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Peter Bacho on his Memoir “Uncle Rico’s Encore” and the Filipino Experience in America


 

 

The Filipinos of my dad’s era were an especially tough bunch. All had experienced racism and hardship, many had joined militant labor unions, many had survived combat. Years of adversity helped to build backbone—their intense pride, their edgy, don’t-mess-with-me attitude—and a powerful sense of community. These were distinctive features that marked my father’s generation and allowed them to survive in this new and often hostile land. . . I would like to think that some of those traits have been passed on to us—their American-born sons and daughters.

Peter Bacho, Uncle Rico’s Encore.

 

I met Professor Peter Bacho a half century ago. We were classmates at the University of Washington School of Law—long before he became an inspiring professor, a daring foreign correspondent, and a widely acclaimed novelist and short-story master.

When I heard this spring that Professor Bacho had published a new memoir, Uncle Rico’s Encore: Mostly True Stories from Filipino Seattle (University of Washington Press), I immediately wanted to catch up with my esteemed classmate from decades ago.

In his new book, Professor Bacho celebrates the overlooked, mid-twentieth century story of the Seattle community of Filipinos or Pinoys (Filipinos in America—who work with their hands, per Professor Bacho). His heartfelt, poignant and often humorous accounts are informed by the struggles of his first-generation parents and relatives, his friendships, his curiosity, and his desires and dreams. And the stories he relates are set against the backdrop of America in an age of seismic societal changes, protest, racial reckoning, and a bloody, divisive war in Asia.

He takes the reader through his old Seattle neighborhood and environs: the Central Area, the International District (Chinatown), Mount Baker, Rainier Valley, and beyond. He brings to life the reality for many Pinoys of poverty, racial oppression, brutal working conditions, and sporadic violence, but also shares triumphs built on toughness, resistance and resilience that were the lifeblood of the first- and second-generation in Seattle.

This early Filipino community has dispersed and disappeared in recent years as the young progeny of earlier generations have moved on from the old Seattle haunts. In many ways, Uncle Rico’s Encore may be read as an elegy for an embattled but determined group of men and women who sought their roles in an imperfect nation.

Professor Bacho teaches writing and Asian American studies now at The Evergreen State College, Tacoma Campus, and previously taught at the University of Washington, Seattle and Tacoma campuses. He is the author of six previous books: Cebu, American Book Award winner for fiction in 1992; Dark Blue Suit, winner of the Murray Morgan Prize and the Washington State Governor’s Writers Award; Boxing in Black and White; Nelson’s RunEntrys; and Leaving Yesler. Seattle University named him the Distinguished Northwest Writer in Residence for 2005. The Northwest Asian Weekly honored him in 2008 as a literary “pioneer.”

Professor Bacho was born in Seattle and grew up in Seattle’s Central District. He earned two law degrees from the University of Washington, a JD and an LLM, and he later worked as a staff attorney for the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. He also began teaching in the nascent Asian-American Studies program at the University of Washington in the late 1970s, and has continued teaching since then. And he also worked as a contributing editor for the Christian Science Monitor, specializing in Philippine politics and society, and later worked for several years as an editorial writer for the Tacoma News Tribune. His articles also have appeared in major foreign policy journals including the School of International Studies Journal (American University) and the Journal of International Affairs (Columbia).

Professor Bacho generously agreed to converse with me the old-fashioned way—by phone from his home office near Tacoma— after I fumbled in connecting with Zoom, alas. We discussed his multifaceted career, his perilous adventures, his new book, history, and more.

 

Robin Lindley: Congratulations on your new memoir Peter. Uncle Rico’s Encore is a riveting read. You’ve captured the story of the first two generations of Filipinos or Pinoys in Seattle—a welcome addition to a mostly overlooked history. You share vivid glimpses from your life and from the Filipino community in Seattle that are certain to enrich readers and add a new perspective on the history of the region.

Professor Peter Bacho: It was a vital community to me. It nurtured me, and the memories are very powerful and very, very strong to this day. Some of my friends are emailing me about the book and I respond: “Hey, it’s not my story. It’s our story.”

