48-hour whirlwind East Coast weekend: the Boston Book Festival and the Boston Filipino-American Book Club

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
 – Robert Frost, American poet, from “The Road Not Taken”

Waiting for my red-eye flight to Boston at Oakland International Airport.

In mid-September, Grace Talusan, Fulbright Scholar, English professor at Tufts University in Boston, and winner of the 2017 New Immigrant Writing for Nonfiction by Restless Books, contacted me to let me know that the Boston Filipino-American Club (BFAB) was going to be reading my novel, A Village in the Fields, for the month of October. Grace, whose memoir, The Body Papers, will be published in the Fall of 2018, asked if I would be willing to Skype with the members at their October 29th meeting following their traditional brunch. Absolutely, I let her and book club founder and artist Bren Bataclan know.

At some point in October, my husband, David, suggested that I use up points and fly to Boston the weekend of the book club meeting. At first, I dismissed the idea. I’m not spontaneous, I pointed out, echoing a famous line of mine from my college days. But as the days went by, I started to warm up to the idea. However, I didn’t want to burden anyone with my visit. When I finally reached out to Grace and Bren, they were enthusiastic and welcoming of the visit. So I booked my flight and was looking forward to the trip. My job has been very stressful these past few months and I pulled two near-all-nighters the week before my planned visit. In fact, that Thursday evening, I worked until the early morning. I wasn’t sure then if it was a good idea to be going away. But David noted that I needed to get out, that being around book lovers would be a welcome change and just the community that I needed to be in the midst of.
So I took the red-eye from Oakland to JFK in New York and caught the next leg to Boston. (An aside: It turned out that the woman sitting across the aisle from me was headed for the Boston Book Festival. Her publishing company, New York-based Other Press, was hosting a tent, which is where she brought up recognizing me on her flight. She noticed that I was reading Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere.) Grace and a good friend of hers picked me up at the airport, and we had a nice breakfast at the Eastern Standard, an elegant French-period appointed restaurant on Commonwealth Avenue in the heart of Kenmore Square, which is on the other side of the highway from Fenway Park. Afterwards, Grace dropped me off at Copley Square, site of the Boston Book Festival, a one-day event of talks and panels, tents filled with myriad publishers, and book signings! I was in heaven and the weather was perfect – fall chill in the air, changing colors of the trees. There were multiple sessions that overlapped, so I had to make some difficult decisions.

Fall at the entrance of the Eastern Standard restaurant.

Of course, I had to get a picture of me near Fenway Park (courtesy of Grace Talusan).

Rapping with Shakespeare.

My introduction to the festival was listening to The Shakespeare Time-Traveling Speakeasy. During 2016-2017, Shakespeare to Hiphop (literary performers and TEDx Boston alumni Regie Gibson and Marlon Carey) partnered with the Boston Public Library to celebrate the great bard. The result is The Shakespeare Time-Traveling Speakeasy: “an all-new presentation combining American jazz-funk-country-pop and hip-hop with poetry, song, storytelling, rap, and Shakespeare’s own words.” Their performance was entertaining and crowd-pleasing.

Checking out the different tents and publishers.

Food truck at Copley Square.

I walked around the tents, checking out the various local presses, and then I walked over to the Church of the Covenant to hear the fiction keynote featuring Claire Messud and Jacqueline Woodson discuss their recently released coming-of-age novels, The Burning Girl, and Another Brooklyn, respectively. Both read excerpts from their novels. According to the book festival program: “The mutability of memory, the swift passage of time, the use of stories to make sense of experience, the treacherous landscape of female adolescence, and the simultaneous vitality and volatility of teenage girls’ friendships – these are common threads that run through these narratives, as both writers draw perceptive, unsentimental portraits of young women growing up and growing apart.”

Church of the Covenant.

What a thrill to hear Claire Messud and Jacqueline Woodson read from their new works, and in such a beautiful setting as this old church.

