The best Filipino books of 2017

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CNN Philippines Life asked six authors, editors, writers, and publishers to share the best Filipino books of 2017.

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Philippine literature exists not only as an art form, but as a representation of our country’s rich socio-political history. Folk speeches of pre-colonial times, religious prose of the Spanish colonial period, the Americans’ introduction of English and critical aesthetics in written works, and the burgeoning of various languages of Philippine literature in the contemporary period have — in one way or another — molded the ways in which writers, authors, journalists, editors, and publishers consume Filipino literature.

Before another year of another era ends, CNN Philippines Life asked six authors, editors, writers, and publishers to share the best Filipino books of 2017. Some highlighted books outside of Metro Manila, while some recommended ones that are not readily available in mainstream bookstores. Still and all, these books mirror the diversity and richness of Philippine culture and history.      


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Eliza Victoria, author

The First Impulse” by Laurel Fantauzzo (Anvil)

This tackles the murder of Filipino-Canadian film critic Alexis Tioseco and his partner, Slovenian film critic and magazine editor Nika Bohinc. The description of our justice system is as heartbreaking and infuriating as the still-unsolved murder itself, but Fantauzzo details Tioseco's and Bohinc's life and love, our country's socioeconomic despair and colonial history, and her own place in this web of inequality, with grace and gentleness. It is a display of Fantauzzo's masterful storytelling, but beyond her skills, we see also her humanity and her heart.

“The First Impulse” is available at National Book Store and the Anvil Publishing website.

"Dead Balagtas Tomo I: Mga Sayaw ng Dagat at Lupa by Emiliana Kampilan (Anino Comics)

Emiliana Kampilan sets out to detail our country's history in “Dead Balagtas Tomo I: Mga Sayaw ng Dagat at Lupa” but also tells parallel stories of attraction, separation, and longing. Along with the stories of continents breaking apart and magma and oceans surging forth in the spaces they leave behind, we are told stories of childhood friends drifting apart, and young men and women falling in love while struggling with received knowledge and faith. Do you know that there's a queer Muslim character in this book? The fact that we can be excited by the appearance of a queer Muslim character is testament to our own literary shortcomings, but this is an important, beautiful step forward. May we have more stories like this.

“Dead Balagtas Tomo Una: Mga Sayaw ng Dagat at Lupa” can be found in mainstream bookstores by 2018, but can also be bought from Adarna Bookshop along Scout Torillo, Quezon City.

“Ella Arcangel Tomo Una: Ito Ay Panganib by Julius Villanueva (Haliya Publishing)  

It is set in the shantytown of Barangay Masikap, centered around Ella, a young girl with supernatural powers. We see here the juxtaposition of real-world problems and the supernatural (in one story, a drug dealer wishing to reform asks Ella for help to find his missing younger brother), and over and over we find that the supernatural threats are easier to overcome than the threat of the heartless society. In this age of despair, do we need the superhero who punches, or the superhero who listens and understands? I say we need the latter, and I hope to see more of Ella in Villanueva's next projects.

“Ella Arcangel Tomo Una: Ito Ay Panganib” is available at the Haliya Publishing Facebook page.

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Ian Rosales Casocot, author

Sa Atong Inahang Dila” by Edgar Godin (Cebu)

If there is a Binisaya version of Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style,” this should be it. What Godin — an editor of Bisaya Magazine — has done is settle once and for all the standard for written Binisaya, at least of the Cebuano variety. It is easy to follow, and vastly accessible, and should be part of the arsenal of the budding writer of the balak, the sugilanon, and the sugilambong.

“Sa Atong Inahang Dila” is available from author via

Kilometer Zero” by Wilfredo Pascual (Nueva Vizcaya)

The two-time winner of the essay prize of the Palanca has finally come out with the volume of creative nonfiction we have always wanted from him. In this book, Pascual does not disappoint. I have always been awestruck by his singular voice. His essays are at once epic and personal, discursive and lyrical. There is a certain joy to his writings, even when he writes about the saddest things. I think it is the joy of surrendering to a fantastic writer’s words, letting them take you places, and finding yourself understanding the world and its humans a little bit more.

