FOUNDED in 1998, The Indie of Asheville was originally a community publication in New York City that catered to mostly third generation Filipino-Americans – before it journeyed down south and found home in Asheville, North Carolina in late 2001, a few months following the 9/11 tragedy. The publication has since modified its organizational structure and target constituents, as well its mode of programming—to address a more diverse American community network and outreach program from its original Filipino-American readership.
The Indie is the partner grassroots project of the Traveling Bonfires, an arts/culture organization. Both initiatives spawned out of the nonprofit The Philippine Independent Communication Inc., which was founded by journalist-poet Pasckie Pascua in New York City in 1998, and officially established in Albany NY in 2000.
The birthing brainstorm of The Indie came into fruition following founder Pasckie Pascua’s week-long assimilation in a national gathering of Filipino-American college students in Harvard University in Cambridge MA in 1999. He drew up a theoretical premise for ethnic minority/community organizing: The need to consolidate the growing population of ethnic Filipino youths in the US into a unified collective that addresses relevant sociocultural issues in the mainland and in the Philippines.
At that time, Pascua was a US Correspondent for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the largest daily newspaper in the Philippines; and was co-editing a Filipino newspaper in Manhattan, Headline Philippines.
The Indie and the Traveling Bonfires actively operated in New York City from 2000 until the latter part of 2002. Apart from publishing the fortnightly The Philippine Independent (later renamed The New York City Indie Rockzine), the organization also conducted weekly discussions with like-minded Filipino youth organizations in New York, organized film showings, and produced poetry readings and ensemble rock concerts.
Among others, both projects helped provide educational resources and opening up venues to assist progressive Filipino-American community and cultural workers in expanding and deepening their cultural and historical knowledge and analytical perspective of the sociopolitical-cultural situation in the Philippines. Moreover, the organization sponsored (and co-sponsored) and/or initiated events and productions that offer a diverse array of cultural expressions through music, poetry, and film.
A RAMBLING HISTORY: New York City to Asheville.
Notwithstanding its lofty albeit sublime vision-mission, funding both The Indie and TBonfires remains a major bottleneck. Both programs existed in the absence of institutional funding—hugely reliant on its individual staff’s financial contributions and steady fundraise activities. Such shaky existence came to a head when the 9/11 tragedy struck New York City in late 2001. The sorry situation in NY and NJ cast a dark cloud of uncertainty on most of the membership; some lost day jobs, some moved to other states. Moreover, the emotional and economic chaos at that time threw a huge shadow of doubt concerning The Indie’s future in New York. Pascua was forced to relocate the project to the South—among other considerations—using Asheville, North Carolina as the base of operation.
This didn’t come easy, however.
After a few months (to almost a year) of hiatus in the backwoods of Weaverville (20 mins north of downtown Asheville) and Wilmington (coastal city, 8 hrs beyond) and quiet interface with Asheville’s aesthetically/artistically-diverse but dominantly white middle class downtown community plus a number of travels– Pascua finally decided to republish The Indie as a “Western North Carolina newsmagazine, with choice outlets in major US cities” in July 2002.
The Indie’s relocation to the South was not an impulsive decision. Even during the “relatively quieter” times when Pascua stayed mostly cloistered and secluded in Weaverville, The New York City Indie Rockzine was still being printed (in Asheville) and distributed in a number of outlets in downtown Manhattan. This, while he regularly submitted articles to at least two WNC/Asheville-based magazines, Rapid River and Adventure of the Smokies—to scout The Indie’s feasibility in a non-ethnic community.
At that same span of time, Pascua kept his usual maddeningly relentless pace. He was flying to and from New York City (and elsewhere) at an average of twice a month—to expand his network in other cities/states, and to co-supervise Traveling Bonfires fundraise gigs at the CBGB, among other venues, with bosom buddy Renrick Pascual of the NY/NJ-based Brown Culture. (Pascual is a founding member of The Indie in New York.)
In between all these, Pascua maintained a quiet but focused relationship with his non-Filipino friends and “homeys” in the Upper West Side and Westchester. At that time The Indie/The Bonfires’ “office” was traveling with him via a frantic, nomadic drift— to his brother’s Jersey shore house near Atlantic City, Pascual’s apartment in Heights, Jersey City, an attic perch in a residential house in a Jewish community in Great Neck, Long Island near Nassau, an old barnhouse/cabin in Weaverville NC, and his many “couches and crash pads” on the road.
A major surgery in New Jersey in Nov of 2000 slowed Pascua down—but only for two weeks. But it was 9/11 that finally stopped him, temporarily that is, from savoring his crazy, almost-impulsive traveling high. The twice-a-month Asheville-NYC-elsewhere flights came to an abrupt stop.
