I can vividly remember my mother and father arguing after a phone call
from the Philippines when I was an adolescent. They each took shifts pac-
ing back and forth between the kitchen and dining room, while the other
huddled over the tile countertop. My parents were anxiously trying to come
to a decision about the family estate that my paternal grandfather left my
father after he passed away just weeks before. Estate is too generous a term.
Rather, the property constituted a meager lot of land that directly faced the
Panay Gulf in Hinigaran, a small municipality almost precisely at the center
of the province of Negros Occidental. Even today, dozens of fishermen ar-
rive on the beaches each morning, dragging their battered bangkas through
the sand, to sell their daily catch. The same boats that inspired my father
to dream about worlds across the ocean, over half a century ago, remain.
Although small, my father’s land was precious.
This book brings shape to the meaning of property and the lived mate-
riality suturing migration together with home. That brief, yet anxiety- filled
conversation would linger on in my mind for over a decade, and the ques-
tions it produced would result in the pages of this book. What if my parents
kept the land? Who would tend to it while we were away? Would they live
in the Philippines for part of the year, far away from their children here in
the United States? And what of those families who had taken up living on
my father’s land? After decades of living there, raising their children, and
sharing a life, what would become of them?
Little did I know at the time that many of these questions were set in
motion by the Immigration Act of 1965. This legislation, which enabled tens
of thousands of Filipinos, including my parents, to emigrate to the United
States, produced a pivotal moment in U.S. immigration history. Along with
transforming the demographics of American society, it reinvigorated the
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