Monday, February 6, 2017


Filipino literature--in the Philippines and the diaspora--is a vibrant area of English-language writing. The Halo-Halo Review is an accessible online summary of critical and other responses to Filipino literature's multiple and diverse forms. We hope that what others are saying about Filipino English-language literature will encourage others to read, teach and engage. 

By "Filipino," The Halo-Halo Review means all who self-identify as Filipino whether they're in the Philippines or the diaspora, as well as mixed and hyphenated Filipinos. Alternative monikers include Pinoy, Pinay, Pilipinx, Pin@y, Pilipino, Pilipina -- we welcome you all as long as you enjoy halo-halo and manga!

Reviews and engagements are sorted by genre. Click on the genre below to see the book titles reviewed and their accompanying links. Multi-genre books may be placed in more than one category (e.g. if a book includes poetry and fiction, it will be sorted in both of the categories).







The Halo-Halo Review has two components. The first component, as described above, is an aggregation of online links to reviews and other engagements with Filipino literature throughout the internet. While the editor has begun collecting such links, readers are also encouraged to share information on other links. Links will be posted on an ongoing basis at the applicable genre sites.

The Halo-Halo Review's second component is The Halo-Halo Review's Mangozine which will contain new reviews. We welcome reviewers (reviewers need not be Filipino) -- click HERE for a list of available review copies (though feel free to review Filipino English-language books from your own sources). Also featured will be a "Readers Show Love to Filipino Authors" section--we are always looking for contributions; more info HERE. In addition, The Mangozine also will serve as the first online publisher for reviews and other engagements (e.g. book introductions)  published in print but not yet available online. Finally, its feature articles will include author interviews. Click HERE for a Table of Contents to The Mangozine's current issue, Issue 4!

While reviewed publications are in English, we will cover bilingual editions, as well as Filipino-language books if the review is in English.

To share information about additional links and/or to discuss your interest in writing a review, please go to the ABOUT section for contact information.


(to be updated over time)

If you're a Filipino writer and you're writing in English, you have to have a clear reason for the language that you're using ... I'm going to write in English: why? ... It really has to do with class ... For me to be part of the world of the enemy and yet to be attached to that world ... For the Filipino, English is a very literary language. The writers in English are always working with or working against the language we are given, the colonizer's language. People who live in a colonized world recognize you are living in a world of translation...

Ricardo M. de Ungria in “An English Apart” ...claim[es] that “[w]riting well in English is [his] best revenge against English,” De Ungria searches the various polemics that surround the English debate: 

But why do I want to take revenge at the English language? … Because it taught me, among other things, to think poorly of my native language and exclude this from the discourse of my deepest needs and joys and aspirations? … Because it foisted upon me a rich heritage of writing that I could never be a part of nor even closely relate to…? Because it left me inside a wonderful labyrinth of a symbolic world whose exquisite emblems and implements only heighten my sense of helplessness and futility at being understood…? Because it has opened me up to a fascinating world where I am condemned forever to live as a stranger? 

In 1898, the United States claimed it owned the Philippines after buying it for $20 million from Spain through the Treaty of Paris. The Filipinos—who had won and declared their independence from Spain—protested, and thus commenced the Philippine-American War, a war that has been called the United States’ “First Vietnam.” With their prowess on the military terrain, the U.S. defeated the Philippines. The U.S. solidified its colonial domination through the cultural and linguistic terrain with the popularization of English as the preferred language for education, administration, commerce and daily living. Thus, English is sometimes called by Filipinos to be “the borrowed tongue,” though enforced tongue would be more accurate.

whenever I sit down to chat your English rises like a mountain peak
Paolo Javier, from "Soldiering On Like The Devil" in COURT OF THE DRAGON

