Born in Canada, Charles Au Lavoie has always been fascinated by what he perceives as different or challenging—the Other. After completing a doctorate in Spanish philosophy, he worked as a commercial translator, and later as a computer consultant. He is an author, playwright and essayist, with works published in French and English. His articles have appeared in Canadian and European publications.
What inspired you to write about expat Filipinas in particular?
My novel takes its origin from my friendship with a Filipina who was deeply involved in her community. I was her companion, chauffeur, and confident. Through her, I met Filipino expats living in Canada and Hawaii— men and women in their fifties, sixties and seventies who went abroad to work and start a new life. I had heard some of the matriarch’s personal story; I was now hearing other stories.
How did you capture Filipino culture in the book?
I felt the need to go to the Philippines to research the past of some of the men and women I had met over the years. I went three times. I saw how Filipinos were living, working, and, interacting with one another, and came to understand what fiestas meant to them. In Canada, I had met mostly older individuals; once I set foot in the Philippines, I was overwhelmed by the youth packed into jeepneys and piled up on tricycles. I interviewed several of them. When they were not proficient in English, I would simply observe them at work. Prior to my first trip to the Philippines, the book had only one main character; suddenly a new character was born—the nephew, a gentle soul struggling with his sexual orientation.
Legacy of a Filipina, a new novel by Charles Au Lavoie, examines the divide between these Filipinos and the North Americans who encounter them on a daily basis: employers, co-workers, church-goers and neighbours.