Volcano Child - A YA Novel in Progress by Candy Gourlay
Two weeks ago, Mouse decided to dig his way to London.

21 July 2008

Grace Nono Sings a Lullaby to Migrant Workers


It's a song about journeys and loss and I have to say seeing the pictures of gone away mothers and left behind children never fails to break my heart.

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22 April 2008

Madonna Decena on Britain's Got Talent

Thanks to Peps for forwarding this.

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24 March 2007

Unforgotten

Darling Mouse, Bowow wouldn’t like the giraffe but I think you would. It has long, long legs and a long, long neck. I don’t have to go into the zoo to see the giraffe because I can see them over the wall, they are so tall. Love, Mother

Excerpt from Volcano Child


I found out from my friend Anita Loughrey's blog that it was World Poetry Day on 21 March. Funny that — because I wrote a poem on that day. This is for all the children separated from their mothers, and sorely missed, whether by force of circumstance or by design, but especially for my son Anton, born on 22 March 1993, who died at five months old, a cot death.

Unforgotten

Cherry blossoms cling
Like fat snow flakes
To the trees
Just like the time
You came to me.

People march
Up and down
Down and up
Busy as the time
You came to me

Life’s promises
Some granted
Hopes, some unmet
Still dreaming like the time
You came to me

I celebrate
Joy still singing
Life unquenched
Heart warm
And you, my son,
Forever
Unforgotten.

On Anton’s 14th birthday
22 March 2007

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20 December 2006

Spare a Thought for the Virtual Mother

She took me into her arms like I was a baby. But the night was hot; you could light a fire where my skin touched hers and I wriggled in her embrace.

"Stop, Mother," I whined, my elbows digging away at soft places. "It’s too hot."

Mother laughed softly, laid her cheek gently against mine, and then quietly left.

When I woke up in the morning, she was gone.

Excerpt from Volcano Child

Following is an article I wrote for a mothering newsletter in 2002. Since I wrote this piece, my friend Frances Luna featured in the Radio 4 programme Motherless Nation, which I wrote and presented. In the original I did not use Frances' real name.

'Tis the season for demented shopping sprees, unmitigated parental blackmail and appalling infantile greed. It’s Christmas, here we go again.

But instead of indulging in the traditional yuletide whinge, let me tell you a story.

Poverty and abandonment by a philandering husband drove my friend Frances to seek work overseas as a cleaner. It was the only way she could support her seven kids.

Virtual Mothering: Frances views a photo of her youngest child who grew up without her

Early each morning before scrubbing her first toilet in North London, Frances pops into the local supermarket in search of bargains. A bottle of Nescafe Gold Blend, a tube of Colgate, a tin of baked beans. At the end of every month, she ships her little hoard of groceries to her kids in the Philippines.

"Why don’t you just send them the money?" I ask her. "These things are cheaper in the Philippines."

"This way," she retorts fiercely, "I feel like I’m really looking after them."

Frances is mothering her children the best way she can from across several oceans. She is a virtual mother.

This Christmas, spare a thought for thousands of virtual mothers like Frances. It turns complaining about Christmas excess into just another unnecessary luxury.

Frances has been working as my cleaner since 1994. She left the Philippines to work as a maid in 1988. Her youngest child was a baby, her oldest was 12. She didn't see them again until 2001 and yet during that time, she watched my own children grow up. This year, she is spending Christmas with them, five years after her last visit.

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22 November 2006

Our Fathers

At the beginning, it was Father who was going to leave; it was Father we were going to miss. It was Father who was going to earn plenty of foreign money to fill our bellies and put shoes on our feet.

Like the characters in Volcano Child, my father went overseas to work because foreign money paid so much more than Philippine pesos. That was in the early eighties.

Orland Quimpo and family in 1986, shortly after he returned from working in North Africa. Photo by Mandy Navasero.

The week before he left he taught me how to drive the old Renault16 that he’d patched up from scrap. While he was gone, it was going to be my job to drive my little brothers to and from school (that's my family pictured above, soon after Dad came back from overseas. That's me second from left).

I remember how impossible it had seemed. How were we going to cope without Dad? What was Mom going to do on her own with six kids? How was I going to drive that car?

We did cope. Just. And I crashed the car twice in that first week that he left. But I did get better eventually.

Still, it was the loneliest time in the world.

Years later I discovered that there were hundreds of other young people like me in the Philippines who had experienced that same loneliness. Ask any Filipino, we don't have to try very hard to name someone close who left to work abroad.

When one thinks about it, the Philippines must have some of the loneliest young people in the world.



Portrait of my Dad, Orlando Quimpo, as a young manLast July, Dad died. He was 73.

To be really honest, I was relieved. He’d been dying for a long time, his last four years spent in a bed, unable to eat except for a tube into his stomach, unable to breathe if it hadn’t been for a tube down his throat, and unable to speak.

Dad had always been a brave, uncomplaining sort; my mother used to say that there was something heroic about him, that Dad was something of a superman, someone who could make things happen, you know the type. But nobody deserved to die like that.

After all we’d been through, my family saw Dad’s death as an end to a long and harrowing period. And so we were taken aback by the number of well-wishers who came to condole at his wake. People he had helped. People who had looked up to him. People whom he had cared for.

Orland Quimpo as a boy with one of his model airplanesPutting together an album of old photographs for the wake, we found images of a sparkling young man, obsessed with building model airplanes (that really flew!), an artist who was forever sketching, a tinkerer and gadget lover who could take a junk car and bring it back to life, a prize-winning inventor, a father who, confronted by children to entertain, could build a tank out of tin cans or a Christmas tree out of newspapers.

The fact was, we had forgotten that before he became a bed-bound patient, Dad had a life. And it was a life to be celebrated.

We won't forget you, Dad.

Orlando L. Quimpo died in July 2006 in Cubao, Quezon City, Philippines




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