- PInay: Culture Bearers of the Filipino Diaspora eds. by Virgie Chattergy and Pepi Nieva
The Filipino Association of University Women (FAUW) was established in Honolulu over thirty years ago, and in 2017 they added a fifth book to their long list of accomplishments: PInay: Culture Bearers of the Filipino Diaspora. Virgie Chattergy, who coedited the anthology of first-person essays and poems with Pepi Nieva, explains in her introduction the central question that guided her curation: "What happens to traditional Philippine core values if Filipinos who live away from the country forget to remember them as they live out their lives?" (1). Contributors, all of whom are women, were asked to focus on the transitions of life and death, specifically finding a partner, marriage and family life, caring for the elderly, and end-of-life issues. The result is a heartwarming collection that puts the diversity of Filipinx communities in conversation with each other across continents and generations.
The editors include a few established writers like Michelle Cruz Skinner and Maiana Minahal, but the majority of the contributors to the volume are being published for the first time. Chattergy guided those writers to realize "everyone has a story to tell," emphasizing how cathartic it is when we tell our stories. This grassroots effort to reclaim community stories comes on the heels of several English-language anthologies by Hawai'i-based Filipinx published in the last six years. Among these are the 2011 Panagtaripato: Parenting Our Stories, Our Stories as Parents, edited by Aurelio S. Agcaoili; the 2012 On the Edge of Hope and Healing: Flipping the Script of Filipinos in Hawai'i, edited by Jeffrey Acido and Gordon Lee; and the 2014 Filipinas!: Voices from Daughters and Descendants of Hawai'i's Plantation Era, edited by Patricia Brown. These multiple volumes attest to the growing demand for work on Filipinx [End Page 402] in Hawai'i, a diverse community that comprises more than twenty percent of Hawai'i's population.
At the 2017 book launch at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa's Center for Biographical Research, Chattergy, who is a professor emeritus in UHM's College of Education, explained how vital it is to pass on the core values of Philippine culture to the younger generation: "If you don't know how to define yourself, you are vulnerable to being defined by others." Given the fact that so many books on the Philippines have been written by outsiders, Chattergy made clear that their task as editors was to build on the work of other Filipinx thinkers and intellectuals who aim to define those core Philippine values from the inside. Citing the influence of Virgilio Enriques, known as "the father of Filipino psychology," kapwa is one of the most treasured values the editors wanted to impart. As Chattergy explained, kapwa is Tagalog for "togetherness" but more broadly connotes, "I am my brother or my sister's keeper," or "one with the other," in contrast with American-style individualism. Chattergy and Nieva, as diasporic culture bearers, were intent on communicating the preciousness of Filipino values particularly as transmitted through the church and the family.
With regard to the title, the editors might also have chosen "Not your typical Filipina." Most of the writers focus on the first-generation immigrant experience, painting a portrait of an adventurous cosmopolitan set with stories of Chicago, New York, Adelaide, and Warsaw, among other locations. There is little discussion of plantation memories or the working-class concerns that trouble the majority of Filipinx in Hawai'i today. (One notable exception is Faith Pascua's poem "A Full-Time Mother," which addresses the anguish of a nonunionized hotel worker). Readers might be shocked by the stories of wealthy immigrant women reflecting on the transition stress of a life without the family chauffer and domestic helpers they had in the mother country, made worse by the realization that Filipinx in Hawai'i face significant barriers to professional-status jobs. For example, in the title essay...