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Everything We Never Had

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From the author of the National Book Award finalist Patron Saints of Nothing comes an emotionally charged, moving novel about four generations of Filipino American boys grappling with identity, masculinity, and their fraught father-son relationships.

Watsonville, 1930. Francisco Maghabol barely ekes out a living in the fields of California. As he spends what little money he earns at dance halls and faces increasing violence from white men in town, Francisco wonders if he should’ve never left the Philippines.

Stockton, 1965. Between school days full of prejudice from white students and teachers and night shifts working at his aunt’s restaurant, Emil refuses to follow in the footsteps of his labor organizer father, Francisco. He’s going to make it in this country no matter what or who he has to leave behind.

Denver, 1983. Chris is determined to prove that his overbearing father, Emil, can’t control him. However, when a missed assignment on “ancestral history” sends Chris off the football team and into the library, he discovers a desire to know more about Filipino history―even if his father dismisses his interest as unamerican and unimportant.

Philadelphia, 2020. Enzo struggles to keep his anxiety in check as a global pandemic breaks out and his abrasive grandfather moves in. While tensions are high between his dad and his lolo, Enzo’s daily walks with Lolo Emil have him wondering if maybe he can help bridge their decades-long rift.

Told in multiple perspectives, Everything We Never Had unfolds like a beautifully crafted nesting doll, where each Maghabol boy forges his own path amid heavy family and societal expectations, passing down his flaws, values, and virtues to the next generation, until it’s up to Enzo to see how he can braid all these strands and men together.
© Author photo by Leopoldo Macaya
Randy Ribay is a Filipino American author of young adult fiction. His novel Patron Saints of Nothing was a finalist for the National Book Award and the LA Times Book Prize. Randy was also a contributor to the Printz Award–winning anthology The Collectors, edited by A. S. King. His other works include An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes, After the Shot Drops, and Chronicles of the Avatar: The Reckoning of Roku. Born in the Philippines and raised in the Midwest, Randy currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, son, and cat-like dog. View titles by Randy Ribay
Francisco
October 1929
Watsonville, CA

The Fog

The fog cloaks the orchard in the cold pre-­dawn darkness. It holds the Pajaro Valley close as a secret, reducing everything to a suggestion of itself. Muted shapes emerging, dissolving.

The hills on the horizon. The shallow-­rooted apple trees growing in straight rows. The silent brown men, young and old, shaking off dreams as they drift, unmoored, through the haze on their way to begin the day’s work.

Francisco Maghabol is among them, shouldering a heavy wooden ladder, with an empty burlap sack slung across his chest. Faded hat, worn gloves, threadbare clothes. Sixteen years old now, fifteen when he stepped into the belly of the boat that carried him from Manila to Japan to Hawai’i to California. Across the sea to where the streets were strewn with gold—­at least that’s what the missionaries and the teachers and the ticketing agents and the leaflets and the Hawai’ianos had said. And it had seemed to be true from the faded and folded pictures sent home and passed around the villages from the returning pensionados flush with cash and American goods.

It turned out there was no gold. At least not for him or his kailian, not here, not by the time they’d arrived. Only a contract they had to sign before they could leave the steamship’s hold. Only old-­timers asking to borrow money. Only blisters and calluses, sore muscles and bad backs, skin that never stopped itching from the fine dust of the fields. Only Go back to where you came from! and a dollar a day, not enough to eat—­despite picking the peas and beans and grapes and strawberries and cherries and apples and oranges and lettuce and asparagus and artichokes and garlic that fed this ever-­hungry nation. His nanang would say, Sasáor banbannóg no sabali ti aglamlámot—­useless labor when eaten by others.

As Francisco and the other field laborers reach the apple orchard, they hoist their ladders off their shoulders and position them against the trees. Silent and sullen, the men ascend into the branches. But Francisco hesitates. On mornings like this—­when he is near the world but not in it, near the others but not with them, near himself but not quite; when the fog has seeped through his skin and settled into his bones and he no longer knows where it ends and his breath begins, having already filled his lungs with too much mist—­he wonders if he should have listened to his nanang.

Maybe leaving wasn’t the only way.

He had felt like such a man then. The eldest son venturing into the unknown to do what he must to take care of his nanang and sister and brothers after his tatang lost their land and left them for the woman with the mole on her right earlobe. The plan had seemed simple enough from a distance: work in America for three—­maybe four—­years, make enough money to pay his younger siblings’ school fees and to buy back his family’s land, then return to work it.

But now?

