Tag Archives: World travel

Randy Ford Author-on an American becoming more Filipino than the Filipinos around him

      Much of it is hazy now, a blur.   But waking up to the sounds of honking that late afternoon so long ago, the constant sounds of traffic just outside our hotel window connects me today with waking up in a foreign land for the first time.   With the jet lag, before there’s precise awareness of time and place, the slow waking up in a different time zone having lost a full day: little of this comes back to me tonight.   I don’t remember much.   There is, however, a lot of Manila still with me…traffic and more traffic without the rules we know in the states, from getting around in jeepnies to plowing through high water during the monsoons.   I’m not sure now whether some of what I remember is accurate or not.   And if I were to write a pure piece of fiction about Manila now, fiction or non-fiction, I would still have to go back there and try to remember the little details that are now lost.

      The Manila of those first few days was crowded and fast moving.   The shock of facing so many new things at once hit me right away.   After I got over that, and the strangeness of the traffic, I was able to navigate the city as well as any native.   From my point of view, Manila had become as much my city as theirs.   I enjoyed it that much.   It exhilarated me.   But after living there two years, I eventually realized that Manila could never really become my home.   I would always be a stranger there.

      There was the language, Tagalong…officially Filipino…that I never really mastered.   Not knowing it well separated me from my Philippine friends.   I also have to acknowledge that we didn’t share a history, or the little bit of history we did share had been far from positive: it would’ve been impossible for me to change the color of my skin, or revolt against myself for long.   To compensate I feel I would’ve had to become more Filipino than most of the Filipinos and Filipinas I knew, and on occasions I did just that.

      Here’s one example.  For a dramatic production, I turned the underground dungeon complex at Fort Santiago (a national shrine) into a “happening.”   One night during the run a nun walked through the show and something happened to her that really upset a Filipino audience member.   The nun stood nearby and wasn’t nearly as upset as he was.   He was yelling out of control.   The nun had been “touched” in the dark.   She had been “violated” and the Filipino had taken it on himself to defend her honor.   (Defending one’s honor in the Philippines has fueled feuds that have lasted for generations, the subject of my first novel.)   At this point, none of the Filipino and Filipina crewmembers seemed to know what do.   Meanwhile, this guy was escalating.   We had a sizable audience that night.   Everyone was standing around, and this guy was ready to pop somebody.   So I had to do something.   It was my production.   So I went to this guy and took his hand, taking his hand was the key thing I did to calm him down.   At that moment, though I was from another world, I acted as a Filipino, more Filipino than the Filipinos around me did and salvaged an incident that could’ve turned violent.   My intervention worked; the nun thanked me.

Randy Ford

Leave a comment

Filed under Randy's Story

Randy-Writer: what’s more useful, passion or detail?

      Our letters home offer a detailed record of our travels around the world.   They connect times and dates with location and give details we have long forgotten.   But to choose something to write about from all of this information is not easy: there’s too much there.   To bring the material forward and make it relative now is even more difficult.   Maybe that’s why the letters remain in their box.

      And the enigma why I haven’t touched the letters may lie in part in the process I use.   This may explain it.   But I find it remarkable that I haven’t been more straightforward and haven’t always acknowledged my models such as Joyce and Woofe.   I find it equally remarkable that I haven’t found a model to help me utilize my letters.   I don’t think I’ve read enough; but I would first have to make up my mind whether I wanted to cast the letters in fiction or non-fiction.   The details would be the same in either case, so why would it matter?   People, places, and things: that wouldn’t change.   The rest would have to come from my imagination, for the letters only provide details and not the story.

      James Joyce in the short stories of his DUBLINERS seems to have selected detail very carefully; and he didn’t tell everything.   With our letters, the days they represented on the days we found time to write them, we gave as much detail as possible; we tried to tell everything.    I am afraid there is too much there.   And I don’t have (as Joyce did with Dublin) the personal connection with these places.   Over there I was an outsider and would’ve always remained one.   There was little over there that I could claim; whereas it’s hard to divorce me from my hometown.   When I think of Irving Texas and at the same time have thoughts of Bombay, I have a more passionate (even tempestuous) response to thoughts of where I grew up.



Filed under Randy's Story