For as far back as we can remember, Filipinos have been creating and sharing all sorts of stories. And at this day and age, the community of local storytellers just keeps on growing, expanding not just in the country but all over the world.
This month, we’re celebrating the work of our fellow Filipinos, from fiction to poetry to magical adventures. Check out our picks of homegrown reads, and share some of your favorites in the comments!
Contemporary Fiction and Poetry
By Mia Alvar
In these nine globe-trotting tales, Mia Alvar gives voice to the women and men of the Philippines and its diaspora. From teachers to housemaids, from mothers to sons, Alvar’s stories explore the universal experiences of loss, displacement, and the longing to connect across borders both real and imagined.
In the Country speaks to the heart of everyone who has ever searched for a place to call home—and marks the arrival of a formidable new voice in literature.
Smaller and Smaller Circles
By F. H. Batacan
When the eviscerated bodies of preteen boys begin to appear in the dump heaps, there is no one to seek justice on their behalf. In the rainy summer of 1997, two Jesuit priests take the matter of protecting their flock into their own hands. Father Gus Saenz is a respected forensic anthropologist, one of the few in the Philippines, and has been tapped by the Director of the National Bureau of Investigations as a backup for police efforts. Together with his protégé, Father Jerome Lucero, a psychologist, Saenz dedicates himself to tracking down the monster preying on these impoverished boys.
By Dawn Lanuza
“Poetry that hits you right in the feels. The magic of Lanuza’s writing flows effortlessly with every piece. Definitely left wanting more. “ – Sab (www.sabthebookeater.com)
The Last Time I’ll Write About You is popular Filipino YA and romance writer Dawn Lanuza’s debut collection of poetry. Featuring beautiful, relatable poems about first love, this book is the perfect companion for anyone who has loved, lost, and emerged anew.
By Elaine Castillo
When Hero De Vera arrives in America–haunted by the political upheaval in the Philippines and disowned by her parents–she’s already on her third. Her uncle gives her a fresh start in the Bay Area, and he doesn’t ask about her past. His younger wife knows enough about the might and secrecy of the De Vera family to keep her head down. But their daughter–the first American-born daughter in the family–can’t resist asking Hero about her damaged hands.
An increasingly relevant story told with startling lucidity, humor, and an uncanny ear for the intimacies and shorthand of family ritual, America Is Not the Heart is a sprawling, soulful debut about three generations of women in one family struggling to balance the promise of the American dream and the unshakeable grip of history.
By Miguel Syjuco
It begins with a body. On a clear day in winter, the battered corpse of Crispin Salvador is pulled from the Hudson River. Gone, too, is the only manuscript of his final book, a work meant to rescue him from obscurity by exposing the crimes of the Filipino ruling families. Miguel, his student and only remaining friend, sets out for Manila to investigate.
The result is a rich and dramatic family saga of four generations, tracing one hundred and fifty years of Philippine history forged under the Spanish, the Americans, and the Filipinos themselves. Exuberant and wise, wildly funny and deeply moving, Ilustrado is a daring and inventive debut novel that “begins as a murder mystery and develops into an ambitious exploration of cultural identity, ambition, and artistic purpose.” (The New Yorker).
The Quiet Ones
By Glenn Diaz
During a regular shift at the call center, Alvin Estrada discovers a way to embezzle money from the American telecom giant for which he mans the phones. Soon a couple of friends join in, and the operation proceeds smoothly up until they quit, vowing to take the secret to their graves. A month later, a phone call at 4 in the morning tells Alvin that the police are on their way.
At once a workplace novel and a meditation on history and globalization, The Quiet Ones is a grimly humorous take on a soul-sapping, multi-billion-dollar industry. In interlocking narratives, it explores lives rendered mute by irate callers, scripted apologies, and life’s menial violence, but which manage to talk back every now and then, just as long as the Mute button is firmly pressed.
Available at select Fully Booked Stores.
Classics and Mythology
By Nick Joaquin
Nick Joaquin is widely considered one of the greatest Filipino writers, but he has remained little-known outside his home country despite writing in English. Set amid the ruins of Manila devastated by World War II, his stories are steeped in the post-colonial anguish and hopes of his era and resonate with the ironic perspectives on colonial history of Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa. His work meditates on the questions and challenges of the Filipino individual’s new freedom after a long history of colonialism, exploring folklore, centuries-old Catholic rites, the Spanish colonial past, magical realism, and baroque splendor and excess. This collection features his best-known story, “The Woman Who Had Two Navels,” centered on Philippine emigrants living in Hong Kong and later expanded into a novel, the much-anthologized stories “May Day Eve” and “The Summer Solstice” and a canonic play, A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino. As Penguin Classics previously launched his countryman Jose Rizal to a wide audience, now Joaquin will find new readers with the first American collection of his work.
