Friday, September 18, 2015


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 its inaugural issue -- CLICK on links to go to the reviews.

(September 2015)

Editor's Note:  I wanted to offer as much content as possible for the first issue in order to show examples of what can appear in future issues. So I apologize that the first issue is heavy on my book projects (what I've written/edited and authors I've published through Meritage Press or had reviewed in a journal I edit, Galatea Resurrects).  This results from the limited review copies available at this stage to a start-up journal. We hope readers, writers and publishers will be encouraged by Issue I to participate and share information about numerous Filipino authors and the wide variety of their writings. Review Copy information is HERE; you are encouraged to fatten up the list as well as pick some to review! 
Eileen Tabios' Editor's Note continues over HERE.


The essays by Maria Victoria A. Grageda-Smith and Barbara Jane Reyes in  OTHERS WILL ENTER THE GATES: Immigrant Poets on Poetry, Influences, and Writing in America edited by Abayomi Animashan (Black Lawrence Press, 2015). Engaged by Eileen R. Tabios.

IN THE COUNTRY by Mia Alvar (Knopf, New York, 2015). Reviewed by Justine Villanueva.

"Against Explanation" & Other Works by Melissa Sipin from Twelth House Journal. Engaged by Amanda [Ngoho] Reavey.

THE HAY(NA)KU ANTHOLOGY, VOL. II, edited by Jean Vengua and Mark Young (Meritage Press / xPress(ed), San Francisco & St. Helena / Finland, 2008).  Reviewed by Allen Bramhall.

"WATCH" by Ivy Alvarez (from VERSES TYPHOON YOLANDA edited by Eileen R. Tabios (Meritage Press, San Francisco & St. Helena, 2014)). Reviewed by Rebecca Loudon.

AGAINST MISANTHROPY: A Life in Poetry (2015-1995) by Eileen R. Tabios (BlazeVOX Books, New York, 2015).  Reviewed by Thomas Hibbard.

Archipelago Dust by Karen Llagas (Meritage Press, San Francisco & St. Helena, 2010). Reviewed by Allen Bramhall.

Passional (New Poems and Some Translations) by Ophelia A. Dimalanta (UST Publishing House, Philippines, 2002). Reviewed by Francis C. Macansantos

"What Can A Daughter Say" by Eileen R. Tabios in THE LIGHT SANG AS IT LEFT YOUR EYES: Our Autobiography (Marsh Hawk Press, New York, 2007) and further reprinted in THE THORN ROSARY: Selected Prose Poems and New (1998-2010) (Marsh Hawk Press, New York, 2010) and INVENT(ST)ORY: Selected Catalog Poems & New (1996-2015) (Dos Madres Press, Loveland, OH, 2015). Reviewed by John Bloomberg-Rissman.


Eric Gamalinda, post-The Descartes Highlands (Akashic Books, New York, 2014)

Mia Alvar, post-IN THE COUNTRY (Knopf, New York, 2015)


Go HERE to see the Love expressed by the following:

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



The Gods We Worship Live Next Door by Bino Realuyo (University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, UT, 2006). Reviewed by Kathy Graber, The Literary Review, Fall 2006.

Trading in Mermaids by Alfred Yuson (Anvil Publishing, Manila, 1993). Reviewed by Paul Sharrad, Scarp 24 (Australia), 1994.

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

Luis H. Francia introduces BROWN RIVER, WHITE OCEAN: An Anthology of Twentieth-Century Philippine Literature in English (Rutgers University Press, 1993) 

The Co-Editors introduce BABAYLAN: An Anthology of Filipina and Filipina American Writers (Aunt Lute Press, San Francisco, 2000)
--Nick Carbo: "The Other Half of the Sky"
--Eileen R. Tabios: "Rupturing Language for the Rapture of Beauty"

Edwin Lozada introduces FIELD OF MIRRORS: Anthology of Philippine American Writers  (Philippine American Writers and Artists, Inc., San Francisco, 2008)

Nick Carbo introduces PINOY POETICS: A Collection of Autobiographical and Critical Writings on Filipino and Filipino American Poetics (Meritage Press, San Francisco & St. Helena, 2004)

Jessica Hagedorn introduces THE ANCHORED ANGEL: The Writings of Jose Garcia Villaedited by Eileen R. Tabios (Kaya Press, New York, 1999)

Amanda [Ngoho] Reavey introduces not so, sea, a poetry collection by MG Roberts (Durga Press, 2014)

