Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Chinese as migrant worker in the Philippines


Two weeks ago, I was at the UP University Press Bookstore looking for Nick Joaquin's biography of Senator Angara when, while browsing the shelves, I came across Bai Ren's Lagalag sa Nanyang translated from the Chinese to Filipino by Joaquin Sy.

Lagalag sa Nanyang (Nanyang Piaoliuji) is an autobiographical novel, a Bildungsroman, told by A Song, a boy from a small village in China who left the country in 1932 when he was only ten years old to look for work in the Philippines. He took on the jobs of apprentice in a Chinese dry-goods store in the Visayas, newspaper boy in Binondo, salesman of katol (anti-mosquito coils), and later translator of English news reports for a local Chinese publication in Manila.

Lagalag sa Nanyang chronicles the hardship experienced by A Song as a poor migrant worker in the Philippines, how he had to scrimp in order to eat and send remittance to China, how he deliberately spent each centimo as though it were a whole peso.

The novel has such a huge impact on me because I imagine that my maternal and paternal grandfathers must have had the same experience as A Song's. They came here about the same time A Song left China for the Philippines. At the beginning of the novel when A Song was describing the boat packed with Chinese all bound for the Philippines and all vomiting because of the violent seas, I imagine the boat where the brother of my maternal grandfather perished somewhere near Batanes, almost reaching the Philippines.

A Song fell in love in the Philippines, was brokenhearted here and, at the end of the novel, left the Philippines to join the Chinese resistance against the Japanese in World War II. Lagalag sa Nanyang is such a sad and lonely book it is likely you'll find yourself in tears in several episodes. The last time I felt as heartbroken reading a novel was more than ten years ago with George Eliot's Silas Marner.

I've finished reading Lagalag sa Nanyang today and it has become one of my favorite novels. The novel has such huge love both for the Philippines and China. I wish I could thank Joaquin Sy myself for translating this wonderful book. If you have a Chinese-Filipino friend, do him a favor and give Lagalag sa Nanyang as a gift.

10 comments:

finallyfree said...

taga-UP ka ba? nice blog....

Karlo.PinoyBlogero said...

Hi there! I see that you will be attending the second Taste Asia event tomorrow. Hope to see you there! Happy blogging!

Ronnel Lim said...

Yup,I'm going. I actually have an hidden agenda though. I'll try to recruit bloggers against JPEPA :-)

Ronnel Lim said...

Yup, UP po. medyo obvious ba?

R-18 pala yang blog mo.

Dhon Jason said...

nice meeting you bro.

Ronnel Lim said...

Hey Dhon,

Nice meeting another Bicolano blogger. You have amazing pics. Wish i was as well traveled as you.

I didn't know there's a Bicol Homepage magazine. San ba nakakabili non?

Leah said...

Mr.Joaquin Sy is really brilliant!. Galing! I've got some of his works tulad ng Tsapsuy and yung books na in-edit nya like VOICES. Got his autograph. Very down to earth. He's one of the FilChi persona that I look up to.

Out of stock yung Lagalag.. sa SM North Natl. bookstore..

Ronnel Lim said...

Meron sa UP Press pa yata if youre looking for it.

Leah said...

thanks!

btw, nag offer ba sa UP ng Chinese studies?.. sa Ateneo meron sila kaya lang they accept undergrad students nila..Iba kase pinanggalingan kong university. Any idea san ba skul nag offer ng Chinese studies..

Grizelle Consorio said...

Hi..
I was intrugued about your topic. I'm planning to write a thesis about Chinese-Filipino lit. kasi. Just wanna ask if you think there is still a copy of this book in UP Press?