Myles A. Garcia is a Filipino-American based in California who has published two niche books, “Secrets of the Olympic Ceremonies” and “Thirty Years Later (Catching up With the Marcos-Era Crimes).” His latest book, “Adobo, Apple Pie and Schnitzel with Noodles,” is described as “an anthology of essays on the Filipino-American experience” based on his travels and 45 years in the United States and his travels.
Though he obviously has a flair for breezy, colloquial writing, Myles did not originally pursue this profession. He is “an accidental writer,” who, after quitting his banking job due to a life-threatening illness, decided to write on one of his life-long interests, the Olympics. He has spent most of the last 10 years writing for the California-based online magazine called Positively Filipino (PF), where he has received awards for sports writing.
In the Philippines, Myles came from an upper-middle class family with Filipino and Spanish roots and grew up in the “leafy, historic suburb” of San Juan, Manila. San Juan is where skirmishes of the Philippine Revolution of 1896-98 took place, and where the Philippine-American War erupted in 1899.
Hollywood and Broadway
Three Philippine presidents also lived there—Ferdinand Marcos, Diosdado Macapagal and Joseph Estrada (its longest reigning town mayor before his ascent to the presidency). But Myles’ interest lies not in Philippine history, but in Philippine ties with American culture, such as Hollywood and Broadway.
As he states, “I remember how I viewed going to the Hollywood and European movies as a window, an escape to a much larger world when locked in an otherwise insular society so distant from the more industrialised (sic) west we aped and looked to for role models.”
The first male graduate of the University of the Philippines’ Broadcast Communications program, Myles worked at a television network before migrating at age 24 to the United States, just prior to martial law in 1972.
The book title therefore straddles three cultures—Filipino, American and European, as in three sample culinary bites hinted at in its cover. Myles specializes in the esoteric and the arcane—the common thread which runs through the stories reproduced in this volume. He probably would win a game on Philippine-American trivia hands down.
Through his research, he has been able to ferret out little-known aspects of Philippine culture history. As PF editor Gemma Nemenzo has stated, “A lot of them are about people and situations I never heard of before so each one is informative and educational not just to me but our readers as well.”
Who, for example, has heard of boxing champion Luis Logan of the mestizo Pellicer clan from the 1930s, long before Flash Elorde and Manny Pacquiao? Then, there is Harvard graduate Jose Formoso Reyes from a humble Ilocano family who, instead of parlaying his Ivy League degree into a Philippine career or fortune by returning home after World War II, chose instead to develop a talent for crafting (now expensive and sought after) Nantucket “Friendship” wicker baskets.
There is also Hadassah Peri, originally Philippine-born Gicela Oloroso turned Orthodox Jew, whose nursing skills were key to her inheriting a total of $26 million in cash and goods from her patient, the heiress Hugette Clark.
The six sections of the 200-page book allude to stories from “the old country” or “the mainland” (adobo), Filipinos in America (apple pie) and Europe (schnitzel with noodles).
The Philippine anecdotes are somewhat pitched to the exotic and unusual, such as the Philippine Siamese or conjoined twins adopted by the equally strange Ossorio clan; the controversial Korchnoi vs Karpov international chess matches sponsored by the Marcos government during martial law; the confrontation at the UN between the allegedly shoe-pounding Khrushchev (apparently, an early Photoshopped image) and Sumulong, a Philippine delegate related to Corazon Aquino; and various Filipinos who fought in the US Civil War and during World War I under the American flag.
Who could be more exotic than First Lady Imelda Marcos, impoverished waif turned Iron Butterfly, whose cache of jewels and art treasures still has to be fully accounted for?
Humane and generous
A more humane and generous side of Philippine society is demonstrated through the refuge given by the Quirino administration in the 1950s to stranded Russians expelled from Shanghai during the Chinese Revolution.
The Olympics are featured in the introductory article on the “10 best-kept secrets of the Olympic ceremonies,” as well as a travelogue to Olympia, the original site of the first Hellenic sportsfest. A barge cruise on the Seine, taken before the author learned of his ailment, adds a poignant touch to the book.
What is perhaps most interesting about this potpourri of a book is what is unstated and not analyzed. It would seem unusual that an Asian with Filipino and Spanish roots (who spoke mainly English and Spanish at home) would be preoccupied with two fields normally out of the orbit of most Filipinos—the Olympics and Broadway.
Myles shows how the class divide in the Philippines reveals itself in linguistic preferences, i. e. the upper and middle class speaking English (and a tiny minority, Spanish). In his article, “Like dat… and like dat!,” he bewails the fact that many Filipinos abroad refuse to master English properly in order to fully integrate into the societies they now call home.
It was a Jesuit, Fr. James Reuter, who ushered in an era of Broadway-mania in the Philippines by directing such plays as “The Sound of Music” and “My Fair Lady” in exclusive schools like St. Paul’s College and the Assumption Convent. His tutoring resulted in the emergence of actors like Lea Salonga, who would conquer Broadway. On the other hand, his protégé June Keithley would also be one of the protagonists in the Edsa revolt as a rogue guerrilla TV announcer challenging the Marcos government in 1986.
Like Siamese twins conjoined at the hip, Filipinos and Americans would elect leaders in 2016—Duterte in the Philippines and Trump in the US— who would set the tone for their respective societies by promising radical change, which thus far has turned out to be a mirage. In “The Duping of Two Nations,” Myles makes his pitch for a new matching blend of “adobo, apple pie and schnitzel with noodles.” In this case, it has been the pupil, the Philippines, which has showed its teacher, the US, the path toward a brave new world.
The “accidental writer” Myles Garcia presciently observes this in the mirror he holds up to both societies.