By Jose Rizal
In more than a century since its appearance, José Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere has become widely known as the great novel of the Philippines. A passionate love story set against the ugly political backdrop of repression, torture, and murder, “The Noli,” as it is called in the Philippines, was the first major artistic manifestation of Asian resistance to European colonialism, and Rizal became a guiding conscience—and martyr—for the revolution that would subsequently rise up in the Spanish province.
By Jose Rizal
José Rizal was one of the leading champions of Filipino nationalism and independence. His masterpiece, Noli Me Tangere, is widely considered to be the foundational novel of the Philippines. In this riveting continuation, which picks up the story thirteen years later, Rizal departs from the Noli’s themes of innocent love and martyrdom to present a gripping tale of obsession and revenge. Clearly demonstrating Rizal’s growth as a writer, and influenced by his exposure to international events, El Filibusterismo is a thrilling and suspenseful account of Filipino resistance to colonial rule that still resonates today.
Compiled and edited by Damiana Eugenio
A pioneering work in Philippine folklore studies. This first volume presents a bird’s-eye view of the whole range of Philippine folk literature and offers a sampling of this rich and varied branch of the Filipino cultural heritage.
Compiled and edited by Damiana Eugenio
Philippine Folk Literature: The Epics presents 23 folk epics collected from some 14 ethnolinguistic groups in the country. This is the eighth volume being added to the original 7-volume Philippine Folk Literature Series.
Folk epics are long heroic narratives in verse which recount the adventures of tribal heroes and in the process express the customs, beliefs, and ideals of the people who sing them.
The epics are arranged in geographic order from north to south, starting with Lam-ang (Northern. Luzon), then to Labaw Donggon (Visayas), and on to Mindanao, w the greatest number of our folk epics come from (Tuwaang, Agyu, Bantugan, etc.).
A distinctive feature of Philippine epic literature is that while other countries have one national epic hero, e.g., England’s Beowulf, Spain’s El Cid, etc., the Philippines has no national epic hero but more than a dozen tribal epic heroes. This volume thus gives the reader an opportunity to get acquainted with these folk epic heroes and the values and ideals they stand for.
Children’s and Young Adult
By Erin Entrada Kelly
In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his crazy-about-sports family. Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and she loves everything about nature. Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic, whose little sister, Gen, is always following her around. And Chet Bullens wishes the weird kids would just stop being so different so he can concentrate on basketball.
They aren’t friends, at least not until Chet pulls a prank that traps Virgil and his pet guinea pig at the bottom of a well. This disaster leads Kaori, Gen, and Valencia on an epic quest to find missing Virgil. Through luck, smarts, bravery, and a little help from the universe, a rescue is performed, a bully is put in his place, and friendship blooms.
By Candy Gourlay
Andi is short. And she has lots of wishes. She wishes she could play on the school basketball team, she wishes for her own bedroom, but most of all she wishes that her long-lost half-brother, Bernardo, could come and live in London where he belongs.
Then Andi’s biggest wish comes true and she’s minutes away from becoming someone’s little sister. As she waits anxiously for Bernardo to arrive from the Philippines, she hopes he’ll turn out to be tall and just as crazy as she is about basketball. When he finally arrives, he’s tall all right. Eight feet tall, in fact—plagued by condition called Gigantism and troubled by secrets that he believes led to his phenomenal growth.
By Melissa de la Cruz
Twenty years ago, all the evil villains were banished from the kingdom of Auradon to the Isle of the Lost–a dark and dreary place protected by a force field that makes it impossible for them to leave. Stripped of their magical powers, the villains now live in total isolation, forgotten by the world.
Mal learns from her mother, Maleficent, that the key to true darkness, the Dragon’s Eye, is located inside her scepter in the forbidden fortress on the far side of the island. The eye is cursed, and whoever retrieves it will be knocked into a deep sleep for a thousand years. But Mal has a plan to capture it. She’ll just need a little help from her “friends.” In their quest for the Dragon’s Eye, these four kids begin to realize that just because you come from an evil family tree, being good ain’t so bad.
By Rin Chupeco
When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.
In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha―one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.
Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tábon
By Edgar Calabia Samar
In a TALA Online tournament in the town of Balanga, all the players fell dead, save for Janus. Soon after that, teen after teen suffered deaths in computer shops around the country. Janus was contacted by someone who calls himself Joey, apparently another survivor of TALA like him. Janus did not expect the truths he would discover, weaving him into the mystery of the RPG that enthralled him—and into the legend of the Tiyanak from Tábon!
Available at select Fully Booked stores.