Friday, December 14, 2018


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. 

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 50 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 13 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


Click on links to go to each Issue. 
This Page will be updated with each issue.

Issue 7
Featuring reviews/engagements of works by or edited by Mark Anthony Cayanan, Xyza Cruz Bacani, Abel Clerk, Conchitina Cruz, Faye Cura, Mary Dacorro, Mabi David, Carmen F Davino, Luis H. Francia, Amber Buenaventura Garma, Nick Joaquin, Mookie Katigbak Lacuesta, Jenny Romero Llaguno, Melissa-Ann Nievera-Lozano, Rae Rival, Brian Ascalon Roley, Neni. Sta. Romana-Cruz, Anthony Abulencia Santa Ana, Alice Sun-Cua, Eileen R. Tabios, and  Almayrah Tiburon; Readers' Love Notes to Felisa Batacan, Merlinda Bobis, Conchitina Cruz, Nick Joaquin, Ed Maranan, and Eileen R. Tabios; Author Interviews with Jonel Abellanosa, Aileen Cassinetto, and Melinda Luisa de Jesus; Reprinted Book Reviews of Pacita Abad, Luis Cabalquinto, and Francisco Guevara; and Reprinted Forewords by and for Vince Gotera, Ayo Gutierrez, Luisa A. Igloria, Ira Sukrungruang, and Eileen R. Tabios.


Issue 6
Featuring reviews/engagements of works by Merlinda Bobis, Glenn Diaz, Simeon Dumdum, Jr., Luis H. Francia,  N.V.M. Gonzalez, Nick Joaquin, F. Sionil Jose, Linda Ty-Casper, Eileen R. Tabios, and Jessica Zafra; Readers' Love Notes to F.H. Batacan, Felix Fojas, Danny Gallardo, Carolyn Gutierrez-Abanggan, Nick Joaquin, Aine M. Losauro, Sasha Pimentel, Rose Rizal M. Reyes, Leny M. Strobel, Eileen R. Tabios, and Joel M. Toledo; Author Interviews with Luisa Igloria and Chris Santiago; and Reprinted Book Reviews of works by Antonio R. Enriquez and Eileen R. Tabios.

Issue 5
Featuring reviews/engagements of works by Jim Pascual Agustin, Marive Blanco, Rica Bolipata-Santos, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Luis H. Francia, M. Evelina Galang, Jenny Ortuoste, Michellan Sarile-Alagao, Eileen R. Tabios, and Lawrence Ypil; Readers' Love Notes to Mia Alvar, Barbara Jane Reyes, Angelo Suarez, and Jose Garcia Villa; Author Interviews with Angela Pe├▒aredondo and Renee Macalino Rutledge; and Reprinted Book Introductions by or for Avotcja, Glynda Tejada Velasco, and Alfred A. Yuson.

Issue 4
Featuring reviews/engagements of works by Kimberly Alidio, Michelle Bautista, Carlos Bulosan, Jeffrey Arellano Cabusao, Nick Carbo, Jessica Hagedorn, Aileen Ibardaloza, Luisa A. Igloria, Cheena Marie Lo, Rei Magosaki, Arnie Mejia, Kristine Ong Muslim, Jose Padua, Angela Penaredondo, Cristina Querrer, Barbara Jane Reyes, Mg Roberts, Brian Ascalon Roley, E. San Juan, Jr., Greg Sarris, Leny M. Strobel, Eileen R. Tabios, Joel Toledo, Glynda Velasco, Jean Vengua, Charlie Samuya Veric, and Jose Garcia Villa; Readers' Love Notes to Gemino H. Abad, Carlos Bulosan, Jose Padua, and Mg Roberts; Author Interviews with Kimberly Alidio, Erin Entrada Kelly, and Barbara Jane Reyes; and Reprinted Book Introductions et al by or for Jaime An Lim, Mg Roberts, Angela Penaredondo, and E. San Juan, Jr.

Issue 3
Featuring reviews/engagements of works by Ivy Alvarez, Jessica Hagedorn, Aileen Ibardaloza, Cristina Querrer, Barbara Jane Reyes, Mg Roberts, Ninotchka Rosca, E. San Juan, Jr., Felino A. Soriano, Eileen R. Tabios, Edilberto K. Tiempo, Jean Vengua and Jose Garcia Villa; Readers' Love Notes to Jason Bayani, Cecilia Brainard, Erma M. Cuizon, R. Zamora Linmark, Rene Navarro, E. San Juan, Jr., and Edilberto K. Tiempo; Author Interviews with Amanda Ngoho Reavey and Felino A. Soriano; and Reprinted Book Introductions et al by or for Dean Francis Alfar, Cecilia Brainard, Billy Burgos, Rachelle Cruz, Rocio Davis, Luis H. Francia, Ralph Semino Galan, Theodore Gonzalves, Duane Locke, Melissa Sipin, Felino A. Soriano, Eileen R. Tabios, and Carlos Villa.

