CULTURE

The best Filipino books of the 2010s

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These books chronicle what Filipinos went through, fought for, and stood against in the past decade. Illustration by THE PUBLIC SCHOOL MANILA/Typeface BAWAL SANS by TOGETHER WE DESIGN

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — This year, in place of our usual best books of the year list, CNN Philippines Life reached out to several local writers, academics, and publishers for their recommendations on the best Filipino-authored reads published from 2010 to 2019. The result is a list of books that chronicles a lot of what Filipinos went through, fought for, and stood against in the past decade, from food insecurity, rapid urbanization, and the marginalization of Lumads, to our constant grappling with our national identity and our fractured past.

John Bengan, faculty, University of the Philippines Mindanao

“La India, or Island of the Disappeared” by Rosario Cruz Lucero (UP Press)

Rosario Cruz-Lucero is a titan of the short story form. What will take others an entire novel to grapple with, she can contain in a single story. The nine interlinked stories in “La India” unpack history by way of fiction: from mythic star maidens bathing in the lake; an artisan carving a wooden saint after the image of their own hero; luminescent mushrooms lighting a way in the dark; Diego Povedano twisting the words of Datu Calantiao; to the massacre of protesters in Escalante and the countless “disappeared” reverberating back to the Carol-ans who set themselves on fire in the 1880s. Cruz-Lucero retells the familiar and the obscure to challenge how we see ourselves mirrored in events of the distant and recent past. Continuing the trajectory of 2003’s “Feast and Famine,” La India is another masterwork of Philippine fiction.

Available through Book Depository.

“Mga Gapnod sa Kamad-an / Driftwood on Dry Land” by T.S. Sungkit, Jr. (Bisaya Magasin / UST Press)

Not many books could make one rethink the nation’s literary tradition. One such work is T.S. Sungkit, Jr.’s startling and incendiary second novel “Mga Gapnod sa Kamad-an.” First serialized in the Binisaya original, the novel contains a history of Mindanao, told from the perspective of a Higaonon. Skygods come down to marry mortals, warriors whose heads are quartered die and live again in the battlefield, a young man studying in university is haunted by a trickster spirit. Sungkit remarkably grafts the novel form into the oral traditions of Mindanao, sweeping across time to condense epic cycles into novel chapters. This is the kind of work whose peers are found only across continents, if not on the pages of Bisaya.

Available through the UST Press.

“Kining Inalisngaw sa Akong Tutunlan” by Omar Khalid (Saniata Publications)

If only all of us could read Cebuano, we’d reach the consensus that Omar Khalid — pen name of editor, poet, and fiction writer Richel Dorotan — is a virtuoso storyteller. This book of 12 superbly envisioned stories transforms folk beliefs and contemporary realities into allegories of our lives. Three politicians simultaneously claim to have won the mayoral seat and prolong the circus of the elections; a woman is believed to have been born a hummingbird; and a stranger sits by a jackfruit tree one day at the plaza and brings uncommon prosperity to the whole town — until he dies. By the time the reader is done with the rest of this book, they’d be floating on air.

Available through Saniata Publications.

“Ubang Gabii sa Mango Avenue” by R. Joseph Dazo (Kasingkasing Press)

R. Joseph Dazo’s first book of stories in Sugbuanong Binisaya is a welcome contribution to a genre dominated by conventionally male voices. The characters in these short — and very short — stories include our familiar young bayot going through sexual awakening, the hairstylist who swears that “when angels come, they will ride motorcycles,” and the faceless gay dating app profile owner flitting from city to indifferent city, among other seekers of warmth. Dazo matches the swagger of his macho counterparts with verbal playfulness. Perhaps, more importantly, his queer characters have too much spunk and heart to slip into self-loathing.

Available through Kasingkasing Press.