I couldn’t stay for any book signings afterwards. I would have had to stand in a long line, considering how packed the church was for their keynote. I dashed back to Trinity Forum to catch the “Voices of American: The Immigrant Experience Through a Writer’s Eyes” session, which featured Ha Jin, Marjan Kamali, and Grace. I have read Ha Jin’s books, including Waiting, which won the National Book Award for fiction in 1999. I picked up Marjan’s novel, Together Tea, which is about the matchmaking exploits of an Iranian woman’s parents. And I look forward to Grace’s memoir to come out next year. Grace read an excerpt about her father’s childhood in the Philippines that was gripping, heartbreaking, and beautifully written. My heart was literally in my throat as she read, which is how I define meaningful storytelling – the kind that stays with you, that you turn over and over in your head at night and for days. The three panelists talked about being immigrant writers, and while Marjan wished to be thought of as a writer and not “labeled” as an Iranian-American writer, I applauded Grace’s response: There are few Asian-American writers; she is more than happy to take on that mantle to draw more attention to the stories of Asian Americans, of Filipino Americans.

A very packed room for Ha Jin, Marjan Kamali, and Grace Talusan.

Marjan Kamali signing books after the session. I forgot to take Ha Jin’s up-close photo!

Once I briefly met Ha Jin and Marjan, I dashed to the Boston Public Library. I wasn’t able to catch the session “Fiction: Missed Connections,” with Eshkol Novo, Celeste Ng, and Lily Tuck, but I decided that getting their books signed was more important. I ended up reading a good chunk of Celeste’s second novel, Little Fires Everywhere, on my long plane ride back home the following evening. It’s a beautiful novel, both in character revelation and insight and in her writing. I wasn’t familiar with Lily Tuck, but I picked up her latest novel, the slim Sisters, which I read in one sitting that night. I appreciated the structure of what I consider a novella, and I learned a lot about crafting intense short scenes/chapters. Another writer to read more of her previous works!

The front of the Boston Public Library.

Courtyard in the Boston Public Library – a building we didn’t go into when my family and I vacationed in Boston in 2010.

Lily Tuck signing her slim novel, Sisters, for me.

Celeste Ng signing her new novel, Little Fires Everywhere, for me.

I completely missed “Freeman’s: The Future of New Writing.” John Freeman, literary critic, poet, and former Granta editor, is a childhood classmate of one of my favorite local proprietors, Jen Komaromi of Jenny K. I wished I could have attended, but it was time for me to head on over to Bren’s place in Cambridge. I caught a Lyft and met my gracious hosts, Bren and Bob, in their beautiful turn-of-the-century flat. The trees had already changed colors and it was cold. Perfect fall weather. Bren grew up in the Bay Area and is now a successful painter and muralist. He and Brian share the distinction of being one of the first couples to be married in Massachusetts when same-sex marriage was legal. While they had a dance performance to attend that evening, I was perfectly happy to cozy up on the couch and read Sisters in one sitting. And then cat-nap and catch the World Series.

Thinking of my daughter, Isabella, as I took a picture of the hare statue in Copley Square minus the tortoise.

Old South Church across from the Boston Public Library.

In the morning, after my error of telling Bren and Bob that the weekend before Halloween was Daylight Savings time was discovered, we had enough time to right the ship, get ready, and head on over to hosts Rory and Jane’s home to enjoy a Sunday brunch and discuss my novel. I was in awe of all the great food that was on the table. What a wonderful tradition of a having a potluck brunch with Filipino food such as puto and a rice dish that was supposed to feature Spam (Anna, who brought the dish apologized for not being able to find the tin of Spam in her kitchen). I met some wonderful people and new friends. I felt so welcomed. Rather than drain me, my short whirlwind weekend energized me. I was surrounded by books, book lovers, writers, my Filipino American community, warm hospitality. What more could a writer ask for? Maraming salamat, dear new friends!

Meeting host Rory Dela Paz and Anna (courtesy of Bren Bataclan).

Enjoying Filipino food and conversation (courtesy of Bren Bataclan).

New and long-standing members of the Boston Filipino American Book Club (courtesy of Bren Bataclan).

Talking about my book (courtesy of Bren Bataclan).

Members of the Boston Filipino-American Book Club and their tasty spread hosted by Jane and Rory Dela Paz.

Saying goodbye to this artistic couple, photographer Alonso Nichols and memoirist and fiction writer Grace Talusan (courtesy of Bren Bataclan).