“Kilometer Zero” is available at Mt. Cloud Bookshop, Baguio City.

Pahinungod sa Di Hingtungdan” by Adonis Durado (Cebu)

He has been known for his incisive, and often playful poetry in Cebuano, and Durado deserves the fervent attention we usually reserve for poets in English and Filipino — because he is pushing the balak to greater heights, mindful of influence, but mindful even more about breaking new ground. This book also offers his poetry in English translation, and hopefully that earns him new admirers unfamiliar with the language, although absolutely nothing beats the cadence and heartfulness of the original.

Pahinungod sa Di Hingtungdanis available at Palm Frass Hotel Bookshop, Cebu City.

“The Axolotl Colony” by Jaime An Lim (Iligan and Dumaguete)

This finally collects into one volume the powerful, award-winning prose of one of our best stylists from the south. There is so much pain and so much subtle yearning in the fiction of An Lim — the title story is a scintillating example of that — and he does it in a language that is both shattering and revealing.

“The Axolotl Colony” is available at the UP Press Bookstore, UP Diliman, Quezon City.

“Vince & Kath & Derrida” by Jade Mark Capiñanes (General Santos City)

This is a zine, but what a zine it is! It comes from a young Mindanao writer whose pieces are proof Philippine literature is alive and growing wildly somewhere else not necessarily in the capital. The essays in this collection are funny and profound and even scholarly, and beg very much to be given the full book treatment — not that this zine needs it. It is a defiant project mirroring the current dissatisfaction against traditional publishing — and for that, it deserves a place on this list.

“Vince & Kath & Derrida” is available from the author via

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Andrea Pasion-Flores, publisher (Anvil)

Ang Larawan” by Nick Joaquin and Rolando Tinio (Anvil)

The much-loved play of Nick Joaquin “A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino” is in this precious volume that includes Rolando Tinio’s adaptation in Filipino of the play, and the screenplay of the movie “Ang Larawan adapted from Tinio’s translation and set to Ryan Cayabyab’s music, complete with director’s notes and a folio of photographs from the original staging of the play and headshots of the artists playing the lead roles.

Set just before World War II breaks in the Pacific, “Ang Larawan tells the tale of two spinster sisters Paula and Candida caring for an ailing father. Struggling with financial difficulties, the sisters are faced with the difficult decision of selling a masterpiece painted by their father depicting himself as a young Aenas carrying his older self as an Anchises, or to remain steadfast in holding on to the painting and all that it represents: familial loyalty and tradition, commerce versus art. The conflict between the old and the new, the responsibility of the artist to sally forth into modernity while holding on to the past is told in this masterpiece with Tinio’s wonderful translation evident in lines, such as Tony’s dreaming of freedom from want: “Sa Espanya, Italya, America del Sur… Hindi lang ako maggagaranatsa, mag-aaral ako… Sisinghot ng kultura.

“All My Lonely Islands” by VJ Campilan (Anvil)

This is the story of Crisanta and Ferdinand, friends bound together by a terrible secret, a secret they must confess to Graciella, the mother of Stevan, who lives in the remote islands of Batanes. Graciella, like most, was made to believe that her son Stevan died in an accident, but this is not all there is to that incident, and Crisanta and Ferdinand must race against time, from the wild swamplands of the Sundarban forest in Bangladesh to the back alleys of Manila to the savage cliffs of Batanes to offer Graciella a truth they themselves must face. Juxtaposed with this is the young woman Crisanta’s search for identity and a place in the world, a search brought about by her own physical and emotional displacement and a desire for home.

“The First Impulse” by Laurel Flores Fantauzzo (Anvil)

One might be misled into thinking that Laurel Fantauzzo’s “The First Impulse” is a true crime story, as it details the 2009 murder of film critics Filipino-Canadian Alexis Tioseco and Slovenian Nika Bohinc in their own home in Quezon City, but it is more than just the chronicling of the subsequent failed investigation and the failure of the institutions to address the need for justice. Neither could it strictly qualify as a memoir despite the author’s own offering of her own unbelonging, as she navigates her way around her mother’s country where she cannot be strictly classified as a local or a foreigner. Fantauzzo’s own decision to stay in the Philippines resonates with the murdered couple’s decision to choose the difficult over the easy. In choosing the fragmented to become whole, the narrative’s struggle to find life’s meaning within a commitment to a difficult and unpredictable place told through the lives of Alexis, Nika, and the author’s is the book’s ambition achieved.

