This month, I would like to share with you a heart-warming middle-grade novel titled Any Day With You by award winning Filipino-American author Mae Respicio. This novel follows twelve-year-old Kaia as she explores her love for film, special-effects makeup, and her Tatang’s stories. Kaia’s great-grandfather, Tatang, tells the best stories. From folktales of the bakunawa and the mystical engkantos, to his childhood in the Philippines, Kaia loves them all and never tires of listening to them. But she learns that Tatang also has stories he has left untold, like his time as a soldier in World War II and other hardships he went through. When Tatang decides to move back to the Philippines for good, Kaia is devastated. If only she could make him understand how much she needs him. Will she be able to cook up a plan to make him stay in Santa Monica or will she have to say goodbye?
Any Day With You is a great book to introduce the younger generation to Filipino culture and family values. It celebrates the power of stories and the importance of knowing your family history. Even though this novel is set in the summer, I found Respicio’s themes of family and Filipino resiliency to be fitting during this holiday season. We have all faced a lot of challenges this year. Fraught with fear and anxiety, 2020 has simultaneously felt extremely long and yet somehow went by really fast. But we have made it to December, the time to celebrate the holidays. When I think back to my past Christmases, I can say that a Filipino Christmas at its heart is all about family. Sadly, with the new stricter but much needed restrictions in place, it looks like celebrating Christmas will be yet another challenge and will look starkly different this year. But just as Mae Respicio highlights in Any Day With You, we Filipinos are resilient, adaptable, and we sure know how to celebrate. So even though we may not be able to gather in-person, we can still try to find ways to celebrate together, be it through phone calls, or video calls, or whatever creative means we can come up with. One day, we will be able to gather again with our friends and family, but until then, let us keep each other safe.