The Journal of Fe del Rosario Maggay
A lovely project came my way through Savage Mind: the journal of Fe Del Rosario Maggay.
Written when she was aware that she will soon go the way of all human beings, Fe starting writing down entries to what would compose her the journal. It has the simplicity of a woman’s reminiscence and the density of a person whose memories were not merely about herself but of the society where she founded her own home with a husband and bore children that would be here to read what she has written.
Fe’s children, however, did not stop with reading; they approached Kristian Sendon Cordero responded with the words, “Yes, we would be honored to curate the journal.”
Thus, what would have been narratives of pains and joys kept within the family, became a copy that reached me.
Soon, I was reading Fe’s writings. I found myself entering her lives, for they were many and varied. She is here as a little girl recalling an age that most of us have heard from our own grandparents but are presently articulated by this woman who had the vision to observe, jot down notes, and compose events that were turned into tender memories. I am with her as she begins to talk about the war, about the bombings that are happening all over the place. For all the grimness of war, any kind of war, Fe, the young girl and now a woman past her prime, chronicles the changes happening to her home and the neighbors. And somehow, you envy this girl intrepid enough to have survived a world chaos.
In my introduction to the journal which I did as editor, I compared the gift of her words to entering a room vacated by a loved person, a mother’s memories. She is gone and all we need to contend with are the tiny objects she had left in that space. But more than the old photographs, letters perhaps, or dresses and jewelry in the closet, is this written document.
From a metaphor, my comparison took on a more interesting, realistic aspect. While reading the long essay over and over, I kept passing by names. Before I could raise my curiosity, Kristian sent a message asking me to look into a name in one of Fe’s entries. She mentions a classmate in high school, Linda Ty or Belinda Casper. What happened next was not an “aha” moment but a giddy response from Kristian and I.
In the journal, Linda Ty or Belinda Casper was Fe’s friend and their class valedictorian in post-war high school; Fe was the Salutatorian.
Is this Linda Ty-Casper, the acclaimed writer and wife of Leonard Casper, a literary critic of Philippine writing?
As a writer, Linda Ty-Casper’s works would receive commendations and awards. It is said that Linda’s novels and stories were inspired by the many stories told her by her grandmother. Linda’s works include DreamEden and Triptych for a Ruined Altar, the latter winning her the SEAWrite Award in Bangkok. She was called a “master storyteller” by Cecilia Manguerra-Brainard, another famous Filipina scholar and writer, who, like Linda is based now in the United States.
Brainard would eventually connect us to Linda Ty-Casper, for she was indeed that “Belinda” in Fe’s account.
To Linda Ty-Casper is attributed this quote: “If a country’s history is its biography, its literature is its autobiography.”
What started as simple writings from a woman who was not really at the center of the events in her adoptive city, has now, if we are to follow the thoughts of her dear friend, Linda Ty-Casper, significantly contributed more stories about a time and a place that would not have been written, and read, because, she was not a historian and she was a woman.
Fe Del Rosario Maggay’s journal, Mi Vida, is going to have a virtual launch on June 4, 2021. The project is done with the Maggay Family and the Ateneo de Naga University Press in cooperation with Savage Mind and the Fr. James O’Brien Library of the Ateneo de Naga University.