Even in Singapore, the late months of the year have a feeling of autumn, harvest and closure. It seems appropriate that in the third year of Our Own Voice, the print edition of the first year's issues is released to the public. After much work and consultation, the staff, with the support of Philippine Women's University, is proud to announce the 276-page book containing the stories, essays, poetry, and even art work of the first five issues of the ezine. This event is made possible through the dedication of the editor, Reme Grefalda, to Filipino creativity in the diaspora. We reap work from the Philippines and outside and put it in cyberspace, accessible to all. The print edition is our way of further making the work available, extending the shelf life of the literary harvest. This first volume will ideally make its home in university and high school libraries and in private collections. It is a mother of literary anthologies, and because it melds the online treatment with the physical structure of a book, the print edition is a must-have for aficionados of living literature.
The ezine archives continue to grow with each new issue released online. As much as we will be able, we intend to keep all the issues available this way. The print version is meant to complement what exists online. There are many readers who still prefer to see things on a physical page, in a book that can be slipped into a briefcase or a backpack, taken on a trip to a destination where internet access is not conveniently available.
Each issue of Our Own Voice has stirred together the work of established writers with that of emerging literary artists. We receive submissions from Pinoys who lament that they write in isolation, without synergy from exchange and collaboration with others. We hear about writer's block among the awkward "closet" writers who feel unappreciated and sometimes misunderstood by the people immediately around them. The ezine is a platform, a stage, to draw out the blocked, the frustrated, and the shy. This doesn't mean we automatically accept every single submission, though. We correspond with the writers and if we feel their submissions are not what we require, we tell them why. Often it is a matter of mismatching the current issue's theme or focus. Other times, it is a lack of simple editing.
Last month, I was surprised to find a thriving Filipino community in Maui. The people I spoke with were not descendants of the old-timers who had worked the pineapple plantations, but rather new immigrants, mostly from the Ilocos region. They had been on the island 11, 17, 12, 3 yearsrelatively recent arrivals. Most of them worked in tourism servicewaiters, housekeepers, taxi drivers, bellhops, salesladies, and fitness instructors. "There are so many of us here," Grace, the waitress, told me at breakfast. The fact seemed to make her proud and puzzled at the same time. We looked at each other and did not give voice to our mutual questionwhy Pinoys? Grace has a three-year old daughter. As in many Filipino extended families, she and her sisters rotate childcare responsibilities. We talked about the climate and how it allows Filipinos to grow the vegetables they are familiar with from back homepechay, ampalaya, sitaw, kamote, okra, talong. "Malunggay is the Filipino flag here," she laughed. "If you see a malunggay tree in someone's yard, you can be sure they are Filipino."
Call me a romantic, but I believe Our Own Voice touches even the lives of Filipino waitresses and taxi drivers in Maui. I imagine ten years from now, Grace's daughter will be in a school library and a friend will pull a print edition of Our Own Voice from a shelf. "Hey, look at this. It's about Filipinos. Filipinos away from the Philippines." The young girl will take the book dubiously, and start by looking at the pictures and art work. She will sink to a sitting position on the floor between the shelves and dive into the book, becoming oblivious to the world around her, to the passing of the warm afternoon hours as she drinks in words about the lives of Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, America, Italy; about Filipinos today, long ago, and in the not too distant past, during World War II. Finally, she will see words in print that she's only heard from the lips of her eldersTagalog, Iloko, Bikol, Ilonggo. Her friends will grow impatient as they cannot take her away from the book. "We're leaving," they warn her and she will nod and wave farewell without looking up from the pages. At home in the diaspora, she will have found a platform, a stage.
Nadine L. Sarreal