“Susumaton: Oral Narratives of Leyte” Edited by Merlie M. Alunan (Ateneo de Manila University Press)

Merlie M. Alunan has produced indispensable anthologies before, such as “Sa Atong Dila,” a handy sampler of Visayan literature. “Susumaton: Oral Narratives of Leyte” is a feat in itself. The book gathers narratives from the towns of Palo, Tanauan, Tolosa, Dulag, Cariaga, and Barugo. More than 50 “storykeepers” cover a range of themes from cautionary tales, war memories, to scatological stories. One pithy tale recounts a time when a giant visited a family’s drinking session and then promptly left, leaving them “stuck to their seats like candles.” Alunan had worked with the scholar Elena G. Maquiso on the Livunganen-Arumanen Manobo’s Ulahingan, from which she modeled the process of retrieving narratives for Susumaton. A touchstone not only for Waray culture, Susumaton serves as a guiding light for other places and languages in the country.

Available through the ADMU Press. 

Adam David, writer, co-founder of Better Living Through Xerography (BLTX)

“A Field Guide to Flight: Identifying Birds on Three School Grounds” by Amado C. Bajarias, Jr. with art by Oscar M. Figuracion, Jr. (Ateneo de Manila University Press)

Basically a book for birders who want to go birdwatching along the Katipunan schools — UP Diliman, Miriam College, Ateneo de Manila — with information on when to go, what to bring, what to look out for, how to conduct oneself when in the field, and of course beautiful art and photos accompanying the biographical and anatomical details of the featured local and migratory birds. I leaf through the book constantly, enjoying the writing most of all, often approaching the level of lyric poetry (Bajarias himself is a poet of some renown) but not to the point of intruding on the scientific and the factual. The entry for one of my favourites, the Maria Cafra, goes: "It constantly fans tail while moving about on branches. When perched, its wings droop and sometimes held slightly away from the body. Originally a mangrove dweller, it has adapted well to human disturbance." A lot of us citydwellers tend to forget that we share our urban spaces with animals other than us and our pets, and how some of these animals have already been in our urban spaces since a lot of our urban spaces were first mangroves or sounds or mountainsides or forests, and how the development of our urban spaces displaces or eradicates entire biomes unless its inhabitants learn to adapt well to human disturbance. I see Maria Cafras daily outside the window. They are fiercely territorial, constantly fighting their reflection, having accurately determined the presence of an intruder in close proximity to their nest despite not being able to see behind the UV-protected glass.

Available in the ADMU bookstore.

“Makisawsaw: Recipes X Ideas” with contributions from AMIHAN, Faye Cura, Mabi David (no relation), Richgail Enriquez, Mary Ann Manahan, Padmapani Perez, Asha Peri, Karla Rey, Rae Rival, Charlene Tan, and Jenette Vizcocho and art by Mayang Frigillana, Gelai Manabat, and Bru Sim. Edited by Mabi David (no relation) and Karla Rey (Gantala Press)

This book beautifully illustrates and effectively performs the links between food production, distribution, consumption, disposal, and labour rights, and how something as simple as learning how to make your own sauces and condiments — satay sauce, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, kimchi, ketchup, curry, et al — is already an effective act of protest against mainstream producers (like NutriAsia, whose union of workers [who are still on strike] this book benefits with its profits) that practice human rights violations seemingly as its casual SOP. A lot of this book's content should resonate at a time when Cynthia Villar constantly floods the airwaves with her classist prattle against fisherfolk and farmers — producers of not-a-few of our most basic and most prevalent food stuff in this archipelagic country of fields and paddies — insisting on neoliberal free market paradigms crafted to only really benefit her and her ilk and their cohorts and not everybody else that she and her ilk and their cohorts ought to be serving, being the public servants that they should be. “Makisawsaw” serves as gateway educational discussion to people who want to be more involved in fighting for our country's food security, which is where all our struggles boil down to: our oppressors feed us their crumbs because we can't fight our oppressors when our oppressors keep us hungry; but why settle for their crumbs when we can make our own bread?

