These unusual memoirs by Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo (distinguished writer and literary scholar, author of more than forty books) tell the story of the author’s life by tracing the effects of the books she read—from Little Women to Carmen Guerrero Nakpil—and the movies she watched, from childhood to high school. Their sources are the Diary she began keeping at the age of nine, and a collection of old snapshots and newspaper clippings, which she refers to as the Scrapbook. What distinguishes this from other coming-of-age narratives is the theme of writing as a form of coping—with feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, anxiety, alienation; in short, with adolescent angst—a strategy accidentally discovered from her own reading. And it is a narrative told, not just with the usual nostalgia, but also with humor, dispassionate candor, wisdom, and grace.
The book also revisits the tales of her ancestors, as recounted, yet again, in texts—her mother’s journals and unpublished memoirs. Here she finds the mysterious Indio priest whose existence was such a well-kept family secret that no one could remember his first name or what happened to him; the violinist who joined the Katipunan and was executed in Bagumbayan; the zarzuela actress who returned to the stage after her husband’s execution so she could support their children; the penniless immigrant who found a job as a houseboy in America and came home with a degree in dentistry from Stanford; the socialite who became one of the country’s first women journalists … The reader familiar with Hidalgo’s fiction and nonfiction will recognize these memories as the materials she drew on for her own future stories and essays. When the book opens, she is an infant and the Battle of Manila is raging. As the book draws to a close, it is 1960, and the eve of her first day as a university student, and she is about to finally meet other apprentice writers, and perhaps, even the writers whose works she has just discovered.
AUTHOR: Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo
PUBLISHER: The University of the Philippines Press
DATE PUBLISHED: 2021