All books available at the Anvil website, National Book Store, and Powerbooks branches.

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Glenn Diaz, author

Ang Nawawala” by Chuckberry Pascual (Visprint)

Detective fiction as a genre is kind of ill-suited to the Philippines because of the dysfunctional crime investigation infrastructure hereabouts. This is precisely the genius of the choice of the detective figure in Chuckberry Pascual’s interconnected Tagalog short story collection “Ang Nawawala.” In place of Sherlock Holmes (or Gus Saenz) is Brigido, or Bree, the quick-witted, fallible, but ultimately sympathetic barangay hall receptionist who is so embedded in the community of Talong Punay that every “case” she solves also gestures toward a sort of self-discovery. As in the best kind of detective fiction, the narrative doubly functions as astute, unobtrusive diagnosis of the society in which the “crimes” are committed, reserving its most scathing critique for the dysfunctional state bureaucracy. And in an age of consumerist-driven individualism, it is refreshing how the community here ultimately emerges as the main protagonist, imperfect to be sure and besieged by precarity, but also resourceful, compassionate, and — most importantly — absolutely hilarious.

“Ang Nawawala” is available in National Book Store and Fully Booked branches, and Visprint also has a Lazada page.

Bungkalan: Manwal sa Organikong Pagsasaka by Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura” (UMA) (Sentro ng Wikang Filipino)

At a time when words like “organic” and “sustainable” run the risk of being reduced to fashionable, commodified buzzwords comes a book like “Bungkalan: Manwal sa Organikong Pagsasaka,” which rightly locates the critical intersection of organic farming and healthy eating, on one hand, and issues like land ownership and food sovereignty, on the other. It takes off from the success of the “bungkalan” campaign in Hacienda Luisita, in which organized farmers assert their rightful claim to land while simultaneously showcasing the viability of an organic, scientific, and self-sufficient model of farming. With informative sections on diversified, integrated, organic farming systems; soil management; seed banking; fertilizer making; and the like, Bungkalan is indeed a manual, geared toward replication, but it always stresses how healthy and ecologically sensitive farming is also a highly political resistance to oppressive systems, like the hacienda and plantation system that indebted generations of farmers and the state-sanctioned entry of multinational agro-chemical corporations like Monsanto into domestic food production, consequently holding local farming hostage to commercial interests.

“Bungkalan: Manwal sa Organikong Pagsasaka by Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura” can be found in independent bookstores or through the Diliman office of UP Sentro ng Wikang Filipino in the School of Urban and Regional Planning building.

“3 Baybayin Studies” by Ramon Guillermo, Myfel Joseph Paluga, Maricor Soriano, and Vernon Totanes (UP Press)

In a year crowded with new scholarly books from the likes of Reynaldo Ileto and Resil Mojares, “3 Baybayin Studies” was still perhaps the most heavily anticipated because of two things. It was one of the first — if not the first — exhaustive and systematic single works on the baybayin writing system, and one of the authors, Ramon Guillermo, is a leading figure in a unique approach to literary scholarship that combines historical rigor with computer-aided text analysis. And it measured up to the hype. The three studies, which looked at the “danda” punctuation in the Doctrina Christiana, the Calatagan Pot Inscription, and the Ticao Stones, are breathtaking in their multidisciplinarity and sophistication, thanks to a thorough mapping (and, at times, demolition) of the existing scholarship and the introduction of fresh methodologies with which to look at oft-examined texts. But its ultimate triumph may be the ground it clears for other Filipino intellectuals who wish to join the ongoing conversation about early Philippine literacy, including and especially what any provisional findings may mean for modern-day Filipinos.

“3 Baybayin Studies” is available at the UP Press Bookstore, De Los Reyes St., UP Diliman.

