Thursday, September 17, 2015


This Feature presents readers sharing some love about the writings of Filipino authors. We would welcome your participation. This section is for readers. You don't have to write "like a professional," "like a critic," "like an intellectual," "like a well-rounded reader," etc. Just write honestly about how you were moved. Live authors (let alone the dead) don't get to hear enough from reader(s) they may not know even read their works. To know someone read their stories and poems and books is already to receive a gift. Just share from your heart. It will be more than enough. Duplications of authors and more than one testimonial are fine.

Issue #1 Presents
Barbara Jane Reyes on Elynia Ruth Mabanglo
Michelle Bautista on Leny Mendoza Strobel
Ted Benito on Mia Alvar
Kanakan Balintagos on Leny Mendoza Strobel
Tony Robles on Bienvenido N. Santos
Holly Calica on Leny Mendoza Strobel
Beth Garrison on Eileen R. Tabios
Sheila Bare on Leny Mendoza Strobel


Barbara Jane Reyes on Elynia Ruth Mabanglo:

I wanted to say a few words about Elynia Ruth Mabanglo, as a poet whose work has really changed me. But first, a confession. I have only read Mabanglo’s poetry in translation; she writes in Tagalog, and I am barely fluent in my native language. You must understand that writing in Tagalog in itself is already a critical statement about colonial mentality and the primary value of English over native languages among Filipinos. Mabanglo has written a phenomenal collection called Anyaya ng Imperyalista, or Invitation of the Imperialist (University of the Philippines Press, 1999), which is mostly comprised of persona poems, from the point of view of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), as well as the “comfort women,” the wartime sex slaves of the Japanese. These poems hurt so much to read, as Mabanglo holds nothing back of the everyday violence, the endless violations, of being raped and ripped, and intimidated into silence. Some of these poems are written in epistolary form, and this is important, because you must also consider the institutional erasures which OFWs and “comfort women” have endured. In the case of the “comfort women,” half a century of silence, of never telling your children, your grandchildren of being 11, 12 years old, abducted and raped by dozens of soldiers, for days, weeks, impregnated, aborted, diseased. Half a fucking century of silence. Without Elynia Ruth Mabanglo, I wouldn’t be able to write about the continuum of colonial and gendered brutality I write about. I wouldn’t know how to. I wouldn’t know where to begin. 

[Editor's Note: Barbara's statement was first published by The Poetry Foundation.]


Michelle Bautista on Leny Mendoza Strobel

I don't remember how I first met Leny, probably at a Sikilohiyang Pilipino (Philippine psychology) event. She asked me to participate in "Coming Full Circle" and created spaces for all of us to share our experiences as post-1965 generation of Filipinos. It seemed our history at the time stopped at the grape strikes and she wanted to explore identity formation of Filipino Americans from the Brain Drain exodus. Little did we know that in what seemed like hanging out and listening to each other's stories we were developing a collective narrative, one that would resonate and be read by generations of college students. [The book is COMING FULL CIRCLE: The Process of Decolonization among Post-1965 Filipino Americans by Leny Mendoza Strobel (Giraffe Books, Philippines, 2001).] If great leaders cultivate other leaders, then Leny as a great writer cultivates other writers by creating a space and acknowledging the writer within and affirming their story is one that is valid and deserving to be heard.

[Editor’s Note: The Giraffe Books edition is out of print but it scheduled to be re-released by the Center for Babaylan Studies in the near future. Here's a Facebook LINK.]


Ted Benito on Mia Alvar:

I'm in the midst of reading In the Country by Mia Alvar, a collection of nine short stories about the experiences of Filipinos, mainly overseas workers, who work in the diaspora. What I have already appreciated about Mia's writing is the easiness and descriptiveness she employs to capture the emotions of the characters within these vignettes. She is able to convey their fears, their lives, their journeys with a truthfulness that is often times "in-your-face". I think anyone who has a relative, especially a close relative, working outside of the Philippines as a teacher, as a caregiver or anyone who came to the United States for a better life, can relate well to these endearing stories (which are most probably the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the sacrifices many OFWs make.

Her Bio: Mia Alvar lives in New York City. Her first book, In the Country, a collection of short stories, is available now from Alfred A. Knopf. A former Writer-in-Residence at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, she has received support from the Corporation of Yaddo, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Blue Mountain Center for the Arts and the Sarah Lawrence Seminar for Writers. Mia’s work has been cited for distinction in The Best American Short Stories, twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize and published in One Story, The Missouri Review, the Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere. Born in the Philippines and raised in Bahrain and the United States, she graduated from Harvard College and the School of the Arts at Columbia University.


