13 things about my Lolo, Col. Maximiano Saqui Janairo, for Veterans Day

This is my Lolo, Maximiano Saqui Janairo, in a studio photo taken in Manila around 1930, when he was about 24 or 25 years old. On his lapel, you can see the castle emblem of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Note the shoulder patch — the gold carabao on a red field — the symbol of the Philippine Scouts.

Here’s a photo of my Lolo, Maximiano Saqui Janairo.

  • 1930 graduate of U.S. Military Academy at West Point
  • Commission in the Philippine Scouts
  • Chief engineer with the Philippine Army in 1941
  • Captured by the Japanese in April 1942
  • Survived the Bataan Death March
  • Prisoner of War in Camp O’Donnell
  • Escaped while being transferred to a hospital for malaria and dysentery
  • Joined the guerrilla units fighting the Japanese occupation
  • Served in Korea during the Korean War
  • Served with NATO in Paris
  • Retired as a colonel, stationed at the engineer school at Fort Belvoir
  • Awarded Legion of Merit “for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States from 8 December 1941 to 9 April 1942”
  • Buried at Arlington National Cemetery



Photo: An early all-girls basketball game in the Philippines


Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 4.56.21 PM
“P.I. : Filipino girls playing basketball (early 1900’s). (Worcester); 1855; 1900/1910.” http://quod.lib.umich.edu/s/sclphilimg/x-1855/phld038. University of Michigan Library Digital Collections.

Basketball is a huge sport in the Philippines. In trying to figure out how that happened, I came across this image in the archives University of Michigan Library Digital Collections, which includes lots of images from the early interactions of the US in the Philippines.

Continue reading “Photo: An early all-girls basketball game in the Philippines”

Book review: ‘A War of Frontier and Empire’

First published: Sunday, October 7, 2007, in the Albany Times Union

sibleyAs President Bush tries to shape his legacy in regards to the Iraq war, he should pick up David Silbey’s engaging history “A War of Frontier and Empire: The Philippine-American War, 1899-1902” (Hill and Wang; 272 pages; $26).

Though both were wars of choice, the details are quite different. Still, the generalizations that can be gleaned from Silbey’s account are eerily familiar: a quick and stunning conventional military victory turns into longer-than-expected guerrilla warfare; a failure by the United States to understand its enemy; a sense of racial superiority that enflames troops and politicians in Washington; and a native population whose loyalties seemed to change depending on the time of day.

Continue reading “Book review: ‘A War of Frontier and Empire’”

Eight things I learned doing my first Pecha Kucha

Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 2.08.07 PM
That’s me talking about my Lola. Thanks to @novelnessidiotish for the Instagram!


I was invited the other day to take part in an official Albany PechaKucha event at the Opalka Gallery at the Sage Colleges. (Thanks, Elizabeth and Amy!)

The idea is that you can give a presentation on anything, but it has be done with 20 slides and each slides must be shown for exactly 20 seconds. I decided to Pecha Kucha about what’s been on my mind as a writer — family, history, and mythology.

Here are eight things I learned:

  • 20 seconds is fast, but enough to get about 40 words, or four average-sized sentences said.
  • Practice. I didn’t practice enough — setting up powerpoint with timed images and going through what I wanted to say. I recommend doing that. I thought I’d be at a podium and could refer easily to my typed notes, but most people stood beside the projected image and just spoke. Some people had note cards, which seemed smart, as they could be flipped through smoothly. I had my text on 8-by-11 1/2 sheets of paper, and I didn’t want to be flipping through those.
  • Create expectations by setting up the transition. I had written out a text for each slide, and at a crucial moment — I spoke without notes — I forgot the transition sentence I had written and didn’t set up the next slide, which was an abrupt transition to a series of new slides.
  • The audience goes with the flow. You can make abrupt changes, and the audience will go with you. Maybe the Albany audience was super open and receptive, but perhaps everyone’s been in slog of presentations before and the format promises something quick and interesting.
  • One idea can be extended over multiple images. While some presenters had specific points to make with each image, others made one more complicated point over many images. Both approaches work.
  • Conclusions are satisfying. Some presenters (including me) wrapped up the presentation in a final slide with a variation of “and this is what it all means to me.” All of those kinds of endings are satisfying. One ending that was very satisfying was by the artist Michael Oatman, whose presentation was on his process of conceiving and creating a work of art and ended with an image of that work of art on exhibit in a museum.
  • Nothing beats enthusiasm. One of the best presentations of the night was also the first. Andrew Krystopolski reveled in being a fan of Polka music. He spoke with speed, clarity, enthusiasm and fun about how much he loved Polka, with photos of him at playing music, dancing, and meeting his Polka heroes — and even showing the audience his tattoos of the names of his Polka heroes. The presentation was fun, funny and from the heart. It showed Andrew to be not just a good presenter, but a wonderful performer and entertainer.
  • Earnest introspection also works really well. Stacy McIlduff’s presentation on the movies she grew up with and was influenced by — with each image being a still from a film — was interesting and earnest and also heartfelt. Her presentation felt brave because it was so personal and important to her.   

So would I do it again? Yes.

Do I recommend doing a PechaKucha? Yes.

Have you done a PechaKucha? What have you learned?

Coming soon to a YouTube near you: Creatures Of Philippine Mythology

So this has been on my mind for the past couple of years, and now there’s a web series coming soon. Very cool.