My Nana's Home

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My Nana's Home

Anthropology Senior Thesis
by Andie Ayala '19






I don’t remember when I heard my Nana’s story for the first time. It seemed to me that she was always re-telling it to friends over a cup of coffee, neighbors outside in the front yard, or even strangers in restaurants. She had lived through many instances of loss, forgiveness, separation, misunderstanding, and redemption, but her narrative always seemed to revolve around her decision in 1978 to move from the Philippines to the United States, and bring all of her children with her. However, depending on the circumstance— who she was talking to, what she felt like they needed to hear, how much time they had together— the narrative oscillated between being told as a migration story, a faith journey, a romance, a drama, or a family reconciliation account.

Hearing different versions of her story while growing up, I realized that each one shared by my Nana was always purposeful and redemptive – despite the evident pain and offense both she, and those around her, experienced in the process. Yet, over the years, it occurred to me that I had never really heard my Nana’s three daughters and son describe how they felt about unexpectedly leaving the Philippines, or what it was like for them to grow up with a new father. Making this film, therefore, provided an opportunity for different family members and friends to articulate their readings of my Nana’s life journey, and for me to put together her story socially as an ongoing conversation.

Although the seed had been planted much earlier, my thesis research process began in June 2018, when I went to Dallas, Texas to interview my Nana, her children and her friends about her life story, and the way she shares it. During this time, I filmed over 20 hours of interviews between sixteen different individuals, which were ultimately condensed into this 38-minute piece that narrates the trajectory of my Nana’s life path through multiple perspectives. The film mostly revolves around my Nana’s decision to leave her first husband, to remarry again and bring her four children to the U.S. from the Philippines. Since my Nana’s children, her friends, as well as my Nana herself, have contradictory memories and perceptions of these moments, the film juxtaposes the multiple voices that articulate their readings of and relation to this crucial event in her life. 



Visualizing Nana’s Life Path

Timeline of Rory Zablan’s Major Life Events (1940 – 2018)


Rorys life timeline

In order to visualize the progression of my Nana’s life path, I was able to develop a multi-layered chronological Gantt chart of her life, which was based off of a timeline of events that she deemed most significant in her own life. Although this timeline is limited to my Nana’s interpretation of “major life events,” it still portrays a comprehensive and accurate picture of the sequence and duration of each event. This visualization of my Nana’s life path demonstrates the layered and multi-sited nature of her timeline, as it details the different places where she lived in the Philippines and the U.S., and the overlapping historical events in Philippine history.  


Kinship Chart of Rory Zablan’s Family (drawn by Carola Hernandez)

Rory kinship chart
Furthermore, for the purpose of clarifying my Nana’s complex family structure, I also created a kinship chart that would illustrate the relationships between the various characters that are included in the film. This chart visualizes the families my Nana Rory shared with her first husband, Pete Manalo, and her second husband, Billy Zablan. Moreover, this image highlights the various relationships that family members have to Nana Rory and to one another, as the siblings are ordered according to decreasing age from left to right. In this way, my own positionality in relation to my Nana and all of her children is also made more explicit.