A Very Far Place. Tales of Tawi-Tawi
A Very Far Place. Tales of Tawi-Tawi. 2012. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.
This collection of nine interrelated short stories is a sequel to The Songs of Salanda, a fictionalized exploration of H. Arlo Nimmo’s anthropological fieldwork among the nomadic boat-dwelling Bajau (aka Sama Dilaut) of the southern Philippines in the mid-1960s. Inspired by some of the people, places and events he encountered during those years, the stories include an American man searching for a father he never knew, a Filipino man seeking beauty and comfort denied him in Manila, the tragic ill-fated voyage of a young family, a broken American expat who finds solace in classical music, a Jewish woman and a German man who carry their mutual enmity to the other side of the world, a teen-age couple divided by their families’ feud and a strange house on a river filled with dead animals. Although the stories are set in a faraway place and a distant time, their themes resonate in the here and now.
ISBN: 9789715506571, 237 pages.
Finalist. 2013 Philippines National Book Award for short fiction.
“H. Arlo Nimmo writes about his years living in the Philippines’ southernmost province so affectionately (in this book and his previous one, The Songs of Salanda) that one can’t help but be shamed by how little we know of that bucolic place and its lovely people.” Gemma Nemenzo – Positively Filipino
“The no-frills writing [of A Very Far Place] is journalistic rather than poetic. There are many interesting stories that could have been made more heartfelt. Had this book been written by a Filipino writer, I would have shed a tear or two. Maybe that was Nimmo’s style being an anthropologist and an American who experienced World War II when he was a toddler. . . . Tawi-Tawi and its environs are the main fare in the book. The tales are basically set prior to the armed religious conflict that started in the early 70’s. There are many memorable characters (the pregnant woman, the dead child and the father who committed suicide are far mind-lingering followed by the Mr. Bob the American mechanic playing classical music at night) and events that made me want to pack my bag and go Tawi-Tawi for myself. Although Nimmo made a disclaimer that the events and characters are his imaginings, I know the place is still there. I just added this to my bucket list and I will make sure that it will be the next place in Mindanao that my family and I will visit.” K. D. Absolutely – Goodreads