree points out, “is dysfunctional for capitalism because it is money no longer contributing to accumulation” (44). Investments, the “temporal fix” of capitalism, take on double time in contemporary finance capital, as the credit system “translate[s] the present into long-term returns” that can be resold simultaneously as derivatives on the market (47). In Soliven’s novel, the double time is not that of derivative sales but of a lost future that Beverly hopes to regain.12 The money jar—the “dream jar,” as Beverly’s daughter Claire calls it (Soliven 292)—is a dream precisely because it removes Beverly’s labor from the circuits of capital. Neither bearing interest nor actively deployed in the consumption of commodities, these “dreams” remain in reserve against the future and, therefore, are no longer trapped in the multi-temporality of finance capital. The dream jar freezes the abstract time of labor into a highly localized space, a washed-out jar of bagoong sent to her in the United States from her aunt in the Philippines. Beverly retrieves her labor from the circuits of capital by hoarding her tips, which were earned through the affective labor that waitressing calls forth in excess of its wages. Beverly’s hoarding symbolizes one of the primary problems of capital within contemporary financial capitalism: when capital (the object of accumulation) is not actively being exchanged, it places capitalism (the system of accumulation) in crisis. Interest is introduced as an instrument to liberate congealed capital—in the form of infrastructural investments, start-up costs, savings, and the like—into the circuits of exchange once more, “converting the fluidity of money into long-term commitments where the financial returns to investors are realized over many years, not weeks or months” (Castree 46). Investment appears to ward against accumulations that are bad for capitalism, such as hoarding. Yet by hoarding, as Walter Benn Michaels has pointed out, it is not that one withdraws oneself from the cycle of exchange, precisely, “because in a money economy, the power of money to buy can never be denied” (144). What Beverly is buying by hoarding her money is a possible future that would resemble her past: living in the Philippines, free of abuse, although now with another generation of fatherless Filipinas to reproduce the cycle. Yen Le Espiritu has examined how what she calls the “imagined return” continues to tether the United States and the Philippines together for immigrants and their descendants. In Home Bound: Filipino American Lives across Cultures, Communities, and Countries (2003), Espiritu explains her interviewing methodology by stating that “[p]eople who relocate carry with them not only their physical belongings but also their memories.” This allows “both actual transnational activities . . . and imagined returns to one’s native home” to structure the experience of migration as “both a literal and a symbolic transnationalism” (11). In The Mango Bride, Beverly’s connections to her homeland (mangoes, as in the scene mentioned above, or the developing of photographs of her and Claire to send to Marcela [Soliven 248]) are exchanged for the hope of avoiding Josiah’s physical abuse. Both the consumption of mangoes and her deprivation of them symbolically return her back in time to the Philippines, where low wages had prevented her from making desired purchases (120). The money that goes into the jar instead of into the enjoyment of mangoes buys the assurance of her corporeal survival in the present, while material privation now recalls the privations of the past. Two sides of the same coin are revealed in Amparo’s expenditure on mangoes and Beverly’s hoarding of tips since both are purchases of a lost future. These actions appear, at first, to be a part of the same world since, as Pheng Cheah reminds us, the world “is originally a temporal category” (2). He continues: “A world only is and we are only worldly beings if there is already time. The unity and permanence of a world are thus premised on the persistence of time” (2). However, where Amparo’s purchase of the mangoes contributes to the continued flow of money and, therefore, her continued need to work in the United States—a persistence in capitalist time—Beverly seeks to break the circuit and return herself to a Philippines where capital accumulation was (for her) impossible. Beverly sees her parsimony now as a purchasing of future memories of bagoong, her future no longer a future but a reclaimed past. To this extent, time does not persist in her world the way it does in Amparo’s. Amparo’s future redeems the present; Beverly’s future reclaims the past. The Guerrero/Duarté clan’s transnational life thus breaks apart at the place it seems most cohesive. The asynchrony between the United States and the Philippines, between the past and the future, seems to condemn the cousins (and those of us in the United States engaged in the transnational flow of capital—goods, bodies, ideas, and affect) to an inequality even greater than that left behind in the Philippines. A time-space that is neither linear nor simultaneous lies between the secrets of the archipelago and the revelations of the United States. When the detective assigned to investigate Beverly’s death asks for Amparo’s help in contacting the mail-order bride’s family in the islands, Soliven encapsulates this “tensile plurality of temporalities” (Isaac, American 14). Detective Fujitani asks Amparo if “[i]t’s morning over there now,” to which Amparo responds, “Manila’s fifteen hours ahead of us, so it should be around seven a.m. on Monday” (Soliven 307). Although this exchange is nominally about the clock time in differing time zones, it harbors a more affective question, as Fujitani reveals when he follows up with a