Thursday, October 26, 2006

The first leg

Up until my book reading in Carmichael, Ca., most of my audiences were made up of Filipino Americans, with a sprinking of Anglos here and there -- those who had followed my columns in the San Francisco Chronicle. So when I walked into the newly remodeled library and saw the chairs filled with all caucasians, a surge of panic came over me. What if they didn't understand the humor in my book? What if they saw my readings as the cliche rantings of a minroity who didn't appreciate what they had in America? It was too late -- I had already marked the excerpts off with orange Post-Its, and I didn't have time to switch things around. Besides, did I really have anything in the book that was geared toward an all-white group? I started by thanking everyone for coming and telling them why I wrote the book. "The California my kids grew up in was different from the California I grew up in," I started. "They were raised in a diverse community with a strong Filipino community. I was raised in a city where I was the only minority in the whole school."
I looked at the friendly looking gray-haried woman seated in the front row. She gave me a look, as if to say, "I'm sorry." I proceeded with the three excerpts that I had stuck to at all my readings during the first leg of this book tour. A laugh here, and gasp there. Surprisingly, the reaction was the same with them as it was at all the other events.
Maybe we're not so different after all.

Next up on my book tour:

Wednesday, Nov. 1, 7 p.m. City Lights Books, San fFancisco, Ca.
261 Columbus Avenue
Contact: Peter (415) 362-8193, ext. 24

Thursday, Nov. 2, 6:30 p.m. Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, 200 Larkin Street, contact Ana Hortillosa, 415-581-3667

Saturday, Nov. 10, 6-9 p.m. Remy's, 2126 W Temple Street, Los Angeles, contact: Linda Nietes (310) 514-9139

Sunday, Nov. 11, Russo's Books, Bakersfield, contact Nick at

Sunday, Nov. 13 4:45-5:30 p.m., Sacramento Convention Center, 1400 J Street, Sacramento, contact Lolly Pineda, 650-746-8303

Monday, October 09, 2006

Who are your Oracles?

It was one of those nostalgic types of evenings -- where the conversation fluttered about from one topic to the next. College days. Past boyfirends. Past husbands. Future dreams. My book was about to be released, and my closest girlfriends and I had a little get together, with the help of our other close friends: Mr. Mojito and Miss Margarita.
"The Oracles" was the title I had decided on. But the title hardly had any Filipino-ness about it. "What do 'Oracles' have to do with your grandparents raising you?" asked one friend. Funny, I had referred to my two grandmothers and my two grandfathers by that name for so long, that I had almost forgotten how it began. In elementary school, the teacher gave us new vocabulary words every week. The definitions for the word "oracle" waere: 1) a person who delivers authoritative, wose, or highly regarded influential prnouncments; 2) a divine communication or relelvation; 3) any person or thing serving as an agency of divine communication.
I hardly thought of my grandparents as divine beings, but I knew that they thought there mission from God in coming to America was to raise me the right way -- the Old World Filipino way. And so I began calling them "The Oracles -- not our of respect, but out of pure sarcasm and resentment.
I held that feeling throughout my childhood and on through high school.
But something happens when you grow up and you become a parent, as I am. You remember the lessons you once scoffed at as you try to pass them along to the next generation. You start realizing the sacrifices that were made for you, while you sat blissfully unaware, surrounded by the comforts of American life. You realize that all those years of being disciplined and nagged, and constantly watched were not rooted in spite, but in love.
The Oracles were indeed divine beings who taught me how to become a decent adult -- one who appreciates her culture and never takes for granted the sacrifices made for the lifestyle I have today.
We raise our glasses, my girlfriends and I.
"Who are the Oracles in your lives?" I ask.

Friday, October 06, 2006

From the Bay to the beach

Funny thing about postcards and snowglobes -- they always look so perfect, so ideal, so wonderful to live in. What would we give to escape into that world where everything is crystallized in a dream-like state of perfection?
When I left for Hawaii from the Bay Area, I wondered what it would be like to step out of the Starbucks-and-Kinko's induced frenzy of San Francisco, and into the quintessential postcard of Oahu. Swaying trees. Soft, beige-blanketed beaches. Sparkling crystal-blue-green oceans.
A girl could do worse.
It's been a month now, and I seem to have acclimated to the weather. The air conditioner in my office is no longer set at the lowest temperature and the highest speed. In fact, I don't even turn it on anymore.
Road rage? What's that? Drivers here actually stop to let you merge. Then they actually wave at you once you're in front of them.
I was warned I'd be treated differently because I wasn't local. But aside from my California license plates, everything about me screams local -- brown-skinned, Filipina. That's good enough for them.
This isn't just a postcard...this is Fantasy Freakin' Island.
I find it difficult getting out of bed every morning, when the very first thing I see outside my bedroom window is the beach and the gorgeous green mountains lining the ocean. I want to curl up and pretend that I'm on a luxurious Hawaiian vacation.
But no, I'm here to work -- and there's plenty to work on.
Poverty, crime, homelessness, traffic -- they're here, just like the rest of the world. And in some places, where deteriorated houses and apartment structures appear ready to collapse at any moment, you wonder how this could possibly be America.
Locals will tell you that they can't afford to live here anymore. Mainlanders are buying up land and building million-dollar homes that sit empty until summer comes along. Meanwhile, those who have lived here all their lives have no where to live.
Funny thing about postcards and snowglobes -- you never know what's really going on inside.

I'll be back in the Bay Area to promote my newely released book beginning Oct. 20. Check this blog tomorrow for a complete list of dates, locations, and times!!