Available from Gantala Press.

“POSTER/ity: 50 Years Of Art & Culture at the CCP” written by Ringo Bunoan, Alice Esteves, Baby Imperial, and Lucille Tenazas, edited by Ringo Bunoan, Rica Estrada, and Baby Imperial (Cultural Center of the Philippines)

This should have been titled “Propa-Ganda” as it collects the better of 50 years' worth of posters for shows and exhibits staged at the CCP (and is in fact a companion book to an actual exhibit mounted this year at the CCP that just ended a couple of weeks ago), a significant portion of which were produced during the Marcoses' martial law years. Predominantly stunningly beautiful with its showcase of modernist aesthetic of bold graphics and typographical design and apolitical messaging, this book is an effective paperback monument to how state-sponsored art is used as distraction from and smokescreen for state-sponsored atrocities, and how I wish it discussed this reality head-on, but I suppose it is too much to ask of an institution to reckon with its origins. It is understandable, but does not make it any less regretful, especially at a time when discussions of the very real, very true violence enacted by the government upon its citizenry are dismissed by enumerations of all the good and beautiful things the government bestows upon its citizenry as if atrocities are prerequisites for art and other social services to be possible. People say culture is the mirror we hold up to society's face; this book reminds us it is also a mask.

Available in the CCP Giftshop.

“Know Your Rights” (Ang Ating Mga Karapatan) by the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)

Woe to the nation that feels the need to publish primers on its citizens' insoluble and absolute basic human rights when under the threat of death, torture, slavery, illegal detention, censorship, and other forms of state-sponsored dehumanisation, and lo, one of these nations is ours, and sadly to nobody's surprise. Edited and compiled by the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and translated and designed by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), the handbook is available for everyone to read as a printed pamphlet acquired for free through the office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in UP Diliman. We already know who our oppressors are, and it helps to know better how they're oppressing us now and how they may oppress us in the future, if only so we can fight against oppression more effectively. No other book quite captures the country's zeitgeist — in fact all of its history and all of its future — as this terrifying tome.

Available through the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) office in UP Diliman.

Glenn Diaz, author

“Ang Makina ni Mang Turing” by Ramon Guillermo (UP Press)

What connects the act of playing sungka and waging a revolution? Or a mysterious computing machine and history? In Ramon Guillermo’s impossibly intellectual first novel, a young writer stumbles upon these questions and more while sojourning around nineteenth-century Europe. As he talks to characters like a Japanese military tactician, a young Javanese sungka master, and an old Filipino who was involved in the Dagohoy Rebellion, the slim novel proceeds to unpack subjects as gargantuan and complex as history, technology, and our notions of civilization itself.

Available in the UP Press store.

“Ang Banal na Aklat ng mga Kumag” by Allan Derain (Cacho Publishing House)

The titular book within a book in Allan Derain’s first novel opens with a short prologue. Our narrator is summoned from sleep by a centipede to the ruins of an old precolonial church, where he was asked to write down, as dictated by an owl, an alternate scripture of sorts, which, like the bible, begins from the very beginning. Thus begins this funny, irreverent romp through indigenous and contemporary folklore, simultaneously absurd and relevant, hyper-referential and allegorical, a showcase of a mad virtuosic imagination.

Available in National Book Store and Anvil Publishing.

Bungkalan: Manwal sa Organikong Pagsasaka by Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura” (UMA) (2017, Sentro ng Wikang Filipino), “Stories of Struggle: Experiences of Land Reform in Negros Island” by Sarah Wright and Ma. Diosa Labiste (UP Press), and “Makisawsaw: Recipes x Ideas” edited by Mabi David and Karla Rey (Gantala Press)

The Philippines became the world’s biggest rice importer this year thanks to a dumb tariffication law that further deregulated an already maniacally liberalized industry. Hardest hit as usual were our long-suffering farmers. Food is political, and land remains a crucial site of contestation. These three books combine theoretical and practical ideas to help the reader think about and hopefully participate in issues surrounding the food we eat and the people who till the land.

