Travel is Prohibited, a short film
Recently, my friend Giovanni Ortega, a multidisciplinary artist and professor of theatre, invited me to participate in Theatre Without Borders' Kanto Cuento Series. My assignment was to write a reflection about my experience during the COVID-19 pandemic, living in Turin, and to incorporate my Filipino identity into the piece. To accompany my writing I filmed the empty streets surrounding my neighborhood, and provided narration of the piece. At the conclusion of my narration, actress, composer, and singer Joan Almedilla performs a Tagalog lullaby composed by Giovanni, himself.
This piece is deeply personal, as it reflects back on my teenage years, when my family was divided between The Philippines and California. It takes these memories and draws parallels to the present moment, during which so many families must remain apart. Our last months in Turin, in Europe, really, are being spent very differently than we had planned. Although joyful moments abound, there are moments of melancholy as plans are canceled, and worlds are made smaller, and bigger, at the same time.
Travel is Prohibited (text)
See you soon, Ma. I love you. My U.S. passport, safely packed. Why do I get sick before leaving Manila; the dreaded journey to the airport?
I can meet you anywhere, except home. Travel is prohibited.
In a year we’ll meet in England. My first trip to Europe; a dream. Beyond California, beyond The Philippines. You set me on a course.
Europe has become home, but not for long. Vi aspettiamo in California!
Today, you and I live in a Europe without borders, yet travel is prohibited. This time there is no ocean between us, no visa required. But the invisible force confines us.
My sister, in Manila, my brother, in Okinawa. Each of us in our own sea. Please stay well, all of you; travel is prohibited.
We know the pain of being told NO: You can’t go. Stay where you are.
Familiar items in the market: colomba, uova di pasqua. Easter is almost here.
Families separated; but for how much longer?
I pass my favorite little garden, the one without a name. Full of trees that change with the seasons; enclosed by a fence of black wrought iron, and concrete.
It is never open; is anyone allowed?
The fence tries to be beautiful, boasting elegant details; but it exists to divide.
Borders. La frontera.
I think of California. My birthplace. The beautiful garden, beyond the fence. I think of immigrants; their children. Americans. Every one of us.
Turin, so close to the French border.
Migrants, who braved the Alps on foot, risked survival, in order to survive. Rejected by Italy, they had to venture early, to avoid getting trapped in the winter snow.
Pairs of pants worn several-layers thick, to keep warm. Some never made it to France, their bodies discovered in the snow. Memories of such tragedy, intertwined with living in Europe. The suffering, so near.
We can see the mountains from Torino. We promised our little one a ski-trip. Mountains representing something so different: Tourists. Holiday. Beautiful, fresh snow.
Time is running out. A promise melting away as spring days bring warm weather.
Vibrant leaves fill my unnamed garden.
I remember my aimless walks; my daily landmarks, ever-aware that Turin would be mine, only for a moment.
Today, I live in the virtual city.
At home I have the chance to reflect, and rest, if I let myself.
Soon, we will leave. Summers punctuated by your embrace “See you soon, anak-ko.”
Light streams into my bedroom window. Through my childhood window: Climbing grapevines, a robust lemon tree. Today, the side of a building, an ornamented brick wall. And sunshine. I delight in the warmth and illumination. I embrace early spring.
I hope this ends before summer.
Soon, this city will come alive once more. And pristine streets and clear air will be marked with signs of life. When travel is no longer prohibited.
We'll be together again.
All of us.