Three Poet-Editors introduce The First Hay(na)ku Anthology, co-edited by Mark Young and Jean Vengua (Meritage Press, San Francisco & St. Helena, 2005)
--Mark Young: "A not so tercet note"
--Jean Vengua: "The Chicken and the Egg"
--Crag Hill: "For Nico Vassilakis, Quarrying About Hay(na)ku"

Ivy Alvarez, John Bloomberg-Rissman, Ernesto Priego and Eileen R. Tabios introduce THE CHAINED HAY(NA)KU PROJECT (Meritage Press / xPress(ed), San Francisco & St. Helena / Finland, 2012)

Eileen R. Tabios presents Afterword to NOT EVEN DOGS, the first book-length hay(na)ku poetry collection and written by Ernesto Priego (Meritage Press, San Francisco & St. Helena, 2006)

Eileen R. Tabios presents Preface to her 147 MILLION ORPHANS (MMXI-MML), the first book-length haybun collection (Gradient Books, Finland, 2014)

The Co-Editors introduce FLIPPIN': Filipinos on America (Asian American Writers Workshop, New York, 1996)
--Eric Gamalinda: "Myth, Memory, Myopia: Or, I May Be Brown But I Hear America Singin'"
--Luis H. Francia: "The Other Side of the American Coin"

Introducing The Secret Lives of Punctuations, Vol. I by Eileen R. Tabios (xPress(ed), Finland, 2006)
--Leny Mendoza Strobel's Afterword: "The Secret Lives of Punctuations"
--Eileen R. Tabios's Author's Note: "An Ekphrasis: On the Path of the Shona to Sculpt 'The Masvikiru Quatrains"

Virgil Mayor Apostol introduces his WAY OF THE ANCIENT HEALER: Sacred Teachings from the Philippine Ancestral Traditions (North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, 2010)

Leny Mendoza Strobel introduces BABAYLAN: Filipinos and the Call of the Indigenous (Center for Babaylan Studies, Santa Rosa, CA, 2010)

Thomas Fink introduces THE THORN ROSARY: Selected Prose Poems and New (1998-2010)a poetry collection by Eileen R. Tabios (Marsh Hawk Press, New York, 2010)

Edith Tiempo introduces Sea Serpent, a poetry collection by Alfred Yuson (Monsoon Press, Philippines, 1980)

Eileen R. Tabios introduces Gravities of Center, a poetry collection by Barbara Jane Reyes (Arkipelago Books Publishing, San Francisco, 2003)

Introducing STAGE PRESENCE: Filipino American Performing Artistsedited by Theodore S. Gonzalves (Meritage Press, San Francisco & St. Helena, 2014)
--Ricardo D. Trimillos' Foreword
--Theodore S. Gonzalves' Editor's Note

Vince Gotera introduces Seasons by the Bay, a short story collection by Oscar Peñaranda (T’boli Publishing, 2004)

Eileen R. Tabios introduces Bridgeable Shores: Selected Poems (1969-2001), a poetry collection by Luis Cabalquinto (Galatea Speaks / Kaya Press, New York, 2001)

Bino A. Realuyo introduces The Filipino Literature Issue of The Literary Review (Farleigh Dickinson University, 2007)

Jean Vengua introduces BEHIND THE BLUE CANVAS, a short story collection by Eileen R. Tabios (Giraffe Books, Quezon City, 2004)

Introducing VERSES TYPHOON YOLANDA edited by Eileen R. Tabios (Meritage Press, San Francisco & St. Helena, 2014)
--Leny M. Strobel's Foreword
--Eileen R. Tabios' Introduction 

Alfred A. Yuson introduces FATHER POEMS, edited by Alfred A. Yuson and Gemino Abad (Anvil Publishing, Manila, 2004)

Leny Mendoza Strobel introduces ECSTATIC MUTATIONS: Experiments in the Poetry Library, a mixed-genre (poetry/poetics/fiction) collection by Eileen R. Tabios (Giraffe Books, Quezon City, 2000)

Vicente G. Groyon III presents Afterword to Trading in Mermaids, a poetry collection by Alfred Yuson (Anvil Publishing, Manila, 1993).

Eileen R. Tabios introduces the poetry section of BOLD WORDS: A Century of Asian America Writing, edited by Rajini Srikanth and Esther Y. Iwanaga (Rutgers University Press, New Jersey and London, 2001)


For volunteer typing gifts for Issue I, thanks to Amy Pabalan, Ivy Alvarez, Jay Santa Cruz and Sarah Bernardo! Salamat tambien to Michelle Bautista for techie support!


