Thursday, November 15, 2018
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Pinoy Kasi

Unroyal royal wedding

I’m a staunch republican, which means I don’t go for all that royalty stuff and was resolved not to watch the Harry and Meghan roadshow.

I didn’t watch, but then I got intrigued about the wedding for two reasons.

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First, Filipinos didn’t seem interested, despite our love of pageantry and stars and, well, royalty as exemplified by the Flores de Mayo season and all the contests to choose a Reyna Elena and other queens and princesses, and never mind that some of the queens and princesses are male.

With international beauty pageants I’d actually get texts from friends asking if I was going to watch the telecasts and I’m always tempted to text back, tongue in cheek, “watch or join?”

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So, what happened, why wasn’t there live coverage or ABS-CBN teams flown to cover the event?

I think England’s royalty is just too distant, too for-the-movies, maybe too snooty for a nation that goes berserk instead for Manny Pacquiao and boxing.

I was intrigued for a second reason and these were the articles appearing in the British newspaper The Guardian, which in an editorial, about the wedding what else, declared itself “unrepentantly republican” but covered the wedding anyway with many articles, and quite positively at that.

That positive sentiment has been building up ever since the announcement that Prince Harry, who is sixth in line to the throne (a long way off considering his father, poor old Prince Charles, has been waiting forever), was marrying Meghan Markle, who was not just a commoner, but an actress, an American and biracial, with a white father and an African-American mother.

Racial

I’ll qualify here that I’m using words like “racial” and “race” even if anthropologists and scientists do not recognize “race” as a reality. Race is defined by our skin color but in reality, genetic differences are greater within a “race” than between the races.

But people’s fixation over race, paradoxically, gives a reason for the wedding to get more attention going beyond a royal spectacle. Coming at a time when Britain, and the rest of Europe (sorry to my Brexit friends, who’d rather not consider Britain as part of Europe), are convulsing over issues of immigrants and race, the wedding comes through almost as up yours, we’re different and we’re here for good.

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Just as the American is no longer our Caucasian “Joe” and now includes all kinds of hyphenated people, including Fil-Ams, “British” can very well be someone with roots in Pakistan, or one of the Caribbean islands, or even the Philippines. Mostly though there’s a sense of the (British) empire striking back as former vassals now possess British passports and residence.

Actually, looking at the photos of Meghan, I did think of the expression “touch of the tar brush” which I learned many years ago from a friend, a British volunteer assigned to the Philippines. She was always being asked if she was “mestiza” as in Eurasian because her features weren’t quite “British” (read: Caucasian) so one day, she told me she had Indian blood from several generations back, and, that the expression, “touch of the tar brush,” was used to refer to the darker skin she and other British descendants of mixed “alliances” had. The scholar and writer William Dalrymple, in his book “White Mughals” estimates that one in three British administrators sent to India married local women.

Well, it seems that Prince Harry and Prince William may have had Indian ancestry as well on the side of his mother, Princess Diana, from an ancestor who had been assigned to India and had an Indian housekeeper-mistress. It made the front page in 2013, but observers pointed out that a DNA test was never done on Harry and William.

It doesn’t matter anymore now that there may be new princes and princesses in the next few years with another kind of a touch of the tar brush.

The wedding brings intermarriages and multiraciality up front and out, no longer whispered with connotations of scandals and
illicit affairs but of respectability and that four-letter word — love.

Times have changed and fortunately, people do get to marry the ones they love, but for royalty, it might be a bit more difficult, and so in a way, the wedding was a time to wish the best for the new couple. To use the cliché, love conquers all, the message conveyed in the sermon by the Rev. Michael Curry, the first African-American to become the presiding bishop of the US Episcopal Church. Watch his 14-minute sermon on YouTube about love, delivered Southern American style with much body movement.

Love conquers all, even for royalty and, come to think of it, precisely because British royalty seems so rigidly snooty, a challenge to the norms captures much more attention, as when Edward VIII, King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Empire, and Emperor of India, abdicated after only 11 months from his coronation so he could marry a commoner, an American at that and, gasp, a divorcee. That was in 1936, of course, and our times are kinder, in some ways.

Love and royal fairy tales aside, Harry and Meghan’s wedding was bold and proud in declaring Africanness, blackness, which led a few commentators, on both sides of the Atlantic, to slightly whine that it wasn’t “royal” enough.

Music

But it was the music — the wedding seemed almost like a concert — that highlighted the wedding so look them up on YouTube, as I did, and enjoy them.

There was the Kingdom Choir, a gospel group based in England, singing “Stand by Me,” which will probably figure in many more weddings. There was Sheku Kanneh-Mason, a 19-year-old cellist, the first black to win the BBC Young Classical Musician of the Year, playing Maria Theresia von Paradis’ “Sicilienne,” Gabriel Fauré’s “Après un rêve” and Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” Look him up on YouTube, Spotify or Apple Music, for a truly moving rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

An unroyal royal wedding introduced Kingdom Choir and Sheku Kanneh-Mason to the world.

The unroyal royal wedding also gave a pleasant glimpse into some of the positive changes taking place in our times. I hadn’t realized the US Episcopal Church had a new presiding bishop, his predecessor being Katharine Jefferts Schori, who, besides being an ordained minister, was also an oceanographer and pilot, and the first woman to head her church.

There’s more. If you listen hard as well to videos of the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex walking down the steps of the church, as Kingdom Choir sings “Amen/This Little Light of Mine,” you’ll catch the sounds of women ululating, something you do with your throat’s uvula and the tongue to express great emotions, including joy at weddings. The Arab press caught the mysterious ululating and claimed it as their own, but a grandmother from Lesotho in her 70s popped up as well to say she was there ululating at Windsor Castle.

More than a biracial wedding, the cultural diversity should be reason to ululate even more.

mtan@inquirer.com.ph

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TAGS: Meghan Markle, Michael l. tan, Pinoy Kasi, Prince Harry, UK royal wedding
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