Talking about the Filipino American experience at UC Davis

Ethnic studies may be effective because it is an unusually intensive and at-scale social-psychological intervention.
– Thomas S. Dee, professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education, director at the Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis, and co-author of the report The Causal Effects of Cultural Relevance: Evidence from an Ethnic Studies Curriculum, a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper

The University of California at Davis is my alma mater, and while I was an English major, I was one class shy of having a minor in Asian American Studies. So I was very excited to have the opportunity to do a talk for Professor Robyn Magalit Rodriguez’s Asian American Studies class 150: the Filipino American Experience this past Thursday, April 27th.

The quad at UC Davis, where I spent many a sunny afternoon reading and having lunch with friends and classmates.

Another view of the quad. Lots of political signs up. I remember listening to Desmond Tutu speaking to a capacity crowd on the quad. Those were the days.

My older sister Heidi is also an Aggie alum. Here we are posing with some Aggie swag.

Professor Rodriguez showed Marissa Aroy’s documentary, The Delano Manongs: the Forgotten Heroes of the United Farm Workers Movement. Then I read an excerpt from my novel, A Village in the Fields. Afterwards, we did a Q&A session, which included my talking about the importance of Asian American Studies in my life – personally and with my writing. Professor Rodriguez and I both stressed the importance of recording the stories of our families, and emphasizing the value to our parents and grandparents of their stories. They need validation of the importance of their stories.

Reading an excerpt from the novel.

Talking about the process of writing A Village in the Fields.

Talking about the importance of Asian American Studies in my life.

I had the opportunity to talk with a number of students after the class. I am uplifted every time I spent time with college students, especially those in Asian American Studies. I was energized by their passion and commitment to AAS and the history of Filipino Americans.

Getting to know one of the AAS students who is majoring in history.

I really enjoy talking with students after events. Here, Rebecca is an English major who is minoring in AAS.

Who doesn’t enjoy signing books?

Thank you, Professor Rodriguez, for a great, enlightening evening!

Celebrating Cesar Chavez Day, University of CA, Office of the President

On Wednesday, March 29th, I was the guest speaker at a lunchtime event sponsored by the Latino Staff Association/Asian Pacific Islander Association affinity groups at the University of California, Office of the President (UCOP). The event, entitled, “When Mexicans and Filipinos Join Together: The Farmworker Movement and Unity in the Making,” was in celebration of Cesar Chavez Day. After reading an excerpt from my novel, A Village in the Fields, I sat down with Belinda Vea, Policy and Program Analyst in Student Affairs for UCOP who did her graduate work on Filipino literature, in an “in conversation” question-and-answer session. Belinda is also co-chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Association.

Among other topics, Belinda asked me about the research process and my family’s story within the novel. The floor was opened up to questions from the audience, which numbered between 45 and 50, which was really nice to see. It was gratifying not only to respond to such thoughtful questions, but to see the interest in people’s faces. In addition to UCOP employees, the event was also advertised to employees from Kaiser Permanente, whose building was across the street in downtown Oakland.

I’m posting photos taken of the event, with gratitude to the photographers, Juliann Martinez, Employee Relations Specialist and chair of the Latino Staff Association, who kindly extended the invitation to speak, Alina Tejera, Pamela Palpallatoc, and Ben Tsai, co-chair with Belinda of the APIA.

The flyer advertising the event.

A wonderful poster welcoming the audience.

A nice spread of Filipino and Mexican cuisine.

A very nice slide show of Filipino and Mexican farm workers was shown before the event.

Reading an excerpt from my novel.

A close-up of my reading.

Belinda Vea “in conversation” with me after my reading.

Belinda at the ready with her questions.

One of the things I talked about was the value taking Asian American Studies classes at UC Davis both in my personal life and in my writing.

An animated me answering a questions while the audience leans in.

A beautiful basket of vegetables and two of my books were raffle prizes at the end of the event.

Me with Pamela Palpallatoc, who works for UCOP and is a UC Davis alumna.

Talking beyond the lunch hour about Filipino American history.

My hosts – Belinda Vea, Ben Tsai, and Juliann Martinez.

