Filipino Friday: Do you read Filipino literature?

  • Thursday, September 01, 2011

It's the fourth question for Filipino Friday, a weekly meme leading up to the first ever Filipino Reader Conference on September 14. Still haven't joined up - you have one more week to go, then it's off the ReaderCon.

This week's question is:

Do you read Filipino literature? If yes, what are some books by Filipino authors that you can recommend to fellow readers?

Now let me be honest. I barely read Filipino literature. I rued about this sad, sad fact when I read and wrote about Syjuco's Ilustrado. I could probably count the number of Filipino books and authors I have read on my fingers. I am trying to get more Filipino authors into my to-be-read list, and hopefully this discussion will generate some good leads!

Remember these?

Ah, required highschool reading: Kangkong 1896,  Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterimo. I recall being extremely ho-hum about these books when we were studying them, probably because I really struggle with reading Tagalog books, and well because it's -- required reading!?

I recall being quite entertained by the shenanigans of the friars, the love story of Maria Clara and Ibarra, and the friendship of Ibarra and Elias. Quite memorable characters. And years after all those history lessons, I look back fondly at these books and have a better appreciation for their place in Filipino history. I am pretty keen on rereading both Noli and El Fili in English (which I have never done). What about you? (Please say yes!) Our teachers would have been proud!

I also got involved with some non-government groups and then went through this phase of reading, on and off, what I would call "nationalistic" writers and "feminist" writers. Ironically enough, I've read all these books in English (ok, ok, this would spark a whole discussion of authors writing in their native language, I'm not going there).

I was gifted with an anthology by Filipina writers and I really enjoyed Songs of Ourselves: Writings by Filipino Women (edited by Edna Zapanta Manlapaz). It's been ages since I've read this (and I gave this away when I moved here) but I distinctly remember Gilda Cordero-Fernando's short stories in this. I recommend this book if you'd like to just get a taste of a range of writers, writing in various forms (essays, poems, short stories, memoirs), on topics that are near and dear to any Filipina's heart. Take a look at some of these reviews:

Some Filipino authors that I have read include F. Sionil Jose, Carmen Guerrero-Nakpil, Nick Joaquin, and Lualhati Bautista. But I have to admit that I have only read and reviewed on this blog is Miguel Syjuco's Ilustrado. And I am not as well-versed on what they have written as say, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Nor can I rattle off a list of books by Filipino authors. Very telling. Very, very embarassing.

Now, I really look forward to some of your recommendations!

Happy Friday everyone! Weekend na!


  1. The character development of Elias is what I love in Noli. He saved Ibarra twice, and he even saved Basilio's life in the end. And his final words at the sight of the dawn is classic!

  2. have read and posted on my blog on these works by Filipino Authors

    . Barefoot in the Fire:A Manila WWII Childhood by Barbara Gamboa Lewis

    Adventures of a Child of War by Lin Acacio-Flores

    Songs of Ourselves: Writings by Filipino Women by Elizabeth Manlapaz

    Pinay Autobiographical Narratives by Women Writers-1928 to 1998 edited by Christina Hidalgo

    Living with the Enemy: A Diary of the Japanese Occupation by Pacita Pestano-Jacinto

    The Tobacco Monopoly in the Philippines 1766 to 1880 by Ed. C De Jesus

    plus three short stories
    "Metropolis" by Crystal Koo
    "Magnificence" by Estella Afon
    "The Servant Girl" by Estella Afon

    I was glad to see you have read Songs of Ourselves-a very good anthology

  3. Have you tried the new Penguin Classics editions of "Noli" and "Fili"? They got included in the line up because the current editor for Penguin Classics is a Filipino! And she's related to Arturo Rotor of "Zita" fame to boot!

  4. Hi Aloi! I just realized that I also have a copy of Miguel Syjuco's Ilustrado but I can't locate it in my book stash. Hahaha. Haven't read it too.

  5. @narj - elias is a hero in the truest sense! oh - i popped over at your blog - again thanks for recommendation. i remember reading michael tan as a columnist in the newspaper (can't remember which).

    @mel u - i;m popping over to take a look at your reviews (if you have them) of your recommended books! thanks so much - makes it so much easier to figure out what to read :)

    @ron - i will have to look those up! wow, wow, wow!

