Fil-Am women authors present works in Los Angeles
SAN PEDRO, California — Eight Filipino women authors shared their journeys as Filipino American women and writers and the value of their books with some 50 guests on Saturday, March 25 at the Philippine Expressions Bookshop here in honor of Women’s History Month.
Bookshop co-owner Linda Nietes-Little hosted the event, which was part of over three decades of ongoing community outreach programs to promote books written by Filipino and Fil-Am authors in English and Tagalog for all ages. Philippine Expressions founded in 1984, seeks to inspire Americans of Filipino heritage who want to discover their roots.
Carlene Sobrino Bonnivier, editor of the anthology Filipinotown: Voices from Los Angeles featuring 40 contributors, spoke of growing up in the Historic Filipinotown neighborhood of Los Angeles, where her strong paternal genes from her Swedish father made her stand out in the neighborhood.
Though she does not look like the typical Filipina and was not born in the Philippines, her heart remains close to her mother’s heritage. Bonnivier spoke fondly of her mother who was “not five feet tall or 100 pounds,” but a gentle, sweet, and tender woman.
Capturing daily life in the 1900s, Bonnivier shared the exciting daily adventures in “Little Manila,” as well as the political struggles Fil-Ams had to endure with the shifting government decisions. The cover of her book shows artist Eliseo Silva’s famous mural depicting Fil-Am history, which can be found in Unidad Park along Beverly Boulevard.
Herminia Menez Coben, author of Verbal Arts in Philippine Indigenous Communities: Poetics, Society, and History and Explorations in Philippine Folklore, was the first Filipino graduate of University of Pennsylvania’s Folklore and Folklife department. With a humble sense of humor, she said that despite her book being published in 1996, she was surprised to know it is still being widely used and even “published as an eBook now, whatever that means,” she laughed. Her book is an analysis of indigenous cultures of the northern Luzon region.
Carmen Davino said her Of Love and Virtue is a coming-of-age novel set in the Philippines in the 1970s, and teaches young adults to learn to rely on one another and achieve love through a deep respect of self and in others. She hopes it teaches young adults to wisely mesh East and West cultures, but to be also rooted in traditional values of hope and faith.
Davino was a columnist for the Philippine Times and taught at the International School of Manila. She received her doctorate from the University of Santo Tomas (UST). When she came to the United States, she attended the California State University of Northridge to continue her passion for teaching, and retired from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). During her free time, she writes music, plays the piano and spends time with her grandchildren, teaching them music and painting.
Roselyn Estepa Ibanez, the co-author of Filipinos in Carson and the South Bay, said her book highlights local heroes such as Helen Agcaoili Summers Brown (who founded the Filipino American Library in 1985) and Bobby Balcena of San Pedro (the first Filipino to play in Major League Baseball in 1956).
Ibanez is also a public servant, working with the LA City Housing Council to combat homelessness. A proud Carson resident, she explained to the audience that the city was politically active and called for more Fil-Ams to be more engaged. “Our history needs to be told and our stories need to be written,” she stressed.
Magdalena, a novel by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, reveals the journey of three generations of women during the Philippine-American War, World War II, and Vietnam War. Magdalena was picked up by UST in a Tagalog edition as well. She is now the author and writer of 20 different books.
Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko, author of Forty Years Writing in America, has lived in the United States for 54 years. A graduate of the University of the Philippines, she also became the first female reporter for the Philippine Times. Here in the States, she was also a professor at the University of Southern California (USC) and the managing editor of the university’s scholarly journal Sociology and Social Research.
Leslie V. Ryan, author of I am Flippish, was inspired to write a children’s book when she overheard another mom tell her son that he wasn’t Irish. Because her son did not look typically Filipino, she wanted her son to understand why he is the way he is and where he “comes from.”
Ryan noticed that there were only a few books written for children explaining multiculturalism. She proudly exclaimed, “We are all made up of the best parts of our parents.”
She wants her son — and all children — to know that they can equally express gratitude in the varying cultures their parents come from. She says her book hopes to teach tolerance, love, kindness, and acceptance.
Lastly, Lucy Urgello Miller, who was born and raised in Cebu, shared her book, Glimpses of Old Cebu.
A postcard collector, her passion started when she saw a postcard of a carabao pulling a native sled, a technique she said her grandparents used to talk about. Although she heard the stories of how they lived, these postcards made those stories alive, giving her a “window to my grandparents’ world.” One day, she put up her postcards in Ayala Mall and now proudly owns the biggest postcard collection from Cebu in the world.
After each author spoke, a group discussion with the audience took place. With an intimate setting, guests were able to network among themselves.
“It’s great to see these women come together to speak of their passions and remind us of the strong Pinays we have. I am thinking about doing my own writing and this has helped me a lot,” said Shalimar Verador, one of the guests.