On Ang Ginto sa Makiling (1947) by Macario Pineda

Aliwan Blg. 92. 122 pages.

The enchantment that was Makiling produced varied types of people in the novel: those who had faith in it, like the reporter, also the narrator; those who laughed at it, like Bato who made fun of the letter insinuating that Mariang Makiling could be the reason for the disappearance of an old woman; and those who just didn’t care, like the editor of the publications. From there, the papers became a site of discourse—where the fantastic and the real were equally mere subjects of writing: they were both just words that could be narrated, exposed and argued about.

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On Before Ever After (2011) by Samantha Sotto

Crown Publishing, 2011. 4812 locations.

There’s no Filipino character here, except for a very minor one: Manny, a boatman in Boracay--the most touristy in the Philippines, where Shelley decided to go in order to look for her supposedly dead husband, Max. But most of the time she was on the plane, recounting her atypical tour of Europe five years ago--from London to Herculaneum--and of the unrecorded Western history and folktales as told by Max, who lived to be immortal since AD 79. For a story that explored the sadness of immortality, it sadly, expectedly, ended with an eternal happiness ever after.

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On Unang Ulan ng Mayo (2009) by Ellen L. Sicat

Anvil Publishing, 2008. 220 pages.

After the death of her husband, Gloria realized that she wanted to write her own stories, and so her life as a writer began. The novel is a woman’s journey into understanding, and getting into, the psyche of a writer (hence in hindsight forgiving her husband’s shortcomings as her partner and father to their children); an initiation into the reality that is the current Philippine literary scene: publications, critical and popular receptions, awards, and the prestige and honor that come with them, and how they potentially sustain, on the one hand, and cripple, on the other, one’s writing interests.

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On Bulaklak ng Aking Luha (1986-1987) by Edgardo M. Reyes

Liwayway Magazine, 1986-1987. 30 issues.

Nap was a virgin but was very good at “kuwentuhang kuwentutan.” His use of a colloquial language that combines humor and despair endears him to the people around him, and also, probably, to the readers. He fell in love with Claudia, a stripteaser and a single mother to a sickly child; the flower of his tears. Though their story was only recounted as memory, we recognize here Nap’s sharp mind, observant of his surroundings, very particular with temporal and spatial details despite his seeming obsession with Claudia--perhaps a product of his being a scholar and a Journalism major.

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On Ang Sandali ng mga Mata (2006) by Alvin B. Yapan

Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2006. 

We use our eyes to have paningin and pagtingin, which connote opinion and affection, respectively. Here we get to know the stories from Esteban’s point of view, an albularyo who supposedly saw all that could be seen in the events that he recounted, even those that only his sixth sense could witness. Of course, he didn’t have only his “views” of the things that happened in Sagrada; he also had emotional stakes in them for they involved Selya, the one he used to love but couldn't help in the moment (perhaps the novel’s central “sandali”) she needed him most.

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Top 3 Novels Read in December 2011

  1. Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere, not only because yesterday was his day nor this year is his 150th but because most Filipino novels could not help but refer or allude to it. Noli remains to be the Filipino novel for many.
  2. Gina Apostol’s The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata, because it is playful and ambitious, and one of the few Filipino novels that engage history and the language that tells it in the same profane breath.
  3. Adam David’s The El Bimbo Variations, because not everyone would call it a novel. The story is in its execution.


On Paghuhunos (2001) by Ellen L. Sicat

University of the Philippines Press, 2001. 200 pages.

This is Gloria’s story: a writer’s wife who lived in the postwar and Martial Law years; also a mother to children who didn’t have a taste of democracy and could grow up timid and as reluctant nationalist as their mother was. Carlos left her his journals before he breathed his last in a hospital. These journals were witness to his dedication to his art, despite the lack of opportunities to get published, especially when, sadly, paradoxically, you wrote in the vernacular like Carlos did.

The novel tempts to equate Gloria and Carlos Magdangal to Ellen and Rogelio Sicat themselves.

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