Editor's Note

I wanted to offer as much content as possible for the first issue in order to show examples of what can appear in future issues. So I apologize that the first issue is heavy on my book projects (what I've written/edited and authors I've published through Meritage Press or had reviewed in a journal I edit, Galatea Resurrects).  This results from the limited review copies available at this stage to a start-up journal. We hope readers, writers and publishers will be encouraged by Issue I to participate and share information about numerous Filipino authors and the wide variety of their writings. Review Copy information is HERE; you are encouraged to fatten up the list as well as pick some to review!

As well, send me links to reviews/engagements with Filipino literature! These links will be aggregated in various genre categories displayed HERE. Updating the genre categories with links will occur as information is received.

One of the most interesting features of The Mangozine is its putting online various Introductions, Prefaces, Afterwords and Authors' Notes to published books. As it turns out, the presented essays in Issue I corroborate the need for a journal like THE HALO-HALO REVIEW -- it highlights the uniqueness of English-language Filipino literature that cannot be subsumed in other categories like "Asian American" or "People of Color" literature.  I am personally delighted to inaugurate this section with the Introduction to the anthology that had introduced me to Filipino English-language literature, Luis H. Francia's Brown River, White Ocean.  Feel free to suggest other books which may offer useful contributions that deserve to be republished online.

Last but not least, I call out to readers to SHOW SOME LOVE TO A FILIPINO AUTHOR(S) by sharing statements as to why they love their writing.  All writing styles. You can focus on authors dead or alive, send as many statements as you are moved to write.  You can praise authors not already mentioned or still to be mentioned. You need not be a critic, writer, scholar or teacher (though all are welcome). You need only be a Reader.

All Best,

Eileen R. Tabios
Contact: galateaten at gmail dot com

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.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015



“What Can a Daughter Say” by Eileen R. Tabios
(poem featured in THE LIGHT SANG AS IT LEFT YOUR EYES: Our Autobiography, as well as in THE THORN ROSARY: Selected Prose Poems and New (1998-2010) and INVENT[ST]ORY: SELECTED CATALOG POEMS & NEW (1996-2015) 
Publishers respectively are Marsh Hawk Press, New York, 2007 and 2010, and Dos Madres Press, Loveland, OH, 2015)

[Note: This is Part I of a six-part poem.]

O Heart, my father is not Idi Amin who killed 100,000 to half-a-million in Uganda.

O Heart, my father is not Ion Antonescu who killed 300,000 Romanian Jews and half-a-million Romanian soldiers.

She calls for an “objective appreciation” of The Marcos Era.  She says, “As a member of the succeeding generation/ who knows too little about our past,/ the time has come to study intently,/ intensely,/ dispassionately,/ completely, the Marcos era,/ before, during, the Martial Law period,/ applying intellectual rigor over emotion,/ scholarship, not partisanship.”

How much do we need to know to master the past?

O Heart, my father is not Yasuhiko Asaka who killed 200,000 to 350,000 Chinese.

And Jesus said, according to Judas, “How do you know me?  Truly I say to you, no generation of the people that are among you will know me.”

Study   intently

O Heart, my father is not Nicolae Ceausescu who killed 5,000 during a 1989 revolution, who starved thousands during an unnecessary austerity program, who ruined tens of thousands of lives during his reign.

She says, “I need evidence/ of specific salvaging cases./  [The Marcos family is] willing/ to apologize/ provided we know/ what we are supposed/ to say sorry for./  Look at us/ with an open mind./  Give us a chance.”

I stand here before you. That I am alive makes me insufficient evidence?

How many centuries until it was known that Judas was Jesus Christ’s greatest apostle, not his greatest betrayer?

How does loyalty come to betray the loyal?

O Heart, my father is not Jean-Claude Duvalier of Haiti who killed 20,000 to 60,000.

And Jesus, speaking privately to Judas, said, “Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the Kingdom.  It is possible for you to read it, but you will grieve a great deal.”

“Salvage”:        To apologize
                        if one knows
                        for what

Salvaging:       not to know, never to know

O Heart, my father is not Francisco Franco Bahamonde who never remembered the tens to hundreds of thousands who died. Was it half-a-million or two million killed in the Spanish Civil War? What is the true number?

She says her father told the U.S. ambassador, “I would rather die/ than abandon the Presidency.” The ambassador warned that thousands of troops were heading to his Palace.  The dictator then absconded with his family.

