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cover story The Asian Jour nal MDWK MAGAZINE - August 7, 2019

3 Fil-Am books for end-of-summer reading by Christina

songstress’ influence persists today is the premise of “Why part of the drug war. From the Karen Carpenter Matters” get-go, the young adult novel (University of Texas Press) by tackles death and the ways we Karen Tongson, a University of Southern California professor learn how to process grief, or and culture writer. even avoid it. The character With other biographies on of Jay is refreshingly sensitive and vulnerable and is trying to Karen Carpenter available, make sense of his place in the “Why Karen Carpenter Matters” doesn’t disclose any new world. information per se, but rather “That’s the foundation offers a part memoir, part of the rest his character — if biography that shows how her you’re sensitive and thinking life has impacted someone about things carefully and like Tongson. deeply, then you’re going to Tongson — the daughter have to process things about of two Filipino musicians who your identity, about what you named her after the Carpenthink about your family. Beters frontwoman — draws parcause if you’re stoic and that stereotypical idea of a male is allels between her upbringing repressing emotions, then you and that of Karen Carpenter, don’t think about those things be it their Southern California carefully,” Ribay, a high school upbringing or explorations of self-identity. In a chapter teacher in the Bay Area, told called “Queer Horizon,” for the Asian Journal. Though Jay lost touch with example, Karen Carpenter’s struggles with anorexia and Jun after years of letters, his physical presentation are curiosity won’t stop him from explored. “One of the new uncovering the truth of the matter. The book avoids being revelations in the biography I’ve written is really to cona ‘savior’ story wherein Jay’s purpose is to go to the Philip- sider her anorexia in relation to some kind of discomfort pines and save the day with a with her gender presentation. solution to the drug war. That’s kind of a queer read,” “I didn’t go into the story intending for Jay to lead some the author told the Asian Journal. massive protest and be in the Through this, Tongson restreets and at the end of the flects on how coming into her day, the laws are changed,” own identity had affected the Ribay said. “That’s not the dynamic with her mother and role we Filipino Americans opened up questions about need to play. We certainly her gender. (“I merely wanted have a right to voice our freedom from the discomforts opinions and to advocate but we’re doing that in support of and constraints of femininthe Filipinos in the Philippines ity, not being able to move around, take up space, pee living with that reality.” anywhere you want, and speak Beyond the current politiabove a whisper,” she writes cal climate in the Philippines, on p. 86.) Ribay — who is half Filipino Overall, the book is a and half white and has certain quick read at 130 pages; similarities to Jay’s character there’s nostalgia and empathy — hopes the book opens up you feel and you can’t help conversations of feeling out but play some of The Carof place and having that dual penters’ greatest hits in the identity of being Filipino and background. Though Karen American. Carpenter left the world too soon, her music and legacy will continue to carry on across future generations, regardless of background or race. “The thing that Filipinos are both praised and derided for is our capacity to imitate people’s voices and to perform covers and to be the paradoxically the best imitators of American popular music. I want us to see that is not at all a weakness, but a strength that is a skill and ability. It’s not about the fact that we are just subjected to the postcolonial adoration of American pop culture...we’re not worshipping Karen Carpenter, “Why Karen Carpenter but she in many respects Matters” by Karen Tongson belongs to us and has become Five decades later, Karen Filipino through the way that Carpenter — lead singer and we’ve listened to her, sung drummer of The Carpenters her music, the way that she’s — continues to be an icon become a part of our canon around the world, includand karaoke books,” Tongson ing the unlikely place of the told the Asian Journal. Philippines. Why the ‘70s

M. Oriel / AJPress

IT’S quite an electrifying time for the Filipino American literary landscape as in the first eight months of this year alone, we have come across and devoured several books across genres — whether young adult fiction or cooking. Our editorial team has written about titles, such as poetry collection “Loves You” by Sarah Gambito, Grace Talusan’s memoir “The Body Papers,” Malaka Gharib’s graphic novel “I Was Their American Dream,” James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Pastry Chef semifinalist Margarita Manzke’s cookbook “Baking at République,” and traveling chef Yana Gilbuena’s “No Forks Given.” Other books we’re excited about this year include “Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self Delusion” (August), a book of essays on contemporary digital culture by New Yorker staff writer Jia Tolentino, and “Lalani of the Distant Sea” (September), an epic fantasy inspired by Filipino folklore by 2018 Newbery Medal Winner Erin Entrada Kelly. With summer almost ending, these following three books by Fil-Am authors are enthralling reads whether you need something to read poolside or during a long car ride.

