OUR OWN VOICE
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How often do we crave a return to the haven that is family, especially when we feel battered by the world? Sometimes in our minds, this need to return is impossible to meet because of the distance. Sometimes, out of sheer desperation, we appear at the doorstep of Home, confident we can cross the threshold without being met with hostility. To the “confrontational” question, Have you eaten? we can only respond with a sigh of relief.
I think of family because I grew up in a large one: my brother and I—with ten first cousins. “Large” meaning that these ten were on loan to us two. While the two of us, on the other hand, were imposed on them. And yet, my Tito Co-ing never differentiated between his kids and us. Neither did Tita Bella, except during school matriculation if my mother’s monthly allowance from America didn’t arrive on time. My brother and I were treated to the same sermons of “Name That Fault”; lined up to have our ears inspected, scooped through and cleaned; received the same approving smiles or scowls when we handed in our report cards. All twelve of us were served the same lump of vegetables on our plates that all of us found creative ways to dispose of. We, who were between the older and the young ones, were expected to complete on a daily basis those chores from which the eldest child was exempt.
The adults in my childhood practiced parenting by “benign neglect.” What it meant was that growing up, you were left pretty much on your own. In a boarding school once, as I was; or with relatives during a long stretch, as were my brother and I. We were left on our own by a parent—but hardly without supervision by other adults; we were far from being latchkey kids. Between the two scenarios, my brother and I adapted and creatively jumped the hoops as children always do when grown-ups resort to what they can to eke out a living. Many children are veterans of emotional wars in the household, with scars that can last a lifetime; yet, we may mistakenly think they are quite resilient.
the most treacherous part of family
they incarcerate you in your mind
and throw away the key
no one knows the rules
but family is an ongoing game
if you say may i please a password
they say hmmm don't remember
beg for clues to some vague incident
shucks it never happened
the most venomous part of family
will always be apparent
swear you'll never be a predaddytoro
nor will I ever be mamanipulating
that said let's wed
“Benign neglect” also meant that we older children took over some semblance of parenting and were in charge of a set of younger ones. On Saturdays, our duty was to make sure our young charges, by lunchtime, were showered, slicked down and smelling of baby cologne. But there was Tipin, the 9-year-old, who would recoil from taking a bath 15 minutes before chowtime. The creative approach included running after her as she swooped around to the rear of the house to escape the soap & water ritual, hollering as though she was being lynched. What she didn’t know was that you had reversed the chase and as she turned a corner, you met her with the garden hose in full force. She could then appear in her place at the table, toweled dry, attire changed. At the far end of a long table, who would notice that the scent of fresh cleanliness was missing.
I get a sense that solidarity is the tree that sprouts from the first seeds of bonding, as siblings in dysfunctional situations, and in later years as family. Like kneaded dough, we are pounded, twisted, shaped and transformed into a cohesiveness that spawns a fierce caring, devotion and loyalty; the kind of national solidarity that gathers the strands of dispersal from the near and far corners of the earth, tying them in an invisible solid knot. Binding us all as one Filipino Family.
OUR OWN VOICE announces a call for NOMINEES FOR THE 2005 GLOBAL FILIPINO LITERARY AWARD.
The Editorial Board wishes to honor authors and publishers of books by Filipino authors, published in 2004.
1. CATEGORIES are: poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.
2. DEADLINE FOR NOMINATIONS: August 2, 2005
3. Winners will be announced in the January 2006 issue of OUR OWN VOICE.
4. PRIZES: Awardees in each category will receive
--a plaque award
-- a copy of OUR OWN VOICE LITERARY / ARTS JOURNAL (2001).
5. QUALIFICATIONS: Nominees of 2004 books may be authors, agents, publishers and booksellers. BOOKS authored by members of the editorial staff of OOV are barred from submission for nomination.
RULES FOR NOMINATION PROCESS
6a. Please send TWO COPIES of the nominated 2004 published book to
Global Filipino Literary Award
Attn Reme-Antonia Grefalda
2001 North Adams Street
Arlington, VA 22201
6b. A cover letter and US$15 fee must accompany your submission with the following:
—copyright date and
6c. NOTE: Nominations will be accepted only if accompanied by a cover letter, fee and two copies of the nominated work.
6d. Please include an email address so we can acknowledge receipt of the material sent.
6e. Nominated submissions if sent by postal service must be postmarked no later than AUGUST 2, 2005. FEDEX, DHL and other express service will be accepted if delivered to meet the deadline.
7. Materials sent will not be returned.
Please send inquiries to email@example.com with the subject line:
We would appreciate if you could please disseminate this call to those who might be interested in this NOMINATION PROCESS.
Editor, OUR OWN VOICE