I was a journalist in the Philippines in the 1980s and 1990s and when I moved to London, I continued to work as a journalist.
One of the recurring stories of the period was the migration phenomenon that saw millions of Filipinos leaving to seek work in other countries. At first they were mainly men, building the luxurious desert cities now so ubiquitous in the Middle East. Then, the migration became mainly women as wealthier nations began to recruit Filipinas to work as maids, cooks, nannies and other menial jobs. Today, 11 percent of the Philippine population still works abroad, their remittances bolstering our fragile economy.
I’ve written so many stories about Filipinos leaving home!
There was the mother who taped times tables and homework tips for her children on the walls of her house before leaving to look after a stranger’s children in Hong Kong. There was the woman who came to Sweden to work as a caregiver, and after years of struggle, is now a doctor. There was the housekeeper whose owners ordered her to stay and protect their home in Kuwait during the 1990 invasion.
In 2005, I wrote and presented a BBC radio documentary about the children left behind by the migration phenomenon. The program was called Motherless Nation. I witnessed first hand how the sacrifices of the parents who leave don’t always translate to rewards for the children they leave behind.
Tall Story is a gentle exploration of the experience of being separated from those we love. It also shows what it’s like to make your home in a new place, a new culture, something I myself can attest to – the incident with the overflowing bath? That happened to me!
Most of all, Tall Story is about family love across the miles that separate us.
PENCIL STUDY FOR THE REJACKETING OF THE PHILIPPINE EDITION OF TALL STORY. ILLUSTRATION BY ROMMEL JOSON