He isn’t so sure.

Not a man. No longer a boy. Maybe more so a ghost, since duty dissolves as it absolves. 

Still standing at the base of his ladder, Francisco watches Lorenzo Tolentino in the next row over shake a pebble out of his glove. The same ship—­the President Jackson—­had carried them across the sea. They found each other in the crowded, swaying dimness of the third-­class hold after hearing home in each other’s voices and discovering they hailed from neighboring villages in Ilocos Sur. Since then, they’d stuck together, following the planting, then harvesting seasons along the coast for one full cycle. Other Ilokanos would join them from time to time to form small temporary crews so it would be easier to find work. But they’d always peel away, one by one, until only Francisco and Lorenzo remained.

Thoughtful, quiet Lorenzo. Nineteen to Francisco’s sixteen. Medium brown skin, wide nose, and a smile as smooth as a shoreline. A high school graduate from an educated family, toiling for tuition so he could attend college in America and become a lawyer.

Lorenzo slips his glove back on and glances at Francisco. “Something wrong, little brother?” he asks in Ilokano.

“You ever regret coming here, Manong?” Francisco says.

Or, at least, he wants to.

The question has begun to germinate in his soul. He feels like if he doesn’t ask someone soon, he might burn off into the atmosphere with the fog when the late-­morning autumn sun splits the clouds. He needs to know he is not alone.

Because as much as he and Lorenzo have been through together, they’ve never discussed regret or loneliness or anything else of consequence. They’ve never named what they’ve most deeply felt because naming a thing means you must confront it. It means lighting a candle to illuminate what’s lurking in the shadows. Sometimes the only way to survive is to not know.

Francisco wipes the condensation from the rungs of his ladder as he wonders how to say what he feels. Sometimes trying to do so is like fishing with a net badly in need of repair.

In the end, he takes off his hat and smooths his hair back. “I’m okay.”

Lorenzo nods and climbs up his ladder. Francisco puts his hat back on and does the same a moment later. Parallel, wordless, and with practiced hands, they begin plucking the ripe red apples from the branches. They work quickly but carefully since the fruit’s skin is slick with dew and the early-­morning watering.

Can this ever be enough: picking fruit in thick fog, filling sacks to fill crates to fill trucks to fill the stomachs of those who will never spend their days in fields?

Could this ever be enough to quiet the regret, to justify an ocean crossing, to anchor him to the earth?

Francisco does not yet know.


Enzo
December 2019–­February 2020
Philadelphia, PA


Utang na Loob

Enzo gazes at the two pounds of lumpia mixture in the middle of the table as he takes his seat. He breathes in the familiar scent of raw ground pork, soy sauce, patis, garlic, and minced vegetables wafting from the large bowl, his freshly washed hands already aching in anticipation of the hundred or so lumpia he’ll roll over the next couple of hours.

His mom, Julia, sits to his right. His dad, Chris, to his left. In front of each member of the family: a sheet of tinfoil, a spoon, a finger bowl of water, and a square stack of paper-­thin egg roll wrappers, thawed overnight in the refrigerator. The house is dark except for the dining room light. Old-­school R & B plays softly from the Bluetooth speaker in the kitchen. Outside, Christmas lights shimmer, and a damp snow falls with flakes that melt as soon as they touch the concrete.

Enzo cracks his knuckles and rolls up his sleeves. “Death by lumpia,” he mumbles.

“¡Qué gracioso! Siempre con el mismo chiste,” Julia says. “You need some new material.”

“That’s how we roll,” Chris says.

“Like father, like son.” Julia shakes her head. “Unfortunately.”

Chris smirks as he lays out wrappers across his sheet of tinfoil. “I’m sure Enzo had a very difficult day watching TV and playing video games. He probably needs to rest.”

Enzo looks up, skeptical. “So I don’t have to help?”

“Of course you don’t, anak,” Chris says, then begins to plop a spoonful of filling just below the center of each wrapper. As Enzo moves to leave, Chris adds, “But remember: no help, no eat.”
Enzo sighs, gets to work.

Spoon. Shape. Tuck. Fold. Roll. Dab. Roll. Stack.
Spoon. Shape. Tuck. Fold. Roll. Dab. Roll. Stack.
Spoon. Shape. Tuck. Fold. Roll. Dab. Roll. Stack.

“Kyle told me they sell these pre-­made in the frozen section at the Asian grocery store,” Enzo says after some time.

Chris raises his eyebrow. “Have you tasted them?”

“No.”

