Sunday, January 4, 2009

LAGALAG


Thanks to my MAS sister, Micah, I was able to freelance for the maiden issue of TSUPER (Travel Super) Magazine, published by Octobereighty. I reviewed a traveling journal, the content of which is posted below. The magazine is very graphic, creative and well-thought out, and it can hold a candle to its sister magazines Flow, Rogue and Bounce. Go grab a copy now! :)


Lagalag’s Voyage Home

Filipinos are known for their resilient character, adapting to circumstances that others have failed in miserably. Their personal journey of survival have sometimes led them to venture out of the country, leaving them no choice but to redefine what the concept of home is. The others that have chosen to remain weave equally interesting accounts of their place in the sun, creating their own identity in the world at large. “Lagalag: The Traveling Journal of Filipinos” is a project that documents the life stories of forty Filipinos, who come from all over the world and from all walks of life, imparting varied experiences linked together by their common sentiment of love for our home country. Though they have never met, they share one amazing journey in the form of two Moleskine notebooks.

Created by Wilfredo Pascual, a U.S. based Filipino writer, the notebooks were inspired from pictures uploaded on Flicker, a photo-hosting website, specifically one taken by an Ilocano US Air Force man of soldiers playing domino. That picture led Pascual to his blog, where its sounds and images rekindled a personal mantra felt during his wide-eyed days of wanting to change the world. “Dahil ang buhay ay isang laro ng domino sa gitna ng digmaan: ugnayan ang magliligtas sa atin (Because life is a game of domino in times of war: we are saved by that which links us to each other). My mind was burning with ideas and only one image withstood the fire. A notebook.” These traveling journals addressed big, painful questions about home to strangers who only shared the same nationality and online presence in Flicker.

Pascual made sure that diverse voices were well represented, that the notebooks traveled to destinations with a quicker turnaround, and that its progress can be tracked online. Thus, chosen participants followed a system of passing on the notebook to a pit stop either personally or by mail. “Mailing the notebook, that period when it was neither here nor there, was scary,” notes Pascual. “I was always afraid of it getting lost knowing how much the pages meant to those whose hands it had already passed. Changes in people’s schedule and their availability were also a challenge. Original routes were changed a couple of times.”

Such daunting logistics and collective efforts from participants were amply rewarded by Lagalag defining its concept of Filipino. Pascual recounts it off the top of his head as “a medic in Iraq, a hairdresser in Makati, an installation artist in Houston, a graphic novel illustrator in Manila, teachers in China and Islamabad, a filmmaker in New York, a gaming industry employee in Pasig, an architect in Qatar, a graphic designer in Cambodia, a mother in Ontario and a climber in Mt. Fuji, among others --- the Filipino, in short, as a walking metamorphosis.”

The journey starts with Pascual, born and raised in Nueva Ecija, two-time winner of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award as well as the 2008 Philippine Free Press Literary Awards for Essay, alumni of New York University’s creative writing program and a Breadloaf Scholar for Creative Nonfiction in the United States. After living in Thailand for 10 years, he moved to San Francisco where he joined an international non-profit organization called “Room to Read” as a global program officer aiding the publication of children’s books in developing countries. His job has made him travel many places, just returning from Johannesburg, Vientiane, Katmandu and New Delhi. Traveling for the past two years, uncertain about his decision on where to settle next, he drew a blank on his permanent address. This provided a canvas for the next writers to jot on their two-paged spreads.

Half of both notebooks are outward looking, telling tales of their country left behind. We get to meet Remedy Medina, an OFW actually thankful to Iraq for giving him a career where no med tech industry in the Philippines would. Working in a war-torn place nobody would dare set foot on has its silver lining. That’s where he met his wife, and that’s where he earned money to migrate to the United States. But what is the price of the American dream? For him it was being absent at his mother’s deathbed, or forsaking his role as a big brother. His story is just one of the 19 who recount their story of the Philippine Diaspora. “They, in the pursuit of happiness will drop some of their precious belongings along the way,” Remedy recounts.

The other half is an introspective anthology of 20 writers who remained in the country. One is an anonymous revolutionary comrade who replaced her gun with a pen, quoting prose from a deceased fellow guerilla and appending a disc of war songs to ponder on.

Both notebooks reached their final destination in the hands of Daphne Osena-Paez, noted television host, producer and magazine editor. By the time the journals reached her, they were bursting at the seams, full of memorabilia and keepsakes, well-thumbed and cherished. From numerous photographs, scribbles and pasted tickets, to professional inserts and customized graphic text, these notebooks contain more than just stories --- they’re living, breathing words and phrases, metaphors and imagery.

Being the last person to complete Lagalag, she represents the Filipino people who have returned to their roots. “For me, it was not only a physical move, but also an emotional one, coming back home to a country that once rejected my family,” she tells us, referring to the time when her diplomat father was held back from returning to the Philippines. “But once I made my move from Canada back here for work, and to help dad obtain justice for being wrongly accused of a military cause, the country ironically embraced me and gave me more than what I expected.” Aside from her journey back home, she intends to talk of the future and what it holds for her family.

When asked of what the project wants to convey to its readers, she is quick to reply, “that the Filipino is searching for himself and is longing for his home no matter where he is or what work he does. As one of the writers mentioned: I’m proud to be Pinoy, but right now, I’m a citizen of the world.”

This concept of home; reiterated in the pages of Lagalag, is aptly described by Pascual: “Home is a nebulous idea, a state of perpetual haunting. Abroad, resilience is marked on its pages along with the soul-stirring need to belong, to rise above, to define the self in a new place. In the Philippines, home is that profound place we celebrate, where we forge our strength, find compassion and forgiveness. Home is also a breathing revolution. It is where you seek justice. Home wounds and heals, thriving in contradiction, and can mean being at two places at one time. Home makes you question your assumptions. Home is where you are shaken and where you stand your ground. Home makes you proud.”

The ultimate goal is to share this work to as many people as possible, through a traveling art exhibit and publication scheduled at 2009.

4 comments:

Bong said...

great that you're back to blogging? :) i would really love to see LAGALAG! shucks I have heard of this since it started, the second one. :)

graey eats said...

Bong: thanks, thanks! :) I know! I can't wait for them to publish it, though it might be difficult considering it had lots of inserts and scraps of things pasted on the book

wilfredo pascual said...

this is awesome. thanks for the cool article. where can i order a copy?

graey eats said...

Hi, Wilfredo! It was a pleasure writing for your project! I bought my copy of Tsuper in Fully Booked, Bonifacio High Street. Apart from the Fully Booked outlets, I'm not really sure who else provides for copies.
If you're abroad, you may order through http://www.fullybookedonline.com/ but I think they require a minimum of 2000 pesos.
The cover of the mag looks like this:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tsuper-Mag/41885895854

Keep up the great work!

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