Seattle book tour in review: Part 3, Yakima Valley

The origin of the name remains unknown, though there are legends that describe the derivation of the city’s name. The most popular legend explains that the daughter of a Native American chief from Moxie ran away breaking tribal rules and settled on the Yakima River. In this legend the name Yakima means “runaway.” Another derivation of the name is what the Native Americans used to refer to Yakima as, “Beginning of Life, Big Belly, and Bountiful.”
– Yakima Valley Museum

The last leg of my Seattle book tour, along with Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Marissa Aroy, was in Yakima Valley. Our tour was sponsored by numerous generous organizations, including Pinoy Words Expressed Kultura Arts (KWEKA), Alaskero Foundation, El Centro de la Raza, the Meaningful Movies Project, Filipino American Students Association (FASA) of the University of Washington, 4 Culture, Office of Arts & Culture (Seattle), Filipino American Community of Greater Yakima Valley, Imperial Gardens, Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) Chapter 26, and the FANHS National Office.

The perfect time to be visiting Yakima Valley.

The perfect time to be visiting Yakima Valley.

Amazing blue sky with cirrus clouds, fog in the hills, and fall across the valley floor.

Amazing blue sky with cirrus clouds, fog in the hills, and fall across the valley floor.

Not bad for taking photos through the window of a moving car! I wish I had time to stop and enjoy the scenery. Next time.

Not bad for taking photos through the window of a moving car! I wish I had time to stop and enjoy the scenery. Next time.

Maria Batayola served as our wonderful host for our book tour. She showed me a side of Seattle I had never seen (see my two previous news posts “Seattle book tour in review: Parts 1 and 2”), and for that, I am deeply grateful. On Saturday morning, October 22nd, my good friend John, who, along with his partner Kris, had welcomed me into their home for my stay in Seattle, dropped me off in Factoria, Wash., where I met up with Maria and Marissa, and away we drove to eastern Washington.

Layers of sky, cirrus clouds, foothills in fog, and forest.

Layers of sky, cirrus clouds, foothills in fog, and forest.

Just another photo of the spectacular sky.

Just another photo of the spectacular sky.

And mountains that will soon be covered with snow.

And mountains that will soon be covered with snow.

I’ve visited Seattle a number of times, but I’ve never been to the eastern part of the state. I had read David Guterson’s 1999 novel, East of the Mountains, and understood that where Seattle was lush, the eastern part of the state was arid. However, I was also told that the region would remind me of California’s Central Valley because it was rural farming land dotted with small communities.

Huge trees in Ellensburg, Wash.

Huge trees in Ellensburg, Wash.

Close-up of the blazing leaves.

Close-up of the blazing leaves.

The drive took some two and a half hours. Along the way, we saw some amazing landscape – clear streams meandering through different varieties of trees in spectacular gold, orange, and red. Bodies of water were low enough to reveal stumps of trees. And then we entered vast farmlands and signs for Honeycrisp apples. While Yakima Valley is the bread basket for numerous fruits and vegetables, the region is well known for its apples. Eastern Washington is home to more than 175,000 acres of apple orchards, with Yakima Valley being the largest apple-producing region in the state.

If you find yourself in Ellensburg, Wash., eating a meal at the Yellow Church Cafe is a must-do.

If you find yourself in Ellensburg, Wash., eating a meal at the Yellow Church Cafe is a must-do.

The interior of the restaurant.

The interior of the restaurant.

One of the best BLTs. Ever. Hands. Down.

One of the best BLTs. Ever. Hands. Down.

We stopped for lunch at this charming and popular restaurant called The Yellow Church Cafe (111 S. Pearl Street, Ellensburg, Wash. 98926, 509.933.2233), which, as you can guess, is a converted church. The food is heavenly, no pun intended. Whenever a BLT appears on the menu, that’s what I order. What was special about this BLT is that it made with their special bread, which tastes like a fluffy asiago cheese bagel, and instead of the tired mayonnaise, it had an aioli sauce. The chai latte was not overly sweet. The place was hopping. Afterwards, we wandered over to a brightly decorated house a few blocks down inhabited by happy artists. Ellensburg proved to be a quaint and beautiful town.

Entrance to the colorful and cheerful house at 101 N. Pearl Street.

Entrance to the colorful and cheerful house at 101 N. Pearl Street.

Beyond the colorful fence is a yard full of mischievous characters, including this runaway bear.

Beyond the colorful fence is a yard full of mischievous characters, including this runaway bear.

Art lives - indeed - and it also nourishes, brings beauty, gives hope, empowers, enables dreams, and so much more.