“You’re welcome.”

Julia laughs as she stacks one more on the plate with the others she’s already finished.

“Don’t encourage him, Mom,” Enzo says.

“Dapat kang magpasalamat,” Chris says in Tagalog. “I had to teach myself because—­”

“Because Lolo Emil is an assimilationist.”

“Ah, so I’ve told you before?”

“Once or twice.”

Chris tosses Enzo a clean dish towel and takes his place at the sink. He turns on the faucet and fidgets with the handle to adjust the temperature. “There’s actually something I want to speak to you about.”

“It’s a trap!” Enzo says, using his best Admiral Ackbar impression. A joke to distract himself from the tightness that pinches his chest at his dad’s suddenly somber tone. Will this be about his first-­semester grade in history? Did his mom find a new position at a different university? Has Titi Camila’s cancer returned?

Chris squirts dish soap onto the sponge and starts washing the first dish. “What would you think about your lolo Emil moving in with us?”

Surprise replaces Enzo’s concern. “Your dad?”

Chris nods and hands Enzo a clean plate.

Enzo takes it. Towels it off. Places it in the drying rack. “But you hate him.”

“He’s my father, Enzo. I don’t hate him.”

“You don’t like him.”

Chris doesn’t deny it.

None of them, in fact, like Lolo Emil. And the feeling is mutual. He is the kind of person who chooses to mispronounce Julia’s name. Who constantly reminds Chris he’s a disappointment for becoming a middle school teacher instead of an engineer. Who scoffs at Enzo’s anxiety diagnosis, insisting he has nothing to complain about. Who refuses to visit his two daughters who live in California because it’s California.

After Enzo’s grandma Linda passed away several years ago, Lolo Emil moved into a retirement community on the Main Line and announced that he would let them know when he wished to see them. It turned out he did not wish to see them much.

They finish the rest of the dishes without talking. Chris dries off his hands, turns around, and leans back against the counter, arms crossed. “So, what say you—­in the unlikely event that this thing makes it over here, would you be okay with me inviting your lolo to move in with us?”

“How does it make you feel when you think about that possibility?” Enzo asks instead of answering, a technique he picked up from his therapist, Dr. Mendoza.

Chris’s eyes wander to the ceiling as he scratches under his chin. “What will be, will be.”

“Yeah, okay. Sure. But that’s not an answer. What’s coming up for you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Like, what emotions?”

Chris shrugs but says nothing. Enzo is disappointed but not surprised. They can talk about nearly anything in the world—­so long as they stay on the surface.

“I may not be his biggest fan,” Enzo says, letting Chris off the hook, “but if the other choice is to let him stay somewhere where he might catch a deadly virus, then . . . yeah, sure, I guess I’m okay with it.” He sighs. “Utang na loob, right?”

Utang na loob: a debt from within. From the heart. It is a debt you did not ask for and will never pay off but must always try to. It is gratitude for the ancestors who brought you into existence, for the family who raised you, for the community who helped you in ways direct and indirect, visible and invisible. It is acknowledgment that none of us are alone.

For those who left, it is remittances. It is balikbayan boxes. It is donations after every typhoon, every eruption. It is massive multilingual family group chats. It is saying yes to being ninong or ninang to children you’ve never met. It is flying across the world for weddings and funerals and worrying about the savings account or credit cards later. It is the shame of missing weddings and funerals because the savings account is empty and the credit cards have reached their limit.

It is beautiful. It is burdensome.

It is the glue of community, the weight of obligation.

Chris also sighs. Nods. “Utang na loob.”
Praise for Everything We Never Had By Randy Ribay:


★ “[An] emotionally resonant tale…Compact storytelling richly layered with Filipino American culture and history provides the backdrop for each father-son relationship as the Maghabols confront personal and familial expectations in both past and present narratives.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

★ "Told in alternating viewpoints, this strongly characterized novel covers the boys’ struggles with identity against the backdrop of changes in American society. The many heartwarming and heartbreaking moments offer deep insights into intergenerational patterns and how one’s life experiences and upbringing affect parenting and relationships….A powerful and moving family saga."
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

★ “Entwined and exquisite like a taut braid, the narrative expertly weaves the lives of these fathers and sons into a powerful family drama centered on one family's Filipino American experience. Even more impressive than Ribay’s ability to balance four separate point-of-view characters is the way the story immerses the reader in each character’s time period…Ribay vividly and honestly brings these settings to life so the reader can better understand how the characters’ worlds shape them.”
Booklist, starred review

About

From the author of the National Book Award finalist Patron Saints of Nothing comes an emotionally charged, moving novel about four generations of Filipino American boys grappling with identity, masculinity, and their fraught father-son relationships.