question about whether it is “[t]oo early for bad news?” (308). While he asks about the calendrical time in the Pacific archipelago, his real concern is if it is an acceptable moment in which to create a new time-space of immediacy between the two countries. The time-space that he opens forces a revelation of secrets that have been hidden by the geospatial differences of “here” and “there.”13 This time-space is created at the moment that the number is dialed, and, through a technological miracle, “[m]oments later a phone rang on the other side of the world” (308). In this sentence, space is annihilated by time, an essential concept in Marxist critiques of capitalism.14 At the same time, this annihilation does not release humans from the exploitation of technocapitalism but saturates their affective lives more thoroughly with the police state and telecommunications companies. Life and death are both exploited by the dependence for their social existence on the phone line. Marcela’s first response on the other end—”Why are you calling so early in the morning? What time is it there?” (309)—demands a response to the creation of a new, transnational world premised on the simple question, “Why?” Marcela’s question does not refer to motive but to ontology and could be rephrased as, “Why are we here, together, now?” The answer is, of course, grief. However, the saturation of even death with the global capitalist system is redeemed, if only briefly, by Marcela. After hearing of Beverly’s death during this same phone call, the reader is told that “Marcela’s wail stretched across an ocean.” Her cries of “Ahayyyyy Diyos ko. Anak ko. My God. My child” bridge the immeasurable gulf of time and space through the shared sense of awa, compassion (310). Compassion transcends the time-space barriers of calendrical time through the cry of loss, a loss that Amparo begins to feel as well, now that she understands her relation to Beverly and Claire. At the moment that Amparo becomes fully capable of understanding her own past, Marcela’s cry can stretch across the ocean. When Marcela’s cry shatters Amparo’s family-induced amnesia, there is, for however brief a moment, a shared time between the poor maid, Marcela, and the wealthy exile, Amparo. This recalls the Philippine anthropologist Albert Alejo’s ontology of the self, which emphasizes the mutuality of subject formation: “Kapag binuksan ko ang aking abot-malay sa kalagayan ng iba, isinasalang ko na rin ang aking abot-dama sa talab ng tinig ng iba” (“When I have opened the reach of my consciousness up to the position of the Other, I allow my sense-awareness to be grazed by the cutting-effect of the voice of the Other”) (93; my translation; emphasis added). Phone calls and letters conflate different times even as they cross them. However, in this phone call between Amparo and Marcela, a shared experience of grief (pagkaawa/pakikiramay) comes into being at the moment of Amparo’s recognition of Beverly’s claims on her, of Beverly’s position in her world. The shared nature of this experience, which is encapsulated in the prefix pakiki- (“joining in”) of the Tagalog word pakikiramay (“joining in grief”), is delivered by the voice of the Other in the wail that “cuts into” (talab) Amparo’s consciousness. What cuts is the demand of Amparo that she take Beverly’s role as caregiver to Claire and provide shelter (amparo) to the future generation. Although this cut comes from the voice of Marcela, it comes without the specific agency or intention of the nanny. Amparo’s own self-knowledge makes these demands on her, but it is a self-knowledge that is constituted immediately and causally by the wordless wail telephonically transmitted. Amparo comes into full awareness of her own position only by being cut open by the absolute otherness of this voice. What this reading elides, of course, is that by taking Beverly’s place, Amparo has nominally traded fates with Beverly by becoming the mother of Claire. The crucial distinction, which Beverly draws in the market before her death, is that Amparo has chosen this life because of her “access” (Beverly’s word), while Beverly’s “luck” (Amparo’s word) remains just that: unchosen, unthought, senseless. In this, one can see how the melodramatic mode defined by Manichaean moralities is, despite Brooks’s assessment, incapable of expressing all of the social and political divisions that structure its appearance in Filipina/o diasporic fiction such as The Mango Bride. Brooks’s landmark description of melodrama includes a “desire to express all,” which appears to be “a fundamental characteristic of the melodramatic mode. Nothing is spared because nothing is left unsaid” (4). Certainly, The Mango Bride attempts to account for all of the perverse normalcies of its world: the gendered access to medical and legal discourses, the racialized technologies of communication, even the class-coded linguistic registers (Tagalog and English for the poor, English and Spanish for the wealthy). Ultimately, however, the class origins of these two characters determine their fates more than their gender, race, or even nationality (although the relationship between class, gender, race, and nationality forms a tight weave in this novel). Amparo is able to return to the Philippines precisely because she has now absorbed her classed Other into her own familial line. This ending can be read as elitist, where the redemption of the migrant subject is achieved through the elimination of political economy from transnational consciousness by the absorption of class difference within a singular identity defined by “honor” (the discussion guide questions mentioned above encourage this interpretation). Such a reading would depend on Amparo identifying with Beverly in “a process whereby an individual