Readercon Filipino Friday: Week 4

Of course, it’s on the last week of this particular meme that I actually put up a post on time.

As everyone probably knows by now, this Filipino Friday meme is brought to us by the guys behind the first Filipino Readers Conference. This week’s question is:

“Do you read Filipino literature? If you do, tell us your favorite books by Filipino authors and name a few that you’d like to recommend to fellow readers. If you don’t read much Filipino lit, then tell us why.”

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that as a young kid, I wasn’t exposed to a lot of Filipino literature. Other than short stories we were supposed to read in elementary, the biggest exposure I ever got to something written by Filipinos was in the komiks that were a well-loved staple of my childhood life.

I pity you if you've never experienced Funny Komiks' 'Combatron'

It was only in my senior year in high school that I was first introduced to “serious” Filipino literature that did not feel like schoolwork at all but more like a revelation of what our writers can actually accomplish. That one magical story that did it for me was Kerima Polotan Tuvera’s “The Virgin“.

Our English teacher had chosen that story for our periodical exams, and I remember that it was quite the scandal among us students because none of us had ever read something like “The Virgin” in an academic context before. There was a lot of discussion afterwards as to whether Ms. Mijares was still fit for the title of the story.

From then on, I’ve been much more receptive to reading something written by local authors. I absolutely loved Paz Marquez Benitez’ “Dead Stars“, and “Candido’s Apocalypse” by Nick Joaquin was something that stayed with me for days afterwards after I finished reading it.

It was on the strength of “Candido’s Apocalypse” that I began to seek out other works by Nick Joaquin. I absolutely loved “Reportage on Lovers“, and while I had initially found “The Woman Who Had Two Navels” to be a complicated read, I did appreciate and totally enjoyed the skill that went into crafting that particular novel.

But it was Nick Joaquin’s “Cave and Shadows” that really bowled me over. This murder mystery was not only compelling, but it had Joaquin’s beautiful prose and a quirky gothic/folklore-ish feel to it that I found completely enchanting and unexpected in anything I’ve read before it. This is the one novel by a Filipino that I would like more people to read, as it is usually “The Woman Who Had Two Navels” or F. Sionil Jose’s Rosales saga that usually gets the lion’s share of attention.

There have also been some Filipino novels that I feel haven’t gotten the attention they deserve. “The Jupiter Effect” by Katrina Tuvera is something I wish more people read, for instance, and I also found Charlson Ong’s “Banyaga” to be an enjoyable read — kinda like “Mano Po” but with the gloss of being more “literary”.

ETA: I forgot to write about graphic novels! Which is stupid since I started the post writing about Funny Komiks.

Some of the Filipino graphic novels I really enjoyed are probably also on the shelves of a lot of the people participating in this meme. “Trese” by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo is an obvious choice, as well as Arnold Arre’s “The Mythology Class” and “Martial Law Babies“.

 (Combatron image from Pinoy Underground)

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6 thoughts on “Readercon Filipino Friday: Week 4”

  1. Hi, Ron! I love Nick Joaquin’s prose. I feel like it’s not stilted at all and has a seamless flow. Read a few of his stories in Reportage, but my current favorite is his stories in Joaquinesquerie, which were the children’s stories he had in Pop Stories for Groovy Kids.
    Have yet to read Cave and Shadows, though I have a copy here. Must get to that soon. (Like I “must get to” a score of other books:D)

    Anyway, glad you also mentioned short stories. Honestly, I found Dead Stars kind of meh, but I loved Daguio’s stories. And Alfon’s Magnificence.

    1. Well, I tried reading Dead Stars again while I was going down this trip on memory lange, and i have to admit that it’s not as good as I remembered it. Perhaps it was more impressive when I was younger and much more impressionable? 😀

  2. The only Nick Joaquin novel that I read was The Woman Who Had Two Navels and that was because it was required reading for school. I shy away from required novels so maybe that’s why I haven’t read his other books. I should give them a try though since so many other Filipino readers love them.

    And yes to graphic novels! I’m not even a big fan of graphic novels but I really enjoyed Arnold Arre’s After Eden so I’m already planning to read The Mythology Class. Trese is also on my wishlist.

    1. If you’re particularly fond of magical realism, you should really try out Nick Joaquin, since his style is in that particular vein.

  3. I envy the lot of you. When I was in the Philippines, the only filipino texts that I was able to read are the compulsory school types by Jose Rizal, Balagtas and the other one with that magical darned bird (I detested that story). And the ones about our culture in my school library were English-translated, though I cherished those children folklore stories. I’m beginning to get curious with this particular filipino novel, though, and it’s called ‘Illustrado’. I’ll check that out- and I’ve found it in an Australian public library. Woohoo!

    1. I do have to say that ‘Ilustrado’ isn’t exactly the easiest thing to read. It’s not linear and uses a variety of styles throughout. Having said that, I quite liked reading it, so definitely give it a shot! 🙂

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