Eight is a lucky number in Chinese numerology, mystically associated with prosperity. It certainly suits Our Own Voicewe are in a mist about our longevity on the net! Feedback, new links, referrals, surprise submissionsthese continue to enrich and enable us to present a wealth of literary and cultural pieces throughout the year.
One major psychic reward of working on an ezine like Our Own Voice is the opportunity to introduce new writers to our audience in the diaspora. In this issue, writing by Renato Gandia and Iris Sheila Crisostomo are featured alongside the work of masters like Krip Yuson and Eileen Tabios. It's like being at a party of literary voicesa dialogue among the writers and their work commences.
Our eighth issue hums on several levelsthe extremely personal in May Rain, to global issues like the dangers of youth peer pressure and the hazards of growing up in Passage; there are allusions to Martial Law and the consequent damage to the country in Krip's poems. (And how Krip's work manages to be literary, political, personal and yet panoramic, without showing strain!)
I am ever keen on the trail of my OCW kabayans (see Our Own Voice issue 6, March 2002). They are the ones away from home and it is a dream of mine that if not the OCWs themselves, then perhaps their children, will eventually turn to Our Own Voice to read our homage, our messages to them and from them. Recently, thousands of Filipino workers have been detained for deportation from Malaysia under subhuman conditions, causing adults and children to become violently ill, and many to die. Human lives paying the price of the Philippines' economic inflow?
During the summer away from my computer, I had serendipitous meetings with Filipinos away from home. In Missouri, I saw a family that looked Filipino at a local Walmart. We glanced at each other from the corners of our eyes, both too shy to ask first, Filipino ba kayo?
My most memorable path crossing was on a train back to Heathrow, when a group of Filipinas crowded on to our car, chattering in a festive mood. "Where are you going, kabayan?" I asked the young woman who settled in next to me. "Aren't you coming, too?" she asked. She looked at my son who had fallen asleep in the seat across from us. "Yours?" she said, probably noting the similarities in our facial features. There was a huge annual pistahan going on at a train station just outside London, a grid of large tents set up to shelter food stalls, game booths, and dance and song performances. The young woman summarized her London life in a few minutes. She was happy in her work as a domestic helper for an English couple who seemed to treat her fairly, one of a few calming stories I've gotten to hear in detail. Single at 33, she retained few illusions of a romantic return to Nueva Vizcaya to a life of marriage and motherhood. Her realism was briskly refreshing. I'll take care of my parents in their old age, she smiled, and I'll travel around the Philippines, maybe have my own small business.
I was struck by the difference between her and a married couple I had met on the tram at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. They were both in medical support fields (physical therapy and radiology) and had lived in the US for over 10 years. The wife, Ida, said they planned to see the whole US while they had their health.
After Ida and her husband disembarked from the tram, my son turned to me with a combination of amazement and irritation. "How can you always tell when they're Filipino?"
I'm not able to articulate my answer to him, because it's not just the color of skin, shape of our eyes, or the way we speak. These things are never really the same enough or different enough. What I thought, though, as I watched my nieces and nephews shoot hoops in my sister's driveway, is that perhaps it's demeanor, a way we have of holding ourselves, the cast of our facial expression that, in part, identifies us to one another. In the younger generation of Filipino Americans, though, this demeanor seems less visible, as if it is fading, replaced with a more homogenous bearing. And maybe later on, it will be just skin after all.
We are calling for submissions for a future issue on children's literature. Send us your poems, stories, essays, journal entries that touch on Filipino children growing up in the diaspora. Show us the young hearts and lives as they are molded by tensile forces of the unseen yet present bayan and the new land and culture in which they live.
October 4, 2002