Reni Roxas, owner of Tahanan Books, hits a home run with her new book “Hanggang Sa Muli: Homecoming Stories for the Filipino Soul.” It is wonderful chicken soup for the soul for Filipinos, Americans, and the broader global audience.
Described as “an evocative collection” by novelist Peter Bacho, the book consists of 32 compact short memoirs, stories, poetry, narratives, and essays which bring to life the tender and complex experiences, thoughts, and feelings of Filipino immigrants as they diaspora to the world.
The book provides incredible insight into the melancholy and schizophrenia of immigrants and their progeny. Reading the book was akin to meeting one’s innermost forgotten self and eavesdropping on the private conversations of those lucky enough to leave their homeland to obtain a better future while pining for home and recreating home wherever they land.
The diaspora stories are deep. Here are seven samples. Editor Roxas shares her old sacred Saturday morning ritual of taking the subway train from Brooklyn to Queens to pursue her bit of “pan de sal,” Filipino bread, to nurture her soul with the familiar from the homeland.
Bremerton poet Toni Bajado in her “First Visit to Balogo: Ancestral Philippine Farmland” poem beautifully claims her realization: “A red flowerhead, wide like a gramophone, yawns in the wet heat and nods at me … Where is America? Someone else’s dream in my pocket, a password for almost anywhere … I take a nap…when I wake I realize, I have been sleepwalking for miles, across continents and decades to return to the beginning. I never knew I am the dream come true.”
While Kerima Polotan, in “Filipinos in America,” pine for the loss of the Filipino soul: “It was something I noticed straightway I landed, with Filipinos abroad, this terrible caution with the dollar, as if it were something they worshipped, something that meant a great deal in their lives, something they were addicted to ….”
Whereas Aileen Ibardaloza’s “Traveling with Tsinelas” inspires the book cover of a pair of rubber flip-flops. Tsinelas are slippers commonly worn in the Philippines for all sorts of occasions and weather. “… I glimpsed a row of pairs of tsinelas lining the entryway. It was the most beautiful sight. They stood for everything I was so sorely and terribly missing — my home, my family, fragments of my culture.”
People do wonder, why the regular pilgrimages to the motherland with large offerings of balikbayan boxes? Published novelist and immigrant R. Zamora Linmark in his piece “My Genesis” confesses: “Year in, year out, I came back, the wanna-be prodigal son returning to the once-upon-a-time-home.” His Philippine visits produced his recent book “Leche,” which is an expletive and also means “milk” in Spanish.
While Dorothy Cordova, co-founder of the Filipino American National Historical Society, shares an emotional personal insight in her essay “The Soil of My Roots”: “I understand now why my lonely mother reminisced every night about the home she left behind.”
But no one can match the sagacity of Carmen Guerrero Nakpil’s essay “Where’s the Patis (fish sauce)?”: “A Filipino may denationalize himself but not his stomach. He may travel over the seven seas and the five continents and the two hemispheres and lose the flavor of home and forget his identity and believe himself a citizen of the world. But he remains — gastronomically, at least — always a Filipino. For, if in no other way, the Filipino loves his country with his stomach.”
Contributing authors come from the Philippines as far north as Pangasinan to south Sulu, Mindanao and the Americas from Seattle to San Francisco to Chicago to New York to Toronto to Beirut in the Middle East. Authors include Dale Asis: James Constantino Bautista, Marivi Soliven Blanco, Carlos Bulosan, Tricia J. Capistrano, Greg S. Castilla, Lorial Crowder, Yvette Santos Cuenco, M. Evelina Galang, Stanley B. Garibay, Jessica Hagedorn, Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, F. Sionil Jose, Jaime An Lim, Paulino Lim Jr., Gina Consing McAdam, Pati Navalta Poblete, Jeff Rice, Sandra Nicole Roldan, Patrick Rosal, Dyan Bandayrel Ruiz, Greg S. San Diego, Bienvenido N. Santos, Aimee Suzara, Rolando Tinio, and Angela Narciso Torres.
Roxas, in her book title “Hanggang Sa Muli” resounds the farewell sentiment of Filipinos: “Until we meet again.” She kept her promise to bring us a bit of home and nurtures our soul with this sweet collection.
Tahanan Books has been publishing quality books for Filipino families, schools and libraries for the past twenty years. It is an eight-time National Book Award recipient. Tahanan means “home” where the love of reading begins. The retail price for Hanggang Sa Muli is $15.95. Shipping cost is free until March 30, 2012. To order, contact [email protected] or (425) 773-7465.