Watsonville, 1930. Francisco Maghabol barely ekes out a living in the fields of California. As he spends what little money he earns at dance halls and faces increasing violence from white men in town, Francisco wonders if he should’ve never left the Philippines.

Stockton, 1965. Between school days full of prejudice from white students and teachers and night shifts working at his aunt’s restaurant, Emil refuses to follow in the footsteps of his labor organizer father, Francisco. He’s going to make it in this country no matter what or who he has to leave behind.

Denver, 1983. Chris is determined to prove that his overbearing father, Emil, can’t control him. However, when a missed assignment on “ancestral history” sends Chris off the football team and into the library, he discovers a desire to know more about Filipino history―even if his father dismisses his interest as unamerican and unimportant.

Philadelphia, 2020. Enzo struggles to keep his anxiety in check as a global pandemic breaks out and his abrasive grandfather moves in. While tensions are high between his dad and his lolo, Enzo’s daily walks with Lolo Emil have him wondering if maybe he can help bridge their decades-long rift.

Told in multiple perspectives, Everything We Never Had unfolds like a beautifully crafted nesting doll, where each Maghabol boy forges his own path amid heavy family and societal expectations, passing down his flaws, values, and virtues to the next generation, until it’s up to Enzo to see how he can braid all these strands and men together.

Author

© Author photo by Leopoldo Macaya
Randy Ribay is a Filipino American author of young adult fiction. His novel Patron Saints of Nothing was a finalist for the National Book Award and the LA Times Book Prize. Randy was also a contributor to the Printz Award–winning anthology The Collectors, edited by A. S. King. His other works include An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes, After the Shot Drops, and Chronicles of the Avatar: The Reckoning of Roku. Born in the Philippines and raised in the Midwest, Randy currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, son, and cat-like dog. View titles by Randy Ribay

Excerpt

Francisco
October 1929
Watsonville, CA

The Fog

The fog cloaks the orchard in the cold pre-­dawn darkness. It holds the Pajaro Valley close as a secret, reducing everything to a suggestion of itself. Muted shapes emerging, dissolving.

The hills on the horizon. The shallow-­rooted apple trees growing in straight rows. The silent brown men, young and old, shaking off dreams as they drift, unmoored, through the haze on their way to begin the day’s work.

Francisco Maghabol is among them, shouldering a heavy wooden ladder, with an empty burlap sack slung across his chest. Faded hat, worn gloves, threadbare clothes. Sixteen years old now, fifteen when he stepped into the belly of the boat that carried him from Manila to Japan to Hawai’i to California. Across the sea to where the streets were strewn with gold—­at least that’s what the missionaries and the teachers and the ticketing agents and the leaflets and the Hawai’ianos had said. And it had seemed to be true from the faded and folded pictures sent home and passed around the villages from the returning pensionados flush with cash and American goods.

It turned out there was no gold. At least not for him or his kailian, not here, not by the time they’d arrived. Only a contract they had to sign before they could leave the steamship’s hold. Only old-­timers asking to borrow money. Only blisters and calluses, sore muscles and bad backs, skin that never stopped itching from the fine dust of the fields. Only Go back to where you came from! and a dollar a day, not enough to eat—­despite picking the peas and beans and grapes and strawberries and cherries and apples and oranges and lettuce and asparagus and artichokes and garlic that fed this ever-­hungry nation. His nanang would say, Sasáor banbannóg no sabali ti aglamlámot—­useless labor when eaten by others.

As Francisco and the other field laborers reach the apple orchard, they hoist their ladders off their shoulders and position them against the trees. Silent and sullen, the men ascend into the branches. But Francisco hesitates. On mornings like this—­when he is near the world but not in it, near the others but not with them, near himself but not quite; when the fog has seeped through his skin and settled into his bones and he no longer knows where it ends and his breath begins, having already filled his lungs with too much mist—­he wonders if he should have listened to his nanang.

Maybe leaving wasn’t the only way.

He had felt like such a man then. The eldest son venturing into the unknown to do what he must to take care of his nanang and sister and brothers after his tatang lost their land and left them for the woman with the mole on her right earlobe. The plan had seemed simple enough from a distance: work in America for three—­maybe four—­years, make enough money to pay his younger siblings’ school fees and to buy back his family’s land, then return to work it.

But now?

