Posts Tagged ‘philippine fiction’

jose dalisay jr.: soledad’s sister

From the MacAir and bountiful imagination of novelist Jose Y. Dalisay Jr. come Soledad’s Sister, exploring the hardships that may be encountered by Filipino OCWs (overseas contract workers) and their relatives in the Philippines.

Shortlisted for the 2007 Man Asian Literary Prize, the novel, Dalisay’s second after Killing Time in a Warm Place, tells of the homecoming of “Aurora V. Cabahug” from Saudi Arabia – in a casket. It is the story of Soledad, who used her sister Aurora’s name to skirt legal issues and leave the Philippines to work as domestic helper. It is the story of her sister Aurora, who tries to solve the mystery of her sister’s death, while managing to lose the corpse along the way.

Written with sincere warmth and sensitivity, it is also a story that could have been a reality for any of the millions of OCW families who have sent fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers into the Filipino exodus to slave for foreigners to be able to keep their loved ones alive.

It reflects a facet of our society, that squandered its chance to be an Asian Tiger and is now relegated to being the world’s labor pool.


On a personal level, as the sister of an OFW in Dubai, I see this story as my worst nightmare. My sister Aileen has worked for 16 years as a secretary in a land where no plants grow except by force, where they have no soil but sand, where water is more precious than petroleum. I fear for her safety every day. I pray for her health and happiness as she lives a life far away from her family. I wish that things would get better so that she can come home, and spend her days with us.

But as long as reality is manifest and dreams remain figments of desire, Aileen will work in Dubai until she can no longer, and I, and others who read stories such as Soledad’s Sister, can only reflect on the choices people make and the outcomes that may attend these choices.

Soledad’s Sister will be formally launched on 31 July 2008, Thursday, 4pm, at the Faculty Center of the University of the Philippines-Diliman. Dr. Dalisay will deliver a short lecture, followed by book-signing.

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my fiction: fire and ice

AS a horseracing writer, I’ve written many feature articles and television program scripts on the sport, and with journalism paying the bills, creative writing fell by the wayside after my college days.

I’ve written only one full-length novel so far, Fire and Ice. This was in 1991, when I was pregnant with my eldest daughter Alex, and the manuscript was published by Solar Publishing Corporation in 1993 as the seventh title in their “Hearts of Fire” series of light romances.

It was sold only at National Book Store for P40 a copy, a bit pricey considering the more popular Tagalog romances were selling for P30 or P25. As late as maybe 2001, a few copies were still available, marked down to P16.50. I bought the five remaining copies at the Glorietta branch.


This excerpt is from the first chapter, where the heroine, Corissa, the manager of a lingerie factory, meets her new employer Jaime, who had just bought the company. They had met previously, at a convention, where Jaime embarrassed Corissa with a flippant remark.

Corissa knocked a couple of times and swung the door open. The man seated on the edge of the desk had his back to her; he was looking out the big picture window that made up one wall of the office. He appeared to be admiring the tiny garden outside, an oasis of green in a large, utilitarian factory. Hearing her push the door open, he turned around. In the same instant that she saw his face, Corissa gasped.

He was handsome. Devastatingly handsome. From his perch on the desk several feet away, he radiated a wave of sexual appeal and attraction so strong it left Corissa weak-kneed and breathless. Suddenly she felt the room turn hot – terribly hot. She sucked in a lungful of cool air and tried to regain control. Funny, she though dazedly, the effect he has on me now. The first time she laid eyes on him, she had longed to belt him one for his offensive remark. This time, it was different. Totally different. She had not seen his features very well the first time, being some distance away from his seat. But this close – it was impossible to ignore his attractiveness. He was, she decided, not bad at all. Physically, at least. But would he be able to prove that her previous assessment of his personality was wrong?