“Patron Saints of Nothing” by Randy Ribay Since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016, his tough, unfiltered rhetoric and crackdown on illegal drugs have made international headlines. For the Filipino diaspora — particularly the second and third generations growing up in the United States — this has opened up debates as to whether they have a right to an opinion on the current administration or to take action if they don’t even live in the Philippines and do not experience the day-to-day realities. In “Patron Saints of Nothing” (Kokila), Filipino American teenager Jay Reguero faces these questions of identity after his cousin Jun is killed as

“Somewhere in the Middle” by Deborah Francisco Douglas Deborah Francisco Douglas grew up not fully knowing her Filipina side, but an opportunity to learn about it was some sort of fate when she was assigned to the Philippines as a Peace Corps volunteer. What started as a series of blog posts and journal entries, “Somewhere in the Middle” (Peaceful Mountain Press) is Douglas’ debut memoir about her three years living in the country and the lessons of self-discovery along the way. “I am content with being in the middle, and I have also accepted the various names that people use to describe me. Whether mestiza, half Filipino, mix-mix, halo-halo, FilAm, or Filipino American, I am not defined by just a name. I am the only one who can define me, and I will continue doing so for the rest of my life, floating in and out of my cultural identities in the same way the clouds floated through the valley below my mountains upon mountains,” Douglas writes. Douglas leaves no detail behind as she sets the scene of each chapter during her time in the mountain province of Baguio — down to the items tricycle passengers carry with them (e.g. live chickens) to street vendors with taho containers to the route she would run daily. There are funny anecdotes of trying to set boundaries with neighbors and locals who are as curious to learn about Douglas as she is to learn about her Filipino side (and the shameless questions that come with that of ‘what are you?’ Do you have a boyfriend?’), peppered with travelogues of adventures in other destinations of the archipelago country. But there is also the mental toll that living in a new country can take on one individual and whether we truly belong as Filipino Americans in the physical sense either in the Philippines or the U.S. “At the end of the day, we can’t overlook that Filipino Americans are very diverse.

Randy Ribay, a high school teacher in the Bay Area, released “Patron Saints of Nothing” in June. Photo by Dave Londres

Karen Tongson, a professor at the University of Southern California, explores her ties to ‘70s icon Karen Carpenter in “Why Karen Carpenter Matters.”

Deborah Francisco Douglas’ time as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines is documented in her debut novel, “Somewhere in the Middle.”

There are people who are very familiar with Filipino culture and are very immersed in it but there are other people on the other side of the spectrum who know nothing about it, yet have a desire to learn,” Doug-

las told the Asian Journal. Email us at to share your reading list and other books by Filipino and Fil-Am authors to check out this year.

Enlightened Carlo pursues his Why does Nadine keep on dancing? passion amid controversy by riCky lO

by Christina


SHOW business is undoubtedly a challenging industry to be in — besides the ruthless competition among artists, there is also the public’s unrealistic expectation for celebrities to look and act perfectly at every waking moment. If they don’t, then the “chismis,” the intrigues and the bashing begin to hound and pound them. It therefore takes an enduring passion for their craft for artists to survive the “hazards” of the job. For the pressure can get so unbearable it’ll make you want to quit. Thankfully, 33-year-old Carlo Aquino is just as deep into his acting and music as he was as a child star that he is ploughing forward despite his much-publicized fall out with on-and-off girlfriend Angelica Panganiban. It can be recalled that the pair were reunited on screen via the 2018 box-office hit “Exes Baggage.” They rekindled their romance not only on the set, but off-cam too, spending the rest of the year together lovey-dovey like before. And then one day, Panganiban announced out of nowhere she’s distancing herself from Aquino because of all the bashing and negativity she’s been getting for being with him. He said, she said It didn’t help that in the following months, the couple

