One of the first members of Albert Samaha’s family introduced in his memoir Concepcion: An Immigrant Family’s Fortunes is his uncle Spanky: a baggage handler in San Francisco’s airport. Spanky emigrated to the United States from his home country, the Philippines, where he lived a very different life as a rockstar: one of the founding members of VST & Co, one of the country’s most famous bands.
December 2021 marks the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor and the American entry into the Second World War. In fact, this interview was recorded on 12 December: the 80th anniversary of Japanese troops landing on the Philippine island of Luzon.
As Albert Samaha’s memoir, Concepcion: An Immigrant Family’s Fortunes, begins, he hears from his mother that she’s being scammed by a man she met online. He and his mother view American politics very differently: she’s a Trump supporter and he’s progressive. In his narrative about Philippine history, American colonialism, immigration law, and his own family’s story, Samaha shows why this all matters. Although Filipinos are, by his count, the fourth largest diaspora group in the US, Filipino-Americans seem under-represented in everything from cuisine to popular culture and politics. His book does its part in trying to fill this large void.
War is messy. Guerrilla war is even messier. Most conventional histories of the Second World War’s Pacific theater detail Japan’s invasion and conquest of the Philippines in December 1941 and early 1942, and then jumping to US General Douglas MacArthur’s return in October 1944 and America’s retaking of the islands. James Kelly Morningstar’s new book War and Resistance in the Philippines, 1942-1944 fills an important historical gap by detailing the guerrilla war waged by Filipino insurgents and US soldiers who refused to surrender or avoided captivity during the Japanese occupation.
Proof of Stake is a multivalent meditation on loss, grief, and social constructs. Grounded in the death of the poet’s daughter, Vivian, this long elegy ruminates on a wide range of subjects, from the effects and winding paths of disruptive technologies, such as paper and cryptocurrency, to critiques and observations of art movements, diasporas, social unrest, and the history of the Philippines.
Isabel Rosario Cooper, if mentioned at all by mainstream history books, is often a salacious footnote: the young Filipino mistress of General Douglas MacArthur, hidden away at the Charleston Hotel in DC.
In 1929, a young woman sailed from Manila to New York to reunite with an older man who begged her to join him in the United States. Twenty years old at the most—her actual birth year was never clear—she was born from a Filipina mother and a former American soldier previously stationed in the Philippines. The man for whom she was about to stay cooped up in a Washington, DC hotel room for several years was none other than General Douglas MacArthur, three decades her senior and soon to be the Chief of Staff of the US Army.