Someone San Diego Should Know: Marivi Solliven Blanco

Marivi Soliven Blanco, an award-winning author based in San Diego, often draws inspiration for her writing from her 20-year work as a Tagalog-English telephone interpreter.

Most of the calls before the pandemic were about auto loans, bankruptcies, immigration hearings and domestic violence. However, during the pandemic, appeals focused more on unemployment, with the divorce court and hospital seeking end-of-life interpretation for Filipino patients who had little or no chance of recovery.

“They’re hanging on to the voice on the phone,” Soliven Blanco said. “I breathe in words like Eat to give them a sense of familiarity during the difficult time. They trust the voice on the other side of the phone so much at the time of duress. “

Eat, Pronounced ah-teh, means older sister and is often used as a sign of respect towards women older than oneself. Her involvement in their life ends once she hangs up the phone.

“You have to hope they’re okay when you hang up.”

Soliven Blanco used her experience on those tough calls to write “Pandemic Bread,” which incorporated her penchant for making delicious concoctions when she was stressed. The play was one of the top ten stories, out of 170 submissions, which was included in the San Diego Decameron Project, named after “The Decameron,” a collection of stories written in the aftermath of the bubonic plague. The project is a collaboration of the San Diego Public Library, San Diego Writers Ink, Write Out Loud, and the La Jolla Historical Society.

Soliven Blanco has never shied away from human suffering. His first novel, The Married to mango, was born out of her time as an interpreter for a domestic violence hotline. They are two Filipino women, now in the United States, from different social classes whose lives are linked by secrets and domestic violence. He won a Palanca Award, the Philippine equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize.

She has also partnered with Anne Bautista, a lawyer representing victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and others to educate the community.

“Whenever there is an increase in stress in men’s lives, there is a spike in domestic violence. Sporting events… the Exxon Valdez, no kidding… or put on leave by their employer, as has often happened during the pandemic, ”she said.

Mango bride ‘Its universal appeal has aroused the interest of film producers. Scheduled to begin filming last year, the project was halted indefinitely when the pandemic struck.

In 2017, Asian Story Theater produced a collection of Filipino American community plays called “Halo-Halo,” a blend of ingredients that make up a delicious dessert, in this case a mix of plays. Soliven Blanco’s play on racism against Filipinos was included.

“I was so happy that Marivi joined the writing team with her piece about Gaslamp taxis dance halls in the 1930s,” said Thelma Virata-DeCastro, playwright and community liaison for the project. “He dramatized the serious effects of racist laws against Filipinos.

“She is a champion of awareness about this and other issues that hurt our community, such as domestic violence. I also appreciate his advocacy for writers of color.

Soliven Blanco doesn’t just write, she also encourages others to do the same. In addition to teaching at the University of the Philippines and UCSD, she has also conducted a free conference for writers, “Centering the Margins: Conversations with Writers of Color”. The 2018 event drew writers, editors, agents and publicists from across the country to San Diego – and made them accessible to those in attendance.

“I received 91 refusals for one of my manuscripts,” she said. “I got fed up with refusals. So I redirected my energy to the conference.

She had hoped the event would be biennial, but the pandemic has derailed plans for an event in 2020. She plans to resume the project once COVID-19 calms down.

About this series

Alicia DeLeon-Torres is a member of UT’s Community Advisory Board. She works at the Nemeth Foundation, which provides charitable support to community organizations. She has also served as commissioner of the California Attorney General’s Civil Rights Commission on Hate Crimes and the City of San Diego’s Gang Prevention and Response Commission.

Someone San Diego Should Know is a weekly column written by members of UT’s Community Advisory Board about local people who are interesting and remarkable because of their experiences, accomplishments, creativity, or credentials.

About Walter Bartholomew

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