He isn’t so sure.

Not a man. No longer a boy. Maybe more so a ghost, since duty dissolves as it absolves. 

Still standing at the base of his ladder, Francisco watches Lorenzo Tolentino in the next row over shake a pebble out of his glove. The same ship—­the President Jackson—­had carried them across the sea. They found each other in the crowded, swaying dimness of the third-­class hold after hearing home in each other’s voices and discovering they hailed from neighboring villages in Ilocos Sur. Since then, they’d stuck together, following the planting, then harvesting seasons along the coast for one full cycle. Other Ilokanos would join them from time to time to form small temporary crews so it would be easier to find work. But they’d always peel away, one by one, until only Francisco and Lorenzo remained.

Thoughtful, quiet Lorenzo. Nineteen to Francisco’s sixteen. Medium brown skin, wide nose, and a smile as smooth as a shoreline. A high school graduate from an educated family, toiling for tuition so he could attend college in America and become a lawyer.

Lorenzo slips his glove back on and glances at Francisco. “Something wrong, little brother?” he asks in Ilokano.

“You ever regret coming here, Manong?” Francisco says.

Or, at least, he wants to.

The question has begun to germinate in his soul. He feels like if he doesn’t ask someone soon, he might burn off into the atmosphere with the fog when the late-­morning autumn sun splits the clouds. He needs to know he is not alone.

Because as much as he and Lorenzo have been through together, they’ve never discussed regret or loneliness or anything else of consequence. They’ve never named what they’ve most deeply felt because naming a thing means you must confront it. It means lighting a candle to illuminate what’s lurking in the shadows. Sometimes the only way to survive is to not know.

Francisco wipes the condensation from the rungs of his ladder as he wonders how to say what he feels. Sometimes trying to do so is like fishing with a net badly in need of repair.

In the end, he takes off his hat and smooths his hair back. “I’m okay.”

Lorenzo nods and climbs up his ladder. Francisco puts his hat back on and does the same a moment later. Parallel, wordless, and with practiced hands, they begin plucking the ripe red apples from the branches. They work quickly but carefully since the fruit’s skin is slick with dew and the early-­morning watering.

Can this ever be enough: picking fruit in thick fog, filling sacks to fill crates to fill trucks to fill the stomachs of those who will never spend their days in fields?

Could this ever be enough to quiet the regret, to justify an ocean crossing, to anchor him to the earth?

Francisco does not yet know.


Enzo
December 2019–­February 2020
Philadelphia, PA


Utang na Loob

Enzo gazes at the two pounds of lumpia mixture in the middle of the table as he takes his seat. He breathes in the familiar scent of raw ground pork, soy sauce, patis, garlic, and minced vegetables wafting from the large bowl, his freshly washed hands already aching in anticipation of the hundred or so lumpia he’ll roll over the next couple of hours.

His mom, Julia, sits to his right. His dad, Chris, to his left. In front of each member of the family: a sheet of tinfoil, a spoon, a finger bowl of water, and a square stack of paper-­thin egg roll wrappers, thawed overnight in the refrigerator. The house is dark except for the dining room light. Old-­school R & B plays softly from the Bluetooth speaker in the kitchen. Outside, Christmas lights shimmer, and a damp snow falls with flakes that melt as soon as they touch the concrete.

Enzo cracks his knuckles and rolls up his sleeves. “Death by lumpia,” he mumbles.

“¡Qué gracioso! Siempre con el mismo chiste,” Julia says. “You need some new material.”

“That’s how we roll,” Chris says.

“Like father, like son.” Julia shakes her head. “Unfortunately.”

Chris smirks as he lays out wrappers across his sheet of tinfoil. “I’m sure Enzo had a very difficult day watching TV and playing video games. He probably needs to rest.”

Enzo looks up, skeptical. “So I don’t have to help?”

“Of course you don’t, anak,” Chris says, then begins to plop a spoonful of filling just below the center of each wrapper. As Enzo moves to leave, Chris adds, “But remember: no help, no eat.”
Enzo sighs, gets to work.

Spoon. Shape. Tuck. Fold. Roll. Dab. Roll. Stack.
Spoon. Shape. Tuck. Fold. Roll. Dab. Roll. Stack.
Spoon. Shape. Tuck. Fold. Roll. Dab. Roll. Stack.

“Kyle told me they sell these pre-­made in the frozen section at the Asian grocery store,” Enzo says after some time.

Chris raises his eyebrow. “Have you tasted them?”

“No.”

“You’re welcome.”

