Monday, July 23, 2007

As I prepare for the interview with the Oral History Project of the Fil Am National Historical Society, Sonoma County Chapter, I found this very interesting story about Isidro Canlas from Bacolor, Pampanga. Follow his story.

These are the questions they want me answer in one afternoon of on-camera interview:

1.The US-Phil relationship from the 19thC throughout the 1950s, and how it influenced the first wave of Filipino immigration and immigrants in the 20th century. How that relationship, and US interests, evolved throughout the era, the legislation that resulted, and its impact on the immigrants. Interracial marriages among Filipino men in Sonoma County -how they came about and their legacy.

2. Your own experience as part of a subsequent wave of immigration.
Tell us about yourself, your life in the Phil, and why you decided to immigrate to America. What was your vision of America before you arrived?
What year did you come to America? What type of adjustment experiences did you have? Is there a particular story about your adjustment to life in America that you would like to share?
Prior to coming to America, did you know anything about the experiences of the Filipinos that came to America in the early 1900s? Based on what you now know about the experiences of the Manongs that settled in Sonoma County in the early 1900s, tell us how you feel about their experience? Do you feel any connection to their experience? What do you feel is the legacy they have left to the Filipino Community and future generations?

3. What, if any, similarities were there between your experience coming to the US and that of the Manongs?

4. When we research Asians in Sonoma County, a substantial amount of data is found on Japanese and Chinese, but almost none on Filipinos. Why the disparity?

5. The spirit of the Manongs was the spirit of bayanihan. Several studies have shown that there is disconnection between the US-born first, second and even third generation Fil Ams and Filipinos that immigrated to the US after 1965. What are your feelings about this "disconnect" and how do you feel it can be overcome? In your own words, please explain the definition of "bayanihan."

6. We also now have a new young generation of American-born Filipinos that are fully imemrsed in American society. What can this new generation learn from the experiences of the early Manong immigrants?

7. What do you feel are the most important resources the Filipino Community can provide to future generations to ensure the preservation of Filipino and Filipino American culture and history?

The tables have turned. Whereas, I've spent many years interviewing and documenting people's experiences in my writings, now this interview puts me on the hot seat. How do I talk about my life, what I have observed, what I think/theorize about, in the blip of an afternoon? How do I choose which story to tell and why? How does the camera intrude into the narrative that I want to tell?
Yesterday, a high school friend said that after reading Coming Full Circle, all the stories she has held in her memory about me were all shattered. I reassured her that those stories were still true, in a sense, because the perceptions she had of me as a young woman partly constitute the truth of the older friend she has come to know recently through the book. But I am not the book.

I write, and you do not know me (Mei Mei Berssenbrugge). I now believe that this "not knowing" is what seduces us into asking for more stories about each other. Seduction as an invitation to: recognize, respect, honor, celebrate, thank, offer, ask, praise, bless, communicate with - You who will always be an unknown to me.

Thus, the potential for telling a fecund and felicituous story, for this interview, may rest on my ability to seduce History. I'll have to ask my babaylan sisters to send me erotic energy from the four corners.

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