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).
CHILDREN'S & YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE
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.
FILIPINO AUTHORS ON ENGLISH
(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?
—from Abigail Licad’s review of PINOY POETICS: A Collection of Autobiographical and Critical Essays on Filipino and Filipino-American Poetics
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).