“Bungkalan” documents the success of the “bungkalan” campaign in Hacienda Luisita, in which organized farmers assert their right to their land while showcasing an organic, scientific, and self-sufficient model of farming. As a manual, it includes sections on the aforementioned organic farming systems, as well as seed banking, soil management, fertilizer making, and the like.

“Stories of Struggle” chronicles the experiences of farmers’ groups in Negros who all had to contend with a toothless and pro-landlord land reform policy. As such experiences doubtless recur in many haciendas in the country, we are also given key takeaways here, including the centrality of collective action in waging campaigns and how genuine land reform goes beyond the transfer of land and implicates the tillers’ notions of power and justice.

Finally, “Makisawsaw” takes off from the campaign to boycott NutriAsia products last year in the wake of its violent treatment of striking workers. The essays in the book offer a range of individual and collective responses to a world in which everything we eat is ethically and politically charged. Also included are 36 recipes of vegan condiments and main dishes, consistent with the book’s ethos toward exercising better agency in the way we consume food.

“Bungkalan” is available through the Diliman office of UP Sentro ng Wikang Filipino in the School of Urban and Regional Planning building. “Stories of Struggle” is available at the UP Press store. “Makisawsaw” is available through Gantala Press.

“Neoliberalizing Spaces in the Philippines: Suburbanization, Transnational Migration, and Dispossession” by Arnisson Andre Ortega (Ateneo Press)

Early this month, residents and volunteers of Sitio San Roque in Quezon City were able to submit to Mayor Joy Belmonte a Community Development Plan, which outlines their proposed on-site and in-city housing initiative as an alternative to relocation. A preliminary victory for the residents, who for years lived in fear of being demolished all because their homes stand in the way of property giant Ayala Land, which stands to profit from “developing” the area.

“Neoliberalizing Spaces” explores, among others, how such antagonisms shape the “literal and discursive” landscape of the capital and beyond, how, for instance, property booms and other developments for the affluent actively dispossess groups like informal settlers, landless farmers, and indigenous peoples. As Metro Manila becomes increasingly uninhabitable in different ways, it is important to be conscious of how our suffering as residents is by design, a result of a kind of governance that is completely beholden to the market and profit instead of people.

Available at the ADMU Press store.

Kabel Mishka Ligot, writer

“Danas: mga pag-aakda ng babae ngayon” eds. Faye Cura and Janine Dimaranan (Gantala Press)

What a year Gantala Press has had. Founded in 2017 by cultural worker Faye Cura and a team of volunteers, the feminist press has already published seventeen different titles ranging from cookbooks to comics. “Danas: mga pag-aakda ng babae ngayon” is Gantala Press’ inaugural publication, an anthology of Filipino women’s writing in English, Filipino, and various other Philippine languages (most unaccompanied by translation — an impressive choice that decentralizes the country’s hegemonic tongues). Through essays, poems, comics, interviews, and short stories, “Danas” casts a net over a wide range of subjects: bodily autonomy, displacement, marriage, race and ethnicity, poetics. “Danas,” like all of Gantala Press’ titles, illuminates the often-silenced experiences of those caught in the crosshairs of systemic violence. The voices that populate “Danas” are not simply just women: they are also Muslim, queer, working class, immigrant, indigenous; they live lives outside of Manila and write in languages other than Filipino or English. At its scope and depth, the anthology already feels like a victory lap: one might not even think that “Danas” is the press’ first publication. But Gantala Press is just getting started — “Danas,” arresting and necessary, is an indicator that they aren’t slowing down anytime soon.

Available through Gantala Press.

