On Saturday, April 17, 2010 at the historic I-Hotel, the Manilatown Heritage Foundation hosted the book launch of Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard and published by PALH. Veronica Montes, Oscar Peñaranda, Tony Robles, Marianne Villanueva, and your Salonniere each read stories from the anthology. The reading coincided with the art exhibit “Fact Sheet” comprised of thirty posters made by artists in the U.S. and Philippines about human rights violations in the U.S. The work was startling and sophisticated.
Robles who hosted and emceed the event, prefaced the afternoon by giving the history of the locale:
The I-Hotel holds a deep, rich meaning for Pinoys in the early days. The I-Hotel infuses in my blood and bones and by the time I realized this it had already been under threat. But they couldn’t keep us away.
Robles recounted mornings with his father when they’d share the Indigenous Grand Slam breakfast at the Silver Wing Cafe across the street. The Indigenous Grand Slam included “pig nose, eggs, Chinese sausage, and coffee, very black.”
He then praised Cecilia Manguerra Brainard for documenting and collecting these stories, and to start off the wonderful collection of voices, Robles introduced Oscar Peñaranda who “in the same vein as Toshio Moro and Carlos Bulosan” reminds us of the truths in life, the cost we pay to create our art, the price of being human.
Peñaranda introduced his story, the setting, Leyte, his birthplace.”The Price” is about provincialism between brothers. Peñaranda’s prose is bare bones truth told with elegant grace: “We simply have to feel for words…They spoke to each other from a distance.”
Veronica Montes read her story like a real rock star. “My Father’s Tattoo” is a wry witty tale that cuts to the heart of all relationships. Before reading his own story, Robles called attention to his magazine, POOR Magazine : “A multimedia access project dedicated to reframing the news, issues, and solutions from low and no income communities as well as providing society with a perspective usually not heard or seen within the mainstream media.” “Son of a Janitor” is inspired from his father talking shop as a worker for the Filipino Building Maintenance.
Marianne Villanueva read her beautifully strange tale, “Black Dog, ” after which, Robles rounded out the reading: “It’s a struggle to to write and write so well, so thanks for sharing your stories.”
Evelyn Luluquisen from the Manilatown Heritage Foundation gave a brief history of the I-Hotel and invited audiences to come volunteer for the Filipinos in San Francisco book soon to be published by Arcadia. Records and photographs need to be archived and catalogued, so help is needed and very much welcome. The next exhibit that opens in their art-space is San Francisco State University’s Asian American Studies 308 photo exhibit.
Many thanks to Tony Robes, Diane, Isaac, Roy, and Evelyn for organizing this magical event. Until next time!