Looking back on the garden in August

Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.
– May Sarton, American poet, novelist, and memoirist

It’s already October, mid-October at that, and I’m behind in my reportage of my summer garden. Time to play catch-up. Here are the bouquets of late summer, with fall bouquets still in production.

For the August 11th delivery for the Korematsu bouquets, here’s the first one.

Here’s the second Korematsu bouquet, a more colorful and bright bouquet.

A close-up of my favorite, the scabiosa, which for the first time in my garden has been giving me more than a few blooms per season. And oh the beauty of the light yellow dahlia tipped in the faintest of pink hues.

The deep pink dahlia in all its perfection.

And the spiked magenta dahlia.

Dinner-plate size pink dahlia.

Spiked fireworks dahlia.

When I was in Maine, I found some beautiful little bottles, some vintage, at some shops in Brunswick. Since I have a lot of flowers that are short-stemmed but equally beautiful, I thought to highlight them in this display. I put them on a platter and used this display as decoration for David’s office group party in mid-August.

Here’s a close-up of the bottles, holding echinacea, rudbeckia “Prairie Sun,” centaurea cyanus blue, and a pink rudbeckia-type flower.

I made a bouquet for David’s office group party, as well. Cosmos, dianthus, and alstromeria accompanied this bouquet of dahlias.

The platter of tiny bouquets decorated the kitchen table alongside a plate of Isabella’s homemade vanilla iced scones.

A pair of swooping swallows, made in Haiti by artisans using reclaimed steel oil drums, appreciate the tiny bouquets I made that was placed on the tables in the patio for the party.

The August 15th bouquet is spilling over in its splendor, with white snow puff cosmos and monster red straw flowers.

For the August 15th ECHS bouquet, I added a platter of tiny bouquets.

The next day, August 16th, I had a lot of flowers to cut, so I made this bouquet for our LUNAFEST chair, Joann. The scabiosa, monster red straw flowers, and zinnias were in abundance.

Another view of the August 16th bouquet for Joann.

One more view of the August 16th bouquet. I confess I’m not great at curating these photos. This one shows off the pink zinnias.

This August 18th bouquet for the Korematsu auction winners is one of my all-time favorites. I like it because it’s so horizontal and bountiful.

Here’s a top-down close-up with zinnias, rudbeckia, echinacea, scabiosa, cosmos, and pink arctotis (African daisy).

The other side of this horizontal bouquet.

The second August 18th bouquet for the other Korematsu auction winner.

A close-up of this second bouquet, featuring rudbeckia, echinacea, arctotis, and zinnia.

I have fallen in love with the zinnia, so I’ll be growing more of these long-lasting flowers next year, even if they are annuals.

The other side of the second bouquet.

The August 20th bouquet for Joann.

A close-up of scabiosa columbaria, “flutter deep blue.”

The other side of Joann’s bouquet.

A variety of African daisy, another new flower that I’ve introduced to the garden.

Joann invited me to attend the El Cerrito City Hall’s time capsule celebration, one of the many events commemorating the city’s centennial. So I made a bouquet to take to City Hall.

A close-up of one of my favorite dahlias in the August 24th bouquet.

The bouquet at City Hall.

Second home in summer – Portland Maine

We sat bathed in luscious darkness, Casco Bay’s thousand islands spread out before us like a diamond quilt. ‘I don’t get enough of this,’ she said.
– Mike Bond, novelist, environmental activist, poet, war and human rights correspondent, and international energy expert

Every summer, I am treated to a week in Maine, thanks to the fact that my company is based in Portland, Maine. Every summer, I fly into Portland, and I immediately fall in love all over again. The bay, the islands with the homes dotting the shore, the billowy clouds floating across a brilliant blue sky, the fresh air, the fantastic restaurants, the cute shops. I gush about moving to Maine. Or at least summer in Maine.

This year, the out-of-towners at my company got to stay at the Press Hotel, which is a boutique hotel that was once home to the Portland Press-Herald newspaper. But not only is the building an historic building, but the owners got it right by decorating the interior of the hotel with a newspaper theme. The sales team at my company, who are just great to work with and for, thanked me for my service to them in a very sweet call-out before my boss’s presentation on our department. And they presented me with two Press Hotel mugs and ceramic tray, which now sit on my desk to remind me of my stay there and the wonderful memories from this year.

My picture of the building didn’t turn out because the sun wasn’t on my back. But here’s info on the history of the newspaper and building.

In the lobby, one of the walls displays typewriters from all eras.

In the lobby, an old-fashioned typewriter and complimentary stationery.

Mod carpeting and tables with enlarged old newspaper clippings.

In the hallways, the wall paper is taken from actual headlines found in old microfiche (yes, look up that word).

The room across the hall from me. I love the detail of the room number being illuminated.

The chair and its quote in my room.

My last night at the Press Hotel: lobster rolls and homemade potato chips.

My Press Hotel gifts and souvenirs….

Meals for the week! Portland is well known for its great restaurants. And I was lucky to hit a number of places. Some new, some welcomed me back.

Marcy’s Diner, if you want a hearty meal, with my colleague Julie.

Boats pointing to Casco Bay.

DeMillo’s on the Bay, Portland.

Branzino at Scales, with a great view of the Bay.

The tradition for dinner the last evening of our summer sales summit is taking the ferry to Peak’s Island and having a lobster dinner. Fun was had by all. And, of course, my colleague and partner in crime, Deb, accompanied me as we shopped in Old Port, the old part of town.

