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  • Phebe M. Ferrer

A Strange Nostalgia: Short Vignettes

Updated: Dec 22, 2020

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

When my family moved into our newly built home in the Philippines

my Lola hung red charms at the top of our bedroom door frames

deep red with long strands

hung on a small metal nail hammered into dark wood

I asked her why

we aren’t Chinese, Lola, why would we need them?

she told me it would keep mumu away

herself walking away

to hang another on my sister’s door

I wonder if there are ghosts who linger by our doors to welcome us back

As a child in the U.K.

I have vivid memories of Loon Fung

a large Chinese supermarket

a few minutes from our home

I see it so clearly in my mind:

right across from a large Sainsbury’s

passing by stone lions at the entrance

I enter, my parents take a shopping trolley

we cross the low shelves of various Asian goods

walk past smells of fresh fish and seafood

toward the storage of bulk items at the back

to pick up a big bag of jasmine rice

Sometimes, after my dad finishes work

He would take me to downtown London for my favourite treat:

roast duck on rice

at the restaurant with meats hanging at its store front window

Always, it beckoned me to come closer, to sit

have a steaming bowl of rice

tell me about your day, how was school

how are you?

In the absence of Filipinotowns

Chinatowns are a familiar space

a strange nostalgia

My vision is covered with vivid recollections of other spaces I existed in

every place a patchwork of others

My mind struggles to ask

Am I allowed here?

Is it okay to feel a sort of relief here?

Am I allowed to carry nostalgia for a place that is meant for someone else?

The questions follow my steps like ghosts


Phebe M. Ferrer is a researcher and poet living in Vancouver, on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. Phebe recently graduated with a Master of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of British Columbia. She is currently exploring and studying poetry as a medium of writing and expression. You can find her growing collection of work at

Phebe on her poem's meaning: “I wrote this poem to convey my feelings about feeling an attachment to chinatowns in places where I've lived growing up, in the absence of filipinotowns. I thought it might fit since there is a sense of blurring and liminality in those feelings, given the similarities and shared histories of Chinese and Filipino migrants.”

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