|OSCAR PENARANDA (THIRD FROM LEFT) WITH BALAGTASAN TRIO OF MIKE COROZA, VIM NADERA, AND TEO ANTONIO WITH LEAN ALEJANDRO IN A MURAL PAINTING FOR FREEDOM FIGHTERS IN SAN FRANCISCO'S FILLMORE DISTRICT|
Vim Nadera: Do you have plans to put up the Oscar Peñaranda Library or Museum or Creative Writing and Research Center?
Oscar Peñaranda: Hey what a great idea. I think we can further pursue this discussion with the proper people in power. Whoever they are, I think it must involve my coming here for a regular visit as part of the deal.
VN: In what way do you help the writers in your hometown?
OP: The writers in my hometown write in Waray. and I don’t know if they need any of my help because they are doing quite well on their own. Their only disadvantage, and that is one of their main causes, is that Filipino and English are encouraged but not their own Waray in the schools, media, and popular culture, and at times in academia, too. I think kayong mga "pro-Filipino" need to deal with that issue and offer whatever help you can give your brothers and sisters who write in their own vernacular. Publish and advocate and advertise for these more vigorously than the past. I try to make others aware of some funding that they can contribute to if they want to support Waray writers.
VN: Could you tell us more about your family?
OP: Both my parents were born in the same hometown Barugo. I have an older brother and a younger sister. They were both born in Manila. I am the only sibling born in Barugo. I was born “under” my grandfather's house when Japanese soldiers were marching across the street. The town and my mother always reminded each other and myself of this fact. My mother side is Gutierrez. Mga mestizo sila. My father's side mostly Filipino, with a little Chinese and Spanish blood, too. But my father's name rose to prominence not through material gains but throughhis father (my grandfather's) role in the Philippine-American War in Leyte. He was officially the last officer of Aguinaldo's Regular Army to surrender in June of 1902, over a year after Aguinaldo, months after Malvar.
VN: What made your dad and mom migrate to Canada and the United States?
OP:My father worked for the foreign service and this was one his first assignments, to be one of the prime officers to open an embassy in Canada. It was a great opportunity. But of course I hated the move. I was 12 and my friends were here, Vice President Jejomar Binay being one of them, here around Zobel street and Teresa, San Marcelino by the Pasig river where I sailed on a stolen raft one afternoon and one of my aunt's spotted me and shouted my name while she was standing at the bank in Hospicio de San Jose by the Ayala Bridge.
VN: Please share with us your experience as a trilingual and tricultural poet and fictionist.
OP: As a writer it gives me great advantage (than a monolingual monocultural), I think. If there is one thing a writer is aware of it is the inadequcy of language. and with three languages in your arsenal, what some words cannot capture maybe can be attainable in another language. But more importantly, it affords the writer three pairs of eyes with which to see the world, because that is what language is and does, a way to see the world.
VN: What was the effect on your style or your sensibility or your sensitivity?
OP: I think it certainly had an effect on my person and thus my writing and my sensibilities. I found myself (enjoying) listening to old folks and little children more so than my younger peers. I took delight in experiencing my relatives and all their personalities and the stories around them and i am sure they had fun with mine.
VN: Why do you consider San Francisco your home? What about Vancouver? Or Barugo?
OP: One can say that San Francisco is my home and the Philippines my homeland. My childhood experiences in the Philippines include Manila as well, not just Barugo. Marami rin akong kuwentong nangyari sa Maynila. Many of them as seen through the eyes of a boy.
VN: What can you say about the state of Filipino American literature?
OP: I think it is booming. And that's great! Since 2004 till now, there have been around 200 new publications of books authored by Filipino Americans. People come together in rich discussions when they try to define or look for essentials in Filipino American literature. I wonder about our stories from other places in the diaspora. Do we have writers there? In Italy? We must have. In Spain? In the Middle East?
VN: What is your role in the development of such phenomenon in relation to, say, ethnic studies?
OP: Perhaps my obvious role would be that of a liaison of some kind because I am bicultural and bilingual in the U.S. And the existence of ethnic studies in the schools must be guaranteed only by eternal vigilance. A lot of things in the U.S., one comes to find, are guaranteed only by eternal vigilance.