Jaime Luzuriaga, her new employer, got up and stood facing her. His dark brown hair, a bit long in the back, was endearingly tousled in front, as if he had brushed it back with his fingers. The piercing dark eyes, aquiline nose, and Castilian features made Corissa compare him to a swashbuckling Spanish knight. She figured he was in his mid-thirties. As he strode closer to Corissa, she found she had to crane her neck up to look into his eyes. He was dressed in a blue-and-white pinstripe shirt, paisley-print burgundy tie, and navy twill slacks, all of the simplest cut but still bearing the unmistakable stamp of elegance and costliness. Corissa noted with approval that he completed his outfit with dress socks and black leather loafers. Her opinion of his dress sense went up as she realized he could have just pushed his sockless feet into a beat-up pair of Topsiders and pulled on jeans and a knit shirt, as far too many working men had a habit of doing nowadays.

He was right in front of her, only a pace or two away.

Slowly, deliberately, he swept his gaze over her, scrutinizing her dainty form from head to toe. Corissa felt slightly uncomfortable, but not from the inspection. It was the sheer masculinity that he exuded, the virility and power that he wore like an aura, that made her body quiver and her heart beat faster. She swallowed nervously, and held her head high, trying not to let her tension show. “I shouldn’t let him affect me like this,” she thought. Corissa could not deny, however, that it was an attraction that she felt for this man – a sudden, swift impulse, strong and magnetic, that drew her to him.

Jaime looked her full in the face, and put his strong hands on his hips. “I don’t believe it,” he said, shaking his head. “You’re that kid from the convention.”

Corissa’s eyes narrowed. Irritation swiftly replaced the attraction that she had initially felt. Her previous low opinion of him, she thought, was entirely justified. “This kid,” she said pointedly, “is general manager of your new company. And let me warn you – it doesn’t pay to underestimate me.”

I cringe now at the insubstantial candy floss spun by my younger, immature self. By preference drawn to science fiction and fantasy, I had to read dozens of Mills & Boon, Harlequin, and Silhouette romances just to psych myself up to write this cliche-studded drivel. Literature it ain’t.

How was it even published? That’s an interesting story.

In 1991, I joined a short-story writing contest sponsored by Woman Today magazine (published by Solar) and Clover Typewriters. (Typewriters were still in common use then. That’s how long ago this was.) I turned in only one story, something I had written for a creative writing course in college.

That story, “The Cups”, was chosen as one of the top four finalists. Some of the other finalists and contestants had sent in more than one entry. I was disappointed not to win the top prize of a typewriter, but I did get an acrylic plaque and an offer to write a novel for Solar’s line of romances in English.

At that time, Tagalog “pocketbooks” were all the rage, and Solar probably wanted to do something similar but differentiated. I think the series went up to nine novels before being discontinued. Readers of English-language fiction, at that time, disdained anything “local” and preferred to purchase the imported romances with which they were more familiar.

Things are better now, with readers becoming more appreciative of efforts by Filipino writers that place stories in this country, stories that tell familiar tales echoing our own culture.

But to be honest, as much as I may tear apart my own work with a mature critical eye, I’m still proud of it. It is after all, a product of my imagination, hacked out in fever heat on an old computer with a paper-white monitor, written straight through without an outline while floating on the euphoria of being married and pregnant, published “as is”, with hardly any edits, far as I can tell.

But time passes and we learn. We change. We mature. I don’t write fiction like this anymore.

I’m not saying I can do better now. What I can do, is different. And sometimes, different is enough of a change.

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fox books: palalim ng palalim

Following the lead of other publishing trailblazers, Fox Books reveals its own take on the horror genre with Palalim ng Palalim, Padilim ng Padilim at Iba Pang Kuwento ng Dilim.

But unlike the badly-written, ungrammatical, and obviously made-up stories touted as “true-to-life” that you’ve had to suffer through for lack of anything better to read, Fox Books delivers a collection that is light-years higher in literary quality.

Pieces by Wennie Fajilan, Beverly Siy, Mar Anthony de la Cruz, Rita de la Cruz, and Haidee Pineda reflect storytelling genius, brought to life by the grotesque illustrations of Josel Nicolas (which nearly did not see print due to their shock factor).

If you want to enjoy not just good but terrific stories and writing, showcasing some of the country’s most imaginative literary talents, then this book will be a valuable addition to your collection of Filipino fiction.