Sa Mga Pansamantala” by Vijae Alquisola (UST Publishing House)

While invariably meditative and often spare, many of the poems in Vijae Alquisola’s debut collection appear to conceal a voice that is screaming in deep, existential anguish. This can be gleaned right from the book’s opening poem “Sigaw,” which simultaneously dangles and preempts its obsession with the fleeting: “[ang] mundo / ng lagi’t laging pag-alis, paglisan — / na hindi lagi’t laging may balikan / tulad ng alingawngaw.” But while impermanence is certainly much-trodden ground, Alquisola imbues it with fresh tragedy by, on one hand, looking at it from the experience and astonishing wisdom of children, and, on the other, guarding against detached whimsy via a keen, unobtrusive grounding in issues like the OFW phenomenon.

“Sa Mga Pansamantala” is available at the UST Publishing House, G/F Main Building, University of Sto. Tomas.

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Adam David, author and book designer

“Treadmill” by Ev Yu (Ev Yu) and “A Descending Order of Mortal Significance” by Erika Carreon and Neobie Gonzalez (Erika Carreon and Neobie Gonzalez)

Both are psychedelic collage art freakouts by young Pinay artists. “Treadmill” is more a collage by accident in the same way comic books inherently are, being a small collection of brightly-coloured drawings, gathered together with no apparent reason aside from all of them drawn by Ev Yu the year before; but with all the repetition of colors and linework, the whole 20-page booklet assumes a perceptible rhyme, evokes a clear poetic form, something akin to an alexandrine's: red-blue-green-yellow-black-white lines for syllables, the page break the caesura. The drawings tumble around, the shapes and lines shifting and flowing, not really having a clear reading orientation aside from the assumed traditional up-down-left-to-right, no clear order, thus, no clear progression — each piece its own microscopic universe, each piece its own technicolour explosion.

Erika Carreon and Neobie Gonzalez's “A Descending Order of Mortal Significance” is a serialized deck of cards, 20 all in all, featuring dayglo-accented 19th century clip art collages evoking Max Ernst's “Une semaine de bonté” and self-assured conversational imperative-interrogative text evoking George Bataille's micro-essays in “Documents.” Each card represents a sort of archetype drawn from the internal logic of fever dreams with all its sudden associative turns and loops: one card is called The Medium, featuring a picture of a deep sea diver whose helmet's porthole is bursting with a bouquet of pink ribbons, while the text in the back elaborating on the story of a cuckold mortician remembering their dead child, celebrating feeling an emotion once again (grief), thus, wanting to find the missing spouse from halfway across the globe. Unlike most decks of cards, “Descending Order,” despite its title, has no explicit sequential order unto itself; instead, like all decks of cards, readers are meant to shuffle the deck around and randomly draw a card, from which readers systematically draw (mortal?) significance. Definite parlor game material.

“Treadmill” is available in Uvla Store, Cubao Shoe Expo, or via Ev Yu’s Instagram account. “A Descending Order of Mortal Significance” is available through their Facebook page Occult’s Razor.

“Dead Balagtas Tomo Una: Mga Sayaw ng Dagat at Lupa” by Emiliana Kampilan (Anino Books) and “Daddy Digong Issue Volume 2: Para sa Alaala ng Yumao Nating Ama” by Isis Duterte, Paula Duterte, Shaunnah Duterte, Rie Duterte, Pam Duterte, Jessa Duterte, Mac Duterte, with special participation of Martie Duterte (The Magpies)

I plan to write a longer review — maybe 2,000 words or so — about Emiliana Kampilan's first “Dead Balagtas” volume, so I'll be saving some of my blather for that essay. That said, I'll see what I can write without spoiling whatever I plan to blather in that review: Emiliana Kampilan is the sort of creative and critical genius that only comes once a generation, who somehow manages to bridge the gap between cross-generational multi-sectoral commercial success and reinventing the language and form of whatever genre she is working on. “Mga Sayaw ng Dagat at Lupa” is a testament to all this, and more: a babaylan's creation song that settles into a series of LGBTQ romcom and family drama scenes doubling as objective-correlatives to the geophysical shifting of the tectonic plates upon which the Philippine group of islands is located. It is fit to bursting of this sort of queer play, where two binaries are mashed to form a third compound heretofore unseen, a clear elaboration on the Personal is the Political, the Nation is the Self, Memory is History.

