New book examines life in exile during Marcos dictatorship

NEW YORK CITY – “There not there is being here nor there. You’re here, but you don’t know where you really are. You know where you came from, you do not know where you’re going,” said biographer-writer Nelson Navarro about the title of his latest book – “There Not There: The Filipino in Exile.”

It’s a fictional account of his 17-year political exile in America in defiance of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship in the early 1980s.

He was charged with subversion for his active role in the “First Quarter Storm” against the Marcoses.

“I was stuck in the United States and what was I feeling in my mind and in my heart, I have to record that so that I can go back and say this was me when I young; this was the world the way I saw it; and this was the basis of the decisions that I made,” he said.

But Navarro’s writings were lost in unlabeled boxes for 24 years until it was rediscovered and was recently published.

The young Navarro was an activist and served as editor-in-chief of the University of the Philippines Collegian during the pre-martial law years.

He was granted political asylum in the US after a 10-year deportation battle with US immigration authorities.

The novel was written at the height of the Nixon-Reagan support for martial law, rampant militarization, and human rights abuses in the Philippines.

Navarro said, “It was a time capsule of a moment in our life. Many of these are shared by other people.”

Published by Alphan Publishing and distributed by ABS-CBN Publishing, “There Not There” is loosely based on personalities and events pertaining to the Filipino exile movement in New York and California in the 1970s.

Former anti-Marcos activist Loida Nicolas Lewis said, “This is our youth, for those of us were here in ’72, up to ’86. It’s the story of our youth, of Filipinos in America during martial law years. So for me, it has a great amount of emotion and history.”

Another former activist, Jane Orendain, said, “If you want change, you have to get in the act. You have to be part of it. There’s a saying that says — you’re either part of the problem or you’re part of the solution. And you should always be part of the solution.”

A Philippine launch of the book is set for Aug. 13, 2015 at the Raffles-Fairmont Hotel in Makati.

You may contact Don Tagala at for more information.

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