One of my favorite shops in Maine. From jewelry to unique clocks and other furniture to whimsy decorations like these bookish birdhouses.

I read about Flea-for-All in the local magazine in my hotel room. What a fun place to browse. This is where I discovered Michelle Estell jewelry.

Beautifully curated Flea-for-All on Congress Street.

The interior of Flea-for-All.

Maine Potters Market in Old Port has beautiful pottery made by artists from Maine.

Selfies on the ferry ride to Peak’s Island – with Erin and Claretha.

A mix of sales and editorial staff – with Jane, Kelly, Gus, Julie, and Deb.

Claretha and I bonded last summer with our love for big earrings. The pair that I’m wearing was given to me by Claretha on the first day of summer summit.

Peak’s Island lobster – a tradition.

On the way back to the ferry – a familiar sight of colorful hanging lobster floats.

Farewell, Peak’s Island!

After the summer sales summit concluded for me, I spent the weekend with my good friend Jack and his wife, Fay, and their daughter, Camille. But first, we walked around Portland, as I discovered for the first time since I’ve been coming here, that Henry Wadsworth-Longfellow lived here and his home is an historic landmark. We walked around the gardens.

Longfellow’s statue in Portland.

The lush Longfellow’s Garden.

Tranquil setting.

Vibrant greenery.

Colorful bouquet.

At the Portland Hunt and Alpine Club for drinks with Eric and Jack. Love the simple green bouquets on the table. This place is all scarred wood, clear glass, greenery, and old-time maps. And good drinks!

Still bad at doing selfies, but I guess that’s a good thing. With Eric and Jack.

First time at Empire – one of the favorites, Peking duck buns. To. Die. For. If you ever go to Portland, you must eat here. The hour wait is worth every second.

Jack and his family moved to Brunswick in 2015, but since we went directly from Portland to Stonington Island, where they have a home there, I never spent time in their new abode until this year. Brunswick is lovely, and I had a relaxing time exploring the historic town.

The picturesque Brunswick Inn, in the main street of town.

This is a great shop, though pricey and questionable customer service. But still a great place to browse.

Wyler’s of Brunswick, a charming shop with jewelry, clothes, housewares, toys, locally crafted gifts, and accessories. You can spend a lot of time browsing here.

Hatch on Maine is a cute vintage and antique shop. There are a few vintage/antique shops on the main street. This one was a favorite of mine.

The shores of Brunswick.

The Frank J. Wood Bridge, which spans the Androscoggin River between Topsham and Brunswick, at twilight.

Contemplating life, Fay and Jack overlook the Androscoggin River.

Can’t get enough of the clouds here.

Brunswick is home to Bowdoin College, a lovely private liberal arts college established in 1794 when Maine was still part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Bowdoin College Chapel.

Inside the chapel.

Hubbard Hall.

Lovely white hydrangeas all over the campus.

The second majestic lion.

Illuminated clouds.

Along the way, we walked through the local cemetery, in which Joseph Chamberlain, hometown hero of the Civil War, is laid to rest.

Walking through the Brunswick cemetery.

Something about headstones in a cemetery that draws me, especially when the cemetery is an old one.

Joseph Chamberlain’s headstone.

A row of headstones.

A family of headstones like rows of old teeth.

Knowing that I love gardens, Jack took me to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, where I took upwards of 200 photos at least. Here are just a few, though it was tough to narrow them down.

Adirondack chairs await visitors at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

A view of the Back River.

A field of daisies with monarch butterflies, if you look more closely.

Charlie’s bench.

Daisy.

One of the more inventive interpretations from a visitor to the Fairy House Village.

Gaillardia.

Rabbit sculpture by Lisa Becu.

Lush lime green greenery.

Petunias.

Slater Forest Pond.

Vayo Meditation Garden pool.

Close-up of the Basin sculpture by David Holmes.

Hostas.

Wind Orchard by George Sherwood.

Colorful hostas.

Windsound by Val Bertoia from Bertoia Studios.

Echinacea.

Ethereal plants.

I had another great time in Portland and Brunswick. Thanks to my great friends and hosts, Jack and Fay. Looking forward to next year!

It looks like I’m wrestling with Holly, the Beaudoin Family dog, but I’m really awkwardly trying to do a selfie with her.

Last meal in Maine in Portland at, of course, Empire.

Fay and me at Empire.

Brunswick architecture. Love the homes here in Brunswick, in Maine.

My last attempt at a selfie with Jack and Fay in front of their lovely Brunswick home.

FilAm History Month in Los Angeles: a homecoming

Often you could see his grandmother talking to someone on the phone, and as he was told later, she was taking bets on the horse races for a Filipino bookie they called Peanuts. He was short, medium build, bald, and about 45 years old, and very well dressed. He could have been one of the characters from the movie Guys & Dolls. Oh yes, he would frequently be accompanied by a good-looking tall American girlfriend.
– Paul Lee, excerpt from “My Extended Family,” Filipinotown: Voices from Los Angeles

When Linda Nietes, owner of Philippine Expressions Bookshop (Croatian Cultural Center, 510 W 7th St., San Pedro, CA) invited me to join Marissa Aroy, friend and director of the documentary, The Delano Manongs: Forgotten Heroes of the United Farm Workers Movement, for a late afternoon celebration for Filipino American History Month, I said yes! Even though I knew it meant flying to Southern California and making arrangements for the weekend of October 24-25. San Pedro is near Long Beach, which is where my dear friend Mark Bruce-Casares and his long-time partner David Bruce-Casares live. While we went to different high schools, Mark and I were part of the Saturday singing group at St. Anne’s Catholic Church. The last time I saw Mark and David was when Jacob was a toddler, so around 13 years ago. A reunion with Mark and David was another big reason to go.

