IN HER latest nonfiction book, The Thing with Feathers: My Book of Memories (UST Publishing House, 2017), Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo tackles the writing life, that is, her life as a writer, its joys and struggles.

The title, according to Hidalgo, comes from Emily Dickinson’s poem, “’Hope’ is the Thing with Feathers.”

The veritable memoirs have had a curious beginning: they’re cobbled up from notes originally posted on Facebook. Therefore, they’re like journal notes that have become bases of a larger, lengthier personal narrative.

The book has three parts. The first covers her young life and her innate love for books; the second is about her travels and participation in international literary conferences; and the third consists of thoughts on writing as a career.

In the preface, Hidalgo describes the book as containing “the mementos of an ordinary life—tales of love and loss, reflections on coming of age and confronting the decline, joys hard won and deep abiding sorrows, fragments of dreams forgotten, forsaken, retrieved, honored.”

Hidalgo, director of the UST Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies, writes her memoirs in a way that draws the reader in so that whatever is remembered becomes not only the author’s but the reader’s as well.

In “Ghost of Christmas Past,” for instance, Hidalgo recalls Christmas on campus when she was a UST sophomore nursing a crush on a guy.

Some of the details are supplied ex post facto to make the reminiscences as vivid and realistic as possible.

In “Casa Blanca,” Hidalgo writes about her childhood spent at the Casa Blanca Hotel in Baguio City where her family hied off during summer. She makes the narrative richer by historical data provided by blogger Kathleen Burkhalter.

“The Casa Blanca, wrote Kathleen, ‘worked hard as a hotel in the ‘50’s’ (which was when our family used to stay in it). ‘Its inner architecture,’ she added, ‘made it able to morph from large home to hotel to summer rentals and back to house,” Hidalgo writes.

“She does know that during the Big Earthquake of 1990, the house ‘came down’ or ‘was terribly damaged,” Hidalgo continues about the blogger.

Photographs help the reader better visualize the memories. They include photographs of herself, the places she visited, the things she treasures, and images of people she has spent her personal and professional life with.

Hidalgo’s book is surely a thing with feathers as it takes the reader to the horizon of memories—not only of the author, but also of the reader’s own. It is pure and simple, yet it gives the experience of a voyaging mind and a longing heart. It moves a person to feel the familiar wind once more after a long time. Ultimately, it encourages one to go fly and remember the ordinary. H.N.Lavarias


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