A debut memoir chronicles a woman’s Christianity-fueled life in the Philippines and the United States.
Barinaga grew up in an agricultural town in the Philippines called Burauen. Her father was a devoted Protestant in a predominantly Roman Catholic country, and she always admired his “boldness in telling people about Jesus.” The author was only 3 years old in 1941 when the Japanese invaded the nation. She and her family moved to a small community near Burauen, where they lived a tense existence under enemy occupation. After the war, she attended a Christian high school then earned a degree in nursing from Silliman University. She married in 1960, and, after some difficult pregnancies, she moved with her family to the United States. In America, she and her husband, Leon, operated a home health care business. Leon eventually developed liver cancer. His struggle with the disease is detailed along with his edict that he would “ask God to lead and direct us” throughout the ordeal. God and Christianity are frequent presences throughout the book, as in an excerpt from the author’s journal, where she notes: “My prayer today is that God will grant me peace and strength.” The memoir moves briskly from event to event. Whether it is the struggle of operating a business or losing a loved one, the book never lingers too long on one subject. While such a pace keeps things moving, certain portions could have benefited from more reflection. For instance, the Japanese occupation of the Philippines is a striking event. The circumstances for people like Barinaga, who had to participate in an hour of exercise each morning while being watched by the enemy, makes for touching personal material. But some questions are left unanswered. Did she, as a child, understand what was going on? What did her family feel at the time? Other incidents, such as the wedding of a granddaughter, do not make for quite as stimulating reading. Information like “The exchange of vows was just a breeze yet solemn” pales in comparison to, say, occurrences during wartime. Nevertheless, the memoir never falters in delivering nuanced, digestible stories from the author’s life.
While not all facets are of equal interest, this account of war, immigration, and family remains heartfelt and readable throughout.