We used to talk about the course of Philippine literature in English as though it passed somewhat miraculously through three stages: a period of apprenticeship, of emergence or growth, and then of maturity. It was in the 1950s a useful if also a subtly condescending way of picturing what was called its “development.” On the other hand, Fr. Miguel A. Bernad, S.J., thought in 1957 that Philippine literature is whatever language was “perpetually inchoate” because, first, the writers couldn’t earn a living from their writing; second, we were torn by several languages or had not mastered English well enough; and third, we were culturally confused or had not fostered enough our own hybrid culture. It is well worth quoting Fr. Bernad:
Filipino writers in Spanish flourished at the end of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth. But this flowering of a culture never bore fruit: its roots were soon withered. While Apostol and Guerrero, Bernabe and Balmori, Barcelon and Recto, were writing poems that were admired in Spain, a generation of Filipino was growing up that would not understand the language in which they were written.
This is not to deplore the coming of English to our shores. Its coming was by no means deplorable: it was a cultural windfall. It does explain, however, why Philippine letters, which had finally flowered (and it is a curious thing that it did not come to its full flowering until after Spanish political domination was over) died out quickly, even in flower. Philippine letters had to seek other roots in a different cultural soil. This is why even after sixty years of English in the Philippines, Philippine literature in English is still young. But it has much promise: it may eventually attain to full maturity. (Bamboo and the Greenwood Tree) 1957/1961).
Gemino Abad,  from Our Scene So Fair: Filipino Poetry in English, 1905-1955

Today, whatever standing I may have as a poet in the Philippines will probably be based on my Tagalog poems. But I will also probably be remembered, or remain notorious, for my last poem in English. // It’s an acrostic poem, and the first letters of the lines, if read downwards, spell out a Tagalog slogan popular among demonstrators before martial law: MARCOS HITLER DIKTADOR TUTA (Marcos Hitler, Dictator, Running Dog).
—Jose F. Lacaba, from "Why I Stopped Writing Poetry in English"


The Halo-Halo Review aggregates reviews of Filipino authors found in the internet.  In addition, through its The Mangozine, it will publish new reviews as well as features like author interviews and reader testimonials about beloved Filipino authors. We welcome hearing from those with information about additional links, reviews, and/or reader testimonials. 

Reviewers need not be Filipino but the authors under review must be Filipino (including mixed/part Filipino).  Reviewers may review any books they wish, including those in their personal library. We also have some review copies available which we can send to you and, if you review them, you may keep.  The list of review copies is available HERE.

CONTACT:  galateaten at gmail dot com

Eileen R. Tabios loves books and has released about 40 collections of poetry, essays, fiction and experimental biographies from publishers in nine countries and cyberspace. She has also exhibited visual art and visual poetry in the United States and Asia. Recipient of the Philippines’ National Book Award for Poetry (Manila Critics Circle) for her first poetry collection, she has crafted an award-winning body of work that is unique for melding ekphrasis with transcolonialism. Her poems have been translated into seven languages as well as computer-generated hybrid languages, Paintings, Video, Drawings, Visual Poetry, Mixed Media Collages, Kali Martial Arts, Music, Modern Dance and Sculpture.  She also has edited, co-edited or conceptualized ten anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays in addition to serving as editor or guest editor for various literary journals.  She maintains a biblioliphic blog, “Eileen Verbs Books“; edits Galatea Resurrects, a popular poetry review; steers the literary and arts publisher Meritage Press; and frequently curates thematic online poetry projects including LinkedIn Poetry Recommendations (a recommended list of contemporary poetry books).  More information is available at


In addition to aggregating reviews from the internet, THE HALO-HALO REVIEW presents The Mangozine which features new reviews and serves as the online publisher for reviews and other engagements (e.g. book introductions) published in print but not yet available within the internet.  Other features, including author interviews and reader testimonials, also will be presented. The following presents a Table of Contents for Issue 4 -- CLICK on links to go to the reviews.

