Whence They Came. Sort of.

Manila, Humboldt

Humboldt County, where Father Woff grew up, has its own Manila.
Mother Woff grew up in Manila (but not this Manila).
Manila, Humboldt, is next to Samoa, Humboldt.
Samoa, Humboldt, is next to Eureka, Humboldt.
If this makes any sense at all, then you’re probably Filipino, too.

I’ve thought a lot about the pervasive transnational ties most Filipinos in America maintain with the Philippines. The logic behind this photo/town-name cracks me up, but actually, it’s a great illustration of the blurred boundaries between “here” and “there”. Immigration to the U.S., as with most other host countries, is rarely-to-never a clean break with the motherland, and a clean-slate new beginning. There’s always back-and-forth: family visits, phone calls, emails, gifts, remittances.

I’ve made frequent visits to Manila as an adult and an artist, and am trying to do what I can to create more arts exchange across the Pacific. The internet has an uncanny way of collapsing distance rather handily, in this regard. Sociology books such as Emily Noelle Ignacio’s “Building Diaspora” (Rutgers, 2005) have been providing me with a clearer sense of the possibilities for leveraging transnational exchange between Filipino and Filipino-American artists in ways I could never have conceived of ten years ago. Hell, I didn’t have email ten years ago!

Ignacio describes how Filipinos widely scattered around the world, have embraced the internet as a way to develop connections, community and a stronger sense of self-identity. She identifies the multiple modes in which it’s contributed to creating a more concrete sense of the Filipino diaspora, how it has helped Filipinos better understand and articulate their postcolonial situation, as well as their relationship with other communities around the world. Moving beyond, or perhaps complementing Yen Le Espiritu’s definitions of “home” (Homebound, 2003), Ignacio suggests that while “home” is ever further removed from geographic place, it is being increasingly territorialized and renegotiated in cyberspace. Word up, sis.

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