Issue 2
Featuring reviews/engagements of works by Albert E. Alejo, Kimberly Alidio, Ivy Alvarez, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Luis Cabalquinto, Oliver de la Paz, Luis H. Francia, Yolanda Perez Johnson, M. Evelina Galang, Aileen Ibardaloza, Paolo Javier, Rolando Laudico, R. Zamora Linmark, and Eileen R. Tabios; Readers' Love Notes to Nick Carbo, Luisa A. Igloria, Jessica Hagedorn, Bino A. Realuyo, Barbara Jane Reyes, Patrick Rosal, Eileen Tabios, and Marianne Villanueva; Author Interviews with Paolo Javier and Kristine Ong Muslim; and Reprinted Book Introductions et al by or for Nick Carbo, Oliver de la Paz, Thomas Fink, Luis H. Francia, Roseli Ilano, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard and Marily Isip Orosa, Jon Pineda, Lolan Buhain Sevilla, and Eileen R. Tabios.

Issue 1
Featuring reviews/engagements of works by Mia Alvar, Ivy Alvarez, Ophelia A. Dimalanta, Maria Victoria A. Grageda-Smith, Karen Llagas, Oscar Penaranda, Barbara Jane Reyes, Mg Roberts, Melissa Sipin, Eileen R. Tabios, Jean Vengua, Jose Garcia Villa, Mark Young and Alfred Yuson; Interviews with Mia Alvar and Eric Gamalinda; Readers' Love Notes to Mia Alvar, Elynia Ruth Mabanglo, Bienvenido N. Santos, Leny Mendoza Strobel and Eileen R. Tabios; and Reprinted Book Introductions et al by or for Ivy Alvarez, Virgil Mayor Apostol, John Bloomberg-Rissman, Nick Carbo, Thomas Fink, Luis H. Francia, Eric Gamalinda, Theodore S. Gonzalves, Vince Gotera, Vicente G. Groyon III, Jessica Hagedorn [no longer online], Crag Hill,  Edwin Lozada, Ernesto Priego, Amanda [Ngoho] Reavey, Leny M. Strobel, Eileen R. Tabios, Edith Tiempo, Ricardo D. Trimillos, Jean Vengua, Jose Garcia Villa [no longer online], Mark Young and Alfred Yuson.

THE HALO-HALO REVIEWS' Mangozine: Issue 7

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 7 -- CLICK on links to go to the reviews.

(December 2018)

Editor's Note:  Welcome to the seventh issue of THE HALO-HALO REVIEW where we provide engagements with Filipino-Pilipinx 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 sixth issue has been set at Oct. 15, 2019 (though I will take reviews sooner than the deadline if that is more convenient for the reviewers).

Go HERE to continue the Editor's Note.


The Pilipinx Radical Imagination Reader edited by Melissa-Ann Nievera-Lozano
 and Anthony Abulencia Santa Ana (Philippine American Writers & Artists, Inc., San Francisco, 2018)
Reviewed by Veronica Montes

The Last Mistress of Jose Rizal: Stories by Brian Ascalon Roley (Northwestern University Press, 2016)
Reviewed by Maileen Hamto

TFS by Mary Dacorro (in manuscript form)
Reviewed by Chris Stroffolino

We Are Like Air by Xyza Cruz Bacani (WE Press, 2018)
Engaged by Barbara Jane Reyes

Tattered Boat by Luis H. Francia (University of the Philippines Press, Quezon City, 2014)
Engaged by Maileen Hamto

Lawanen 2 edited by Almayrah Tiburon with co-editors Faye Cura and Rae Rival
(Gantala Press, 2018)
Reviewed by Aloysiusi Polintan

To Be An Empire is to Burn! by Eileen R. Tabios (Moria Books' Locofo Chaps, Chicago, 2017)
Reviewed by Maileen Hamto

SPLEEN by Mabi David (High Chair, 2014)
Reviewed by Aloysiusi Polintan

Of Love and Virtue by Carmen F Davino (A Company of Angels Publishers, 1998)
Reviewed by Aloysiusi Polintan

MURDER DEATH RESURRECTION by Eileen R. Tabios (Dos Madres Press, Loveland, OH, 2018)
Engaged by Leny Mendoza Strobel

Flash Reviews on Books by Alice Sun-Cua, Mookie Katigbak Lacuesta, Abel Clerk, Jenny Romero Llaguno, Mark Anthony Cayanan, Conchitina Cruz, Amber Buenaventura Garma, Neni Sta. Romana-Cruz and Nick Joaquin
Reviewed by Aloysiusi Polintan


Aileen I. Cassinetto

Jonel Abellanosa

Melinda Luisa de Jes├║s


Go HERE to read:

Bianca Elorde Nagac on Nick Joaquin

Aileen Ibardaloza-Cassinetto on Ed Maranan

Jinque Romanban-Dolojan on Filipino authors including Nick Joaquin, Felisa Batacan, Eileen Tabios, Conchitina Cruz, and Merlinda Bobis