(February 2017)

Editor's Note:  Welcome to the fourth issue of THE HALO-HALO REVIEW where we provide engagements with Filipin@ literature and authors through reviews and engagements, interviews and other prose. We hope readers, writers and publishers will continue to participate and share information about numerous Filipino authors and the wide variety of their writings. 

The Mangozine's Review Copy information is HERE; you are encouraged to fatten up the list as well as pick some to review! Submission deadline for the fifth issue has been set at Dec. 5, 2017 (though I will take reviews sooner than the deadline if that is more convenient for the reviewers).

Eileen Tabios' Editor's Note continues over HERE.


American Son by Brian Ascalon Roley (W.W. Norton, 2001) and The Last Mistress of Jose Rizal by Brian Ascalon Roley (Curbstone Books / Northwestern University Press, Evanston, IL, 2016). Engaged by Vince Gotera

Puñeta: Political Pilipinx Poetry (Moria Books/Locofo Chaps, Chicago, 2017). Engaged by Eileen R. Tabios

Poetry is: José Garcia Villa's Philosophy of Poetry, edited by Robert L. King (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2015). Reviewed by Monica Manolachi

A Series of Un / Natural / Disasters by Cheena Marie Lo (Commune Editions, Oakland, CA, 2016). Reviewed by Kimberly Alidio

Writer in Exile / Writer in Revolt: Critical Perspectives on Carlos Bulosan, edited by Jeffrey Arellano Cabusao (University Press of America/Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). Reviewed by Paulino Lim, Jr. 

BALIKBAYANG MAHAL: Passages from Exile by E. San Juan, Jr. (Philippine Studies Center, Washington D.C., 2007/2017). Engaged by Eileen R. Tabios

WATERMELON NIGHTS by Greg Sarris (First Edition, Hyperion Books, 1998; Penguin, 1999). Engaged by Leny M. Strobel

TRICKSTERS & COSMOPOLITANS by Rei Magosaki--with review focus on Jessica Hagedorn (Fordham University Press, New York, 2016). Engaged by Eileen R. Tabios    

WRITING NAKED by Arnie Mejia (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, Manila, 2016). Reviewed by Aloysiusi Lionel Polintan

RETURNING A BORROWED TONGUE edited by Nick Carbo (Coffee House Press, Minneapolis, Minn., 1996). Reviewed by Jessica Gonzalez

LIFEBOAT by Kristine Ong Muslim (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, Manila, 2015). Reviewed by Aloysiusi Lionel Polintan

The Gilded Age of Kickstarters by Eileen R. Tabios (Dancing Girl Press & Studio, Chicago, 2016). Reviewed by Jim McCrary

Fault Setting by Joel Toledo (University of Philippines Press, 2016). Reviewed by Aloysiusi Lionel Polintan

The Art of Exporting by Cristina Querrer (Dancing Girl Press & Studio, Chicago, 2011). Reviewed by Chris Mansel 

Histories by Charlie Samuya Veric (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2015). Reviewed by Aloysiusi Lionel Polintan


Kimberly Alidio 

Erin Entrada Kelly

Barbara Jane Reyes


Go HERE to see: 

Sheila Bare on Carlos Bulosan

Michael Simms on Jose Padua

Eileen Tabios on Mg Roberts

Aloysiusi Lionel Polintan on Gemino Abad



SISA'S VENGEANCE: A Radical Interpretation of Jose Rizal by E. San Juan, Jr. (Philippines Cultural Studies Center, Connecticut, 2014). Reviewed by Francis C. Macansantos

From Books: Introductions, Prefaces, Forewo
rds, Afterwords and Author's Notes

Mg Roberts introduces ALL THINGS LOSE THOUSANDS OF TIMES by Angela Peñaredondo (Inlandia Books, Riverside, CA, 2016)

Jaime An Lim presents the Preface to Peace Mindanao edited by Jaime An Lim (UST Press, Philippines, 2013)  

Jaime An Lim presents the Preface to his The Axolotyl Colony: Stories (UP Press, Philippines, 2016)