“Shorelands” by Marc Gaba (UST Publishing House)

One of my favorite books of Filipino poetry to come out of this decade is Marc Gaba’s “Shorelands,” a book-length poem on “El Filibusterismo.” The “Noli” and “Fili” are arguably the most siráng-plaka texts of modern Filipino consciousness — “Ibong Adarna” and “Florante at Laura” are so metrical and forgettable, but who doesn’t remember hours in high school spent drowning in Rizal’s dense chapters about revolution and the stratification of society during the Spanish colonial period? Drawing from the Oulipian poetic tradition of 20th century France, Marc Gaba lifts single lines from Charles Derbyshire’s English translation of the “Fili” and, while retaining the book’s chronological order, creates a nine-section contrapuntal lyric that’s sprawling and sparse in the same breath. With only three lines per page read both vertically per leaf and horizontally throughout the whole sequence, the book’s project is a feat in restraint and redaction. “Shorelands” challenges us to read through silences and opens us up to new possibilities of reading a text so misleadingly familiar to many.

Available through the UST Publishing House.

“Dandániw Ilokano: mga tulâng Ilokano, 1621-2014” ed. & trans. Junley Lazaga (Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino) and “An Satuyang Kakanon sa Aroaldaw: Mga Rawitdawit na Manlain-lain na Bikol at Salin sa Filipino” ed. & trans. K.S. Cordero (Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino)

Until now, I still know very little about poetry in Filipino, and even less about poetry from outside Metro Manila and the Tagalog region. Two anthologies published by the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino this decade have done the work of expanding those horizons. “Dandániw Ilokano: mga tulâng Ilokano, 1621-2014,” edited and translated by Junley Lazaga, and “An Satuyang Kakanon sa Aroaldaw: Mga Rawitdawit na Manlain-lain na Bikol at Salin sa Filipino,” edited and translated by K.S. Cordero, compile over a hundred poems from the Ilocos and Bicol regions, respectively, presenting each work in its original and translated language so readers can see the intricacies and craft of both texts conversing with each other. The anthologies have an impressively comprehensive breadth, too: in “Dandániw Ilokano,” authors span from 19th century proto-feminist writer Leona Florentino to contemporary Fil-Am poet Patrick Rosal. “An Satuyang Kakanon sa Aroaldaw,” on the other hand, focuses on more modern Bikolano poetry: extremely rare gems such as Rose Alibin’s concrete Mayon poems (short lyrics whose enjambed lines mimic the volcano’s shape and plumes of smoke) take center stage. Through their work, translators and editors like Cordero and Lazaga remind us that the Filipino writing isn’t singular and monolithic. It’s a living patchwork of so many distinct poetic traditions that need to be read, sustained, and celebrated.

“May Tiktik sa Bubong, May Sigbin sa Silong: Antolohiya” ed. Allan N. Derain (Ateneo de Manila University Press)

I was first enchanted by Allan Derain’s work through his novel “Ang Banal na Aklat ng mga Kumag,” which won the Palanca for Novel in Filipino in 2011, and the NBDB National Book Award in 2014. “Ang Banal na Aklat ng mga Kumag’s” intricate braiding of epics, folklore, mythology, indigenized Catholicism, and pop culture cemented Derain as a master of the mystical and fantastic. His edited anthology “May Tiktik sa Bubong, May Sigbin sa Silong” stretches that mastery even further by, oddly, pulling it closer to the human world. In 23 dizzying entries that span every imaginable form — short fiction, poetry, translation, comic, research paper (both academic and fabricated), nonfiction, symposium minutes, and children’s storybook — Derain curates a universe where manananggal are splayed on a dissection table, monsters are unearthed from translations of colonial texts, and aswang are invented as psyop by the CIA. There isn’t any shortage of writing on Filipino folklore, yet it’s so tricky to create work that actually sticks; feels grounded. Derain accomplishes that with flying, disembodied colors. Bending genre with every turn into the labyrinthine book, “May Tiktik sa Bubong, May Sigbin sa Silong” is a modern anthology that’s as shapeshifting and mercurial as the fantastic creatures it contains.