I had to tell this story. Every one, every community, every generation needs a griot [storyteller]. And I guess I’ve fallen into that role.

Robin Lindley: What sparked your memoir now? We’ve both had heart issues recently. Did your 2019 heart attack that you describe vividly in Uncle Rico’s Encore play a role in writing the memoir now?

Professor Peter Bacho: Actually, no. It didn’t play any role whatsoever. It just basically was the spur for three pretty good stories.

Robin Lindley: Your heart attack story is an inspiration. As you relate in your book, your wife Mary was a lifesaver. She immediately responded to your emergency when you were struck with the attack and she got you to the hospital immediately. And Mary helped you through your recovery. Your heart stories warmly acknowledge Mary’s caring and love.

Professor Peter Bacho: Mary is a wonderful, wonderful human being. I had a widow-maker blockage but the vessels did a workaround. I didn’t need surgery.

Robin Lindley: That sounds miraculous. I’m glad you recovered well without surgery. As you know, I also had a severe blockage and required urgent open heart surgery last year. Avoid that if possible.

So, what did prompt your memoir now?

Professor Peter Bacho: The earliest story in the collection “September 20th, 1968” sparked the book. I realized in 2018 that it had been 50 years since I thought I had fooled the draft by going down to enlist in the Army. The best and worst thing I’ve ever done in my life. I never told anyone.

I signed the enlistment papers and went to the induction center because all of my friends—particularly the Filipino guys who did not get college deferments—were getting drafted and they were sent to the bush in Vietnam, and I really had no desire to be an 18-year-old infantryman. I wanted to choose my military occupation specialty, and hoped it would be a very civilian-like position where I could type and file reports and avoid shooting people and getting shot in return. If the military was inevitable—I assumed I’d flunk out of college—then I wanted to go on terms that I could dictate, which to me was very logical.

But, when I went for a physical, a kindly Army doctor asked about my medical history. I thought I was in good shape, but I mentioned my history of asthma. He said that asthma meant I couldn’t serve in hot, humid or dusty climates. I didn’t react, and he repeated himself, talking more slowly this time like I was an idiot. I finally got it and nodded yes. I couldn’t serve for medical reasons, he said.

I couldn’t be drafted. I was 1-Y. The doc saved my life.

Robin Lindley: What a relief after seeing the drafting of your young Filipino friends. You stress that the Filipino men you knew who went to public schools were often ignored and left floundering in school. Many dropped out and were drafted.

Professor Peter Bacho: They were typecast like Black kids were. They weren’t encouraged at public schools. I was at O’Dea [a private parochial high school] with another group of Filipino guys. The Christian Brothers at O’Dea were notorious for meting out physical punishment and either you got good grades or you were whacked. I preferred not to get whacked and I did the best I could, but there weren’t any easy classes. You didn’t get easy classes or the shop classes or the vocational classes. You had no excuse not to take physics. I had an easier time in college than I did in high school.

But the attitude of too many Seattle public school teachers at that time was that Filipino students of my generation were just not college material. Some of those guys were really smart but they weren’t encouraged.

Robin Lindley: That’s tragic. And some of your friends were seriously wounded or killed in the military. It says so much about the racism then. But you were encouraged and your parents played a big role by sending you to O’Dea rather than your local public school.

Before getting to your family and friends, I wanted to catch up on your career since we met at UW law school in 1971. You touch on your transitions in the memoir and, since our law school experience, you’ve been a lawyer, a gifted professor, a globe-trotting journalist, and now an award-winning writer.

Professor Peter Bacho: Lawyer! I was the world’s worst attorney. I didn’t care.

Robin Lindley: I doubt that. Did you want to be a lawyer when you were a kid?

