Whenever I get asked the question, “What is one interesting personal fact about you?” I will usually say, “I’ve lived in three countries.” I’m the child of immigrants – born in the Philippines, grew up in Canada, and now live in the US.

My mother’s side of the family is mostly in North America. My father’s side still reside in the Philippines. We had been living in North America for 10 years when we finally went back “home” to visit. I was 19 years old and no longer felt a connection to my country. It was hard enough assimilating to the language, culture, etc. hanging on to my heritage seemed like a fruitless, unimportant thing.

That year, I came back to college in Canada and found the Filipino Students’ Association. The members were all like me – 2nd generation immigrants with varying connections to our mother country. We learned and performed native dances, ate lots of Filipino food and essentially became an extended family – because that’s just how Filipinos are.

I wrote my first romance while I was contemplating memories of that trip when I was 19 years old. I wanted to remember the places we saw, the feelings I had. In Space For Breathing, the male character is a golden-haired, all-American, the female character is a native Filipina. As they explore the country, Jacob observes with an American eye, while Maeva observes him, taking in his reactions with subtle pride. I tried to capture some of the not-so-pretty reality – a glimpse into the poverty, the shanti houses but also the fundamental Filipino spirit – the gang of kids eating ice cream, the way supporting characters welcomed Jacob as one of their own.

I’ve called the novel my “love letter” to the Philippines. Perhaps it’ll atone for my younger self’s attitude.

IK Velasco’s debut contemporary romance, Space For Breathing, will be released on Oct 20, 2017.

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