it was daunting more than anything else, though at some point all that operated was an amount of yabang: i’ve seen friends do this before, i’ve seen wonderful beautiful local books happen without a big publisher behind it, without press releases coming out in papers. and this book, i knew, deserved the major major effort of blood/sweat/tears because it is about family and history. because it is unconventional in form, an almost refusal to fall within the genres that are familiar, a straddling among creative non-fiction/historical essay/memoir. because it demanded a freedom from the standard limitations of publishing, given its refusal as well to deal with the ways in which things are usually written, how they usually look, what can usually be said.
and so Revolutionary Routes can be infinitely controversial, familiar as many of the personalities within its pages are, from former presidents Manuel Quezon to Ramon Magsaysay, Vicente Sotto to Artemio Ricarte to Tomas Mapua, yet here, more than anything they are revealed to be people. there should be no fear in that. there should be freedom in it.
because that is also what it means to family: a great amount of freedom. to be able to let go of these stories, and more than sharing it with the world, show the world how our Lola Concha, unnamed and anonymous, knew somehow to sit down and write, in long hand, about the life she lived. with no pretenses at publication, no grand narrative tying everything together, no effort at making saints out of sinners. in the process she left not just a narrative about family, but a history both local and national in the voice of someone who actually lived within it. Reynaldo Ileto’s Foreword to the book begins:
Revolutionary Routes is more than a family history across four generations. Author Angela Stuart-Santiago has deftly woven together the memoirs, clippings, correspondence and other traces of her family’s past into a microhistory that spans the late 19th century up to the 1950s. While this book is rooted in the specific experiences of a family that lived in Tiaong and its adjoining towns in southwestern Tayabas (now Quezon) province, it also tells us much, from the ground up, about everyday life in the countryside under the shadow of successive imperial and national regimes. This book can also be read as a modern history of the Philippines.
it seemed there was no other way to do this book, but to take it by the horns and make it walk a path we were making up as we went along. a kind of tribute to the way Lola Concha lived believing in hard work and with more heart — heart — than i can muster. a tribute to Lola Nena who could see most clearly even as she was blind, who inadvertently led me to reading beyond my years, whose sadnesses are a thread i find strength in. and really, ultimately, a glass raised to Angela, whose writing’s a gift in the most basic and complex of ways.
today these arrived in the house and home that Lola Concha and Lola Nena continue to provide us in Mandaluyong:
and i realized there was no other way, no other way at all, but to have taken the path we did, difficult/stressful/frustrating as it was. and today, i felt as close to this joy as i could, as in the end, this route could only be liberating, in all ways imaginable.
we’re launching Revolutionary Routes, on August 20 2011, 5 to 8PM at the Filipinas Heritage Library. come buy a book and have Angela sign it! we’re celebrating family and Tayabas, and Elias from Rizal’s Noli who we now know to be a crucial part of our story.
if at all, you’ll get to meet us beyond our blogs, with partying the only thing on our minds, no fangs included. do come!
Revolutionary Routes, Five Stories of Incarceration, Exile, Murder and Betrayal in Tayabas Province 1891-1980 by Angela Stuart-Santiago
based on the memoirs in Spanish of Concepcion Herrera vda de Umali
as translated into English by Concepcion Umali Stuart