Professor Peter Bacho: No, not at all. It was nothing young people of my generation were dreaming of becoming. I never thought about actually being a lawyer and how that would fit. It turned out it just wasn’t interesting. I worked for the city attorney’s office for about six months. I didn’t submit motions on subjects such as constitutional law like great attorneys in the vein of Thurgood Marshall. Instead, I was a city prosecutor handling third-degree assault cases. Or prosecuting a person who was pulled over for drunk driving. Did I care? And the answer quite frankly was no.

And I love law actually as a discipline. It’s fascinating, and it’s very good training for other things, but the actual practice was a disappointment to me.

Robin Lindley: But you also worked as an attorney for a federal appellate court, a very prestigious position for a young lawyer.

Professor Peter Bacho: I was a staff attorney at the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco after I started teaching at the college level. By then, I became very comfortable teaching, but wondered if I had left law too soon.

At the Ninth Circuit, I worked with younger, very white people on the way to six-figure incomes. I did well and knew I could be a lawyer, but I also answered that question about law and I closed that door. I decided not do that anymore. But the study of law fascinated me, and I don’t regret that at all but I just didn’t have the temperament to be a lawyer. And, when I recognized that, fortunately, I have an active imagination and made the next step.

It’s basically the story of my life. I wandered as a young person from situation to situation wondering how I would do, and once I found the answer, it was no longer intriguing,

Robin Lindley: What drew you to college-level teaching, and how did that come about?

Professor Peter Bacho: I just stumbled into it. It was just luck that I found something I loved doing, I was good at it and I’ve had an impact on the thinking of thousands of students. In the seventies, I was picked up by the University of Washington for a little program in Asian American studies, which is much bigger now. I was there basically at the beginning and we were inventing things as we went along. It was all fun and interesting but, after a while, I was getting too comfortable and uneasy and wondered what else I could do. What other things were interesting to me? For a couple of decades, my own curiosity was the governing engine.

Robin Lindley: That’s inspiring if not disconcerting at times. And that gets to your journalism career. As you write, you had some thoughts of that career even as a child.

Professor Peter Bacho: I did. I have this piece in the book on Arnaud de Borchgrave, a foreign correspondent I admired. He was writing from every global hot spot you could possibly imagine. I was thinking to myself, what if I did that? Well, I did it, and I was in a hotspot at least a couple of times. I did that pretty well and decided I didn’t have to do it anymore. So that door closed.

Robin Lindley: You traveled to the Philippines a couple times for stories on Ferdinand Marcos and then the Corazon Aquino administration. You detail some of your assignments in your memoir. As a journalist, you had a remarkable and dangerous career and you actually survived combat in the Philippines in 1987.

Professor Peter Bacho: Yes. One hour and 30 minutes. I learned how I would do in that situation. I did okay. Everything slowed down and I kept my head about me and made sure that I was safe. The difference between being a journalist in a firefight and a soldier in a firefight, was that I didn’t have to shoot anyone. That’s something I’m very, very thankful for. All I had to do was get the story and make sure I was safe. And I was pretty good at that.

Robin Lindley: That must have been traumatic. What happened?

Professor Peter Bacho: I had interviewed the head of Philippine military intelligence the day before I found myself in a pitched battle. He had told me that his soldiers were loyal to President Aquino.

When I woke up the next morning, Manila was under siege. About 500 rebel soldiers had attacked government sites, including the presidential palace. They took over key centers including the communication center with the government television station.

That day, I was supposed to interview Luis Taruc, the Huk Supremo who led the resistance against the Japanese during World War II. After the liberation, landowners with enormous influence realized that there was an armed peasant army, and they turned all the forces of the government against them and basically started killing Huk veterans. And then Taruc took his boys and said we’re going to the hills, to the swamps, and we’re going to fight a war of resistance. That’s precisely what they did. Taruc was captured and arrested in the 1950s, and he had been recently released when I met him.

Even though Manila was under siege, I wanted this interview. We drove past the checkpoints and it seemed the rebels would negotiate some agreement and lay down their arms and then everything would return to normal.