The U.S. ambassador lied.

Of course. To be an effective ambassador in this world is to lie.

One lie became what was believed for centuries as one man’s life: O, Judas…!

A dictator ends his reign the way he began: through deceit.

And Jesus said, according to Judas, “Strong and holy generation?  Truly I say to you, no one born of this aeon will see that [generation].”

What is a number? What are numbers?

O Heart, my father is not Joseph Goebbels responsible for killing over 46 million in Europe in the Second World War.

O Heart, my father is not Hermann Wilhelm Goering responsible for killing over 46 million in Europe in the Second World War.

This music is my jail.

She says, “My father felt women and children should/ not be present on the battleground./  Our mistake was to forget/ that the palace of our childhood was not/ really a home but a battleground.”

The palace of one’s childhood
—for even those who could afford
the bricks to obviate metaphor—
is usually constructed from memory.

I insist. I am evidence, speaking.

O Heart, my father is not Heinrich Himmler who killed six million in German concentration camps and over 40 million more in Europe in the Second World War.

And Jesus said, according to Judas, “Strong and holy generation? No host of angels of the stars will rule over that generation, and no person of mortal birth can associate with it.”

O Heart, my father is not Adolf Hitler who caused over 60 million deaths worldwide.

This music jails me.

She says, “Exile has been merciful/ [for allowing me to] remember/ my father as well,/ strong, playful and brilliant.”

To reassess exile’s historical role—
To acknowledge exile as savior—
To not diminish “exile” as mere manifestation of loss

From exile, Dante wrote a comedy.  From exile, Milton wrote a tragedy.  From exile, I write.

From exile, Etel Adnan writes a new form for absence as “an exile from an exile”.  From exile, I write. 

And Jesus said, according to Judas, “Why have you gone into hiding?”

O Heart, my father is not Elie Hobeika who killed 1,700 Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.  And “an unknown number of others” during the Lebanese Civil War.

O Heart, my father is not Enver Hoxha of Albania whose victims cannot be counted reliably by the living, but can be estimated as “in the thousands.”

What is a number?  “I” is rarely “1”.

She says about being “a child of a dictator”—“I don’t remember.”

O Heart, my father is not Saddam Hussein who killed two million. One can be more specific: 150,000 to 340,000 Iraqis and 730,000 Iranians during the Iran-Iraq War. One thousand Kuwaitis. Over 100,000 Kurds killed or “disappeared.” Another 300,000 for the Kurds, Shias and dissidents.  Half a million Iraqi children dead due to international trade sanctions following the Gulf War.

The logic of amnesia—
“disappeared” versus “murdered”
The flux of language—
“I don’t remember” versus “my father was a murderer”

She says, “I think it should be clear/ that to torture was never/ a matter of policy./  He didn’t order the military/ to do those things.”

And, according to Judas, Jesus asked the disciples, “What are [the priests] like?”

She says, “I don’t know if there is a right way./ Sometimes destiny takes over and/ you just happen to be there.”

And, according to Judas, the disciples replied to Jesus, “Some [priests] sacrifice their own children.”

O Heart, my father is not Radovan Karadzic or Ratko Mladic who together killed 200,000.


“What Can a Daughter Say?” is one of my favorite poems by Eileen Tabios. It’s also from one of my favorite books of hers, THE LIGHT SANG AS IT LEFT YOUR EYES: Our Autobiography. Rather than describe the book in my own words, I’ll just quote the blurb at the publisher (Marsh Hawk Press)’s website:

On April 11, 2006, Filamore B. Tabios, Sr. died of brain cancer and its complications. In writing about her father, Eileen R. Tabios explores reconciliation with Ferdinand Marcos’ legacy through deliberate empathy with the former Philippine dictator's daughter Imee; pays homage to Judas Iscariot whose Gospel, discovered during her vigil by her father's deathbed, reveals him to be the most loyal disciple, instead of greatest betrayer, of Jesus Christ; meditates on the murder statistics of the 20th century's leading killers, from Idi Amin to Adolf Hitler; considers the global Filipina pen pal phenomena; and engages with Dante Aleghieri's Purgatorio.

In enacting Nietzsche’s notion that “Punishment is the making of memory,” Ms. Tabios also makes poetry by interrogating form. In this book, she uses commodity lists to create autobiography, practices ekphrasis to translate the painterly technique of scumbling, offers variations of the hay(na)ku form, relies on random collage to create visual poetry, and blurs the boundary between poetry and prose through texts originally written as blog posts. In addition, the book's overall trajectory reflects her disruption of narrative linearity in favor of Dante’s conception of the Trinity. For Dante, creation is simultaneous as regards What (God) creates, How (Son) creation unfolds, and the Form (Spirit) taken by what is created.