He missed the Sept 11 / World Trade Center tragedy by a day. He attended or co-supervised a Brown Culture/Indie Productions hook-up concert in Hoboken NJ on Sept 8, Saturday. Instead of flying back to North Carolina on Sept 11 (as he previously planned) and stay two more days in NYC to give more time to hang out with friends and bands who flew from Los Angeles and San Francisco to join the concert, he decided to head back to Asheville/Weaverville the following day, Sept 9, “because I was already tired.” He was already in Weaverville — mapping out his next plane trip to Seattle– when that fateful Tuesday morning shocked the world.
A month or so after 9/11, he gave up Weaverville, took a Greyhound to West Palm Beach, Florida—purportedly to explore his other incarnations, cook and painter, which he admitted, “didn’t work out.” For almost a month, while in West Palm Beach, he “ruminated, pondered” his future in America. That was the time, via the internet, when he “rediscovered” Asheville’s downtown community, which he called, at that time, “a more sedate, laid-back small-town East Village in the Appalachians with a potential Big Apple bite, but with nicer souls who smile strangely captivating smiles instead of cussing a-la New York to cut across a message.”
After about two weeks in West Palm Beach, he took a Greyhound to Asheville and deposited himself in cheap motels along Tunnel Road—and started mixing himself up with downtown’s neo-hippie, new ager humanity. A few weeks after, he shared a trailer home with a male friend (whom he met at a WNC Peace Coalition meeting) in nearby Fairview town; then he moved to a more secluded retreat up in Candler NC (aptly called Hidden Meadow), about 15-20mins off downtown, and tried to usher business collaboration around The Indie/The Bonfires with his housemates.
At that time, The Indie/Asheville’s “breakin’ `cultural’ barriers” persona was already beginning to take shape—although his potential business partners, traditional, born-and-bred Southern spirits, couldn’t fully grasp his quixotic brainstorm. He had no other recourse but to dive down Asheville’s river of “crazy, weird, beautiful souls” and make his presence felt in downtown. He read poems in the most widely-attended open mics, volunteered time with nonprofit organizations, attended meetings by activist organizations.
The physical reality of The Indie started when he volunteered to help a small group of young downtown activists and radio journalists in publishing a `zine/newsletter (The Transmitter)—but the ragtag 5x8.5 semi-scrawled/semi-Kinko’s printed/photocopied project fizzled out after only two or three issues. But that “bottled passion, aborted kick,” in a way, jumpstarted The Indie’s rebirth in Asheville.
A year or so before Pascua flew to New York City in 1998, he co-published, edited and/or guided seven “cutting edge, pulp-oriented” publications in Manila; two of which were under the huge and influential mass-market/publishing empire of the Spanish-Filipino family of Roces-Guerrero.
Pascua begun his journalism career as a 14-year-old cub reporter in a “guerrilla-like, impoverished but defiantly courageous” newspaper called We Forum (later, Malaya/The Free). It was published and edited by the late Jose “Joe” Burgos, a fiery and daring workhorse who dared challenge the Marcoses’ genocidal twenty-year military rule. (The Roces-Guerrero’s patriarch, Joaquin “Chino” Roces, was one of Joe’s most ardent and loyal supporters and mentors.)
Pascua considers Burgos as the man who imbued on him the “gruff wisdom and inner beauty of street-life journalism” and “defiantly stubborn, improvisational publishing”—moving from one spot to the other, ignoring financial difficulties and sociopolitical threats in favor of steely resolve and focused, consistent determination to come out, no matter what.
The Indie’s brief life in New York City, however, wasn’t the “kind of relevant, timely, non-partisan, non-political but socially/humanity-committed effort” that Pascua first envisioned. The Indie was viewed (by a very suspecting mainstream Filipino community in NY, or even in Asheville) as a staunchly political/ideological soundboard, which bothered Pascua.
“The Indie and the Traveling Bonfires are not political or ideological vessels, not at all,” he said in a radio interview in Elizabethtown NJ in 2002. “But it’s always a struggle to separate the individual me with my long experience as a Left-leaning activist back home, from me—the organizational workhorse who isn’t guided or dictated by any sociopolitical power or corporate structure.”
Needless to say, even after the first “official”issue of The Indie in Asheville was published in July of 2002, Pascua was still traveling (mostly by Greyhound and car) to Wilmington where he maintained a relationship until summer of 2004.
After a year of continuous publication, The Indie stopped in July 2003, because, among other reasons, the “business hook-up” in Candler did not materialize or continue and he was losing money, small day jobs bored him—apart from having to contend with pressures to visit or come home for good. For almost six months, Pascua again pondered life and living in the South. He traveled back to his brother’s house in south NJ, “loitered” in friends’ houses and apartments in Albany NY, Westchester, Manhattan, Philadelphia—until he decided to head back to Asheville in late Sept of that year—briefly stayed in a friend’s house in a trailer park in Oteen to draw his next plans, and then by October, finally secured a three-room-in-one basement office near Charlotte Street, few blocks from the heart of downtown Asheville.
