“Books are the testimonies of our time. As writers, we portray the realities in the stories and give them life through our words. They are the evidence that will never be lost because they are stored in our memories." - Ralph Chan, June 2022
On the tenth anniversary of the association Sentro ng Kultura at Wika ng Austria at Pilipinas (Zentrum für österreichische und philippinische Kultur und Sprache) , we released our very first book. In Common Diversities. Junge Filipin@s im deutschsprachigen Raum [translated: Common Diversities. Young Filipinos in German-speaking countries]  Arlene Castañeda and I worked on the book together with various authors to give the second and third generation Filipinos living in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland a face and a voice. For the first time, their stories were put in the spotlight and on paper. The central question of the book is: What shapes me as a child of Filipino migrants? How does this determine my identity? (See also my previous articles “Ready for the next generation of Austro-Filipinos?” , “Identity building through culture and art” ). Common Diversities is a collage of the authors' personal perspectives and stories, supported by their own research.
How everything began…
One afternoon, Sentro members met and discussed current and future projects. And that's where the idea was born in 2019, before the pandemic. Publishing something out of a fuzzy thought quickly became a concept and it developed into a real and big project. E-mails were sent and phone calls made to find authors from contacts and networks. To ensure the quality of the book, we have also contacted renowned experts as scientific advisors. The nice thing about the whole process was that everyone accepted the invitation without even knowing Sentro personally and where the journey is going. Everyone has contributed free of charge – both the authors and the scientific advisors. Because despite all the unknown, every author and every scientific advisor was convinced from the beginning of the intention to write a book for the first time, which is mainly directed about and by the Filipino-Austrian/German/Swiss youth.
The publication is two and a half years of hard work that took a lot of time and energy. Not everything went smoothly. Many authors dropped out during the process for various reasons. At the same time, we got to know new authors on this journey and were able to persuade them to take part. Despite all the obstacles, we look back on an eventful phase with a product that we editors, authors and hopefully the Filipino community in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Europe, the Philippines and internationally can be proud of.
What to expect…
Common Diversities is a collection of essays and contributions by scholars, writers, experts, and advocates. This 258-page book offers a glimpse into the lives of those trying to bridge the values and ideals of their cultures and answer the lifelong questions of identity and belonging. It consists of 19 chapters, grouped into the main sections Migration, Identity and Culture. The introductory words to these were written by our scientific advisors. The unique characteristic about this book is that some chapters are written in English and some in German. Let me now give you a brief overview of the chapters:
1. In “A Mother’s Love: Migrationsgeschichten philippinischer Frauen”, Marina Wetzlmaier reports on how women from the Philippines embarked on journeys into the unexpected in the times before the Internet and smartphones.
2. “Leaving and left behind: Stories of women migrant workers from Mindanao” by Inorisa Sialana-Elento, Clara Handler, and Clemens Huber deals with the reasons for emigrating abroad.
3. In “Dutertismo, populist authoritarianism, and transnational solidarity: Dispatches from the Filipino diaspora”, Joshua Makalintal and Christopher Chanco revisit the rise of Rodrigo Duterte and his appeal to Filipino communities abroad, reflecting on a reactionary diaspora politics that is a part of a broader transnational trend of reckoning with enduring questions of identity, recognition, inequality, and democracy.
4. In “Die Bedeutung von Remittances: Chance oder Fluch?”, Philip Weninger draws on his personal experiences in describing the process of migrant remittances, giving an overview of its positive and negative effects, while focusing on the example of the Filipino community in Austria.
5. Vigile Fabella, Andreas Schmitz, Jessica Rehrmann, and Mary Montemayor engage with issues of cultural identity in “Ugat – Suche und Auseinandersetzung mit den eigenen (deutsch-)philippinischen Wurzeln”.
6. Thomas Bauer’s “Identität: Das Selbstbefinden und das Leben der Anderen” contributes a critical reflection on the concept of identity and tries to show a concept of identity in which sociability, flexibility, fluidity, diversity, and variability represent inner values of self-description.
7. In her chapter “Identitäten im Fluss: Narrative der zweiten Generation philippinischer Migrant:innen im deutschsprachigen Raum”, Analie Gepulani Neiteler writes about the stories of people with Filipino parents who emigrated but who have been made invisible and discusses issues of belonging and one’s positionality by also drawing on personal narratives.
8. In “Mama, lass uns Tagalog sprechen! Die Sprachen der Eltern und die Identitäten der Kinder”, Christian Namiss and Arlene D. Castañeda attempt to answer: What does speaking the language mean to second-generation Filipinos in the German-speaking world? How important is it to them and, especially, why?
9. Jessica Diez explores individual stories of second-generation Filipinos, revealing their motivations and aspirations to pursue further education in her chapter “‘Mag-aral kang mabuti!’ [Study hard!]: Education among second-generation Filipinos in Austria”.
10. The chapter “Erfahrungen von Filipin@s mit Rassismus, Diskriminierung und Anti-Asian-Hate” by Christiane Gotz gives a glimpse into anti-Asian racism in Europe, especially since the beginning of the corona pandemic, and its impact on Filipinos.
11. In my chapter “In conversation with Austrian-Filipino academics and experts”, I attempt to answer why Filipino academics and experts are not that very prominent in Austria.
12. Mike Saycon’s chapter “Global connectedness: The shared experience of Filipino and Austrian-Filipino youth” underscores the many benefits of digital communication and platforms as well as their potential risks.
13. In “Kain Po: Filipino food heritage in the Austrian market” by Angelica Maria D. Tomintz and Harald Eustachius A. Tomintz, they postulate that Filipino food is an expression of the diaspora and try to understand the standards by which Filipinos judge a cultural expression as being authentic.
14. Marina Wetzlmaier’s contribution “Popkultur und Identität bei jungen Austro-Filipin@s” sheds light on developments in popular culture in the Philippines and addresses the question of their significance in the formation of the identity of young Filipinos living in Austria.
15. In the chapter “Welche philippinischen Aberglauben und Rituale haben es bis nach Österreich geschafft und bleiben bestehen?”, Bianca Weninger discusses which forms of superstition can be observed in the Philippines and to what extent these beliefs remain a part of everyday life, even after a Filipino has migrated to Austria.
Reflection and thanks
Since our release in January this year, we have been trying to draw attention to our book. The first Filipinos came to Austria over 50 years ago and it is only now that their and their children's stories are being presented to the public. Part of the dissemination are regular book presentations and readings. The kick-off took place over the Easter weekend when the Halo-Halos (see "An Ode to Odette" ) visited Vienna. In May we were invited to Linz to present the book to the local community. On June 15, the largest book presentation will take place in the halls of the University of Vienna. There will also be a book launch at the Philippine Embassy in Vienna in July and at the KUBO Festival in September. We are pleased that the book has been well received by the public and that many interested people have found us. We were also able to hand over his copy personally the Mayor of Vienna, Dr. Michael Ludwig.
On behalf of the editors of Common Diversities, I would like to sincerely thank all authors, scientific advisors and our publisher Regiospectra. Our thanks also go to all those who have supported us from the beginning of this project. And finally, the readers - be it the first, second third generation or all those who are interested in the Filipino community and the Filipinos - thank you very much. We hope that you will rediscover yourselves in the chapters, be inspired and be part of the second volume. We hope to see you at one of our readings and book presentations in Vienna or somewhere else.
Photo 1: Book cover of Common Diversities
Photo 2: Handing over a book copy to Viennese mayor Dr. Michael Ludwig
Photo 3: Book presentation on Wednesday, June 15
Photo 4: Book presentation with the Halo-Halos in April
Photo 5: Book presentation in Linz in May