Available at the ADMU Press store, Fully Booked branches, and National Book Store.

“Mami” by Diigii Daguna (Peow Studio, Sweden)

I encountered Manila-based artist Diigii Daguna’s “Mami” at Quimby’s, a super-hip indie press and zine bookstore in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. While published by Stockholm-based Peow Studio, “Mami” fits right in the oeuvres of Komiket and BLTX. Rendered in playful images reminiscent of Doraemon, Inspector Gadget, or funky ‘70s manga, Daguna’s comic is a sunny, action-packed romp that follows gumshoe Haiyan Neito’s pursuit of Goyong, an art thief who frequents the National Museum in Manila. The chase is interspersed with a smorgasbord of Filipino street fare and comfort food, as eating brings the crook and cop together in the most bizarre ways throughout the comic. Through re-imaginings of Taal and Manila that are drenched in pastel and slightly off-kilter (there are tuk-tuks on the street, the inmates of Bilibid wear pinstriped pajamas and Detective Neito dons a trench coat), Daguna brings us a fast-paced and punchy world that’s part-classic, campy FPJ action flick, part-”Scott Pilgrim versus The Universe,” part-Netflix food documentary, and wholly their own.

Available on Silver Sprocket and Gum Road.

Rae Rival, co-founder Gantala Press

“It’s a Mens World” by Bebang Siy (Anvil Publishing)

Bebang Siy revolutionized the idea of a first book. “It’s a Mens World” contains nonfiction, fiction, poetry, radio scripts, letters, journal entries and micro memoirs. She is known for her humorous essays but Siy’s versatility seeps through her erotic fiction, confessional works and poems in traditional forms. Her works are always personal and political, uncovering society’s decay through her jokes, fearlessly confronting sexual harassment, menstruation, and the multiple burden faced by single mothers by sharing her personal struggles.

Available in National Book Store and Anvil Publishing.

“The Filipino Author as Producer” by Conchitina Cruz

“The Filipino Author as Producer,” which appeared in Bloomsbury’s Critical Creative Writing: Essential Readings on the Writer’s Craft and published locally as a zine, contains Cruz’s three-part essay on the business of representation. The work takes us to a literary festival in Hong Kong, where she was invited through the recommendation of the organizer’s Filipina domestic helper. Cruz seams her critique of the dominant literature produced by middle class writers to her own academic training and profession. The work recognizes how literature produced by the educated and elite becomes a locum for Filipino national identity in an effort to respond to Philippine literature’s invisibility in the global arena. Cruz admits how creating more poetry as the sole response to natural and political disasters directly benefits only the writers by way of book sales, accolades and promotion. This essay prompts many artists to question the role of the Filipino author, the dominant literary production in the Philippines, and convinces young collectives to publish and move beyond the confines of the academe and awards. It reminds us that our privilege is our loss, and of the writer’s role in the mass movement.

Available through the author.

“Wars of Extinction: Discrimination and the Lumad Struggle in Mindanao” by Arnold Alamon (Rural Missionaries of the Philippines – Northern Mindanao Sub-Region, Inc.)

Alamon’s “Wars of Extinction” decolonizes our innocent and naïve notion of our indigenous people. The book “maps out the contours of the [current and oppressive] system that places the Lumad in, and even beyond, the margins.” The Lumads of Mindanao are victims of structural discrimination, institutional and cultural division that deny them medical facilities, schools and support for livelihood because they are geographically inaccessible and politically unimportant. Alamon demonstrates how the country wages a war against the Lumad by refusing to provide basic social services, closing down Lumad schools and creating an “entire network of rules and practices that further disadvantage the less empowered groups.” His work reveals how the identity of this indigenous non-Muslim ethnic group is being erased through violent means: militarization, bombing and aerial strikes, to ultimately serve the landed elite and bureaucrat-capitalists. The book also chronicles the Lumad’s struggle to defend their community and to “keep their way of life which is inextricably linked to their ownership and control over their land and resources.”

