Each issue of Panorama begins with a small collection about a single destination, and this time we have chosen voices from the Philippines, a place we don’t read much travel writing from. We recommend beginning with Sarge Lacuesta’s piece, The Unnamed and the Unspeakable, a glimpse of Filipino identity; then asking questions of safety in Och Gonzalez’s Bleeding Heart; joining Joel X. Toledo, as he voyages to elsewhere in his poem, Alpha; and finally, a deep dive into a gorgeous excerpt of Cinelle Barnes’ book, Monsoon Mansion.
We invite you to savor this issue, and to travel the world with us from more than forty points of view, in WAR & PEACE: one world, not one narrative.
FEATURED: THE PHILIPPINES
The Unnamed and the Unspeakable
‘Like most capital cities, Manila, for all its diversity and chaos, is certainly not the Philippines. It is neither any single place, either: class and politics have divided us and drawn and quartered us. Many of us, myself included, find ourselves no longer at home; those who can, take refuge in going away, for days or weeks at a time, and those who can’t, take refuge in the silent, inner joy of close friends and family, the only inhabitable things in a mostly uninhabitable city, accepting the worst and hoping for the best.’
‘“Stay down,” Mama said as she grabbed me by the collar, pressing my face down on the floor mat. The mat’s polyester purls scraped my cheek and the corner of my mouth, giving me a taste of my own blood. Mama let go of me, knowing I wouldn’t dare get up. She half opened the door, hunkered behind it, reached into her Hermès bag for her gun, and blindly fired at the masks and motorcycles four cars from us—her manicured hands flailing in the wind with a weapon about a fourth of her weight. She yelled her favorite word, “Puñeta!”
I crammed my body under the back seat and screamed, “Mama! Stop! Stop! Papa, help!” I couldn’t hear myself. The sound of silver on steel and steel on silver overpowered my cries.’
James Michael Dorsey
‘The “Code Talker” restaurant was easy to find, nondescript as are so many of those places that shrink ones’ own life to insignificance. The walls were alive with photos, yellowed newspaper stories, medals won through heroic action, each like a Christian votive candle, each a warrior’s artifact, speaking loudly for those silenced long ago. In that silence I heard the voices of dead heroes whose spirits still linger to keep their stories alive.’
A Stranger at Home: An Essay on Noo Saro-Wiwa’s Looking for Transwonderland
‘As a writer who writes about Nigeria, I have never been able to own a piece of the country, I have departed from the country in my mind, seeking greener pastures elsewhere, but my body remains. I assume this is what Saro-Wiwa is referring to in her prologue as she ushers us into her complicated relationship with Nigeria. “My father’s murder severed all personal links to Nigeria,” she says, and it got me to question myself, how might my relationship with Nigeria have been if by some reason I were in her shoes.’
‘I did find greatness in a quiet young man from Ghana, an Imam from near the coast. This was his story: after two days at sea in a leaky wooden boat, along with fifty or so others, he had only a tiny pot of spicy fish sauce to eat. He had nearly emptied the pot when he saw a weary Nigerian staring hungrily at him. He gave the man the last of his food, despite being dizzy with hunger himself. There were only five lifejackets on board. The Nigerian was sitting on top of them. Later that night, the boat began to sink.’
Yan Wang Preston: Interview and Images
‘In Mother River, Preston introduces us to a contemporary photography battleground, that of representation, objectivity, wonder, and gaze. She traveled the length of the Yangtze, taking photographs at precise 100km intervals, thus passing over the photogenic sites that appear between her frames. She has taken herself somewhat out of the archetypal photographer’s role to capture decisive moments and instead presents her own view.’
‘I grew up in 80s and 90s with the legacy of a dying crofting and fishing community. Local industry and retail was in a decline that had lasted through the past three decades and became a major factor in the Brexit debate. The root of that decline extends back through history through the two World Wars. 100 years and three or four generations later, our Island is still rocking from the loss of the Iolaire. The loss of 205 men from the tight-knit community of Lewis had an economic and emotional impact that continues to be felt in the fabric of this island.’
‘Before I started traveling on my own, I periodically experienced a strange sense of loss. I found the early years of wifehood and motherhood to be overwhelming. I would often stare at my reflection, wondering who I was beyond being part of a collective, trying to negotiate a place between self-love and family-love. Guilt and desire warred inside me, fighting for a middle ground. In 2017, Lauren Elkin published her book titled Flâneuse: Women Walk the City. At one point in Elkin’s book, the flâneuse is described as “someone who has slipped the bounds of responsibility.” While Elkin continues her lengthy exploration of the cultural significance of the flâneuse, I am arrested at the words, “The flâneuse does exist, whenever we have deviated from the paths laid out for us, lighting out for our own territories.’