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fox books: dagta

Is it a sign of maturity for a nation or a culture’s readers when books on erotica are published – and bought? With the publication of Fox Books’ Dagta: Antolohiya ng Erotika, then, we are progressing along the literary evolutionary scale, from bomba komiks,  Tiktik magazine, columns by Xerex Xaviera in tabloids and Dr. Margie Holmes in broadsheets, and even soft porn glossy magazines like the local editions of FHM and Maxim.

Filipinos are primarily a visual people. Whether this is a cultural preference or one ingrained by the media itself, it seems that magazines and other visual material sell than books. Fox Books, then, is testing new waters by offering the same subject in a more intellectual format.

Dagta offers stories by many, including Vlad Gonzales, Suzy Anonas, Michael Andrada, UZ Eliserio, and “Sarah Bulalacao” (pen name of Fox editor Sarah Grutas); and poems from the “Bikini Idolatry” cycle of Adam David (who also crafted the illustrations for the anthology).

Fox Books are available at National Bookstore, Fully Booked, and other retail outlets.

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anna ishikawa: where your dreams come true

Fox Books has a winner in Where Your Dreams Come True, a novel written by Anna Ishikawa, illustrated by Kristian Teves.

I read this story when it was still being edited by Fox Books editor Sarah Grutas – photocopied onto used paper, a binder clip holding the pages together. I took it home, started reading it in bed – and could not put it down until I was finished. It’s that absorbing.

Anna’s depiction of her main character, Emily, is so true-to-life, it could almost have happened in reality. (Parts of it most probably did.) I actually have met people like Emily before. (Diba, Miss Jas?) The most refreshing thing about this novel is the humorous, tongue-in-cheek tone, peppered with current colloquialisms that elicit an immediate reaction of “Oo nga, ganito talaga!”

What else can I say? Buy it na. ‘Wag mong paabutin ng one hundred years bago mo bilhin!

About the author:

Si Anna Ishikawa ay naging bahagi ng tatlong national writing workshops at nanalo na rin sa ilang patimpalak. Kapag hindi nagsusulat, siya ay tumatambay sa mall, nagbabasa, gumuguhit, nanonood ng anime, at nagtuturo ng English at Creative Writing sa UP Diliman…Siya rin ang may-akda ng Odd Girl Out.

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jay david: mga kwento ng batang kaning-lamig

Mga Kwento ng Batang Kaning-Lamig is a hilarious collection of letters written by “Unkyel Batjay”, a Filipino living in the US, giving hapless “Gentle Readers” well-meant but often satiric advice couched in unabashedly bawdy terms.

A wise man who is also a wise guy, more shrewd than scholarly, proud of his heritage and brown skin (including, uh, the wrinkly skin down there), Unkyel Batjay shows us that no matter where in the world we Filipinos may end up, the best weapons in our arsenal for survival are compassion, humor, and pride in being Pinoy.


Ito ang naratibo ni Unkyel Batjay. Alanganing tula-essay-kwento ang mga akda. Mas malapit ito sa biographical creative nonfiction. Alanganin ang lumbay at himutok, na dinaan na lamang sa biro. Sa mga lumbay at biro naroon ang kaluluwa ng naratibo, ng pambansang naratibo. Kilala natin si Unkyel Batjay. Mahal natin siya. Ang kaniyang betlog ay sa atin rin. Ang kaniyang kulangot ay duming di natin naaamoy. Kung siya ay tayo rin, mahalaga nga ang kaniyang istorya. – Jun Cruz Reyes

The author, Nicanor “Jay” David Jr., is a self-described OFW (Overseas Foreign Worker) who worked in Singapore for four years before moving to the US, where he has been living for nearly three years in sunny Southern California – right next door, in fact, to Disneyland, which he can visit everyday if he wants. This is his second book. Let us hope that he is now working on his third, and that we will be able to read it soon. Very soon.

Fox Literary House (call them at [632]740.4532) publishes Fox Books, which are available at Fully Booked, National Bookstore, and other fine outlets.

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