“Bungkalan, Manwal sa Organikong Pagsasaka: Ang Karanasan ng Mga Manggagawang-Bukid ng Hacienda Luisita sa Organikong Pagsasaka at Pakikibaka para sa Tunay na Reporma sa Lupa by Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura” (Sentro ng Wikang Filipino)

Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura has authored a number of books and primers that continue to sharpen the ironies of living in an agricultural country where farmers are landless, exploited, abused and killed. “Bungkalan” maps out the history of oppression experienced by farmers of Hacienda Luisita and offers an agrarian revolution through organic farming and occupying lands that remain vacant and untended. The book archives the lives of Hacienda Luisita workers by utilizing infographics, timelines, definitions and critical essays and explains the state-forces that help monopolize haciendas in a semi-feudal and semi-colonial Philippines. The author, a land activist and expert on agro ecology, is currently facing trumped-up chargers. We should all join the call #HandsOffAngieIpong!

Available through the Diliman office of UP Sentro ng Wikang Filipino in the School of Urban and Regional Planning building.

“Bangkaw: Mga Kwento, Awit, at Tula ng Pakikibaka Mula sa Mindanao” (edited by Joven Obrero, Sisa del Rio, Mayang Andres, Kalai Mariano and Simon Guerrero) 

When we try to envision war, we visualize our uniformed soldiers sacrificing their lives. We refuse to recognize that the government’s orders to militarize communities, demolish houses, displace our farmers and indigenous people to make way for dams, mining projects, sports arena, and New Clark Cities is an on-going war against the poor and marginalized sectors of our society. This collection is written by the masses for the masses. It recognizes the need to immerse and live with the peasants, to till the lands with them and protect their rights by securing their agricultural and ancestral lands. Here, we read the narratives of farmers and professionals who refuse to be exploited by imperialist countries and neoliberal policies while building schools and medical programs, promoting organic farming, and fighting for genuine agrarian reform. "Bangkaw" is a book about an on-going war, only the heroes are not uniformed and state-sponsored.

Bebang Siy, author*

“POSTER/ity: 50 Years Of Art & Culture at the CCP” written by Ringo Bunoan, Alice Esteves, Baby Imperial, and Lucille Tenazas, edited by Ringo Bunoan, Rica Estrada, and Baby Imperial (CCP)

“50 Years of Art & Culture at the CCP” is a book that commemorates the artistic and cultural performances, exhibitions, and events that happened in the Cultural Center of the Philippines for the past 50 years. It also traced the evolution of graphic and visual design through the medium of posters. Posterity is edited by cultural designers namely Ringo Bunoan, Baby Imperial, and the head of CCP Visual Arts and Museum Division, Rica Estrada. It also features articles from the head of CCP's Library and Archives Division, Alice Esteves and the award winning and international designer, Lucille Tenazas.

Available in the CCP Giftshop.

VLF 3 Anthology of Stage Plays (CCP)

The plays selected for this volume were chosen from 48 that were staged in the 9th to 11th editions of the Virgin Labfest, the annual theater festival that aims to provide a venue for emerging and established Filipino playwrights to present their unpublished, unstaged, untested and untried works to the theater-going public.

Edited by veteran playwright Rody Vera, the third anthology features 19 plays by playwrights Herlyn Alegre, Alexandra May Cardoso, Ma. Cecilia de la Rosa, Eljay Castro Deldoc, Jerome Ignacio, J-Mee (Marie) Katanyag, Dominique Beatrice T. La Victoria, Reya May Laplana, Maynard Manansala, Liza Magtoto, Bernadette Neri, Dingdong Novenario, Raymund Reyes, Juan Miguel Severo, Kevin Tabora, Guelan Varela-Luarca, and Carlo Vergara.