‘Her emotions are valid’ And so, even as he was promoting his upcoming birthday concert “Liwanag” in concert late last week, Aquino had no choice but to face the lingering controversy. The “bobo” post was very fresh after all, going viral only three days before this interview. A cool and calm Aquino simply said, “Para sa akin lang kasi kung may apoy, hindi mo naman bubuhusan ‘yon ng gasul para lumaki pa. Huwag na lang siguro nating pahabain. ‘Yung emotions niya valid ‘yon, kung ‘yon ‘yung nararamdaman niya, ibigay na natin sa kanya ‘yon, Carlo Aquino Photo from Instagram/@jose_liwanag di ba? Ayaw ko na rin pahabain kasi ang tagal na rin [ng issue], I stopped posting their photos think six or seven months.” together on their social media The singer-actor clarified until netizens allegedly spotted however that he has no ill feelAquino was vacationing with ings for Panganiban and insisted another woman. he had done his part in appeasWhat ensued was a he saiding her very early on. she said scenario, where Aquino “Nag-sorry na naman ako. downplayed the issue and said Sincerely, nag-sorry ako sa kanya he and Panganiban were still on and hindi ko kailangang magspeaking terms; with the latter sorry in public dahil napa-plastiquickly deploring what he said, kan ako kapag ganun. Personal, categorically stating they have mas maganda ‘yon. Ilang beses cut all communication between naman na kaming nag-usap. I them. think okay na ‘yon for me.” Panganiban went a step If anything, the actor galfurther and said that Aquino lantly said it is gratitude that he actually led her on. In fact, she has for his ex-girlfriend, creditposted on Twitter, “Nope. ing her for his resurgence of his Sorry. Spare me. Si khang at si career. josh lang ang tinuturing kong “Di ba ilang beses ko rin pamilya. Gusto kong maging sinabi sa inyo na malaking bagay mabuting tao. Pero ayokong siya kung bakit ako nandito maging bobo :)” Continued on Page 4

NADINE Lustre has a good reason to be dancing. Her career (including movies without her perennial leading man, boyfriend James Reid) is going great, that’s why, Indak, the title of her new movie perfectly describes her present state of being — you know, mapapa-indak ka sa tuwa. It’s Nadine’s second “solo” movie (read: minus James), with Sam Concepcion as leading man. The first was “Ulan” with Carlo Aquino. “Like incest,” laughed Nadine. That’s how she said she felt doing a love scene with Sam in “Indak.” It’s because, explained Nadine, she, James and Sam are such good friends that they are like brothers and sister. Being professionals, Nadine and Sam beautifully acquitted themselves in the love scenes despite the initial awkwardness. For sure, James doesn’t mind. Touted as a musical-romance-drama written and directed by Paul Alexie Basinillo, Indak bears close watching because it’s Nadine’s first movie after winning not just one but two Best Actress awards (for “Never Not Love You”) from the FAMAS and the Gawad Urian, validating her as a serious actress to watch. Having done two movies this year, Nadine has to beg off from “Miracle in Cell No. 7,”

After pocketing two Best Actress awards for “Never Not Love You,” Nadine Lustre shifts gears and dances up a storm in “Indak” with a new leading man in Sam Concepcion. Contributed photo

Viva’s entry in the 2019 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) with Aga Muhlach as lead actor, saying that she’s a bit “burned out.” She’s replaced by Bela Padilla. Shot in Bantayan Island, Cebu and Seoul, “Indak” is the story about Vin (Sam) who invites Jen, a simple island girl (Nadine), to join Indak Pinas, a dance group, after her dance video goes viral. The crew is going to compete in the World Championships in Seoul, so Jen’s presence will be of big help. In Manila, Vin helps out Jen in improving her dancing beat, as well as in adjusting to the

metro lifestyle. The two are not only in their groove but also slowly fell for each other. With the rest of the crew, they must work together to churn out the best performance of their lives even if sudden financial dilemmas and past issues get in their way. Touted as “The hottest dance movie of the year,” with G Force and Teacher Georcelle as choreographer, Indak features great soundtracks like “Sumayaw sa Indak” (by Nadine featuring Po Balbuena and Shehyee), “Ikot-Ikot” (Sam’s soulful version) and “Hindi Tayo Puwede” (Janine Teñoso’s heart-wrenching version).

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