The Light Sang As It Left Your Eyes reflects the poet’s primal battle with grief, showing how the death of a parent can be one of the most complicated, turbulent and wrenching experiences. It is also her most overtly political work yet, referencing her roots as a “Marcos Baby,” a member of the generation that grew up during Marcos’ martial law regime. To grapple with her father’s death, the author addresses the world which created the context for their engagement. Ultimately, however, The Light Sang As It Left Your Eyes acts as a poet's testament for Joy—that she would cease writing this book only after she resurrected her father, which is to say, Love.

This is more a reading than a review, if a review is a judgement. Take it for granted that I think that Tabios is very very good.


The above blurb does double duty for me. Besides contextualizing the poem within the Tabios oeuvre, its first paragraph, at least all but the last two clauses of it, appears to be a purpose-built description of “What Can a Daughter Say?”. That leaves me free to discuss its complexity, and what makes it most interesting to me.

But first, I want to say something else. Since I am neither a Filipino nor an exile / immigrant, I am sure that there are aspects of this poem that are opaque to me (to clarify, I am not defining anyone’s status here; “exile” is a word this poem makes use of; “immigrant” is not; but it is intentionally a little unclear exactly to whom the word “exile” refers, and I add immigrant to keep from implying a potentially inappropriate clarity). I will have some additional comments about different histories and how they might affect reading, below … not comments, exactly: questions, rather.


“What Can a Daughter Say?” is constructed out of a number of strands: quotes from Imee Marcos about her father Ferdinand Marcos; quotes from The Gospel of Judas, someone repeatedly saying “My father is not <insert name of political figure with a lot of blood on his hands here> <insert crime against humanity>”, and other text which may or may not be by the same person who is saying “My father is not …” At first is seems fairly clear that Imee Marcos (who is more or less Tabios’ age) is comparing her father to these other people in order to minimize his crimes. Then it begins to dawn on me that it could be Tabios herself speaking these lines (yes, I know I know, but still, these comes from a book in which Tabios is coming to grips with the death of her father, so it makes little sense to think of the Tabios of the poems as significantly NOT the Tabios whose father has just died. But I’ll call her the Tabios persona if you’d rather). But if so, why? What are her father’s crimes? They are utterly unspecified; rather, they aren’t even hinted at; the only thing that suggests them is the possibility that “My father is not …” is spoken in Tabios’ voice. And yes, by the end we know that the Tabios persona is in fact a character in the poem.

I think the best we can do to answer this question (what are the Tabios persona’s father’s crimes?) here, in this selected poems, where “What Can a Daughter Say?” is out of its original context, is that every child has to come to grips at some point with the failings of a parent, which often means the fact that a parent is just another human being, and that that’s among the stuff that comes to the fore when the parent dies. So, regardless of what the father may have done, we can conclude from this poem either that the Tabios persona thinks it could have been worse – or that she is trying to convince herself that it could have been worse. I tend to believe the former.  


Entwined with the two strands already noted are excerpts from The Gospel of Judas. And the assertion that Judas was Jesus’s greatest disciple. How does this fit with the rest of the poem? I can come up with several ways to think this. First, it parallels Imee’s continued assertion that her father was, for the most part, misunderstood (as was Judas). Second, it is a way for her and/or the Tabios persona to assert that while it might feel traditionally Judas-like to question one’s father, especially during the process of grief, it is not in fact a betrayal at all, tho all who witness it might think so. To see one’s parent straight just might be the highest form of Love possible.


Eventually, Imee and Eileen (what the Tabios persona calls herself) merge, as, eventually so does “My father is Ferdinand Marcos” and “My father is not …”. This accomplishes two things, for me at least. One is a reconciliation of conflicting feelings for the dead father, a kind of Hegelian sublation as it were, in which both the is and the is not are allowed to exist side by side. The other, and here I feel a little more tentative, not being a Filipino, is that here Tabios is coming to terms with her being what the Marsh Hawk blurb calls a “Marcos baby”, which, and here I am reduced to imagination, would be akin for me to coming to terms with being not only a member of my nuclear family, but with also being a member of larger social groupings, including my country, and realizing that the blood on its hands is also the blood on mine.


