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Hometown Snapshot

Bulosan unknown even in hometown

/ 12:03 AM September 14, 2016

SIXTY years after his death in 1956, Carlos Bulosan, the greatest Filipino-American writer of his time, remains an “unknown hero” in Binalonan, his hometown in Pangasinan province.

Most residents, oblivious to his literary achievements, know Bulosan only by name, thanks to a concrete marker built in the 1970s at the corner of a narrow street named after him that leads to the family ancestral house in Barangay Santo Niño. The municipal council enacted an ordinance 10 years ago declaring Sept. 11, his death anniversary, as “Carlos Bulosan Day.”

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Bulosan was among the young Filipino migrant workers who arrived in the United States in 1930, doing menial jobs in plantations and canneries.

In 1943, he wrote “My Father Goes to Court,” his first short story published in the New Yorker magazine.

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The following year, American book publisher Harcourt, Brace and Co. compiled Bulosan’s stories in a single volume, titled “The Laughter of My Father,” which became a best seller.

In 1946, “America is in the Heart,” which was about his life as a migrant worker in the United States, was published.

Bulosan has not been accorded the right honor that he truly deserved, making him virtually unknown in his hometown and in the country, says newsman Alfredo Gabot, a grand nephew of Bulosan.

“While controversy marks the choice of the country’s National Artists, [Bulosan] is one famous Filipino novelist, short story writer, poet and essayist who deserves that honor and won’t stir any issue in case he is proclaimed as one,” Gabot says.

In the farming community of Barangay Mangcasuy’s Mangusmana subvillage where Bulosan was born on Nov. 24, 1914, village chief Randy Bautista vaguely remembers the writer. “He may be a relative of all the Bulosans here. But many of the old folks have died and the surviving generations no longer have stories about him anymore,” Bautista says.

To help perpetuate the memory of Bulosan, Binalonan residents established the Carlos Bulosan Center, which conducted a lecture series on his life and works and spearheaded the Bulosan centennial celebration in 2014.

The celebration was highlighted by an exhibit of Bulosan manuscripts, books and other works.

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Mayor Ramon Guico III says Binalonan intends to put up a Bulosan museum at the town center.

At present, Bulosan’s memorabilia, including original copies of letters that Bulosan sent to his brother and to then first lady Aurora Quezon, are displayed in a museum at the government-run University of Eastern Pangasinan.

International reputation

With the museum, Guico says the town would be anchoring its educational thrust on Bulosan’s international reputation.

Bulosan’s works are still being read and studied in many universities, not only in the United States.

Guico also says they intend to develop a Bulosan educational tour, which would take visitors to the museum and to his birthplace in Mangusmana.

In one of his writings, Bulosan had described Mangusmana as a wilderness when he was born. He lived there until he was 7 years old.

“[T]he great forest on the eastern slope of the village teemed with wild game and the mountains to the north were untrodden by man,” he wrote.

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TAGS: America is in the Heart, Bulosan, Carlos Bulosan, Pangasinan
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