The interview with Luis Taruc went well and then, as I was heading back to Manila, I saw three armored personnel carriers speeding their way to the government media center. I said, “Follow that car,” or something like that. It was one of my favorite sayings from I think it was Broderick Crawford [lead actor in television’s “Highway Patrol”], and we pursued the APCs.

Civilians were cheering the government soldiers in the personnel carriers. We got to a rear staging area and I left the car and I ran like crazy to follow the APCs. They took a left and were going parallel to the wall of the compound. And then I realized for about three seconds into my run along the wall that no one else was there. The civilians were all out of the line of fire and I ran like crazy to catch the APCs. The government soldiers entered the compound through a gate and then there were explosions and these soldiers attacked the rebels with bazookas and other weapons.

Robin Lindley: You describe the battle in your book. You reported on the initial explosions, the firefight, and the government retaking of the government media center. Weren’t there several fatalities in this attack?

Professor Peter Bacho: Yes. There were more than one hundred casualties overall in the fighting during the day.

Robin Lindley: What a terrifying experience. I’m glad you weren’t hurt. And your mom didn’t know you’d left for the Philippines?

Professor Peter Bacho: She did that time, and after the battle, I’d managed to contact her. But another time, a few years earlier, I’d heard rumors that Marcos was dying. By then, I had been writing pieces in the press criticizing the regime, and Mom told me to be careful, that her sources said that I was on a Philippine government watch list. Going to the Philippines was a risk, but a calculated one. And this potential story was too good to pass up, so I booked a flight to Manila over Thanksgiving to check it out. In those days, US citizens needed just a passport, no visa. So I flew in, talked to my sources, and flew out.

There was no story.  So, when I got back home, I went to my parents’ house the day after Thanksgiving and said, “Hi, Mom, I just got back from Manila.” And she looked at me and she said, “You are a bad, bad boy.” 

Robin Lindley: Your mom must have been relieved. And you also had a scary and somewhat narrow escape on the island of Samar, another hotspot in the Philippines. When was that and what happened there?

Professor Peter Bacho: 1980, I think. Samar was a front in the NPA [New People’s Army] rebellion against the government [of Ferdinand Marcos]. But we happened to arrive in this town, Taft, on the day of some sort of fiesta. It was a surreal scene, nothing but mud, a marching band, and lots of soldiers. Looking back, we lucked out because we came on a day when combat operations had been suspended. How lucky is that?

Robin Lindley: I read your memoir as a tribute to your parents, among other people.

Professor Peter Bacho: Yes. It’s a tribute, to my mom in particular. She was out there, standing up for little people. She was an inspiration.

Robin Lindley: Your parents were both first-generation immigrants from the Philippines and you lived with them in the Filipino community in Seattle’s Central District. Your dad came to the US long before meeting your mom, years before the World War II. Why did he move here? Did he envision a better future in the United States?

Professor Peter Bacho: Yes. The Philippines was poor and Filipinos grew up with a rosy image of America. The Philippines was a US colony and its citizens were American nationals, a bastard category, but they carried US passports, which meant the United States is obligated to intervene on your behalf if any harm came to you from a foreign country. They weren’t citizens, so they couldn’t vote and they couldn’t own land in many jurisdictions. But coming to the United States, this wonderful place that their teachers had raved about, was a dream of most of the people. And most of the first generation of Filipinos who came here, came from poverty.

Robin Lindley: When your dad arrived in the US in years of economic depression, he worked hard as a migrant farmworker and cannery worker and other taxing jobs. And he married his first wife and they had three children. Why did he return to the Philippines after World War II?

Professor Peter Bacho: Because his marriage to an Alaska Native woman was falling apart and he still wanted to marry someone. He decided to return to the Philippines. And sure enough, he met and courted my mom. She had other opportunities, but there’s something about my dad. He was very confident and sure of himself with a certain animal magnetism. And I’m sure he lied about being a big shot in the United States. Hey, we ended up on Skid Road for the first couple of years here. And I have two half-sisters and a half-brother from his first marriage. My half-sister Virginia and I were very close. And my dad wasn’t clear with my mom on the realities of his life, including his first marriage and his three children.