    @leia / rome - hahahaha. time to dig it out :)

  6. I rediscovered Noli and El Fili through the public domain Derbyshire translations on Project Gutenberg. Definitely NOT my high school Noli, and in a good way. Try it too if it works for you. :)

  7. Hi aloi! I totally forgot about El Fili and Noli. I remember a group project back in high school where we had to act a scene from El Fili complete with costume and props. We were horrible. :)

    I haven't read Ambeth Ocampo's Looking Back books (1-3) but I have heard nothing but good about it. It's a humorous take on Philippine History, I think you might like that. :)

  8. Hey, Aloi! Admittedly, I've never read Noli and Fili in full. I survived high school Filipino with the comics version. But I hope to read them soon as they might be a book club assignment next year.

    Anyway, I posted on Narj's site that we published Michael Tan's book on Amazon as an ebook, so now more people can read his book.:)

  9. Noli and Fili! I remember I enjoyed our class discussions of those books because our Filipino teacher was really passionate about them. I don't get to read as much Filipino fiction as I'd like, which is why I'm having fun looking at all the Filipino Friday posts so I can take note of the recommendations.

  10. Reading Noli and El Fili sounds like a good book blogger reading challenge to do. Like you, I had never been really into these in high school. Required readings take the fun out of reading.

    I considered Ilustrado but got discouraged by some negative reviews. But at least, you know some of these other Filipino writers. I'm hearing about them for the first time in my life! So truly, thanks for writing this up.

  11. oh wow - slew of comments! yay!

    @ mina - great idea! it's been a while since i've looked at project gutenberg. maybe there are more pinoy books there?

    @tin - i think we did that too. we were equally horrible (highschool awkwardness and lecherous friars? hahaha, what a combo!)

    anyway. i've been reading ambeth ocampo's column and i actually follow him on Facebook. i shall have put his compilations on my TBR, thanks for the suggestion!

    @fantaghiro - how did you manage to do that? we had to read whole sections in class, there was no way around it! we should probably start a pinoy authors challenge at some point (sige, kahit ako mag-host :))

    and thanks for the heads up on the michael tan book. i am starting to feel the pressure to get an e-reader. argh!

    @chachic - our teacher was passionate too! i guess that's also why i remember it all, even though they were pretty tough to get through. my TBR is getting so bloated, thankfully there are more pinoy authors now :)

    @patrick - i am taking you up on this challenge, sige, let's make a challenge basta sali ka! i really recommend ilustrado, it is worth the effort!

  12. I wish I could recommend some titles for you, but it looks like we're on the same boat where Filipino lit is concerned. Just in case you happen to stumble upon some nice books, let me know? :)

  13. @monique, i'll try and read more pinoy books for starters :)

  14. Hi Aloi, I remember the struggle with Kangkong, Noli and Fili :) Oh the woes of required reading!

    I'd like to recommend a book by a Filipina which came out recently, "Before Ever After" by Samantha Sotto. I've lined it up in my reading list. Would love to hear your thoughts on the book.

  15. @kath - napadalaw ka :) thanks! ahh, highschool hehehehe! i've heard only good things about "before ever after" though i;m not sure if i can find here at the local library. let's see, hanapin ko!

  16. Hi! I'm not sure if my first comment got registered but it suddenly disappeared, so allow me to reconstruct my thoughts a little bit.

    I can empathize dearly because I would say that I am also not as familiar with as many Filipino authors as I believe I should be. I've also read the staple - along with F Sionil Jose (I havent started reading Ilustrado yet, although I own a copy) - and like you, I also struggle with the Filipino language as it is written in narrative/text. But I sigh and gasp and just swoon over the nuances of the Filipino language, particularly in poetry. I also make up for this by buying so many Filipino picture books whenever I visit Manila and I bring all of them back here in Singapore - my only peeve with them is that it's riddled with too much text - being written in both English and Tagalog.

    Anyhow, thanks for visiting our site - and yup, I sense in you a true kindred. ;-) I always rejoice upon the discovery of more bibliophiles who 'breathe the same air' as I do.


  17. One last recommendation, I don't know if you're familiar with the poetry of Tita Lacambra Ayala? Mother of Joey Ayala and Cynthia Alexander - respected Filipino musicians? She's an extraordinary Poet and we have featured most of her works for Poetry Friday over at GatheringBooks - i've done a feature of her recent book entitled Tala Mundi - if you click on Poetry Friday on our archives you would be able to see/read her poetry. Amazing. I call her my enchantress.

  18. @Myra - Thank you for the visit! I've never read Lacambra Ayala but I love both Joey Ayala and Cynthia Alexander, I can only imagine that the fruit did not fall far from the tree. She must be amazing - I will check out your Poetry Friday archives :)


© guiltless readingMaira Gall