THE SECOND COMING.
In Nov of 2003, Pascua made two road trips in two weeks – on separate car drives, with Indie contributing writers Matthew Mulder and Sarah Benoit– to New York City “to feel the one missing working vibe that’d eventually connect The Indie/The Traveling Bonfires’ romantic life in Asheville with the upfront business tact of New York City… aside from attempting to bridge (my) cultures together into one colorless humanity.” It was the first time that he “interfaced, linked up” his “trusted American friends with his trusted Filipino friends”—a silent but calculated attempt at “breakin’ barriers, building bridges.”
He introduced Mulder to Ruben Austria in The Bronx. (Austria, a second-generation Filipino-Irish/American and another Indie founding member, remains as Pascua’s most-admired friend/adviser and “kindred bro” in New York.) Along with another Indie oldtimer Jason Baquilod (a third generation Pinoy)—Pascua, Mulder, and Renrick Pascual—shared Filipino dinner at a Filipino restaurant in Queens. That was a day or two after Pascua booked an all-white/Asheville-based rock band, Kerouac or The Radio, in a dominantly 10-band Pinoy rock showcase at the CBGB, produced and organized by Pascual’s Brown Culture.
Kerouac or The Radio’s spot in that concert marked the first time that purely American band was included in a “major Pinoy rock scene event in New York” since a more-organized Filipino-American rock scene started and gained ground in Queens and downtown Manhattan in late 1998 until 9/11. Through the joint efforts of Pascual, Pascua, Baquilod, and longtime Indie/Bonfires supporters Gino Inocentes, Ryan Paayas, and other independent Fil-Am producers and bands in NY and NJ, Pinoy rock scene was hot, active and consistent. All along these, The New York City Indie Rockzine—as well as, Baquilod’s “Pinoy Radio” shows in Baruch College (later, in Elizabeth, NJ)—assumed the ever-willing role of “underground mouthpiece.”
BALTIMORE, WASHINGTON DC.
Almost two years later, The Traveling Bonfires successfully mixed Pinoy and American acts/bands in The Bonfires’ monthly “breakin’ barriers” concerts in Baltimore and Washington DC. A year before that, Pascua introduced Houston-based multiracial act, Kayumanggi, in one of The Bonfires’ “Bonfires for Peace at Pritchard Park” public concerts in Asheville. Fronted by a Filipino, Kokoy Severino, the band performed songs with Tagalog lyrics, interspersed indigenous Filipino musical instruments (kubing/windpipe, kulintang/brass gong) with electric guitars and drum kit, and had Americans, Asians and Mexicans as members. All these breakthroughs clearly served Pascua’s “breakin’ barriers” vision.
Slowly but surely, the continued publication of a globally-oriented Indie and the activation/sustainability of a multiracial Traveling Bonfires loom in the horizon.
Pascua—who, in the past six or seven years, has maintained and sustained relationships with few, selected American friends (Long Island, Westchester), Filipino-American buddies (uptown Manhattan), Filipino “comadres” and “compadres” (Queens, Jersey City) – never had success hooking up both cultures. His previous attempts were often dismissed by some of his Filipino friends with gnawing indifference and quiet rejection. He, however, remained defiant—continually pushing for “a realizable synergetic relationship” despite the cultural differences.
Hence, in Asheville, Pascua reformatted The Indie as an a `zine-oriented rock/pop culture rag that caters not only to Filipinos and other ethnic groupings in America, but more importantly, it now serves a wider “all-peoples” readership. As The Indie sailed along with its “open mic” aura – alongside consistent Traveling Bonfires shows in mostly downtown clubs and cafes– support and respect were generated.
Among other reasons, Asheville, North Carolina does not have a huge Filipino community that The Indie could communicate with; hence, its existence in a predominantly white community under the original “for the Filipino community” format proved futile and nonsensical. Secondly, after the September 11 tragedy, Pascua felt that The Indie should attempt to move out of the community/ethnic exclusivity that most non-American groupings chose to maintain. He felt that his brainstorm should break cultural barriers and share sociopolitical realities with other (ethnic) communities and the American mainstream, at large. Moreover, he believed that a wider perspective/understanding of global issues from the standpoint of other cultural realities all over the world (which commune in America) should be put to the open. Hence, The Indie offers that alternative.
AFTER a 4-year hiatus—including two years in Las Vegas and Los Angeles (where Pascua handled the Southern California bureau of Philippine News, a national Asian-American newspaper based in San Francisco)—The Indie resumes publication in Asheville, effective Aug of 2011.
[--by Kate O’Hailey, Greer Kupka, Pasckie Pascua]