'Buried Alive': Professor Shimizu's Film Uncovers Young Filipina's Horrific 1932 Killing in Delta

Monday, October 12, 2020

STOCKTON RECORD -- Though eight decades stand between them, Celine Navarro and Celine Parreñas Shimizu are deeply connected, and by more than a name. One, a simple farmer’s wife, the other, an award-winning filmmaker and film scholar, are forever bound by something more than their shared immigrant heritage, something more than their status as mothers, as Filipinas, as voices for the voiceless; an unspeakable, almost incomprehensible loss.

For Shimizu it was the unexpected and swift loss of her 8-year-old son Lakas – his name means strength in Filipino – in 2013. For Navarro, it was her very life: The 28-year-old Filipina-American mother of four was kidnapped from a Stockton boardinghouse, accused of adultery and tortured by members of her own community, then taken deep into the San Joaquin Delta in the dead of night. That night in 1932 was the last anyone ever saw of her. She was buried alive.

What tore their lives apart would also bring them — and generations of descendants — together.

“During our shoot, we visited Stockton a number of times because not only was this where Celine Navarro lived with her husband and children, this was really the hub of Filipinx American life in the 1920s and 1930s in terms of job opportunities,” Shimizu said.