subject is constituted and transformed by means of a trait on the model of the other” (Tadiar, Things 109), the classic psychoanalytic definition of identification.15 However, Tadiar has suggested an alternative form of identifying gleaned from the series of poems titled “Mga Liham ni Pinay” (“Letters”) by Ruth Elynia S. Mabanglo. These poems, each structured as a letter from Pinay (an alternate term for “Filipina”) from various sites in which there are large populations of OFWs, offer an “involvement of a life in the lives of others [that] is no longer to be understood as a form of identification. It is better understood as a form of suffering or passion, which is not a property or action of a subject but precisely a process of subjectivation within the larger movement it helps bring about” (Tadiar, Things 120). In other words, Amparo does not replace Beverly but rather the latter’s death forces Amparo to realize her own implication in the movement that brought about that death. Amparo returns to the Philippines with Claire not because Beverly’s death frees her from exile but because it places new obligations on her, retrospectively, to redeem the world. This plural reading remains and must remain unresolved, despite the melodramatic desire to tidy up all tensions. If Beverly’s death is a passion, the redemption with which Amparo is now obligated is not yet discharged at the end of the novel. In fact, it might always be deferred until a future in which a classless society can be achieved in the Philippines. It should not surprise us that the classed implications of these characters’ origins follow them to the United States, as it is in this persistence that the US empire’s role in the production of contemporary Philippine society becomes clear. Like race in the nineteenth-century US melodramas about which Susan Gillman writes (unsurprisingly, while the United States was consolidating its overseas empire in the Philippine archipelago), class-based aspects of this melodrama remain “textually excessive: endlessly repeated yet unassimilable, defying all plot and thematic devices of containment, resolution, or closure” (17). The class antagonism of The Mango Bride, which sets the plot in motion, is not resolved but rather deferred. The Obejas line does not advance up the class hierarchy as a result of Claire’s adoption; it has simply been absorbed unevenly into the Guerrero/Duarté family. The class divisions that overdetermined Claire’s proposed legal joining of the Guerrero/Duarté clan (although she had, of course, already been a biological part of it) must remain unclear. In the end, the question is whether Claire sheds her Obejas heritage to become an elite Duarté or whether Amparo’s adoption of the Obejas girl symbolizes Amparo’s own absorption into a more egalitarian Philippine nation. Inverting imperial models of diffusion, The Mango Bride stages class conflict as something exported from the Philippines to the United States. Soliven’s novel exposes marriage migration as a form of labor migration appropriate to the production of a new “transnational laboring race-class” (Tadiar, Things 136), for whom “the double-hold of lunggati/pighati (yearning/grief)” that sets migration in motion is folded into melodrama’s alternate world of moral certainty (138).16The Mango Bride’s finale opens up an uncertain future for members of this race-class while exposing the moral contradiction that adheres at the core of a migration wave that cuts across class lines. This openness is only revealed by melodrama’s Manichean worldview, for Amparo’s salvation is tainted by moral compromise. If the opposition that appears to animate this novel is between Beverly’s “luck” and Amparo’s “access,” the absolute openness and flatness of the melodramatic text—a world of Manichean morality, exposed secrets, and the “desire to express all” (Brooks 4)—reveals that Amparo is equally unable to control her environment. Her “choice” of Seamus incorporates norms of racialized and gendered labor and romance.17 Her original travel to the United States was caused by the oppressive moral and legal regime against women’s sexuality in the Philippines.18 In fact, the casual and surprising proximity of the two women’s lives comes about despite the polarization of their class positions; they see or interact with each other on at least four occasions—at a party at Amparo’s home where Beverly is a server, at a pool on the roof of a Manila hotel to which Beverly’s friend sneaks her and where Amparo’s boyfriend is a member, at the Berkeley grocery store where Amparo buys many mangoes to Beverly’s one, and in the climactic scene where Amparo tries to save Beverly from her abusive husband. Although at first glance they appear to have parallel lives, it turns out that their lives intersect repeatedly in ways that further reinforce their differences. These intersections suggest that within the contemporary cultural-capital landscape the subject is a false focal point. Melodrama’s desire for the redemption of the individual against an oppressive society misconceives the possibility of extracting singular activities from the reifying effects of (abstract) clock time, which produces the simultaneity of Amparo’s and Beverly’s lives in a manner that saves the former and subjugates the latter. Through the dual focalization of these characters, the reader experiences time as a multitude of temporalities all bound up together in abstract time—that is, the time of the experience of exchange-value production. What matters in The Mango Bride is how a mutual constitution of space and time that can be named “transnational” structures the possibility of a future community free of class antagonism and buried secrets through liberation from the homogenization of time-space on which global capital depends. Footnotes 1. Martin Manalansan goes so far as to say that “[f]eelings and emotions circulate and are the passageways and vessels for the flow of capital and the buttressing of the nation” (2). Allan Punzalan Isaac notes the uncertainty about the number of those in the Philippine diaspora (“In” 23n3). 