And my mom was 17 years younger than my dad. She was beautiful in those days. And she had her choice of very wealthy men, but the Philippines was a devastated place after World War II and the American dream was still very, very powerful, particularly if you wanted to live in a richer country that wasn’t war torn.

Robin Lindley: And your mom survived the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.

Professor Peter Bacho: Yes, she did. She lost two brothers, but she managed to survive. She was never really specific about the war. All three of her brothers, one of whom survived, were part of the resistance, the guerrilla movement. I can imagine them moving, staying a step ahead of the Japanese occupation forces. They lived on Cebu, an island which was occupied by the Japanese with a pretty healthy detachment there. Their main forces were up north around Manila and in the central provinces, but there was heavy fighting in Cebu as well.

Robin Lindley: Your mom and dad married and returned to Seattle. You introduce mid-century Seattle through the story of your parents, and you track their first generation and then your generation of Filipino or Pinoy kids. You grew up in the Central Area, which was diverse but seen as mostly African American in the fifties and sixties.

Professor Peter Bacho: Oh, no. It was a very diverse community including the heart the Filipino community and our church, Immaculate Conception, and you had other Asians communities and mostly working-class whites. And the second Filipino generation was often mixed race, mixes of different kinds: Pinoy and Black or White or Latin or Native. And blood type didn’t matter, and we didn’t do that percentage of blood thing. But the culture was very strong and it bound us all together. We were a good community.

Robin Lindley: What drew Filipinos to Seattle?

Professor Peter Bacho: My dad’s generation was migrant and they traveled up and down the coast for seasonal jobs in the fields and so on, but the real money was in Alaska, and Seattle was a dispatch point for Alaska canneries where you could make enough money to last a goodly part of the year. And because of the cannery union, they got decent wages compared to work in the fields. My dad was a cannery worker and he became a foreman.

 

The cannery workers union was strong and, in my opinion, was the key to allowing guys of my dad’s generation to get off the migratory cycle and buy a house and start a family.

 

Robin Lindley: I was surprised to learn that the leader of the cannery union (Local 37 of the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union—ILWU) during the McCarthy era was a communist, which must have been awkward during the Red Scare in the fifties.

 

Professor Peter Bacho: That was Chris Mensalvas. That’s a remarkable story and that’s why it’s such a remarkable community. Basically, Chris and the union guys told the federal government to go fuck themselves. Something I’m very proud of.

Robin Lindley: That really says a lot about the resilience and stubbornness of these Pinoy workers. It’s hard to imagine that tense time when people were turning on friends and relatives.

 

Professor Peter Bacho: Some were betraying friends, naming names, all that stuff. But the Pinoys who were members of that union just didn’t do it. The state had loyalty hearings. My dad wasn’t caught up in those hearings but he was a member of the union.

 

Robin Lindley: What did you learn from your dad and others about cannery working conditions? It seems the work was monotonous, grueling, and dangerous.

 

Professor Peter Bacho: Yes, it was, but it was better than cutting asparagus in California or Eastern Washington.

 

Robin Lindley: Didn’t your dad and fellow Pinoys face intense discrimination? What could the union to do protect workers?

 

Professor Peter Bacho: I mean, the canneries had segregated bunkhouses, but the old Pinoys were not that concerned about that. What they wanted was a decent contract, and that’s what work in Alaska provided.

 

Robin Lindley: And Local 37, the cannery union, was a target of Philippine President Marcos in the 1980s. In 1981, two young progressive union members were assassinated in Seattle and later investigation tied Marcos to the murders. Why was Marcos interested in this Seattle union?

 

Professor Peter Bacho: Because any bad publicity put at risk his American money pipeline for the US bases. He was struggling to keep Filipinos pacified, but the more important battle was for him to be able to depict a contented nation under his dictatorial rule.

 

Robin Lindley: And Filipinos in Seattle—like African Americans and other nonwhites—also faced discrimination in housing in the fifties and sixties, as you describe.

