Last month I attended the launch of Anvil Publishing’s new book, Connecting Flights: Filipinos Write from Elsewhere edited by journalist and author Ruel S. De Vera. I reviewed it for a travel magazine together with some other travel-related books — I’ll have to check if the issue is out already.
Connecting Flights is a companion to Writing Home: 19 Writers Remember Their Hometowns, also by De Vera. It’s a collection of poems, essays, and fiction by 20 contributors, including Dean Francis Alfar, Jose Dalisay Jr., Lourd De Veyra, Karla P. Delgado, Rosario A. Garcellano, Ramil Digal Gulle, Christina Pantoja-Hidalgo, Alya B. Honasan, Marne L. Kilates, Angelo R. Lacuesta, Ambeth R. Ocampo, Charlson Ong, Manuel L. Quezon III, D.M. Reyes, Sev Sarmenta, Alice M. Sun-Cua, Yvette Tan, Joel M. Toledo, Alfred A. Yuson, and Jessica Zafra.
“These dizzying days, we constantly move from home to in-between places before landing somewhere else,” De Vera notes in his introduction. “But I believe that we Filipinos bring our true selves along with us on every leg of every journey. We leave with it — and we treasure it enough to take it home, changed perhaps, but always overjoyed to have returned.”
I have some favorites in this collection:
Alfred Yuson’s “A Filipino Poet’s Tokyo,” an essay on his trip to Japan for the Chikyu Poetry Festival and the First Asian Poet’s Conference. He starts by describing the pasalubong he brought home from Japan, but later reveals he took home more than giant heads of garlic as he writes about the conference — the turn of events and the colorful characters he encounters; the bustle of Tokyo; Harajuku fashion; and important shrines, including the Jose Rizal Marker at the Hibiya Park. Soulful poetry from the conference attendees are sprinkled throughout the essay, concluding with the writer’s own poem, “Ending with Two Hearts.”
In “Amsterdam. Red Light,” Lourd De Veyra paints a graphic picture of the notorious city’s red light district, with its brazen window displays and, erm, herbal trade.
My former history professor Ambeth Ocampo describes Madrid in Rizal’s time in “The Rain in Spain, According to Rizal,” and reveals interesting information from Rizal’s Madrid diary, such as his regular investment in the lottery; streetwalkers on Calle de la Montera; student protests in Madrid; and the weather in Spain compared to his beloved Philippines.
Jessica Zafra regales us with her Parisian exploits in”Max Ophuls Ruined my Life”: carrying a huge suitcase and a giant backpack to the third floor of an apartment building; strolling through the sidewalks of Montmarte; venturing into the necropolis of Pere Lachaise, home to the graves of Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Chopin, and the legendary Max Ophuls, the Viennese auteur that shaped her views on love.
I love how Zafra describes how she falls in love as “leaping off cliffs,” as I can certainly relate:
… basically I leap off cliffs. For no apparent reason I decide that I am in love and that this passion must be communicated to its object with all possible haste. No coy games and feminine wiles, no meaningful glances and dropping of handkerchiefs, say it now and be done with it.
…My entire romantic history has been a series of leaps off cliffs — some spectacular, all with a blatant disregard for my safety and dignity — that end with me getting dashed on the rocks. I don’t even bother to resolve never to do it again because I know that sooner than later I will run back to the edge of the precipice…
…Surely someone so fearless and foolish deserves to be loved. All I really want is someone who will leap off the cliff with me. When that happens there will be no landing; we simply keep falling. We fall and fall untill time-space curves in on itself and we end up at the very beginning.
Yvette Tan spins a wicked tale in “Seek Ye Whore,” where strange things happen when an American guy named Foster sends for a bride from siquijorbrides.com.
I also enjoyed Karla Delgado’s “Barcelona Breathing,” the heady recollection of a 16 year old schoolgirl’s year in Barcelona, and her return 25 years later. D.M. Reyes’ stirring, sensual verse in “Borobodur;” Christina Pantoja-Hidalgo’s first encounter with the Big Apple; and Dean Francis Alfar’s spine-tingling “The Ghosts of Wan Chai.”
It’s an excellent collection that brings us “pasalubong” (a Filipino word pertaining to gifts brought home by loved ones when they travel) from all over the world; and a great book for people who love travel, whether they’re jetting off in planes or in their imagination.
Book #215 for 2009
My copy: paperback
My rating: 5/5 stars
Connecting Flights is available at major bookstores nationwide.