Aloysiusi Polintan on Sarge Lacuesta


Reviews & Engagements

Gemino H. Abad engages Poems by Luis Cabalquinto and Francisco Guevara from THE ACHIEVE OF, THE MASTERY: Filipino Poetry and Verse from English, mid-90s to 2016 edited by Gemino H. Abad and Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta (The University of the Philippines Press, 2018)

"Avocado," a painting by Pacita Abad
Engaged by Eileen Tabios

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

Ira Sukrungruang presents the Foreword to The Buddha Wonders if She is Having a Mid-Life Crisis by Luisa A. Igloria (Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2018)

Eileen Tabios presents the Foreword to YEARNINGS by Ayo Gutierrez (sp, Philippines, 2018)

Vince Gotera presents the Foreword to THE CONNOISSEUR OF ALLEYS by Eileen R. Tabios (Marsh Hawk Press, New York, 2016)


Welcome to the seventh issue of THE HALO-HALO REVIEW / The Mangozine where we provide engagements with Filipino-Pilipinx 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 eighth issue has been set at Oct. 15, 2019 (though I will take reviews sooner than the deadline if that is more convenient for the reviewers).

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.

An interesting feature of The Mangozine is its putting online various Introductions, Prefaces, Afterwords and Authors' Notes to published books. The presented essays to date  corroborate the need for a journal like THE HALO-HALO REVIEW -- they highlight the uniqueness of English-language Filipino literature that cannot be subsumed in other categories like "Asian American" or "People of Color" literature. Feel free to suggest other books which may offer useful contributions that deserve to be republished online.

I also 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. (Examples are available at all at the issues below).

The Mangozine is possible not only due to the volunteer efforts of our reviewers but  to readers who choose to share their love. 

All Best,

Eileen R. Tabios
Contact: galateaten at gmail dot com

Index (May it Grow!):
ISSUE 1, September 2015
ISSUE 2, February 2016
ISSUE 3, August 2016
ISSUE 4, February 2017
ISSUE 5, December 2017
ISSUE 6, June 2018
ISSUE 7, December 2018



We Are Like Air by Xyza Cruz Bacani
(WE Press, 2018)

I recently received this beautiful book, Xyza Cruz Bacani’s We Are Like Air, which I thought I was ready for, and I am clearly not. I’m so moved, I don’t know where to start. I have been loosely following Bacani’s work, images of hers, articles I’ve been able to catch online. The super short story is that she was a domestic worker in Hong Kong, and she became a documentary photographer, depicting the lives of Filipino overseas workers, separated from their families. I’ve seen Bacani’s work at, read about her at various news outlets, including The New York Times. 

More images here: InkstoneOpen Society Foundations.

Her black and white images are gorgeous, compassionate, human. The people she photographs seem to trust her, and I say this because they allow themselves to be/appear vulnerable, genuine in their emotions. They are in the streets, in shelters, in the homes of their employers. They trust her to tell her about themselves, where they came from, how they got to where they are. What are their hopes.
I have written poetry after some of her images, especially the ones at the CNN website. My sonnet cycle, “Prayer on Good Friday,” in Invocation to Daughters, comes after my experiencing Bacani’s images there. I am currently working on a series of poems, called “Air.” Or Air. A long poem, or more likely, an entire book of poems.

What I wasn’t ready for in We Are Like Air, is not just her own family’s story that she is trusting us with, that she is brave to tell, that her whole family is brave to tell. I previously had an intellectual and surface understanding that when the income generated from domestic and service work abroad does not suffice, that the rest of the family must also consider whether they will also go abroad; that generations of family become migrant workers. I know there is absence; children grow up without their parents there; they celebrate graduations, Christmas with absence.

What I was not ready for are the handwritten letters from these daughters to their mothers abroad. These letters are so honest, articulate, and painful to read. The resentment, the rebellion, how a girl child missing motherly guidance “messes up,” falls in with the “wrong crowd,” gets pregnant, how their motives and intentions are complex. How the mother writes back — and we see their handwritten letters, and how emotionally complex these letters are. How does the family persist, how does a marriage persist, when the bonds are tested this way, again and again.

I am thinking about how I found the handwritten letters of Mary Jane Veloso at The Rappler website, and how this was everything. Again, underscoring how crucial it is for the Pinay, for every Pinay, to have the unmediated opportunity to tell their own stories, pour out the mixed up, complicated contents of their own hearts and minds.

There is so much love in this book. It’s so strong.

Where does my writing after Bacani go now, but everywhere — this difficult multi-valence. I have only had Bacani’s book in my home since yesterday evening, and I am overwhelmed with it. Such gorgeous, heavy air.


Barbara Jane Reyes, adjunct professor in Philippine Studies at University of San Francisco, author of Invocation to Daughters (City Lights Publishers, 2017), and four previous collections of poetry, including Poeta en San Francisco (Tinfish Press, 2005) and Diwata (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2010). Letters to a Young Brown Girl is forthcoming from BOA Editions, Ltd., in 2020.