The Magpies' “Daddy Digong Volume 2” also elaborates on these themes, albeit more aggressively pedantic: “Para sa Alaala” is a short and small photo album of the pseudonymous Dutertes remembering — thus memorializing — their dead father Rodrigo Duterte performing various paternal duties throughout their youths: graduations, visits to the fair, hanging out in the backyard as he carries them on his shoulders — using photographs of Duterte implanted into actual family photographs and at the back are brief handwritten testimonials talking about their dead father Rodrigo Duterte killing mad dogs in the neighborhood, disciplining siblings, doling out the home allowance, nostalgic childhood memories re-angled towards criticism of current state affairs, such as extra judicial killings, impunity from crime thanks to nepotism, and failure of social welfare reform... A collection of whimsical 'pataphoric’ performances pointed towards fighting for human rights. Quite the amazing zine.

“Dead Balagtas Tomo Una: Mga Sayaw ng Dagat at Lupa” can be found in mainstream bookstores by 2018, but can also be bought from Adarna Bookshop along Scout Torillo, Quezon City. “Daddy Digong Issue Volume 2: Para sa Alaala ng Yumao Nating Ama” is available through Magpies’ Facebook page.

Mga Tutul a Palapa” by Assad Baunto, Nash Tysmans, and Ica Fernandez (Gantala Press) and Bungkalan: Manwal sa Organikong Pagsasaka” by UMA Pilipinas (UMA Pilipinas) (Sentro ng Wikang Filipino)

Throughout its 64 pages, “Mga Tutul a Palapa” actively strives to prove correct the concept of the soft benevolent diplomatic hand of food culture building bridges from ignorance to information: “Mga Tutul a Palapa” is a recipe book centered upon the palapa of the Maranao, a rich and heady condiment/side dish/a meal unto itself made of spices and produce sourced locally in much-maligned much-beleaguered Marawi. The palapa is the cornerstone upon which all other Maranao recipes are built. It is the essence of Maranao culture, where each family has their own version of the palapa, the basic compound mixed with their own special ingredient — mushroom, prawn, turmeric, etc — or treatment — a certain dryness, a certain wetness — passed on from parent to child generations upon generations over and over. And therein lies the sad poetic irony of the zine: in spite of its title, it only really tells the readers of one specific family's palapa story, their own specific secret ingredient or treatment, their own specific memory and history; and unfortunately, by its relative uniqueness within the form and genre it places itself, it is by default speaking for everyone else from/about Marawi. I am still unsure if this line of thinking is halal or haram, but what I am at least very sure about is the fact that upon the publication of this zine, the Baunto family's palapa recipe had already survived all the warmongers' countless knives and grenades and bullets and bombs inflicted upon its place of origin, that this one specific palapa story over all the palapa stories of Marawi is one of survival and hope.

From the other side of the country is “Bungkalan: Manwal sa Organikong Pagsasaka” by UMA Pilipinas and UP Sentro ng Wikang Filipino, a grimoire on the practical everyday magic of horticulture, doubling itself as a reportage on the Cojuangco-Aquinos' Hacienda Luisita. Where “Palapa” focuses on the narrative and practice of the personal, “Bungkalan” focuses on the narrative and practice of the collective, and it makes great work on urging you to be one of them as well.

Bungkalan” insists for you to seize the means of food production by guiding you in crystal clear language and no uncertain terms through the basic practice of organic permacultural farming, from sowing the seed to sprout to sapling to maturity to reaping to reseeding and all the other basic concepts revolving around this whole farming cycle, all the while educating you, too, of the whys and wherefores of the practice and the distinct context of the practitioners, the Hacienda Luisita farmers. Like “Palapa”, this book also strives to prove correct the concept of the soft benevolent diplomatic hand of food culture but with the state violence only glimpsed upon in “Palapa” now in the forefront in “Bungkalan” via an outlining of the harsh militant imperial fist of haciendero feudalism and the importance of food security and true agrarian reform in achieving not only a semblance of peace and justice in the lives of our country's farmers, but also as a firm step towards achieving national independence from multinational suppliers and the tightening grip of their various monopolies in food production.