Selfie with Mark leaving the Long Beach airport.

Selfie with Mark leaving the Long Beach airport.

Few people know that I was born in Los Angeles. We moved to Terra Bella when I was three years old. I remember going to Disneyland often as a child. Even after we moved, we visited our relatives regularly and were taken to the amusement park, using up the A-E tickets for the various rides. I have fond memories of this time in my childhood, even of the long car rides – staring out the window as we chugged our way through the Grapevine, with the enormous backseat of our uncles’ boat-sized cars as our playground. We used to live on the 4200 block of Rogers Street. That house, amazingly, still stands, as my sister Heidi had recently sent my sister Joyce and I a Google Maps photo of it – with iron grills over the windows. I thought it had been torn down for the freeways, but Heidi informed me that the houses across the street were demolished for the San Bernardino freeway.

What our first home on Rogers Street in Los Angeles looks like today.

What our first home on Rogers Street in Los Angeles looks like today.

As I made plans with Mark and David, I tried to find other events to potentially participate in. Linda was kind enough to connect me with local poet Silvia Morgan, who was hosting an Author’s Day at the San Pedro Branch Library (931 S. Gaffey Street, San Pedro, CA). The event would be ending just as the Philippine Expressions Bookshop event was beginning, and the two locations were nearby, so that was a perfect literary addition.

Through the Stockton chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS), of which I have been a member for more than a decade, I discovered that Carson City was hosting its annual Larry Itliong Day at the Carson Community Center. This year, many cities and organizations were hosting Larry Itliong Day, given that in June Governor Brown signed California State Assemblyperson Rob Bonta’s bill, AB 199, to honor the Filipino labor leader’s birthday, October 25th. Carson City holds the distinction of having the only city-run celebration. In fact, Carson City has been holding this event for the last six years. So the city officials are truly frontrunners in honoring Larry Itliong. I got in touch with the organizers and they arranged for me to have a table and to be able to hand out flyers about my novel and my book reading at Philippine Expressions.

Heading to Los Angeles.

Heading to Los Angeles.

The Stockton FANHS chapter also sent out a flyer for the Larry Itliong Day Celebration, hosted in large part by Los Angeles Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, whose 13th district includes Filipinotown, a historic section of Los Angeles. The event was going to be held at the community center for SIPA (Search to Involve Pilipino Americans, 3200 W. Temple St., Los Angeles, CA 90026, 213.382.1819). I contacted Angelo Yenko, legislative deputy for Councilmember O’Farrell, who put me in touch with the event organizers, Tina Salonga-Bulchand, director of programs and services for SIPA, and Gerald G. Gubatan, who along with Carlene Sobrino Bonnivier and Gregory Villanueva co-edited Filipinotown: Voices from Los Angeles, an anthology of writings from local authors over the last 100 years. Gerald and Tina kindly allowed me space at a table at the event. Marissa Aroy was also going to be showing her documentary.

Leading up to the event, I was in contact with Carlene, Greg, and Gerald via email. A sudden nostalgia surrounding Los Angeles and my childhood engulfed me. At that point, I was asking my sisters what our old home address was. Upon hearing about their anthology, I told Carlene, Greg, and Gerald about our Uncle Peanut, whose real name my sisters and I couldn’t recall. He, whom we later discovered through another relative was named Ignacio Lores, was quite the colorful character. He often wore a straw hat and sunglasses, and frequently nursed a glass of whiskey. At our annual San Esteban Dances, he always stole the floor with his flamboyant moves. I remember when we wanted to name our new dog Peanuts, after the Charles Schultz cartoon, which was popular in the day. My dad angrily vetoed our wishes because naming our dog after our “uncle” would be an insult to him.

My sisters and cousin Arnold with the infamous Uncle Peanut in the courtyard of our house on Rogers Street. That's the shadow of my father taking our picture.

My sisters and cousin Arnold with the infamous Uncle Peanut in the courtyard of our house on Rogers Street. The shadow belongs to my father, who was taking our picture. Fittingly, Uncle Peanut gave us dollar bills.

Upon telling Carlene about Uncle Peanut, she let me know that he was remembered in one of the stories in the anthology. Thus began the walk down memory lane of recalling relatives who lived in Los Angeles in the late 1940s through the late 1950s. In the course of planning my trip, I learned that I wouldn’t be able to stay with my friends David and Mark. Carlene graciously opened up her home for me to stay over the weekend, which was something I was eagerly looking forward to because I knew we’d be talking a lot about writing and the Filipino American community in Los Angeles.

Getting closer!

Getting closer!

So I was all set for my Los Angeles trip – four different events in a weekend. Let it be known, as many of you who know me, that I am not one to contact people I don’t know and make my way into various events, even though through the years I have become comfortable talking in front of audiences and leading meetings with executives, thanks to my profession. But I have become an advocate for my book, and I’m discovering that assertiveness is a good trait to have when marketing and promoting, and it has served me well.

I see the signs!

I see the signs!

