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Book Review on My Africa - A Sojourner's Memoir

Updated on July 12, 2012

What's in the book?

June 7, 2012 – I received a parcel (through the Central Post Office of Parañaque City, Manila) containing the book, My Africa - A Sojourner’s Memoir by Juan C. De Los Santos, a Filipino teacher who now resides at San Francisco, California, United States of America.

Inside the envelope is another piece of bond paper containing the summary of the book and the author’s experiences about Africa.

I’ve known Sir De Los Santos via Facebook. As personal message to him, I admire his courage in writing a diary-like account on what happened in Nigeria way back 1979, the start of his seven-year teaching stint at boys’ school before moving to New York City.

A review copy of his book given by AuthorHouse –the premier publishing house for emerging authors and new voices in literature gives the review of fellow book writers (that appeared on the back cover), including a press release.

A message from the author gave me a new kind of ‘high’ that mixes with pride about a Filipino who’s getting popular in another land. He’s a living testimony on how success can be harvested wherever we are and whatever we do.

It’s just that when you write your own personal experiences, the narratives should be appealing to the reader, like this one.

While writing this, I’m halfway on finishing this 26-chapter book (its cover showing a falling man at the old baobab tree, which grows mostly inAfrica).

Filipino teachers are making it there in the big apple.

Note : I was also surprised when I saw the comment of Mr. Nick Miraflores, the uncle of my bestfriend Jorge in high school. (If only he can read this and tell him that he is badly missed by his nephew.)

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The cover of My Africa - A Sojourner's Memoir by Juan De Los Santos (All photos by Travel Man, June 7, 2012)Back Cover with reviews Personal letter of the author to travel_man1971The hubber, travel_man1971, holding the book penned by Juan C. De Los Santos
The cover of My Africa - A Sojourner's Memoir by Juan De Los Santos (All photos by Travel Man, June 7, 2012)
The cover of My Africa - A Sojourner's Memoir by Juan De Los Santos (All photos by Travel Man, June 7, 2012)
Back Cover with reviews
Back Cover with reviews
Personal letter of the author to travel_man1971
Personal letter of the author to travel_man1971
The hubber, travel_man1971, holding the book penned by Juan C. De Los Santos
The hubber, travel_man1971, holding the book penned by Juan C. De Los Santos

Learn Some Nigerian Words

  1. Chikin Gari - old town
  2. Sabongari - new town
  3. wee-wee : marijuana
  4. barau - thief
  5. bature - white man
  6. suya - thinly-sliced ram meat breaded with ground ginger, pepper and salt barbecued in coal
  7. guguru - brewed guinea corn
  8. Nawa? - How much?
  9. Gaskiya - last price
  10. aboke - (my) friend
  11. bulala - rod

Among these new-found words or terms, the author usually show his 'bulala' or wooden rod (or bamboo, perhaps) to his students in order to instill discipline and orderliness in the classroom.

Bature is white man for them. Nigerians dreaded the word as they are frightened by what white men can do for them, even the author is Filipino, a brown (Malay) race in the Far East or Asia.

The main protagonist of the story (the author, himself) essayed the gist of his seven-year experiences based from his teaching stint and immersion in Nigeria.

His retentive memory and detailed recall of what happened in his public and personal life were dramatized by the reactions that were partaken by the people of Kaura Namoda (his students, the market vendor, the postman, government employees, soldiers, etc.) and his co-teachers/new-found friends.

In the midst of the Muslim culture, the educator's way of adopting to the local norms and practices showed how Filipino's typical friendly upbringing and resiliency to every situation have won him his own Africa.

The setting happened in the late 70s and early 80s. He became conscious with the political situation in Africa, where he mentioned the famous dictator of the land during that time, the most-feared Idi Amin (his life was turned into a movie).

Factors like: educational system, cultural differences, religious beliefs, sexual preferences and diseases where given highlights at different levels.

The much-dreaded malarial disease from mosquitoes was the greatest hindrance for both foreign workers and residents in the said country and other tropical parts of the said continent. The author was not spared with its deadly effect, costing the life of several other teachers.

The most poignant episode of his storytelling was when they (teachers) were being replaced by the local graduates (their former students), to teach their fellow Nigerians.

I think, for a teacher, it will be a hurting experience to see himself be assigned to another country. It usually happened when you became attached to the place and its people and became one of them.

My own Africa. My own New York or Philippines. What's the difference, anyway?

Home is where your heart is, isn't it? Facing the looking glass, you'll ask yourself what makes you happy and contented.

Simple answer will be, my family, my friends, my home.

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    • travel_man1971 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ireno Alcala 

      6 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      @OldWitchraft: Thank you fro appreciating my work, as much as I do for you.

      People in Nigeria are nice and hospitable, too, just like Filipinos. They don't question your faith affiliation, although there are some restrictions with the food they eat.

      Filipinos like pork dishes, whereas the majority of Muslim brothers in the said country have the opposite reaction (usually disgust) with what we cook involving pigs or wild boars (especially lechon or roasted pig).

      With regards to the 'asuwangs', we strongly believe about this folkloric character, although I have to see one for myself. Barang or hex (curse) is often the talk of the locals, especially in the barrios or barangays (counties) when someone died without a logic reason or show manifestations of under the spell of the curser (mambabarang).

      Again, my BIG thanks for always dropping by, leaving some nice posts on my hubs.

    • OldWitchcraft profile image

      OldWitchcraft 

      6 years ago from The Atmosphere

      Yes! In fact, with regard to the scarring, I understand that they mark their faces a certain number of times each time to distinguish themselves from other tribes, as well. Although, at least a couple of others nearby are closely related.

      The book I was reading is called, "The Lower Niger and Its Tribes," by Arthur Glyn Leonard.

      Many of these people were brought specifically to the State of Georgia and there is a similarity between their beliefs and customs and American Hoodoo. To add the tragedy of their having been kidnapped and taken from their homes to become slaves, they did not like to go far from home because they feared dying away from their own people. They had (maybe still have) a strong belief that the spirits of the dead and of people who are asleep wander at night. Incidentally, some of this reminds me of some things I read about Aswang after I read your first article on the subject of Mabarang. I can't thank you enough for that information - it opened up a whole new world of reading and research for me.

    • travel_man1971 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ireno Alcala 

      6 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      @ OldWitchcraft: The Igbo people of Nigeria is located at southeastern part of the country.

      I think the author also taught students who came from that place.

      Or it can be the Igbo people whom Sir Juan De Los Santos knew way back the 80s.

      The distinction of Igbo men is that they have scars on their faces, as symbol of their bravery in fighting other tribes.

    • OldWitchcraft profile image

      OldWitchcraft 

      6 years ago from The Atmosphere

      Excellent review! It sounds really good.

      I was just reading about some tribes in Africa, but the book was written back in the 1930s and focused on people called "Ibo" or "Igbo." Africa is absolutely fascinating.

      A vote up (or thumbs up?) and accolades!

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