Julia laughs as she stacks one more on the plate with the others she’s already finished.

“Don’t encourage him, Mom,” Enzo says.

“Dapat kang magpasalamat,” Chris says in Tagalog. “I had to teach myself because—­”

“Because Lolo Emil is an assimilationist.”

“Ah, so I’ve told you before?”

“Once or twice.”

Chris tosses Enzo a clean dish towel and takes his place at the sink. He turns on the faucet and fidgets with the handle to adjust the temperature. “There’s actually something I want to speak to you about.”

“It’s a trap!” Enzo says, using his best Admiral Ackbar impression. A joke to distract himself from the tightness that pinches his chest at his dad’s suddenly somber tone. Will this be about his first-­semester grade in history? Did his mom find a new position at a different university? Has Titi Camila’s cancer returned?

Chris squirts dish soap onto the sponge and starts washing the first dish. “What would you think about your lolo Emil moving in with us?”

Surprise replaces Enzo’s concern. “Your dad?”

Chris nods and hands Enzo a clean plate.

Enzo takes it. Towels it off. Places it in the drying rack. “But you hate him.”

“He’s my father, Enzo. I don’t hate him.”

“You don’t like him.”

Chris doesn’t deny it.

None of them, in fact, like Lolo Emil. And the feeling is mutual. He is the kind of person who chooses to mispronounce Julia’s name. Who constantly reminds Chris he’s a disappointment for becoming a middle school teacher instead of an engineer. Who scoffs at Enzo’s anxiety diagnosis, insisting he has nothing to complain about. Who refuses to visit his two daughters who live in California because it’s California.

After Enzo’s grandma Linda passed away several years ago, Lolo Emil moved into a retirement community on the Main Line and announced that he would let them know when he wished to see them. It turned out he did not wish to see them much.

They finish the rest of the dishes without talking. Chris dries off his hands, turns around, and leans back against the counter, arms crossed. “So, what say you—­in the unlikely event that this thing makes it over here, would you be okay with me inviting your lolo to move in with us?”

“How does it make you feel when you think about that possibility?” Enzo asks instead of answering, a technique he picked up from his therapist, Dr. Mendoza.

Chris’s eyes wander to the ceiling as he scratches under his chin. “What will be, will be.”

“Yeah, okay. Sure. But that’s not an answer. What’s coming up for you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Like, what emotions?”

Chris shrugs but says nothing. Enzo is disappointed but not surprised. They can talk about nearly anything in the world—­so long as they stay on the surface.

“I may not be his biggest fan,” Enzo says, letting Chris off the hook, “but if the other choice is to let him stay somewhere where he might catch a deadly virus, then . . . yeah, sure, I guess I’m okay with it.” He sighs. “Utang na loob, right?”

Utang na loob: a debt from within. From the heart. It is a debt you did not ask for and will never pay off but must always try to. It is gratitude for the ancestors who brought you into existence, for the family who raised you, for the community who helped you in ways direct and indirect, visible and invisible. It is acknowledgment that none of us are alone.

For those who left, it is remittances. It is balikbayan boxes. It is donations after every typhoon, every eruption. It is massive multilingual family group chats. It is saying yes to being ninong or ninang to children you’ve never met. It is flying across the world for weddings and funerals and worrying about the savings account or credit cards later. It is the shame of missing weddings and funerals because the savings account is empty and the credit cards have reached their limit.

It is beautiful. It is burdensome.

It is the glue of community, the weight of obligation.

Chris also sighs. Nods. “Utang na loob.”

Praise

Praise for Everything We Never Had By Randy Ribay:


★ “[An] emotionally resonant tale…Compact storytelling richly layered with Filipino American culture and history provides the backdrop for each father-son relationship as the Maghabols confront personal and familial expectations in both past and present narratives.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

★ "Told in alternating viewpoints, this strongly characterized novel covers the boys’ struggles with identity against the backdrop of changes in American society. The many heartwarming and heartbreaking moments offer deep insights into intergenerational patterns and how one’s life experiences and upbringing affect parenting and relationships….A powerful and moving family saga."
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

★ “Entwined and exquisite like a taut braid, the narrative expertly weaves the lives of these fathers and sons into a powerful family drama centered on one family's Filipino American experience. Even more impressive than Ribay’s ability to balance four separate point-of-view characters is the way the story immerses the reader in each character’s time period…Ribay vividly and honestly brings these settings to life so the reader can better understand how the characters’ worlds shape them.”
Booklist, starred review

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