Carson City’s Larry Itliong Day
Because of the time of my morning flight to Long Beach, I wasn’t able to catch the Carson City parade or the beginning of the festivities. By the time Mark and I arrived at the event, we had a choice of either setting up our table exposed to the heat or taking the tent behind the main stage. We took the tent, and when they made an announcement of our location, Mark and I waved to the few people in the audience who could see us. We were only going to be there for two hours, so the goal was to hand out flyers and talk to people. As we listened to the various speeches from local dignitaries in the Filipino American community and watched the community leadership awards that were being given out, I learned that the Philippines sent their only athlete to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, a figure skater named Michael Christian Martinez, who placed 19th overall. That was fun to see, given that I love figure skating. The length of the speeches prevented the crowd from milling about and we had to leave, so Mark and I distributed the flyers as we wended our way back to the car.

Keeping cool under the tent, even if it is behind the main stage!

Keeping cool under the tent, even if it is behind the main stage!

San Pedro Branch Library Author Day
Mark dropped me off at the San Pedro Branch Library for the local author reading. The crowd was small but appreciative. Eight authors – of both prose and poetry – read. A couple of people talked to me after the readings. Getting the word out, no matter how small the venue, is important, I told myself, especially outside of the Bay Area.

Author group shot with host Silvia Morgan in the center at the San Pedro Branch Library.

Author group shot with host Silvia Morgan in the center at the San Pedro Branch Library.

Philippine Expressions Bookshop: Filipino American History Month Celebration
Mark and David accompanied me to the Philippine Expressions Bookshop event, where I was reunited with Marissa – we’ve been seeing one another at various FilAm History Month celebrations the last two months. Marissa had read my novel in advance and gave me a really wonderful blurb for my book cover. I met her mother, who was accompanying Marissa on her Southern California tour; she told me she was taking her time reading my novel so she could enjoy and appreciate it more. The crowd was small but we had a lively Q&A after both Marissa’s screening of her documentary and my reading. I was grateful that Mark and David enjoyed learning about the Filipino American involvement of the grape strike.

The Croatian Cultural Center in San Pedro.

The Croatian Cultural Center in San Pedro.

Against a backdrop of Philippine textiles, Marissa answers questions after the screening of her documentary.

Against a backdrop of Philippine textiles, Marissa answered questions after the screening of her documentary.

Reading without a podium, a skill I'm learning.

Reading without a podium, a skill I’m learning.

An impromptu discussion by Paulino Lim Jr., retired professor at California State University, Long Beach, and author, about his collection of short stories, Sabong stories, etc.

An impromptu discussion by Paulino Lim Jr., retired professor at California State University, Long Beach, and author, about his collection of short stories, Sabong stories, etc.

At the end of the evening, a group shot with Philippine Expressions Bookshop owner Linda Nietes sitting to my right.

At the end of the evening, a group shot with Philippine Expressions Bookshop owner Linda Nietes sitting to my right and her friends.

Afterwards, Mark and David and I had a leisurely dinner catching up. You know you are in the hands of dear friends when it doesn’t seem as if 13 years has flown by since last getting together. After dinner, we took a scenic drive to return to Long Beach, which boasts some gorgeous Arts and Crafts homes along the shoreline. I love this time period in architecture, and when I think of Los Angeles and the surrounding communities – we had many relatives living in Long Beach, too – I picture 1940s bungalows and 1920s Arts & Crafts homes. Just as we pulled up to Carlene’s home, Carlene and Greg had arrived. It was time to say good-bye to Mark and David, with a promise not to let so much time pass before our next visit.

With Mark and David in Long Beach.

With Mark and David in Long Beach.

It was wonderful to get to know Carlene and Greg, as we stayed up late talking about the Filipino American history and community in Los Angeles. The conversation continued the in the morning over a leisurely Sunday brunch. I’ve since read through some of the pieces in their anthology. What a wonderful labor of love and gift to the community to preserve the stories and highlight the vibrant lives of Filipino Americans in Los Angeles, which notably includes Carlos Bulosan, who spent time in the City of Angels.

The beginning of historic Filipinotown.

The beginning of historic Filipinotown.

Unidad Park in historic Filipinotown.

Unidad Park in historic Filipinotown.

Panoramic shot of Eliseo Art Silva's magnificent mural.

Panoramic shot of Eliseo Art Silva’s magnificent mural.

Close-up of the mural with Carlos Bulosan.

Close-up of the mural with Carlos Bulosan.

Me before Philip Vera Cruz and Larry Itliong.

Me in front of Philip Vera Cruz and Larry Itliong.

Before and after the event at SIPA, Greg and Carlene took me on a tour of historic Filipinotown, which sits so close to downtown Los Angeles that it still astonishes me to recall the skyline bearing down on this part of town. Downtown continues to encroach with the inevitable gentrification. I was left to imagine what that bustling community of Echo Park was like in the 1940s and 1950s. I got to see Eliseo Art Silva’s wondrous mural, which is located at Unidad Park in Filipinotown. The mural, which he painted in 1994, was recently restored. It was an honor for me to see it in person after coming across it many times in photos on the Internet. Carlene and Greg also gave me a tour of Los Angeles and the surrounding cities.

Larry Itliong Day in historic Filipinotown.

Larry Itliong Day in historic Filipinotown.

Los Angeles Larry Itliong Day
The Story and Legacy of the Delano Manongs: A Community Celebration in honor of Larry Itliong Day in Los Angeles and in commemoration of the 50-year Anniversary of the Great Delano Grape Strike was a well-attended, boisterous, and fabulous event. Gerald, Tina, and Councilmember O’Farrell formally welcomed everyone. Dr. Ronald Buenaventura, who represented the Los Angeles chapter of FANHS, also spoke. Marissa’s documentary was screened, and then she participated in an informative and educational panel, The Legacy: A Community Conversation, which included Johnny Itliong, Larry’s son and founder of the Larry Itliong Foundation for Education; Linda Susana Terrazas, secretary to Larry Itliong in the summer of 1969; and moderator and retired Judge Casimiro Urbano Tolentino.