This latest anthology, the third in the series, celebrates the rich harvest of unbridled creativity and undiscovered talents in the VLF over the years. A tri-project of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, its resident theater company Tanghalang Pilipino and playwright group The Writer’s Bloc Inc., this year’s theater festival is dedicated to National Artists Daisy Avellana and Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero who had contributed greatly to Philippine theater.

National Artist Folio Including The National Artists 2009 to 2014 (CCP)

National Artist folio features the life and works of the National Artists conferred in 2009 and 2014. These are Cirilo Bautista, Jose Maria Zaragoza, Manuel Urbano, Lazaro Francisco, Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, Alicia Reyes, Francisco Coching, Francisco Feliciano and Ramon Santos.

Each NA was featured in a well-researched essay accompanied with photos by an expert from the NA's field. The book also includes the NA guidelines and the list of the Filipinos who have received the award since its inception in the ‘70s.

Lakan Umali, writer

“La India, or the Island of the Disappeared” by Rosario Cruz-Lucero (UP Press)

Rosario Cruz-Lucero’s “La India, or the Island of the Disappeared” traces the histories of Negros across centuries, drawn with sharp humor, pain-staking research, and immensely readable prose. Blending realism, fairy-tale, folklore, childhood narrative, even Wikipedia entries, these histories come alive in Cruz-Lucero’s masterful hands, illuminating an island rife with tensions, contradictions, and the richness of human life.

Available through Book Depository.

“Blue Angel, White Shadow” by Charlson Ong (UST Publishing House)

F.H. Batacan’s “Smaller and Smaller Circles” dominated much of the decade’s literary consciousness, because of the success of its international edition published by Soho, and because of its film adaptation, a privilege few Filipino literary works get. However, Charlson Ong wrote another detective novel at the start of the decade that also deserves the same level of recognition and fanfare. “Blue Angel, White Shadow” plunges the reader into the murder of a 25-year-old lounge singer. Readers expecting a traditional whodunit will be treated to an embarrassment of riches. Ong crafts a detective story that merges the mysterious, the mundane, and the magical to create a simmering journey into the dark heart of Manila, and a fascinating glimpse into Manila’s Chinatown. Featuring hard-boiled detectives, a saxophone-playing World War II veteran, political dynasties, a ghostly twin brother and his psychic sister, “Blue Angel, White Shadow” gives readers an entire brutal, bloody, beautiful world.

Available through the UST Publishing House.

“Tonight We Slurp In Color” by Andrea V. Tubig (Balangiga Press)

Few books have given me such generous helpings of joy and disgust as Andrea V. Tubig’s “Tonight We Slurp in Color.” Tubig’s poetic vision holds no bounds and takes no prisoners. Murderous artists, chain-smoking angels, horny unicorns and Marxists, crudely-drawn scribbles of vaginas complete with labels and instructions, Tubig’s collection bombards the reader with such surreal, awful, wonderful sights that one has to stop every few pages and think: Did I actually read that? Perhaps no one but Tubig has come close to describing the pain and loathing of the writing process as she does in the closing line of her infamously titled, “How Sid Lucero Lost His Third Nipple and Became a Poet”: “If being a poet feels like being fucked in the ass by a unicorn’s horn without lubricant, then yes.”

Available through Balangiga Press.

“Spleen” by Mabi David

Mabi David’s “Spleen” is transcendent. Every line lingers like a haunting. Spleen takes the ordinary and extraordinary tragedies of everyday life, and transforms them into something that, though it may not exactly be recovery, reminds the reader that yes, they are still here. Often, the acts of surviving and remaining are more than enough. When I’m terrorized by the demands of daily life, when I’m worn from personal and national crises, I sometimes repeat the concluding lines of David’s “Sitting Poem, 1” like a palliative to my worry: ‘Nothing was actually happening. How happy we were.”

Spleen” is available at Uno Morato (Quezon City).

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*The writeups for Bebang Siy's submissions are from the titles' official press releases.