Kanakan Balintagos on Leny Mendoza Strobel: 

"Leny embodies the Babaylan ideals: strong willed yet lovingly gentle; full of faith but not preachy; magically true and beautifully intellectual. A True Babaylan!

Leny is author and editor of the lovely book (as designed and illustrated by Perla Daly) Babaylan: Filipinos and the Call of the Indigenous (Center for Babaylan Studies, Santa Rosa, CA, 2010).

Manunga Banar (for Beautiful Truths),


Tony Robles on Bienvenido N. Santos:

There's a certain sensibility of writers of the 30's and 40's--the generation of the depression--a certain sensibility of people in general of that era.  Their writings, thoughts--their beings--are emblazoned across the literary sky that I look up at and aspire to.  I want to express my appreciation for the work of Bienvenido Santos.  I first became acquainted with Ben Santos, not in the classroom, but at the Goodwill store.  I was looking for a pair of pants but couldn't find my waist size so i wandered to the book section and waded through weight loss, self-improvement, and spy thriller books when I came upon a very used--dog eared with pages scribbled with notes--copy of Santos' book Scent of Apples.  The short story, "Scent of Apples," is probably the most beautiful short story I've ever read (with the exception of "The Woman Who Makes Swell Doughnuts" by another depression era writer, Toshio Mori).  The story is that of a Filipino heart in exile which is the story of human exile.  The story unearths the feeling of isolation, guilt, memory, sadness, and finally, redemption in the protagonist's chance meeting with a fellow Filipino who lives his life on a farm in Michigan during the war.  Santos skillfully and beautifully articulates living in 2 worlds and how those worlds, over time, are blurred by isolation and become clear in perspective when one sees themselves in the face of a kababayan--a face seen in a flash and then disappearing in the transit of life.  Santos' work is timeless--his words, his sentences--his thoughts, are poetic, laced with a timeless sense of grace, grace that translates into truth with a subtlety that touches the heart, transcending the generations.  It is with much love and respect that I write this of Ben Santos. 


Holly Calica on Leny Mendoza Strobel

[Untitled Poem]
-for Leny Strobel



tender hearted, yet like steel

piercing knowledge

like kidlat

a light for our


she shares her home

her food

and is not fond

of sangre splattered

during boxing matches

while the rest of us

scream for blood


for words inscribed deep

in the Corazon of FilAms

thirsting for IKSP


for your contributions

Kabuniyan and Diwata

among others

are pleased!


Beth Garrison on Eileen R. Tabios

I was introduced to Eileen Tabios' work through my husband. He was reviewing a work of hers, and she had sent THE LIGHT SANG AS IT LEFT YOUR EYES: Our Autobiography as an aside. This is a book that never went through the marketing process. It was written while her father was dying.

I had lost my father 3 years previously. He was in a tremendous amount of emotional pain, and he took his own life. In reading through Eileen's book, it helped me to see that his pain was his, that my pain was in witnessing his pain. It helped me to separate my anger from my emotional pain. Reading this book brought me to a place where I could begin to heal. The right book at the right time. 

This particular work was, and is, controversial. Many thought it shouldn't be published. It was too personal. I say the Poet's purpose is to communicate, and when you start creating boundaries on what is communicated and how, you've silenced the work. 


Sheila Bare on Leny Mendoza Strobel
Strobel's Song for the Babaylan In her work and in her life, Leny Strobel has taken to heart her community, Filipinas/os at home and in the diaspora, and the indigenous peoples throughout the world. She works on their behalf in the struggle to heal the psyche of the ravages of (neo)colonialism, a challenging task especially because her work not only involves navigating the often knotty terrains of HISTORY, but also because (neo)colonialism continues to ravage indigenous lands and peoples in the name of capitalism. Strobel's work and writings, then, are both a remedy and a salve to HISTORY's often violent incursions into the bodies and lands of the colonized, and at the same time, they bring an awareness to the current plight of the indigenous and put to task capitalism's agenda. The poet Eileen Tabios once said of Strobel:
There's a saying: WE'RE ALL BORN POETS AND IT'S LIVING THAT LEACH THE POETRY AWAY. The world of academia certainly can be debilitating to the heart. With this collection (A BOOK OF HER OWN: WORDS AND IMAGES TO HONOR THE BABAYLAN), Leny M. Strobel shows herself to be among the few who recovers the poetry that was originally hers--and She does so without sacrificing scholarship. --A BOOK OF HER OWN: WORDS AND IMAGES TO HONOR THE BABAYLAN, back cover. Indeed, Strobel's prose is elegiac, reflective of the continued pains and struggles of what it means to be a citizen in today's globalized economy.

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