Art lives – indeed – and it also nourishes, brings beauty, gives hope, empowers, enables dreams, and so much more.

Key details and a hand waving hello and goodbye.

Key details and a hand waving hello and goodbye.

Found art of bicycle wheels makes a lovely tree.

Found art of bicycle wheels makes a lovely tree.

When we arrived in the town of Wapato, we were first met by Kuya Ray Pasqua, president of the Filipino American Community of Yakima Valley (FACYV). Kuya Ray is a leader in the community, but he also worked with Filipino American labor leader Larry Itliong during the years of the Delano Grape Strike and the United Farm Workers Union. It was an honor to meet him and to hear his stories of those difficult but very important times. FACYV’s Filipino Hall in Wapato, Wash., is the first Filipino Hall built in the United States. FACYV was preparing for its 60th anniversary the following evening, which is a big event that was anticipated to feed some 600 members of the community. It was too bad that Marissa and I would be leaving for home the following morning.

The first Filipino Community Hall in the country.

The first Filipino Community Hall in the country.

Let the 60th anniversary celebration begin!

Let the 60th anniversary celebration begin!

The Filipino Community Hall had a nice display of FACYV achievements through the years.

The Filipino Community Hall had a nice display of FACYV achievements through the years.

The Saturday evening event comprised a short reading from my novel, the screening of Marissa’s documentary, Delano Manongs: The Forgotten Heroes of the United Farm Workers Movement, and a panel discussion with Kuya Ray, Marissa, Maria and me, moderated by local reporter Ryan Yadao. Although attendance was light, the community members who showed up were very engaged in the subject and some had been involved in the farm labor movement, which was great to learn about and to meet them after the event. I can’t say it enough: It was an honor for me to hear of their sacrifices in the fields and across the country in the name of social justice for farm workers.

Group photo of some of the wonderful community members in Yakima Valley.

Group photo of some of the wonderful community members in Yakima Valley.

After the Q&A and book and DVD signing, we were invited to the home of FACYV members Fred Fontanilla, who is a retired chemist, and Bob Plummer, retired professor at Heritage University, for a wonderful dinner, which included great conversation among the 12 of us. And then FANHS Chapter 26 members Dori Peralta Baker and her husband Geoff Baker hosted us for the night. In the morning, we were treated to gorgeous views of Yakima Valley. Dori related the activity of casually counting the bald eagles and salmon in the streams, and how the hills are covered in snow in the wintertime. Dori had put together a display of local Filipino Americans who served in the Vietnam War. She told us the sobering news that Yakima Valley bearing the burden of being the region in the country with the most soldiers of color who fought in the Vietnam War. I should not be surprised, but I was still shocked by the fact that the high school counselors advised the Native American, Filipino American, and Mexican American boys to join the armed forces and serve in Vietnam War because they were not college material. I’m sure this practice was rampant across high schools in America at the time and to this day, but to have your home region bear that awful distinction is heartbreaking.

The beautiful view from our host's backyard.

The beautiful view from our host’s backyard.

Beautiful morning, looking for bald eagles.

Beautiful morning, looking for bald eagles. The hills in the background will be white with snow in the wintertime.

The canal feeds into the river, which I am assuming is the Yakima Valley River. Stunning.

The canal feeds into the river, which I am assuming is the Yakima Valley River. Stunning.

We left Yakima Valley early Sunday morning to return home. I learned so much while on this book tour and I met so many wonderful, giving people. And I saw another beautiful part of Washington State. I hope to return to Seattle and Yakima Valley in the near future – to this wonderful community that I now claim as part of my Filipino American home.

Heading back to Seattle and its fall foilage.

Heading back to Seattle and its fall foilage.

Mt. Rainier bids adieu.

Mt. Rainier bids adieu.

Seattle book tour in review: Part 1

Seattle, the mild green queen: wet and willing, cedar-scented, and crowned with slough grass, her toadstool scepter tilted toward Asia, her face turned ever upward in the rain…
– Tom Robbins, American author, from Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life

Outside my friends’ – John and Kris – home in Kent, Wash.

Outside my friends’ – John and Kris – home in Kent, Wash.