 

Professor Peter Bacho: There was redlining and restrictive covenants to keep nonwhites out of many Seattle neighborhoods.  In the sixties, my parents wanted to buy a larger house near Montlake [north of the Central Area] but the realtor said no.

 

Robin Lindley: And your parents were active in the community too. And there were some particular issues they supported such as dedicating a bridge to a Filipino hero.

 

Professor Peter Bacho: That was a bridge and a park. Jose Rizal was an activist in the Philippines who challenged Spanish colonization in the late nineteenth century, and he was a hero to the first generation here. My Uncle Vic and Trinidad Rojo got that project done. It was remarkable in Seattle to have the 12th Avenue South Bridge and a park a couple of hundred yards away renamed for Jose Rizal. And it was a small group of aging Filipinos who had enough political force to get this done in a city that had no connection to Jose Rizal.

 

My parents also were involved in Filipino community groups where they would socialize and talk politics and maintain friendships.

 

Robin Lindley: You mentioned that your mom stood up for other people. Your eulogy for her at the close of your book is very moving. You and your mom both took part in protests in the seventies. What issues were involved and what did the protests accomplish?

 

Professor Peter Bacho: In the 1970s, we were able to get decent housing and social services for Chinatown’s poor, which included old Pinoys. They were able to live out their lives in the only neighborhood they felt comfortable in.

 

Robin Lindley: You have studied and taught the history of the Philippines. The country became a US colony after the Spanish American War. It seems that many Americans don’t know of the bloody Philippine-American War (1899-1902) that followed the US victory over Spain in 1898. Did your parents or other people in your community talk about that war of American imperialism?

 

Professor Peter Bacho: No, not in my community. But, as a young man, I became obsessed with learning as much as I could about it and became well versed in it.

 

That war was ignored also in the Philippines. The American schoolteachers there focused on American ideals. You’re not going to teach the brutality of a war to the people you’re hoping to convert. You’re not going to say this was basically a very brutal land grab. That defeats the purpose of trying to educate hearts and minds, right?

 

And in that war, anywhere from 250,000 to a million people, mostly civilians, were killed by American troops or by diseases, starvation, and so on. It’s a hidden history for I’d say 99.5% of the American people. It’s just one of those little scuffles Americans got into at the turn of century.

 

Robin Lindley: I love the way you start your books with the “Maps,” your dreamlike walks through old Seattle neighborhoods where your family and Pinoy friends lived and worked. You take the reader to specific places.

 

Professor Peter Bacho: That was a last-minute addition. I wanted something to alert the reader that this was a physical space where we used to live. These are the neighborhoods that we used to haunt in the fifties and sixties, and I wanted to give back those places.

 

This was home. I loved the Central Area and Mount Baker and I loved Chinatown where my Uncle Rico lived in a small room with a hot plate.

 

I knew a lot of people. I knew the joints. I knew where they gambled and I knew where they ate and where they drank. My mom and dad had lots of friends there, and every week or so we’d be down there just hanging out with friends. Most of them were my dad’s friends, and they eventually became my mom’s friends too.

Robin Lindley: What was life like for your Uncle Rico and other single Pinoy men? Can you say more about their living situation and activities?

 

Professor Peter Bacho: They were resigned to their lot in life. Their early dreams and aspirations were dead. All they asked was that they not be bothered. And that’s what the activism of the 1970s got them – to stay in place, to not be bothered.

 

Robin Lindley: And you stress that the Catholic Church was also a center for the Filipino community in Seattle.

 

Professor Peter Bacho: Yes, it was. Immaculate Conception in particular was a center for the old community. It was a very Filipino parish with lots of African Americans and some white parishioners, but the Filipino influence was palpable either.

 

Maybe the old Pinoys weren’t especially religious, but the women they married after the war sure were. Mom was religious, Dad, no way. So she dragged him to Sunday Mass, and he went along. Not a peep of complaint. I am sure he’s not the only old Pinoy who got dragged to church on Sunday by their mass-loving wives.