Honoring Larry Itliong.

Honoring Larry Itliong.

Educational panel.

Educational panel.

In one poignant story, Johnny shared how one person in the audience at another event disdainfully told him that his rendering of Cesar Chavez was not the Chavez that he knew. At first, Johnny lightheartedly told of how Helen and Cesar Chavez changed his diapers and babysat him and his siblings. And then he said, in an emotional moment, that it wasn’t his fault that Chavez behaved as he did – publicly misconstruing his father’s legacy – and that it wasn’t something that he saw coming, given his memories of Chavez as a child. That was a powerful moment. Good on Johnny to create the foundation to honor his father. He has spent years trying to bring recognition to his father’s legacy. We in the community see the fruits of his hard work today, especially in this historic year, but he faced a lonely, uphill battle in those early years.

A great table, with Filipinotown: Voices from Los Angeles, my novel, and the DVD of Marissa's documentary.

A great table, with Filipinotown: Voices from Los Angeles, my novel, and the DVD of Marissa’s documentary.

The third part of the event, The Celebration: Community Expressions, featured music, poetry, and readings by Carlene, Greg, and Gerald. Gerald was kind to insert my reading of an excerpt from my novel into the event program. It was only fitting that I read the scene where my protagonist, Fausto Empleo, who is reluctant to join the union, meets Larry Itliong. The audience included Sandra Itliong-Bowman, Larry’s daughter, and Larry’s former secretary, both of whom I was conscious of their presence during my reading. They both came up to talk me after the reading, which was an honor for me.

After more sightseeing – which I would have been happy to have continued if not for my flight home – Carlene and Greg dropped me off at the airport. I came away with more than just participating in historical events and seeing old friends. I made new friends in what turned out for me to be a bit of a homecoming. I’m not sure when I’ll return to Los Angeles, but I feel like I reconnected. I’ve happily discovered the unexpected gifts of publishing my novel – finding my roots, reconnecting, and coming home.

Good night, City of Angels!

Good night, City of Angels!

San Francisco Book Review: 5 stars for A Village in the Fields

“Have you ever gotten a bad review, Master Huud?”
“Hundreds of them.”
“Do they hurt?”
“Of course. But you get over it. Critics are just people, lad. They’re entitled to their opinions. They’re not the enemy.”
“Who is the enemy?”
“Censors.”
– Katie Waitman, American science fiction writer, from The Merro Tree

On November 3rd, the San Francisco Book Review posted a review of my debut novel, A Village in the Fields. Authors published by independent publishers don’t get reviews as plentiful as well-known writers with traditional publishers. This same week, my publisher informed me that a review of my book will be included in the upcoming summer/fall issue of Amerasia Journal, published by the Center Press at the University of California at Los Angeles. As the Amerasia Journal is the leading interdisciplinary journal in Asian American Studies, I am looking forward to this review! And, of course, I will share.

Impassioned reading of an excerpt of my novel at the October 22nd book reading at the Ethnic Studies Library at UC Berkeley.

Impassioned reading of an excerpt of my novel at the October 22nd book reading at the Ethnic Studies Library at UC Berkeley.

Pondering a thoughtful question in the Q&A after my reading. My friend Lori took a ton of pictures - Maraming salamat po! - and I chose this one because it reminds me of a familiar look on my mother's face, and I have been thinking a lot about her these last few months.

Pondering a thoughtful question in the Q&A after my reading. My friend Lori took a ton of pictures – Maraming salamat po! – and I chose this one because it reminds me of a familiar look on my mother’s face, and I have been thinking a lot about her these last few months.

Long road to Delano: A Village in the Fields comes home

No history, no self; know history, know self. – José Rizal, Filipino patriot and national hero, physician, and man of letters

All these past months – a blur to me now – all came down to this Labor Day Weekend, the 50th Anniversary of the Delano Grape Strike. My novel, A Village in the Fields, came out the Friday before – no small feat. My publisher, Eastwind Books of Berkeley, and I worked hard the last five months to get the novel out in time for this historic event, Bold Step: A Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Delano Grape Strike. It was worth the sleep deprivation.

The Filipino Community Cultural Center of Delano, home of Bold Step: A Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Delano Grape Strike.

The Filipino Community Cultural Center of Delano, home of Bold Step: A Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Delano Grape Strike.

I’ll admit that I was a little apprehensive about the weekend because I’d spent most of those five months focused on editing, production, and then marketing and promotion activities. There was no moment of stepping back and enjoying the moment or thinking about the reception in Delano. As we packed up the van, which our friends Raissa and Mike lent us, with 20 boxes of my novel, I told myself I wouldn’t bring any work with me. I needed to decompress, enjoy the moment, and anticipate what I would say or do up on the stage during the open-mike evening and with anyone who came to our table to inquire about the book. As we drove down Interstate 5 in bumper-to-bumper traffic Friday early evening, I wondered whether I should practice reading the chosen excerpt or choose another passage. I was already stressed that we weren’t leaving when I had hoped to leave.