Back in early spring, Alan Lau, Arts Editor for the International Examiner, “Seattle’s Asian Pacific Islander newspaper for over 42 years,” contacted Eastwind Books of Berkeley to let my publisher know that my novel had just been reviewed. He asked if I had any book readings in Seattle, as he would publish the review in tandem. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any readings scheduled, although I had reached out to local bookstores when my book was published in September 2015.

Alan proved to be a big-hearted champion and a model of persistence – in response, he put me in touch with local Filipino American groups to coordinate and sponsor a few events. Maria Batayola, who is a well-known leader in numerous organizations in the Seattle and greater Seattle area – including Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) and Pinoy Words Expressed Kultura Arts (PWEKA) – emerged as our main contact person and champion of the arts.

I came to Seattle at just the right time for the fall foilage.

I came to Seattle at just the right time for the fall foilage.

Working with a number of organizations, Maria helped to coordinate what evolved into the themed “tour” of the Delano manongs and the Delano grape strike of 1965, which comprised screening Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Marissa Aroy’s 2014 documentary Delano Manongs: The Forgotten Heroes of the United Farm Workers Movement, which was nominated for a Northern California Emmy, and a reading of my novel. Obviously, Marissa’s documentary and my historical novel complement one another. Thus, began our tour.

I came to Seattle at just the right time for the fall foilage.

I came to Seattle at just the right time for the fall foilage.

New favorite Seattle bookstore
Third Place Books, Seward Park (5041 Wilson Avenue South, Seattle) opened up the first event of our tour on Thursday evening, October 20th. Before the reading, Maria hosted dinner for us at Raconteur. The building formerly housed a local co-op grocery store. Third Place Books, which has three locations (6504 20th Avenue NE, 101 S. Main Street, and 17171 Bothell Way NE) opened a fourth location in Seward Park and partnered with Raconteur, which comprises a restaurant and espresso bar on the main floor and a full bar downstairs. The property also boasts outdoor seating. It was a lively scene at both the bookstore and restaurant for a Thursday evening, with families with young children and friends meeting after work for dinner and book lovers.

Third Place Books on the left....

Third Place Books on the left….

Dinner at Raconteur in Seward Park.

Dinner at Raconteur in Seward Park.

October events under glass at the entrance of Third Place Books.

October events under glass at the entrance of Third Place Books.

A little bit more about Third Place Books. It is the “deliberate and intentional creation of a community around books and the ideas inside of them.” The bookstore got its name from sociologist Ray Oldenberg, who suggested that “each of us needs three places: first is the home, second is the workplace or school; and beyond lies the place where people from all walks of life interact, experiencing and celebrating their commonality as well as their diversity. It is a third place. In his celebrated book, The Great Good Place, Oldenberg discusses how the cafes, pubs, town squares, and other gathering places make a community stronger and bring people together.” I want to give a shout out to the folks at Third Place Books: Wendy Ceballos, Director of Events and Marketing, Kalani Kapahua, Events Coordinator, and our evening host Michelle provided us with a lovely experience, from their interest in my book with the initial inquiry to the enthusiasm and warmth given to us that Thursday evening.

The espresso bar with dining to the right of the bar.

The espresso bar with dining to the right of the bar.

The bookstore to the left. Love the hardwood floors and expansiveness of the place.

The bookstore to the left. Love the hardwood floors and expansiveness of the place.

Marissa and I were honored to be joined by local poet and playwright Robert (Bob) Francis Flor, who recently published chapbook of poems, Alaskero Memories, chronicling his coming of age during the 1960s summers he worked in the Alaska canneries. Devin Israel Cabanilla, who had conducted a session on geneology at the FANHS National Conference in New York City this past June and is an active member of the FANHS Greater Seattle chapter, served as our master of ceremonies.

Reading at the stage of Third Place Books (photo courtesy of Peter Vershoor).

Reading at the stage of Third Place Books (photo courtesy of Peter Vershoor).

Q&A with Marissa, Bob, and Devin (photo courtesy of Ador Pereda Yano).

Q&A with Marissa, Bob, and Devin (photo courtesy of Ador Pereda Yano).