Robin Lindley: When you were just eight years old, as you recount, you believed that you had killed Pope Pius XII and you felt so guilty that you confessed. You now say you’re culturally Catholic but I sense you’re not a strict believer anymore

Professor Peter Bacho: Yes. But it’s part of my identity. I cheer for the [Catholic school] football and basketball teams, but I did away with all of the Catholic guilt a long time ago.

Robin Lindley: You still teach, and your last major career transition was becoming a fiction writer. And, in 1992, your first novel Cebu won the American Book Award for fiction. That must have been encouraging.

Professor Peter Bacho: Yes. And I thought this must be easy. But I learned it’s not. It’s hard. You work at it. Fortunately, I have an active imagination.

Robin Lindley: I think that keeps you young. I tried and floundered with creative writing. I appreciate people with your talent for creating imaginary worlds, believable characters and stories that somehow hang together. You’re a master of that art. What is some advice you share with your aspiring student writers?

Professor Peter Bacho: If you are going to write a book, first, learn the rules, and understand when you can break them. Second, you had better love the project because writing a book of fiction or creative nonfiction is a two- to three-year wrestling match. The process of creating is intense.

Robin Lindley: Who are some of your influences as a fiction writer?

Professor Peter Bacho: James Welch for his depiction of 19th Century Blackfeet life and their worldview; Jim Harrison for his sprawling and engaging narratives; Faye Ng and Bienvenido Santos for their subtlety, especially the latter, because in Scent of Apples, he evokes and does not overexplain. There are others…

Robin Lindley: Readers are certain to enjoy your memories. You’re very candid about your personal life, your intimate relationships, and your various professions. And you have a disarming humor about your own mishaps and foibles. Where does your humor come from?

Professor Peter Bacho: Oh, I think my mom, mostly. But also from my pals and their parents. We lived in the margins and could see the absurdity of things.

Robin Lindley: And you seem a gentle soul Peter, but you’re also an athlete and a fighter too. What was the attraction of martial arts and boxing for you?

Professor Peter Bacho: That’s another door there. I needed to figure out how to deal with aggressive guys. I wondered how I would do in certain situations. Boxing by its nature is violent, and it prepped me well for the ring and the street. And the most that you can hope for is hey, I got a chance. So, I prepared.

Robin Lindley: And, as you lament, the Filipino community in Seattle has dispersed widely since your youth.

Professor Peter Bacho: Yes, and the dispersal brought with it a rupture in community. One of the things that growing up in that era of segregation and blatant racism allowed is for folks in our community to see beyond stereotypes. It’s hard to have negative stereotypes of African Americans, for example, if you’re over at their house all the time, eating all their food. And I did that often. We couldn’t be conned by today’s race baiters and haters. I grew up with people that were depicted as the bad guys. They weren’t the bad guys. They were human beings, for goodness sakes.

Robin Lindley: And you’ve gone on to write several other books as well as award-winning short stories. You’re also a master of literary non-fiction writing as evidenced by your memoir and other books, as well as your journalism work. Do you have any other comments for readers on your memoir, your writing, or anything else?

Professor Peter Bacho: I’m not sure, but I don’t think I could have written this memoir if I had lived a more conventional life.

Robin Lindley: Thanks for sharing your insights and thoughtful comments Peter. I hope many readers enjoy your new memoir especially for your perspective on a group of steadfast immigrants and their children who surmounted significant challenges and contributed to building a thriving American city and region. Congratulations and best wishes.

 

Robin Lindley is a Seattle-based attorney, writer, and features editor for the History News Network (historynewsnetwork.org). His work also has appeared in Writer’s Chronicle, Bill Moyers.com, Re-Markings, Salon.com, Crosscut, Documentary, ABA Journal, Huffington Post, and more. Most of his legal work has been in public service. He served as a staff attorney with the US House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations and investigated the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His writing often focuses on the history of human rights, conflict, medicine, art, and culture. Robin’s email: robinlindley@gmail.com.

 

 



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