2. Here I bypass the debate about whether melodrama is a mode or a genre. The application of melodrama as a category in J. Neil Garcia’s quote suggests something well beyond the capacity of a genre, as it is also a form of lived experience, and so I assume it is something closer to the “way of viewing the world” to which Christine Gledhill refers (1). For an overview of this debate and an argument of melodrama as a “cluster concept” with particular formal features, see Ben Singer (37-58). 3. See Ann Cvetkovich’s discussion of how the “sensational novel” came to occupy a distinct place in nineteenth-century commodity culture (13-23). 4. For an overview of the governmental institutions involved in this export, see Robyn Magalit Rodriguez. 5. On the role that abstract (clock) time plays in the production of abstract labor-power from concrete labor activities, see Jonathan Martineau (113-21). 6. On melodramatic excess, see Singer (39-40). 7. It is worth noting that some Filipina/o politicians, such as former senate president Juan Ponce Enrile, have linked resistance to legal birth control in the Philippines to a desire to continue the remittance economy: Ang pinakamalaking export natin is OFW (overseas Filipino workers). Export iyan eh, kaya ako kontra ako sa RH [Reproductive Health Bill] dahil diyan. Ang magpapalago ng bansa natin ay iyong excess population natin na sinanay natin na tumatanggap ng mga trabaho abroad that others don’t want to handle. [Our biggest export is OFWs. That is export. That’s why I’m against RH. What will improve our economy is the excess population that is used to accepting jobs that others don’t want to handle.] (qtd. in Macaraig; her translation) 8. This formulation sidesteps many of the thornier issues of cosmopolitanism as outlined, for example, by Pheng Cheah and Bruce Robbins. Although I do not wish to reduce the philosophical history of cosmopolitanism too glibly, the following quotation from a recent work by Cheah suggests the volitional and agent-oriented epistemology of the concept: “Cosmopolitanism is about viewing oneself as part of a world, a circle of political belonging that transcends the limited ties of kinship and country to embrace the whole of deterritorialized humanity. However, since one cannot see the universe, the world, or humanity, the cosmopolitan optic is not one of perceptual experience” (3; emphasis added). 9. For similar accounts of the secular origins of melodrama, see Gledhill and Wimal Dissanayake. 10. The bibliography on this uneven economic development is immense, and I will only cite here a few prominent works: from the Philippine nationalist perspective, see the work of Renato Constantino and Letizia R. Constantino; more recently, from outside perspectives, see the collections of Alfred W. McCoy and Francisco A. Scarano and of María Dolores Elizalde and Josep M. Delgado. 11. For the structure of the Filipina Sweethearts dating service, see Soliven (160-64). A real website called Filipina Sweet Hearts.com appears to be a dating service designed for Filipinas and foreign men to meet, although, as the front matter of The Mango Bride indicates, any similarity of the novel to real organizations is “entirely coincidental” (iv). It is worth noting that mail-order bride services are illegal under Philippine Republic Act 6955, which became law in 1990 (Congress of the Philippines). Despite this law, online “pen-pal” and matchmaking services based in the Philippines and elsewhere in Southeast Asia continue to facilitate relationships between Filipinas and white men. 12. The sense of a lost future is even more pronounced in the Planeta translation titled Hace una eternidad, en Manila (An Eternity Ago, in Manila). 13. The difference in date is likewise an artificial convention without official sanction (Barrows 121). 14. Noel Castree has pointed out how Marx’s emphasis on time has led subsequent Marxist theorists to neglect space (29-32). Symptomatically, Cheah claims that the global mode of production, at which The Mango Bride hints, “destroys space with time, where the time taken to traverse the space opened up by the world market’s breaching of territorial barriers must be reduced to nothing” (69). David Harvey, who has rigorously insisted on spatial awareness in Marxist theory, has discussed this phenomenon as “time-space compression” (284-307). 15. Neferti Xina M. Tadiar derives this theory of identification from J. Laplanche’s and J. B. Pontalis’s psychoanalytic dictionary; see Tadiar (Things 394-95n12). 16. For more on the category of “race-class,” see Tadiar (Fantasy-Production 116-18). 17. See, for example, Seamus’s aggressive seduction in their first encounters (Soliven 263-65) and his expectations of Amparo preparing Thanksgiving dinner for his family (281-83). 18. Carolina Ruiz Austria’s article provides a good overview of the various factors that have restricted women’s sexual and reproductive choices in the Philippines. Maria Tanyag provides an update on the status of the Reproductive Health Bill (RH), legislation that exposes “the various competing interests and identities at stake in the advancement of sexual and reproductive freedom in the country” (63), but she limits her analysis to the political struggle for RH. Works Cited Ahmed Sara. The Cultural Politics of Emotion . Routledge, 2004. Alejo Albert E. Tao pô! 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Published: Mar 27, 2018
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