What is your favorite book?
There’s this poet named Kenneth Patchen, very obscure. Tiny little one book. He lived in pain, but he really lived for love, and I think he said something like, “Did you ever wonder why the windows in God’s house are all broken?”
I met at the PEN Conference many amazing Filipino poets and I brought home their books. I try to choose a different poem every day, and I’m always blown away. There is an amazing tradition of literature in this country that is so excellent and so worth being proud of. Marjorie Evasco is one of my favorite poets. She gave me a book in 2010 at the Philippine PEN Conference that made me cry. It was her first collection of poetry, but what she didn’t know is when I was a young single mother living in Hawaii many years before I moved home to Asia, this book was my favorite book, and I had lost it. And so, when she handed me the same book…I didn’t know who she was. She said, “I wanted to give you a gift.” And I just had to cry because it was my favorite collection of poetry.
Robin Lim advocates midwifery in her Anvil press conference
What is the greatest Filipino attribute that you embody?
Besides loving good food? (laughs) My husband’s so sad because I could choose one person to bring with me on this trip, and I chose my daughter instead of my husband, and he loves Filipino food. I really have to tell you, Filipino food rocks, maybe because I was raised on it, but it really is, for me, the best cuisine in the world.
I think a Filipino attribute that I really embody is love and respect for my mother and my father. They weren’t easy, believe me. A mixed marriage? You know what they told soldiers in Vietnam? This is shocking, and it’s in my book—that you can kill as many Asians as you want, because they don’t have souls. That was in the government reel-to-reel film that they showed every soldier coming into Vietnam. So, even if you’re Asian and you’re sitting there, they show you that. But if you’re sitting there and you’re married to an Asian and your children all look like little Asians, and you come back from Vietnam, and you look at them, and you cannot relate. It was really hard on the marriage. When my mother would move in bed, my father would end up with a choke hold around her, and almost killed her, because she might have been the enemy. He suffered from Vietnam Stress Syndrome until the day he died, and she never gave up on him. So I used to say that their marriage is a bridge of peace.
Photos by Lio Mangubat