“Mgu Tutul a Palapa” is available through Gantala Press’ Facebook page. “Bungkalan: Manwal sa Organikong Pagsasaka by Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura” can be found in independent bookstores or through the Diliman office of UP Sentro ng Wikang Filipino in the School of Urban and Regional Planning building.

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Kristine Ong Muslim, author

"Walang Halong Biro" by Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles

Yet to be published, this book-length manuscript deploys the postmodern lyric’s effrontery and skepticism. Most of the poems in "Walang Halong Biro" ditch facile feel-good poignancy for the measured shrill of the fragmented and the paradoxical. It also doubles as palliative for readers who adore the linguistic maze of tautology and homonymy. Twisty logic abounds, too, as shown in these lines from “Liham sa Estranghero,” a poem worth quoting in full: “Estranghero, may nagtatangi/ sa iyo nang lubusan na sa iyo/ at nasa iyo nang lubusan dito/ ang ako ang sarili sa liriko.

"Walang Halong Biro" is unpublished.

"Sbù Maitum Dadiangas" by M.J. Cagumbay Tumamac

This book of poems is a dazzling exploration of place, history that saddles place, and the critical role played by place in memory and identity formation. The poem, “Sipi ng Pangalawang Bersiyon ng Balak na Maikling Dokumentaryo tungkol sa Isang Binatilyo sa Badjao Village,” for example, shows the extent by which geophysical terrain is defined by the wounds of its alienated people: “….dagat din ang lungsod/ para sa lahi mo—kinakalap lamang ang mga kaloob/ na iniluluwa ng bato sa taob at kotse sa katok.

"Sbù Maitum Dadiangas" can be bought from the author for ₱70. His Facebook name is Xi Xuq but his account is currently deactivated.

"Apo sa ika-22 Siglo: Mga Abstrak " by Tilde Acuña

Styled as a collection of dissertation abstracts, "Apo sa ika-22 Siglo: Mga Abstrak"  is blistering, intelligently crafted political satire. Naturally, it draws out the incendiary in burlesque metaphor and irony. Dishing out gentle tongue-in-cheek parody and compelling discourse on sociopolitical issues, Acuña’s "Apo sa ika-22 Siglo: Mga Abstrak " may be taken at face value by your litigious Marcos-worshipping professor, your fake news-marinated Duterte-smitten auntie in Cotabato City, and your misty-eyed Martial Law-loving uncle in Iligan.

“Apo sa ika-22 Siglo: Mga Abstrak” is a handsold zine by the author.

“Authoring Autonomy: The Politics of Art for Art’s Sake in Filipino Poetry in English” by Conchitina Cruz

Parts of this 286-page dissertation have been parceled out into two books: "The Filipino Author as Producer" (2017) and "There Is No Emergency" (2015) — plus a Kritika Kultura paper, “The (Mis)Education of the Filipino Writer: The Tiempo Age and Institutionalized Creative Writing in the Philippines,” a mindblowing deconstruction and historicizing of the colonialist and classist tradition propagated by some of the country’s powerful pedigreed writers. The paper does not gloss over the scope and scale of the "Human Centipede"-inspired ass-kissing blueprint used by numerous Filipino literati, who hold the keys to some ivory-tower patronage-driven gates that confer “validation” to one’s creative practice.

It also shows the sociopathic glare that partly marks the right of entry of the anointed few into the exclusive Anglophone Philippine literary establishment. Additionally, "The Filipino Author as Producer " is not only this year’s recommended reading. It is necessary reading for all times and for all Filipino writers formally educated or not (like me). "The Filipino Author as Producer" is necessary reading because it deflates romantic notions about English-language Filipino writing, writing in vacuum, writers, and readership. A myth — once demystified, its saccharine bits formally excised — acquires physical dimensions. This strips it of the trappings that make it unkillable. What comes out of it is tangible, portable, and therefore functional. It can then be wielded as a tool or a platform ethically sound enough to communicate progressive change.

The entire dissertation by Conchitina Cruz is available here.