Which brings me to some final thoughts on this poem, final in the sense of “for the purposes of this little essay”. Perhaps this is where my NOT being an exile or immigrant becomes a strength, but perhaps it also becomes a source of misreading. In any case, my immediate thought upon finishing this poem was: why, among all the world’s leaders who have been linked with terrible crimes, are no USAmericans listed? Yes, the names of a number of presidents are listed, but not with crimes attached to their names. Which leads to a question: does a person exiled to the US, or who has emigrated here, have a different relationship with the nation’s crimes than I (who as born in Chicago) have? Or is there another reason for this what to me is an obvious (meaning not accidental) omission? I don’t know. I really have no idea.

But I must say, that these omissions do say something. I just don’t know what. But it’s important somehow. It feels important. Not in terms of the grief that this poem is working thru. I only know that if I had written these lines, and if I had limited myself to US crimes against humanity that took place from Johnson on, I would have had to write:

“My father is not Lyndon Baines Johnson, or Richard Milhaus Nixon, who, between them, murdered 700,000 Vietnamese for no intelligible reason, and disrupted Southeast Asia to such an extent that the Khmer Rouge, and hence Pol Pot, became possible, and as we already know, Pol Pot, who ‘killed between a quarter and a third of his country’s population.’”

“My father is not George Herbert Walker Bush, or William Jefferson Clinton, who, between them, embargoed Iraq and did not allow the importation of chemicals that would purify the water, so that 500,000 children died of intestinal diseases.” [Note: Tabios – the poet  and/or the persona – attributes these deaths to Saddam Hussein. I can only say that the US Ambassador to Iraq under both Bush and Clinton said, in my presence, that the US was to blame for the death of those children. I know, as the poem says, ambassadors lie, but I couldn’t see in 2003, when I heard him say this, and I still can’t see, what this particular ambassador had to gain by his statement]

“My father is not George W Bush, who invaded Iraq in 2003 under the known pretense (lie) that Iraq had something to do with the 9/11 attacks, even tho he knew they didn’t, which morphed into the lie that Iraq was a danger because it had WMDs, which morphed into the lie that we were bringing them democracy, and who is responsible for the deaths of a million or so Iraqis who died because of the US invasion and occupation (whoever in fact did the killing, they wouldn’t have died otherwise).”

And, just as a footnote, during the year since the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, 1091 people have been killed in the US by police. That’s almost 3 a day, which is heading towards Pinochet territory, whether or not some of the dead “earned” it (suicide by cop, etc).  

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I think Tabios SHOULD have included these lines, or ones like them; it simply the fact that she didn’t, that the US in this poem is somehow (apparently) exempted, that I found so … interesting. I make no critique of the poem for what it doesn’t include. But. The fact that there are no such lines tells me that there are things about this poem I don’t understand, and thus my position as a reader (and more) is raised, in my eyes at least. My takeaway is that it is possible that it’s different to be her than me, or it’s different to be an exile / immigrant than not to be one, or it’s different to be a Filipino than not. In terms of relating to US crimes in this context. Or something. I don’t want to write a whole essay called “What Is Reading?” I am perfectly happy to leave this as an open question to worry over, in the sense that a dog worries a bone.

In fact, speaking generally about Tabios’ work, this is one of the things I like best about it. No matter how simple the sentences, I’m always left with a bit of a mystery. Which I think is thought and emotion producing. Which is great.


John Bloomberg-Rissman has just finished a 5-year textual project/poem, In the House of the Hangman, the third section of his maybe life mashup called Zeitgeist Spam. It’s only 1.5 million words, not counting the notes. The first two volumes have been published: No Sounds of My Own Making (Leafe Press, 2007), and Flux, Clot & Froth (Meritage Press 2010). His working title(s) for the fourth section are In the House of the Hangman: The Baroque Feast and Adouéke, an untranslated plant name in a Kanaka war chant which was translated by Louise Michel while she was exiled on New Caledonia in the 1870s, after the Commune (adouéke makes warriors “fierce, and charms their wounds.”) In addition to his Zeitgeist Spam project, Black Widow Press has just published an anthology which he co-edited with Jerome Rothenberg, titled Barbaric Vast & Wild: An Anthology of Outside & Subterranean Poetry, and he’s just embarked on another anthology project, called Nuestra America, about which he’ll be more than happy to wear out your ear. He’s also learning to play the viola and he blogs at (Zeitgeist Spam). 

[Each review provides the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily the opinion of THE HALO-HALO REVIEW staff.]