It’s a struggle to be a Filipino-American these days, y’all.
And although I still balk at calling myself “Fil-Am,” I feel the struggle both ways, in all its multiplicity.
The Philippines seems to be at the mercy of a perplexing president whose politics are at best confounding. Following his declaration of martial law in Mindanao (southern part of the Philippines), he also withdraw from ongoing peace talks with the revolutionary (and underground) government of the country (strongest in the countryside).
And then there’s Trump. Following his announcement to pull the U.S. out the Paris Climate Agreements, the easier option is to throw your hands up and lose yourself in moments like “covfefe.”
Maybe my trip to Mexico City in the next few days is good timing, as all of these things can wear a Pisces down. I’m bringing Rosario Castellanos and Octavio Paz with me, two noted Mexican writers whose work has inspired me. Last night, I was leafing through Paz’s A Tree Within (Amazon | Indiebound) and came across this:
Mis sentidos en guerra con el mundo: fue frágil armisticio la lectura.
(My feelings at war with the world: reading was a fragile truce.)
Reading as a truce, reading as a tool — that’s what this blog has always stood for. I’ve compiled books to help us through these times, like this list of reading for resistance. I also just reviewed a book on tyranny and offered up my response, based on my experience as an activist. As a Filipino in the face of martial law, here’s my blog’s literary antidote.
Even more timely is an exploration of Alexander Von Humboldt’s life, possibly the very first man to confirm man-made climate change.
In spite of this, I come back to a Alain de Botton on his book about Proust. In one of the chapters, they talk about books and reading. And as much as I love both, for as long as I am tethered to words, I recognize both their beauty and fallibility:
We feel very strongly that our own wisdom begins where that of the author leaves off and we would like him to provide us with answers when all that he is able to do is provide desires… That is the value of reading and is also its inadequacy. To make it into a discipline is to give too large a role to what is only an incitement.
Reading as an incitement, a tool to spur us to action. I think I like that better.
Pia Cortez is a writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She runs a book blog called Libromance where she reviews books and publishes literary features with a queer Filipino immigrant lens. She is a contributor at Hella Pinay, an online magazine for Filipino-American women and at New Life Quarterly, a literary magazine based in Oakland, California. She is currently working on her first novel.