I read a scene in which my main character, Fausto Empleo, meets other pinoy immigrants on the ship that was bound for Seattle. I let the small but appreciative crowd know that my father had landed in Seattle in 1926 and spent some time working in a lumber mill in Cosmopolis, Wash., located about 110 miles southwest of Seattle. Marissa shared the beginning of her documentary after my reading, and Bob followed her screening with reading a handful of his poems. Afterwards, Devin kicked off the Q&A session with his own questions and then opened it up to the audience. When someone asked what our current projects are, I was excited to hear that Marissa is working on a documentary on the Philippine-American War, which is also the subject of my novel-in-progress. I’m looking forward to sharing sources with Marissa.

Photo op with Devin, Marissa, and Bob (photo courtesy of Donna MIscolta).

Photo op with Devin, Marissa, and Bob (photo courtesy of Donna MIscolta).

Mini reunion with my high school best friend, Kathy (photo courtesy of Peter Vershoor).

Mini reunion with my high school best friend, Kathy (photo courtesy of Peter Vershoor).

One of my best friends from high school and one of my careful readers of A Village in the Fields (from draft to near-finished product – covering some 16 years off and on), Kathy Brackett, and her husband, Peter Verschoor, made it to my reading, so we had a mini – albeit short – reunion. And my hosts and dear friends, John Buettner – groomsman at David’s and my wedding 18 years ago and godfather to our son, Jacob, and Kris Kingsley, supported me, as well, by their attendance. I enjoyed meeting people at the book signing. I met writer Donna Miscolta, who heritage is Filipino and Latino. She is the author of a new collection of short stories, Hola and Goodbye, which will be released November 1st. Her name and her face were familiar to me, but I couldn’t place her until I discovered that she is an alum of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. A father wearing a UC Davis shirt let me know that his daughter had attended Davis on a rowing scholarship. In UW Husky territory, I was excited to see an Aggie shirt.

Signing books and meeting local people who kindly attended the reading (photo courtesy of Donna Miscolta).

Signing books and meeting local people who kindly attended the reading (photo courtesy of Donna Miscolta).

Signing books with Bob, and meeting Devin’s daughter, Vita (photo courtesy of Devin Israel Cabanilla).

Signing books with Bob, and meeting Devin’s daughter, Vita (photo courtesy of Devin Israel Cabanilla).

Most touching was meeting Devin’s eight-year-old daughter, Vita, who asked me to autograph her book – her first signed book and her first encounter with an author! She asked me what my book was about, and I stumbled a bit because I was trying to shape it in a way that she would appreciate and understand. I believe I said that it was about a farm worker who came from the Philippines to America with high hopes; while he had a difficult life that he was at first unprepared for, he lived a good life in the end. I wish I had added that he found family and community, which gave him hope when there was no hope, and how we should all be there for our family and community. Next time! Vita informed me that she and her dad were going to read my book and learn new words. I thought about the scenes that weren’t appropriate! Luckily, the following day, I bumped into Devin and he assured me he would censor inappropriate-for-children scenes! I hadn’t given a bookstore reading in about a year, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Happily, I was pleasantly surprised, seeing old friends and meeting new ones in what turned out to be a great, invigorating evening.

 

(To be continued….)

Appropriately, grapes in the fall.

Appropriately, grapes in the fall.

More vibrant fall colors.

More vibrant fall colors.

FANHS National Museum opens

The FANHS Museum tells the rich, diverse story of Filipino Americans throughout the United States. Filipino Americans have been making American history since a group of Luzones Indios landed in what is now Morro Bay, California, on a Spanish Galleon in October 1587. The story of Filipinos in the Americas begins with them.
– FANHS National Museum brochure

On October 8, 2016, the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) opened the doors of its National Museum in Stockton, Calif. (337 E. Weber Avenue, 209.932.9037). The Stockton chapter of FANHS was instrumental in realizing this dream, which has taken some 20 years to come to fruition. More than 400 people came on opening day. I was among the hungry and excited.

The museum is located in the old Newberry building in Stockton, Calif.

The museum is located in the old Newberry building in Stockton, Calif.

Traditional Maria Clara outfit and a First Filipino Regiment uniform. Note the volcano emblem on the sleeve.

Traditional Maria Clara outfit and a First Filipino Regiment uniform. Note the volcano emblem on the sleeve.

Stockton was chosen as the museum site because many Filipinos came to this farming town to work, and at one time the city boasted the most Filipinos outside of the Philippines. Stockton was the natural choice. One of the prominent exhibits included Filipino American farm workers.