On Filipino time
If there is one overarching theme, it is that we were on Filipino time even before we left for Terra Bella/Porterville/Delano! I was looking forward to a leisurely dinner to celebrate my cousin Janet and her husband Tim’s anniversary. They ended up getting Mexican takeout and having it ready for us when we pulled up at 10:30pm. After dinner, Janet and I stayed up till past 1 in the morning catching up, even though David and I had to be in Delano before 10am on Saturday.

FANHS Delano Chapter president Alex Edillor welcoming everyone to Bold Step.

FANHS Delano Chapter president Alex Edillor welcoming everyone to Bold Step.

The festivities begin
We were late, but so were the festivities. The welcome and keynote address was held at the Filipino Community Center on Glenwood Street, which was a meeting place for Filipinos made historic during the grape strikes. Alex Edillor, president of the newly formed Delano chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS), welcomed the audience who hailed from cities and towns up and down the state. Other dignitaries included Paul Chavez, son of Cesar Chavez and president of the Chavez Foundation, the mayor of Delano, and keynote speaker, Rob Bonta, California State Assemblyman Rob Bonta of Alameda. Bonta is the first Filipino-American elected to the California legislature and author of AB123, which requires California schools to teach Filipino-American contributions to the farm labor movement in social science curriculum, and AB 7, which requires the Governor to proclaim Larry Itliong Day in California on his birthdate of October 25th and encourage public schools to teach about Itliong’s life and contributions to California.

State Assemblyman Rob Bonita giving the keynote address.

State Assemblyman Rob Bonta giving the keynote address.

From the Filipino Community Center, we set up shop at Robert F. Kennedy High School, along with other vendors at the campus food court for the lunch break. The dance troupe Kayamanan Ng Lahi, adorned in beautiful and colorful traditional dress, put on a wonderful performance, which included the tinikling and a dance to the classic Filipino love song, Dahil Sa Iyo.

A fancier tinikling dance than I'm used to seeing.

A fancier tinikling dance than I’m used to seeing.

Tinikling dance gets livelier.

Tinikling dance gets livelier.

During the lunch hour, we cultivated relevant contacts, including an executive committee member of the National Education Association who was a contemporary of the farm labor movement. I talked with Dr. Oliver Rosales, who teaches history at Bakersfield College and the University of California at Santa Barbara. He was part of a terrific panel, which included Dr. Dawn Mabalon of San Francisco State and Dr. Robyn Rodriguez of UC Davis – she read an advance copy of my novel and blurbed me. During that panel, Dr. Rosales emphasized that he wanted to include Filipino-American courses and materials to his teachings because his Filipino-American students were thirsty for more knowledge about their heritage.

Dr. Oliver Rosales.

Dr. Oliver Rosales.

Once the symposium started, everyone moved over to the learning center auditorium, which was across campus. I wanted to watch and listen, so David stayed behind, only to pack up shop in a little while because everyone had gone in. By this time, Janet and Tim and the kids joined us. It was really wonderful for Janet and Tim to be here with me and learn about the part of our Filipino American history that has been obscured for so long. The rest of the panels included a personal film by John Armington – a tribute to his immigrant father Bob Armington, a discussion of what had preceded and paved the way for the grape strikes, and historical legacies and new activism, the latter a necessity because sadly we still see exploitation and discrimination in the labor force.

Dr. Mabalon and Dr. Rodriguez on historical legacies.

Dr. Mabalon and Dr. Rodriguez on historical legacies.

A mom moment
At the evening event, a reception and open-mike, we were treated to young slam poets who impressed me with their mastery of their poems and the passion in their voice and their artistic ability to express their experiences as “other.” I read the first chapter of the novel when it was my turn. In retrospect, David and I agreed that I should have read a section from the strike, and that the first chapter is more in line with any other crowd. I wasn’t nervous, mostly because the event was outdoors and I couldn’t really see anyone’s face. I confess that I didn’t read the Ilocano sentences or phrases for obvious reasons; rather, I read them in English. I was already anxious about incorrectly pronouncing the word “manong” because I’d been pronouncing it a different way. (I want to call out and give thanks to my cousin Annie who explained to me that the accents change when you address someone using the term versus when you are referring to the group as a whole or using the historic reference to them.)

My first public reading from A Village in the Fields, Delano, Calif.

My first public reading from A Village in the Fields, Delano, Calif. Master of ceremonies Herb Delute kindly held the flashlight for me.

The next day, a few people who came up to the table and bought my book told me that they had listened to me at the open-mike event and said they were impressed and that I read very well. My ease is in part from having to do public speaking in my profession, which has been an invaluable experience. Also, through the years of working on this book, late at night, I would often read revised passages in my head or out loud and transform myself into an unabashed thespian. I was a little more restrained Saturday evening, but my heart was in it. The biggest thrill for me, however, was when I walked off the stage and Isabella and then Jacob came up and gave me a hug. Later, I found out that Jacob had posted on Instagram and wrote: “My mom, reading a part of her novel at the Filipino Community Cultural Center of Delano. Her novel came out yesterday. It took her a long time to accomplish her goal, and I’m so happy for her!” That was all the validation I needed at that moment and now.

Selfie with Marissa Aroy.

Selfie with Marissa Aroy.

I was honored to sit with Marissa Aroy during Saturday’s sessions and chat in-between the session breaks selling our respective DVDs and books. I met Professor Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales, who is using my novel in her Filipino/a American literature class this fall. I talked at length with Johnny Itliong, son of labor leader Larry Itliong. I connected with two Filipino-American librarians from San Jose Public Library, who were interested in a reading at the library. I gained more knowledge about the strike and unions of the past and of today from veteran labor leader Al Rojas. And I met wonderful people like Dale, a student from my alma mater UC Davis, who was just as thrilled as I was about the Aggie connection and the enthusiasm for my book. I’ll admit to enjoying my celebrity moments when people asked if they could have their picture taken with me.

