A Filipino-Canadian’s book spotlights various faces of separation
Sometimes, those overspilling-with-emotions airport scenes in films and teleseryes make a lot of sense.
Leaving comfort zones and childhood homes can be the push for growth for some, but feeling forced to pack your bags due to unbearable circumstances is an entirely different thing. This is all too familiar for OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) who traverse unfamiliar lands for financial stability, leaving their families, friends, and even past dreams behind. A 2023 Inquirer.net article reports that there were 1.83 million OFWs in 2021, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
It’s inevitable that situations like these cause loved ones to grow apart, sparking feelings of longing or worse, indifference. Even those who fly to another territory for better opportunities and other personal aspirations eventually feel disconnected from their homeland—and original identity—years later.
These were my thoughts after chancing upon the book “Reuniting With Strangers” online. The title itself carries an interesting paradox: Reuniting means meeting someone again, but then this person isn’t the same since the last time you saw them. So, where do you go from here?
Fil-Canadian Jennilee Austria-Bonifacio’s debut effort
Published on Sept. 9, 2023, “Reuniting With Strangers” is the debut novel of Filipino-Canadian author-slash-speaker Jennilee Austria-Bonifacio, who’s born and raised in Ontario. In her aspiration to link Filipino families with Canadian educators, she also founded Filipino Talks, helping with the professional development of school admins, consultants, and support staff.
The title itself carries an interesting paradox: Reuniting means meeting someone again, but then this person isn’t the same since the last time you saw them. So, where do you go from here?
Whistler Writers Festival shares that for her book, Austria-Bonifacio drew inspiration from her experiences working as “a school board consultant, researcher, journalist, and settlement worker” and also by the creations of the following Canadian storytellers: poet Souvankham Thammavongsa, writer Catherine Hernandez, and novelist Wayson Choy.
A spotlight on the Filipino-Canadian diaspora
Published by Douglas & McIntyre, “Reuniting With Strangers” is a collection of tales that zero in on the “reunification of Filipino caregiver families over one Canadian winter—and the mysterious progress of Monolith, who appears and disappears in their lives.”
Monolith, who’s a persistent mystery in the story, is forced to fly out of the Philippines to share a home with his mother in Canada. But this change prompts the five-year-old—who’s unable to communicate—to lash out and ruin their new abode. Other characters offer more peek into the Filipino-Canadian diaspora experience.
What’s the price of separation? How do we reconnect with the identity and culture we first knew? How much does it take to unify families? “Reuniting With Strangers” might just be the newest love letter to the Filipino-Canadian community
World-building in “Reuniting With Strangers”
In the independent publishing house’s website, it is also said that readers will be transported to Filipino communities in various locations, from the Philippines’ Tagaytay highlands to Canada’s Little Manila in Toronto, among others.
And if you’re the type to worry about your attention span and tsundoku tendencies, this fact may spark your trust: Each chapter is said to present important details in surprising ways—think “an incisive caregiver’s instruction manual, a custody battle over texts and emails, a disarmingly direct self-help guide, a series of desperate résumés, a kundiman songbook, and more.”
What’s the price of separation? How do we reconnect with the identity and culture we first knew? How much does it take to unify families? “Reuniting With Strangers” might just be the newest love letter to the Filipino-Canadian community.
For more details, head to this site.