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Kristian Sendon Cordero, author, filmmaker, and deputy director (Ateneo de Naga University Press)

“Layag, European Classics in Filipino” edited by Jaroslav Olsa, Jr. (Anvil)

In a country that is home to more than 100 languages, one must always celebrate the work of translation for it ensures our capacity to transcend our borders set by our histories and languages. I have always argued that to continue to actively imagine this archipelago as a nation, we must continue to seek and support translation both in Filipino and in the local languages.

In recent years, the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) has been at the forefront of these projects publishing the Filipino translations of Plato, Shelley, Faulkner, Hemingway, and Seifert among others. Similar undertakings have been pursued by the Ateneo de Naga University Press and the Ina nin Bikol Foundation Inc. to provide Bikolanos the chance to read the works of Kafka, Borges, Donne, Rilke, Saint Exupery, and Capek in our local languages. With these books readily available in our local languages, students and locals who have no access to university education that still favor literatures written in English can now have access to these literary masterpieces in Bikol.

With this in mind, I count “Layag, European Classics in Filipino” as one of the best books published in 2017. This anthology of translated works presents 14 writers from 11 different European countries never before available in Filipino. This undertaking for me allows us to give our languages the chance to breathe a new imaginary, a different world. Published with the support of the European Union National Institutes of Culture (Manila cluster) and edited by Jaroslav Olsa, Jr., this anthology is an affirmation to what literature and translation can do to us especially in this most divisive time.

This book is available at the National Bookstores nationwide.

Waray Hiunong Sa Gugma (Walang Tungkol Sa Pag-ibig)” by Jerry Gracio (Ateneo de Naga University Press)

This third collection of Jerry Gracio, originally written in Waray and translated in Filipino gives us the immense sense of possibility for poets and writers in this country who can write in another Philippine language and eventually translate it in Filipino or English. Again, I will argue that in time, we will have to reclassify and reevaluate our standards and categorizations when more of writers like Gracio return to their other tongues and let us see how these points of return will inform and enrich our notions of national and local literatures.  

The book is available at the Ateneo de Naga University Bookstore in Naga City and at Solidaridad and Ateneo de Manila Bookstore in Manila.

To learn more about ADNU Press, kindly visit us at or send an email to and, our office number is 054-427-1692 loc 2087.

“Dios Makina” by Raffi Banzuela (Lagdaan ni Sural/Legazpi City)

An award-winning collection of Bikol poetry, this anthology gathers Banzuela’s most recent poems that deftly fuse ancient wisdom embedded in the Bikol language (the gurang/the old self as a poetic persona) as he struggles and survives the current situation of a region challenged by the onslaught of technological advancement and the massive urbanization glamorized by the number of tourists’ arrivals and the construction of new malls and airports while traditional political system lords over the public discourse. In his latest work, Banzuela reminds us what poetry is and what are poets for, and to quote Martin Heidegger, Banzuela is that poet who in this most destitute time, which is also the world’s holiest night, attends, sings, and traces the tracks of the fugitive gods.

For book order please contact Raffi Banzuela at

“Accidents of Composition (…There Could Be Kindness Here)” by Merlinda Bobis (UP Press/Spinifex)

I have always been a reader of Merlinda Bobis’ works since my college years when I accidentally stumbled a copy of Maria Lilia Realubit’s anthology of Bikol, which contains her poems about the Agta (the indigene), a retelling of the legend of Mayon volcano and the poet who returns to Estancia. Her poetry written/translated in her three languages (Bikol, Filipino, and English) to her most recent novel set in Australia (her other home) and Bikol (her first home) are works in transit, which will immediately resonate to our experience of diaspora.

The border zones, which Bobis inhabits in her works, allow us to renegotiate our sense of identities (or the lack of it) as Bikols, as Filipinos probably living in a newfound home abroad. In this new collection, Bobis continues her travel that cut across our global histories and local memories asking bolder and unsettling questions that confront the dark horrors of colonialism while at the same time still hoping that “there could some accidents of kindness here”, rapacious at it may be.

The book is available at the UP Press Bookstore.



Update: This list has been updated to include the recommendations of Kristian Sendon Cordero.