|OSCAR PENARANDA PAYING HIS RESPECT TO THE LATE GREAT CARLOS BULOSAN AS IF TO SAY, TOO, THAT AMERICA IS IN THE HEART|
A gifted writer that he is, still he tried to further polish his craft by taking up his B.A. in Literature and M.A. in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University. Eventually, he became an educator who taught at San Francisco State for 12 years, at Everett Middle School for 10 years, and is currently teaching at James Logan High School in Union City. A vital cog in the Filipino American Educators Association of California (FAEAC) machine, he is an advocate of Filipino as language and heritage studies.
During the Filipino American Book Festival last 1 and 2 October, this tall, fair, and handsome poet and fictionist was one of the unsung heroes. We met him for the very first time at the residence of the Dinglasans in Hayward,when our generous hosts, Ding and Gladys, our Quezon National High School mates, threw a mini-party upon our arrival in California. More cariñoso and charismatic in person, he reminded us all of Rogelio de la Rosa and Leopoldo Salcedo rolled into one. No wonder he had been described as a smooth operator, by many, who linked him with some of the best and the brightest women, foreign and Filipino. Anyway, even among his macho beer buddies in campuses and Chinese resto outside Stanford, he really can command respect. When he took us to a museum and a mall, we witnessed how his former colleagues and students treat him like their eternal guru! Yes, he forgot about his promise and previous appointment with, say, Tito Fred Favis in El Cerrito or Dr. Josephine LeBlanc a.k.a. Joi Barrios at the U.C. Berkeley or got late in our “date” with Annie Brazil in Sutter Street, perhaps due to his hectic schedule in San Leandro, where he lives with his wife Luisa and daughter Milena. However,he tried to compensate by showing and not saying that wewere part of the all Filipino families he introduced to us.
For our Balagtasan trio called MTV -- as in Mike Coroza, Teo Antonio, and Vim Nadera -- he acted as our official tour guide and guiding light. Aside from taking us to all the famous and infamous streets of San Francisco, with M.C. Canlas and Mauro Tumbocon, he let us in to the house and hearts of the hospitable Gregorios. He shared with us their regular “Friday Club” experience in the residence of Union City’s first Filipino Vice Mayor in Pat Gacoscos with her hubby Fred and his cause-oriented barkadas: Maynard Estrellado, Manny Fernandez, Jun Gonzales, Carlen Gregorio, Domingo Miranda, Bert Padua, Rey Sison, and Ed Treyes who treated us to a sendoff before we visiting Meredith Ramirez Talusan, Igor Shteynberg, Ima Rufina Bacani, Edward Calimag, Ate Nerlie Villamor, and their families in New York where we performed at the Bowery Poetry Club. Add to that, we were able to meet another Quezon Higher, Raul Parungao, who watched our Balagtasan at the Union City Hall with Tita Crisologo, and her family, and the Reading Reynas: Anvil Publishing’s Karina Bolasco, National Book Development Board’s Neni Sta.Romana-Cruz, and Literacy Initiatives International Foundation’s Gemma Nemenzo the day after the nearby Sillicon Valley lost Steve Jobs! Today, at 4 p.m., kindly join the class of Mike, who co-organized a homecoming eventwith Dr. Ma. Luisa Torres-Reyes, the Sipat-Salin: Transfigurationsauthor and Kritika Kultura editor. It is the Atenean way of paying tribute to the said champion of ethnic studies in American schools who became one of the founders of the San Francisco Chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) that picked him as its first president. Simply entitled–A Poetry Reading by Oscar Peñaranda -- this pre-Valentine’s DayKritika Kultura Lecture Series will be held at the Natividad Galang Fajardo Conference Room of the Ateneo de Manila University’s School of Humanities. Later, at 7 p.m., there will be Salimbayan: Mabuhay Oscar, Paalam Teo -- a bienvenida for him and a despedida for Teo who will be leaving for the U.S. with his wife Sol to stay with their son Emilio Jacinto. This momentuous occasion is made possible by Atty. Redemberto Villanueva who always opens his penthouse to artists atop the C.C. Castro International Building along Timog Avenue in Quezon City.
Who says National Arts Month can only be celebrated with a grant from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts like Taboan?
Vim Nadera: Everytime you visit the Philippines, why do you make it a point to go to Barugo, Leyte?
Oscar Peñaranda: I was raised by people in that town, though we physically moved from it (to Manila) when I was five years old only, every vacation we would go home to Barugo, both my parents being from there. So the tentacles of my heritage my Waray heritage in which a lot of times women are very strong which is true in my case of growing up. My uncles though I admired many would often defer to my aunties. I could see my parent's closeness to their siblings and cousins. If and when I go home, I always visit Barugo bacause in a way that is my real home. Why go home (9000 miles) and not really "go home"? Manila, is home too, yes, but not really. My roots are in Waray country, that crazy lovely people. But of course Manila is my province too. I go home to Barugo because people in Barugo would know (that means my aunties and uncles who helped raised me) would know that I would be coming home to the Philippines so the news would already be afloat in the air from Metro Manila to Barugo, Leyte and that if i did not visit (some of) the old ones would take that as a slight and take a long time to forgive me. May Barugo Literary Mafia dito, by the way. This somehow reminds me of many of our kababayans abroad decrying (or is it bragging?) about their oversupply of pasalubong that they claim they are obligated to bring. There is very little of this in my family. They know that the best pasalubong is my bringing of myself, me. So, not having anything or enough material things to give never stopped me from ever going home. That is why I go home because I am the pasalubong and the town and their people and their stories are my pasalubong. Ever since returning after 19 years of absence from the Phiippines, every visit I made I think I always stopped by Barugo.