(Left to Right): Ms. Luwalhati Alvero Kendrick, H.E. Ma. Hellen De La Vega, Ms. Emma Gowling, ACT Office of International Engagement, Ms. Libby Cass from the National Library of Australia, and Mr. Daniel Marc Delefia of SBS Filipino. —PHILEMBASSY.ORG.AU

PALANCA award-winning writer Luwalhati Alvero-Kendrick is just as passionate, empathetic, and forward with her emotions as her poems indicate. She’s not one to go into an endeavor half-heartedly nor is she the type to let an interview just be an interview.

Hours into speaking with her and you’ll get the feeling that she doesn’t box poetry into the confines of mere self-expression, or see the state of the Philippines and its people as just some topic of conversation.

Her poems, powerful and authentic, speak of complex nationalism, women’s struggles, the plight of the environment, and the lives of Filipinos abroad. So does she, with just as much fervor.

Though Ms. Alvero-Kendrick lived in Australia for nearly 50 years, she remains a Filipino through and through.

“You can take the Filipino out of the country, but you can’t take the Philippines away from the person,” she said in a conversation with BusinessWorld, quoting what her late Australian husband used to say about her.

A Filipino who moved to Australia in the 1970s, shortly after she won a Palanca award, her poems are equal parts endearing, moving, and provocative in their honesty. Most of all, they’re strikingly Filipino.

Being connected to one’s heritage and writing poems and stories that reflect that connection aren’t necessarily things you do on purpose.

Pag ukol, bubukol. Kung di ukol, di bubukol,” Ms. Alvero-Kendrick said, this time quoting a Filipino proverb that roughly translates to “If it’s meant to be, it will form. If it isn’t, then it won’t.”

The Shadowed Garden, a collection of poems reflecting her experiences combined with her father Aurelio Alvero’s own pieces, was fortunately meant to be.

It started as a passion project, an idea from her husband that her and her father’s works be published together. After all, they’re both Palanca awardees, he in 1954 for one-act play and she in 1975 for poetry.

The book is divided into two parts, the first half her mostly Tagalog poems and the second half her father’s poetry in English.

“Like my works, his work tackles the struggles of the Filipino people but in the 1930s,” she said. “It remains relevant, and his writings are still in demand among local literature lovers and collectors.”

It took 16 years for the combined collection to come to fruition, after years and years of thinking and contemplating and trying to keep busy once her husband, Major Gary John Kendrick, had passed.

Remembering him and his wishes turned out to be the key to actually doing it, recalled Ms. Alvero-Kendrick.

“He said it was his dream to help me and be my shadow. I’m a gardener at heart, so when I garden, I remember that,” she said. This is how the title of the book came to be.

Love, confusion, heartbreak, nationalism, the joys of the earth — these are all themes that the father and daughter present in their poems, albeit in different ways.

Ms. Alvero-Kendrick, though very forward about the things and people she observes around her, does so not to be blunt, but to honor and reflect on the sense of absence, distance, nostalgia, and love that informs the Filipino experience today.

Her hope is for her and her father’s words to contribute to and enrich the scope of Philippine literature, to celebrate Filipino roots, and also to inspire and provide cultural context for today’s generation.

“I saved up over the years to do this book, but publishing it is not for profit at all. What I really want is to give back,” she said.

A direct way to give back using the book is by donating all its earnings to sanitary projects that will build toilets in Gibitngil Island in Cebu.

The Shadowed Garden is very personal, but also very social and political, as seen in the content itself, in the author’s outlook in life, and in the varied intentions behind the book.

“I’m not here to give an interview and leave it at that, or write poems and publish them and talk about my book and leave it at that. I’m here to do something beyond that,” said Ms. Alvero-Kendrick. — Brontë H. Lacsamana