Celebrated author Karl Gaspar reviews ‘Magdaragat: An Anthology of Filipino Canadian Writing’


“And these “perpetual departures” have made our ancestors wanderers beyond our shores.

“Filipino Canadians have to navigate between two opposite poles as they cross the national boundary into a foreign land. And once again, this involves a deep longing for one’s roots, even as they get uprooted and needed to adjust to a new environment.”

Excerpts from Karl Gaspar’s review:

“And these “perpetual departures” have made our ancestors wanderers beyond our shores. On October 18, 1587, a Spanish galleon docked at what is now the Morro Bay in California carrying the first Pinoy ancestors to reach North America. Centuries later, more Pinoys would migrate to the U.S.A., especially when we became a colony in 1898. Men were recruited from mainly North Luzon to work in the plantations of Hawaii and California. Years later unmarried, aged manongs would remain a remnant of the Pinoy presence in Hawaii. For more than a century Filipinos have continuously found their way to the US in the hope of a better future, that is, to earn dollars and thus progress economically.”

Kaia M. Arrow brings back the lamentation of a people who have lost so much owing to colonization in her piece – Dreams of Pinoy Joy: Decolonial Rage and Disabled Resistance in the Diaspora: “I grieve what has been taken from us. I don’t know what holidays my ancestors celebrated before Spanish galleons broke the horizon in 1521. I don’t know what songs they sang, the rituals they had, or the lives they lived. These stories are systematically destroyed by the Spanish colonists, American imperialists and Japanese occupiers. I don’t imagine some pre-colonial utopia. There is precious little left to imagine at all.”

“Having settled in another nation-state with its own cultural realities (although Canada is a multi-cultural country originally inhabited by the indigenous nations of native North Americans), Filipino Canadians have no choice but embrace the phenomenon of hybridity in the various aspects of their life abroad while asserting their own identify. In Alexa Batitis’ essay Living a Life of Hybrid Languages, she writes of the pragmatic embrace of a hybrid life: “There are so many of us living this kind of hybrid lives of languages, starting to feel comfortable with exploring our Filipino roots, desiring to feel more connected to the homeland. I believe we can heal by realizing that we can exist without shame in the in-between, hybrid life. We can embrace this as part of our collective identity as a community.”

“Speaking about identity, Filipino Canadians have to navigate between two opposite poles as they cross the national boundary into a foreign land. And once again, this involves a deep longing for one’s roots, even as they get uprooted and needed to adjust to a new environment. Jellyn Ayudan succinctly expresses a sentiment of having to cross from one pole to the other in her essay, Roots: “Now, I find myself navigating through the world split between two identities with two homes and being okay with that because there’s no need to choose. I know now that home is not a location you type into a GPS. In many ways, finding home is like the mango or the Dutch elm trees planted around us, they did not choose to be rooted to their land, yet they flourished, adapted to the weather, and continued to grow. And so, I shall too.”

“However, adjusting to a new environment involves survival which has challenged the Pinoys’ capacity to be resilient. It has been a constant struggle to adapt and thus lives have been characterized with joys and sorrows, light and shadows. Goodbyes and hellos are the facts of life for the wanderers. Departures of loved ones – especially a mother – always bring deep heartaches, even traumas for children left behind. Being reunited brings a bit of relief but how can traumas be healed? Leah Ranada’s essay Foragers manifests both the pain of a rupture in relationships with separation and a bittersweet joy at meeting again: “When Mama left for Canada, our father wrote her lengthy emails… When Papa wept at night, I slept, pained and comforted by his devotion. Six long years passed before we saw her again. Against the cool interiors of YVR, our mother looked much older. Her sentences had a lilt, syllables softer on her lips. She embraced Paulo and me together, our grown bodies awkward, getting reacquainted with the childlike need. She and Papa hugged for a longer time. Then we pushed our luggage carts out into the cold, giddy with hope.”

“Filipino Canadians are known as family-oriented because they do take pains to get in touch with family and relatives no matter the long distances across this huge country. These are the moments of sheer joy where songs are sung, stories are told, food is sumptuous. Christine Añonuevo’s essay roots and routes celebrate these family reunions: “Each time I visit, I return to the place that moulded me, and my kinship roles shapeshift from daughter to caregiver, to mother, to Tita, to Ate, and back again to daughter. Three generations eating food from the backyard, conversing in English and stitched together Tagalog, and spiraling through the histories of our memories of one another…I feel grateful for the time my parents, my sister, my nieces, my son, and my stepson can spend together as we braid time and geography: past, present, and future existing in each other’s iterative and shared moments.”

Full text of the review is at https://mindanews.com/

About the author

A multi-talented and celebrated writer, Gaspar has been a recipient of prestigious awards for his remarkable works on spirituality and on indigenous cultures, including the Jaime Cardinal Sin Catholic Book Awards for Best Book in Ministry and Best Book in Spirituality in 2015. In 2012, he received the 31st National Book Award in Social Sciences for his book “Manobo Dreams in Arakan: A People’s Struggle to Keep Their Homeland” (University of Hawaii Press, 2011), a scholar-cum-activist’s account of Mindanao’s history and the struggle over the Lumad’s ancestral lands.
Aside from being a columnist for MindaNews in Sojourner’s Views and Panaw-Lantaw, he has contributed articles and essays on Mindanao to various publications in the Philippines and abroad.
Books by Karl Gaspar:
•Manobo dreams in Arakan : a people’s struggle to keep their homeland
•The Lumad’s struggle in the face of globalization
•Mapagpakamalinawon : a reader for the Mindanawon peace advocate
•Pumipiglas : teyolohiya ng bayan = A preliminary sketch on the theology of struggle : from a cultural-liturgical perspective
•Mystic-wanderers in the land of perpetual departure
•Readings on contemporary Mindanao church realities
•You are not forgotten! : symbols during martial law
•Behind the growing trees : an evaluation of the San Fernando Integrated Forestation Project
•The masses are Messiah : contemplating the Filipino soul
•Si Menda ug ang Bagani’ng gitahapan nga maong si Mangulayon

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