Book signing!

Book signing with a smile!

We missed the luncheon at the Terra Bella Veterans Memorial Building for the 60th anniversary of the San Esteban Circle – and I missed catching up with my cousins and seeing other relatives. We were late to the dance, though we were able to see my cousin Annie and her mother, my Auntie Berta, who at age 93 was being honored for her work with the San Esteban Circle. She is not only a pioneer with the club, but she is the only one left of my father’s generation. We stopped by another cousin’s house to catch up with four more cousins, and we stayed up past midnight talking about Ilocano translations and the book.

Agbayani sign.

Agbayani sign.

The interior of Agbayani Village.

The interior of Agbayani Village.

After the Sunday events concluded, since we missed the bus tour of historic sites, we drove to Agbayani Village, which wasn’t that far away from RFK High School. Growth had indeed come to Delano because the last time I was here in 2004, Agbayani Village was isolated from the rest of the town. The village is still operational and clean and tidy; it is being rented out to retired farm workers. The kitchen and recreation room building was locked up, but we could peer inside and see the photographic displays still up for the tours. The garden, line of trees and cacti, goats in their pens, and vacant rabbit hutches, however, were gone. What stood was a vast empty field of cracked earth with a layer of powdery topsoil. I was sad to see that part of the village gone. But I was excited to share the village with Janet and Tim, and especially Jacob and Isabella.

Vineyards across the street from Agbayani Village.

Vineyards across the street from Agbayani Village.

As we walked through the village one last time and headed out through the main entryway, we came upon an elderly Filipino man who sat on a chair facing out. It seemed as if he was waiting for us, so we stopped to talk to him. His name was Edmundo. He told us he came to Agbayani Village in 1982. When we mentioned that Janet and I were related to Fred Abad, his face lit up. Fred was a good friend of his, and he said he was so happy to know that somebody else knew his good friend. He laughed and smiled and walked us out to the parking lot. That meeting touched my heart.

Resident Edmundo at Agbayani Village.

Resident Edmundo at Agbayani Village.

Because the Sunday afternoon sessions ran late, we were late getting back to Porterville. Our anniversary dinner out for Janet and Tim ended up at Super Burgers on Olive Avenue. We hurriedly ate and then David, Tim, and I headed back to the Veterans Memorial Building for the San Esteban Schools Alumni Association event, while Janet took the kids home. I sat with Annie and her mom. While we waited for my introduction, Annie and I surfed through her family photos, which she has been slowly digitizing. What a wonderful walk through nostalgia.

One of Annie's photos from the 1960s: roasting a pig in her family's backyard. I recognize many of my relatives here and recognize my dad's red sweater. He's holding onto me. I'm guessing the terror on my sister Joyce's and my face is from watching a pig being roasted. Vegetarian friends, look away!

One of Annie’s photos from the 1960s: roasting a pig in her family’s backyard. I recognize many of my relatives here and recognize my dad’s red sweater. He’s holding onto me. I’m guessing the terror on my sister Joyce’s and my face is from watching a pig being roasted. Vegetarian friends, look away!

Kudos go to my cousin Leila Eleccion Pereira: During the awards and recognition ceremony for the community’s student scholars, Leila presented my book to the top scholar, who was attending UC San Diego and wanted to become a pediatrician. She gave a brief introduction and had me come up to address the audience. I talked about my mom and dad, the backstory to the novel, and how I wanted to learn more about our history and contributions to the farm labor movement and share that not only with our community but the global community. When I told everyone that our young generation needs to learn about and embrace their history, I was heartened to see some of the students nodding their heads – such a satisfying moment for me. We sold many books, and I give Leila all the credit for her introduction, her enthusiasm, her pride.

My cousin Leila and me.

My cousin Leila and me.

Addressing the audience: telling them about the book's origins, dedicating the novel to my parents and our community, and waxing poetic about remembering and honoring our history.

Addressing the audience: telling them about the book’s origins, dedicating the novel to my parents and our community, and waxing poetic about remembering and honoring our history.

I was touched by the request by two moms who wanted to take a picture of me with her sons, who were holding up my book. Two college students, one a recent graduate from UCLA, the other still at Loma Linda University, bought a book. We chatted for a bit, and they understood the need to remember our history, which made me hopeful for the next generation’s convictions. We left as the evening concluded and retired to Porterville, the last of our Delano activities for the weekend. Wanting to capture more cousin time, Janet and I stayed up again.

Author hawking my book at RFK High School.

Author hawking my book at RFK High School.

The best way to cap the long weekend, which seemed to zoom by, was to have a leisurely breakfast with Janet and Tim and our cousin Debi, who played her guitar and entertained us with all of these wonderful stories from our childhood and from her incredibly rich and complex life. As we left, knowing that we left late and will encounter bumper-to-bumper traffic when we hit the Bay area, I made a note that we’d connect again so I could write down her stories. We made plans to get the cousins together to compare photographs, share stories, and talk about a San Esteban Circle archiving project. So much to do. So much history back home. And overall, so much to be grateful for.

Towering cypress trees at Agbayani Village.

Towering cypress trees at Agbayani Village.

Sunset over Agbayani Village.

Sunset over Agbayani Village. Most of these photos courtesy of David Rossi.

