My name is Sam Callanta and I would first like to thank I Am Not A Ninja for inviting me to contribute to this blog. You should know that I am biracial: Filipina and white. On one side, a first generation American, daughter of an immigrant. On the other side, almost certainly fourth or fifth generation. Salient facts for this blog, I think. Another thing you should know is that I work in theater, primarily as a scenic painter and costumer, although I have branched out in the past.
Last year, a director that I’ve worked with previously from Baltimore’s Submersive Productions came to me about a small immersive show called Plunge: An Experiential Storytelling Laboratory. The idea was to gather a diverse group of artists and divide them into pairs of (story) Tellers and Makers. Together, they would create an experience, a small story in which audience members would be invited to share, one-on-one with the Teller. Creativity was welcomed, criteria was sparse – incorporate pertinent social issues. I paired with a local artist and folklorist of mixed heritage, like myself; Native American and white, unlike myself. We found a great deal in common as biracial women and wanted to overlay our experiences in the story. She, as the Teller, interacted directly with the audience, while I wrote and recorded a monologue to lurk in the background, haunting the scene. The following is said monologue – a little piece of me for our piece of Plunge that I'd like to share with you.
I remember the house. I remember the faces. I remember the clutter. And I remember the accents. being anxious about calling them, nervous that I wouldn’t understand them.
The house was dark inside, sunk into the ground. They hoarded all sorts of things. Their art was Asian. Not even our kind of Asian, but the things you might pick up at Chinatown or a Sunday buffet. Of course, the hoard was magic in a way. Whenever we visited, whenever there was a holiday, they picked out a gift from the trove. And it was nice, in that way that anything nicer than a child’s toy seems nice. But it came from them, so that was nice too. And so I hoarded all my hoard presents.
I knew they were different from the others, different from the other side and all the faces that surrounded me as I grew larger. It was not so subtle, and it wasn’t anything other than what it was, at that time. Only at that time.
Eventually though, I changed and became not enough. Not traditional or cultural or knowledgeable enough. I didn’t speak Tagalog and while that used to be Papa’s fault, eventually it became mine. On the other side, I became too much. Too moody, too pensive, too outcast. Outside of their normalcy. I guess I strayed outside of both normalcies. But there was still love, so it was okay, mostly.
They lived far away, so I didn’t know them very well. Remember, I didn’t like calling them. Of course, that could be just be me. I don’t particularly care to call anyone. And I was young and I had problems and pressures and I was selfish and scared.
Family is important and family is forever. And blood is thicker than, thicker than… except when it’s not. Papa scared me away. He didn’t look it, but he was in-between too. He looked like them, but he had a different life. I don’t think he wanted theirs. That’s why I didn’t know Tagalog. That’s why I didn’t know we were from Manila. That’s why I didn’t know we were Ilocano. Not unless I asked. But I didn’t, because he scared me.
After I drifted away, I saw them even less, but when I did, it was unnerving. They were slipping away and shrinking. Every time I saw them, they seemed less. He couldn’t remember my name or who I was. Sometimes he thought I was my cousin. She became so small and she would lean on my brother. I became older and childish and I wanted to hold them again before they slipped through my grasp.
Now of course, they have slipped away. The house with the hoard lies sunk in the ground and seems hollow. Did you know that certain places and items are hollow? They are marked as sacred and they wait for the divine to inhabit them. That’s from an Asian philosophy. Not our kind of Asian, but still. I hold onto my own hollow hoard and from time to time, I think of them, nestled in the clutter.
Samantha Callanta is a Baltimore-based, Filipino-American costume designer, scenic painter and all around theater maker. Past productions on which she has collaborated include Plunge: An Experiential Storytelling Laboratory, The Mesmeric Revelations of Edgar Allen Poe (both produced by Submersive Productions) and Neverwhere (Cohesion Theatre).
For more information on Submersive Productions and their work, visit their website.