The path as reported. Filipinos settled here before the Louisiana
Purchase. In history in the eye. From Manila to Acapulco to St. Malo
La. Their platform destroyed rebuilt destroyed into assimilation.
Their children attended New Orleans schools. The turns more than
pinpoints. What moves with it? Misplaced in currents. The push of
history time curves culture community. My grandfather lived out his life in
the unincorporated areas. Wide lawns squirrels hiding out the storms
north of the lake. Flying debris trees falling. Rarely water like in
the delta St. Bernard and down rising tides. Force out a whole way
of living. Fishermen are most at risk. In Manila Village dried
shrimp blown off rooftops. They are moved inland. Integrated. Living room love of boats.
Startover. There is only one beginning. How many readjustments? 1763
built Philippine-style villages in St. Malo. Its course without
change predictable between the highs and lows. The possibility it
could turn into the lake empty into New Orleans. A hurricane
demolished the settlement in 1915. The huts perched above the swamp
lifted (wind or water?). Catylst for exodus. How long could they
last? During the depression Filipinos came south cheaper living. A
new south community on the way in. We are moving closer to water.
Manila Village rose out of Barataria Bay an island of homes. All
water my grandmother said. Integration. A dried shrimp industry
muskrat shrimp oysters at the edge of the gulf. She never could have
lived there. She’s always lived about a mile from the river. We
don’t startover. Something remains. A structure. Pylons. Barnacled.
The unpredictable turns. She lost everything. There are no pictures
of what slips past her. My grandfather peddled a stationary bike
contrived to grate coconuts. Life of other American.
Great-grandfather left everything for a more affordable south. New
Orleans is a bowl. Grandfather came ashore dropped to the bottom.
Returned home once. In Quezon, his sister held me. A memory snatched
from blowing away. The still beauty of the eye. The winds sway the
tall pines testing for the snapping point. They remain adjusting to
the new conditions. The ability to speak Spanish gave the manilamen
access. There were no Filipinas. My grandfather must have thought
the same when he met my grandmother. Only a generation for the words
to go. Blonde-haired cajun accented descendants. There is no going
back. Who knew at the edge of the swamp they existed? Every beam and
plank and board and shingle of the houses upon stilts. She can cook
adobo and sotanghon. They escaped from Spanish galleons jumping ship
running to the swamp. Ulam without rice. Vinegared fish. A
solitary world of men. Their wives stayed in New Orleans. Melting
into America. Married Cajun women, Indians, and others. Running to
the water. My grandmother rode it out in Baton Rouge. There is no
going home. Debris of what she came from. My grandfather is buried
in Pearl River. Far from the Mississippi in tall pines. The turn
comes. The pylons are left.
Randy Gonzales is a native of New
Orleans who now lives and writes in Al Ain. He has been working
overseas for ten years and has resided in places like Fukui, Yongin,
Abu Dhabi, Pohang, and Laguna.