LUNAFEST East Bay 2015: a pictorial

What woman doesn’t love to go to the movies with her girlfriends? Film is such a great way to bring women together, so it made sense for LUNA to create this opportunity to connect women filmmakers and their audiences with causes they care about.
– Kit Crawford, co-owner and co-chief visionary officer of Clif Bar & Company

It’s been a week since our LUNAFEST film festival and before I bid adieu to our LUNAFEST season, I wanted to share my LUNAFEST pictorial – a narrative in the form of photos and captions. As they say, a picture is worth a thousands words. And I have a lot of pictures from that memorable evening.

Our VIP event, hosted by our chair Joann Steck-Bayat, prior to the film festival featured our guest filmmakers Emily Fraser and Katherine Gorringe, posing with their Lady Parts LUNAFEST poster.

Our VIP event, hosted by our chair Joann Steck-Bayat at her lovely home prior to the film festival, featured our guest filmmakers Emily Fraser and Katherine Gorringe, posing with their Lady Parts LUNAFEST poster.

Our piano player for the evening - tickling the ivories.

VIP guest Jeanne Rizzo, RN, president and CEO of the Breast Cancer Fund, and Joann, chatting with guests.

Our VIP event piano player, tickling the ivories.

Our VIP event piano player, tickling the ivories.

A beautiful spread of cheeses and fruits.

A beautiful spread of cheeses and fruits.

VIP event private chef Sirona Skinner Nixon making those heavenly deviled eggs for the guests.

Private chef Sirona Skinner Nixon making those heavenly deviled eggs for the guests.

Sirona's wife and partner of S&S Foods, Sinead O'Rourke, making the crostini.

Sirona’s wife and partner of S&S Foods, Sinead O’Rourke, making the crostini.

Joann trains our superb raffle ticket sellers, from let to right, her cousin Annika, Isabella, Mateo, and Wyatt.

Joann trains our superb raffle ticket sellers, from let to right, her cousin Annika, Isabella, Mateo, and Wyatt, in front of the prize board.

El Cerrito High School's IT Academy students volunteered to serve food at our VIP event. Service with a smile.

El Cerrito High School’s IT Academy students volunteered to serve food at our VIP event: service with a smile and lamb sliders.

Jeanne meets Emily and Katherine.

Jeanne, Emily, and Katherine in a lively conversation.

It may have been March 21st, but we were able to throw open the French doors and spill into the backyard and grab a drink from our friendly bartenders.

It may have been March 21st, but we were able to throw open the French doors and spill into the backyard and grab a drink served by our friendly bartenders.

Which bag shall I put my raffle ticket in? The GoPro camera or the Kindle? We had so many wonderful donated gifts to raffle.

Which bag shall I put my raffle ticket in? The GoPro camera or the Kindle? We had so many wonderful donated gifts to raffle. Committee member Rebecca Boe made our sharp raffle boards.

New this year - Taiko drummers perform as attendees arrived in front of the high school. They were mesmerizing!

New this year – Taiko drummers perform as attendees arrived in front of the high school. They were mesmerizing!

A tribute to Mae De La Calzada, owner of Lady Parts Automotive - a beautiful bouquet and photo of Emily and Katharine and Mae De La Calzada.

A tribute to Mae De La Calzada, owner of Lady Parts Automotive – a beautiful bouquet and photo of Emily, Katharine and Mae.

Committee member Rebecca Boe made this wonderful poster announcing our guests Jeanne Rizzo, Katherine Gorringe, and Emily Fraser in the lobby of ECHS's Performing Arts Theater.

Committee member Rebecca also made this wonderful poster announcing our guests Jeanne, Katherine, and Emily in the lobby of ECHS’s Performing Arts Theater.

As expected, Jeanne Rizzo delivered a rousing, inspired, and educational welcome. Joann rocked as master of ceremonies and Melody Shah, representing the ITA, let us know how much the ITA appreciated being a beneficiary of our LUNAFEST fundraising.

As expected, Jeanne delivered a rousing, inspired, and educational welcome. Joann rocked as master of ceremonies and Melody Shah, representing the ITA, let us know how much the ITA appreciated being a beneficiary of our LUNAFEST fundraising.

I was honored to interview Emily and Katherine on stage and listen to them talk about the making of Lady Parts and the connection they formed with Mae.

I was honored to interview Emily and Katherine on stage and listen to them talk about the making of Lady Parts and the connection they formed with Mae.

We had nearly 300 attendees at this year's LUNAFEST! They enjoyed complimentary coffee by Well Grounded Coffee & Tea Bar during our post-screening Dessert Circle.

We had nearly 300 attendees at this year’s LUNAFEST! They enjoyed complimentary coffee by Well Grounded Coffee & Tea Bar during our post-screening Dessert Circle.

This year we had a very popular photo booth with props, which was the brainchild of committee member Anja Hakoshima. Thanks, Anja!

This year we had a very popular photo booth with props, which was the brainchild of committee member Anja Hakoshima. Thanks, Anja!

Returning with their yummy cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies were Pamela Braxton and her son Zachary of Braxtons' Boxes.

Returning from last year’s inaugural Dessert Circle with their yummy cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies were Pamela Braxton and her son Zachary of Braxtons’ Boxes.

Group photo! Emily and Katherine, flanked by many members of the LUNAFEST East Bay Committee.

Group photo! Emily and Katherine, flanked by many members of the LUNAFEST East Bay Committee. Until next year!