Article by Katherine Liu
Let’s face it, Filipino authors rarely ever get the recognition they deserve, especially given the flood of foreign books and popularity of Western culture. Sadly, it took a bit of research for me to dig up this list. It was worth it, though! We can’t wait to get started on these reads, and the ones we’ve already managed to finish have gotten us swelling with national pride. Anyway, without further ado, here are the titles!
Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto
Sotto’s novel follows Shelley, a widow for three years— still feeling like she’d just lost her husband. When a man who looks almost exactly like Max shows up at her door, she doesn’t know what to make of it— especially as he shows her his childhood photos, claiming that the seemingly ageless man in them is Max. Her Max… and this man’s grandfather? How can that be?
The man (who introduces himself as Paolo) tells Shelley that Max is still alive, and doing just as well as ever. It sounds crazy; how could he have survived the explosion? And if he did, why hasn’t he contacted her? Still, Shelley can’t stand to let it go. She needs to know the truth. As she travels with Paolo to track Max down, she retells the story of how they met, and the many tales he told her… and slowly, the two begin to piece together the mystery that was the man they both loved.
This book is bittersweet and heartfelt with little bursts of humour. Along the way, every flashback will make you fall in love with Shelley and Max just as they fall for each other. Every fragment of Max’s tale paints a gorgeous picture of life across many different times and places, all with a startling amount of insight. If you love romance, this is a book you definitely need to read.
Stupid is Forever by Miriam Defensor Santiago
Miriam was a fierce senator with a wit sharper than any blade. In this book are some of her greatest moments – pick up lines, speeches, comebacks, and jokes she’s delivered…
I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages, but there never seemed to be time! I love that it’s entertaining and funny while being substantial at the same time. I also hope to pick up the sequel ‘Stupid is Forevermore’ someday!
The Mango Bride by Marivi Soliven
Soliven’s novel tells of two Filipinas trying to make their way in the United States: one coming from a well-to-do family, and the other, from poverty. Both come in search of a better life, and in search of freedom, success and happiness… but the women soon find their fates tangling, forcing them to face an immense secret. They fumble and make the wrong choices; but despite everything, these two never let go of their family.
This book definitely deserves a place on your shelf! It promises to be a great read, brimming with the Filipino spirit of close family ties. Of course, it being relatable is another great factor in why we want a copy; the immigrant experience is well-known to our people, after all.
Tall Story by Candy Gourlay
Bernardo is a teen suffering from gigantism. He lives with his aunt and uncle in a small town in the Philippines, but the time has come for him to leave because he finally has all the papers he needs to move to the UK to join his mother, stepfather, and half-sister, Andi.
As the two tell their own stories – from before they met to Bernardo’s first weeks in England – we see them face judgment from their peers and struggle to fit in… and slowly bond together as siblings in the process.
I cannot wait to pick up this novel, especially since I’ve heard some pretty great reviews about it. It seems like a wonderful book to share with the family – adults and children alike. After all, siblinghood and fitting in are struggles all of us can identify with. Also, who doesn’t love a feel-good story?
Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan
Murders are taking place around a dumpsite in Quezon City. Believed to be a serial killer’s work, the young boys are found not only dead, but disfigured — their faces peeled off, and their hearts and genitals removed from the corpses.
Gus Saenz and Jerome Lucero, both Jesuit priests and scientists (one a forensic pathologist, the other a clinical psychologist), take on the case; but the killer’s plans and intentions are hard to understand, especially because he has covered his tracks well. Along the way, further complications arise with the National Bureau of Investigation, making the investigation even more difficult. Will the killer be stopped?
I absolutely love murder mysteries, and this one excites me terribly. While most crime fiction gives us shivers, this one is bound to hit a little harder thanks to its familiar setting. I’ll definitely be reading this one with the lights on… and while I’m safe at home!
Dead Stars by Paz Marquez
Alfredo is a man engaged to his girlfriend of four years, Esperanza. However, his passion for her wanes as he spends more time in the company of Julia Salas, the daughter of a judge his father frequently needed to meet with. Although he doesn’t realize what is happening at first, he slowly begins to fall in love with her, and soon begins to feel guilty as he becomes secretive with his activities.
Both Julia and Esperanza find out what Alfredo has hidden from them respectively: Julia learns of his engagement, and congratulates him, though she seems saddened. Esperanza is angry and hurt at his infidelity, cruelty, and selfishness that he is willing to sacrifice her dignity for his own desires.
I am excited to read this short story because it sort of reminds me of ‘La La Land’. This is also the first Filipino short story written in the English language, giving me another reason to want a copy.
Banana Heart Summer by Merlinda Bobis
Nenita is 12, and hungry— learning, living, eating, loving… it’s all she wants. She finds joy in Nana Dora, in her deep-fried bananas and the myth of the banana heart. She also finds it in her friends and their shared crush, Manolito. She even finds it in the smells of the dishes she cooks for the gorgeous woman on Remedios Street. To Nenita, food means love – and love is all she wants from her mother, who always seems disappointed. But this summer promises so much, especially change.
I actually had an excerpt from this as a piece for one of our literature classes. It was fantastic, which is why I hope to read the actual book soon! It was amazingly written— the detail, the analogy to food, the unique voice of Nenita… it was practically poetry!
Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco
Miguel is a young student under Crispin Salvador, a once-great author slowly spiraling into obscurity — also now dead, found in the Hudson River. Salvador’s unfinished manuscript has mysteriously disappeared, a work that was meant not only to be a comeback for Salvador but to reveal the true, dishonest workings of the families who have practically ruled the Philippines for generations.
To find it and to understand why his mentor has been killed, Miguel sets out gathering together all of Salvador’s works and life, discovering an epic saga of a family tracing back 150 years into the country’s history under foreign influences and the Filipinos themselves.
This debut novel looks so good! I love how it has a hint of mystery, not to mention how the story covers so much of the country’s history!
Dekada 70 by Lualhati Bautista
The time is the tumultuous decade of 1970-1980— arguably one of the darkest periods in our country’s history. This novel follows one family’s struggle to survive through the years, through the Marcos dictatorship and suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, and all the tribulations that came with it. Told from the perspective of Amanda Bartolome, mother of five sons, we watch as her family grows together and apart through the decade and the challenges brought through the years; we watch, too, as she makes a place for herself as a citizen of the country, a mother, and a woman.
What I love about this is how powerful it sounds. Feminism is one of my favorite causes, and as devastating as the Marcos regime was in our history, it is also so full of stories, or hope and passion and goodness as people fought for their rights and each other. I can’t wait to jump into this novel!
Si by Bob Ong
Si is a simple but deep story of love, inspiring the thoughts: Can love be forever? Can it begin at first sight? Can life be lived without it? This book tells the tale of two people who fall in love with each other over and over again, in different ways, every day. It is about two people who, even through the tribulations of life, remember always their love for one another.
I love the promise of sweet, simple prose with profound meaning— and that’s what Bob Ong typically delivers! You may have noticed by now that I have a sweet spot for romance! Aside from its wonderful plot and prose, it’s written in Filipino, further showcasing the beauty of our national language.
That’s all for now! My next list will be global— in parts, of course! Are you ready to meet new authors from around the world?