Tag Archives: Chris Mariano

SAPAHM Guest: Chris Mariano on Air, Sea, and Birth: How the Filipino Community Has Grown in Alaska

Hi friends! Please welcome first time guest Christ Mariano to ALBTALBS! I really hope you take the time not only to read what is said, but also think about the history, and [cross] cultural aspects. <3

Air, Sea, and Birth: How the Filipino Community Has Grown in Alaska

Wired Differently by Chris Mariano Book CoverIn downtown Juneau, a raven takes about six hops to get from one wall of flowers to the other. He is watching, waiting, from his spot. To call his tiny public space a park would be an exaggeration; the droves of tourists descending from the cruise ships might easily dismiss it as a traffic junction. But this is Manila Square, a little piece of (my) home 5,898 miles away from an eponymous city, belonging just as much to the ravens and the wild Alaskan landscape as it does to the many Filipinos who have come to Juneau ‘by air, by sea, or by birth.’

By Air

Many Asians know the drill. When visiting another person’s home, it is more polite to leave your shoes by the door. Wait for house slippers. Offer to go barefoot, even. This is how you show your respect.

I wonder if other immigrants feel this way, too. Like you’ve left your shoes by the door, next to the life you used to lead. You can walk through this new house knowing where the cutlery and the best china are kept—maybe you even have permission to bring them out and host your own dinner party—but you know better. You’ll always feel like a guest too paranoid about overstaying her welcome.

I feel it sharply here in Alaska. Its people are warm even in the coldest weather, but the land can never be subdued into domesticity or familiarity. From fur trappers to gold prospectors to salmon canners to oil drillers, many people, including Asians, have come to Alaska seeking fortune or adventure or escape. My own family has chosen to live in Juneau—papers in hand, figurative shoes by that invisible threshold but somehow clinging to most of the baggage we’ve accumulated over the years. And while our migration story is rather common, it still amazes me that so many Filipinos would leave a home in the tropics to settle in a place known for its long and dark winters. Continue reading