Farm worker's simple lifestyle.

Farm worker’s simple lifestyle.

A day in the life of a farm worker.

A day in the life of a farm worker.

Filipino American agricultural life, 1920-1950.

Filipino American agricultural life, 1920-1950.

A map of Filipino American farm workers' movement within California. Stockton is the epicenter.

A map of Filipino American farm workers’ movement within California. Stockton is the epicenter.

The farm workers' tools, otherwise known as "the devil's tools."

The farm workers’ tools, otherwise known as “the devil’s tools.”

The farm workers' "appliances."

The farm workers’ “appliances.”

A typical view of a farm worker's camp.

A typical view of a farm worker’s camp.

Letty Perez's grandmother's organ.

Letty Perez’s grandmother’s organ.

The immigrant's suitcase - full of dreams and memories of home.

The immigrant’s suitcase – full of dreams and memories of home.

I congratulated Anita Bautista and Letty Perez, two visionary and hardworking Filipinas who are long-time members of the Stockton chapter. I also finally met in person Peter Jamaro, author of Growing Up Brown and Vanishing Filipino Americans.

Anita Bautista and me. Anita helped me ensure that my Stockton sections of my novel were accurate.

Anita Bautista and me. Anita helped me ensure that my Stockton sections of my novel were accurate.

Selfie with Peter Jamaro at Papa Urb's Grill.

Selfie with Peter Jamaro at Papa Urb’s Grill.

The museum features “Singgalot: The Ties that Bind, Filipinos in America, from Colonial Subjects to Citizens,” which was a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution. Eighteen of the 30 panels were on display at the FANHS National Museum. Other exhibits included Filipino American farm workers. Below are my photos from my first (of many to come) visits to the museum.

First panel of Singgalot.

First panel of Singgalot.

This pictorial timeline tells the story of the Filipinos in the United States.

This pictorial timeline tells the story of the Filipinos in the United States.

First landing of Filipinos in America - in Morro Bay, Calif.

First landing of Filipinos in America – in Morro Bay, Calif.

The fate of the Philippines in the hands of the U.S.

The fate of the Philippines in the hands of the U.S.

American soldiers in the Philippines.

American soldiers in the Philippines.

The bigger picture of the U.S. moving into the Philippines as colonizer.

The bigger picture of the U.S. moving into the Philippines as colonizer.

The bigger picture of the U.S. moving into the Philippines as colonizer.

The bigger picture of the U.S. moving into the Philippines as colonizer.

Harper's Weekly covered the "insurrection" of Filipino revolutionaries opposing U.S. colonization.

Harper’s Weekly covered the “insurrection” of Filipino revolutionaries opposing U.S. colonization.

The 1904 World's Fair depicted Filipinos as savages in need of civilization by the U.S.

The 1904 World’s Fair depicted Filipinos as savages in need of civilization by the U.S.

One of the first group of immigrants to come to America were the pensionados. One of the first group of immigrants to come to America were the pensionados.

One of the first group of immigrants to come to America were the pensionados.

The first wave of Filipinos to arrive included my father.

The first wave of Filipinos to arrive included my father.

The first wave of immigrants took jobs in the food service industry and in farm labor.

The first wave of immigrants took jobs in the food service industry and in farm labor.

During the Depression, Filipinos were discriminated against for supposedly taking away jobs from the white male workforce.

During the Depression, Filipinos were discriminated against for supposedly taking away jobs from the white male workforce.

Filipinos joining the U.S. military.

Filipinos joining the U.S. military.

My father was part of the First All-Filipino Regiment, which saw action in New Guinea and the Philippines.

My father was part of the First All-Filipino Regiment, which saw action in New Guinea and the Philippines.

The second wave of Filipino immigrants

The second wave of Filipino immigrants

The third wave of immigrants.

The third wave of immigrants.

And just for fun, a souvenir license plate holder that I didn’t get:

Adobo powered!

Adobo powered!

On a more serious note, this museum is important and must be sustained. It’s a part of U.S. history, so everyone should visit and learn about the Filipino American story. For Filipino Americans, a trek to the FANHS National Museum in Stockton is an important pilgrimage to make.