IT WAS a joyful homecoming for Jose Raymond O. Canoy, when he came to Cebu to launch his second book, “An Illustrated History of the Philippines” which he wrote in Ireland.
Joe—or Dindo or Ray as he is also called—was born in Cebu, and studied in Sacred Heart School during his elementary years, and in the University of San Carlos (USC) Boys High and the University of the Philippines Cebu (UP Cebu) for high school. It was also in UP Cebu where he finished a degree in Mass Communications. He finished his MA degree in History in the University of Cincinnati, and his PhD degree in History in Indiana University. From 2001 to 2012, he taught at the University of Oklahoma, starting as an associate professor and eventually, teaching as a full-fledged professor.
Canoy has a fascination for history, particularly German history; a fascination he cannot really explain. According to him, it’s just there. He did take German classes in USC while he was in college. His masteral and doctorate theses focused on German history, particularly after World War II, thus his first book: “The Discreet Charm of the Police State: The Landpolizei and the Transformation of Bavaria 1945-1965.” He wryly describes this book as the 2,999,000 most popularly read book... as it has limited printing, and even more limited buyers (mostly comprised of a few professors like himself), and remains largely unread.
With his interest with Germany, it is not surprising that Canoy married a German, Dorothea, who has a degree in music. He and Dorothea moved to Germany at the end of 2012, where he taught part-time in the University of Mainz. Imagine that! A Filipino teaching German history to Germans!
In 2017, he and Dorothea moved to Ireland “to get away from the city,” he said.
“(Irish life) is a very congenial way of life. It’s conducive to writing. I work a day job in a cheese factory but my focus is really writing. We also play music in public (he plays the guitar and sings), mostly in pubs and cultural events. We have no steady income at the moment as we are looking for a balance of income and creative time. Dorothea is trying to set up a small publishing firm and she already has four or five writers to start on.”
The book on Philippine history came to his lap when he met a publisher, John Beaufoy, who was impressed by his German book and who asked him to do a Philippine history book. Canoy, at first, refused to do so, as it was not his focus. But not wanting such a book to be done by an expat, like the other Asian history books written by expats published by Beaufoy, he decided to take the challenge on.
During the book launch at National Book Store in SM City Cebu, Jobers Reynes Bersales, who had the privilege of reading the book before the launch, said of the book: “It provides the reader with a deeper understanding of this country. This is clearly not just designed for the first-time visitors to the Philippines. or some foreigner intending on getting to know more about the 7,000-plus islands’ past and present. It is also a must for Filipinos who grew up in the tradition of outmoded trivia—a driven and uncritical presentation of the nation’s history.”
The book is written in “simple language that can be understood,” according to Bersales, by an “ elementary school reader.” According to Canoy himself, the book is meant not just to present dates, events and personalities in Philippine history but to explain how these have shaped the Filipino nation as it is today, and in some way, how it has affected the Filipino psyche.
Canoy is currently working on two books, a non-fiction one on “Ireland and the Philippines as agrarian ex-colonies of imperial Western powers,” and “Sundaland”—a fiction novel of “a dry-land-alternate-world Southeast Asia where the Ice Age never ended.”