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What does it mean to “come home” for the first time?

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

In 2015, Tahanan Books for Young Readers published Amy Luna-Capelle’s From Manila With Love: A Balikbayan Story. It’s a picture book about a young girl who accompanies her Filipina mother to Manila for the first time.

The book tenderly captures the joy of homecoming. It draws upon common balikbayan experiences such as arriving in a sticky-hot airport, meeting a barangay of relatives face-to-face, and sharing a table laden with comforting Filipino food. In this story, the little girl finally meets her grandmother who has loved her through years of letter-writing and sending pasalubongs.

The homecoming of the balikbayan is a story that is familiar to Filipinos. (Who doesn’t have a Tito or Tita who moved abroad to start a new life?) But when Amy wrote her manuscript, it was out of frustration for the lack of books about the Philippines that she could share with her son. While there are many books about children born and raised in the Philippines, there’s still a dearth of stories about children born in our diaspora.

As a child, American-born Amy saw her beloved grandparents in the Philippines only a handful of times. Her Lola Conching bridged the distance between them with yearly birthday letters and native biscuits with love from Mindanao. And, whenever he visited the United States, her Lolo José brought her delicious dried mangoes. These are some of the memories that inspired From Manila With Love.

The book also plays with the idea of “home.” The girl’s mother is coming home to a place she left long ago. But her Filipino-American daughter is “coming home” for the first time and learning that no matter how far away we are, we hold a piece of this home for each other.

I often hear from mothers here and abroad: We want our children to know our culture. We want them to know where we come from. There is an urgency to plant roots, build a bridge to a home built from memory.

Last week, a young Filipina mother, who lives in Switzerland, was gushing to me about From Manila With Love. She wanted to write stories for her children and laughingly told us that her earliest attempts ended up sounding too much like Amy’s book.

But From Manila with Love is only one of many stories born from the diaspora. And as the world changes, how will we experience this dear distance? What other stories can we share with each other?

Frances Ong is the managing editor of Tahanan Books from Young Readers, a Manila-based publishing house that specializes in children’s books that celebrate Filipino life and culture. From Manila with Love can be purchased online from

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